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Lessons on the Upanishads
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 12: The Fullness of the Infinite

Today is the full moon—Purnima, Purna—and there is a famous declaration in the Upanishads on this Purna: purnam adah, purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate; purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate (Brihad. 5.1.1). This passage occurs in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. We recite it, chant it every day, but mostly we do not think about what it means when we chant it; it goes as a routine. Purna is fullness. Yesterday we referred to Bhuma, the plenum of felicity, the fullness of being. That Bhuma is also Purna. The Upanishad says, “Purnam adah: that origin of all things is full; purnam idam: this entire creation that has come from that origin of all things is also full; purnat purnam udachyate: from that Full this Full has come; purnasya purnam adaya: having taken away this Full from that Full; purnam evavasisyate: the Full still remains unaffected.”

If we take something from something, the source is supposed to be diminished in its content to the extent of that which has been taken away from it. This is common arithmetic. If we take something from something, the quantum of content in the original reservoir is lessened. If the world has come from God, some part of God must have gone to constitute this world and, to that extent, God must be less. Is it so? The Upanishad says it is not so. If we take away infinite from infinite, the Infinite is not reduced in any way, because one cannot take away anything from the Infinite. Therefore, if this so-called infinite of creation is taken to have emanated from that supreme Fullness of Infinity, it need not follow that there is some diminution of content in the original Fullness. After the emanation of this full universe from the full Origin, the Fullness still continues to be as it was, undiminished.

This is beyond our calculative method. We have never heard such a thing happening anywhere—that we carry away something and yet the source of that thing is as it is, without getting diminished. The reason is the character of Infinity itself. Things in the world do not participate in Infinity. They are all finite things. There is a location and a limited quantum for everything that is finite. Everything in the world is of this nature. Your existence, the existence of anything in this world, is bound or limited to the locality of the finite being—of yourself or anything. So if some part of this finite is taken away, naturally the ordinary human arithmetic applies to it. If a limb of the body is taken away, to that extent the body has lost a part of itself. But you cannot take away a part of the soul. Here is the difference. You may take a part of your body, but a part of the soul cannot be removed, because the soul is not a substance. Therefore, it is not a finite thing. Therefore, it is not in any particular place. Therefore, something cannot be taken away from it.

As we have our own soul, God is the Soul of the universe. This Soul is unlimited in its nature, a fact that I have been trying to drive into your ears again and again during our studies these days. The infinite character of God Almighty explains the reason why anything emanating from this infinite God cannot affect the infinite God. In fact, you cannot take away anything at all from the Infinite.

The idea of something coming from something else is ridden over in the operation of the causal law—the effect coming from the cause or the cause producing the effect. Our world is run on the principle of causation. If something happens somewhere, it produces some effect somewhere else. But if in the Infinite something happens, nothing happens as an effect. It is as if no action is taking place. If God does anything, it is as if He does nothing, because His action is identical with His existence, while in our case action is not the same as existence. Our existence is our psycho-physical individuality, but our action is a modulation, a modification or a transformation in some particular given direction of our personality. Action is a transformation of personality and it is directed to an ulterior end. Therefore, our action is not identical with our being. This is also the reason why, in our case, action binds.

But there is a state of being where action cannot be separated from being. This is exactly the principle that is hammered upon again and again by the Bhagavadgita, for instance. There is an activity that binds; there is an activity that does not bind. Any activity or process that is an externalised manifestation of being will produce an equal reaction on its part. But if action can be inseparable from being itself, what kind of reaction can come? Is it possible for us to work in this world, identifying ourselves with the work itself? This is to go into the theme of the Bhagavadgita. Has any one of you thought over this matter? Is it possible for you to do anything by totally merging yourself in that act of doing? Or do you feel that you are separate and the doing is another thing? Do you say, “I have done something”? This consciousness, this very idea that you are doing something implies that your doing is not identical with you. Otherwise, if your doing is the same as your being, it is another way of saying that you have done nothing at all. Then, in that case, karma cannot bind, because it is not karma at all. It is you yourself. How can you bind your own self? Somebody can bind you, but will you bind your own self? How can you be the cause and effect at the same time, the subject and object? That is not practicable.

