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Prelude to Isvara Gita - Part IV: Kaivalya Upanishad

Having seen jnāna-yoga that is the means to meditate on the self, the meditation of the Atharvasiras in which the Pāśupata-Vrata is enjoined to attain dispassion for material objects and discrimination of the self from the body, and the instance of the practice of such upāsana in the kūrma purāṇa, let us look at a couple of Upanishads which focus solely on these topics.
One such Upanishad is the Kaivalya Upanishad. The term “Kaivalya” itself denotes aloofness from prakrti – it refers to the pure state of the liberated self that has no connection with karmas.
This Upanishad, which has “jīvātma-anubhāva” as its’ primary theme, has been wrongly and unjustly interpreted by modern day shaivAdvaitins as pertaining to Shiva. In this context, we find it appropriate to echo the harsh criticism used by Sri Vadiraja Tirtha in his “Prakashika” on Advaitins to condemn these Shaiva friendly interpretations – “akin to a monkey's handling of a necklace of precious gems (markato svakaragata ratnamalaya iva)”.
Interestingly, one of these Shaiva commentators, Alladi Mahadeva Sastry, feels duty-bound to take every reference to “umāsahāyam” or “Siva” as referring to his preferred deity, but when the term “Vāsudeva” occurs in the Amrtabindu Upanishad, it apparently denotes a general meaning! This is not permitted by the Shastras, for there is no instance where Vāsudeva is used in a manner divorced from Nārāyaṇa /Vishnu, whereas there are several instances of terms like “Siva”, “Umāpati” being used to denote objects and entities other than Rudradeva. In contrast, the names – Nārāyaṇa and Vāsudeva – have not been used anywhere to denote any entity other than the highest Brahman in the Vedas and have been identified with the God Vishnu according to the Vishnu Gayatri.
When there is no devotion to Narayana, the Supreme Lord, for these authors who consider lesser gods as supreme, how can one understand the correct meanings of Shastras?
With that out of the way, let us begin the translation. The Ishvara Gita can be considered as the essence of the meanings contained in this Upanishad.
oṃ athāśvalāyano bhagavantaṃ parameṣṭhinamupasametyovāca ।
adhīhi bhagavanbrahmavidyāṃ variṣṭhāṃ sadā sadbhiḥ sevyamānāṃ nigūḍhām ।
yathā'cirātsarvapāpaṃ vyapohya parātparaṃ puruṣaṃ yāti vidvān  (1)
Meaning: Ashvalayana approached Parameshthi (Brahma) and asked him – “Teach me that Brahma-Vidya or science of meditation on the individual self, which is the highest goal, in which the sattvikas always dwell (in meditation), hidden (imperceptible by the senses), by which a knower or meditator drives away all sins quickly and obtains the (experience of the) individual self that dwells in the body, which is higher than prakrti that is distinct from it (parātparaṃ puruṣaṃ).
The theme of the Upanishad is “jnana-yoga” or meditation on the individual self. Paramatma is not the subject matter, rather the goal is to realize and experience the intrinsic bliss of the self.
It is called the highest goal as it is more pleasurable than material objects and is the highest object of attainment among all objects under Bhagavan’s control. It is higher than prakrti, which is distinct from it, hence it is called “parātparaṃ”. It is called “puruṣa” as it dwells in the body.
Ashvalayana approached Brahma in the manner of a sishya and asked him the question. “parameṣṭhin” means “parame sthāne tiṣtati” – One who resides in Satya Loka, the highest abode.
tasmai sa hovāca pitāmahaśca śraddhābhaktidhyānayogādavaihi  na karmaṇā na prajayā dhanena tyāgenaike amṛtatvamānaśuḥ (2)
Meaning: Brahma replied, “Know (the self) by conviction, attachment, meditation and performance of works without attachment to the fruits. Not by activities such as sacrifices, not by offspring, not by wealth, but by renunciation (of all these), the great ones attained the state of experience of the imperishable self.
Śraddhā – Steady conviction in the means practiced to attain the self.
bhakti – Attachment to the pursuit of the self. One must be very eager to attain it to the exclusion of material objects.
dhyāna – The path of jnana-yoga which involves meditation on the Lord as enshrined in the Pranava, to attain the self. Even for attaining the bliss of the individual self, the Lord alone is the means. The qualities of the individual self are also meditated upon.
yogā– This means “skill of action”. Performing actions skillfully means not claiming ownership of the fruit, with the constant thought that the self is distinct from the body which is performing these activities.
One should renounce fruits of sacrifices (karmas), offspring and wealth as these are material objects. The Gita makes this clear in the first 6 chapters.
“amṛtatvam” – The state of experience of the bliss of the imperishable self.
pareṇa nākaṃ nihitaṃ guhāyāṃ vibhrājate yadyatayo viśanti vedāntavijñānasuniśrcitārthāḥ saṃnyāsayogādyatayaḥ śuddhasattvāḥ (3)
Meaning: That supreme abode (the individual self) which is beyond prakrti (pareṇa nākaṃ), abiding in the cave of the heart (nihitaṃ guhāyāṃ), shining out (by itself), ie, self-luminous (vibhrājate) – That is entered by those with controlled minds, who have ascertained the goal by the knowledge of the Upanishads (vedāntavijñānasuniśrcitārthāḥ), whose minds have been purified by sannyasa yoga.
“sannyasa yoga” means jnāna-yoga. Renouncing action, meditating on the individual self to obtain its’ vision. The Yogi, having been purified by desireless action (karma yoga), proceeds to this stage where he devotes himself to the meditation on the individual self.
The minds of the aspirants are purified of desire for material objects by constant contemplation on the self.
te brahmalokeṣu parāntakāle parāmṛtāḥ parimucyanti sarve (4)
Meaning:  They (the Jīvās), located in the hearts of all beings (brahmalokeShu), during the time of destruction of the body, ie, death (parāntakāle), all become liberated from the nectar (experience) of material objects (parāmṛtāḥ parimucyanti sarve).
“brahmaloka” refers to the heart.   
“parāmṛtāḥ” – The different kinds of nectar or food (āmṛtāḥ) which signifies experience of material objects that are other than (parāḥ) the individual self, ie, of a different (perishable) nature.
This mantra also proves the plurality of Jīvās by saying “they”. Where it is mentioned in singular, it is only because they belong to a single class of identical Jīvās and not because there is only one entity that exists.
