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॥ ॐ नमः शिवाय ॥

IN FRONT THE FACE OF DEATH...


The last five ślokas (14 - 18) of the Īśopaniṣad are especially important, since they are an important part of the Hindu rites associated with death. It is believed that the recitation of these ślokas before the moment of death, along with the mantra "oṃ namaḥ śivāya" and "mahāmṛtyuñjaya mantra" provides a better rebirth or even liberation. Therefore, it is very useful to know them by heart. Following are these slokas with the Śankara's commentaries.



सम्भूतिं च विनाशं च यस्तद्वेदोभयं सह ।

विनाशेन मृत्युं तीर्त्वा सम्भूत्याऽमृतमश्नुते ॥ १४॥


sambhūtiñca vināśañca yastadvedobhyaṃ saha vināśena mṛtyuṃ tīrtvā sambhūtyā`mṛtamaśnute


Those who worship the unmanifested Prakriti and Hiranyagarbha (Destruction) together, get over death through the worship of Hiranyagarbha and attain immortality through the worship of Prakriti.¹


हिरण्मयेन पात्रेण सत्यस्यापिहितं मुखम् ।

तत्त्वं पूषन्नपावृणु सत्यधर्माय दृष्टये ॥ १५ ॥


hiraṇmayena pātreṇa satyasyāpihitaṃ mukham

tattvaṃ pūṣannapāvṛṇu satyadharmāya dṛṣṭaye


The entrance of the True is covered as if by a golden vessel. Remove, O sun, the covering that I who have been worshipping “The True” may behold it.²


पूषन्नेकर्षे यम सूर्य प्राजापत्य

व्यूह रश्मीन् समूह तेजः ।

यत्ते रूपं कल्याणतमं तत्ते पश्यामि

योऽसावसौ पुरुषः सोऽहमस्मि ॥ १६ ॥

pūṣannekarṣe yamasūrya prājāpatya vyūha raśmīn samūha tejo

yatte rūpaṃ kalyāṇatamaṃ tatte paśyāmi yo`sāvasau puruṣaḥ so'hamasmi


O Sun, sole traveller of the Heavens, controller of all, Surya, son of Prajapati remove thy rays and gather up thy burning light. I behold thy glorious form; 1 am he, the Purusha within thee.³


वायुरनिलममृतमथेदं भस्मांतं शरीरम् ।

ॐ क्रतो स्मर कृतं स्मर क्रतो स्मर कृतं स्मर ॥ १७ ॥


vāyuranilamamṛtamathedaṃ bhasmāntaṃ śarīram oṃ krato smara kṛtaṃ smara krato smara kṛtaṃ smara


(Let my) Prana melt into the all-pervading Air, the eternal Sutratman; and let this body he burnt by fire to ashes; Om. O mind, remember, remember my deeds; O mind, remember, remember my deeds.


अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान्

विश्वानि देव वयुनानि विद्वान् ।

युयोध्यस्मज्जुहुराणमेनो

भूयिष्ठां ते नमौक्तिं विधेम ॥ १८ ॥

agne naya supathā rāye asmān viśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān yuyodhyasmajjuhurāṇameno bhūyiṣṭhāṃ te namauktiṃ vidhema


O Agni, lead us by the good path to the enjoyment of the fruits of our deeds, knowing O God, all our deeds. Remove the sin of deceit from within us. We offer thee many prostrations by word of mouth.


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Shankara’s Commentaries:


1. Shankara’s Commentary:

As this is so, this mantra declares the desirability of combining the worship of Prakriti and Hiranyayarbha as they combine to secure the one aim of the individual. ‘Vinasa’ means that active object whose characteristic attribute is Destruction, the abstract being here used for the concrete. ‘By vinasa’ means ‘by the worship of Hiranyagarbha.’ ‘Gets over death’ means ‘gets over the defects of vice, desires and anaisvaryam (limited powers) and attains anima and other siddhis which are the result of the worship of Hiranyagarbha. Having thus overcome anaisvaryam, death, etc., he, by the worship of Prakriti, attains immortality, i.e., absorbtion into Prakriti. It should be noted that the word Sambhutih is an apheresis for Asambhutih agreeably to the results predicated, i.e., absorption into Prakriti. [↑]


2. Shankara’s Commentary:

The highest result that could be achieved. according to the Sastras, by wealth of men and the deities is absorption into Prakriti. Up to this is rotation in Samsara. Beyond this is the result of the pursuit of knowledge preceded by a renunciation of all desire, i.e., the seeing of the Atman in everything as indicated in verse 7. Thus the two-fold purport of the Vedas, one stimulating to activity and the other drawing to renunciation has been explained. The Brahmanas up to Pravargya Brahmana were utilized for the elucidation of the former purport of the Vedas which is indicated by mandatory and prohibitory injunctions. The Brihadaranyaka hereafter is to deal with the elucidation of the latter purport of the Vedas—renunciation. Now, by what road he, who has been performing Karma as enjoined from conception to the grave and along with it the worship of the lower Brahman in accordance with verse 11, attains immortality, will be explained. He who has been worshipping the manifested Brahman referred to in the passage “That is the True, the Aditya, the Purusha in this orb: and the Purusha in the left eye; both these are true” and also has been performing Karma as enjoined, entreats, when the hour of death is arrived, the way leading to the Atman—the True, by the text beginning with ‘Hiranmayena, etc.’ ‘Hiranmaya’ means seeming golden hence resplendent. ‘Patrena’ means as if by a lid forming a cover. ‘Satyasya,’ means ‘of the Brahman sitting in the orb of the Sun.’ ‘Apihitam’ means ‘covered.’ ‘Mukham’ means‘opening.’ ‘Apavrinu’ means ‘open.’ ‘Satyadharmaya,’ to me who have been worshipping Satya or the True or who have been practising Satya, i.e., ‘virtue as enjoined.’ ‘Drishtaye’ means ‘for realizing the Satya or the True which thou art.’ [↑]


