Isavasya Upanishad for Beginners
Half hour talks in Hindi translated into English
by Swami Krishnananda
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते ।
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शांतिः शांतिः शांतिः ॥
om pūrṇamadaḥ, pūrṇamidam, pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate,
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate.
That which is anantavavtu is spoken of as pūrṇam. It is that to which there is no limit; beyond which there can be nothing. If there is something outside it, it becomes an individualised object. But objects cannot be pūrṇam. The śāstrik meaning of pūrṇam is, that more than which nothing can exist, i.e., it is the infinite. And creation has come from pūrṇam. And this creation too is pūrṇam. This śloka is from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad and forms the mangalā-carana mantra for this Īśāvāsya Upaniṣad. The terms adaḥ and idam have often occurred in Kathopaniṣad also. Adaḥ means the cause from which the effect comes. Idam means that which is manifest and here it means the world. The objects of the sense organs are spoken of as idam. That which is beyond the sense organs is adaḥ. As the cause is, so is the effect. The effect exists within the cause in an unmanifested form. In the seed, the tree is not seen, but it is in an unmanifested state. In reality, the world is also limitless. Wherever you go, you still will see it extending further. You find that ether, a subtle manifestation of the Supreme is limitless, and wherever you go you cannot find its limit. This is so, because it is a manifestation of that which is infinite. This mantra says that, that which has come from the Infinite is also Infinite from this point of view, even though it is comprehensible to the senses. Really speaking, the world is not outside you, that is to say, outside the senses, but within you. This, the later mantras of the Upanishad is going to tell us. The world appears to exist outside you. And hence it is correct to say, ‘this world is pūrṇam.’
Pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate—When the effect which is pūrṇam has been removed from the cause which is pūrṇam, what is left over is also pūrṇam. It remains undiminished. That is why Sankaracarya says that īśvara is advitīya, that which has no second. It is not a mathematical calculation where one minus one leaves zero. Īśvara is not a numerical like 1. Īśvara who is infinite is beyond all numericals. This is a bit difficult to comprehend with our minds. We have neither seen the pūrṇam nor can go beyond numericals. We can go on saying crores, a hundred crores, a hundred-thousand-crores and so on, that is all. But He is beyond countable numbers. Hence the word pūrṇam is used to indicate īśvara. There is no place where He is not. This is the essence of this verse.
Īśāvāsya Upaniṣad is a mantropaniṣad. We are initiated into the Supreme Truth. There are two types of upaniṣads viz., the Brahmopaniṣads and the Mantropaniṣads. Īśāvāsya Upaniṣad is a Mantropaniṣad. Now it may be asked, if the Upanishads are placed at the end of all Vedas, why this separate division into what are known as Brahmopaniṣad and Mantropaniṣads etc. All Vedas have four divisions: (1) Samhita, (2) Brahmana (3) Aranyaka and (4) Upanishad. Some Upanishads come within the Samhitas, like this one before us. The Īśāvāsya Upaniṣad is placed (perhaps) in the 40th chapter, in the Sukla Yajurveda, at the end of the Samhita. The other Upanishads are placed at the end of the Brahmanas. And because this Upaniṣad is placed in the Samhitas, it is also known as Samhita Upaniṣad.