isopanisad book cover

by Ishtar Darlington

The direct translation of Śrī Īśopaniṣad is the knowledge that brings one nearer to the Supreme Person, Krishna.

This book, based on ancient Vedic philosophy, outlines the foremost 18 of the 108 Upanishads (collection of Vedic texts, or Vedanta, written over 5,000 years ago). Written by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder Acarya (spiritual master) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), it deals with the nature of ultimate reality and describes the form of human salvation.

Srila Prabhupada was born in Calcutta, India in 1896. In 1922 he met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami and dedicated his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. He started the successful English magazine 'Back to Godhead' in 1944, which is still in production today, and in 1950 he retired from married life to devote his time fully to Vedic studies. Srila Prabhupada came to the United States in 1965 where, a year later, he established ISKCON, which has since spread worldwide. Before he passed from his material body in 1977, he had translated the 18,000 verses of the Srimad Bhagavatam (Divine-Eternal tales of Supreme God) to English along with writing over 50 volumes of translations and summaries of Indian philosophical and religious texts. There is a Srila Prabhupada memorial and museum now in place in Vrndavana, a holy city of India.

Sri Isopanisad contains 18 chapters, each dedicated to a single verse first written in their original ancient language of Sanskrit. This is followed by a direct translation of each word and then a full translation. The bulk of each chapter is made up of a purport, or explanation, of each verse. An easy to use glossary of Sanskrit words and a Sanskrit pronunciation guide at the back of the book prove very useful as a reference.

Each verse deals with a different part of the Vedic teachings and gives knowledge on the various aspects of God, Krishna, from His omnipotent, unlimited power to His personal form. It is directly outlined that Krishna is neither formless or impersonal and that he is all powerful, with the ability to be omnipresent while also being existent in his home of Goloka (the highest of all abodes).

Probably the most potent concept that is dealt with in this book is the human form and our relation to God. According to Vedic knowledge, we are all the spiritual sparks from the source fire that is Krishna. Therefore we are qualitatively, but not quantitatively, the same as Krishna. We are not our temporary material bodies, but our eternal souls (atma). Within all our hearts is the Paramatma (the Supreme Soul) but, through material Maya (illusion) we have forgotten our relationship with God. If, in one of our many lifetimes, we realize and surrender to Krishna we are freed from the material world and are taken back home to Godhead. If we fail to do so, we continue in the cycle of birth, death, old age and disease until we learn to reconnect with the Paramatma. What helps in achieving this is the singing of the Maha Mantra 'Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare' and abstinence from gambling, meat eating, illicit sex and intoxicants (alcohol, coffee, drugs, cigarettes).

With a well laid out format and and easy to use glossary and pronunciation guide, this book is a great resource for the novice interested in an introduction to the Vedic principals and for the studied alike.