3. Shankara’s Commentary:

‘Pushan,’ vocative case meaning ‘O Sun.’ The Sun is called Pushan because he feeds the world. ‘Ekarshi’ means ‘one who travels alone.’ The Sun is called Vania, because he controls all. He is called Surya because he imbibes Prana, rays and liquids. ‘Prajapatya’ means ‘son of Prajapati.’ ‘Vyuha’ means ‘remove to a distance thy rays.’ ‘Samuha,’ means ‘gather up, i.e., contract.’ ‘Tejah’ means. ‘burning light.’ I wish to behold by thy grace thy most glorious form. Moreover I do not entreat thee like a servant. I am he the Parasha within the solar orb. composed of Vyakritis as limbs or parts. ‘Purusha' because he has the figure of a man or because he pervades the whole in the form of Prana and intelligence or because he occupies the city (of the Soul) i.e., [↑]


4. Shankara’s Commentary:

Now, as I am dying, let my Prana leave its confinement within this body and join the all-pervading godly form of Air, i.e., the Sutratman. The word ‘reach’ should be supplied to complete the sentence. The idea ‘Let my Linga Sarira or subtle body purified by knowledge and Karma ascend’ must be supplied in virtue of the fact of the speaker entreating a passage. Let this body given as an oblation to the fire be reduced to ashes. Om, according to the forms of worship being a pratika (substitute) of the nature of the True and called Agni is mentioned as the same as Brahman. ‘Krato,’ vocative case, meaning ‘O mind whose characteristic is volition,’ ‘Remember’ i.e., time has come for me to remember what I should. Remember all that I have till now thought of ‘O Agni, remember what I have donei.e., remember all Karma which I have done from childhood. The repetition of the same words ‘Krito Sinara&c., expresses solicitude. [↑]


5. Shankara’s Commentary:

He requests passage again by another mantra. Naya means ‘lead.’ ‘supathā’ means ‘by good path.’ The attribute in Supathā is used for the purpose of avoiding the southern route. The suppliant seems to say “I have been afflicted by going to and for, by the southern route by which one goes only to return. I therefore entreat you to take me by the good road through which there is no going and returning.” ‘Rāye’ means ‘to wealth; i.e.. to the enjoyment of the fruits of our Karma.’ ‘Asmān means ‘us,’ possessed of the fruits of the virtue aforesaid. ‘Viśvāni’ means ‘all.’ O God, ‘vayunāni’ means ‘deeds or knowledge.’ ‘Vidvān’ means ‘Knowing.’ Besides do this: ‘Yuyodhi’ means ‘destroy.’ ‘Asmat’ means ‘from us.’ ‘Juhurāṇam’ means ‘consisting in deceit.’ ‘Enah’ means ‘sin.’ ‘The meaning is:—Thus purified they could attain what they wish for. “But we are now unable to do you active service. We have to content ourselves by offering you many prostrations.”


Now a doubt is raised by some about the construction of the latter halves of mantras 11 and 14. We shall therefore enter into a brief discussion to solve the doubt. What the question is due to shall first he stated. It is, why not understand the term Vidya in those passages in its primary sense of ‘the knowledge of the Paramatmam,’ and so Amritatvam? They argue thus: granted that the knowledge of the Paramatman and the performance of Karma are mutually antagonistic and cannot therefore co-exist, this antagonism is not perceivable; for agreement and antagonism rest alike on the authority of the Sastras. Just as the performance of Karma and the acquisition of Knowledge are matters exclusively based on the Sastras, so also must be the question of their agreement or opposition. Thus we find that the prohibitory injunction ‘Do not kill any liv ing thing is overridden by another Sastraic injunction ‘Kill a sheep in a sacrifice.’ The same may apply to Karma and Knowledge. If from the text “They are opposed and travel different roads. Knowledge and Karma.” it is urged that they cannot co-exist, we say that from the text “He who follows both Knowledge and Karma, etc,” there is no antagonism between them. We answer that cannot he; for. they are opposed to each other in regard to their causes, nature and results. But if it he urged that from the impossibility of Knowledge and Karma being opposed and not opposed to each other and from the injunction to combine them there is no antagonism between them, that is unsound; for their co-existence is impossible. If it he argued that they may gradually grow to coexist. it is untenable; for when Knowledge arises. Karma cannot exist in the individual to whom Knowledge adheres. It is well known that when one knows that fire is hot and bright, he cannot at the same time think that fire is neither hot nor bright; or even entertain a doubt as to whether fire is bright or hot; for, according to the text “When to the knower all living things become one with his own Atman, where is grief or perplexity to one who sees this unity,” grief or perplexity is out of the question. We have already said that where ignorance ceases, its result, Karma, also ceases. The immortality in ‘attains immortality’ (in the passage under contemplation) means relative immortality and not absolute immortality. If the word Vidya in those texts meant the knowledge of the Paramatman, then the entreaty to the Sun for allowing a passage would become inappropriate. We therefore conclude w ith observing that our interpretation, i.e., that the combination desired is of Karma with the worship of the deities and not with the Knowledge of the Paramatman, is the purport of the mantras as commented upon by us. [↑]


ॐ नमः शिवाय

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