viviktadeśe ca sukhāsanasthaḥ śuciḥ samagrīvaśiraḥśarīraḥ ।
antyāśramasthaḥ sakalendriyāṇi nirudhya bhaktyā svaguruṃ praṇamya (5)   
Meaning:  In a secluded spot (free from people including relatives, preceptors, disciples, etc), seated in a comfortable posture (to facilitate continued meditation), pure (free of insects etc), with an erect neck, head and body, situated in the state of Paramahamsa Sannyasin (antyāśrama), restraining all the senses, with attachment (to the pursuit of the self as an object of attainment), bowing down to one’s preceptor.
These are all to be followed for Jnāna-Yoga and have been described in the Gita.
hṛtpuṇḍarīkaṃ virajaṃ viśuddhaṃ vicintya madhye viśadaṃ viśokam
acintyamavyaktamanantarūpaṃ śivaṃ praśāntamamṛtaṃ brahmayonim (6)
Meaning: In the heart-lotus, devoid of desire (virajaṃ), pure (viśuddhaṃ), who is contemplated upon in the midst of the vaiSvAnara agni (vicintya madhye), shining like a streak of lightening (viśadaṃ), devoid of sorrow (viśokam), who is incomparable (acintyam),  who is unmanifest to the ignorant (avyaktam), who assumes innumerable forms by his will depending on the occasion (anantarūpaṃ), who is agreeable (śivaṃ), who exists solely for his devotees (praśāntam), who is nectarine (amṛtaṃ) and the Cause of the collection of sentients and non-sentients (brahmayonim).
The Lord is to be meditated upon to attain the individual self. This is mentioned in the ākśaropāsaṇa of the Gita. The idea is that, by meditating on the Lord, one obtains the individual self that is divested of prakrti which is similar to the Lord (in being pure, all-pervasive in knowledge and beyond the sway of karma when divested of prakrti).
brahmayonim” – tasmād etat  brahma nāmarūpaṃ annaṃ ca jāyate (~ mundakOpanishad) –  it refers to the collection of sentients and non-sentients according to shrI ranga rAmAnuja muni.
praśāntam” – śāntaḥ - teṣām asti iti śāntaḥ – he exists only for his devotees.
viśadaṃ” – “nIlatoyadamadyasta” as in nārāyaṇa sūkta.
tathādimadhyāntavihīnamekaṃ vibhuṃ cidānandamarūpamadbhutam
umāsahāyaṃ parameśvaraṃ prabhuṃ trilocanaṃ nīlakaṇṭhaṃ praśāntam
dhyātvā munirgacchati bhūtayoniṃ samastasākśiṃ tamasaḥ parastāt (7)
Meaning: Therefore (tathā), meditating on the (aforementioned) Being who is devoid of a beginning, middle and end, who is all-pervading as the protector (vibhuM), who is of the nature of consciousness and bliss (cidānandam), who has a wonderful non-material form of half-man, half lion (arūpam adbhutam), who is always accompanied by shrI mahalakShmi who is his fame (umāsahāyaṃ), the Lord of all (parameśvaraṃ), One who has the power to attract the minds of all towards him by his beauty (prabhuṃ), the three-eyed (trilocanaṃ), the black throated (nīlakaṇṭhaṃ), One who makes the devotee enjoy him alone to the exclusion of all (praśāntam), the wise men reach that (individual self) which is the source of all beings (bhūtayoniṃ), that is the witness residing in all bodies (samastasākśiṃ), that is beyond prakrti (tamasaḥ parastāt).
“bhūtayoniṃ” – “bhUta” refers to embodied beings like man, deva etc. As these are all conditions of the individual self which is the effect, it is called the source or cause of these beings.
“samastasākśiṃ” – The individual self is the witness dwelling in these bodies.
Note that when we say “self”, we mean innumerable selves identical in nature. For eg: “rice” refers to several grains of rice which are identical.
Alternatively, it can also mean the Supreme Abode of Sri Vaikuntha. “bhūtayoniṃ” – "Yoni" means abode. "bhUta" refers to all muktas who have reached the abode. “samastasākśiṃ” – Perceived by all nitya-sUrIs (sadā paṣyanti sūraya:). There is no contradiction, since Jnana-Yogis could progress to Bhakti-Yoga and attain the Lord. Alternatively, while describing the Lord as the means, Paramapada is naturally mentioned.
sa brahmā sa śivaḥ sendraḥ so'kṣaraḥ paramaḥ svarāṭ । sa eva viṣṇuḥ sa prāṇaḥ sa kālo'gniḥ sa candramāḥ  (8)
Meaning: He is Brahma, He is Siva, He is Indra, He is the liberated Jiva (akshara), He is the celebrated Master of Karma. He alone is Vishnu, He is the Vital Breath, He is Time, He is Agni, He is the Moon.
The Upanishad is now teaching that the Lord is sarvāntarātma and everything is his vibhūti on account of being his body. Vishnu is verily the avatāra of Brahman while the rest have Brahman as their innerselves. This teaching is for the Jnāna-Yogi to meditate on the Lord as ensouling everything, including himself, to attain the similar state of the individual self which is the indweller of all the bodies.
Shaiva commentators like Alladi Mahadeva Sastry have rambled on here about how Uma (Parvati) is the cause of Brahma, Vishnu, etc according to this mantra. Such avaidika opinions are errant nonsense and have no place or context in this Upanishad.
sa eva sarvaṃ yadbhūtaṃ yacca bhavyaṃ sanātanam । jñātvā taṃ mṛtyumatyeti nānyaḥ panthā vimuktaye  (9)
Meaning: He alone is all, what has been, (what is) and what is yet to be, the eternal. Knowing him, one surpasses the distress of samsara. There is no other path to liberation (from the distress of samsara).
When it is said he is all that has been and will be, it is also meant that he is all that is presently existing as well. This is on account of his sarvāntaryāmitva, and by having all the entities as his body, he is said to be all using sāmānādhikaraṇya.
The mantra states that the Lord is the sarvāntaryāmin. This is to enable the Yogi seeking the experience of the individual self to realize the similarity between himself and the Lord – by meditating on the Lord who is sarvāntaryāmin, the Yogi attains the self which is also sarvāntaryāmin (abiding in all bodies).
In the experience of the individual self which is attained by such contemplation on the Lord, there is no distress arising from samsAra such as old age, hunger, thirst, etc.
sarvabhūtasthamātmānaṃ sarvabhūtāni cātmani । sampaśyanbrahma paramaṃ yāti nānyena hetunā (10)
Meaning: Seeing the Self abiding in all beings, and seeing all beings in the Self, one attains the individual self that is the highest object of enjoyment.
The previous mantra emphasized on realizing the similarity of the Lord and the individual self. This mantra now emphasizes that the Yogi must realize the similarity of himself with other selves.
