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Simplicity and Spirituality: A Lesson from Isha Upanishad

The rate of heart disease is growing up and up in India at an alarmingly rapid pace.

One reason may be that in our mad pursuit of money and material possessions, we do not get sufficient time for rest. It puts an excessive stress on the heart.

What is the solution to the problem? The solution lies in the philosophy of the Upanishads.

The first verse of the ईशावास्योपनिषद may be a case in point. The first line of that verse runs something like this:

ॐ ईशा वास्यमिदं सर्वं यत्किंच जगत्यां जगत /

It means something to the effect: whatever lives in the world should be shrouded by the Divine, which means should be perceived as the Divine.

There is one thing that joins all the beings and things in the universe, cutting across all the apparent differences among them and that thing is the Divine. The present line wants us to acknowledge this fact.

Does the Divine really live in everything? Yes, He does. Our culture believes that the Divine lives in our bodies in the form of the आत्मन, the soul.

Our bodies function only so long as the soul functions in them. The body ceases most of its functioning the moment the soul leaves it. So, it is the soul that runs our life, we are alive thanks to the soul only.

In this sense, the Divine lives in the whole universe and runs it. The present line refers to the Divine as ईश, which means the Supreme Lord.

As the Divine lives in the whole universe and runs it, He has been referred to as ईश, the Supreme Lord of the world, here.

If the Divine is the Supreme Lord of the world, it logically follows that everything in the world belongs to Him. He has the first right to use or enjoy anything in the world and we have the second one. This is what the next line tells us:

तेन त्यक्तेन भुंजीथा

It means something to the effect: enjoy anything only after He has abandoned it, which means used or enjoyed it.

This is the basic idea of the Indian practice of offering a नैवेद्य to the Divine: the food that we are going to eat should be first offered to the Divine because it is basically His and so He has the first right to enjoy it.

If we look upon all our material possessions from this point of view, it will naturally reduce our obsession with them.

Then we will think like this : if those possessions basically belong to the Divine and not to me, why should I run after them? Why should I take pride in having them? Why should I flaunt them, as if they were mine? Even if I get them less or lose them, what difference does it make for me? Why should I envy others of getting them in a larger quantity than me? I should be satisfied with whatever material possessions I have got ".

If we reduce our obsession with material possessions, it will naturally reduce our obsession with money.

Why do we need money after all? To buy and flaunt material possessions! Some women are after money just because they want to buy more and more saris with it.

Do they really need so many Sarees? No. They just want to show off the fact that they have a large variety of expensive Sarees with them.

So, reducing our obsession with material possessions is the right way to strike at the root of our obsession with money.

The next part of the line is something like a logical conclusion of whatever has been said in the earlier verse:

मा गृध: कस्यस्विद्धनम /

It means something to the effect: Don't covet others' money. Who covets others' money? Only the one who is dissatisfied with the material positions and money that have come his way.

The one who takes material possessions in the proper spirit and perspective has no reason to do that.

So, studying the first verse of the ईशावास्योपनिषद and putting its message to practice can be the right way of countering heart burns and heart failures. Let's do the same and always keep ourselves healthy and happy!

Dr. Jogeshwar Nilkanth Nandurkar
Jogeshwar holds Ph.D. in English, he is a teacher of English, Sanskrit and Marathi. He started writing from age 13 and has written in many columns. He has also directed several plays, group dances and songs.
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