*From Isa Upanishad*:
Translations and comments by Swami Nikhilananda. The last four verses of The Isa upanishad deal with prayer of the aspirant on his death-bed. He prays to the sun, a vivid symbol of Brahman (Supreme Reality), to withdraw the outer physical light so that the inner effulgence of Truth may be revealed. As the hour of death approaches, he fills his mind with the memories of his good deeds; the thought at the final moment determines the course of the soul hereafter. And lastly, he prays to Fire (Agni), which will soon consume his physical body, to lead his soul through the way of the Gods to Brahmaloka, from which he will attain final Liberation.
Isa Upanishad, Mantra 15:
The door of the Truth is covered by a golden disc. Open it, O Nourisher! Remove it so that I who have been worshipping the Truth may behold It.
[Note: The worship prescribed in this and the following verses is the symbolic worship of Brahman through the sun. 'golden' = luminous]
Isa Upanishad, Mantra 16:
O Nourisher, lone Traveller of the sky! Controller! O Sun, Offspring of Prajapati! Gather your rays; withdraw your light. I would see through Your grace, that form of Yours which is the fairest. I am indeed He, that Purusha, who dwells there.
[Note: Purusha: Literally means Person. It also refers to the Godhead, who resides in the hearts of all, or who fills the whole universe with life and consciousness.]
Isa Upanishad, Mantra 17:
Now may my breath, return to the all-pervading, immortal Prana! May this body be burnt to ashes! Om. O mind, remember, remember all that I have done.
[Note: 'May this body...' That is to say, may the subtle body (linga sharira) come out of the gross body. According to the Vedic seers, a subtle body dwells inside and pervades the gross body. The impressions of a man's good and evil deeds and thoughts remain embedded in this subtle body. The individual soul dwelling in this body experiences, after death, the happy or unhappy results of its actions. The gross body is destroyed after death, but the subtle body remains unimpaired till the attainment of Liberation through Knowledge.]
Isa Upanishad, Mantra 18:
[Note: The dying man again prays for a higher course after death]:
O Fire (Agni), lead us by the good path for the enjoyment of the fruit of our action. You know, O god, all our deeds. Destroy our sin of deceit. We offer, by words, our salutations to you.
[Note: 'by words': At the time of death the devotee cannot offer any other worship to the god. As his limbs become inert, he cannot prostrate himself; hence the salutations through words alone.]
[General notes: The path of Brahmaloka (the highest heaven from which one does not return to earth) lies through what has been described in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita as the Devayana or Way of the Gods, which is characterised by various luminous stages, such as flame, the day, the bright fortnight of the moon, the bright half of the year (when the sun travels northward), the sun, and lightning. It is also called the Northern Path. There is another path, called the Pitriyana, the Way of the fathers, or the Southern Path, which leads to Chandraloka, the Plane of the Moon.
Until it goes, after death, those householders who have performed their obligatory duties and worshipped the gods, following the scriptural rules, with a view to enjoying the results of their meritorious actions in this lower heaven. The path leading to Chandraloka is characterised by dark stages, such as smoke and not flame, night and not day, the dark fortnight of the moon and not the bright, and the months of winter and not of summer. After enjoying the results of their meritorious actions in the lower heaven, souls come back to earth and are born as ordinary mortals.]
.... To Be Contd ..........