Since the individual selves are all identical in nature, the Yogi meditating on the self sees himself in other bodies of man, deva, etc. He does not see them as different from himself. This is not Shankaracharya’s kevala advaita, but a realization of “Advaita” or “sameness/oneness” – he sees everyone equally and the same everywhere. Being identical to others in their essential nature, he sees himself everywhere and considers the pain and pleasures of others as his own. This is the summit of Jnana-Yoga as described by the Gita.
brahma paramaṃ” – The pure state of the individual self which is great on account of all-pervasive knowledge and is the highest of all the objects of enjoyment that are under the dominion of the Lord.
Besides understanding the self in this manner, one should also meditate on the Lord as the means to attain the self and so that is described below.
ātmānamaraṇiṃ kṛtvā praṇavaṃ cottarāraṇim । jñānanirmathanābhyāsātpāpaṃ dahati paṇḍitaḥ (11)
Meaning: Having made the Self the lower arani and Pranava the upper arani, by the practice of the churning of the form of knowledge (ie, meditation), the wise person burns up all sins (obstructing the vision of the self).
A similar mantra exists in the Svetāśvatāra Upanishad. In order to attain the individual self, one should meditate on the Lord through praṇavopāsaṇa. This enables attainment of the self which is similar to the Lord.
The way of perceiving the hidden Lord dwelling within the Jiva through the means of Praṇava is described here. “Atman” in the mantra refers to the Jivatma. The Supreme Atman, who is the indweller of this Jiva, is meditated with the Praṇava. The churning with the Praṇava implies practice of that which is ordained and abstention from those that are prohibited, and practicing the virtues of satya and tapaḥ.
When such meditation is carried out, the Supreme Self indwelling within the Jivatma, is revealed like fire from the aranis, and this destroys sins obstructing the experience of the individual self.
Not only should one meditate on the self as being ensouled by the Lord, but one should also understand the nature of the body to attain dispassion from it. So, the state of the embodied self in the waking and dreaming states is described in the next mantra.
sa eva māyāparimohitātmā śarīramāsthāya karoti sarvam । stryannapānādivicitrabhogaiḥ sa eva jāgratparitṛptimeti (12)
Meaning: He (the individual self) is alone deluded in mind by Prakrti known as Maya, situated in the body, doing all activities (ie, considering himself the doer). He alone, while awake, gains satisfaction in women, food, drink, svarga and other varied types of sense-gratification.
karoti sarvam” means he considers himself the doer, when actually, doership is on account of the triguṇās caused by prakrti.
svapne sa jīvaḥ sukhaduḥkhabhoktā svamāyayā kalpitajīvaloke । suṣuptikāle sakale vilīne tamo'bhibhūtaḥ sukharūpameti  (13)
Meaing: The Jivatma, in dream state, is the enjoyer of pleasure and pain in the dream body assumed by his own will. During Sushupti (dreamless sleep), when everything has disappeared, overwhelmed by darkness, he exists in the form of bliss (ie, he experiences the bliss of Paramatman).
kalpita jīvaloke” – Having assumed a dream body. “loka” means “abode” as in “body” here. “jIvayati iti jIva” – that body which gives life to the jIva in its’ dream state, as it enables the jIva to experience pain and pleasure. The dream objects are created by Ishvara for the jIva to experience based on its’ puNya and pApa.
svamāyayā” – His own will. “māyā” means knowledge and thus it is knowledge which is the basis of will. It means that he makes his actual body and senses non-functional and takes up the dream body.
suṣuptikāle sakale vilīne – When a person is in the form of sushupti, he is without the relationship of karma that results in association with body and others and at that time, he is an asharīra. So, everything such as father, mother etc as well as the worlds, vedas etc have disappeared, for he is not bound by their dictates. The sushupta is not having any Ashraya in them, hence, they are said to have disappeared.
tamo'bhibhūtaḥ - Overwhelmed by darkness, meaning, he does not see a second object as he is cut off from the senses. The sushupta doesn’t see the objects outside and the sense-organs inside. Though he is having the ability to see, he does not see. How can that be so? It is explained below.
During sushupti, the dharma-bhūta-jnāna (attributive knowledge that is used to cognize external objects) is not lost. Rather, the attributive knowledge remains, but there is no second object to be cognized. This is because in this state, he has overpowered his karmas. It is karmas that cause experience of objects. The dharma-bhūta-jnāna is cut off from the sense-organs which are its’ gateways and thus the Jiva does not see anything else.
If it is asked how a Jiva in sushupti can overcome karmas without liberation which alone grants that state, it is answered that during the state of sushupti, the karmas that exist are not tending to yield any results in that state, and so he is said to have crossed them.
In this state of sushupti, the relationship with karmas is absent and so the relationship with the senses is absent. Hence, there is absence of cognition of a second object other than Paramatman. As no object other than Paramatman can be cognized, he abides in the Paramatman who is the supreme bliss, the support of sushupti.
punaśca janmāntarakarmayogātsa eva jīvaḥ svapiti prabuddhaḥ । puratraye krīḍati yaśca jīvastatastu jātaṃ sakalaṃ vicitram । ādhāramānandamakhaṇḍabodhaṃ yasmim̐llayaṃ yāti puratrayaṃ ca (14)
Meaning: Again (repeatedly), by virtue of connection with karmas from prior births, the same jIva dreams or is awake. From the Jiva, who sports in the 3 abodes (jāgrat, svapna and sushupti sthAnas), is born all the diverse entities like man, deva etc. He is the support, of the nature of bliss, who makes everything known by his dharma-bhūta-jnāna and in him alone, the three worlds (puratrayaM) dissolve.
“karma yoga” Association with karmas.
The various forms such as man, deva etc are but effects of the Self which is the cause and so the Universe is said to be born from him.
“Anandam” means he is of the nature of bliss as well as knowledge, since bliss implies knowledge. “akhaṇḍabodhaṃ” signifies he perceives everything by his dharma-bhUta-jnAna.
In him, the entire Universe consisting of the three worlds dissolve, meaning, the subtle state of the Universe is a condition of the Jiva when he is the Cause, and is dependent on him.
etasmājjāyate prāṇo manaḥ sarvendriyāṇi ca । khaṃ vāyurjyotirāpaśca pṛthvī viśvasya dhāriṇī (15)
