Why is Santi-Mantra from the Isa-UpaNiSad Recited at every Pooja?

Every UpaNiSad begins with a Santi-Paath or Santi-Mantra, an introductory verse that is a Bhadra (भद्र)  (auspicious & noble)  invocation. Most of the Santi-Paath are intuitively bhadra:

  • Lead us from falsehood to truth, Lead us from darkness to light, Lead us from death to immortality – Santi-Paath of the Brihad-Aranyaka-UpaNiSad
  • May we all be protected, May we all be blessed, May we work together, May our study be illuminated… — Santi-Paath of the Katha-UpaNisad
  • May we hear what is Auspicious with our ears, May we see what is Auspicious with our eyes… – Santi-Paath of the Prasna-UpaNiSad.

In contrast, the Santi-Paath from the Isa-UpaNiSad seems non-intuitive:

    ॐ पूर्णं अदः पूर्णं इदं पूर्णात पूर्णं उदच्यते

               Om; Purnam Adah Purnam Idam Purnaat Purnam Udachyate
               Om; That is Complete; This is Complete; From the Complete Emanates the Complete 

               पूर्णस्य पूर्णं आदाय पूर्णं एव अवशिष्यते
               Purnasya Purnam Adaaya Purnam Ev Avashishyate
               When a Complete is Factored Out from the Complete, the Result is just as Complete

  ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
   Om; Santi, Santi, Santi

This ancient Santi-Paath establishes the concept of Infinite Completeness that was later defined in European Mathematics in the early 19th century. We discussed this in detail in our July 2010 article titled Santi-Paath or The Introductory Verse from the Isha UpaNiSad

Let us leave aside Mathematical or Philosophical analysis. Even in its simplest interpretation, this Santi-Paath seems different in its scope and its application from the others cited above. Yet, this Santi-Paath is recited at each Pooja, at each religious function as a matter of tradition.

Why? What is the relevance of this concept of Completeness to a specific Pooja?

Verse 1 of the Isa-UpaNiSad

This is probably the most famous verse from all Upa-NiSad. It deals with omnipresence of the Supreme Entity. We discussed this in our article Verse 1 of Isa-UpaNiSad – Gandhiji’s Favorite Verse on September 17, 2011.

The first line of this Verse describes the Universe as enveloped by the Lord (Isa, or Isha) or as a dwelling of the Lord:

  • Whatever is in this ever changing Universe is enveloped by the Lord – a Sankar-Acharya interpretation

  • Whatever is in this ever changing Universe is the dwelling of the Lord – a Bhakti interpretation

This line immediately follows the Santi-Paath. This gives us a clue that the Santi-Paath has relevance to the all-encompassing & complete nature of the Lord or Ruler of the Universe. 

In contrast, a Pooja is specific to a Vibhuti or Representation. For example, the above Santi-Paath of the Isa-UpaNiSad was recited by a Pandit at a Ganesh Pooja during this year’s Ganesh festival. 

The Specific Complete as a Representation of the Infinite Complete

A Ganesh Pooja is specific to Ganesh worship. The recital of the above Santi-Paath during a Ganesh worship signifies that we understand that:

  • Ganesh is a Vibhuti or a specific Representation of the Complete, All-Encompassing Lord of the entire Universe, and
  • embedded in our worship of Ganesh is our worship of that Nir-Gun, Nir-Aakaar Supreme Entity, sometimes called Brahma, Param-Atman or simply Isha, the Ruler or Lord. 

In other words, worship of a specific Vibhuti such as Ganesh, Shankar, Durga or Vyankatesh reaches each and every Vibhuti that together form the Nir-Gun, Nir-Aakaar Supreme Entity that rules the universe.

The concept of Vibhuti or Representation of the Supreme Entity is the Foundation and the Origin of the Concept of Many Gods.  Shree Krishna taught Arjun this concept in Chapter 10 of the Bhagvat Geeta which is titled Vibhuti Yog:

  • “There is no end (न अन्तः अस्ति)  to my Divine Representations (मम दिव्यानां विभूतीनां) [Line 1, Verse 40, Chapter 10]….. Just know (विष्टभ्यां) that by just one part of me (एक अंशेन), I have occupied this Universe.(अहं इदं कृत्स्नं स्तिथः जगत) [Line 2, Verse 42, Chapter 10]“.

The link between a Sa-Gun, Sa-Aakaar Vibhuti such as Ganesh and the Infinite Completeness of the Nir-Gun, Nir-Aakaar Brahma or Param-Atman is symbolized by the Santi-Paath of the Isa-UpaNiSad.

This is why this Santi-Paath is recited at the beginning and the end of every Pooja.

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