Isha Upanishad-2- The meaning of “vAsyam”

Nithin Sridhar

1. IshaUpanishad starts with bold declaration- Isha vAsyam idam sarvam- God inhabits/covers everything here(in Universe).

2. “vAsyam” is an interesting term. It can either mean “to cover or envelop” or “to inhabit”.

3. Sri Aurobindo has used the meaning “to inhabit” where as Adi Shankaracharya has used the meaning “to cover”.

4. If, we take the meaning “to inhabit” it would mean that, God inhabits all the objects of the Universe.

5. In other words, God is the inner-most Self, Innermost Reality, the substratum of the Universe.

6.Though the world is full of various names & forms, beneath all multiplicities, Reality is One.

7. One Infinite reality manifests as various finite objects.

8. Hence, God is the cause & controller of the Universe.

9. In fact,God is the Innermost Self of the Universe from whom Universe derives its existence and relevance.

10.To search for God, one need not go to heaven,instead must search inside Heart, as it is in Hrdaya that dwells God.

11. So, how does one realize God inside one’s Hrdaya? It is through the process of Vichara.

12. Vichara or Self-Enquiry is a process by which one Isolates the Self from Non-Self super-impositions.

13. We identify Self with our body,senses &mind.We can reach heart only by removing wrong identifications.

14. This Vichara is not a mere intellectual process. The rational understanding forms only the first step.

15. Slowly,one by one as a seeker isolates the real Self, from non-self entities, he reaches God in Hrdaya.

16. Its with reference to this Isolation of Self from Non-Self that Shankara interprets vAsyam as “to cover”.

17. Just as a odor from Sandanwood “covers” as in “replaces” all other smells that are present in the surroundings.

18. Similarly, when one attains Self, all the names & forms are realized as being non-different from Self.

19.What was previously considered as separate from God/Self will be realized as being non-different from God.

20. Here, Covers is used as in replaces. The false knowledge of duality is replaced by Oneness/ Non-duality of Self.

21. By taking vAsyam as inhabits, one understands that God inhabits in Hrdaya.

22. And on reaching Hrdaya, one realizes that God alone exist. What was initially perceived as names and forms separate from God, what was previously rejected as Non-Self separate from Self will be realized as being Self alone.

23. Hence, the meaning of the Mantra does not change with the choice of the meaning for the word vAsayam.

24. One (the meaning “to inhabit”) refers to the state of vivekam & the other (the meaning “to cover”) refers to the state of Jnanam.

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