Sri Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswathi Swamiji (1880-1975) the Founder of Adhyatma Prakasha karyalaya, Holenarasipur, was the celebrated authority on Sankara Vedanta during the twentieth century. He researched and worked with profound dedication and a missionary zeal throughout his life for bringing out and present to the seeker the pristine pure Advaita Vedanta according to the tradition of Gaudapada, Sankara and Sureshwara. He is reverentially hailed as Abhinava Sankara of the Twentieth century.
Sankara who appeared more than a thousand years ago recovered the true spirit of the Upanishadic text and the Vedantic Tradition from the multitude of wrong interpretations prevailing at that time. Sri Sri Swamiji who appeared on the scene during the last century devoted his lifetime to recover the pristine pure Vedanta of Sankara and the tradition of Adhyaropa Apavada Prakriya of the past Masters by cleansing the distortions and misrepresentations of Sankara in the post-Sankara sub-commentaries, collectively known as Vyakhyana Prasthanas.
Shri Shri Swamiji was an erudite scholar, a prolific writer and a great organizer. He wrote over 200 books in Kannada, English, and Sanskrit, including Kannada translations of all the original and genuine works of Sankara. All his writings are characterized by precision, lucidity and erudition. Many of his independent book like Mulavidya Nirasa, Sugama, Vedanta Prakriya Pratyabhijna, Mandukya Rahasya Vivriti and Kleshapaharini (commentary on Naishkarmya Siddhi) in Sanskrit, Essays on Vedanta and Salient Features of Sankara Vedanta in English, Pramartha Chintamani and Sankara Vedanta Sara in Kannada are real master pieces.
Sri Sri Swamiji’s life is an inspiration and a model and his writings are a real boon for all the earnest seekers.
The Place of the Upanishad in the Vedas Sukla- Yajurveda is divided into fifteen Sakhas, or seventeen Sakhas, according to different traditions. Only two versions, however, are now prevalent and studied by the followers of that Veda.
One Bhashya ascribed to Sankaracarya, on the Isa or the Isavasya Upanishad forming the fortieth chapter of the kanva version, is being studied by the followers of the Sankaradvaita school. It is also known as the Samhitopanishad, because it forms part of Samhita, the collection of the Mantras of the Karma- kanda (Ritual Portion) of that Veda, while the other Upanishads commented upon by Sankara are mostly to be found in the Araranyakas of the Brdhmana portion of the various Vedas.
Subject-matter of the Upanishad
Authors of some Bhashyas antecedent to Sankara were of opinion that this Upanishad teaches the combined practice of karma (ritual) and upasana (meditation), especially as the mantras in it are found in the karma-kanda (portion devoted to rituals). The author of the present Bhashya, rejects this interpretation and opines that these mantras purport to teach the true nature of Atman or the Universal Self. The latter portion of the Upanishad, however, according to Sankara, does treat of the fruits of the combined practice of karma and meditation.
1. The place of the Upanishad in the Veda.
lsavasyopanishad belongs to Yajurveda. Yajurveda alone, unlike all other Vedas, has two recensions namely, Sukla- Yajurveda and Krsna-Yajurveda. Again the Sukla-yajuh has many versions out of which only two are surviving- Kdnva-Sakha and Madhvandina sakha. Madhyandina is prevalent even now in North India, where as the Kanva- sakha is found in a few places of South India. In fact, it is the Krsna- Yajurveda that is most commonly found in South India, yet there are a few families in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu who are called the followers of this version commonly called as Yajaavalkya Sakha. lsavasyopanishad occurs in the fortieth and the last chapter of Sukla- Yajussamhita of both these versions. Sri Sankaracharya blessed us with his Bhasya (commentary) on Kanva-version. lsavasya is one of the very few Upanishads whose recitation with intonation is extant to this day and the Kanva-Sakha recitation is melodious compared to that of Madhyandina and is closer to that of Rgveda.
2. The meaning of the Upanishad and the Bhasya,
This small Upanishad containing 18 mantras deals with three topics. First eight mantras deal with the essential nature of Atman. Isvara is all pervasive and essence of the whole universe and he himself is changeless. He is One without the second and declared to be identical to everybody's self.
Anybody just by knowing him becomes free from delusion and grief. Next six mantras from 9-14 teach the combination of duty and meditation. Nowhere else does one find this taught so clearly and effectively as here. And the last four mantras from 15th to 18 deal with a prayer by a lifelong devotee in his last moment. This is a heart-felt prayer filled with love and humility.
