SWAMI DAYANANDA SARASWATHI
Om pUrNamadah pUrNamidaM pUrNAt pUrNamudacyate
PUrNasya pUrNamAdAya pUrNamEvAvashiSyate
This is an innocuous looking verse: one noun, two pronouns, three
verbs and a particle for emphasis. Yet, someone once said: "Let all
the UpaniSads disappear from the face of the earth - I don’t mind so
long as this one verse remains."
Can one small verse be so profound? "Of course not. Utter
nonsense!" would have been the response of a certain Englishman, who
did not find the verse sensible at all, let alone profound. This
Englishman, who was something of a scholar, asked a pundit to teach
him the UpaniSads. The pundit, agreeing, began the course of study
with ISAvAsyOpaniSad, the text traditionally studied first by a new
student. The text begins with the SantipaTa (prayer verse): "Om
pUrNamadah pUrNamidaM.." The pundit carefully translated the opening
verse into English:
That is whole; this is whole;
From that whole this whole came;
From that whole, this whole removed,
What remains is whole.
The Englishman stopped his study at that point and did not go
further! He said that the UpaniSads are the "prattlings of an
Which point of view is correct? Is this verse something which is
wondrous and profound or is it just "infantile prattlings"?
PurNam, the single noun in the verse, is a beautiful Sanskrit word
which means completely filled - a filledness which (in its Vedic
scriptural sense) is wholeness itself, absolute fullness lacking
nothing whatsoever. Adah, which means ’that’, and idam, which means
’this’, are two pronouns each of which, at the same time, refers to
the single noun, pUrNam:
PUrNam adah - completeness is that,
PUrNam idam - completeness is this.
Adah, that, is always used to refer to something remote from the
speaker in time, place or understanding. Something which is remote
in the sense of adah is something which, at the time in question, is
not available for direct knowledge. Adah, that, refers to a jnEyavastu,
a thing to be known, a thing which due to some kind of
remoteness is not present for immediate knowledge but remains to be
known upon destruction of the remoteness. Idam, this, refers to
something not remote but present, here and now, immediately available
for perception, something directly known or knowable. Thus it can be
said that adah refers to the unknown, the unknown in the sense of the
not-directly known due to remoteness, and idam refers to the
immediately perceivable known.
Traditionally, however, idam has come to have a much broader
meaning. Idam is stretched to stand for anything available for
objectification; that is, for any object external to me which can be
known by me through my means of knowledge. In this sense, idam,
this, indicates all driSya, all seen or known things. Idam can be so
used because all adah, all things called ’that’ become ’this’ as soon
as their thatness, their remoteness in time, place or knowledge is
destroyed. It is in this sense that the SantipAta "pUrNamadah." uses
The first verse of IshAvAsyOpaniSad, following the SantipATa makes
clear that idam is used in the traditional sense of all driSya, all
known or knowable things:
. idam sarvam yat kinca jagatyAm jagat .
. all this, whatsoever, changing in this changing world...
Given this meaning, idam, this swallows up all ’that’s’ subject to
becoming ’this’; in other words, idam stands for all things capable
of being known as objects. So when the verse says pUrNam idam,
"completeness is this", what is being said is that all that one knows
or is able to know is pUrNam.
This statement is not understandable because pUrNam means
completeness, absolute fullness, wholeness. PurNam is that which is
not away from anything but which is the fullness of everything. If
pUrNam is total fullness which leaves nothing out, then ’this’ cannot
be used to describe pUrNam because ’this’ leaves something out.
What? The subject. ’This’ leaves out aham, I, the subject. The
world ’this’does not include I. I, the subject, is always left out
when one says ’this’. If I am not included then pUrNam is not
wholeness. Therefore, pUrNam idam appears to be an untenable
statement because it leaves out I.
What about the other pronoun, adah, that? What does adah mean in
context? Does ’that’ have a tenable relationship with pUrNam? Since
idam, this, has been used in its traditional sense of all knowable
objects, here or there, presently known or unknown, the only meaning
left for ’that’ is to indicate the subject. Idam, this, stands for
everything available for objectification. What is not available for
objectification? The objectifier - the subject. The subject, aham,
I, is the only thing not available for objectification. So, the real
meaning of the pronoun adah, that, as used here in contrast to idam,
this, is aham, I.
