Īśo 17

वायुरनिलममृतमथेदं भस्मांतँ शरीरम्।
ॐ क्रतो स्मर कृतँ स्मर क्रतो स्मर कृतँ स्मर॥१७॥

Text

vāyur anilam amṛtam
athedaṁ bhasmāntaṁ śarīram
oṁ krato smara kṛtaṁ smara
krato smara kṛtaṁ smara

Synonyms

vāyuḥplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigvāyuḥ

air; air of life; breeze; the air; the air of life; the breeze; the demigod of air; the god of the winds; the wind; the wind-god; the winds; Vāyu, the director of the air; wind.
—air of life; anilamplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_biganilam

a blast of wind; breeze; life air; the air; the breeze; the wind; total reservoir of air.
—total reservoir of air; amṛtamplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigamṛtam

Amṛta; deathlessness; eternal life; eternity of life; generation of the nectar; giving pleasure; happiness; immortality; indestructible; milk, which is like nectar; nectar; nectar for eternal life; nectar or milk; nectarean; never to be vanquished; the ambrosia; the embodiment of bliss; the nectar; the path of eternal life; the profession of //amṛta//; the results of sacrifice; understanding; very sweet; without deterioration.
—indestructible; athaplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigatha

after all; after this; after this offering of prayers by Vasudeva; also; and; and so on; and thereafter; as; as also; as such; as well (like the four Kumāras and others); as well; as well as; at last; at one time; at that time; because of this; Brahmaloka, the ultimate in material enjoyment; certainly; either; even though; for the matter of; for this reason; from him (Homa); from him; from Suhotra; furthermore; hence; hereafter (when the Lord accepted the throne on the request of Bharata); hereafter; herewith; if your son should not become like that; if, however; if, therefore; in this way; indeed; moreover; my brother Arjuna; now (after hearing the history of the dynasty of the sun); now; now(over and above these); of course; on the occasion of the Lord's appearance; otherwise; rather; still; then; then, from Prāruṇa; thereafter (after the appearance of the goddess of fortune); thereafter (the son of Upagupta); thereafter; thereafter, his son; therefore; thereof; thereupon (after the departure of his father); thereupon; thus (from Cākṣuṣa); thus (while coming back home); thus; when Vasudeva tried to take his transcendental son out of the confinement.
—now; idamplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigidam

all of this cosmic manifestation; all these; all these manifestations; all these phenomena; all these planets; all these things; all this; as it is; here; in their own measurement; in this material world; in this way; in this world; is this; like this; on this (as follows); on this (path); the cosmic manifestation is produced; the following; the following words; the universe rests; the whole; the whole universe; these; these words; this (//Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam//); this (all the land given to them); this (body); this (cosmic manifestation); this (creation); this (life); this (material body); this (material world); this (news); this (the body and senses); this (universe); this (world); this; this body; this body of Brahmā; this cosmic manifestation; this cosmic manifestation is created and maintained; this creation; this description of the characteristics of Vāmanadeva; this entire cosmic manifestation; this entire universe; this glorification; this incident; this lamentation; this manifestation; this material attachment; this material world; this phenomenal world; this philosophy of life; this prayer; this present form; this ultimate abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; this universe; this Vedic literature (//Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam//); this whole material world; this whole universe; this world; thus; whatever we can see; which we see.
—this; bhasmāntamplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigbhasmāntam

after being turned to ashes.
—after being turned to ashes; śarīramplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigsariram

body; external body; the body; transcendental body, //sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha//.
—body; oṁplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigom

//oṁkāra//; beginning with //om//; indication of the Supreme; O Lord; O my Lord; O Supreme Lord; the combination of letters, //omkāra//.
—O Lord; kratoplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigkrato

O enjoyer of all sacrifices; O supreme beneficiary.
—O enjoyer of all sacrifices; smaraplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigsmara

by the smiling; please remember.
—please remember; kṛtamplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigkrtam

all that has been done by me; all that I have done for You; already done; as performed; by so doing; created; did; done; due to; executed; forced into this position; has been committed; has been done; having been done; is completed; magnanimous work; performed; produced; so accepted; the action done; the age of Satya; the order; the work executed; was committed; was created; was done; was performed; what is done; which had been done; which had been performed; you have done.
—all that has been done by me; smaraplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigsmara

by the smiling; please remember.
—please remember; kratoplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigkrato

O enjoyer of all sacrifices; O supreme beneficiary.
—O supreme beneficiary; smaraplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigsmara

by the smiling; please remember.
—please remember; kṛtamplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigkrtam

all that has been done by me; all that I have done for You; already done; as performed; by so doing; created; did; done; due to; executed; forced into this position; has been committed; has been done; having been done; is completed; magnanimous work; performed; produced; so accepted; the action done; the age of Satya; the order; the work executed; was committed; was created; was done; was performed; what is done; which had been done; which had been performed; you have done.
—all that I have done for You; smaraplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigsmara

by the smiling; please remember.
—please remember. 

Translation

Let this temporary body be burnt to ashes, and let the air of life be merged with the totality of air. Now, O my Lord, please remember all my sacrifices, and because You are the ultimate beneficiary, please remember all that I have done for You. 

Purport

The temporary material body is certainly a foreign dress. The Bhagavad-gītā (2.20)plugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigBhagavad-gītā As It Is 2.20

For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
clearly says that after the destruction of the material body the living entity is not annihilated, nor does he lose his identity. The identity of the living entity is never impersonal or formless; on the contrary, it is the material dress that is formless and that takes a shape according to the form of the indestructible person. No living entity is originally formless, as is wrongly thought by those with a poor fund of knowledge. This mantra verifies the fact that the living entity exists after the annihilation of the material body. 

In the material world, material nature displays wonderful workmanship by creating varieties of bodies for the living beings according to their propensities for sense gratification. The living entity who wants to taste stool is given a material body that is quite suitable for eating stool—that of a hog. Similarly, one who wants to eat the flesh and blood of other animals may be given a tiger’s body equipped with suitable teeth and claws. But the human being is not meant for eating flesh, nor does he have any desire to taste stool, even in the most aboriginal state. Human teeth are so made that they can chew and cut fruit and vegetables, although there are two canine teeth so that primitive humans can eat flesh if they so desire. 

But in any case, the material bodies of all animals and men are foreign to the living entity. They change according to the living entity’s desire for sense gratification. In the cycle of evolution, the living entity changes bodies one after another. When the world was full of water, the living entity took an aquatic form. Then he passed to vegetable life, from vegetable life to worm life, from worm life to bird life, from bird life to animal life, and from animal life to the human form. The highest developed form is this human form when it is possessed of a full sense of spiritual knowledge. The highest development of one’s spiritual sense is described in this mantra: One should give up the material body, which will be turned to ashes, and allow the air of life to merge into the eternal reservoir of air. The living being’s activities are performed within the body through the movements of different kinds of air, known in summary as prāṇa-vāyu. The yogīs generally study how to control the airs of the body. The soul is supposed to rise from one circle of air to another until it rises to the brahma-randhra, the highest circle. From that point the perfect yogī can transfer himself to any planet he likes. The process is to give up one material body and then enter into another. But the highest perfection of such changes occurs only when the living entity is able to give up the material body altogether, as suggested in this mantra, and enter into the spiritual atmosphere, where he can develop a completely different type of body—a spiritual body, which never has to meet death or change. 

Here in the material world, material nature forces the living entity to change his body due to his different desires for sense gratification. These desires are represented in the various species of life, from germs to the most perfected material bodies, those of Brahmā and the demigods. All of these living entities have bodies composed of matter in different shapes. The intelligent man sees oneness not in the variety of the bodies but in the spiritual identity. The spiritual spark, which is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, is the same whether he is in a body of a hog or in the body of a demigod. The living entity takes on different bodies according to his pious and vicious activities. The human body is highly developed and has full consciousness. According to the Bhagavad-gītā (7.19)plugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigBhagavad-gītā As It Is 7.19

After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.
, the most perfect man surrenders unto the Lord after many, many lifetimes of culturing knowledge. The culture of knowledge reaches perfection only when the knower comes to the point of surrendering unto the Supreme Lord, Vāsudeva. Otherwise, even after attaining knowledge of one’s spiritual identity, if one does not come to the point of knowing that the living entities are eternal parts and parcels of the whole and can never become the whole, one has to fall down again into the material atmosphere. Indeed, one must fall down even if he has become one with the brahmajyoti. 