The Bhasya-author brings out its meaning in his well- known beautiful and profound commentary. There are short discussions at four places - in the introduction, on the 2nd and the 8th mantras and in the conclusion. In all these discussions, Sri Acharya shows a very important and seminal point of Vedanta, namely the nature of knowledge and the nature of action (including meditation) and how they are opposed to each other and hence cannot be combined. Knowledge reveals an existing fact by destroying its ignorance and this does not depend upon the will of a person and hence it cannot be enjoined; whereas an act and meditation depend on the will of a person, and therefore can be enjoined. Those who fail to understand this distinction also fail to understand the Upanishad. Nobody, not even the sastra can advise or enjoin something against its very nature.
3. Certain critical points in the Bhasya.
From the language, style, the ideas of the Bhasya and the belief of the tradition in it we understand that it could be from the pen of the famous Sankara alone. Yet there are a few points which call for specific attention of the critical student. (1) The word anu-pasyati in the mantra 6, is explained literally as 'he sees', but in all other Bhasyas wherever anu-pasyati or anu-bhavati occurs, he explains differently. Sri Swamiji's footnote may be seen in this regard. (P-23. Fn4) (2) secondly, the word, suddham in the eighth mantra is explained as "free from the dirt of ignorance- this negates karana-sarira" and Sri Swamiji rightly said in the footnote thereon, (P-28. fn.1) nowhere else in the Bhasya does one find the word katana- sarira. In his book, Vedantins Meet on P-74. Swamiji again says like this, "It could be an interpolation by some foolish and vainly proud person. However, assuming that it was there in the original, I interpret it now. The karana-sariram (causal body) is not a body but the cause itself and this causality pertains to the unknown self and not to ignorance itself. Mandukya Bhasya says, such as, "The BEING is called undifferentiated as well as the cause in all the Upanishads only by accepting the association of seed (of name and form)". (Ma.Ka 1-2) Hence, it should be called pure only on negating the superimposed causality. Therefore, a person should not mistake that here the mulavidya, the modifying cause is implied either in Mandakya Bhasya or else where." Again, in the footnote of his Kannada book he says like this- "the word sarira (body) means that which is subject to destruction. Hence, we can explain that the avidya (or the super-imposition) is called karana-sariram (or causal body) because it is destroyed by the self knowledge, and secondly because it is the cause of the notion that one is possessed of body etc." Interestingly, the meaning of this eighth mantra is given in Upadesa Sahasri by Sri Acharya. The verses read as follows.
This second edition has these additional features (1) The Samskrta Bhasya of the Upanishad as well as some extracts from other Bhasyas in the appendix are added, where as in the first edition English translation alone was given. (2) The Bhasya-reading of Pujya Swarniji's Sarnskrta edition is mainly followed here since it is the correct one; but the help of the Kannada edition was also taken wherever it was necessary. (3) Anvaya (i.e. the prose order) of the mantra- words is put in brackets immediately after the mantra. In this, Sri Swamiji's Samskrta edition is followed with minor changes in one or two places. (4) The words of the mantra occurring in the Samskrta Bhasya are put in Bold and the same are transliterated and put in bold and italics with diacritical marks in English translation. This facilitates the reader to distinguish the mantra-words from their explanation. (5) In the translation, rarely one or two sentences are reconstructed to make for better and easier understanding. (6) Though the division of Bhasya into portions (Bhasya bhaga) and their numbering is different from that of Samskrta and Kannada editions, the same format of Sri Swamiji's edition is retained. (7) Special care is taken to make sure that the Bhasya, its translation and footnotes - all corresponding to each other appear in the same page. This makes the reading comfortable.
Certain noteworthy words of Bhasya were put in bold by Swamiji himself, and this is retained. All other features are similar to that of first edition. In editing and proof-reading we tried our best to avoid any mistake, yet some must have remained due to our oversight, we seek forgiveness of the kind readers, for it.
Pujya Swamiji 's Rshi-like thinking on Bhasya is well-known to the readers of his works. The eminent Sri Akhandananda Swamiji of Vrindavan, once after reading Pujya Swamiji's 'Prakriya Pratyabhijna' in Sanskrit, commented, "What a deep thinking even in this age of Kali". The secret of his deep thinking is not scholarship, not vast reading - both he had no doubt, of high degree, but keeping to anubhava (universal- intuition) and not speculating. Academic scholars as well as the traditional Vedantic Pundits both, undoubtedly, will be benefited from his books, but the most fortunate are the jijnasus who have vairagyam and aspiration for liberation, for whom they are a boon, an oasis in an all surrounding desert. We invoke Pujya Swamiji's blessings upon such mumukshus and conclude with Narayana smaranam.
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