The Bhagavadgita is here before us as a great quintessence of the Upanishads. If you have studied the Gita and entered into its spirit rather than merely the letter of its teaching, the one thing that rings aloud throughout the verses of the Gita is that, under certain circumstances, action cannot bind and it need not bind, if you are wise enough to conduct yourself in this world. Yoga is based on samkhya, says the Gita. Action is rooted in wisdom; that is the meaning. Whatever you do is based on proper understanding. What is that understanding? It is the understanding that your action need not necessarily be regarded as something outside you. In fact, the structure of the universe, the structure of being itself is such that one thing is not totally different from another thing. The relativity of the things in the world, the interdependence of things in this creation, precludes the possibility of considering anything as an isolated cause or a differentiated effect. If one thing hangs on another thing, you cannot know which is producing what—which is the cause, which is the effect in an organism—or which part of the body is the cause and which part of the body is the effect in our own personality. It is a total action taking place from head to foot, from fingertips to toes. No part of the body can be said to be doing anything independently. Organic action is no action; but, empirical action is action. This is the Gita's point of view. But has any one of us the ability to commune our consciousness with the act of performance of any work to such an extent that we will not know that we are doing anything at all, that we ourselves are moving? When you work, you yourself are moving through that work; your being is there, flowing in the process of activity, so that activity is not there. You yourself are there in the form of activity, like the ocean appearing as the waves. There are no waves; there is only the sea.

Thus, also, there is no action; there is only being. God's action and God's being are identical in this sense and it is also the sense in which anyone can view this world, provided such a communion can be established in one's daily life. Such a communion is called yoga. Yoga is supposed to be union, but union of what with what? It can be of anything with anything else. It can be the union of yourself, as a created unit, with God Almighty who has created you. It can be the union of the mind with the soul. It can be considered as the union of the subject with the object, or vice versa. It can be the union of the cause with the effect and the effect with the cause. It can be the union of related parts in a relative atmosphere. The idea behind the union mentioned in yoga is that something does not stand outside something else. If something is there, outside something else, it is not in a state of yoga.

We are not supposed to be in a state of yoga now, because everything is scattered helter-skelter, as it were, in this world outside us. We are outside somebody and somebody is outside us. Everything is external to everything else. Therefore, there is no yoga in this world. It is a kind of bhoga, an enjoyment of the effect produced by the relation of subject and object. We live not because we have strength in our own selves, independently, as pure infinite subjects; rather, we concoct or manufacture a kind of apparent completeness in us by our contact with objects of sense. That is called the world of bhoga, or enjoyment—sensory indulgence. All things in the world live by sense organs and sense contact.

But yoga is, from this point of view at least, not anything that belongs to this world. Nothing in this world can be said to be in a state of yoga, on account of the exclusion of everything from everything else. A Herculean effort has to be exercised on the part of anyone to be really in a state of yoga, if yoga means the exclusion of the externality of consciousness. It is the union of the related part, in the form of an object standing outside, with the consciousness thereof. God Almighty, as the Creator of this cosmos, is a Fullness in the sense that outside Him nothing exists. The creational action of God is not any action at all. In the sense of the principle of the Bhagavadgita mentioned just now, action need not be something outside the actor. Therefore, God is the highest yogin, and the greatest yoga is possible only in the state of God. Yogeshwara is God, or God is Yogeshwara, as He is called. His action is no action. Tasya kartaram api mam viddhy akartaram avyayam (Gita 4.13), says the Gita: “Though I am doing all things, know that I do nothing.” So, again, the same principle of karma yoga applies in an enlarged sense, in a universal sense, one may say; God is a karma yogi, though that word is not a proper application to Him. God's action is God Himself.

