ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते ।
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥oṃ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idam pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate
oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ

oṃ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idam pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ

Invocation of the Isha Upanishad

That is whole. This is wholeFrom the whole, the whole becomes manifest.
From the whole when the whole is negated,
what remains is again the whole

 

Ādi Shaṅkarācārya the great Vedantic scholar from the 8th Century said this verse was not meant for ritual, like so much of the Vedas but that its purpose was to reveal the light of awareness as the nature of true Self or Atman. The Isha in the title of this Upanishad means Lord of whose root ish means to reign, rule or have power, as in the word ishavara or personal god. This Isha is All: it is pūrṇam, it was written to be complete and pervade all of creation like saltwater pervades the oceans or heat pervades a metal ball when heated by fire. The Sanskrit word pūrṇa also means circle, a shape that is without beginning or end and is complete in and of itself. ○

Pūrṇam is Adah or That, the source of creation and our physical universe. Pūrṇam is Idam or This – equally as our physical body together with our consciousness. Both are part of everything that moves and breathes together on Earth. Pūrṇam is the sum of This and That and It alone represents this vast knowable totality.

The beloved western bhakta and psychologist Ram Das once said, “Treat everyone you meet like they are God in drag”. It was his humorous way to say things are not always as what they appear to be. That we should be ready to see the Good/God in others, even when they, or those appearances and situations are not according to how we would expect them to be.

If we renounce finite-nes we become infinite. When a reporter challenged Gandhi ji to sum up his philosophy in three words, inspired by the Bhagavad Gita he said “renounce and enjoy.” Only when we renounce all worldly fruits and the results of short-sighted gain and pleasure can we truly enjoy the atman as a living state of pūrṇam. If we renounce a conditioned microscopic state this invocation invites us to experience and enjoy the power of pūrṇam as oneness with all of existence.

If we could peer beyond ordinary appearances with yogic vision we could start to see how the macrocosm and microcosm weave together, where the individual self and the cosmic soul touch. To experience this kind of vision Patanjali says we can practice and cultivate yogic skills of discrimination (viveka) and reason (vichāra) we might also begin to ask ourselves – what actually limits our experience and our existence?

What separates us from the connection to pūrṇam? Do we see ourselves very differently from those that we meet? Anger or jealousy and fear are based on this deep seated misunderstanding of underlying wholeness. When we treat others poorly, or even worse causing them direct or indirect suffering – this is just one result of forgetting. We can also observe how our  increasingly contracted and fractured societies have a dramatic and adverse affect on our entire planet.

On a spiritual and material level we stuff our larger selves into a false and fragile shell of mis-identification. The practice is meant to shake us up and wake us up. It should not be practiced as idolism or theater or vivid imaginings. Rather, this verse invites us to practice yoga as a science of Self-discovery, it encourages us to use our practice like a telescope –to ultimately reveal ourselves to our own true Nature. We do not necessarily need to go to India to find this but we can begin to transform ourselves from what we have right here close by. Sharon writes that even when we sit down to eat, within our own daily microcosm we can have a huge impact on the lives of others and the macrocosm as a whole.

The practices of yoga are simultaneously an ancient and contemporary antidote to the great poison of forgetfulness. It can be as simple as bringing our attention to our breath or becoming more receptive to the awareness in our body and soul. It could also reflect back on us how willing we are to connect to pūrṇam? How willing we are to protect and preserve wholeness as a loving attitude. In yoga asana we can start to experience ourselves as an extension of the Earth, establishing and generating increased states of harmony and balance.

As we put pūrṇam into focus, we can even start to see how even our perceived weaknesses or shortcomings can be transformed into greater and greater strength. What is our least favorite asana could become our favorite if we “shift our perception” and show up for our practice and not only in the largest sense but even in the smallest details and patterns that can ripple through our daily lives. Doing this for ourselves can give us confidence, and help us make positive changes that broaden our outlook and perception.

Then there is nothing that is not pūrṇam. Even empty space or śūnya (emptiness) is said to be whole, even our calamities and forgetfulness could become meaningful and propel us towards liberation if we can bring them into the light of pūrṇam.

Life is enough, it is neither too small nor too big. It could be comforting to feel that nothing can ever be truly broken or lost from pūrṇam. That we always have another chance to re-connect, and as Sharon and David often say re-member to serve all beings as pūrṇam.  This can lead us from diversity to inclusion with an invitation to celebrate difference and creativity and open up a window to show us our unique place here- right now.

TEACHING TIPS

1. David Life teaching on shifting into animals during the yoga practice, transforming and taking the shapes of various beings or bhutas.
2. Focus on balancing poses both seated and standing to reflect our ability to breathe evenly when our bodies take these different forms
3. Bring awareness to the 5 Vayus and how they are represented in the practice. Focus on how apana or the downward moving force becomes the source of strength of the pranic expansion, even as these ride on our in and out breath. The apanic action draws us inward, the pranic expands us outward.
4. For the Ashram in Crete: In Plato’s parable of the cave, the people in that story did not realize that what they saw were mere shadows and projections extending from a fire lit behind them. They could not see beyond their own shadows and the figures that walked behind them casting shadows on the wall. They believed that this was all there was, and remained chained to this very limited existence. Only when the shackles were removed could they see the source of light as the fire behind them that would they eventually lead them into the sunlight.
5. B.K.S. Iyengar said that an asana should revolved around its weakest point – if we can balance our weakness we may be surprised to find strength. This in turn can give us courage and energy as we become more conscious and move from a smaller contracted state of being to a larger and expanding one.

5 more teaching tips by Juan Sierra
1. A very simple and tangible approach to shift from limitation, is find a different spot to practice at the studio. Face a different direction in your home if you are practicing on screen
2. When practicing standing postures, notice the difference from “holding” the posture on the right side, on the left side meet the pose with wholeness, not trying, but clearly being an extension of the expression.
3. When faced with “finite” limitations or stuck in a pose, recite the words “I am getting stronger, I am becoming more flexible, I am infinate.
4. When coming into a shape in your asana, take the opportunity to transform the posture by sincerely looking into the weight of the front and back foot, notice if there is unnecessary tension in the wrists or fingers. If the palms are pressing down and not resting. How willing are we to connect to Purnam.
5. In savasana, be sure to have no blocks, straps etc. touching your feet or hands, giving you a clear sense to enjoy the power of Purnam as oneness with the existence, empty. Full of empty.

IAN SZYDLOWSKI-ALVAREZ