Part XXVI - Determinate and indeterminate
perceptions (part 2)
Q. 'Thou art That' is a verbal instructional statement.
In any verbal communication, in order for knowledge
to take place, one has to understand the relationship
between the words, and this is implied by the sentence
structure. In Sanskrit, the declensions of the words
provide immediate relationships. The subject together
with its qualifications, and the object together with
its qualifications, are related by the action verb.
When the relationships between the words are obvious,
how can the verbal communication be indeterminate?
A. VP says that, in order to understand the intended
meaning of a sentence, the relationships between words
alone is not sufficient. There are simple sentences,
where the direct meaning is obvious and makes sense.
In this case, the verbal communication, together with
the word relationships, provide the direct meaning.
Take, for example, the sentence: 'Rama is Dhasaratha's
son'. Here, the meaning is straightforward and can be
obtained from the word relationship. In the statements
'This is that Devadatta' or 'That Thou art', however,
the direct meaning obtained by using the relationship
between the words does not make sense. One has to look
elsewhere for the intended meaning. In such cases, if
one only considers the relationships between the words
without understanding the proper context in which the
statement is made, there is every possibility that the
meaning will not be reached. Take for example a cricketer
saying to his friend, 'please bring me a bat'. Looking
at the sentence and observing the word meaning and the
relationship between the words, if his friend brings
him a winged, nocturnal mammal, he may have obeyed the
request correctly but he will have missed the intended
Contextual understanding is very important in verbal
communication. In the statement 'this is that Devadatta',
in order to understand the sentence, one has to have
prior knowledge of ‘that Devadatta’; otherwise
the intended identity of ‘this Devadatta’ and ‘that
Devadatta’ is not understood. If one has no prior
knowledge of ‘that Devadatta’, 'this is
that Devadatta' would not make any sense.
In the case of the sentence 'Thou art That', the verbal
instructional statement by a teacher to his student
comes after many passages starting with the preposition
that 'by knowing one thing, everything else is as though
known – eka vij~nAnena sarva vij~nAnam bhavati'.
In particular, by knowing the material cause, all the
effects produced by that cause are known. This is similar
to saying that, by knowing gold, all the ornaments made
of gold are 'as though' known, since all those ornaments
are nothing but gold alone with different names and
forms. In extending this application, the teacher first
establishes that the material cause for the entire universe
is existence (Brahman), alone. Hence the teacher says:
'this universe, my dear, was but existence alone in
the beginning'. Thus, existence is the material cause
for the universe in the same way that gold is the material
cause for ornaments. The whole world is nothing but
existence alone but with the different names and forms
being perceived as objects. Hence, if we know that 'Existence',
then everything in the universe is as good as known.
Now the question arises, where is that ‘existence’ for
us to know? The teaching terminates with the instructional
statements: ‘that is the truth, that is real,
and that is the self. Thou art That O Svetaketu.’ Hence
the intended purport of 'That' in the sentence is Brahman,
the material cause for the universe, and it is of the
nature of pure consciousness-existence. 'That' Brahman
This intended meaning relies on our correct understanding
of the meaning of 'That'. In addition, the context of
'Thou' also has to be understood. If contextually 'That'
includes the substantive of all this universe of names
and forms, which includes the subtle as well as gross
bodies as the teacher explains, then 'Thou' that stands
for ‘self’ or ‘Atma’ which appears
to be different from the universe of names and forms.
The sentence 'Thou art That' equates these two apparently
dissimilar entities. Hence to make sense of this equation,
one has to drop all dissimilarities or contradictory
qualifications of 'That' and 'Thou' and equate the essence
of both. This process is known as bhAga tyAga lakShaNa
- renouncing the unnecessary or superficial parts of
both and equating only the substantial parts. Since
the intended meaning of the sentence has to be understood
rather than the direct meaning, it is called indeterminate
VP quotes a shloka from tattva pradIpikA of chitsukhi
AchArya, which states that, in the sentences that convey
identity relations, one has to take the substantive
meanings for the words rather than the superficial meanings
in order to be able to recognize or realize the identity
that is conveyed by those sentences. In the sentence
'this is that Devadatta', the identity of ‘this’ Devadatta
and ‘that’ Devadatta is implied in the sentence.
Based on chitsukhi's statement, we recognize that we
need to equate the substantiality of this Devadatta
and that Devadatta and not the superficial attributive
qualities. The identity is therefore only with respect
to the essence of this and that Devadatta and
not to the external changing non-substantive qualities.
Within vyavahAra, the essence of both this Devadatta
and that Devadatta is the same and is changeless in
spite of the changing BMI with age. Similarly, identity
is implied in the relation 'Thou art That'. The substantiality
of both 'Thou' as well as 'That' is 'existence-consciousness'
and therefore the identity is only with respect to the
substantives and not with respect to the changing attributes.
Recognition of the identity is prevented until one can
strip out the contradictory qualifications of 'Thou'
and 'That'. In the case of 'this is that Devadatta',
the stripping process is easier since Devadatta is an
external object. In the case of 'Thou art That', the
stripping out of the qualifications is difficult due
to our deep-rooted and habitual association of the attributes
with the locus. Hence, the indeterminacy in all verbal
statements involving identity comes about as a result
of the difficulties in overlooking the obvious differences
in attributes so that we may recognize the identity
in the substantives.
Proceed to the next