Concept of Oneness in the Upanishads (study)

by Chandra Shekhar Upadhyaya | 2015 | 52,584 words

This page relates ‘Meaning of Oneness’ of the study dealing with the Concept of Oneness in the Upanishads—Spiritual teachings of ancient India in the form of Sanskrit literature. The Upanisads teach us the essential oneness of humanity and guide us to the truth that the whole world is a family.This concept of oneness is the very essence of spiritualism, which constitutes the solid structure of Indian culture.

Meaning of Oneness

The term oneness represents the fact singularity or uniqueness. It means the quality of being united into one. The world which is full of versatility and diversity has been run and looked after by the one ad only being. There is no difference with one and another. This is the actual concept and definition of oneness.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English lays down the meaning of oneness as—

“The state of being completely united with some body / some thing, or of being in complete agreement with somebody: a sense of oneness with the natural world.”[1]

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning of oneness as–

“(1) The state of being unified, whole, or in harmony (2) The state of being one in number.”[2]

The practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary indicates the meaning of oneness as–

“(1) Non avality, identity; especially that of Brahma with the universe or with the soul, or of soul and matter; (2) The supreme or highest truth or Brahman itself.”[3]

The Pronouncing Anglo Assamese Dictionary suggests the meaning of oneness as–

“Singleness, unity or being one.”[4]

The Chambers 20th Century Dictionary tells the meaning of oneness as—

“Singleness uniqueness, identity, unity: homogeneity, sameness.”[5]

In this world, we can see diversity and variety everywhere. For example, there are many kinds of trees and so there is difference in fruits, flowers and leaves, even in its smell and taste. There is diversity among birds and animals also. There are different types of land forms, rivers and natural objects on this earth. The diversity is also present in human beings having different colour, look, physical-structure, taste, interest, behaviour, nature and intellectual quality. But inspite of these diversities, there is uniqueness among the people. The ancient sages knew about these diversities and they also felt that it would be very dangerous for the mankind.

Therefore, they also discovered the divine feeling of oneness widely present among the people in the world,

ekaṃ sad viprā bahudhā vadanti[6]

[Trans: Reality is one and only, but the wise call him by many names.]

eka eva namasyaḥ suśevāḥ[7]

[Trans: The one reality which is non dual and which is the distributor of true happiness and bliss is to be adored by all.]

It means that the one and only divine reality is constantly working among the people. The Vedic sages discovered the reality and they came to know that every small part has been properly controlled by the one and only reality. Without him nothing is possible. The sages announced that the only one reality prevails among each object of this universe. The Upaniṣadic sages also discovered the fact of oneness and declared that only one divine soul is present everywhere. People call him by different names.

But reality is one and this reality united the people. The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad states:

eko devaḥ sarvabhūteṣu gūḍhaḥ sarvavyāpī sarvabhūtāntarātmā /’[8]

[Trans: Only one divine soul prevails among all the creatures.]

The Bṛhadṛāraṇyaka Upaniṣad says:

esa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ[9]

[Trans: The divine soul which is present in me, the same is also present in every one.]

The Praśna Upaniṣad asserts about the concept of oneness thus:

sa yathā somya vayāṃsi vāsovṛkṣaṃ saṃpratiṣṭhante evaṃ ha vai tatsarvaṃ para ātmani saṃpratiṣṭhate /’[10]

[Trans: O beloved one, just as birds settle themselves on the trees, their abode, similarly all this is established in the Supreme Self.][11]

In Śrimadbhagavadgītā, Śri Kriṣṇa says to Arjuna:

vidyāvinayasampanne brāhmaṇe gabi hastini/
śuni caiva śvapāke ca paṇḍitāḥ samadarśinaḥ//’[12]

[Trans: The wise look with equanimity on all whether it be a Brāhmaṇa endowed with learning and culture, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a pariah too.][13]


mattaḥ parataraṃ nānyatkiñcidasti dhanañjaya/
mayi sarvamidaṃ protaṃ sūtre maṇigaṇā iva

