Monday, March 16, 2009

||chapter twenty||

|| sri sai satcharitra ||

|| chapter twenty ||

|| isavasya upanishad ||

||Sri Ganeshaya Namaha || Sri Saraswatye Namaha ||
|| Sri Venkateshaya Namaha || Sri Sai Nathaya Namaha ||
|| Sri Sadgurubhyo Namaha ||

In this chapter, Hemad Pant tells us about how Dasganu’s problem was solved, and other matters.


Sai is Nirguna, Nirakara or formless Brahman. He took a form only for the sake of His devotees. With the help of Maya, He also became an actor on the theater of this Universe. The very sight of Him fills us with immense pleasure. Let us go to Shirdi, hundred years ago, and see what He is doing. The noon arati is just now over. Baba has come out of the masjid. He is standing near its edge, slightly bending over. All the devotees who had come to the masjid for the arati are overjoyed. One by one, they are coming to Baba, clasping His feet with both their hands and touching His feet with their forehead with deep respect and reverence. The enormous love and affection He has for the devotees is clearly visible in His eyes. He is slowly caressing the head of each of the devotee and giving them the Udi prasadam.

To some He is telling, “Bhau, have your lunch.” To some, He is telling, “Anna, go to your lodging and take rest.” To some others, He is jocularly telling, “Hey Bapu, enjoy your dishes.” Thus He is treating everyone with affection as if they are His own near and dear. Internally for Him, all are same. He is not attached to any one of them. Though He is in this Samsara, attachments do not come anywhere near Him, just as a seasoned stage artist performs his role knowing fully well that he is different from the role he is portraying. But, we still have attachments. The very sight of Baba standing there, slightly bent, giving Udi prasadam to us, softly caressing our head fills our hearts with unknown bliss. We feel that Baba is ours. Let us prostrate at the divine feet of our Baba. Let us recollect, meditate and assimilate His stories.


Once Dasganu Maharaj undertook the difficult task of translating Isavasya Upanishad into Marathi, entitled ‘Isavasya Bhavartha Bodhini’, and bringing out its exact meaning. Let us have a brief idea of this most beautiful Upanishad before proceeding further.

The God, intent on the regeneration of the world, communicated Vedas through Hiranyagarbha (Brahma) and Hiranyagarbha, in turn, passed them on to his ten Manasa-puthras, including Athri and Marichi. From them, the Vedas spread among humanity, handed down from one generation to another. As time passed, ages accumulated and continents moved, some Vedas got lost, or were neglected as too difficult for comprehension, and only four have survived into modern times. These Four were taught by Vedavyasa, the greatest among the exponents of the Vedas, to his disciples, in the Dwaparayuga.

When Vyasa was thus expounding the Vedas, engaged in spreading the sacred scripture, one of his disciples, Yajnavalkya by name, incurred his wrath and as a punishment, he had to regurgitate the Yajurveda that he had already learned, into the custody of his guru and leave the place. Just then, the Rishis who revere the Vedas flew into the place in the shape of Thiththiri birds and ate up the regurgitated Yajurveda. That particular section of the Veda is called "Thaithiriyam".

Yajnavalkya then took refuge in Suryadeva, the treasure-house of the Vedas. Suryadeva was pleased with the devotion and steadfastness of the unfortunate Yajnavalkya. He assumed the form of a Vaji or Horse and blessed the sage with renewed knowledge of the Yajurveda. The sections thus taught by the Vaji came to be called 'Vajasaneyi'. The Yajurveda as promoted by Vedavyasa is called Krishnayajurveda and that handed down by Yajnavalkya as the Suklayajurveda. In these, the first few chapters are Manthras connected with the Karmakanda and the last few sections deal with Jnanakanda. The Isavasya Upanishad is concerned with this Jnanakanda.

