Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 47

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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II - The direct meaning or väcyärtha of “tat tvam asi

Among the numerous mahäväkyas that the Upaniñads contain, we may go into the mahäväkya, “tat tvam asi”. This sentence contains two pronouns “tat”, which means “that” and “tvam”, which means “you” and the verb “asi”, which means “are”. The words “tat” and “tvam” are both in the nominative case and have the same locus. They are in grammatical apposition [298].


The appositional usage of words serves several purposes [299]. In this statement, these words with different meanings indicate their oneness. They are like the thousand nouns in Viñëu Sahasranäma that reveal one Viñëu only. Thus, “tat” and “tvam” connected by the word “asi” refer to the same entity.


As regards what these two pronouns stand for, the statement containing them is made by guru Uddälaka to his son Çvetaketu while revealing the vastu by knowing which everything is as well as known. He gives many examples. One of them is that by knowing clay, all the products of clay are known. In other words, by knowing the cause, we know all its effects. So, what is to be known and referred to by tat is the käraëam of the jagat or the jagat-käraëam. A doubt may arise as to whether it means satyaà jïänamanantaà brahma or whether it refers to Éçvara, which is Brahman in mäyä-upädhi.


The development of the theme of the actual process of manifestation indicates that “tat” has to be taken as Éçvara that functions at the transactional level and not Brahman of the non-relative level. As for the pronoun “tvam”, since Uddälaka is addressing Çvetaketu, for the dramatic culmination in the mahäväkyatat tvam asi”, “tvam” is the jéva. So, “tat” and ‘tvam” in the equation mean Éçvara and jéva, respectively.


Even though Veda says so, it is very difficult to accept this statement to the effect that jéva and Éçvara are the very same. While jéva is self-evident, Éçvara is unperceived. They have diametrically opposite qualities since the jéva is limited in every sense while Éçvara, which is the cause of the entire jagat, is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. In fact, they are different like the servant and his king. Therefore, we cannot tell the jéva that he is Éçvara. It is not that çruti is not aware of the disparity between the two. In fact, it is providing the equation only because they are the same even though their apparent difference is very patent. Obviously, when çruti reveals that they are one and the same, it would not be referring to the direct or primary meaning [300] of jéva and Éçvara but only to their implied or intended meaning [301].

III - The methods of deriving the implied meaning or lakñyärtha

As regards deriving the implied or intended meaning of any word, çästra provides three indicators (lakñaëäs) for the purpose. They are explained below.


(i) In jahad-lakñaëä, the direct meaning of the word is given up and its implied meaning which is appropriate is substituted to make the statement sensible. For example, in the sentence “The village is on the Gaìgä[302], the direct meaning of the word “Gaìgä” is the river by that name. As the village cannot be situated on the flowing waters of the river, this word could not have been used in that sense. So, the direct meaning as the river is given up and its implied meaning is taken to arrive at the purport of the statement. The implied meaning of the word Gaìgä that is adopted is the bank of that river. By doing so, the sentence is taken to mean that the village is on the bank of the river Gaìgä.


(ii) In ajahad-lakñaëä, the direct meaning of the word is fully accepted and its implied sense, which is appropriate, is added to the direct meaning to make the statement meaningful. For example, in the sentence “the red is running” [303], the direct meaning of “red” is obviously incomplete, as the color red cannot run. So, for understanding what it means, it is taken to include not only its direct meaning, “red” but also what “red” indicates. Contextually, it is taken to mean 'the red horse' and the sentence is taken to mean that the red horse is running.


(iii) In jahad-ajahad-lakñaëä [304], there is both selective partial acceptance and partial rejection of the direct meaning. In other words, it consists of partial ajahad-lakñaëä and partial jahad-lakñaëä. Hence, it is called jahad-ajahad-lakñaëä. What is accepted is the compatible part of the direct meaning and what is given up is its incompatible part. For example, we see Devadatta and tell our friend, who is seeing him after very many years, “This is that Devadatta” [305]. This statement has internal contradiction since ‘this’ indicates present place, time and characteristics while ‘that’ indicates past place, time and characteristics. But, both ‘this’ and ‘that’ and the differing place, time and attributes pertain to the same Devadatta. Devadatta being the same, the statement becomes meaningful only when the differences are excluded, and the substantive Devadatta is retained. Therefore, the differing qualities of the present and earlier Devadatta, which are impermanent, and the differences in the place and time of seeing him now and earlier, which are contexts, are given up. Only the continuing identity of the person Devadatta, which is permanent, is accepted for recognising Devadatta. What are dropped can be given up, as they are the changing entities, namely, the attributes of Devadatta and the place and time of seeing Devadatta. What is retained has to be accepted, as it is the unchanging identity of Devadatta.


298. The relationship between words having the same locus is called sämänädhikaraëyam. Samäna means the same and adhikaraëa means the base.
299. There are 16 types. In tat tvam asi, aikya-sämänädhikaraëyam is used to indicate the oneness of tat and tvam. In ayam sarpaù rajjuù| (this serpent is a rope), it is bhädhäyam-sämänädhikaraëyam for negation of the serpent as rope. In nélaà mahat sugandhi utpalam (blue, big, fragrant lily), it is viçeñaëa-sämänädhikaraëyam where the words serve as adjectives.
300. Väcyärtha.
301. Lakñyärtha.
302. Gaìgäyäà ghoñaù.
303. Çoëo dhävati|.
Since there is giving up of the contradictory part, it is also called bhäga-tyäga-lakñaëä.
305. Soyaà devadattaù|

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