by Swami Krishnananda
Now we come to the Fifth Chapter, which is replete with certain contemplations, Upāsanās, Vidyās, or meditations that will help us in conceiving Brahman for the purpose of higher practice. The Śānti-Mantra – Om purānaṁ adaḥ, etc. – is the initial invocation of this chapter.
Om purᾱṇam adaḥ, pῡrṇam idam, pῡrṇᾱt pῡrṇam udacyate pῡrṇasya pῡrṇam ᾱdᾱya pῡrṇam evᾱvaśiṣyate: 'The great fullness or plenum is Brahman' – the Absolute. From fullness, nothing that is not full can come. So, 'what comes from fullness is fullness only'. Now, this word fullness is used in different senses. How is it that what comes out of the fullness is also fullness? Because in the microcosm, the macrocosm is reflected. You can see in the pore of a single sand particle of the beach the whole cosmos vibrating if your eyes are penetrating enough. The entire universe is reflected in every particle of sand, every grain of matter and every atom of existence, even as in every cell of the body the whole personality can be seen. Physiologists and biologists will tell us that to understand a human being you have only to take one cell of the body and that will tell you what the person is biologically. Likewise, a little particle, our so-called finite existence, the effect that follows in the process of creation, is not really an effect in the form of a diminution of the glory of the cosmos, but the cosmos reflected wholly in it. The whole is present in the effect also in a mysterious manner which is inscrutable to the ordinary mind of the human being. You can study any individual and you would have studied the whole universe. Everything that can be seen in God can be seen in this world also. Whatever is in Vaikuntha or Kailaśa or Brahma-loka, can be seen inside this very lecture hall. But you can only see it with the proper apparatus, that is all. Whatever is anywhere, is everywhere, and whatever is everywhere, is anywhere.
Pῡrṇam idam, pῡrṇᾱt pῡrṇam udacyate: 'That is full; this is full.' What was the cause? That is the full. And what is the effect? That is also the full. 'And from the full the full has come' – the full effect has come from the full cause. When something is taken from something else, generally there is a shortage on the part of that from which you have taken it. You know very well that if from ten quintals you take five quintals, only five quintals remain there. But it is not so here. When the universe has come out of the Absolute, there is no diminution in the content of the Absolute. This is a mysterious emanation indeed. Even when the rays of the sun emanate from the sun, there is combustion going on and a kind of diminution of the intensity of the heat of the sun, physically speaking. But in this case nothing changes and there is no diminution whatsoever. The content is as full as it was, as it is, as it will be. So, pῡrṇasya pῡrṇam ᾱdᾱya: 'After having taken away, or after the coming out of the effect from the Supreme Cause, what remains is full only.' This is another way of symbolically telling you that nothing has happened; no creation has taken place, it only appears as if it has to the blinded eyes of ignorant individuals – pῡrṇam ᾱdᾱya pῡrṇam evᾱvaśiṣyate.
Now, after having given this symbolic message of the fullness of Brahman and the way of contemplation, a further elucidation of the same subject is taken up for consideration. The first Mantra – aum pῡrṇam ᾱdᾱya – also is a passage intended for meditation. This is a Vidyā by itself. It is a method of Upāsanā. How is one to contemplate the Supreme Being as the completeness, the felicity, the plenum, the Bhūma, the Absolute, the Pūrṇa? The answer follows. When you contemplate Brahman, you cannot conceive of it as anything other than completeness. Pūrṇam brahma: Because it is full, it is called Brahman. Anything that is apparently outside it would be naturally included within it, because anything that has something outside it cannot be called full. So, when you designate the Supreme Being as full, naturally you have to include everything within it. In the earlier stages one would, of course, exclude oneself from that contemplation because one cannot imagine oneself as also included in it. One has to bring together everything in creation into a completeness or wholeness of concept in the meditation of the Absolute as all-in-all. That is the first stage of meditation on Brahman. Later on, one must also concede that when everybody has been included there, why not yourself also? How can you alone stand outside as a privileged individual? You also go into it. Then who contemplates Brahman? The answer must come from you only. This is the highest meditation which this Mantra – purᾱṇam adaḥ, pῡrṇam idam – tells you.
Aum kham brahma: Another Upāsanā is given to you. You can meditate on Brahman in another way. If you cannot conceive this kind of all-pervasiveness and totality of existence at one stroke, with the power of your understanding, you have got space, the vast space to meditate on. Think of space – how vast it is, how big it is, where does it end and so on. You can close your eyes for a few minutes, or even open your eyes, and look at that vast expanse and see the glory of this unbounded something we call space. Where does it end? However far you may travel, you will not know where it ends. Everything is contained within it, but it is not contaminated by anything that it contains. Now to go further, one teacher tells us that the space referred to here is the Ether of consciousness. It is the Ancient One, Pūrṇam, not the ordinary one. Aum kham brahma, kham pūrṇam: 'The ether or the sky of consciousness it is that is referred to when we speak of space as Brahman'. Consciousness is like space because it is unlimited. It is lit up by the illumination that is within its own being. Can you conceive of consciousness as vast as space, like space everywhere, uniform, homogeneous, ubiquitous? Well, such is consciousness, such is my essential nature; that is the nature also of the Absolute. Can you conceive this ether of consciousness as present everywhere? The ether everywhere and the ether within an empty pot are one and the same. Likewise the ether of consciousness, which is the Absolute, is also the ether of conciousness within me, the so-called individual. Thus, contemplation on the ether of consciousness is veritably contemplation on the Supreme Being.
