Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

How perfect is the
'Perfect' Prayer?

flower picture

by Peter Bonnici

Part III

Part I Part II

14. SHAKE 3. Despite this rational conclusion we still lean towards experience that insists on reminding us of our limitation. It’s like insisting the sky is blue despite knowing for a fact, as proved by science, that the sky is not! This shows that fact doesn’t necessarily remove false experience. If experience is so hard to dislodge, then what can help me discover the limitlessness of ‘I’?

> Answer: The words of shruti are the pramANa for self-knowledge. A pramANa is the unique means of valid knowledge. Eyes, for example, are the pramANa for the perception of light – only eyes perceive light, ears won’t do. So too shruti is the only pramANa for dis-covering knowledge of Reality. çruti does not tell us that the experience of difference is non-existent: it tells us that it is not absolutely real. Having faith in shruti comes in handy in dealing with doubts and clearing misconceptions.
shruti teaches that pUrNam is Brahma through the Upanishad statement: satyam, jñAnam, anantam Brahma. (existent, conscious, boundless is Brahman). Anantam = Brahma. PUrnam is a synonym for anantam. Therefore pUrNam = Brahma.
shruti also says that Brahma (pUrNam) is the material cause of creation (i.e. the ‘stuff’ from which the creation is made) through the statement: Yato vA imAni bhUtAni jAyante… (Brahma is that from which these beings are born, that by which, having been born, they are sustained, that towards which they return after having gone forth.) So pUrNam is the material cause of idam and adas.
shruti also teaches by inference that pUrNam Brahma is the efficient cause of creation (i.e. the intelligence that brings it about) through the statement: So’kAmayata bahu syAm prajAyeyeti. (Let me be many, let me be born as many.) PUrNam is thus implied to be the efficient cause of idam and adas.
• Logic is also called upon to reinforce that pUrNam Brahma is both the material and efficient cause of creation. Our normal experience is that the material and efficient cause are different entities. The material cause of a wooden door is wood, the efficient cause is the carpenter. But in the case of the creation, if pUrNam Brahma (the efficient cause) has to use some other material, then Brahman cannot be pUrNam as there is something other than Brahma for Brahma to use as the material for the creation. This cannot be so as pUrNam does not admit of any other. Brahma thus must be the material cause as well as efficient cause of adah and idam.
• Two things having the same material and the same maker are the same. Thus, despite the experienced differences and limitations, adah and idam are identical in their completeness. Completeness does not deny difference, it does not deny experience; but it denies that the difference is absolute: it is purely cognitive. Even though I see the sky as blue, I KNOW it is colourless, and therefore accept that it colourless – this is maturity: not going against the facts. Similarly, if one trusts in shruti, one accepts the completeness of ‘I’, despite all that experience indicates.

15. SHAKE 4. Is it possible for two different things to have an identical material and an identical maker?

>  Answer: Yes. In a dream, dream fire is put out by dream water by the dream ‘I’… The dream ‘I’, who puts out the fire appears different from the dream water and the dream fire. And the dream water appears different from the dream fire. But, on waking, the dream ‘I’, water and fire resolve into the one dreamer. It is realised that both, the dream substance and the dream creation abide in the one dreamer. The dreamer is both the material and efficient cause of the dream.

16. SHAKE 5. Is there any common example of two terms indicating the same thing?

> Answer: Yes. If I say: “Patrick, the Irishman, is wonderful”, both terms, ‘Patrick’ and ‘Irishman’ refer to the same person. Patrick is a wonderful person. The Irishman is also a wonderful person. Both names refer to the same thing in this context. Similarly, Atman and Brahman are two names of the same Absolute Reality.

17. So now, after testing the robustness of the proposition, we should be more convinced that ‘I’ is that pUrNam Brahma and this creation is the very same pUrNam Brahma. How succinct, how complete:

PUrNam adaH: That ÄtmA, my true self, is nothing but the limitless Brahma.
PUrNam idam: This body-mind amalgam, and all it perceives, is the same limitless Brahma.

With this understood, the meaning of the rest simply falls into place...

18. PUrNAt pUrNam udacyate… From completeness comes forth completeness. Again, on the surface, this seems like an obvious statement. But we need to take into account the sutra-maker’s highest art – brevity, succinctness. The order of these two words unlocks the implied meaning of the sentence: from adaH pUrNam, comes forth idam pUrNam. From I, sat Brahman, comes this mithyA jagat. From the dreamer comes forth the dream creation. From water comes forth wave. From the formless comes the form-full without affecting the formless in any way, as expressed in the final two quarters of the mantra…

19. PUrNasya pUrNam AdAya, the completeness of completeness removed… pUrNam eva avashiShyate, completeness alone remains. This tells us that when this mithyA jagat is taken away from (or added to) that adaH pUrNam Brahman, the completeness, pUrNam, remains unaffected. Waves being there or waves not being there, water remains water. From gold, take away necklace and the gold loses nothing of its nature as gold. To gold add necklace and the gold remains unaffected. Upon entering the state of deep sleep, the dreamer who put out the fire and the dream creation both resolve along with mind. I alone remain: pUrNam eva avashiShyate. When the truth of myself is seen to be the limitless Reality, when the false ‘I’ resolves into the truth of itself, I am all there is as the self of everything.

20. “I am pUrNam, completeness. Nothing limits me. Like water of the brimful ocean, undisturbed. Waves and breakers play on me, but are only forms of me, briefly manifest. They appear to be many and different but I know they are only my glory – my fullness manifest, without limiting me in any way. They will resolve back into me. In me, the water of the brimful ocean, all resolves. I, pUrNam, completeness, alone remain.” [From Swami Dayananda’s text: Purnamadah Purnamidam.]

That Átman, my true self, is nothing but the limitless Brahman.
This body-mind amalgam, and all it perceives, is the same limitless Brahman.
From myself alone as the material and efficient cause, arises this passing show.
Whether the passing show emerges from or resolves back into me, I remain unchanged, limitless Reality.

Om. shAntiH. shAntiH. shAntiH.


I am indebted to my teacher, Swamini AtmaprakAshananda Saraswati and her teacher Swami Dayananda Saraswati for preserving and handing down the traditional vision of Vedanta which informs this article


Return to list of topics in Discourses by Teachers and Writers .
See the list sorted by Topic
See the list sorted by Author.

Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012