Ishaavaasyam idam sarvam - God Omnipresent

"Ishaavaasyam idam sarvam yat kim ca jagatyam jagat 
tena tyaktena bhunjithaah maa gridhah kasyasvid dhanam"
                                                                        first mantra of the Ishavasya Upanishad: 

The entire universe is indwelt, enveloped, covered by the Supreme Being; 
Live a happy life in this world. Enjoy your existence; do not suffer.

When through Jnaana (knowledge), abhyaasa (practice) and vairaagya (detachment) we succeed in developing this perception of the world: namely, that God envelops all things and He is indwelling everything; it follows that we will be veritably in the presence of God always and therefore, ever blissful and joyous. This is an affirmation by the Rishis, the realized saints, who traveled the path and experienced the all-pervading spirit. 

Commentary by Swami Krishnananda, The Divine Life Society, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh: 

The entire universe is indwelt, enveloped, covered by the Supreme Being, whatever this world be, -- moving or non-moving, living or otherwise. The second part of this mantra is a conclusion drawn from this vision: Live a happy life in this world. Enjoy your existence; do not suffer. Life is not intended to be a misery. We cannot expect God to have created a hell for us. Compassionate is He. It should be lived, and not merely got on as a drudgery. 

Tena tyaktena bhunjitaah: by renunciation effected in the light of the consciousness of the indwelling presence of God, enjoy this world. By a renunciation effected in the light of the all-pervading nature of God, you can live a life of happiness in this world. 

In an interview published in INDIA New England News  – Chinmaya Mission, Boston (June 1, 2003)
(page 6 of the pdf document:  
Swami Chinmayananda explained the meaning lucidly thus: (the link does not connect to the article now)

This positive state of harmony and peace, which can be invoked by an intelligent person of will and courage,
is called God. He is present everywhere --

as the raga in the music, or

the canvas in a painting.

He is the warp and woof of the entire tapestry of life,

as the thread in a piece of cotton.

We must have

the ears to listen to the raga,

the understanding to see the canvas, and

the knowledge to recognize the thread in the cloth.

The hurried existence of busy experiences
diverts our attention, and we consequently
fail to see, hear, or know Him. ………. 

We can do no better than sing in chorus with Hans Denk:

'Oh my God,
how does it happen in this poor old world that

Thou art so great and yet nobody finds Thee,

Thou callest so loudly and nobody hears Thee,

Thou art so near and yet nobody feels Thee,

Thou givest Thyself to everybody
and yet nobody even knows Thy name?

Men flee from Thee
                        and say they cannot find Thee;

Men turn their backs
                        and say they cannot see Thee;

Men cover their ears
                        and say they cannot hear Thee.'

HiranyaKashipu, blinded by his Ego, challenged his son Prahlada to show his God
Vishnu in the stone pillar near him. Affirming His devotee Prahlada's declaration,
God came out of the pillar as NaraSimha to validate the eternal truth: 
Ishaavaasyam idam sarvam - 
there is nowhere that He is not there.

The Tamil Saint Tirumoolar explained in his Tirumanthiram how
our individual perceptions hide Reality/Truth, with an example of a child
playing with an elephant-figure carved out of wood:


maraththai maRaiththadhu maamadha yaanai
(wood (was)     hidden (by)      wild    elephant
maraththil maRaindhadhu maamadha yaanai 
in the wood   got hidden       wild     elephant
Paraththai maRaiththadhu paarmudhal bhootam
paramaatma   was hidden  (by)     the five elements 
paraththil    maRaindhadhu paarmudhal bhootam
in paramaatma      has merged       the five elements

The child played ecstatic with his elephant proud,
He cared not it was made of wood,
Man with his worldly knowledge beholds only the wood,
But misses the Lord in all creation;
Even so, the Elements hide the Real from our sight,
But the Mystic’s eye of perception 
pierces through the Elements and experiences God.

:  the (five) elements - prithvi, aapah, tejas, vaayu, akaasha,
earth, water, fire, air and space.

A wild elephant carved out of wood might look very real. A closer scrutiny reveals that though it resembles an elephant in shape, it is made of wood only and is life-less. Similarly, study of the scriptures and cogitation in the mind revealu to us that this world which appears to be made of  the five elements is really made of the timber called the Paramatman; we must learn to look upon all this as the Supreme God-head.

Thirumoolar says in this poem that inspite of our being accustomed to seeing the five elements (pancha bhootas) all the time, we have the ability to learn to see the Paramatman that is hidden in them. We must recognize that it is indeed He who pervades them, learn to see Ishwara in everything and develop the Upanishadic perception of the Truth: Isavasyam idam sarvam and the consequent experience of Bliss pervading the World.

We may try to block out sadness, pain, loss and grief  by indulging in pleasures, thinking that it will bring us happiness; but we feel even worse when the temporary happiness runs out. Buddha taught people to recognize and accept that suffering is part of life and that it cannot be avoided. He  taught his followers not to be distracted by momentary pleasures, but to look at the bigger picture of their life experience. He taught that happiness and pleasures are temporary and therefore, that people should learn more about what he taught as the Right way to end suffering. He taught these lessons in his next Three Noble Truths.