As we have learned from previous mantras, the brahmajyoti emanating from the transcendental body of the Lord is full of spiritual sparks that are individual entities with the full sense of existence. Sometimes these living entities want to enjoy their senses, and therefore they are placed in the material world to become false lords under the dictation of the senses. The desire for lordship is the material disease of the living being, for under the spell of sense enjoyment he transmigrates through the various bodies manifested in the material world. Becoming one with the brahmajyoti does not represent mature knowledge. Only by surrendering unto the Lord completely and developing one’s sense of spiritual service does one reach the highest perfectional stage. 

In this mantra the living entity prays to enter the spiritual kingdom of God after relinquishing his material body and material air. The devotee prays to the Lord to remember his activities and the sacrifices he has performed before his material body is turned into ashes. He makes this prayer at the time of death, with full consciousness of his past deeds and of the ultimate goal. One who is completely under the rule of material nature remembers the heinous activities he performed during the existence of his material body, and consequently he gets another material body after death. The Bhagavad-gītā (8.6)plugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigBhagavad-gītā As It Is 8.6

Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.
confirms this truth: 

yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kuntī, that state he will attain without fail.” Thus the mind carries the living entity’s propensities into the next life. 

Unlike the simple animals, who have no developed mind, the dying human being can remember the activities of his life like dreams at night; therefore his mind remains surcharged with material desires, and consequently he cannot enter into the spiritual kingdom with a spiritual body. The devotees, however, develop a sense of love for Godhead by practicing devotional service to the Lord. Even if at the time of death a devotee does not remember his service to the Lord, the Lord does not forget him. This prayer is given to remind the Lord of the devotee’s sacrifices, but even if there is no such reminder, the Lord does not forget the service rendered by His pure devotee. 

The Lord clearly describes His intimate relationship with His devotees in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.30-34)plugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigBhagavad-gītā As It Is 9.30

Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.
: “Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination. He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kuntī, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes. O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaiśyas [merchants] as well as śūdras [workers]—can attain the supreme destination. How much more this is so of the righteous brāhmaṇas, the devotees and the saintly kings. Therefore, having come to this temporary, miserable world, engage in loving service unto Me. Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” 

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura explains these verses in this way: “One should regard a devotee of Kṛṣṇa to be on the right path of the saints, even though such a devotee may seem to be su-durācāra, ‘a person of loose character.’ One should try to understand the real purport of the word su-durācāra. A conditioned soul has to act for double functions—namely for the maintenance of the body and again for self-realization. Social status, mental development, cleanliness, austerity, nourishment and the struggle for existence are all for the maintenance of the body. The self-realization part of one’s activities is executed in one’s occupation as a devotee of the Lord, and one performs actions in that connection also. One must perform these two different functions along parallel lines, because a conditioned soul cannot give up the maintenance of his body. The proportion of activities for maintenance of the body decreases, however, in proportion to the increase in devotional service. As long as the proportion of devotional service does not come to the right point, there is a chance for an occasional exhibition of worldliness. But it should be noted that such worldliness cannot continue for long because, by the grace of the Lord, such imperfections will come to an end very shortly. Therefore the path of devotional service is the only right path. If one is on the right path, even an occasional occurrence of worldliness does not hamper one in the advancement of self-realization.” 

The facilities of devotional service are denied the impersonalists because they are attached to the brahmajyoti feature of the Lord. As suggested in the previous mantras, they cannot penetrate the brahma-jyoti because they do not believe in the Personality of Godhead. Their business is mostly word jugglery and mental speculation. Consequently the impersonalists pursue a fruitless labor, as confirmed in the Twelfth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā (12.5)plugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigBhagavad-gītā As It Is 12.5

For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progrese in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.

All the facilities suggested in this mantra can be easily obtained by constant contact with the personal feature of the Absolute Truth. Devotional service to the Lord consists essentially of nine transcendental activities: (1) hearing about the Lord, (2) glorifying the Lord, (3) remembering the Lord, (4) serving the lotus feet of the Lord, (5) worshiping the Lord, (6) offering prayers to the Lord, (7) serving the Lord, (8) enjoying friendly association with the Lord, and (9) surrendering everything unto the Lord. These nine principles of devotional service—taken all together or one by one—help a devotee remain constantly in touch with God. In this way, at the end of life it is easy for the devotee to remember the Lord. By adopting only one of these nine principles, the following renowned devotees of the Lord were able to achieve the highest perfection: (1) By hearing of the Lord, Mahārāja Parīkṣit, the hero of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, attained the desired result. (2) Just by glorifying the Lord, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, the speaker of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, attained his perfection. (3) By praying to the Lord, Akrūra attained the desired result. (4) By remembering the Lord, Prahlāda Mahārāja attained the desired result. (5) By worshiping the Lord, Pṛthu Mahārāja attained perfection. (6) By serving the lotus feet of the Lord, the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, attained perfection. (7) By rendering personal service to the Lord, Hanumān attained the desired result. (8) Through his friendship with the Lord, Arjuna attained the desired result. (9) By surrendering everything he had to the Lord, Mahārāja Bali attained the desired result. 

Actually, the explanation of this mantra and of practically all the mantras of the Vedic hymns is summarized in the Vedānta-sūtra and properly explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the mature fruit of the Vedic tree of wisdom. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam this particular mantra is explained in the questions and answers between Mahārāja Parīkṣit and Śukadeva Gosvāmī at the very beginning of their meeting. Hearing and chanting of the science of God is the basic principle of devotional life. The complete Bhāgavatam was heard by Mahārāja Parīkṣit and chanted by Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Mahārāja Parīkṣit inquired from Śukadeva because Śukadeva was a greater spiritual master than any great yogī or transcendentalist of his time. 

Mahārāja Parīkṣit’s main question was: “What is the duty of every man, specifically at the time of death?” Śukadeva Gosvāmī answered: 

tasmād bhārata sarvātmā
bhagavān īśvaro hariḥ
śrotavyaḥ kīrtitavyaś ca
smartavyaś cecchatābhayam

“Everyone who desires to be free from all anxieties should always hear about, glorify and remember the Personality of Godhead, who is the supreme director of everything, the extinguisher of all difficulties, and the Supersoul of all living entities.” (SB 2.1.5)plugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigŚrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.1.5

O descendant of King Bharata, one who desires to be free from all miseries must hear about, glorify and also remember the Personality of Godhead, who is the Supersoul, the controller and the savior from all miseries.
 

So-called human society is generally engaged at night in sleeping and having sex and during the daytime in earning as much money as possible or else in shopping for family maintenance. People have very little time to talk about the Personality of Godhead or to inquire about Him. They have dismissed God’s existence in so many ways, primarily by declaring Him to be impersonal, that is, without sense perception. But in the Vedic literature—whether the Upaniṣads, Vedānta-sūtra, Bhagavad-gītā or Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam—it is declared that the Lord is a sentient being and is supreme over all other living entities. His glorious activities are identical with Himself. One should therefore not indulge in hearing and speaking of the rubbish activities of worldly politicians and so-called big men in society but should mold his life in such a way that he can engage in godly activities without wasting a second. Śrī Īśopaniṣad directs us toward such godly activities. 

Unless one is accustomed to devotional practice, what will he remember at the time of death, when the body is dislocated, and how can he pray to the almighty Lord to remember his sacrifices? Sacrifice means denying the interest of the senses. One has to learn this art by employing the senses in the service of the Lord during one’s lifetime. One can utilize the results of such practice at the time of death.