Meaning: From the Jiva are born the vital breath, mind and all the senses, the ether, air, fire, water and Earth which support all objects of enjoyment.
As the Cause, the Jiva has the unmanifest prakrti as its form. From this Cause, the Jiva which has as its’ form the gross prakrti differentiated into prANa, manas, the panchabhUtAs, etc  is manifested. Thus, everything is born from the Jiva.
viśvasya dhāriṇī” – The term “vishva” refers to all objects of enjoyment experienced by the Jiva.
yatparaṃ brahma sarvātmā viśvasyāyatanaṃ mahat । sūkṣmātsūkṣmataraṃ nityaṃ tattvameva tvameva tat  (16)
Meaning: That which is the individual self, higher than prakrti, is the self of all, the great abode of all beings in the Universe, subtler than the subtle, eternal as it is unchanging in its’ essential nature, that is you alone, you are that.
Note that the self is referred to as singular in the same way as grains of rice are called “rice”. As all selves are identical, it is said to be everywhere dwelling in all bodies in the singular (sarvātmā). It supports all forms of man, deva etc (viśvasyāyatanaṃ). It is all-pervasive in its’ pure state, and is other from prakrti (paraṃ brahma).
The last line is repeated for emphasis, to dispel dehātma bhrama and make clear that one is the self, distinct from the body – “realize you are that self with those characteristics, distinct from the insentient body”.
The Shaiva commentators assume this to be talking about paramātma and think that “tat tvam eva” is a reference to the Chandogya Upanishad’s “tat tvam asi”. This is incorrect, as this particular mantra has no relevance to that Chandogya statement, nor is it talking about paramātma.
jāgratsvapnasuṣuptyādiprapañcaṃ yatprakāśate । tadbrahmāhamiti jñātvā sarvabandhaiḥ pramucyate (17)
Meaning:  That Jiva which illumines the perceptible world composed of the states of waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and so on by its’ dharma-bhUta-jnAna, knowing that individual self (tadbrahmā) as “I” (distinct from the body), one is liberated from all fetters.
“jāgratsvapnasuṣuptyādi” – The “Adi” at the end signifies that not only are these states belonging to samsAra illumined, but also the illumination of the Supreme Abode upon liberation (turīya sthāna) is by the dharma-bhūta-jnāna, which is carried into liberation.
The next few mantras enjoin how to meditate on the self.
triṣu dhāmasu yadbhogyaṃ bhoktā bhogaśca yadbhavet । tebhyo vilakṣaṇaḥ sākṣī cinmātro'haṃ sadāśivaḥ (18)
Meaning:  Whatever, in the three abodes of waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep, becomes the object of enjoyment, the enjoyer and the act (instrument) of enjoyment, from them, I am distinct, the witness (as the indweller of all bodies), of the nature of knowledge, eternally auspicious.
The individual self is distinct from the objects of enjoyment and the instrument or act of enjoyment such as the sense-organs or the dream body which are made of prakrti. Since its’ essential nature is different from such enjoyment, it is also said to be distinct from the state of being the enjoyer of such objects.
sadāśivaḥ” – “sadā niravadya” – the self is devoid of the triguṇās and hence is eternally pure.
It is hilarious how biased Shaiva commentators like Alladi Mahadeva Sastry pounce on such adjectives to interpret them as referring to Rudra when such a meaning is non-existent in the present context.
mayyeva sakalaṃ jātaṃ mayi sarvaṃ pratiṣṭhitam । mayi sarvaṃ layaṃ yāti tadbrahmādvayamasmyaham (19)
Meaning: In me is all this Universe consisting of the forms of man, deva etc are born. In me is all this established. In me does all this undergo dissolution. I am that individual self which is all-pervasive in its’ knowledge in the pure state (tadbrahmā), the one without a second, as there is no entity like me.
The various forms such as man, deva etc are but effects of the Self which is the cause. For the effects (forms of man, deva etc) are simply different states of the cause. The Universe is sustained by the self which dwells in all bodies. It is also dissolved in the Self. This means that during dissolution when the Universe is rendered in the unmanifested state, it exists dependent on the Self which is the Cause, as it is in the condition of not possessing names and forms.
“advaya” – The self, which is essentially of identical nature in all beings, is incomparable to objects other than it, being unique. This is mentioned in Gita 2.29.
aṇoraṇīyānahameva tadvanmahānahaṃ viśvamahaṃ vicitram । purātano'haṃ puruṣo'hamīśo hiraṇmayo'haṃ śivarūpamasmi (20)
Meaning: I am verily subtler than the subtle, I am the great controller of the mind, body and senses, I am “Vishvam” as  I enter into all the worlds (viśvamahaṃ), I am incomparable (vicitram.h), I am ancient being prior to the body (purātano'haṃ), I am “Purusha”, the indweller of the body (puruṣo'ham), I am the ruler of the mind, senses and body, of the form of gold (īśo hiraṇmayo'haṃ), I am of an agreeable nature (śivarūpamasmi).
“hiraṇmayo'haṃ” – “gold” signifies objects of desire. The self is of the nature of bliss and hence a desirable object of attainment.
“śivarūpam” – the self is of the nature of bliss and knowledge, untainted by prakrti and hence is agreeable.
apāṇipādo'hamacintyaśaktiḥ paśyāmyacakṣuḥ sa śṛṇomyakarṇaḥ । ahaṃ vijānāmi viviktarūpo na cāsti vettā mama citsadā'ham (21)
Meaning: Even without legs and hands, I possess incomparable capability (to do those tasks), without eyes I see, without ears, I hear. I know, ie, I perceive all this by my dharma-bhūta-jnāna (ahaṃ vijānāmi), I am of a form free from blemishes of the triguṇās in the liberated state (viviktarūpa). I am not known to anyone. I am of the nature of consciousness.
The jIva can do the tasks of legs, hands, eyes and ears without the actual organs because of its’ all-pervasive dharma-bhūta-jnāna in its’ pure state. It is its’ natural condition. This is as per Gita 13.14 again.
“na cāsti vettā mama” – As the Gita 2.29 says, the jIva is inconceivable to many and wonderful. Some speak of it to another, some hear about it, and even after hearing about it, no-one knows it exactly as it exists.
vedairanekairahameva vedyo vedāntakṛdvedavideva cāham । na puṇyapāpe mama nāsti nāśo na janma dehendriyabuddhirasti (22)