However, it was said that adah, that, indicates a jnEyavastu,
something to be known; in other words, something not yet directly
known because it is remote from the knower in time, place or in terms
of knowledge. If that is so, how can adah, that, mean aham, I? Am I
remote? I am certainly not remote in terms of time or place. I am
always here right now. But perhaps I may be remote in terms of
knowledge. If in fact I do not know the true nature of myself I
could be a jnEyavastu, a to-be-known, in terms of knowledge. Because
it is only through the revelation of shruti (scripture functioning as
means of knowledge) that I can gain knowledge of my true nature, it
can be said that in general the truth of aham is remote in terms of
knowledge - something that is yet to be known.
So in context, adah, the pronoun ’that’, stands for what is meant
when I say, simply, "I am", without ay qualification whatsoever.
’That’ so used as ’I" means AtmA, the content of truth of the first
person singular, a jnEya-vastu, a to-be-known, in terms of knowledge.
When that knowledge is gained, I will recognize that I, AtmA, am
identical with limitless Brahman - all pervasive, formless and
considered the cause of the world of formful objects.
So far, then, the first two lines of the verse read:
PUrNam adah - completeness is I, the subject AtmA, whose truth is
Brahman, formless, limitlessness, considered creation’s cause;
PUrNam idam - completeness is all objects, all things known or
knowable, all formful effects, comprising creation.
The statement, "Completeness is I, the subject" on its face dos not
seem any more tenable than the statement, "Completeness is all
objects." Both statements seem to suffer from the same kind of
defect. Each looks defective because it fails to include the other.
Moreover, each looks like it could not include the other; and,
pUrNam, completeness, brooks no exclusion whatsoever.
If aham, subject, is different from idam, object; if idam, object,
is different from aham, subject, if pUrNam, to be pUrNam, cannot be
separate from anything, then the opening lines of the verse seem not
to be sensible. But this conclusion comes from failure to see the two
statements as a whole from the standpoint of pUrNam. To find sense
in the lines, do not look at pUrNam from the standpoint of aham, I,
and idam, this, but look at aham and idam from the standpoint of
pUrNam. The nature of pUrNam is wholeness, completeness
limitlessness. There cannot be pUrNam plus something or pUrNam minus
something. It is not possible to add or to take away from
limitlessness. The nature of pUrnam being what is, ’that’ pUrNam
must include ’this’ pUrNam; ’this’ pUrNam must include ’that’ pUrNam.
Therefore, when it is said that aham, I, am pUrnam and idam, this,
is pUrNam, what is really being said is that there is only pUrNam.
Aham, I, and idam, this, traditionally represent the two basic
categories into one or the other of which everything fits. There is
no third category. So if aham and idam, represent everything and
each is pUrNam , then everything is pUrNam. Aham, I is pUrNam which
includes the world. Idam this, is pUrNam which include me. The
seeming differences of aham and idam are swallowed by pUrnam - that
limitless fullness which shruti (scripture) calls Brahman.
If everything is pUrNam, why bother with ’that’ and ’this’? Is it
just poetic license to make a riddle out of something which could be
stated simply? It seems an unnecessary confusion to say ’that’
(Which really stands for aham - I) is pUrNam and then to say ’this’
(Which really stands for all the objects in the world) is pUrNam when
one could just describe the fact and say: everything is pUrNam.
PurNam is absolute fullness; absolute fullness is limitlessness
which is Brahman.
Why not such a direct approach? Because it would not work; it would
only add to confusion, not clear it. Although such simple statements
are a true description of the ultimate fact, to communicate that fact
so that it can be seen as true, something else must be taken into
account. What? Experience. My everyday experience is that aham, I,
am a distinct entity separate and different from idam jagat, this
world of objects which I perceive. My experience is that I see
myself as not the same at all as idam, this. When I hold a rose in
my hand and look at it, I, aham, am one thing and idam, this rose I
see, is quite another. In no way is it my experience that I and the
rose are the same. We seem quite distinct and separate. Because
shruti tells me that I, aham, and the rose, idam, both are limitless
fullness, pUrNam. I may come up with some logic that says,
"Therefore I must include the rose and the rose must include me’ but
that logic does not alter my experience of the rose as quite separate
Furthermore, it is not my experience that either I or the rose are,
in any measure, pUrNam, completeness - limitless fullness. I seem to
me to be totally apUrNah, unfull, incomplete, inadequate, limited on
all sides by my fellow beings, by the elements of nature, by the
lacks and deficiencies of my own body and mind. My place and space
are very small; time forever crowds me; sorrow dogs my path. I can
find no limitless fullness in me. No more does there seem to be
limitless fullness in this rose even now wilting in my hand, pressed
by time, relinquishing its space; even in its prime smaller and less
sturdy than the sunflowers growing outside my window. It is my
constant experience that I, aham, and all I perceive, idam, are
ceaselessly mutually limiting one another.