One may term the Upanishad's perception as positive in that the fundamental Truth about Life was asserted
at the very beginning in positive terms: "Life is full of Bliss", in contrast to
Buddha's "There is inevitable suffering in life"   and the Bible's "we are born in Sin".

Realizing this truth, we have to train ourselves to move into this state of bliss from our present state of misery and pain created by our incorrect perceptions and our addiction to the pleasure-principle.. 

Shraddha (faith), Bhakti (love of the all-pervading God) and Karma Yoga (action) practiced with detachment (vairagya)  help us to progress on the path to Bliss.

Since God is sat-chit-ananda, the Blisssful existence principle - the Dweller in all beings (Vaasudeva)
the assertion that 'Life is full of Bliss' is a corollary to the statement that God is Omnipresent; 
this is implied  in the following Gita Slokam:

Bhagavad Gita Ch.6 sloka 30

He who perceives Me in all 

and perceives all in Me,

to him I am not lost and 

he too is not lost to me

Search for God

The experience of one who, not knowing this great truth about the omnipresence of God,
searched for Him in many places and missed Him -- is vividly brought out in the following:

The man whispered: "God, speak to me" and the meadowlark sang.

But the man did not hear!

So the man yelled: God, speak to me.
And God rolled the thunder across the sky.

But the man did not listen!

He looked around and said, "God, let me see you."
And a star shined brightly.

But the man did not see!

And, he shouted, "God, show me a miracle."
And a life was born!

baby.jpg (34047 bytes)
But the man did not notice!

So, he cried out in despair, "God, touch me."
Whereupon, God reached down and gently touched the man.

But the man brushed the butterfly away ....
and walked on, disappointed.

He could not see God anywhere, because
he could not see Him everywhere and in all beings.

Richard Bach explained how we miss seeing the one in many thus:

The mark of your ignorance
Is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy.
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world
The master calls a butterfly!
(from Illusions by Richard Bach)

The ego in the un-evolved person,
is a rebel that has exiled itself from its native kingdom, the Self.

On re-disovery of the Self, the ego becomes the Self
in such a happy blending of a homogeneous whole that,
thereafter, there is no distinction between the ego and the Self.

Such a realized person experiences God in many ways:

in the chirping of the birds,
in the roll of the thunder,
in the twinkling light of the stars,
in the miracle of the birth of a child,
and in the soft touch of a butterfly.

He sees God everywhere
and experiences God in everything.

He sings in tune with the Isavasya Upanishad mantra:
Isaavasyam idam sarvam

Maneesha Panchakam

Perceiving the Divine every where, is the central theme of Adi Sankaracharya's Maneesha Panchakam. 

There is this  instructive story about how a chance encounter with a chandala (outcaste) on a Banaras street, while returning from a bath in the Ganga river, revealed to Adi Shankara his own residual caste bias and inspired his famous composition Maneesha Panchakam, wherein he vowed to see the Self in everyone.

After a holy dip in the Ganga, when Sri Sankara was going to the Vishwanath Temple, he noticed a Chandala accompanied by his wife and four dogs coming on the same path towards him. Sri Sankara shouted at him to make way ('go away', 'go away'), and to keep a distance. The untouchable smiled and replied: (Slokas 1 & 2 from Maneesha Panchakam):

“O great ascetic! Tell me.
By uttering 'go away' 'go away', do you want me to keep a distance from you, taking me to be an outcaste? Is it addressed from one body made of food to another body made of food, or is it to consciousness from consciousness --- which, O, the best among ascetics, you wish should go away, by saying ‘Go away, go away’? Do tell me.

Answer me. While the supreme Being is reflected in every object as the sun's reflection could be seen in the placid wave-less water bodies, why this doubting confusion and differentiation i.e. whether one is a brahmin or an outcaste, who is the superior one etc ?. Is there any difference in the reflection of the sun in the waters of the Ganges or in the water present in the street of an outcaste? Likewise, is there any difference when the water-container happens to be a golden vessel and earthen pot?”

Immediately, Shankaraacharya realised the presence of Lord Shankara Himself (as an instructor to remove the last vestige of imperfection in His devotee) and composed five stanzas known famously as ‘maneeshha panchakam’.

In the very first slokam, Shankaracharya enunciated the principle of perceiving divinity in all, be he a Brahmin or an outcaste:

“If one is convinced firmly, that he is that very Soul which manifests itself in all the conditions of sleep, wakefulness and dream, in all the objects from the great Brahma (the creator) to the tiny ant and which is also the vibrant, but invisible, witnesser of all, then as per my clear conclusion, he is the great teacher/preceptor, be he a twice-born (i.e higher castes) or an outcaste.”