Meaning: I alone am to be known by the knowledge of various beings like man, deva etc. I am the doer of actions which are the cause of obtaining such forms (vedāntakṛd) and I am the experiencer of the fruits that constitute the acquisition of such actions (vedavid). Punya and Papa are not mine, ie, they do not belong to my essential nature.  I am not subject to birth or death and I do not exist in the body, senses and the mind associated with determining power (ie, I am not dependent on them for my existence).
The śaivādvaitin commentators like Alladi Mahadeva Sastry and Shankarananda have foolishly interpreted “vedāntakṛd” as “maker/author of the Upanishads” – this is impossible as shruti is apāuruśeya. They try to interpret “kṛd” as “Maker” in the sense of “Revealer”, but that is stretching the meaning, for in that case, there is no need to specifically say “he knows the Veda” and “he revealed the Vedānta” when even the Vedas were revealed by him.
“vedairanekairahameva vedyo” – “vedair” refers to several kinds of knowledge of diverse beings such as man, deva etc which are signified by “anekair”. Since the self is identical in all beings, it alone is known by these forms which are its’ effects.
vedāntakṛt” – Actions performed by the Jiva are indicated by “kṛt”. “veda + anta”– Here, “veda” means acquisition or obtaining. “anta” means the Cause. The actions (kṛt) which are the cause (tanoti) of obtaining (veda) such forms like man, deva, etc. The embodied self gets a number of bodies on account of the activities of the form of sacrifices and others done by him due to desire and other vAsaNAs.
vedavid” – Here, “veda” again refers to acquisition or the fruits that are attained by such actions. “vid” refers to knowing in the form of experiencing. The sentient Jiva and not the insentient body is the experiencer.
"buddhi" is the power of the mind to determine and thus denotes the mind in this context as it is closely associated with that power (aprthak-siddhi).
na bhūmirāpo na ca vahnirasti na cānilo me'sti na cāmbaraṃ ca । evaṃ viditvā paramātmarūpaṃ guhāśayaṃ niṣkalamadvitīyam samastasākṣiṃ sadasadvihīnaṃ prayāti śuddhaṃ paramātmarūpam ॥ (23)
Meaning: Neither the Earth, nor the Waters, nor Fire, nor the Wind, nor the Ether are not me, ie, my nature is different to them. Thus knowing (meditating on) the nature of the Jivatma which is of the condition of the Supreme Self in relation to the body (paramātmarūpaṃ), abiding in the cave of the heart, without diversity (niṣkalam), which is one without a second, ie, it is incomparable (advitīyam), the witness of all as it is the indweller of all bodies (samastasākṣiṃ), which is neither Sat nor Asat(sadasadvihīnaṃ), one attains the (experience of) pure condition of the  individual self that is superior to prakrti.
“paramātmarūpaṃ” – This doesn’t refer to the Lord. As the individual self is the Supreme Lord with relation to the body, it is called  “paramātma”. “rūpaṃ” means form or condition of being in that state, which is the result of attachment to the Gunas arising from the beginningless conjunction with Prakrti.This is explained by Acharya under Gita 13.23.
niṣkalam” - As it is identical in nature everywhere, there is no diversity. Alternatively, as it is knowledge-bliss everywhere, it has no parts and cannot be divided into organs, etc.
“sadasadvihīnaṃ” - “sat” refers to the condition of effects when the individual self has the form of gods, men, etc. “asat” refers to the condition of cause in the form of not possessing names and forms. The self is not a cause or effect by nature and is thus said to be devoid of both. It becomes a cause or effect on account ofavidya brought on by karmas, which cause association withprakrti. This is explained by bhagavad bhAshyakArar in gita 13.13.
yaḥ śatarūdriyamadhīte so'gnipūto bhavati surāpānātpūto bhavati sa brahmahatyāyāḥ pūto bhavati sa suvarṇasteyātpūto bhavati sa kṛtyākṛtyātpūto bhavati tasmādavimuktamāśrito bhavatyatyāśramī sarvadā sakṛdvā japet  anena jñānamāpnoti saṃsārārṇavanāśanam । tasmādevaṃ viditvainaṃ kaivalyaṃ padamaśnute kaivalyaṃ padamaśnuta iti (24)
Meaning:  He who reflects on (the meaning of) the Shatarudriya, he becomes purified in the mind (so'gnipūto bhavati). He has become purified from the sin of drinking liquor, he has become purified from the sin of brahmahatya, he has become purified from the sin of stealing gold, he has become purified from the sin caused by performance of all activities prohibited by the Veda and the non-performance of activities prescribed by the Veda. He finds refuge in the individual self that is undiminishing in its’ pure state (avimukta). He who is a Paramahamsa Sannyasin (atyāśramī), should always recite it, or atleast once. By this he obtains knowledge of the individual self which destroys the ocean of samsara. Therefore, knowing the self in this manner, he attains the state of experiencing the self divested of prakrti (kaivalyaṃ padam). He (indeed) attains the state of experiencing the self divested of prakrti (kaivalyaṃ padam).
Again, we find the persistent motif of the ṣatarudrīyam in association with meditation on the individual self.
The primary fruit of the ṣatarudrīyam is to curb the mind and senses. As Arjuna asks Krishna in the Gita, it is very difficult to meditate on the Jiva (akshara) as the mind is fickle. So Bhagavan tells him that the way to curb the mind and senses is to meditate on his (bhagavan’s) auspicious body, which will destroy the desire for material objects.
Thus, meditating on the Lord in the manner as praised in the ṣatarudrīyam gives the fruit of indrīya-nigraha or curbing the senses. Therefore, recitation of this portion of the Veda is an anga (accessory) for Jnāna-Yoga or meditation on the self, which requires a steady mind and restrained senses. The reference to this recitation destroying various sins is to highlight the fact that it destroys desire for sense-gratification which causes performance of such sinful actions.
Wherever the ṣatarudrīyam is praised in the śāstra as giving moksha, it is implied that it provides the fruit of indrIya-nigraha, which leads to jīvātma-anubhava and thus kaivalya mukti. This, by itself, proves that the tāmasa purāṇās are wrong in recommending the ṣatarudrīyam as a means to propitiate Shiva.
”avimukta” – The liberated self, which is not deprived of its’ completeness, ie, it is all-pervasive in knowledge and replete with the 8 qualities beginning with apahatapApma in its’ pure state.
kaivalyaṃ padam – The state of experiencing the self which is divested from prakrti. “kaivalyaṃ” refers to the self that is aloof from prakrti in its’ pure state.
And thus, the Upanishad is concluded.


