Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Tattvabodha - Part 22

Notes on Tattvabodha
Dr. Vishnu Bapat

Dr. Bapat (72) was the co-founder of an Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Industry and served as its Managing Director for 26 years until retirement. He is associated with several professional and spiritual bodies. He is now fully engaged in the study and practice of Vedanta.




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Enquiry into the statement, ‘That Thou Art'

46. You are “That”

तत् त्वम् असि

ननु साहंकारस्य किंचिज्ञ्यस्य जीवस्य निराहंकारस्य सर्वज्ञस्य

ईश्वरस्य तत्वमसीत महावाक्यात् कथमभेदबुद्धिः स्यादुभयॊः

विरुद्धधर्माक्रान्तत्वात् ।।

ननु – but साहंकारस्य – of one with ego किंचित् ज्ञानस्य – with limited knowledge जीवस्य – of the individual and निराहंकारस्य – of one without ego सर्वज्ञस्य – all knowing omniscient ईश्वरस्य – who is the lord तत् – that त्वम् – you असि – are इति महावाक्यात् – the greatest statement कथम् – how अभेदबुद्धिः – vision of non-difference स्यात् – is possible उभयोः – the two are विरुद्ध धर्म आक्रन्तत्वात् – endowed with opposite natures इति चेत् - if it is said so, the answer is‘No'.

But the individual is endowed with ego and his knowledge is limited; whereas the lord is without ego and omniscient. Then how can there be unity between them as stated in the great statement, “That Thou Art”? These two are possessed of contradictory characteristics.

ननु साहंकारस्य किंचित् ज्ञानस्य जीवस्य - but the jiva or individual is endowed with ego and his knowledge is limited (alpaj~na). Ego is identification with individual body, “I notion”. निराहंकारस्य सर्वज्ञस्य ईश्वरस्य – the Lord is devoid of ego and is all knowing (omniscient). He has no identification with any single body; no individuality. He is described as the creator, abiding everywhere, and of super strength (सर्वस्रुष्टिकर्ता, सर्वव्यापि, शक्तिमान्).

तत् त्वम् असि इति महावाक्यात् – How can there be identity as stated in the mahavakya of Upanishads, “thou are that”?

कथम् अभेदबुद्धिः स्यात् – how can be there be vision of dissimilarity between them, उभयोः विरुद्ध धर्म आक्रन्तत्वात् - the two being of opposite nature?

The previous sentence ended with an advice जीव ईश्वरयोः अभेदबुद्धिः न स्वीकार्या one should never differentiate between jiva and Ishwara. Now a question arises. How the individual and the great Lord could be the same? Swami Paramarthananda lists several differences between them. Here is a tabular form:


Ātmā (आत्मा)

Jiva (जीव)

Nature of consciousness (chaitanya svarUpa). Lender of consciousness to the body

Inert or insentient (jIva svarUpa). It is a borrower of chaitanya but never a lender.

Independent (AtmA svatantra)


Atma is attribute-less. (nirguNa)

Attributes and qualities are hallmark of matter. The five elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth have qualities of Shabda, Sparsha, Rupa, Rasa and Gandha. Jiva is saguNa.   

Atma is ever existent and beyond time (AtmA nitya kAla atIta). He has no beginning or end (anAdi), all pervading (AtmA sarvagata)


Jiva has a shelf life, he is limited.

Atma is one even though bodies are many. AtmA eka.

Jiva-s are many, as many as the individual bodies.


महावाक्य mahAvAkya - A great sentence. All sentences convey a direct or implied meaning. A great sentence or mahavakya is pithy in nature and conveys a meaning of immense philosophical importance showing the way to liberation.  There are four mahavakyas attached the four Vedas. Out of these, Tatvabodha has taken up the most popular one “That thou art,” tat tvam asi. The four mahavakya are:

. प्रज्ञानम् ब्रह्म – “Consciousness is Brahman”, Aitreya Upanishad   Rig Veda. This is called swarupa vakya or that explains the nature of Brahman or the self.

. अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म -  “I am this self”  Mandukya Upanishad   Atharva Veda.

. तत् त्वम् असि - “Thou art that” Chandogya Upanishad Sama Veda . This is an upadesha vakya.

. अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि - “I am Brahman”, “I am divine”  Brahadaranyaka Upanishad Yajur Veda. This is an anusandhana vakya


Of all these four mahavakyas, तत् त्वम् असि - “You are that” is famous. It was told by a teacher to his child student Shwetaketu and the child became illuminated. The next part will analyze the meaning of each of the three words of this mahavakya.


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