Another teacher says, why go so far? Even this ordinary space will do for you. Vāyuraṁ kham: This space which is filled with air, that also can suffice for the purpose of meditation. You need not stretch your imagination to the ether of consciousness which is rather difficult for you to imagine. Contemplate on this physical space. How far is it, how long, how wide, how deep and what does it contain, etc.? This space, you know, is the cause of all the elements. This earth can be dissolved in water, water can be dried up by fire, fire can be extinguished by air and air can be absorbed into space, so that the whole solidified earth and all this glory that you call this world will go into air and ether when involution takes place. Even modern scientific discoveries confirm this. It is only space and time that exists, not solid objects, they say. So space, even physically conceived, is a great thing. Why go as far as the ether of consciousness which is far superior? So, vāyuraṁ kham, this Kham, or Ākāśa, or the space which is filled with air, the physical one, even that itself is enough for you as a symbol for meditation on the Supreme Being. Everything is space. Everything is space and time interconnected, with nothing outside whatsoever. So, because physical space is visible to us and it is easy for us to conceive it, one teacher, the son of Kauravyayani, tells us to take this as the symbol. Otherwise you may meditate on the ether of consciousness, or still better on Om purᾱṇam adaḥ, pῡrṇam idam. Whatever is suitable to your present condition of mind, that you may take as the symbol, as the instrument for meditation.
Aum kham brahma, kham pῡrṇam, vᾱyuraṁ kham, iti ha smᾱha kauravyᾱyaṇī-putraḥ: 'The son of Kauravyayani tells us that physical space can also be taken as a symbol.' Vedo'yam brᾱhmaṇᾱ viduḥ: This is the highest Veda. What is Veda? It is knowledge supreme; and what knowledge can be superior to this knowledge! What knowledge can be higher than this great knowledge where you are told everything that has to be told? So, this little passage here is identified with Veda itself. Vedo'yam brahmana viduh: 'The great knowers have declared this itself as the Veda.' Om is the Veda. Eka eva purā vedah praṇava sarva-vangmāyah, says the Bhagavat Purāna. 'In the beginning there were no Vedas as such. Only Praṇava existed. Om or Praṇava was the Veda. Afterwards there was a split of the constituents of the Praṇava into syllables, then the Pādas of Gāyatrī, then the Puruṣha-Sūkta and finally the three Vedas, the huge tomes that you see today as the Ṛg Veda, Yajur Veda, and Sāma Veda. They are all contained like the branches of a huge tree inside this small seed which is Praṇava, or Om. So, Om is all,' says this passage of the Upaniṣhad. It is the Veda itself, and all the Vedas have come from this seed Om. Vedo'yam brāhmaṇa viduḥ: 'All the knowers have declared Om as the Veda itself.' Vedainena yad veditavyam: 'Whatever is to be known can be known through this.' If you have understood this, you will understand everything else, because when you have been given the theorem, the corollary necessarily follows.
This very short section consisting of only one invocatory Mantra and one instructive passage completes the first Brāhmaṇa of the Fifth Chapter. Then follow very short sections which, however, are full of deep meaning.
The Upaniṣhad now goes into a little more detail, bearing in view that these above meditations are very difficult and that they are not meant for everyone. Intellectually, one can grasp their significance, but the heart will not accept it easily. The feelings are repelled by the very thought of this Totality, Completeness, Being, etc., because the senses are very violent. They are not going to leave you so easily. Whatever be your understanding capacity, the senses also have some capacity, and they try their might to the last. Even at the hour of doom they will not leave you. The Upaniṣhad knows this. The teachers of the Upaniṣhad are compassionate and they tell us that there are some ways of subduing these opposing forces which prevent us from understanding the Truth and contemplating on it.
There are three great evils, if at all you can call them evils, that are the oppositions to contemplation. They prevent you from conceiving Totality and insist on particularity. When these forces begin to work, a complete thought of anything cannot arise. You will only see partial appearances. Even if you look at a thing, you will not see the whole of that thing. You will see only some aspect of that thing. When a gold necklace is seen, for example, it will be seen by various individuals differently. For a person who wants jewels, it is an ornament. There is only beauty and jewellery there for him or her. For a goldsmith, it is only the weight of gold that is the value. For an animal, say a monkey, it has no meaning because he does not know it's worth. So, from one's own point of view, things can be looked at differently. It can be mine, then it is very dear, beautiful, very necessary. If it is not mine, it is wretched, useless, 'let it go', you say. Let it go anywhere, nobody cares. So, if it is mine, it is very nice; if it is not mine, it is not nice. How can one thing be both? When it is mine, then it is not yours. For you it is not good, but for me it is good. So, various troubles arise in our minds when we look at things as particulars, as individuals isolated from the whole. These are called Kāma, Krodha, Lobha-desire, anger and greed. They will not allow us to think of totals. They only want particulars, because when completeness is there, they cannot work. They 'walk out' of Parliament! They cannot stand there. So, they insist that particularity be there; that finitude is there; that individuality is the only reality. If such a vehement assertion is made by these forces within us, how can the poor understanding, the reason or intellect function at all? So, the Upaniṣhad says that it is better to pay the devil its due at the start, before ascending to higher pedestals. If you are completely under the subjection of these lower forces, it is not possible to suddenly rise to the level of meditation on Brahman. In the beginning you must find out as to what extent you are under the thumb of these forces. If they are only lightly interfering with your practice, you can intelligently tackle them by a judicious manner, by rationality, philosophical investigation, etc. But if they are very violent, then you have to employ various suitable ways. In connection with this, there is a short anecdote, which we will consider in the Second Brāhmaṇa of this chapter and which will give us an idea as to how to subjugate these big three!