Therefore, the infinitude that is God, appearing to be manifesting in this infinite of the cosmos, does not diminish the content of God. If your action is yourself, your being is not depleted in your action. Otherwise, you feel tired of work. “Oh, I have finished. I have done a lot of work today.” You will never feel that fatigue if the action is yourself, but if you are doing it for somebody else's sake, within a few minutes it becomes fatiguing indeed. Not only that, if your action is outside you, it will take away much of your energy. All work is a toll on our body because something goes from our body, something goes from our mind. But, in a heightened spirit of performance, it is possible to do work in this world without really getting tired in the way we get tired, because the work that we do is not somebody's work. We are not job hunters. We are not servants working in an office for somebody else's profit. Work that is divine is a participation in the existence of things. Work is a participation in the nature of Reality. It is not something being done for some other purpose. The otherness of the purpose is ruled out in divine activity.

Coming to the point, the infinitude of God is not diminished in any way when the infinite universe proceeds, as it were, from God. Actually, nothing proceeds from God. Having done all things, He has done nothing. The idea of proceeding arises only on account of the cause-and-effect relationship that has entered into our minds. Unless there is space and time, there cannot be cause and effect. Space and time are effects of creation and, therefore, cause and effect, having come after the manifestation of space and time, cannot affect Infinity, which is God. So, you cannot apply the principle of cause and effect to God Himself. Therefore, creation is not an effect coming from God as a cause. Even the word ‘cause' is not a proper term that may be applied to God. He is a causeless cause, no doubt, but He also is not a cause at all. The Infinite is spaceless and timeless; therefore, it is neither a cause nor an effect. Hence, when the full universe comes from the full Almighty, nothing has happened. It may look as if God has not created the universe at all, if we go deep into it. All the faults that we generally find with God for having created a bad world—ugliness, evil and sin—will be ruled out in one second if we realise that perhaps He has created nothing. He is exactly in the same glory that He was prior to that action that we are imputing to Him as creation. Having created, He is full. This universe also appears to be full for us in a relative sense. God is Absolute Fullness and the universe is relative fullness.

Relatively, we feel filled when we become very rich or we have a very good meal or a very good sleep. Don't you feel a sense of fullness? A very grand, luxurious lunch is served to you; you feel fully satisfied, full and content. Also, during a good sleep you seem to be full. And if you have all things that you want, again you seem to be full. But this is relative fullness, not absolute fullness. Having eaten today, tomorrow again you are in a state of hunger, as before. Even if you are rich, it is only an imaginary wealth; anytime it will vanish and you will become a pauper. Also, you cannot go on sleeping throughout your life.

Therefore, fullness in this world is not possible, really speaking. It is only an apparent, imaginary feeling that we have sometimes that we are full and, therefore, our happiness, incumbent upon this fullness, is also artificial. Our fullness is artificial, and our happiness also is artificial; it is not worth a farthing, finally. Thus, the Upanishad's declaration, purnam adah, purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate; purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate, is explained in some way.

This is the grandeur of the Upanishadic philosophy. All this is beautiful to hear, but it is so beautiful that you may not be able to put it into practice. Something going beyond you, totally, may not be easily applicable to your daily life. There are obstacles. Many impediments are there in your life, even in attempting to go ahead along this path. What are the obstacles? This also is indicated in a little analogy in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad itself.

The gods, the demons and the human beings went to Prajapati, the Creator. It appears all of them said, “Great Master, please teach us.”

Prajapati called the gods and said, “I am teaching you. Listen to what I am saying. Da.” Only one letter was spoken —da.

Then Prajapati asked the gods, “Do you understand what I am saying?”

“Yes, yes; we understand,” they replied.

Then Prajapati called the demons. “I am giving you one instruction. Listen to me. Da. Do you understand?”

“Yes, we understand,” they replied.

Then Prajapati called the human beings. “I am giving you an instruction. Da. Do you understand?”

