tena tyaktena bhunjitA

om IshA vAsyam idam sarvam yatkincha jagatyAm jagat
tena tyaktena bhunjitA mA gr^dha kasyasvidhanam

I almost broke my head on the Ishopanishad while at Rishikesh. I'd to read over the entire upanishad over four times to understand a little of what was going on in there! At first, I thought its easy reading so I went over the first two mantras. On the third, earlier understanding contradicted itself and I thought I was crazy. Then I read Shankara's commentary over and over, but knowing each mantra well was a lot different from what all put together meant. Where would we all seekers be without Shankara walking us across? Another student was thoroughly confused and asked me to explain what was meant by "greater darkness" that comes later while explaining the fate of a person who just partakes of knowledge without the performance of the karmic rituals. I spent the night before the Upanishad exam almost entirely on the Isha and realized that I understood it really well, but tossed the exam aside. (Of course my marks agreed with that!) I was more than happy to see that this student liked what I understood and shared with him. I guess that is the real test of any understanding: facing questions, expressions, etc, of a student who himself, is willing to learn.

So what is it that makes a small Upanishad like Isha so difficult? Oh yes, the fashion in which the contents hold themselves just like any other Upanishad. But here, I think it comes off as not being connected well among the sequence of mantras either. At first, it goes on to say that Ishwara covers the entire universe and that we must not covet other's wealth. Later, it mentions fates of those who do karma alone and those who just try to gain knowledge. The results are mentioned to be best when the two are combined. It also has prayers to fire and Sun. In the end, one can't assimilate all of this on a platter. Each mantra seems a separate dish meant for different people at different times, but they're not. Once the meaning as a whole strikes you, its bliss without any doubt.
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