The Upanishad, though apparently simple and intelligible, is in reality one of the most difficult to understand properly. The aspirant should sit at the feet of an experienced teacher, a Brahma-Srotri, a Brahma-Nishtha, and study this Upanishad with single-pointed and pure mind. Then everything will become quite clear. Out of the eighteen mantras in this Upanishad, only the first two deal directly with the problem of Liberation and its solution. The other sixteen elaborate this solution and serve as commentaries thereon. In the first manthra of the Isavasya, the Jnana-nishta characterised by the absence of craving of any sort is expounded. This is the primary Vedartha; but, those who have cravings will find it difficult to get stabilised in that Nishta or state of mind. For such, the second manthra prescribes a secondary means, the Karma-nishta. The rest of the manthras elaborate and support these two nishtas - based on Jnana and Karma. Karma-nishta has Desire and Delusion as the cardinal urges; Jnana-nishta has Vairagya (Renunciation), the conviction that the world is not Atma, that is to say, not true, and therefore, it is profitless to have any dealings with it. Renunciation here does not mean negation of life. It is not some morose and lifeless experience. We should not renounce life because of despair or depression arising out of our fears, frustration or personal failures. True renunciation arises out of intense longing for the divine, out of a state of mind in which attachment with the Divine alone makes sense and out of a sense of freedom and fearlessness that stem from unflinching faith in God and His supreme will. We should not renounce life because we do not like it. We renounce life because we love God intensely and live our life with a sense of gratitude and self-surrender. The life of renunciation is a carefree life, utterly devoid of all pretension and seeking and free from the cares and the struggle that accompany all manners of seeking. Man has the right to enjoy his life. There is a divine sanction for it. Life has to be enjoyed, but without seeking, without coveting, and without struggling to get things done or get things for oneself. It is the renunciation of seeking and of desiring things which is the central feature of a life of true renunciation. Those who renounce life truly, in fact, enjoy life better than those who do not, because the true sanyasis are not troubled by the fear of loss or the possibility of gain. They accept their lot, what comes to them without struggle and seeking and remain indifferent to what does not come to them or what has departed from them. Such an attitude to Vairagya is the gateway to Jnana-nishta. From the third to the eighth manthra, the real nature of the Atma is depicted, through the condemnation of the Avidya, which prevents the understanding of the Atma.

Thus the Isavasya teaches the lesson of renunciation through the first manthra and the lesson of 'liberating activity' (through Karma devoid of Raga and Dwesha) in the second manthra. In the fourth and fifth manthra, it speaks of Atmathathwa and later of the fruits of the knowledge of that Atmathathwa. In the ninth manthra, the path of progressive liberation or Karmamukthi (useful for those who are too weak to follow the path of total renunciation but who are adepts in acts that are conducive to moral development and inner purification) is laid down; this is the path which co-ordinates all Karma on the principle of Upasana. Those who are engaged in acts contrary to Vidya are full of Ajnana. It says; those who confine themselves to the study and practice of divine forms are even worse, for their desire is for powers and skills. Vidya leads to Deva-loka, Karma leads to Pithr-loka it is said. So, the Jnana that results in Atmasakshathkara or Self-realisation is something quite distinct from these, no attempt to co-ordinate the two can succeed.

Thus, Isavasya Upanishad is also called as, ‘Mantropanishad’. It constitutes the last or the 40th chapter of the Vajasaneyi Samhita. Being embodied in Vedic Samhita, it is regarded as superior to all other Upanishads. In fact, the other Upanishads are considered to be commentaries on the truths mentioned briefly in the Isavasya Upanishad.

Prof. RD Ranade (1886 - 1957 AD) one of the greatest philosophers India has produced, says, “The Isopanishad is quite a small Upanishad; and yet it contains many hints which show extraordinarily piercing insight. Within the short compass of 18 verses, it gives a valuable mystical description of the Atma, a description of the ideal sage, who stands unruffled in the midst of temptations and sorrows; an adumbration of the doctrine of Karma-Yoga as later formulated and finally a reconciliation of the claims of Knowledge and Works. The most valuable idea that lies at the root of the Upanishad is that of a logical synthesis between the two opposites of Knowledge and Works, which are both required according to the Upanishad, to be annulled in a higher synthesis.” (Page 24; Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy). In another place, he says that “The poetry of the Isopanishad is a co-mixture of moral, mystical and metaphysical knowledge.” (Page 41, ibid.)

Dasganu Maharaj used the ‘Ovi’ metre, verse by verse, for his book in Marathi. As he did not comprehend the essence of the Upanishad, he was not happy with his performance. So, he consulted some learned men to clarify some of his doubts, discussed with them for great lengths of time, but the doubts remained as doubts. Dasganu was becoming restless.


As seen already, the Isavasya Upanishad teaches us the science of self realization. It gives us a weapon which can cut the bondage of life and death and set us totally free. When nobody could resolve his doubts, Dasganu thought that he should ask someone who has himself achieved self realization. He thought that Sadguru alone is competent to resolve his doubts. When a suitable opportunity presented itself, Dasganu prostrated at the feet of Baba and asked for guidance. Baba blessed him and told him, “Don’t worry. The maid servant of Kaka (Kakasaheb Dixit) will clear all your doubts at Vile-Parle.” Those who had assembled there, thought that Baba was joking as “How could an illiterate maid servant clear the doubts about Isavasya Upanishad, which she may not even know exists.” Dasganu, however, knew better and was certain that whatever Baba spoke came true. Baba’s words were like the orders of Brahma.


