role of rationalism

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Oct 29 14:39:26 CST 2002

On Wed, 30 Oct 2002, Steve Wray wrote:

> I am reminded of the passage in Isa Upanisad
> (I am unsure as to the transliteration method
> used on this list so I will do my best...)
> Verse 11:
> Vidyam cavidyam ca yas
> tad vedobhayam saha
> avidyaya mrtyum tirtva
> vidyayamrta asnute
> I have no Sanskrit as such, but I've been over this
> with a glossary and various translations and the true
> meaning of this passage is of particular interest to me.
> But it appears to say that with non-intellectual
> pursuits (I imagine faith alone?) one can transcend
> repeated death and by pursuit of intellectual understanding
> one can enjoy the state of deathlessness.
> It would appear that in order for the exercise to be fruitful,
> one would need to combine these (apparent) contradictories?

I translated this verse and  couple of others from Ishopanishad a while
back.  Look in the archive for the thread "karma and upasana" around end
of july-beginning of august of this year.

I translated it thus:

Vidya and avidya, he who knows these two together
Crosses over death through avidya and gets immortality through vidya.

vidya means knowledge but specifically esoteric knowledge, upasana or
meditation. avidya means ignorance.  According to Shankaracharya avidya is
the same as karma or action, even the karma recommended in the Vedas such
as religious rituals etc.  Why is that?  Because central to the idea of
karma is the idea that there is an "I" that "does" things and gets
"results" whether they be a promotion or a full stomach or Heaven.  And
Advaita Vedanta shows that ultimately that is a mistaken notion.  Still
even ignorance has its' levels.  Being illusionarily full is better than
being illusionarily hungry and illusionary Heaven is better than
illusionary Hell.  So by the practice of good deeds as taught in the Vedas
one can get good results.  This is "crossing over death." But there is the
spectre of ignorance behind all these actions.  Even those who go to
Heaven must eventually fall back to Earth when the fruits of their good
karma has run out and begin all over again.  By Upasana (which is like
karma but not done with a sense of ego.) one learns to transcend this
neverending cycle of birth and death.  So the Rshi says it leads to
deathlessness.  Elsewhere in the upanishad, it is shown that higher even
then that is jnana or knowledge of Brahman compared to which even upasana
is "blinding darkness."

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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