The essence of Vedanta is that there is but one Being and that every soul is that Being in full, not a part of that Being. All the sun is reflected in each dew-drop. Appearing in time, space and causality, this Being is man, as we know him, but behind all appearance is the one Reality. Unselfishness is the denial of the lower or apparent self. We have to free ourselves from this miserable dream that we are these bodies. We must know the truth, "I am He". We are not drops to fall into the ocean and be lost; each one is the whole , infinite ocean, and will know it when released from the fetters of illusion. Infinity cannot be divided, the "One without a second" can have no second, all is that One. The Vedanta says that the Soul is, in its nature, Existence absolute, Knowledge absolute, Bliss absolute.

Therefore in Advaita philosophy, the whole universe is all one in the Self which is called Brahman. That Self when it appears behind the universe is called God. The same Self when it appears behind this little universe, the body, is the soul. This very soul, therefore, is the Self in man. There is only one Purusha, the Brahman of the Vedanta; God and man, analysed, are one in It. The universe is you yourself, the unbroken you; you are throughout the universe. "In all hands you work, through all mouths you eat, through all nostrils you breathe, through all minds you think." The whole universe is you; the universe is your body; you are the universe both formed and unformed. You are the soul of the universe and its body also. You are God, you are the angels, you are man, you are animals, you are the plants, you are the minerals, you are everything; the manifestation of everything is you. Whatever exists is you. You are the Infinite. 

The Infinite cannot be divided. It can have no parts, for each part would be infinite, and then the part would be identical with the whole, which is absurd. Therefore the idea that you are Mr. So and so can never be true; it is a daydream. 
Know this and become free.

Story from Bhagawan Satya Sai Baba's 

Early in the morning, the priest entered the temple with a pot full of water to perform abhishek to the Lingam. To his utter consternation, he found an aged man sleeping right in front of the shrine with legs stretched towards the sanctum sanctorum. He got wild at the sight and, in indignation, he sprinkled some water on the face of the old man. But, there was no sign of any movement. So, he bent down and tried to lift the old man's legs. Immediately the old man opened his eyes and said in an appealing tone, "My dear Son! Why are you pulling my legs?" The priest shouted "Oh! For your age, is it not shameful on your part to indulge in such a sacrilegious act of stretching your legs towards God?" The old man said calmly, "My dear son, I feel a cramp in my legs and cannot get up. Will you place my two feet in a direction you like, where God is not? I shall certainly get up after a while." The priest did not want to waste time in arguing with the man. So, he held the two feet of the man, lifted them up and placed them in the opposite direction. Suddenly, there sprang out a lingam from underneath the feet! The priest tried to place the old man's feet in another position, but there again sprang up another lingam! In a minute, the place was full of lingams! 

The priest fell at the feet of the old man and said "Oh revered one! You must be a realised soul. Pardon me for my insulting words and actions." The old man got up and said "My dear son, have you not read in the scriptures that God is omnipresent? Can you limit God to a place and to an image or a picture or in a frame? Of course we have temples with idols and pictures of worship; but they only help devotees to direct their faith and devotion to God as embodiments of the various Divine shaktis in this vast boundless universe. The Supreme Creator, the Almighty God is only one, and remember, He is Omnipresent."

From a discourse by Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba

The Prakrithi and the Purusha are different from each other. Oneness between them will be evident only when there is an amalgamation of the two in your thoughts. You cannot see non-dualism in them so long as you feel they are distinct from each other. In our mind, we should be able to move from Prakrithi to Purusha and join them together. We should make an attempt to join these two by taking Prakrithi to Purusha. On the contrary, we are dragging Purusha down to the level of Prakrithi. 

You may worship a picture as God but not God as a picture. You can elevate a piece of stone, a piece of mud, or a bit of paper to the position of God and worship it, but do not bring down God to the position of a piece of stone, or a bit of paper.

.....................  it has been said:  "Eswara Sarva Bhutanam" - that is, Eswara is present in all things; you may thus think of a stone as Eswara, but not Eswara as a stone. Some ridicule us by saying that we worship a stone and imagine it to be God. The correct interpretation is that we are accustomed to believe that God is present in everything in this world. Therefore, we worship the tulasi leaves, we worship the cow, the aswattha tree, the lion, the tiger, the snake and in fact all the creation in this world, because God is present in everything in this world. .......  we should not think that we are doing this in blind faith. 

The Upanishads speak of Satyakama Jabala who told his Master that he was taught by a bull, a swan, a bird, and the fire when he was all alone in the forest tending to the cattle. 
The guileless boy heard the voices, no matter where they came from and became enlightened! 

The Lord is constantly attempting to communicate with us in many ways.
We have to still the constant noise in our mind to be able to hear Him speak to us.

He whispers as the wind, 
murmurs through the leaves 
and shouts as the thunder. 
Through the firmament, He teaches universality; 
through the blowing air, the message of ceaseless work; 
through the mountain, the co-existence of muteness and greatness; 
and through the flowing river, the need to move on.