“Yes, we understand,” they replied.

“What did you understand?” Prajapati asked.

The gods said, “We understand from this ‘da' that you are telling us to practise damyata.” In Sanskrit damyata means ‘restrain yourself'.

Prajapati said, “Oh, very good, you have understood what I mean. Da means damyata. Restrain yourself; do not be indulgent.”

Then Prajapati asked the demons, “What is it that you have understood?”

“Yes, sir, we understand. By ‘da' you meant dayadhvam: be compassionate.”

This is because the demons are very cruel in nature. The gods are supposed to be indulgent and so Prajapati said, “Restrain yourself.” The demons are cruel and so he said, “Be compassionate.”

And to the human beings Prajapati asked, “Da—what do you understand by this?”

“Yes, we understand. You told us data: give in charity,” they replied.

This is because human beings are usually greedy. They will not give anything; they only take. All human beings are business people. They are very miserly in giving, but very clever in taking. So he told the human beings “be charitable”. Thus, three categories of beings understood the word ‘da' in three different ways, according to their own view of things. Because the angels knew that they were indulging in joys, Prajapati made the point of self-restraint—damyata—to them. The demons, of course, knew they were very cruel, so dayadhvam: be merciful and compassionate. For the human beings, of course: be charitable.

Now, these three instructions have a great application to us. Though you may consider that we are human beings and that demons are somewhere and gods are somewhere else, all the three characteristics can be found in our own selves. The godly character is inside us. The demoniacal character also is inside us, and the human nature also is inside us. Sometimes you can behave like a god. You can behave like a gentleman—a grand majestic person, very attractive and composed, with a very good nature, highly considerate, and really divine. You can be like that if you want. Otherwise, you can go on doing work for accumulating wealth only, working hard for more and more of things, and will not part with a cent. This is commercial business mentality gone to the extreme. Or you can be a very violent person; you hate everything, you dislike all things; nobody is your friend; you are the dictator of things; you a tyrant and you want to swallow everything. This is demoniacal. Don't you feel like this sometimes? Sometimes you feel composed like a god, sometimes you feel irritated like a demon, and sometimes you feel miserly.

These three points are to be taken into consideration in our personal life. When a godly nature manifests itself, it need not necessarily mean an indulgent nature. Here, in this particular context of the teaching of Prajapati to the three categories of beings as we have it in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the gods are considered as rarefied, higher-bodied individuals in the heavens, who are supposed to be enjoying life on account of the meritorious deeds that they did earlier in their lower species of life. If you do some very good deeds and your life is short here, so that within the span of this little life you cannot enjoy the rewards of your good deeds, you will be transported to an ethereal, rarefied realm of satisfaction and enjoyment which will follow as a natural effect of all the good deeds that you did in this world. This is one kind of divine existence—celestial life. But godly behaviour need not mean only this kind of thing.

Godly behaviour is, in fact, to bring oneself to see things as the Divine Being would see, as God Himself would see the world outside. Sattva, rajas and tamas are three characteristics of prakriti, with which you are all very familiar through your study of the Bhagavadgita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. You feel happy and you are delighted in enjoyment when there is sattva in your personality; you are greedy when there is rajas, and violent when there is tamas. Of course, there is no need of mentioning that you should not be tamasic in nature. It is also not good to be rajasic. It is always good to be sattvic. Now, sattva does not mean absence of action. Rajas is considered to be an impulsion to work, movement, action, etc.; tamas is lethargic activity; and sattva may be considered, therefore, as total freedom from work. But sattva is intense activity of a different kind. There can be a kind of activity which may look like no activity.

