The following is taken from SrilaPrabhupada’s commentary on the eleventh mantra in the book called Sri Isopanisad.
Since the creation of the physical world, everyone has been yearning to attain a permanent life, but the laws of nature are so cruel that no one has been able to avoid the hand of death. No one wants to die, nor does anyone want to become old or diseased. The law of nature, however, does not allow anyone immunity from old age, disease or death. Nor has the advancement of material knowledge solved these problems. Material science can discover the nuclear bomb to accelerate the process of death, but it cannot discover anything that can protect people from the cruel hands of old age, disease, and death.
Sri Isopanisad instructs us not to make one-sided attempts to win the struggle for existence. Everyone is struggling hard for existence, but the laws of material nature are so hard and fast that they do not allow anyone to surpass them. In order to attain a permanent life, one must be prepared for a spiritual journey.
The process by which one goes back to Godhead is a peculiar branch of knowledge. To become happy in this life and attain a permanent blissful life after leaving this material body, one must study sacred literature, in this case Sri Isopanisad, and obtain transcendental knowledge. The conditioned living being has forgotten his eternal relationship with God and has mistakenly accepted the temporary place of his birth as all in all. We have kindly been delivered the sacred scriptures in India and other scriptures in other countries to remind the forgetful human being that his home is not here in this material world. The living being is a spiritual entity, and he can be happy only by returning to his spiritual home.
Birth and death apply to the outward covering of the spirit soul, the body. Death is compared to the taking off and birth to the putting on of outward garments.
The miseries of this material world serve to indirectly remind us of our incompatibility with dead matter. Intelligent living entities generally take note of these reminders and engage themselves in the culture of transcendental knowledge. Human life is the best opportunity for the culture of spiritual knowledge, and a human being who does not take advantage of this opportunity is unfortunate.
The path of advancement of material knowledge for sense gratification, is the path of repeated birth and death. As he exists spiritually, the living entity has no birth or death. Birth and death apply to the outward covering of the spirit soul, the body. Death is compared to the taking off and birth to the putting on of outward garments. Foolish human beings who are grossly absorbed in the culture of nescience do not mind this cruel process. Enamored with the beauty of the illusory energy, they undergo the same miseries repeatedly and do not learn any lessons from the laws of nature.
Therefore the culture of transcendental knowledge is essential for the human being. Sense enjoyment in the diseased material condition must be restricted as far as possible. Unrestricted sense enjoyment in this bodily condition is the path of ignorance and death. The living entities are not without spiritual senses; every living being in his original, spiritual form has all the senses, which are now materially manifested, being covered by the material body and mind.
The activities of the material senses are perverted reflections of the activities of the original, spiritual senses. In his diseased condition, the spirit soul engages in material activities under the material covering. Real sense enjoyment is possible only when the disease of materialism is removed. In our pure spiritual form, free from all material contamination, real enjoyment of the senses is possible. A patient must regain his health before he can truly enjoy sense pleasure again. Thus the aim of human life should not be to enjoy perverted sense enjoyment but to cure the material disease. Aggravation of the material disease is no sign of knowledge, but a sign of ignorance. For good health, a person should not increase his fever from 105 degrees to 107 degrees but should reduce his temperature to the normal 98.6. That should be the aim of human life. The modern trend of material civilization is to increase the temperature of the feverish material condition. Meanwhile, the foolish politicians are crying that at any moment the world may go to hell. That is the result of the advancement of material knowledge and the neglect of the most important part of life, the culture of spiritual knowledge. Sri Isopanisad herein warns that we must not follow this dangerous path leading to death. On the contrary, we must develop the culture of spiritual knowledge so that we may become completely free from the cruel hands of death.
The modern trend of material civilization is to increase the temperature of the feverish material condition. Meanwhile, the foolish politicians are crying that at any moment the world may go to hell.
This does not mean that all activities for the maintenance of the body should be stopped. There is no question of stopping activities, just as there is no question of wiping out one’s temperature altogether when trying to recover from a disease. “To make the best use of a bad bargain” is the appropriate expression. The culture of spiritual knowledge necessitates the help of the body and mind; therefore maintenance of the body and mind is required if we are to reach our goal. The normal temperature should be maintained at 98.6 degrees, and the great sages and saints of India have attempted to do this by a balanced program of spiritual and material knowledge. They never allow the misuse of human intelligence for diseased sense gratification.
Human activities diseased by a tendency toward sense gratification have been regulated in the Vedas. This system employs religion, economic development, sense gratification, and spiritual liberation, but at the present moment people have no interest in religion or spirituality. They have only one aim in life- sense gratification- and in order to achieve this end they make plans for economic development. Misguided pople think that religion should be maintained if, or, because it contributes to economic development, which is required for sense gratification. Thus, in order to guarantee further sense gratification after death, in heaven, there is some system of religious observance. But this is not the purpose of religion. The path of religion is actually meant for self-realization, and economic development is required just to maintain the body in a sound, healthy condition. One should lead a healthy life with a sound mind just to realize true knowledge, which is the aim of human life. This life is not meant for working hard like an ass or for culturing ignorance for sense gratification.
Five thousand years ago, Sri Isopanisad was studied all over the world. Concealed for centuries in the Sanskrit language of India, this ancient spiritual gem is now revealed in the first authorized English edition ever published. This masterwork of the long forgotten Vedic culture is here presented by the most venerated descendant of the culture, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. Sri Isopanisad is the book to ignite a spiritual revolution in the mind of a modern Westerner. Sri Isopanisad- $1.96 at store.krishna.com.