  1. From the Kaivalya Upanishad's description of the Jivatma, readers will be able to understand how the work named "Shiva Gita" is a bogus interpolation into the Padma Purana. Because the interpolator took inspiration from the Kaivalya Upanishad and included the following shlokas in the Shiva Gita:

    ////From Me alone everything is born. In Me, everything is established. In me, everything is resolved. I am that Brahman which is secondless. ||52||

    I alone am the subtler than the subtlest; similarly I am the greatest. I am the world and am pure (unsullied by creation). I am the most ancient. I am the complete being. I am the sovereign. I am the golden One and of the very form of auspiciousness (Sivam). ||53||

    I (grasp) without hands and (walk without) feet; I am that inestimable power; I see without eyes; I hear without ears. I am every manifest form and there is no one who knows Me. I am ever the consciousness. ||54||

    I am alone the One who revealed by all the Vedas. I am the author of Vedanta, and I am alone the knower of the Vedas. There is no merit or demerit in Me; there is no destruction for Me; nor are there births, bodies, senses and intellects for Me. ||55||

    The earth, water, fire, air nor space (the five elements) find no place in Me. Thus knowing the nature of the supreme Self indwelling in the cave of the heart, partless and secondless, witness unto all, devoid of cause and effect, one attains the pure supreme Self (that I am). ||56||////

    The above is identical to the mantras in the Kaivalya Upanishad describing the Jivatma. However, in the Shiva Gita, a text that apparently hails Shiva as supreme, we have Shiva describing himself by the same attributes that describe the Jiva in the Kaivalya Upanishad!! How could this be so?

    The answer is simple. The true author of the Shiva Gita was not Vyasa, but a Shaiva who misunderstood the mantras of the Kaivalya Upanishad to be describing Paramatma. Thus, in his eagerness to interpolate Shastras with Shaiva thoughts, he included these Kaivalya mantras as part of the Shiva Gita. But he did not realize that this would give the game away,since the mantras describe the Jiva and can in no way be attributed to the Supreme Being!

    In contrast, the Bhagavad Gita has a shloka similar to mantra 21 of the Kaivalya that only describes the Jivatma according to context. So does the Ishvara Gita, which uses shlokas similar to Kaivalya mantras to describe the Jivatma. But the Shiva Gita alone mistakenly attributes it to Shiva while hailing him as Paramatma, which illustrates that it is an interpolation.

    This is a method to determine bogus nature of certain works. They are often philosophically inaccurate.

  2. Dear All,

    We recently came across this exchange on a website where someone linked our blog's Kaivalya Upanishad to his discussion:

    The person named "V. Subrahmaniyan" is none other than Veerashaiva. In the link above, he was trying to discredit our commentary by claiming the following,

    //In this connection I chanced to find the word 'sarvatma' cited in the Sribhashyam from this Upanishad.… There are several quotes by the Bhashyakara and this is one: sarvatma. This word corresponds to the Kaivalya Upanishad mantra 16: The commentary in the Sribhashya, from the previous page, gives me the impression that Sri Ramanuja is taking that quote as denoting Paramatma. In the blog you refer, this whole mantra and the word 'sarvatma' itself is taken to denote jivatma. Your comments are welcome.//

    Here, he is claiming that the 16th mantra of the Kaivalya Upanishad, where the term "sarvAtma" occurs, is quoted by Bhagavad BhAshyakArar in the Sri Bhashya as referring to Paramatma, whereas we have interpreted it as referring to the Jivatma above. Ergo, Veerashaiva seeks to claim that we are not Sri Vaishnavas, as we have deviated from Sri Ramanuja, I suppose!

    Well, it is truly extraordinary that any form of erroneous conclusion or statement gravitates towards Veerashaiva. For he is wrong in his assumption. Sri Ramanuja has never quoted the Kaivalya Upanishad, and we have faithfully replicated the teachings of our great acharyas only. We would never deviate an inch from what they said.

    Then how do we explain the Sri Bhashya publication which says "Sarvatma" reg. paramAtma and the Kaivalya Upanishad mantra 16 is given in brackets? Well, it is simple. It is a publication error. If you look at the shAstra quoted just prior to the "Sarvatma" word, it is "antha: pravishta: sAstA janAnAm" --- and the full vAkya is actually "antha: pravishta: sAstA janAnAm sarvAtma" (from the Taittirya Aranyaka, I believe) --- thus, the "sarvAtma" is not a stand alone word, but actually belongs to the previous quote. The publisher has accidentally taken "sarvAtma" as a separate word, and for some bizarre reason, introduced the "Kaivalya Upanishad Mantra 16" reference to it!

