by nitya



Om That (God) is infinite, this (world) is infinite.
From the infinite (God), the infinite (world) becomes manifest.
From the infinite (God), the infinite (world) is negated, 
what remains is again the infinite
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.


This is a Shanti Mantra, the mantra which is chanted before starting any ancient Vedic teachings or studies. There are many shanti mantras; ten of them are considered very important. These mantras are uniquely constructed to bring peace and harmony wherever they are chanted and to help develop concentration for those who chant them. The mantra "Om purnamadah....." comes from the Sukla Yajurveda along with two of the greatest Upanishads, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Isavasya Upanishad. Before starting to study either of these Upanishads, traditional students will always chant this mantra. All of the Upanishads have shanti mantras that came from a particular veda.

The word 'Purnam' means infinite, wholeness, completeness, fullness or limitlessness. If it is limitless, it could not have any boundaries, because all boundaries are limited. If it is beyond boundaries, it must be formless also.

In the first line of the sloka "That" may represent something which we are unable to grasp, or a higher source for everything. It could be called God or Self. The concept of God arises to answer the mysterious things happening around us. It may start from our own life. We expect things to happen the way we desire them. Sometimes they do, but most of the time they do not.

The other concept is the mystery of the Universe. We are progressing and getting information about the Universe little by little. As much as we accomplish, we know that our knowledge is still limited. There is always a lot that remains unknown, making us think that no ordinary being is behind all this. The Sun and its planets move in a wonderful harmony. The billions of stars influence even our human life here on earth. Who arranges and controls all this? We started to call this unknown being, God. God is the creator, or the cause of the Universe.

We all have many ideas about God. Whatever it (God) may be, s/he must be beyond all these things, even this Universe. As the scriptures say, s/he is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. The above sloka says, "that" is infinite or whole.

Because God is infinite, full or whole, there is no need to add anything to it. If we say God is complete or whole, then how can there be a creation? Creation is redundant, because God doesn't need anything more. If we say God has a desire to create the world, then we are accepting that God is not fulfilled. Even if s/he created this world, then what would have been used to create this world? For any productions, we need materials and tools. Materials and tools cannot exist outside of God because God is whole and completely one. If such is the case, how can there be creation?

The next line of this sloka says "this is infinite". "This" represents what is nearby; this world. When we say 'world', this includes our own bodies. The world keeps on changing. It changes every moment. Nothing is permanent. Each moment something is growing and something is dying. Where does it all go? For example, a plant is growing and becomes a tree. It flowers and gives seeds, and one day it falls and dies. It grew from the earth with the help of water, fire, air and space. It ends in these same elements. All living beings and plants are born from the same elements and they end up in these same elements. These plants or beings are nothing but the various forms of these five elements. Even these five elements are physical forms of "that" infinite.

The world is changing, as is its nature. It is vast and unlimited. Even if we go deeply into it, a lot is still unknown. It has all kinds of varieties. It has no single atom that is excess or extra. Everything has its own need and place in nature. This world is fulfilled as its nature.

It is hard to understand an atom or a body cell. Its function is mysterious and its nature is deep and vast. Each atom has the same nature as the universe. One body cell has the feeling and intelligence of a whole human being. So understanding one atom is enough to understand the whole universe, just as the knowledge of one body cell will be enough to understand a whole person. The principle of a microcosm is the same as the principle of the macrocosm. It has no difference, but is one and the same. It is fulfilled and infinite.

"From the infinite (God) the infinite (world) becomes manifest. From the infinite (God) the infinite (world) is negated, what remains is again the infinite." This line is saying that if any manifestation or creation of this Universe takes place, both still are infinite. How is that possible? The creation is not like lighting a candle flame. We can light a candle from another burning candle, and still both remain as full. Neither candle shows a lack of light. If creation is like candlelight, we are accepting that there are two candles that are lit at the same time. Then the infinite will not remain as infinite. It is absurd. Therefore, we conclude that this Universe is not a created one. It is as itself, God. This must be the truth because outside of infinity there cannot be anything.

However, we cannot ignore the world as we experience it. It is in front of us with all different colours and forms. We certainly know the difference between summer and winter. Here the difference is only in names and forms. To make this idea clear, let us use the following example: We could make any ornament with gold (a necklace or earring). One day we melt the necklace to make the earrings. The gold always remains as gold whether it is a necklace or earrings. Will there be any change for the gold? If any change happens at all, it is only for the necklace or for the earrings not for the gold. This change of names and forms is what we call "creation".

In this Upanishadic sloka, instead of saying that the Universe is God, it explained the process of creation, which is also important to explain. The important part to note is that the sloka's first two lines used two words: "that" and "this". Understanding the apparent duality and then transcending this apparent duality by accepting that the the two ("that" and "this") are really one, makes the use of these words unnecessary.

"Purnam" is fullness where their is no chance for two things to exist. It must be one and should not leave out anything; it is complete. Then, what are these names and forms? According to Vedanta, it may name an apparent reality which seems to be there but, in reality is not there. It is just like the blueness of the sky or a dream-like state. A person gets up after a fearful dream and realizes that it was not real, it was only a dream. This waking up from the dream is realization. Just as having the knowledge that the blueness of the sky is not really there, but an illusory vision of the eyes, is realization.

Vedic text wishes that one who meditates on this sloka will certainly attain immediate Liberation (sadyo- mukti).