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Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 46


VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal


D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.

 

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16. “TAT TVAM ASI”

I - The purport or tätparya of the çästra

There are two ways of looking at the wave and the ocean. The first one is that the wave is born from the ocean, is sustained by the ocean and goes back to the ocean. This is the created-creator relationship as in the case of the jéva and Éçvara and we looked into its implications in the preceding chapter. The second way of looking at the wave and the ocean is to see them both as water. This vision transforms the entire situation. Now, as water, despite the obvious differences between the wave and the ocean, they are essentially the same, as both consist of water. A similar vision is revealed about the jéva and Éçvara by the Upaniñads through the statements that they are essentially one and the same Brahman. Such statements revealing jéva-éçvara-aikyam are called mahäväkyas and they are numerous. Tradition highlights one among them from each Veda. They are:

 

Åg Veda  Aitareya Upaniñad, 3.1.3.  Prajïänaà brahma - Consciousness is Brahman
Yajur Veda  Båhadäraëyaka Up, 1.4.10  Ahaà brahmäsmi - I am Brahman
Säma Veda  Chändogya Up, 6.8.7 Tat tvam asi - You are That
Atharvaëa Veda  Mänòukya Up, 2 Ayam ätmä brahma - This self is Brahman

 

 The mahäväkyas contain the crucial truth conveyed by the Upaniñads. This conclusion has been arrived at by the application of six indicators (ñaò-tätparya-liìgas) that the çästra gives to arrive at the central meaning of any text. They are as follows.

 

(i) Upakrama (the beginning) and upasaàhära (the end): Any text invariably begins with a statement of the subject matter that it is going to deal with. Similarly, the text ends with the conclusion that it has reached about the subject matter. Therefore, what is dealt with both in the beginning and at the end of the text constitutes the theme of the text. Applying this principle to the sixth chapter of Chändogya Upaniñad, we find that in the beginning, Uddälaka asks his son Çvetaketu: “Did you ask for that knowledge gaining which everything is gained, that is, what is not heard of becomes heard, what is not thought of becomes thought of and what is not known becomes known?" [293] From this, we understand that there is a vastu by knowing which everything is as good as known. That means there is only one vastu. Otherwise, by knowing one thing, everything cannot be known. At the end of the chapter, the concluding statement is: “This sat is the ätmä of all this. That is the ultimate reality. That is ätmä. You are that.” [294] The çruti reveals that ätmä and the sad-vastu are the same and that it is only one vastu. So, both the beginning and the end reveal the non-dual reality as the central subject matter of the çästra.

 

(ii) Abhyäsa (repetition): While the central subject matter appears at the beginning and at the end of the text, it is also repeatedly dealt with in the body of the text. What is being explained repeatedly from different angles is the central theme. It is the revelation that the self and Brahman without a second are one and the same that recur in the text. As regards Chändogya Upaniñad, the mahäväkya, tat tvam asi, occurs nine times in it establishing its validity from nine standpoints leaving no doubt about what it wants to reveal.

 

(iii) Apürvatä (uniqueness): The main theme of the text is naturally that unique knowledge which is revealed only by this text and not by any other. It is only through Vedänta that we know that there is Brahman and that ätmä is Brahman. Even the karma-käëda of Veda does not reveal this knowledge. The central theme is naturally this fact, which no other means of knowledge gives.

 

(iv) Phalam (the fruit or benefit): Veda reveals only such information as would confer some benefit. This being so, the central theme is that which confers the maximum benefit. The unique result of the mahä-väkya, which is specifically mentioned in the text, is that through this knowledge, everything becomes as well as known. More significantly, every Upaniñad [295] after revealing the self as Brahman mentions its unique phalam as attainment of the infinite or mokña. The central theme is naturally this jïäna that one seeks for gaining mokña.

 

(v) Arthaväda (glorification and condemnation for emphasis): It is the central theme, which is glorified in the text, and that which is contrary to it is condemned. There is glorification of brahmajïäna by saying that everything becomes known by knowing it. This is exaggeration as it is not that everything is known in detail when Brahman is known; everything is only as good as known. Similarly, when çruti says that if this knowledge is not gained, there is great destruction [296], it is condemnation of ajïäna, as ignorance results only in saàsära and not in destruction. Brahmajïäna is the subject of glorification and brahma-ajïäna is what is condemned. These are pointers to the central theme being brahma-jïäna.

 

(vi) Upapatti (intelligibility in the light of reasoning): It is the central theme that is explained in detail with the support of reasoning so that it may carry conviction. The reasoning in Chändogya Upaniñad [297] is that the cause alone is real, while its products known by different names are merely words. The first example cited is the pot made of clay, which we had seen in detail earlier. Like the pot, the entire manifestation is the kärya and like the clay, Brahman is the käraëam. Only käraëam Brahman has independent existence and not the kärya. Here, it is the reality of Brahman and the existence of only one vastu that is logically explained. What is to be known and what is explained through reasoning (upapatti) is Brahman and the jéva-éçvara-aikyam is the direct result of Brahman knowledge.

 

Through these six-indicators, we conclude that the intention of the çruti is to reveal that which cannot be known by any other means, namely, the vastu by which the ignorance of ätmä is dropped and the ultimate goal of freedom from limitation, which is mokña, is gained.

293. Tamädeçamapräkñyaù yena açrutaà çrutaà bhavati, amataà matamavijïätaà vijïätamiti (6.1.2. and 3.)
294. Aitadätmyamidaà sarvaà tatsatyaà sa ätmä tattvamasi, 6.16.3.
295. Taittiréya Upaniñad, 2. 1; Muëḍaka Upaniñad, 3.2.9; Båhadäraëyaka Upaniñad, 1.4.9, 4.4.23; Chändogya Upaniñad, 7.1.3.
296. Na cedihävedénmahaté vinañöiù (Kena Upaniñad, 2.5.)
297. Vacärambhaëaà vikäro nämadheyaà måttikä-iti-eva satyam| (6.1.4.).

To be continued...

 

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