Thursday, January 22, 2009





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

infantile mind."

Which point of view is correct? Is this verse something which is

wondrous and profound or is it just "infantile prattlings"?

Idam, This

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...

Verse 1,


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.

Adah, That

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.

PurNam, Completeness

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

from me.

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

from pUrNam.

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

eva avashiSyate.

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

No comments: