Isha upanishad is a principal upanishad of great significance. Many commentators have highlighted the deep meaning of its eighteen verses. Isha upanishad’s subject matter is all comprehensive, profound and deeply spiritual. It highlights man’s innate divinity. Isha upanishad conveys the intuitive knowledge of sages, who experienced spiritual solidarity and unity.
This verse advises one to protect oneself through detachment. One should also not covet others’ wealth. Everything in this world is transient, and thus illusory. Isha upanishad poses the question “Who is God”? It also gives the answer: God is our indwelling self. One should realize this, and see the same self in all earthly beings. Therefore, one should renounce all that is not one’s self, as the essence of the universe is one’s true self.
Recognizing this, the realized person renounces the illusion of form and name, and attains freedom from the desires of world and wealth. One can attain this knowledge through detachment, renunciation and discrimination. But, the world should not be abandoned. Rather, it should be deified for its divinity.
This verse is for the man of action, who cannot identify with the path of knowledge illumined in the first verse. Karma yoga sharpens our faculties of discrimination and reason, and purifies our minds. Therefore, one should perform actions that are suited to one’s nature.
The states in which karmic results are enjoyed are characterized by ignorance and darkness. Lack of knowledge bonds such people to the cycle of birth and death. The shining self is hidden in these people, as it is clouded by ignorance.
Verses 4, 5, and 8
These verses explain the essential nature of one’s self. Senses cannot affect it. The immortal self is infinite and all pervasive.
Verses 6 and 7
The spiritual person who see his self in all beings, and all beings in his self, is free from hatred. He/she is not affected by delusion or sorrow, because of his oneness. The Gita also echoes this truth.
Verses 9, 10 and 11
These verses tell us that it is not enough to have mere theoretical knowledge about the self. One should make honest and sincere efforts to realize one’s inner self. It is not sufficient to merely reason, hear or read about the truth. One should practise renunciation, penance and austerities to progress spiritually.
Verses 15, 16, 17 and 18
In these final verses, the upanishadic sage prays to God with love and compassion for all. The prayer reveals the predicament of human beings. God holds a lamp, which illumines the whole world, yet we are unable to see his face. We can see the magician’s magic, but cannot recognize the magician. The seer implores God to help mankind get a glimpse of His true nature.