Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

The Knower of Brahman becomes Brahman
Dr. Kuntimaddi Sadananda (ed. Dennis Waite)

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Dr. Kuntimaddi Sadananda


Read Dr. Sadananda's other discourses.


(From a post to the Advaitin Egroup, Feb 2009)

In our normal parlance, the knower is different from the known - the subject object distinction is clear; duality is inherent in all objective knowledge. If I ‘know’ a table, the table that I know is different from the knower, I. By knowing the table, I cannot (in principle!) become a table.

But there is a declaration in the shruti that ‘the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman’. Brahman means infinite. First of all, we cannot know the infinite - if we could, the infinite would become finite, which would negate the infiniteness. Secondly, I cannot become the infinite – what is finite cannot become infinite; that is mathematically illogical.

Thus, there would seem to be a double illogicality in the statement: I cannot 'know' Brahman and I cannot 'become' Brahman. But, since the scripture says so and that is a means of knowledge, it implies that first of all, we have to drop the logic (laukika anumAna or worldly logic) in order to be able to appreciate the language of the Upanishad. For this, the help of teacher is needed.

Shankara explains that, if I am already infinite, ‘knower of Brahman’ involves realization of my true nature as sat chit Ananda. I must cease to take myself as 'this', which involves an equation of the conscious entity, I am, with the unconscious entity, 'this is'. We never seem to question this equation, since we are so used to accepting the presumed finitude of ‘I am’ than accepting its infinite nature.

Hence, when the scriptures point out that you are infinite, that knowledge involves recognition (re-cognition)that I am Brahman - and not this finite BMI that I usually take myself to be.

Hence, ‘becoming’ a knower of Brahman involves the realization of one true identity and a recognition of the error involved in the misapprehension that ‘I am =this ‘. Hence, ‘knowing Brahman’ is not objective knowledge like knowing the table but knowing myself.

Now if you look at the statement of the Upanishad, the obviousness of the statement immediately follows. The knower of Brahman becoming Brahman has nothing to do with the finite becoming infinite; it is the already-infinite 'as though' realizing its true nature. I do not ‘become’ Brahman, since I am already Brahman but subsequently I am not only Brahman but recognize the fact that I am. And it is not Brahman recognizing Brahman. The statement does not relate to Brahman but to the seeker who thinks he is a finite BMI. It is I, the individual or egotistical entity who mistook myself to be finite, who drops those notions of finiteness and subsequently recognizes my true nature.

Hence, the statement ‘brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati – he who knows brahman become brahman’ (Mu. U. 3.2.9) entails the recognition ‘aham brahmAsmi - I am Brahman’. That is the only way that the equation and the statement are fulfilled. That is how Vedanta teaches.

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