Based on one’s usual experience, it is very difficult to see how
either aham, I or idam, this can be pUrNam; and, even more difficult
to see how both can be pUrNam.
PurNam, completeness, absolute fullness, must necessarily be
formless. PurNam cannot have a form because it has to include
everything. Any kind of form means some kind of boundary; any kind
of boundary means that something is left out - something is on the
other side of the boundary. Absolute completeness requires
formlessness. Sastra (scripture) reveals that what is limitless and
formless is Brahman, the cause of creation, the content of aham, I.
Therefore, given the nature of Brahman by shruti, I can see that
pUrNam is another way for shruti to say Brahman. Brahman and pUrnam
have to be identical; there can only be one limitlessness and that
One is formelss pUrNam Brahman.
Thus, the verse is telling me that everything is pUrNam. PurNam has
to be limitless, formless Brahman. But when I look around me all
that I see has some kind of form. In fact, I cannot perceive the
formless. The only things I can perceive are those which I can
objectify through one of my means of perception. Objectification
requires some kind of form. How then can it be said that idam, this,
which stands for all objectifiable things is pUrNam - is formless?
It is easier to accept the statement that adah, that, which refers
to aham, I, is pUrNam, has no form. Upon a little inquiry, it
becomes apparent that the nature of adah which stands for the
ultimate subject, I, has to be formlessness. The ultimate subject
can have no form because to establish form there would have to be
another subject, another I to see the form - the other I would then
become the ultimate subject which if it had a form would require
another subject, which would require another subject, which would
require another subject, endlessly, in a condition called anavastA,
lack of finality. But, this is not the case. Adah does not stand
for a state of anavastA, but for an ultimate being. Sastra reveals
and inquiry confirms that the essential nature of the ultimate
subject, I, is self-luminous; "I" is self-proving formless being.
Duality is False
Thus, shruti’s revelation of the formlessness of I is confirmed by
inquiry as a logical necessity for the ultimate subject. But neither
the revelation nor the confirmation by logic change the contradiction
of experience. Whether aham, I, is formful or formless, my
experience remains that I am not full, complete, and this world is
different from me. "The world limits me and I limit the world, too."
This paricchEda, limitation, is the experience of every individual:
aham parichhinnah - I am limited. Everything else limits me and I
limit everything else. Therefore, there is a relationship of mutual
limitation, between the individual and the world. So, I become a
paricchEdaka for other things. ParicchEdaka means that which limits
another. Then again I am paricchinnah, that which is limited by
others. So I am a limiting agent and I am a limited object. I seem
to myself to be a separate, distinct conscious entity in a world of
many different things and beings.
My experience proclaims "differentness" - difference. But there can
be no difference in fullness, pUrNam. Fullness requires that there
be no second thing. Fullness is not absolute if there is something
different from it. Fullness means nonduality - no second thing.
Difference means more than one thing. There must be a second thing
for difference. The nature of experience is difference. Difference
is duality : the seer and the seen; the knower and known; the subject
and the subject. When there is difference, duality, there is always
When I consider myself paricchinnah, limited, I cannot but struggle
to be free from my sense of limitation. No human being can accept
the sense of limitation. Everyone struggles against the conclusion
that one seems to be a limited, inadequate, incomplete mortal being.
Behind all life’s struggles is rebellion against this basic
conclusion. Therefore, since I have this experience-based limitation
- in fact, experience itself is a limitation - I always am seeking a
solution to the problem of being a ’wanting’ person.
When I turn to the Upanishads for an answer to my problem of
limitation, shruti tells me that I am the limitless being who I long
to be. But, at the same time, shruti recognizes my experience of
difference. In this SantipATa, the two separate pronouns adah and
idam (together comprising everything in creation) are used to
indicate pUrNam, not for the sake of a riddle, but to recognize the
experience of duality. Adah recognizes I, the subject - I who seems
to be a being separate and distinct from all else; idam recognizes
all known and knowable objects which appear to differ from me and
from one another. Thus, shruti says there is nothing but fullness,
though fullness appears to be adah, that (I), and idam, this
(objects). In this way, shruti acknowledges duality - experiences of
difference - and then, accounts for it by properly relating
experience to reality. Shruti accounts for duality by negating
experience as nonreal, not as nonexistent.
Thus, to the VedAntin, negation of duality is not a literal
dismissal of the experience of duality but is the negation of the
reality of duality. If one to be pUrNam, a literal elimination of
duality is required, fullness would be an intermittent condition
brought about by a special kind of experience - an experience in
which the subject-object thought forms in the mind resolve in a state
of undifferentiated consciousness. Such experiences - nivikalpa
samAdhi, special moments of resolving joy, of even drug born ’trips’ -
are compelling and enchanting; in them all sense of limitation is
gone. But experience, any experience, is transitory. Even
nirvikalpa-samAdhi, the conscious state of mind-resolution, free from
subject-object duality, the goal of the practices of yoga, is not
free from the force of difference. SamAdhi is bound by time. It is
an experience. Its boundary is ’before’ and ’after’; it comes and
A fullness dependent on experience grants reality to duality. To
enjoy such a fullness one engages in various practices seeking the
release of nirvikalpa-samAdhi, or one courts moments of great joy.
Courting the experience of nonduality is based on fear of the
experience of duality. Duality is seen as something from which one
must escape. But escape by means of experience is false freedom.
You, the limited being, and this world which limits you, are always
waiting when the experience is over.
Shruti is not afraid of experiential duality. The problem is the
conclusion of duality - not experience of duality. The problem lies
in the well-entrenched conclusion: "I am different from the world;
the world is different from me." This conclusion is the core of the
problem of duality - of samsAra. Shruti not only does not accept
this conclusion but contradicts it by stating that both ’I’ and
’this’ are pUrNam. Shruti flatly negates the conclusion of duality.
Is shruti’s negation of one’s conclusion that the world and I are
different, a matter for belief? No. Statements by shruti in the
upaniSads, negating this conclusion, are a pramANa. A pramANa is a
means for gaining valid knowledge of whatever the particular pramANa
is empowered to enable one to know. For example, eyes are the
pramANa for knowing colour; ears are the special instrument for
sound. The statements in the upaniSads are a pramANa for the
discovery of the truth of the world, of God and of myself - for
gaining valid knowledge about the nature of Reality. The upaniSad
vAkyAs (statements of ultimate truth), when unfolded in accordance
with the sampradAya (the traditional methodology of teaching) by a
qualified teacher are the means for directly seeing - knowing - the
nondual truth of oneself. The teacher, using empirical logic and
one’s own experience as an aid, wields the vAkyAs of the upaniSads as
pramANa to destroy one’s ignorance of oneself.
A teacher would unfold the meaning of the vAkya, "pUrNam is that;
pUrNam is this" by relating it to other statements of shruti and by
using reasoning and experience to corroborate shruti. It should be
pointed out that what is here called pUrNam, elsewhere shruti defines
as Brahman (satyam jnAnam anantam brahma - existent, conscious,
boundless is Brahman - TaittirIya UpaniSad, II.1.1). That in other
statements shruti describes Brahman as the material cause of
creation, the upAdAna-kAraNa (yato vA imAni bhUtAni jAyante; yena
jAtAni jIvanti, yatprayantyabhisamvishanti;. tadbrahmeti - Wherefrom
indeed these beings are born; whereby, having been born, they live;
that toward which going forth (upon death), they enter;.. That is
Brahman - TaittirIya UpaniSad, III.1.1.) but that no shruti statement
directly names Brahman as the efficient cause, the nimitta-kAranNa;
however, the implication [So’kAmayata bahu sham prajAyeyeti - He
(Brahman) desired, "Many let me be; let me be born (as many)." -
TaittiriIya UpaniSad, II.6] is clear and logic requires that
limitless Brahman, which is the material cause of creation, also must
be efficient cause. A limitless material cause does not allow any
other to be the efficient cause - the existence of an ’other’ would
contradict the limitlessness of Brahman.
