Also known as the Isa (which in Sanskrit means 'Lord'), this short Upanishad from the Rig Veda is generally agreed to mark the beginning of monotheism in the Upanishads. It is quite abstract, but lays emphasis on the Divine nature of the Lord or Self, rather than on the means by which a spiritual aspirant can obtain knowledge of that same Divine.
Where texts such as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad talk about the absolute, unchanging Divine, or Parabrahman, the Isavasya Upanishad has as its subject the Absolute in relation to the world, otherwise known as Paramesvara, and it has a distinctly Christian flavour when compared to the more Yogic or Advaitic Upanishads. It repeats the Hindu doctrine of destroying (or transcending) the self, but states that the means to this end are good works and worship (devotion). It also continually repeats the phrase "Thus have we heard from the wise who taught us this", which suggests that it is one of the Upanishads that was not written by an enlightened master, but someone interpreting the teachings of others in their own way.
It ends with a short prayer to Surya, the sun, which is the center of many monotheistic religions. The prayer is an appeal to the Lord for forgiveness of wrongdoings, and an appeal to the reincarnating soul (jiva) to remember its sins and wrongdoings in its next incarnation, and change for the better. It can be seen that this Upanishad is a strange mixture of traditional Hindu teachings such as reincarnation and enlightenment, with more Christian beliefs such as sin and Divine forgiveness. Apparently it is held in great esteem among the Upanishads, with at least one commentator stating that, though on the surface it appears simple and obvious, it in fact contains many layers of teaching and complexity compressed into simple verses.
The following translation is in the public domain.
1. All this, whatsoever moves on earth, is to be hidden in
the Lord (the Self). When thou hast surrendered all this, then thou mayest
enjoy. Do not covet the wealth of any man!
2. Though a man may wish to live a hundred years, performing
works, it will be thus with him; but not in any other way: work will thus not
cling to a man.
3. There are the worlds of the Asuras covered with blind
darkness. Those who have destroyed their self (who perform works, without having
arrived at a knowledge of the true Self), go after death to those worlds.
4. That one (the Self), though never stirring, is swifter
than thought. The Devas (senses) never reached it, it walked before them. Though
standing still, it overtakes the others who are running. Matarisvan (the wind,
the moving spirit) bestows powers on it.
5. It stirs and it stirs not; it is far, and likewise near.
It is inside of all this, and it is outside of all this.
6. And he who beholds all beings in the Self, and the Self in
all beings, he never turns away from it.
7. When to a man who understands, the Self has become all
things, what sorrow, what trouble can there be to him who once beheld that
8. He (the Self) encircled all, bright, incorporeal,
scatheless, without muscles, pure, untouched by evil ; a seer, wise,
omnipresent, self-existent, he disposed all things rightly for eternal years.
9. All who worship what is not real knowledge (good works),
enter into blind darkness : those who delight in real knowledge, enter, as it
were, into greater darkness.
10. One thing, they say, is obtained from real knowledge;
another, they say, from what is not knowledge. Thus we have heard from the wise
who taught us this.
11. He who knows at the same time both knowledge and
not-knowledge, overcomes death through not-knowledge, and obtains immortality
12. All who worship what is not the true cause, enter into
blind darkness: those who delight in the true cause, enter, as it were, into
13. One thing, they say, is obtained from (knowledge of) the
cause; another, they say, from (knowledge of) what is not the cause. Thus we
have heard from the wise who taught us this.
14. He who knows at the same time both the cause and the
destruction (the perishable body), overcomes death by destruction (the
perishable body), and obtains immortality through (knowledge of) the true
15. The door of the True is covered with a golden disk. Open
that, O Pushan, that we may see the nature of the True.
16. O Pushan, only seer, Yama (judge), Surya (sun), son of
Pragapati, spread thy rays and gather them! The light which is thy fairest form,
I see it. I am what He is (viz. the person in the sun).
17. Breath to air, and to the immortal! Then this my body
ends in ashes. Om! Mind, remember! Remember thy deeds! Mind, remember! Remember
18. Agni, lead us on to wealth (beatitude) by a good path,
thou, O God, who knowest all things! Keep far from us crooked evil, and we shall
offer thee the fullest praise!
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