Obeying Baba’s instructions, Dasganu left for Vile-Parle and stayed with Kakasaheb Dixit. Next day when he was doing his daily morning worship, he heard a beautiful and melodious song. The song was in praise of a crimson coloured saree, about its pallu, border and the embroidery on it. The song was so appealing that Dasganu came out to see the person who was singing the song. The singer was a young girl of about eight years of age. She was sister of Namya, Kaka’s male servant. She was cleaning the vessels and was dressed in torn clothes. Dasganu immediately took a liking to the girl and felt pity for her. He also observed that though she was impoverished, she was in a very jovial mood.

Next day, when Rao Bahadur MW Pradhan presented him with a dhoti, Dasganu requested him to give a sari to the young girl. Rao Bahadur bought a good Chirdi (small sari) and presented it to the girl. Seeing the Chirdi, the girl’s face beamed with happiness and uncontrolled joy. Next day, she wore the new sari, whirled, danced and played ‘Fugadi’ (a traditional dance played by the women during Vinayaka Chaturthi in Maharashtra) with her friends and was very happy. The following day, she kept the sari in her box at home, came in the same old torn clothes and was singing and playing as on the previous day, when she was in the new sari. Seeing her so jovial, Dasganu had admiration, in stead of pity, for the girl. He thought that she had kept the new sari in her trunk to be worn on some festival day; and as she was poor, she had to be in torn clothes. Then something flashed in his mind.

Dasganu had observed that the girl was happy in the torn clothes, she was happy when in a new sari, and she continued to be happy even when she had to revert to the old torn clothes. Her dress did not affect her state of mind at any time. Her happiness of mind was not affected by the changes that were taking place to the dress on her body. She believed that whatever happened to her was the blessing of God, accepted the changes and was happy. She had not, of her own accord, asked for any of these changes. This was exactly what the first sloka of Isavasya Upanishad propounded.

Isavaasyamidam sarvam yathkincha jagathyaam jagath
Thena thyakthena bhunjeethaah, maa gridhah kasyaswid-dhanam

All this-whatsoever moves in this universe (and those that move not) is covered (indwelt or pervaded or enveloped or clothed) by the Lord. That renounced, enjoy. Do not covet the wealth of any man.

Dasganu was very happy. His doubts were clarified. Sadguru had guided him through an illiterate servant maid.

Once again we see the unique method of Baba’s teachings. Though He Himself did not go anywhere outside Shirdi, He used to send His devotees to places like Machchindragad, Kolhapur or Sholapur. It is never possible to say which method he would adopt in case of any particular devotee. To Dasganu, He asked him to go to Vile-Parle, where he would be enlightened by an illiterate servant maid. Some say that He need not have sent him there, but could have explained Himself in Shirdi. What they do not realize is that if Baba had explained; Dasganu would have listened to His words. It would not have made any impact on his mind. By the method Baba adopted, nobody told Dasganu anything. Dasganu himself realized the meaning of Isavasya Upanishad. Making the devotees realize by themselves the answers to their questions, was the methodology followed by Baba.

Before this chapter comes to a close, let us see another beautiful extract about the Isavasya Upanishad.


On pages 169 - 170 of The Creative Period, Belvalkar and Ranade say, “One of the main features of the Isha Upanishad is the ethical advice it offers, and it is interesting to note that the ethics of the Upanishad are definitely based upon the metaphysical position advanced in it. The very opening words of the Upanishad tell us, that God pervades every thing. As a corollary from the metaphysical position, the ethical advice it offers is, that a man ought to enjoy whatever God bestows on him in the firm belief that as He pervades everything, whatever is bestowed on him by God is good. It follows naturally that the Upanishad should forbid us from coveting another man’s property. In fact, we are fittingly taught here a lesson of contentment with one’s own lot in the belief that whatever happens, it is divinely ordained and it is hence good for us. Another moral advice is that man must spend his life-time always in doing action, specifically the Karmas enjoined in the Shastras, in a mood of believing resignation to His will. Inactivity, according to this Upanishad, would be the canker of the soul. It is only when a man spends his life-time in doing actions in this manner that he can hope to attain the ideal of Naishkarmya. Finally, the text goes on to say that a man, who sees all beings in the Self and sees the Self as existing in all beings; in fact, for whom all beings and everything that exists have become the Self - how can such a man suffer infatuation? What ground would such a man have for grief? Loathfulness, infatuation and grief verily proceed from our not being able to see the Atman in all things. But a man, who realizes the oneness of all things, for whom everything has become the Self must ipso facto, cease to be affected by the common foibles of humanity.”

With this the twentieth chapter called as Isavasya Upanishad, is complete. In the next chapter, Hemad Pant tells us about VH Thakur, Anantrao Patankar, a Pandharpur Pleader and other matters.

||Sri Sadguru Sainathaarpanamasthu ||Shubham Bhavatu||
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti


  1. Thank you very much for the in-detailed explanation of the origin and discourse of Isavasya Upanishad. I am enlightened.