The heart of the Upanishads is the Self, expressed as both a path of Self-knowledge and a realization of the fullness and potential of an eternal Truth discovered within the innermost Self (Atman). In the Isha Upanishad, Isha is the eternal Truth of the Self.
The first mantra of the Isha Upanishad expresses, within its compressed form, a profound insight into the nature of the Self. The eternal truth is expressed in a few mantric syllables, as is a complete path to enlightenment. One only need meditate on the words, recite the words, come into a full understanding of the meaning of the mantras. The Self reveals itself within these sacred syllables, inviting us to inhabit the mantra: OmIsha vāsyam idam sarvam…
Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live for ever.” The first verse expresses a fundamental insight not only of Hinduism, but of a universal awareness. The verse offers a religion, a philosophy, a psychology, and a transformation in our very modes of seeing and perceiving, our means and modes of being.
There are two basic views of the divine. The first perspective sees the divine as transcendent to life; the other sees the divine as immanent to life. The word transcendence is from the Latin transcendens meaning “surmounting, rising above.” The word immanence is from the Latin immanere meaning “to dwell in, remain within.” Transcendence views the divine beyond; Immanence views the divine within. Self-realization is the simultaneity of both of these perspectives. Immanence and transcendence form a core dialectic of the Self.
We see such a realization in Vedanta, where the self is the self of every being, and yet is beyond any individual being– as the supreme Self.
Immanence can only be discovered in a dialectical relationship to transcendence. The word transcendence means “to surmount, to go beyond or to climb above”. And the concept of transcendence expresses an impulse to surmount the flow of intensities, to move beyond multiplicity, to climb out of the womb of nature. Like an acorn sprouting to become a tree, transcendence is the instinctual impulse of humans to grow and individuate. This impulse towards growth takes the spirit up to lofty heights, but it is only the initial movement of the spirit.
Western civilization has been on the trajectory of transcendence, but this is beginning to change as society takes an immanent turn. The trajectory of transcendence creates a culture based on vertical power structures, built upon hierarchies; and like the Tower of Babel these hierarchies are crumbling just as they reaches toward their apogee. In a paper titled the Culture of immanence, Barreto and Perissinotto discuss the radical changes taking place in our world, and the emerging culture of immanence: