Isavasya Upanishad for Beginners
Half hour talks in Hindi translated into English
by Swami Krishnananda
True, Pujya Swami Krishnananda Maharaj is a sanyasi, an ashramavasi, a jnani. His knowledge or wisdom, however, is as much a result of his deep and great scholarliness as of the intuitive knowledge of the sages that meditate on the Absolute in the seclusion of forests and mountain caves.
Not only through all parts of India but through many parts of the world over, Revered Swami Krishnanandji Maharaj’s profound knowledge is well-known. Whether they be the works of master-minds in the West or the East, or the schools of philosophies from Aristotle and Plato to late Dr. Radhakrishnan and Sri Aurohindo, they are as familiar to him as the Hindu Vedic literature. His capacity to expound, in a crystal-clear, incisively intellectual and amazingly oratorical style through the vehicle of lucid, faultless, idiomatic English has thrilled every audience, every time; and this again is well-known.
But there is another side to Rev. Swamiji, which the few fortunate ashramites, particularly the aspiring sadhaks, have learnt to love and cherish. This side of his is the “Guru” of the traditional “Gurukul”, in which ancient institution even Lord Krishna sat as a disciple at the holy feet of Sandipani to receive the teachings of the sacred texts. A few Upanishads (1) Kathopanishad, (2) Isavasyopanishad, (3) Prasnopanishad, 4) Mundakopanishad and (5) Mandukyopanishad, with Sankara’s commentary of the ‘Karika’, were all explained to us the lowly sadhaks by Revered Swamiji in Hindi in very simple sentences. Of these the study of Mandukyopanishad Karikas was not completed because of a breakdown in his health which has unfortunately continued to be poor to-date. And, only the tape recordings of Īśāvāsyopaniṣad were available to me besides my own notes; and even in these, the last four slokas are not recorded, but have been completed from the notes taken down by Vishnu Chaitanya and myself. Among those that sat at his holy feet in these studies were those who knew little Hindi, and less English. The languages they knew rather well were their own mother-tongues as there were almost as many mother-tongues as the number of disciples gathered around him. So Revered Swamiji used the simplest of Hindi words and sentences in explaining the ambrosial meaning embedded in the “Mantropanishad”— the “Isavasyopanishad”. These study classes lasted only half-an-hour a day. These talks which are more correctly put as “chats” I have translated with utter humility, into English, in my own highly limited capacity; for, my mother-tongue is Tamil and I hold a degree in Science—not in English literature.
Gurudev Sivananda Maharaj’s mandate is: “Share your knowledge with others”. It came to me that there must be a host of intellectuals as well as co-disciples, who, like me, would thrill thankfully to these simple sentences as much as to his inimitable linguistic heights which have stirred an ineffable joy in all hearts. In these simple Hindi words the greatest of Truths from the deepest of spiritual compendium have been presented. And for this reason, I have dared to attempt this work.
I have not attempted to rephrase or in any way interfere in the text of these “chats”, for this is far beyond the capacity for such as mine. I have merely translated the sentences as they are.
These thoughts on this Upanishad were the outcome of Revered Swamiji Krishnanand Maharaj’s profound knowledge. These were spoken to us; and what Revered Swamiji Brahmananda Maharaj has so very kindly done is to bring this conversational style into a written style. I had wanted to include everything that had been spoken by Revered Swamiji Krishnananda and thus there were repetitions and verbosity. It is only in this respect that editing has been done by Revered Swamiji Brahmananda Maharaj. Even so this has been done so effectively only because Revered Swamiji himself is a great scholar and a profound thinker whose writings are much appreciated and read widely. Thus both the Revered Swamijis are fully exonerated in the presentation of this Upanishad in this booklet form of all omissions, commissions and blunders too, perhaps. As a ‘beginner’, a humble student of the sacred lore, I have given what I understood and have put it in the manner I interpreted Revered Swamiji’s thoughts which were spoken in Hindi. The scope of this booklet is only this much. Maybe, these pages are like the tons and tons of coal (“Pitch-Blende”), or the raw material out of which Madame Curie extracted a globule of radium. I leave the reader to play the role of Madame Curie; I am content to remain the raw material. As such, I crave the reader’s pardon and indulgence in judging the justification of this booklet form of the great Isavasyopanishad.
I cannot bring to the reader (I) the cascading splendour of million diamonds scintillating in Revered Swamiji’s lectures and expositions. Nor, (2) the highly lovable spiritual intimacy during these talks which Rev. Swamiji would dramatise by mono-acting a point or put to you in the grandmotherly style: Can you look at a thousand suns shining in the sky ? No-o-o! We can’t even look at one sun; we will go blind.
It is such an intimate atmosphere which prevailed during these half-hour “chats” on the various Upanishads. Hence the atmosphere in these pages is but at the disciple’s (my) level. If even so I have taken too big a bite, forgive this humble sevak.
This endeavour has been possible only due to the blessings of Revered Swamijis Chidananda Maharaj, Krishnananda Maharaj and Brahmananda Maharaj, as also the cooperation and help from my well-wishers. The Revered Swamijis have allowed me to go ahead with this task which is a blessing to me. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Revered Swamiji Chidananda Maharaj for his ever kind encouragement in any endeavour for any worthy goal; and his encouragement is not only a great moral support, but also takes material form, as for instance in the Foreword which he has so benevolently given for this booklet; and this has been done despite the crushing load of work he is under, which is as much of his own choice as due to the contingency of Revered Swamiji Krishnananda Maharaj’s absence away from the ashram.
Shri Ramaswamy’s ready cooperation and hard work has been mainly contributory to my being able to take the Ms. on to the printers in quite a short time. His typing has always been a joy to Revered Swamiji Krishnanand Maharaj; his gentle, patient ways have helped me to hold my head above the valley of tears! And to Moti-Ma goes my heart-felt thanks for the way she has looked after my creature comforts, bringing up my food, scrubbing my vessels, and her help in the equally important work of comparing Ms. copies. Also to Vishnu Chaitanya my thanks are due for lending me his notes (taken in English) during the half-hour Upanishad classes; this helped to check and counter-check what my own notes had with the original in the tape-recordings. It is the confidence that Shri S. D. Chowdhri of the English Book Store, my Guru Bhai, with his natural earnestness and devoted approach, will shoulder the whole burden of printing and allied matters that has given me the courage to publish this little booklet. May Guru Dev’s blessings abide with him—is my prayerful thanks to him.
My thanks go to Smt, Lola Chatterji and to Shri P. C. Chatterji for their ready help in all the manner and in all matters asked for.
I truly believe that it is Gurudev Sivananda Maharaj’s Will that has got me to make this effort. And to Him, I say what He has taught us: “I am thine; all is thine”.