[Trans: There is nothing else besides Me, Arjuna. Like clusters of yarn-beads formed by knots on a thread, all this is threaded on Me.][15]


jyotiṣāmapi tajjyotistamasaḥ paramuchyate/
jñanaṃ jñeyaṃ jñānagamyaṃ hṛdi sarvasya viṣṭhitam//’[16]

[Trans: The Supreme Reality, which is beyond māyā (ajñāna) is said to be light of all lights. That Supreme Reality is knowledge itself, worth knowing and it is attainable through knowledge which is sitting in the hearts of all beings.]


yathā prakāśayatyekaḥ kṛtsnaṃ lokamimaṃ raviḥ/
kṣetraṃ kṣetrī tathā kṛtsnaṃ prakāśayati bhārata//’[17]

[Trans: O Bharata, this whole universe is illumined by the Sun, who is one and only; in the same way one Ātman (i.e., Supreme Reality) illumines the whole kṣetra, i.e., all the things and beings in this universe.]

Śri Kṛṣṇa again and again establishes himself as the Universal Self in Śrimadbhagavadgītā. He is seated in the heart of every beings. He is alone the beginning, middle and the end of all beings. In this way reality is one without a second whether it is known as Brahman or Prajāpati or Vāsudeva or Kṛṣṇa. The omnipresent and almighty divine soul is the breath of breath. He is nondual and prevails among every one.

That is why, the Atharvaveda suggests:

sa eṣa eka eka bṛdeka eva[18]

[Trans: The divine soul which is present among every creatures is one without a second.]

The Atharvaveda again states:

ete asmin devā eka vṛto bhavanti[19]

[Trans: Though we worship different gods and goddesses, we worship the one and only divine soul.]

The Atharvaveda again proclaims regarding the concept of nondual reality thus:

ya eta devamekavrataṃ veda na dvitīyo na tṛtīyaścaturtho napyucyate/
na pañcamo na ṣaṣṭaḥ saptamo nāpyucyate nāstamo na navamo daśamo napyucyate//’[20]

[Trans: There is a single reality who pervades the whole universe. One who knows him as one without a second, he cannot say him as the couple, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten in numbers.]

One who knows the fact of oneness always considers the divine soul as one without a second. He is present everywhere and in every human beings in various forms.

That is why, Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Śrimad-bhagavad-gītā:

sarvabhūteṣu yenaikaṃ bhāvaṃavyayamīkṣate/’[21]

[Trans: The divine Soul is equally present in every one]

The Supreme Being is equally present in every one whether he is black or white, priest or wise, or foolish, king or beggar. Everyone should consider each and everyone equal because one who sees each and everyone equally, he actually realises the real nature of the Supreme.[22]

In this way, there is no any difference between the soul of creatures and the Supreme Soul. The individual soul and Supreme Soul are equal and one.

The discovery of this fact will help the people to live happily and peacefully. In the Nāmaghoṣā, Mādhavdeva explains very beautifully this concept of non dualism:

jihetu caitanya pūrṇa paramātmā rūpe hari hṛdayata āsanta prakāśi /
tātese indriyagaṇa bhūta prāṇa buddhi mana pravarte jateka jaḍarāśi //’[23]

[Trans: As Hari, who is Paramātmā, full of consciousness is present in the core of heart of all beings; so the senses, the living beings, the vital energy (prāṇa), intelligence, mind and other immobile things are manifested from Him.]


eke khāni mātra niṣṭhaśāstra daivakī nandane kailā jāka devo ekamātra davakī devīr suta /
daivakī putrar padasevā karmo eko ehimānemātra mantro eka tāna nāma mātra adbhūta //’[24]

[Trans: There is only one excellent scripture, the glory of which has been spoken by the son of Daivakī, there is only one devaḥ, i.e., Reality, which is none but Kṛṣṇa itself, there is only one duty, the worship of the feet of the son of Daivakī and there is only one mantra, His mysterious name.]

We see the existing beings in this universe different from each other because of our ignorance. In reality there is no difference among all the existing beings and we all are parts of that Supreme Being.