    If you do not believe us, take a look at this knowledgeable post by a Vishishtadvaitin who is summarizing the contents of the vedArtha sangraha in this link:

    Quoting the scholar,
    //"antha: pravishta: sAstA janAnAm sarvAthmA" means that Vishnu is the supreme controller (antaryami-antarAtma) entered inside all and present inside all entities//

    The publisher took sarvAtma separately and ascribed it to the Kaivalya.

    It makes no sense for bhAshyakArar to simply quote one word "sarvAtma" which occurs everywhere in shAstra without context and ascribe it to the Kaivalya! He never quoted the Kaivalya anyway.

    There is also one other thing wrongly assumed in the article - That some upanishads are "jivAtma specific" and some are "paramAtma specific". We did not mean that. The import of all shruti is Brahman, and where Brahman is not talked about, the intention is to describe something that is related to attaining Brahman. JivAtma upAsaNa requires meditation of Brahman as the means, and the jnAna-yOgi who meditates on the jIvAtmA can eventually progress to paramAtma-upAsaNa. Thus, even describing the jIva has the attainment of Brahman as its' intent.

    Hope this clarifies any doubts.

    1. Just to let you know, Veerashaiva has written an 18 page so-called "refutation" of your analysis of the word Sarvatma; see his latest comment on that webpage.

    2. Why is the fool trying to interfere in our tradition when we know better? He doesn't even know the first thing about Vishishtadvaita. Hell, he hardly knows advaita in the first place!!

      Doubt we will bother with it. If he writes anything of substance, we may address it.

    3. Just went through the rubbish. There is no need to even address his nonsense fully, a few cursory points are sufficient:

      1) Firstly, as we mentioned before, sri bhAshyakArar would never quote a single word, which is the third word of a mantra randomly.

      2) In the "proofs" Veerashaiva gives, even there he has shown publications taking it as the Taittiriya Aranyaka mantra only.

      3) Instead of no-name publications, refer to Sri Bhashya editions published by our vidwans like PBA Swami or Uttamur Swami who have taken it as the Taittiriya Aranyaka mantra only. In fact, refer any traditional publication of the Sri Bhashya and this will be clear.

      4) Sri Vedanta Desikan has taken it as the Taittiriya Aranyaka mantra only and expounded on it in Srimad Rahasya Traya Saram. Not only him, several acharyas have mentioned this mantra as it is very famous in our literature.

      5) It is the norm for every acharya after acharya Ramanuja to use the same Sri Bhashya and Vedartha Sangraha quotes in their works. Thus, the quotations from Atharvasikha, Atharvasiras, Narayana anuvAka, Taittirya Aranyaka etc are also found in the works of Engal Azhwan, Nadadur Ammal, Vedanta Desikan, Manavala Mamunigal etc...none of them quote the Kaivalya Upanishad, though they quote the Taittiriya Aranyaka.

      6) Lastly, basic common sense is enough to show that our Acharya would never randomly quote "sarvAtma" - one word - which is the third word of an Upanishad. Why Kaivalya anyway when the word occurs literally everywhere else.

      But it is established Veerashaiva has no common sense when it comes to promoting his agenda. If he expended half this useless energy in actually trying to sincerely understand the truths of the shAstra, he might actually be successful in that.


    4. Cont'd from above...

      Now, coming to his nonsensical attempt at trying to give a "Vishishtadvaitic" commentary of the Kaivalya, here are a few observations:

      1) The old fraud thinks "brahmavidya" means only knowledge of Brahman. Does he know how Vishishtadvaita acharyas interpret "brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati"? There the acharyas cleaely say the Jiva is called "brahma" due to all-pervasive DBJ. Refer chapters 1-6 of gita bhAshya where this is explained in places.

      2) He quotes the Kaivalya mantras on Brahman and thinks it should refer to Brahman. First, the fraud should check Gita 6.14 commentary where Sri Ramanuja declares that the yogi finds a secluded spot and meditates on Brahman to attain the Jiva. It is literally the same description as the Kaivalya. Chapters 1-6 of the Gita as well as parts of Chapter 8 and 13 are Jivatma upAsaNa only. Similarly, "paramatmarUpam" in mantra 23 is similar to Gita 13.24 where the term is explained by Acharya as referring to Jivatma.

      4) Terms like Brahma, Sarvatma, Siva, Deva etc are interpreted as referring to Jivatma by both bhAshyakArar as well as upanishad bhAshyakAras in various places. The Lakshmi Tantra of the Pancharatra clearly refers to Jivatma as Brahma, Sarvatma, etc..interested readers can check it out. The term "dhyana" also is not solely used to denote meditation on Brahman alone.

      Any scholar worth his salt from our tradition would say the Kaivalya is about the Jiva by a cursory glance. The subject matter of the Upanishat is that striking upon a brief perusal itself.

      3) Kaivalya upanishad mantra 21 is verbatim Gita 13.13 which Sri Ramanuja clearly interprets as referring to the Jivatma.

      4) The sole reason achaeyas did not take up the Kaivalya or Jabala is because they talk about Jivatma and are not of polemical importance. It is not because of the mention of terms like "umAsahAyam" or "rudra" --- note that these acharyas quote the Svetasvatara which contains Rudram mantras quite frequently in comparison. That should make it clear.

      Enough of the old fraud's prattling. We know enough of our own tradition and have enough devotion to our Acharyas' lotus feet to faithfully replicate their works. In contrast, Veerashaiva can't even accept what his own gurus said.

      Readers can wait for our publication of Ishvara Gita which can make things clearer. In the meantime, read our preludes for clarity. This article also helps in understanding:

    5. ADD 2: Minor error:

      //Kaivalya upanishad mantra 21 is verbatim Gita 13.13 which Sri Ramanuja clearly interprets as referring to the Jivatma//

      Should be Gita 13.14.

    6. ADD 3: Again, a minor error:

      //Similarly, "paramatmarUpam" in mantra 23 is similar to Gita 13.24 where the term is explained by Acharya as referring to Jivatma//

      Should be Gita 13.23 ~ परमात्मेति चाप्युक्तो.

