"Distinct they say is the result of knowledge and distinct they also say is the result of ignorance. This is what we heard from the wise who explained these matters to us.
He who knows both knowledge and ignorance together, crosses death through ignorance and attains immortality through knowledge.
Into blinding darkness enter those who worship the unmanifest and into still greater darkness those who take delight in the manifest." .............Isa Upanishad Verse 10-12
This is a continuation of my understanding of the Isa Upanishad. We saw in the verse 9 the hopeless situation of those rooted in the worship in ignorance and those who worship through false knowledge rooted in the intellectual domain.
The result of true knowledge is distinct from that which is derived from other false premises.
Thought, description, and language can get no more fundamental than to make a distinction, for whenever we have anything at all we have at least one distinction: the distinction between that thing and no-thing. When I say light, I clearly distinguish it from darkness. No matter what it is, whether it be a fleeting thought in the mind, a tingling sensation in the finger tip, a strand of cloud in the sky, or heavy sadness of the heart, all things rest on that one implicit distinction. Indeed, if there were no distinction at all, then there would be no-thing at all. The manifest and the unmanifest are distinguished through the senses.
Knowing both knowledge and ignorance together means the deployment of distinction. True wisdom comes from this achievement of clearly understanding both true knowledge and false knowledge or ignorance.
When we live this human life purely at the gross level through sensory attachments and pleasures, we are rooted in the 'avidya' or ignorance induced through 'maya' or illusion. But if through detachment to the sensory perceptions we move to the plane of a higher reality through worship, prayer and spiritual practice and knowledge, then we are ready to attain immortality.
Adi Shankara makes a clear distinction in his commentary on this verse, especially when defining what is meant by 'immortality', when he says that there are three levels through which one transcends from the sphere of ignorance, which is the first level, where one is rooted in Vedic acts such as 'Agnihothra' to the second level of 'qualified immortality'. Death here does not mean physical death but means a state where the one has the innate knowledge and awareness of actions of one's karmic imprints (which can be obtained only beyond physical existence or in advanced stage of awakening). At this second level we are aligned in this new knowledge in qualified immortality but to ascend to the final and third level of 'Absolute immortality' one has to have the Self knowledge.
Holy acts cannot free man from mortality but only aid in alleviating his agony of helplessness. It is only the deep knowledge of the absolute Self which can obtain him absolute immortality. Until then one has to be subject to the 'Prãrabadha Karman' or per-ordained Karma.
Let us take the ritual of 'Agnihothra'. It is a Vedic yajña (ritual or sacrifice) performed as an act of purification. The performance of Agnihotra, which has an impact both on intellect and emotion of the performer, can be termed as insight oriented psychotherapy. It brings a permanent intra-psychic change, whereby an ability to understand the inner nature of things is developed. It is the obliteration of the sensory impacts which is signified in the fire sacrifice. If this ritual is performed without this inner transformation then one is rooted in 'ignorance' which perpetuates the karmic journey of the 'atman'
In the today's concluding verse. a deeper meaning to the word worship has to be understood. Any act of worship is grounded in attachment. When one worships an idol or representation of a deity one is attached to the manifest objective reality but when one worships the an unmanifest reality, there is still a generative principle that objectifies the target of worship. Any objectifying leads to duality and hence cannot be the absolute reality; therefore it is only by transcending worship and becoming totally one with the very plenum of the Absolute Self that one can attain true Self-realization.
Love to you all.