In the next four verses, we get a deeper understanding of Isha, which is the first word of this Upanishad. Isha is the Lord or Ishwara. Who is this Ishwara to whom we have to renounce everything and by renouncing to whom we can truly enjoy the world? In describing this there are startling statements because this reality, this Isha, is of a very peculiar nature.
The fourth verse states:
anejad ekaṁ manaso javīyo nainad devā āpnuvan pūrvam arsat
tad dhāvato’nyān atyeti tisthat tasminn apo mātariśvā dadhāti – 4
One unmoving that is swifter than Mind, (a very startling statement; it is unmoving and yet it is swifter than the speed of the mind.) That the Gods reach not, for It progresses ever in front. That, standing, passes beyond others as they run. In That the Master of Life establishes the Waters.
Mind is swifter than light. In physical terms, light is the speediest in the physical universe. Even speedier than light is the movement of thought; but Isha, even though it does not move, is swifter than the mind. It is a startling statement because it is not easy to understand; it remains like a riddle. Now a new concept enters this sphere. There is Isha who is the Lord but there are gods who are supposed to be superior to human beings. Isha Upanishad has the knowledge of those beings who are called gods. Our modern mentality does not accept gods at all. It only speaks of man and humanity because that is all that we see. God, gods and souls, these three words are quite foreign to the modern mind.
This Upanishad’s seer or Rishi has knowledge of the gods. The Vedas had made the discovery of God. This Upanishad describes the discovery that there are many gods who are personalities of one God. The Vedas give descriptions of these gods, like Agni, Indra, Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman and many other gods. The Vedic Rishis had come in contact with the many gods and even had dialogues with them and learnt from them. They knew their secrets, which are recorded. Modern humanity may not accept this and call it superstition. If today the world were to come to an end by nuclear explosion and a few individuals were to remain, if they were to tell their children stories of the modern world that there were trains, planes, etc.; they will never believe that such things could have ever happened. Similarly, if we are now told that our forefathers had come in contact with the gods who have been described in the Vedas, we would not believe it at all.
The Rishi says that even the gods do not reach Him. ‘That the gods reach not for It progresses ever in front. That, standing, passes beyond others as they run.’ However much the gods may run to arrive at That Reality, Isha is always in front and they can never overcome that Reality. They go on running, He remains standing and yet they never reach him. It is unmoving. ‘In That the Master of Life establishes the Waters.’ Water is a symbolic expression of the Vedas. Any movement of consciousness is called water. Thoughts are called waves of water and even matter is called water because it is a movement or current. As modern physics tells us, matter is nothing but atoms and atoms are nothing but electrons, protons and neutrons and they are nothing but electric movements. So this matter is called a kind of water. Life which is pulsation is also water; mind which consists of thoughts is also water; the whole universe which consists of various strands of matter, life and mind – all emerges out of That. The Master of Life establishes in the waters. – it is the life–force which is given the function of manifesting all the aspects of That Reality.