The second meaning is a little better than the first, and that is totalness; purna can also mean the total. But that is also lagging a little behind the real meaning. The concept of totality is mathematical, the concept of perfection is egoistic. Totality means “the sum of all,” but the sum of all may not have any intrinsic, organic unity. The total may be missing the soul, that which connects it, keeps it together.
‘The total’ simply means the sum total of all, but that is not enough. Existence is something more than the sum total; that plus point is the hidden secret of life. It is an organic unity. So we cannot just call it “total.”
The third meaning is “wholeness,” which comes closest to the reality; closer than that one cannot come through language. If one wants to come closer than that then one has to be silent, then no language can help. But “wholeness” is the most approximate meaning. Hence we translate this beej mantra, this seed, which contains all the Upanishads, the whole Upanishadic vision:
This is the whole.
That is the whole.
From wholeness emerges wholeness.
Wholeness coming from wholeness,
Wholeness still remains.
The world is an organic unity. We are not parts in a mechanical sense, because in a machine the parts can be replaced. The part is not absolutely essential, it is dispensable; another part will do the same. But we are not parts in that sense. Even a small blade of grass is indispensable, irreplaceable; the whole existence needs it, it is not accidental. Hence the part is not only the part but the whole too.
P.D. Ouspensky, one of the very close disciples of George Gurdjieff, says that in lower mathematics – the mathematics that is taught in the schools, colleges and the universities – the part is always less than the whole. Obviously, the part cannot be equal to the whole, and the part certainly cannot be bigger than the whole. The part means smaller than the whole. How can my hand be equal to me or bigger than me? It is part of me! That being part itself is enough indication that it is smaller than the whole.
But Ouspensky says there is a higher mathematics too. The Upanishads belong to the higher mathematics. Then things start changing; then ordinary rules are no more applicable. Not only that – they are inadequate – they become absolutely contrary to the truth. In higher mathematics the part can be equal to the whole and in certain cases can be bigger than the whole.
You are equal to the whole – each part is equal to the whole – but when a part becomes a buddha he becomes bigger than the whole. That’s a totally different world of laws.
This universe is whole, the whole comes out of it, still the whole remains behind. You can take the whole out and nothing is lost; you can put the whole back, nothing is added.