Material and Efficient Cause
So in this verse, shruti’s statement that aham and idam each is
pUrNam, requires that, while appearing different, they be identical.
Elsewhere shruti identifies Brahman as the material and (by
implication) the efficient cause of creation, which makes Brahman
the complete cause of aham, I, and idam, this; conversely, aham and
idam are effects of Brahman, shruti’s statements here and elsewhere
are logically consistent.
For aham to be idam and for idam to he aham they must have a common
efficient and material cause. Consider an empirical example, a
single pot referred to both as ’that’ and ’this’: for ’that’ flower
pot which I bought yesterday in the store to be the same as ’this’
flower pot now on my window sill, there has to be the same material
substance and the same potmaker for both ’that’ and ’this’. It is
clear that this ’twoness’ of ’that’ pot and ’this’ pot is functional
only; the two pronouns refer to the same thing which came into being
in a single act of creation.
Similarly, it is clear that if both the seer (aham) and the seen
(idam) are identical, being the effects of a common cause, the cause
necessarily must be not only the material cause but also the
efficient cause, due to the identity of the seemingly dual effects,
and also due to the nature of the cause. The cause, being pUrNam,
nothing can be away from it. Therefore, if in addition to a material
cause, creation requires a nimittakAraNa, an efficient cause, a God,
then God, the creator also is included in pUrNam. PurNam is the
upAdAna-nimitta-kAraNa, the material-efficient-cause of everything:
God, semigods, the world, the seer of the world. Nothing is away
Is it possible to discover a situation in which two seemingly
different things are in fact the nondifferent effects of a single,
common material and efficient cause? Yes, in a dream. Our ordinary
dream experience provides a good illustration of a similar situation.
In fact, a dream provides a good example not only of a single cause
which is both material and efficient, but also of effects which
appear to be different but whose difference resolves in their common
cause. In a dream both the dream’s substance and its creator abide
in the dreamer. The dreamer is both the material and efficient cause
of the dream.
Furthermore, in a dream there is a subject-object relationship in
which the subject and object appear to be quite different and
distinct from each other. There is bhEda, difference, in dream. The
dream world is a world of duality. The dream aham, I, is not the
same as the dream idam, this. But this dream bhEda, difference, is
not true - is not real. When I dream that I am climbing a lofty snowcovered
mountain, the weary, chilled climber, the dream aham is
nothing but I, the dreamer; the snow-capped peak, the rocky trail,
the wind that tears at my back, the dream idam, the dream object,
are nothing but I, the dreamer. Both subject and object happen to
be I, the dreamer, the material and creative cause of the dream.
As in a dream, where the creator and the material necessary for the
dream creation happen to be I, the dreamer, so it is in the first
quarter of the SantipATa where the nimitta-kAraNa (efficient cause)
and the upAdAna-kAraNa (material cause) of adah (I) and of idam
(this) are pUrNam, Brahman; and even, as I, the dreamer, swallow the
bhEda, the experienced difference between dream subject and dream
object, so too, does I-pUrNam Brahman, limitless fullness, swallow as
unsubstantial - unreal - all experienced difference between aham, I,
the subject and idam jagat, this world of objects.
Creation is MiTyA
After saying "pUrNam is that; pUrNam is this", shruti having
recognized and swallowed the experienced difference between ’that’
and ’this’, for the rest of the sAntipATa deals
PUrNAt pUrNam udacyate - from completeness, completeness comes forth.
From the grammatical construction and in the context of the analysis
of the quarter, we know the meaning to be:
pUrnAt - from (adah) pUrNam, completeness, which is limitless
Brahman, the content of aham-I, the efficient and material cause of
pUrnam - (idam) pUrNam, completeness, which is the known and
knowable objects comprising the world, idam jagat, the effect called
udacyate - comes forth.