The following mantras of different Śtruti, Smṛti, Purāṇa, Upaniṣad and other valuable scriptures prove the concept of oneness in all the creations:

(i) ‘īśāvāsyamīdaṃ sarvaṃ yatkiṃca jagatyāṃ jagat /’[25]

[Trans: The whole universe surrounding us, is pervaded by Īśa, i.e, Īśvara (Ultimate Reality.)]

(ii) ‘sarvaṃ khalvidaṃ brahma[26]

[Trans: This whole universe is Brahman and nothing else.]

(iii) ‘sadeva somyedamagra āsīdekamevādvitīyam /’[27]

[Trans: My dear Śvetaketu, in the beginning this world was just being, i.e., sat, one only without a second.]

(iv) ‘vāsudevaḥ sarvam[28]

[Trans: In this whole universe there is only one reality which is known as

Vāsudeva and there is no place for a second.]

(v) ‘sadasaccāhamarjuna[29]

[Trans:I am both being and non being my dear Arjuna.]

(vi) ‘brahmaivedaṃ viśvamidam[30]

[Trans: This whole universe is nothing but Brahman itself.]

(vii) ‘neha nānāsti kiṃcana[31]

[Trans: In this reality, which is nondual, there is no variety here.]

(vii) ‘tadaikṣata bahu syāṃ prajāyeyeti[32]

[Trans: It (this Reality) thought may I be many, may I grow forth.][33]

(ix) ‘eko’pi san bahudhā yo vibhāti[34]

[Trans: Being one He manifests himself as many.]

(x) ‘so’ kāmayata bahu syāṃ prajāyeyeti[35]

[Trans: This ultimate reality thought; I must apparent in divergent forms and names; I may become many.]

(xi) ‘yatsākṣādaparokṣād brahma[36]

[Trans: Please tell me the nature of Brahman which is present in every where and which is unknowable by our sense organs.]

(xii) ‘ahaṃ brahmāsmīti[37]

[Trans: I am Brahman.]

(xiii) ‘ayamātmā brahma[38]

[Trans: This self is Brahman.]

(xiv) ‘tattvamasi[39]

[Trans: That art thou Śevetaketu.]

(xv) ‘ahamādiśca madhyaṃ ca bhūtānāmanta eva ca/’[40]

[Trans: O Arjuna, I am the beginning, middle and the end of all beings.]

(xvi) ‘sargāṇāmādirantaśca madhyaṃ caivāhamarjuna/’[41]

[Trans: I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all creations.]

(xvii) ‘yāni mūrttānyamūrttāni yānyatrānyatra vā kvacit/
santi vai vastujātāni tāni sarvāṇi tadvapuḥ//’[42]

[Trans: The existing, non-existing and the other things, surrounding us are none but the reality, i.e., Hari itself.]

(xviii) ‘sarvagatvādanantasya sa evāhamavasthitaḥ/
mattaḥ sarvamahaṃ sarvaṃ mayi sarvaṃ sanātane//’[43]

[Trans: The all pervading reality, is omnipresent and existing as the self of all beings, He controls everything and He is all in all.]

(xix) ‘ātmaivedaṃ sarvamiti[44]

[Trans: Verily this Ātman is all this.]

(xx) ‘tataḥ paraṃ brahmaparaṃ bṛhantaṃ yathānikāyaṃ sarvabhūteṣu gūḍham/
viśvasyaikaṃ pariveṣṭitāramīśaṃ taṃ jñātvāmṛtā’ bhavanti//’[45]

[Trans: Parameśvara is above all. This all pervading reality is hidden in all mortal beings according to their forms. Knowing him as one and only pervading reality in this whole universe, one can attain salvation or mọkṣa.]

(xxi) ‘na tadasti vinā yatsyānmayā bhūtaṃ carācaram/’[46]

[Trans: There is no creatures, conscious or unconscious, which exist without Me.]