Yogarudhasya tasyaiva shamah karanam uchyate is a passage in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavadgita. Aruruksor muner yogam karma karanam uchyate, yogarudhasya tasyaiva shamah karanam uchyate (Gita 6.3): “For the beginner in yoga, action is the means; for the established one in yoga, cessation of action is the means.” This may be interpreted to mean that when you are established in yoga, you do nothing. Bhagavan Sri Krishna does not say that, because the whole Gita is a song of action based on some principles of consciousness. So, how can He say that establishment in yoga is cessation of action? There must be some other meaning behind this word ‘shamah'. It is a peace that passeth all understanding, as people generally say. It is not a dead silence that is called peace. It is an intense activity of consciousness that creates a sense of satisfaction in us. When you have peace, it does not mean that everything is dead and still and nothing is moving. That does not mean peace. It is an intense feeling of satisfaction due to absence of turbulence of any kind. It is activity of a different kind altogether. Very intense activity may sometimes, under certain circumstances, look like no activity. A heightened voltage of electricity passing through a copper wire may look like it is doing nothing. Only if you touch the wire will you know whether there is electricity or not. The wire is there, but you cannot see anything happening. The very rapid movement of an electric fan may give the impression that it is not moving at all. You do not see the blades of the fan. Put a finger into it: you will know whether it is working or not. So, a very heightened form of activity may look like no activity. A very heightened form of light may look like no light. This happened when Sri Krishna, in the court of the Kauravas, manifested His Cosmic Form and blazed forth like thousands of suns, which looked like darkness to mortal eyes. Those present closed their eyes. They could not see anything. If thousands of suns rise in the sky, will you see them? You will close your eyes; then, what you see will be pitch darkness. Even if you gaze at the sun for a few minutes and then look away, you will see black spots. You will not see light. So, sattva, in the sense of yoga, in the context of our practice of it, should be considered as a divine nature manifesting itself from within us. And a sattvic person, a divine person, a godly person, is not necessarily an inactive person, but he may be inactive from the point of view of ordinary perception.

Somebody went to Ramana Maharshi, it appears, and said: “Sir, why don't you do some good work for people instead of sitting quietly?” He replied, “How do you know that I am not doing any good work?” One thought from Masters of this kind will vibrate through the whole universe, and it will work such miracles that millions of people, sitting around tables or working hard with hands and feet, cannot achieve. The greatest Masters of the world are supposed to be unknown to human history. The greatest people of the world known to you in history are second-rate and third-rate heroes. The first-rate heroes come silently and go silently. They not only do not speak, their existence itself is not known. They are like Nara-Narayana in Badrikashrama. If you go, you cannot see them there. Your mortal eyes are not fit enough to visualise the presence of these great Masters. They are centres of intense vibration, and their one thought is sufficient; it is enough to last for the duration of the world. All this I am telling you, by way of a story, to show that intense sattva is activity of a divine character; it is something like God working.

Do you believe God works? But, He does not work as we do. He does not require instruments, materials, office, attendants, limbs, hands and feet, organs. He wants nothing. His very Being vibrates as action. That is divine action, and to that end Bhagavan Sri Krishna is trying to take our minds when He says that yoga is yoga of action. We are always afraid of action, because we always understand action in the sense of doing something which takes away some energy from us or depletes some property that belongs to us and we lose something rather than gain something. In all work we seem to be losing something. Therefore, we are afraid of work; we close our offices on holidays. A holy day does not mean a closing day. It is difficult to become a Godman. It is not easy. You may go on thinking about it, but you cannot become a Godman quickly, because of the sense organs being so turbulent. Indriyani parany ahur indriyebhyah param manah (Gita 3.42): “The senses are so powerful that they drag your mind in the direction of relative activity and even relative thinking, and will not permit you to think in this form of heightened thought, which is God-thought.”

The greatest yoga is to think, as far as possible, as God Himself perhaps would think. The infinite God does not think anything but Himself. God loves only Himself, and He will love you also, provided you stand inseparate from Him. Therefore, atmasakahatkara is also atmasamarpana. The greatest renunciation brings the greatest realisation, and the greatest renunciation is the renunciation of your own existence itself. Then the greatest fulfilment follows.