The Isavasya Upanishad declares, “ Into blinding darkness enter those who worship the unmanifest and into still greater darkness, as it were, enter those who delight in the manifest.” This style of contradiction occurs again and again in the Upanishads.
Now, the ‘manifest’ means ‘ the world’ that is ‘manifested’ – the world that we see in everyday life. They enter into greater darkness who delight in the manifest.
Those who delight only in the physical world, whose relationship with the world is only physical, going nowhere beyond food, drink and sleep – they enter into greater darkness.
This is simple.
It means that at every step there is a problem or the spectre of sorrow or death is haunting us.
This is a fact.
Everything is indeterminate, unknown. We never know when life is going to end or when the little snatches of happiness that we have, are going to escape from our hands. As one grows older, one begins to see that life is coming to a close. There is nothing to gain and nothing more to enjoy.
Then, there are those who worship the unmanifest. They also enter into darkness but not as great a darkness as those who delight only in the manifest.
When they speak of the unmanifest they are speaking about the Supreme Reality as a creator, destroyer and so on. It is unmanifest, because it is behind all manifestation and is the operator of all that operates.
The Upanishad states that you can remain at that level too. The teaching is that one has to transcend both.
One has to transcend even the very differentiation between the individual self and the Supreme Being. The manifest is the individual and the unmanifest is the Supreme. One has to understand that the individual self and the Supreme Being are one and the same.
Otherwise, according to the Upanishad, we are still operating from a level of ignorance.
In the Upanishadic philosophy, we are dealing with death as in the death of the conditioned individual and the manifestation of the immeasurable Supreme Reality.
Therefore we chant the last shlokas of the Upanishad, so that the little ‘I’, the ego is cremated and becomes still and the ‘greater I’, manifests itself. This is the message of the Upanishad.
(Published 20 December 2023, 19:17 IST)