(xxii) ‘eko vaśī sarvabhūtāntarātmā ekaṃ rūpaṃ bahudhā yaḥ koroti/’[47]

[Trans: The inner self of all beings, who is one without a second, is the controller of all things in this universe. He is one and only but his one and single entity alters into multifarious.]

(xxiii) ‘ahamevāsamevāgre nānyad yatsadasat param/
paścādahaṃ yadetacca yo’ vaśiṣyeta so’ smyaham//’[48]

[Trans: I was alone even before creation; there was nothing apart from me, I am alone whatever is being seen after creation, Whatever is Sat (real), Asat (unreal) and whatsoever is beyond Sat and Asat, all this is Myself alone. I am alone even after creation and I am alone whatever remains after the destruction of all this.][49]

(xxiv) ‘puruṣa evedaṃ sarvaṃ yadbhūtaṃ yacca bhavyam/ utāmṛtatvasyeśāno yadannenātirohati//’[50]

[Trans: Puruṣa (Brahman) is all this. The past, present and future entities of this whole universe is Brahman, which is the lord of mokṣa (immortality) and all the elements that grows up by food.]

(xxv) ‘jaḍa cetana jaga jīva jata sakala rāmamaya jāni/’[51]

[Trans: Know all the mobile and immobile beings as an appearance of Lord Rāma.]

(xxvi) ‘nija prabhumaya dekhahiṃ jagata kehi sana karahiṃ birodha/’[52]

[Trans:One, who sees the whole (universe) as the Ultimate Reality, in this state no one is enemy for him.]

(xxvii)‘yo māṃ paśyati sarvatra sarvaṃ ca mayi paśyati/ tasyāhaṃ na praṇaśyāmi sa ca me na praṇaśyati//’[53]

[Trans: One who sees me present in all beings and all beings in me, I always exist in him and he is also present in me.]

(xxviii) ‘ayaṃ hi sarvakalpānāṃ sadhrīcīno mato mama/ madbhāvaḥ sarvabhūteṣu manovākkāyavṛttibhiḥ//’[54] [Trans: According to My opinion, the best of all means to attain Me is that one should have the feeling that all beings and objects which he perceives with his mind, speech and body are My manifestations.][55]

(xxix) ‘bījaṃ māṃ sarvabhūtānāṃ viddhi pārtha sanātanam/’[56]

[Trans: O Arjuna, know Me as the everlasting seed of all existing and non existing beings.]

(xxx) ‘kukura caṇḍāla gardhabharo ātmā rāma/ jāniā sabāko paḍi karibā praṇāma//’[57]

[Trans: Realising the presence of the Ultimate Self, (i.e., Rāma) in the dogs, caṇḍala and donkey, people should pay homage to all the creatures.]

The world where we reside is inhabited by people of different religion, language and community. But the mother earth equally looks after all of them as her own child. The mother provides food, air, light, land equally to each and everyone. She takes care of her children till death and again accepts them.

That is why, it is stated in the Atharvavda:

mātā bhūmiḥ putro’haṃ pṛthivyā[58]

[Trans: Bhūmi, i.e., earth is our mother and we are her children.]

The creatures of this universe have been provided food, shelter, air, water by the mother earth and even our ancestors had received all these. She has been looking after all properly without any discrimination. So, she is our mother and we are her children. When a person accepts the fact that we are the children of the mother earth, his feelings as well as thinking changes and noble qualities like kindness, sympathy, gratitude, greatness develop in him. His heart fills up with divine feelings. The concept of the mother earth has created the feelings of brotherhood and unity among the people.

The Atharvaveda states:

janaṃ bibhratī bahudhā vivācasaṃ nānā dharmāṇaṃ pṛthivī yathaukasam/’[59]

[Trans: The mother earth equally looks after the people of different religion, caste and creed and serves them with different flavours of milk.]

Thus, the feeling that we are the same children of the mother earth will help people to live as the members of a family.

The sages of the Ṛgveda also say that those who consider the mother earth to be their mother are the real sons of the earth. That is why, we should not look down upon anyone and should work together for mankind. We should give up the feelings of jealousy, hatred, disbelief and should live unitedly helping each other.

