The Invocation of Peace
That is complete. And so this is complete.
From completeness comes completeness.
When completeness is taken from completeness
completeness always remains.
Aum shanti shanti shanti.
Commentary by Vimala Thakar
Aum purnamadaha purnmidam
purnat purnam udachyate.
Purnasya purnam adaya purnam ev’avshishyate.
Aum shantih shantih shantih
The source of creation is an infinity, a wholeness. As the source is infinite, the creation is also infinite. You cannot divide life into divine and non-divine. The divinity never gets exhausted. Creation and destruction are not two different events. One is the emergence and the other is the merging back. So let there be peace through the realization that the whole of life is divine.
Everything in the Upanishads begins with Aum. Aum is the imitation by human beings of the primal sound out of which creation has come into existence. It is an imitation by the human race of the primal sound. That is to say that the cosmos is all the time vibrating with this sound. It is manifest everywhere. It is manifest in water, space, the skies, through the trees, in the birds and in the animals. This is the primal sound which is not born of any friction. The sound Aum is called the primal source of creation, it is not born of friction. It is self-generated. The human being tries to imitate it and says Aum.
The invocation of peace begins with Aum. Purna means whole or wholeness. Madaha means infinite. So it is infinite and whole. What is infinite and whole? The source as the source of creation. The divine. The source of creation is an infinity. It is a wholeness, a homogeneity. The cosmos that you see around is also an infinity. As the source is infinite, the creation is also infinite. This infinity of creation has emerged out of that.
That which is invisible, intangible, that which cannot be seen, smelt or touched is called the unmanifest. It has no form, no colour, no shape and no size. It is referred to as the manifest when it takes upon itself a form. The unmanifest is formless. That’s why we refer to it as the unmanifest. It is invisible and imperceptible to the senses. The cosmos is visible, tangible and perceptible. It has form, shape, size and apparent objective reality and so it is called the manifest.
The invocation of peace asks us not to look upon the manifest world as finite. It says it is infinite. It is limitless just as the source of its creation is a limitlessness. The source is an infinity. It is a wholeness. One is manifest and one is unmanifest but they are not different. One is known and the other is unknown but qualitatively there is no difference between the two.
Qualitatively there is no difference between the two. I am emphasising this because generally those who study Vedanta have the conception that only Brahman is real whereas the world is an illusion. It is a general conception in Indian philosophy that the world is called maya and is regarded as being an illusion or unreal. This very concept is incorrect. The Upanishads say that the source of creation, the ground of existence, what you might call divinity, that which cannot be seen or touched by the senses, is an infinity, an eternity, a wholeness. It is an inexhaustibility and out of it has emerged the so-called visible, tangible, perceptible world which also has the same quality of infiniteness.
Now the line Purnat purnam adacyate. Udacyate means emergence. Out of the ground of existence, out of the divinity has emerged what you call the cosmic life. So the cosmic life is divine. You cannot separate the divinity and the cosmos and say the cosmos is matter and the other is divine. You cannot separate the two because what you call the cosmic life, what you refer to as matter, has emerged out of the divinity. Life has not emerged out of matter. That is the wrong way of looking at it. The Upanishads say that what you call life has emerged out of that divinity. Life is divine.
We will explore the meaning of the word “divine” later but for the present, the invocation of peace is saying that we are to look upon every expression of life as divine and sacred. Your relationship with the cosmic life is a relationship of sanctity, respect and sacredness because this is as divine as the other. Life cannot be divided into the divine and the non-divine. Life cannot be divided into mind, consciousness and matter. Life in short cannot be divided. There is no separation between matter and consciousness. There is no separation between cosmic life and the divinity. They are not separate. They are not completely independent of each other. They involve each other. One is the emergence of the other. It emerges and it merges into itself. Emerging and merging back. That is the cycle of birth and death. Death is the merging back and birth is the emerging out of the divinity. May there be peace in the realization that the whole of life is divine.
For billions of years the unmanifest has been becoming manifest. Trees are born, rivers flow, the oceans are there, the seasons come and go. Countries and people come into existence, universes come into existence, they explode, they get destroyed and yet the infinite cycle of life continues.
The expression by the being, the process of expressing itself, unwinding itself, expressing itself, goes on. Don’t think that if this universe gets destroyed that the infinity is going to end. Another emergence will come. Creation and destruction are inseparably related to each other. They are not two different things. Destruction is not a loss. Here I’m not talking about man made destruction and violence. I’m talking about the law of creation: birth, growth, decay and death. That which is natural is the law of nature. So many creations have appeared and yet the infinity, the absolute ground of existence, the divinity does not get exhausted. One comes up, it goes back, another comes up and so on. The universes endlessly continue to explode out of the infinity of life.
The Upanishads are an odyssey. They are a poetry of harmony. Harmony is the aim of life. Harmony is the quality of being alive. It is the foundation of relationship. The Upanishads are the songs of harmony. The Invocation of Peace is telling us not to divide up life into matter and the divine. Do not divide. Don’t say, this is truth and that is illusion. No. The ground of existence already permeates every expression of life. The quality of the ground, right from a blade of grass to an elephant or a camel or a human being, they contain the very same quality of divinity. The expression may be limited, but the quality is the same. Matter is a limited expression of consciousness. Matter is a conditioned expression of the consciousness but it is consciousness all the same. What you see around, what you call matter is living. It is not something irrelevant. All things in the cosmos are the expression of life. So one must develop sensitivity. With this perception, there can be understanding and harmony.