The Upaniṣad, translated by Juan Mascaró and others

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[Online Editor: My comments and questions appear in pale yellow.]

Īṣa Upaniṣad

The Inner Ruler

Isha 1Behold the universe in the glory of God: and all that lives and moves on earth.  Leaving the transient, find joy in the Eternal: set not your heart on another’s possession.

Who is God?  What is glory?  Is it beauty, or something more?  If it is beauty, is it merely beauty in the sense that a single, unmoving picture is beautiful, or is it beauty in the way that a complex system functioning harmoniously is beautiful?  (Is there even a difference?)  How can one behold the beauty of God, assuming glory is beauty; and if glory is not beauty, how then does one behold the glory of God?

When discussing all that moves on Earth, do we wish to include the motion of sub-atomic particles?  (There, certainly, is a good example of a complex system functioning harmoniously.)

How does one leave the transient?  By this, does the author simply mean that we ought to think of things in the context of their effects on things in the distant future, and not merely the immediate future?  Is the author implying that by doing this, we will find joy?  Or, does the author simply want us to think and philosophise and perform thought experiments, this being the producer of joy?

Why ought I not set my heart on the possessions of another?  It seems to me that so long as I do not acquire the possessions of another through aggression (i.e. the initiation of force or fraud), then I am in good standing with whatever Just God or gods exist.  Thus, I may only acquire the possessions of another through the voluntary consent of the other.  It seems to me that there is nothing wrong with merely desiring the possessions of others—as long as I only desire a man’s apple, and do not steal the apple from the man, I am not acting unethically.

Isha 2Working thus, a man may wish for a life of a hundred years.  Only actions done in God bind not the soul of man.

If God is the Everything of Everything, how can any actions be taken that are not in God?  What is the soul, and how can it—being presumably non-material—be bound?  Why would actions done not-in-God bind the soul, and how?  Is this euphamism, or is it supposed to be taken literally?

I wish for a life of a hundred years.  I wish even more for a 1,000-year life of good heath.

Isha 3There are demon-haunted worlds, regions of utter darkness.  Whoever in life denies the Spirit falls into that darkness of death.

I do not deny the Spirit, I just question It.  Who or what is this Spirit?  How do we know It is?

What is the darkness of death, and is the darkness of death a bad thing?  Perhaps it is a good thing, and the fear people have of it is unfounded.  Socrates certainly did not fear it.

Isha 4The Spirit, without moving, is swifter than the mind; the senses cannot reach him: He is even beyond them.  Standing still, he overtakes those who run.  To the ocean of his being, the Spirit of life leads the streams of action.
Isha 5He moves, and he moves not.  He is far, and he is near.  He is within all, and he is outside all.
Isha 6Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fears.

What about the fear of seeing all beings in his own Self, or the fear of seeing his own Self in all beings?  Would that fear dissipate?

Is this just another way of saying that people are not afraid who place themselves in the shoes of others?  Although placing one’s self in the shoes of others may make it easier to understand these other persons and anticipate their personality and actions, none of us are perfect predictors and thus it would seem that some level of fear will remain.

Isha 7When a sage sees this great Unity and his Self has become all beings, what delusion and what sorrow can ever be near him?
The delusion of dreams, of drugs, of schizophrenia?  Perhaps seeing one’s self as possessing a unity with all beings is itself delusional.
Isha 8The Spirit filled all with his radiance.  He is incorporeal and invulnerable, pure and untouched by evil.  He is the supreme seer and thinker, immanent and trascendent.  He placed all things in the path of Eternity.
Isha 9Into deep darkness fall those who follow action.  Into deeper darkness fall those who follow knowledge.
What?  Why?  Is deep darkness a good thing?  Perhaps, considering that deep darkness is something I associate with the calmness of sleeping.
Isha 10One is the outcome of knowledge, and another is the outcome of action.  Thus have we heard from the ancient sages who explained this truth to us.
Isha 11He who knows both knowledge and action, with action overcomes death and with knowledge reaches immortality.
Well, I certainly admire the strive for and attainment of knowledge.  If it helps me to attain immortality, I doubt I shall complain.
Isha 12Into deep darkness fall those who follow the immanent.  Into deeper darkness fall those who follow the trascendent.
I do not think I understand.  Why?  How?  In what sense?
Isha 13One is the outcome of the trascendent, and another is the outcome of the immanent.  Thus have we heard from the ancient sages who explained this truth to us.
Isha 14He who knows both the trascendent and the immanent, with the immanent overcomes death and with the trascendent reaches inmortality.
How does one get to know either of these without first following either of them?  Does this author or her or his translator use the term “follow” in a manner foreign to me?
Isha 15The face of truth remains hidden behind a circle of gold.  Unveil it, O God of Light, that I who love the true may see!
Isha 16O life-giving Sun, off-spring of the Lord of creation, solitary seer of heaven!  Spread thy light and withdraw thy blinding splendour that I may behold thy radiant form: that Spirit far away within thee is my own inmost Spirit.
Isha 17May life go to immortal life, and the body go to ashes.  OM.  O my soul, remember past strivings, remember!  O my soul, remember past strivings, remember!
I get the sad impression that this is turning into empty rhetoric.  The next verse does not dispell this impression.
Isha 18By the path of good lead us to final bliss, O Fire Divine thou God who knowest all ways.  Deliver us from wandering evil.  Prayers and adoration we offer unto thee.

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