The Ṛgveda states:

te ajyeṣṭhā akaniṣṭhāsa udbhido’madhyamāso mahasā vivāvṛdhuḥ/’[60]

[Trans: No one is superior or inferior among the sons of mother earth, each and every one is equal and they unitedly work for the larger good.]

Thus, reality is one only and we are the creation of same reality. Therefore, we are same and one. That is why, Sivananda suggests that: “All life is one. The world is one home. All are members of one human family. All creation is an organic whole. No man is independent of this whole. Man makes himself miserable by separating himself from others. Separation is death. Unity is eternal life…”[61] Mahatma Gandhi also says, “All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family…”[62] Papa Ramdas suggests, “There is only one power that is active in every one of us and that is God… It is the one power that pervades the whole universe that is responsible for all activities and movements in the universe…”[63] Vimala Thakar says in this regard, “You are the prison-house, you are the prisoner and you are the one who imprisons yourself…”[64] According to Ramakrishna, “In reality there are not two there is only one…”[65] According to Samkarācārya, “There are two phases of the universe: one is “I” and the other “thou” and they are as contrary as light and darkness. So it goes without saying that neither can be derived from the other. On the subject, the object has been superimposed; the subject is the only reality, the other a mere appearance. The opposite view is untenable. Matter and the external world are but certain states of the Soul; in reality there is only one.”[66] Swami Vivekananda says, “If the Atman is unchangeable, It must be perfect; if perfect, It must be infinite; and if infinite, It must be only One–there cannot be two infinites. So the Atman, the Self, can be only One. Though It seems to be various, It is really One. If a man were to go towards the sun, at every step he would see a different sun, and yet it would be the same sun after all.”[67]

In this way, the power of the concept of oneness help the people of different religion caste, creed, community and language to live unitedly. The final destination of every community is to discover the real truth and to get the universal peace. Therefore, the concept of oneness helps every people to achieve the universal peace.

People of different religions live on this earth. One may follow any religion, but, the Reality is one and without Him there is nothing in this world. That is why, the root of every religion is same. Some people consider Viṣṇu to be the Ultimate Reality, some other Śiva, but there is no difference between Viṣṇu and Śiva. Whom the Śaivas call Śiva, the Vedāntins call him Brahman; the Nyāya philosophers call him Kartā and whom the Buddhist people call Buddha, are all same and one. Wise people explain in different ways about the Supreme Power behind the creation of this world. But, there is no difference among the powers. The supreme power is one and only.

Kālidāsa, the great poet, says in this regard:

bahudhā’pyāgamairbhinnāḥ panthānaḥ siddhihetavaḥ/ tvayyeva nipatḁntyoghā jānhavīyā ivārṇave//’[68]

[Trans: The way the flow of Ganga finally reach the ocean; so, the aim of everyone is to find out Lord Viṣṇu.]

The Yajurveda shows the concept of oneness through Rudra, present in all the living and non-living objects of this universe:

namastakṣabhyo rathakārebhyaśca vo namo namaḥ kulālebhyaḥ karmārebhyaśca vo namo namo niṣādebhyaḥ puñjiṣṭhebhyaśca vo namo namaḥ śvanibhyo mṛgayubhyaśca vo namaḥ//’[69]

[Trans: Salute to Rudra; who manifests himself in the forms of artisans, chariotmakers, potters, black smiths, hunters (who roam in the forests and mountains), fowlers (who kill birds) and salute to that Rudra, who holds the rope tied in the neck of the dogs and Rudra in the form of hunters aiming at the deer.]

Thus, the sages of Yajurveda do not keep any difference between beings and non-beings, and consider all as Rudra (the Ultimate Reality of this whole universe). Rudra-sūkta plays a vital role in uniting the people. Millions of Indians established themselves with all parts of the creations during the time of Rudraviṣeka.

The lack of understanding the concept of oneness has resulted in wars and sufferings. The reason behind such wars, killings, conflicts, etc., is due to the fact that we have failed to consider that we are all the children of the same reality. We have failed to discover the reality because of the wars and problems. When the feeling of unity is realised, peace and harmony prevails in the society.