By grammatical construction, shruti indicates that the relationship
is one of material cause and effect: pUrNAt in the ablative case
which shows that (aham) pUrNam is the prakriti, the material cause;
whereas, (idam) pUrNam is in the nominative case, the subject of
udacyate, a verb with the meaning, ’to be born’, which makes (idam)
pUrNam the product or effect of whatever is indicated by the ablative
case, namely, of pUrNAt, which is aham-pUrNam. Thus, shruti
grammatically sets up a causal relationship of material cause and
effect between formless ’I’ - pUrNam and formful ’this’ - pUrNam.
How can ’this’-pUrnam, which comprises the world of formful object
"come forth" from ’I’-pUrNam which is formless? (That which is
limitless must necessarily be formless. Shruti in many ways and
places defines Brahman, the content of I, as formless. Ashabdam
asparsham arUpam avyayam taTa arasam nityam agandhavacca yat .
"Soundles, touchless, colourless, immutable and also tasteless, timefree,
odourless is that (which is Brahman).." Katha UpaniSad I.3.15)
Are there after all two pUrNams? Formless pUrNam and formful pUrNam?
No. Limitlessness does not allow two pUrNams. Then did formless IpUrNam,
the cause, undergo a change to become formful this-pUrNam,
the effect? Aham pUrNam (I) is both the efficient and material cause
of idam jagat, this world. In cause-effect relationship, the
efficient cause does not undergo a material change, but for the
material cause, some kind of change constitutes the very production
of the effect.
So what happens? What kind of change can formless limitless undergo
to produce ’formful’ limitless? The only kind of change that the
limitless can accommodate is the kind of change that gold undergoes
to become a chain: svarNAt svarNam -from gold, gold (comes forth).
When one has formless gold (an unshaped quantity of gold relatively
form-free compared to a chain made from gold) and from that form-free
gold a formful chain is produced, there is a change that is no real
change at all. From formless, chain-free gold comes formful, chainshaped
gold. Is there any real change in gold itself? There is
none. SvarNAt svarNam - from gold, gold. There is no change.
PurNAt pUrNam - from completeness, completeness. What a beautiful
expression! It explains everything. See how brief but profound
shruti mantrAs are. It is not necessary for shruti to repeat adah,
I, and idam, this; grammar and context indicate what is cause and
what is effect. But more than simple brevity, the beauty of the
expression lies in what is made clear by what is left out! By
leaving out the pronoun idam (by not saying that idam is produced by
pUrNam but only saying that pUrNam comes from pUrNam) it is made
clear that pUrNam alone is the reality - whatever is referred to as
idam does not touch pUrNam but still udacyate, comes forth, pUrNam
remains untouched, but an appearance comes forth. PurNam dos not
undergo any intrinsic change, but idam comes about; just as gold
undergoing no intrinsic change, a gold chain comes about; or as the
dreamer undergoing no change, the dream objects come about.
So what is the relationship of pUrNAt pUrNam? Is it a cause-effect
relationship? It is a peculiar relationship. But then, even within
creation, any material cause-effect relationship is peculiar. Such
relationships are peculiar because one cannot say anything definitive
about any of them. No real definitive line can be drawn between any
material cause and its effect. For example, you cannot say this
cloth is an effect which has come from the material cause cotton.
Why not? Because cloth does not differ from cotton. The cloth is
cotton. Then what came about? Cloth. Does that mean that there are
now two things, cotton and cloth? No. Just one thing. Cotton is
there. Cloth comes. Cotton is still there. Cotton and cloth -
cotton appearing as cloth - are one single nondual reality. That is
all creation is about.
A rope that is mistakenly taken to be a snake is a favourite example
used by VedAntins to illustrate many things: ignorance, error,
dismissal of the unreal through knowledge. This example, although
useful, can lead to the feeling that it has applicability only for
subjective projection and not to empirical creation - not to the
’real’ world. This does not matter because the teacher does not need
’rope-snake’, a subjective illustration, to show the unreality of
creation in the ’real’ world. The world - the empirical world -
itself is good enough: the creation of a clay pot, a gold chain, a
piece of cotton cloth, all show that in empirical ’creation’, effects
nondifferent from their material cause, appear without intrinsic
change occurring in the cause; and in fact, the given cause and
effect never being other than one. The effect is but a form of the
PurNam Alone is
What next? What else dos the verse have to say? The last two
quarters of the verse are taken together. Here shruti says:
PUrNasya pUrNam AdAya - taking away pUrNam from pUrNam, adding
pUrNam to pUrNam
PUrNam eva avashiSyate - pUrNam alone remains
AdAya can mean either taking away from or adding to - both meanings
are in the verbal root and both meanings have relevance in the verse.
