Macrocosm and Microcosm
Ishvara is everywhere, in and through everything. The IshopaniShad is effectively a meditation on Ishvara. It begins: 'The Lord pervades everything � whatever exists in this universe of ceaseless movement. Enjoy the external world with an attitude of (inner) renunciation. Do not covet the wealth of others.'
So everything can be regarded as a form of Ishvara, in the way that a wave is a form of the water constituting the ocean. Ishvara is the sum total of all things, in the way that the ocean is the sum total of all waves, representing the macrocosm, whereas the individual jIva is the microcosm.
Ishvara is the controller of karma. When the universal cycle comes to an end and creation is temporarily withdrawn (this is called pralaya � the resolution of the universe at the end of a kalpa), Ishvara is responsible for accounting for all of the accumulated karma and for reapportioning this appropriately at the beginning of the next creation, when the unmanifest (avyakta) again becomes manifest (vyakta).
This is one of the reasons why we worship Ishvara (or one of the gods of whom He is the Inner Controller). Whether or not we are, ultimately, free to act, the outcome of such acts is out of our control and may be favorable or unfavorable from our point of view. It is Ishvara who is responsible for awarding karma phala � the �fruit� of action in the form of puNya or papa, good or bad saMskAra. It should be no surprise therefore, that people bow down before their god and offer sacrifice. Such actions constitute both propitiation and surrender. We may pray for a successful result to our action but also we should accept the result, whatever it may be, because it is the lawful one, �awarded� by Ishvara. This is the other side, as it were, of karma yoga.
It is Ishvara who wields the power of mAyA to bring about the myriad wonderful and terrible appearances, which bemuse us throughout our lives. We are the ones who are controlled by mAyA � He himself is not affected by ignorance. But it should be reiterated that everything, altogether, is Ishvara and all functions lawfully. The working of karma is a part of this lawful operation � Ishvara is not a God outside of creation ensuring that all is operating according to His intentions and handing out punishment if we step out of line. The working of the world is a manifestation of Ishvara�s power and intelligence. Science making new discoveries is uncovering the working of Ishvara. This is why He is said to be all-knowing (sarvaj~na) and all-powerful (sarvashakti). Ishvara is the knowledge and intelligence which manifests in the order in the universe. And all actions and events are the working of Ishvara and an expression of His power.
Mahatma Gandhi said about this verse: 'The mantra describes God as the Creator, the Ruler and the Lord. The seer to whom this mantra or verse was revealed was not satisfied with the very frequent statement that God was to be found everywhere. But he went further and said: "Since God pervades everything, nothing belongs to you, not even your own body... "'(Address at Kottayam, Hairijanm 1937.)
Regarding the last part of the verse (do not covet), Shankara understands this as: 'Everything has been renounced through this thought of the "Lord" � "All this is but the Self" � so that all this belongs to the Self, and the Self is all. Therefore do not have any hankerings for things that are unreal.'
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