The feeling of kindness and oneness will surely bring peace and harmony among the people. In this present world no one can be ruled by force and punishment, but the heart of every one may be won by love and affection. The concept of oneness may be understood better when we will have the knowledge of the fact that the earth has been looked after by the one and only Reality, i.e., Brahman. He is present in the soul of all living beings. Therefore, we are all His children and there is no difference among us. We are the children of the same Reality regarding of caste, colour and religion. This feeling will bring peace and prosperity among us. Then everyone will live peacefully and a beautiful world will be formed.

In this way, the concept of oneness will foster the feeling of brotherhood and kindness among the people. This concept gives birth to the idea of world peace and the world itself becomes the home of everyone, ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’.[70] When the qualities of love, kindness, service, sacrifice will develop in all human beings, we will feel sorry for the miserable condition of others. We will try to console others because their sufferings also give us pain.

Thus, the concept of oneness is the main source behind Indian culture and philosophy. Without it the whole philosophy is nothing, lifeless and meaningless.

Footnotes and references:


Wehmeier, Sally., [et al], Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English , p.1060


Soanes, Catherine., [et al], Concise Oxford English Dictionary , p.999


Apte Shivram, Vaman., The Practical Sanskrit English Dictionary , p. 41


Bhattacharjee, Buddhindranath., The Pronouncing Anglo Assamese Dictionary , p.538


Kirkpatrick, E.M., [et al], Chambers 20th Century Dictionary , p.883


Ṛgveda , I.164.46


Atharvaveda , II.2.2


Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad ,VI.11


Praśna Upaniṣad ,IV.7


English translation from Mahadevan, T.M.P., U, p.82


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā , V.18


Eng. Trans from Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā , Gitapress Gorakhpur., p.74


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā ,VII.7


English translation from Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā , Gitapress Gorakhpur., p.91


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā ,XIII.18




Atharvaveda , XIII.4.12


Ibid., XIII.4.13


Ibid., XIII. 5. 15-19


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā , XVIII.20


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā ,XIII.27


Nāmaghoṣā , 22


Ibid., 665


Ibid., VI.2.1


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā , VII.19




Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad , IV. 4. 19., Katha Upaniṣad , II. I.11


Chāndogya Upaniṣad , VI. 2.3


Eng.Trans.from Radhakrishnan, S., The Principal Upaniṣads , p.449


Gopāla Pūrvatāpanī Upaniṣad I.5


Taittirīya Upaniṣad , II.6


Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad ,III.4.1




Chāndogya Upaniṣad , VI.8.7


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā , X.20


Ibid., X.32


Ibid., I.19.85


Chāndogya Upaniṣad ,VII.25. 2


Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad ,III. 7


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā , X.39


Katha Upaniṣad ,II.2.12


English translation from Ramsukedas, Swami., All is God , p.81


Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad III.15


Śrī Rāmcarita Mānas (Bālakāṇḍa)., 7 (ga)


Ibid., (Uttarakāṇḍa)., 112 (kha)


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā , VI.30


Śrīmadbhāgavata (Bhāgavata-Purāṇa) ,XI.29.19


English translation from Ramsukhedas, Swami., All is God , pp.89-90


Śrīmad-bhagavad-gītā ,VII.10


Kirtan Ghosha (Śri Kṛṣṇar Vaikuṇṭha Prayāṇa), 40


Atharvaveda , XII.1.12


Atharvaveda ,XII.1.45


Ṛgveda ,V.59.6


Segal, Rupali [et al], Essence of Spiritual Wisdom , p.101


Ibid., p.102


Segal, Rupali [et al], Essence of Spiritual Wisdom , p.102






Vivekananda, S., Inspired Talks , Sri Ramakrishna Math., p.83


Ibid., pp.183-84


Raghuvaṃśa ,X.26


Yajurveda (Rudra-sūkta)., 27

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