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Om purnamadah purnamidam purnat purnamudacyate

purnasya purnamadaya purnamevavasisyate


Completeness is that, completeness is this

From completeness, completeness comes forth.

Completeness from completeness taken away

Completeness to completeness added

Completeness alone remains.


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. "


Idam means `this', something directly known or knowable. Adah

means `that', something remote from the speaker in time, place or

understanding, but can be known upon destruction of the remoteness.

Thus, adah `that' becomes idam `this', as soon as the remoteness is

destroyed. So when the verse says – purnaam adah- purnam idam, what

is being said is that all that one knows or is knowable is purnam.


Since idam has been used for all knowable objects, presently known

or unknown, the only meaning left for adah is to indicate the

subject aham or `I', which is not available for objectification. So

the real meaning of adah is `I', that is, atman, which is jneya-

vastu, something to be known.


Purnam, completeness


The nature of purnam is wholeness, complete, limitless. Purnam can

never be plus or minus something. It is impossible to add to or take

away from limitlessness. Purnam is absolute fullness, which cannot

be anything other than Brahaman. Purnam cannot have a form because

it has to include everything. Absolute completeness requires

formlessness. Brahman and purnam have to be identical: there can be

only one limitless and that One is formless.


But when one looks around, one sees various kinds of forms. In fact,

one cannot perceive the formless. How can then idam, which stands

for all objectifiable things, is purnam – formless? Punam also means

non-duality – no second thing. But we see nothing but duality. The

sloka uses two pronouns adah and idam to recognize our experience of

duality around us, but wants us to understand this experience as non-

real not as non-existent. The sloka contradicts the conclusion of

duality, which we experience, by stating that both `I' and `this'

are One – purnam. It may be noted that what is here called purnam is

defined elsewhere in the scriptures as Brahman.


Further, the sloka says: purnat – from (adah) purnam, completeness,

which is limitless Brahman – purnam – (idam) purnam, completeness,

which is the known and knowable (the world) udacyate – comes forth.


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. What kind of change

can formless and limitless undergo to produce `formful' limitless?

The only kind of change that the limitless can accommodate is the

kind of change which gold undergoes to become various types of

ornaments: svarnat svarnam – from gold, gold (comes forth) .


Purnat purnam – from completeness, completeness. Purnam remains

untouched, but an appearance comes forth. Purnam does not undergo

any intrinsic change, but idam comes about; just as gold undergoing

no intrinsic change, various gold ornaments come about; or as the

dreamer undergoes no change, the dream objects come about. Another

example: the cloth is cotton. Then what came about? Cloth. Does that

mean that here 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 non-dual

reality. That is all creation is about. The effect is but a form of

the cause.


Purnasya purnam adaya: taking away purnam from purnam, adding purnam

to purnam purnam eva avaisyate -- purnam alone remains. Adaya can

mean either taking away from or adding to -- whether we take away

idam (formful object purnam) from adah(formless I, Brahman purnam)

or whether we add (idam) purnam to (adah) purnam, purnam alone will

be there. The statement is to make clear the fact that whether

anything is added to or taken away from purnam makes no difference.

Any `adding to' or `taking away' is purely an appearance. Even at

the empirical level of reality, physics confirms indestructibility

of the matter and lack of difference between object and object, all

of which are only aggregations of atomic particles.


The sloka contains the vision of the upanisads . The reality of `I'

is limitless purnam -- into which all appearances resolve. I am

purnam – a brimful ocean. Waves and breakers may seem to be many and

different but are appearances only. `I', purnam , completeness,

alone remain.

(Abstracted from Purnamadah Purnamidam by Swami Dayananda.)



prof laxmi narain (prof_narain)


Source and courtesy: Sri Ramana Kendram, Hyderabad

This article was published in Sri Ramana Jyothi,

monthly magazine of the Kendram.

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