What is being said is whether you take away pUrNam from pUrNam or
whether you add pUrNam to pUrNam, all that is there is pUrNam alone.
In context the meaning is: whether you take away (idam) pUrNam
(formful object pUrNam) from (adah) pUrNam (formless I, Brahman
pUrNam) or whether you add (idam) pUrNam to (adah) pUrNam, all that
is there all that ever remains, is pUrNam alone.
If you have a gold chain and take the chain away what remains? Gold.
If you restore the chain to the gold, what is there? Gold. The
second half of the verse is needed to make certain that one sees that
pUrNam undergoes no change whatsoever. PurNam is always there,
available. Idam, the objects of the world, do not have to be
eliminated to reveal pUrNam any more than the chain has to be melted
to see gold. What is called chain is no different from gold. It is
gold now; it was gold before. From gold alone this gold has come.
Take away this gold, gold alone remains.
Similarly, addition of idam, the name-form-appearances which are the
objects comprising creation, to pUrNam, the formless, limitless, I,
Brahman, does not make any addition to pUrNam; taking away creation
from pUrNam, taking away the names and forms experienced as objects,
does not eliminate anything from pUrNam. Nothing need be taken away
to reveal pUrNam. PurNam is always there, available. Shruti
mentions "adding to" and "taking away from" pUrNam not because there
is any need to take anything away from pUrNam in order to discover
limitlessness - to discover that I am that limitless which I long to
be. Shruti makes the statement to make clear the opposite fact - the
fact that whether anything is added to or eliminated from pUrNam
makes no difference. Why does it make no difference? Because there
is nothing that can be added to or taken away from absolute fullness.
Any ’adding to’ or ’taking away from’ is purely an appearance. There
is no real different thing to add to or take away from another
different thing. All difference - object / object difference;
subject / object difference; formless/formful difference - is but an
appearance. Difference is miTyA - that which makes an appearance but
lacks reality. From me alone came the dreamer subject and the dreamt
object. Remove the dreamer and the dreamt and I alone remain. The
dreamer subject and the dream resolve in me alone. PurNam eva
avashiSyate. PurNam alone remains.
In shruti’s light one sees that there is no real bhEda, difference
between drishya and drishya, between object and object. Even at the
empirical level of reality, inquiry reduces the apparent substance
comprising any object to aggregation of sub-atomic particles. Modern
physics, from its standpoint, confirms lack of substantiality by
finding lack of ’real’ difference in apparently ’real’ things.
Shruti-based inquiry (which defines real as what cannot be negated)
reveals any known or knowable object, to be unreal because it is
negatable by time, limited by space, and, in actuality, only a name
and form reducible to some other apparent substance or substances
which in turn are but names and forms reducible again to other
substances. No known or knowable thing reduces to a known or
knowable substance incapable of further reduction. A knowable thing,
anything which can be objectified, defies final definition - has no
reality of its own. Things are but names and forms, ever changing
aggregate processes, limited by time and space, dependent for their
apparent reality upon a real substratum, formless, limitless, timefree
Thus, when I pick up from the stream bed a shiny, solid stone and
hold it in the palm of my hand, I can appreciate and enjoy the
apparent difference seen by me between this smooth, solid object and
the flowing rippling water which had been rushing over it. But at
the same time that I enjoy the apparent difference between rock and
water, I can also see and appreciate, with no uncertainty, the fact
of nondifference between these two drishyAs, these two known things
each of which is but a name and form, limited, reducible, negatable
and their differentness - their ’twoness’ - resolving in the single,
nondual reality of pUrNam Brahman.
Although I see nondifference between the objects that comprise idam,
the things of creation that constitute idam jagat, this world - I
find it more difficult to see the absence of difference between me
and idam: between I, the seer, and this stone, the seen. I, whose
skin, the sense of touch, divides me from the world, see the stone
outside while I am inside; my skin is the wall, my senses the windows
through which I view outside, and my mind the master of the house who
takes stock of what is seen.
This long conditioned conclusion of internality and externality
between the seer and the seen can be a problem. But like all false
conclusions, it yields to inquiry.
Idam (this) or drishya (the seen) indicates anything that is known
or knowable - anything which is objectifiable. My skin is part of
and the boundary for a given physical body and its functions. This
body is a known thing, drishya, something objectifiable. Associated
with this body and its functions is a certain bundle of thoughts,
comprising sense perceptions, decisions, judgments, memories, likes
and dislikes, and a sense of agency (a sense of, "It is I who am the
doer, the enjoyer, the knower, the possessor"). Each of these
thoughts is known - is objectifiable, is drishya, a known thing. No
thought or any collection of thoughts is nonobjectifiable. Thoughts,
including the pivotal I-the agent thought, are known things.
Steps by step, inquiry finds no separating gap between I, as seer,
and this stone as seen - no place to draw a line between seer and
seen. Everything knowable by me through my senses or inferable
through sense data is drishya. All objects, all events, this body,
mind, memory, sense of agency and interval measuring time as well as
accommodating space - all are known or knowable, all are drishya.
Drishya establishes no difference. No real difference can be
established between the seer and the seen. The only difference
between known things is the apparent difference of ever changing nameforms
projected upon never changing formless reality of pUrNam
Brahman. I, as seer, have no greater reality than the stone, as seen,
Each of us has for its reality only nondual, formless Brahman, pUrNam.
Thus, the difference between seer and seen have no independent
reality; they are apparent only being negatable by the knowledge
gained through inquiry into the reality of the experience of
difference. Try to find a line dividing the seer and the seen. It
cannot be found. Every time you find a place where you think the
seer is on one side and the seen on the other, both sides turn out to
be the seen, drishya. The only thing you can see, the only thing you
can objectify is drishya. However, viewed experientially from the
point of view of their common reality level, subject/object
differences seem very real. The knowledge aham idam sarvam, "I am
all this". (or, "This stone and I are one") is not a conclusion to be
reached experientially. When subject and object enjoy the same
degree of reality, the experienced difference will seem real. That
experienced difference is not eliminated as experience but is negated
as nonreal through knowledge. Simple reasoning - logical inquiry -
shakes the reality of difference. Shruti, as pramANa, a means of
knowledge, destroys difference and reveals Oneness.
A dream is good example of the ’realness’ of experienced difference
within its own level of reality. If I dream of a fire which I am
trying to put out by throwing water on it, then that dream water
which puts out the dream fire is as real as the fire - and the fire
is as real as the water. And I, the dream fire fighter, am as real
as the water and the fire. But I am no more real than the fire or
water. Enjoying the same degree of reality, the fire fighter, the
fire, the water, all seem real, all seem different, but all resolve
as unreal. Upon waking I find no ashes on my bedroom floor. Dreamer
and dreamt have both resolved. Dreamer has no greater reality than
dreamt. Both resolve. Nothing is left out. I alone remain PurNam
Now the question can be answered: Is this verse profound or
prattle? The Englishman was wrong. It is not prattle; it is very
profound. This one verse has everything. Nothing is left out.
Subject, object, cause, effect, experience and fullness - nothing is
omitted. It is not an ordinary verse. It contains the vision of the
upaniShads - the truth of oneself.
I am PurNam
The reality of I is limitless pUrnam. I as seer of the stone am
but an appearance, no more real than the stone I see. In reality I
am limitlessness alone, one nondual existent boundless consciousness -
pUrNam. Subject and object are nothing but passing projections
superimposed upon I; they neither add to I nor take anything away
from I. I, unconnected to any appearance, am the One unchanging,
nonnegatable formless reality - pUrNam - into which all appearances
I am pUrNam, completeness, a brimful ocean, which nothing disturbs.
Nothing limits me. I am limitless. Waves and breakers appear to
dance upon my surface but are only forms of me, briefly manifest.
They do not disturb or limit me. They are my glory - my fullness
manifest in the form of wave and breaker. Wave and breaker may seem
to be many and different but I know them as appearances only; they
impose no limitation upon me - their agitation is but my fullness
manifest as agitation; they are my glory, which resolves in me. In
me, the brimful ocean, all resolves. I, pUrNam, completeness, alone
Om ShAntih ShAntih ShAntih