      Was just quoting off the top of my head and mixed the verse numbers. Trust Veeerashaiva to have no other job but to disturb us like an irritating fly on a monday morning/afternoon!

  3. ADD: In recommending to our readers a post from Bhakti list, I linked the wrong post. That post by Mani Varadarajan I linked to is not scholarly and contains errors.

    This is the post I wanted to link as I felt was informative to understand jivAtma upAsaNa in our tradition. Please go through it:

  4. Sirs, I have an advaita background, so my questions on vishishThAdvaita may look non-scholarly.

    1. For a sAdhaka, why not stop with kaivalya, if jIva is jnAna and Ananda? Is it solely because brahman is more Ananda than jIva? Moksha gives more Ananda than kaivalya? Or is it because mere kaivalya is impermanent?

    2. Would you say that advaitins have mistaken kaivalya for moksha? The advaitic moksha is actually kaivalya and not the final goal? Is advaita, then a stepping stone to vishishThAdvaita?

    3. How can the word sarvAtmA refer to jIva?

    4. I presume kaivalya and jIva sAkshAtkAra refer to the same thing. Is it correct?

    1. Will answer your questions as follows:

      1) The upAsaNa on jIva is practicised by two types of people -- The first type are those seeking to know about Brahman should first learn about themselves. So they understand the jIva as distinct from the body, its' essential nature is seshatva-jnAna which is naturally of the form of bliss and thus progress to paramAtma upAsaNa, having understood the sesha-seshi bhAva. But there are another group of people who do not have love for Brahman, but also have no desire for material objects. They meditate on the jIvAtma to experience its' bliss and may remain stuck at that.

      We should not stop at Kaivalya for one simple reason - our nature is to serve Brahman and thus, we should not violate our nature by desiring to experience our intrinsic bliss. If we deny Brahman our service, we are thieves of the atma as we ourselves are his property. Of course, bliss experienced by serving Brahman is even more in comparison to our bliss.

      2) Both advaita and dvaita regard the jIva specific mantras and shlokas as referring to Brahman. The advaitic moksha is not kaivalya because shAstra does not support an advaitic moksha in the first place. Advaita and VA are different philosophies and neither is the stepping stone to another.

      3) "sarvAtma" - self of all - since the self indwelling in the non-sentient bodies like man, deva etc is the Jiva, it is "sarvAtma". We can refer to the Jiva in singular by the following example - "This same rice is in Shop A and Shop B" - In this sentence, "rice" actually signifies several rice grains which are distinct, but identical to each other. Similarly, by saying Jiva is the self of all, what is meant is that there are innumerable identical Jivas which are the selves of bodies like devas, manushyas, etc.

      4) Yes, in Vishishtadvaitic parlance. Occasionally, Kaivalya can refer to the highest moksha as it is a common noun as well. We have to assess the context to see whether a statement talks of Jiva or Paramatma.

      As I said before, the Ishvara Gita we plan to publish will explain this concept of Jivatma sakshatkara from its very basic fundamentals. Please wait for it.

    2. Thanks a lot.

    3. Additionally, here is how the description of the Jiva as "sarvAtma" is implied here by bhagavad bhAshyakArar himself in the gIta bhAshya. Quoting this to make it clear.

      samaṃ sarveṣu bhūteṣu tiṣṭhantaṃ parameśvaram।
      vinaśyatsvavinaśyantaṃ yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati।।13.28।।

      (Gita Bhashya): He who sees the Atman as It really is - he is the one who sees the Atman as a distinct entity in all embodied beings that are composed of Prakrti and Purusa, even in bodies of diverse nature of gods, men etc. The true seer is one who sees the Atman as the supreme ruler in all these bodies as the imperishable self, though the bodies are subject to destruction. Conversely the purport is that he who sees the Atman, only as characterised by the unreal forms of the bodies as men, gods etc. (ie, considering the self as the body itself), and as possessed of birth, death etc. - such a person is perpetually caught up in transmigratory existence.

      And the next shlOka as well:

      samaṃ paśyanhi sarvatra samavasthitamīśvaram।

      na hinastyātmanā''tmānaṃ tato yāti parāṃ gatim।।13.29।।

      (Gita Bhashya): The ruler' (the self) abides in the bodies of divinities and the rest as their supporter, controller and as their Sesin (principal). He who sees the self free from dissimilar shapes of divinities etc., and as being of the same form of knowledge, he does not injure himself by 'himself', namely, by his mind. Therefore, as a result of seeing the sameness of the nature of the self in every place as a knower, he attains the 'highest goal.' What is to be reached is called 'goal'. He attains the supreme, namely, the self in its pure form. On the contrary, if he should view the self as dissimilar in every place, i.e., identifies It with the bodies, then he 'injure the self, namely, hurls It into the middle of the ocean of Samsara.

      The first lines of these shlOkas (sarveṣu bhūteṣu tiṣṭhantaṃ and sarvatra samavasthitamīśvaram) correspond very clearly to the meaning of "sarvAtma" applied to the Jiva. This is the opinion of bhagavad rAmAnujar himself. Let there be no doubts on this.

    4. Who does the word parameshwaram refer to in the above? jIva?

    5. Yes. But please wait for the Ishvara Gita publication for further clarification on this topic. This shloka and many more will be discussed eventually as we publish the articles.

      It is always good to begin from the beginning.

  5. In this context, an interesting shloka from Skanda Purana quoted by Dvaitins:

    aGYAnAM GYAnado vishhNoH GYAninAM moxadashcha saH |
    kaivalyadaH paraM-brahma vishhNureva na saMshayaH || (~Skanda Purana)

    Meaning: Vishnu alone is the giver of knowledge to the ignorant and moksha to the wise. He alone, the param-brahma (Highest Brahman), is the giver of Kaivalya (jIvAtma anubhava), there is no doubt.

    The crux of this shloka is that since Vishnu is the means to obtain knowledge, and the means to obtain mukti, it follows that he is the means to obtain the experience of the Jivatma (Kaivalya) as well. This is because he is "param brahma" -- the highest brahman, while the jiva is "apara brahman" --- the brahman inferior to him. Thus, Vishnu is meditated upon to attain the Jiva, as seen above.


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