Author Topic: Analysis of the entire mahaavaakya 'tat tvam Acharya Sadanandaji  (Read 3256 times)


  • Administrator
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 32
    • View Profile

By Acharya Sadanandaji

tat tvam asi...Introduction

tat tvam asi- is a statement of identity. When I say X= X or Y = Y, they are identity statements alright, but they are trivial, since X cannot but be X; there is no new knowledge revealed in that statement. But If I say X = Y, then we are trying to equate two distinguishing entities that appear to be different. By the equation we learn that, in spite of their apparent differences, their essence is the same.  For example, when we say 2+4 = 12-6; we are saying that the value is essentially the same, even though the individual components are not identically equal across the board. The - tat tvam asi- statement is an instructional statement indicating an identity relation tvam = tat or you = that. From the student's reference the identity relation is I = that. From the earlier posts we realize that the intended meaning of I, according to Vedanta, is not the normal transactional I, which is the ego, but it is the witnessing consciousness that I am. Now we need to explore the meaning of - tat - in the equation.

In what follows, we will use the word SUBSTANTIVE for the material cause. Substantive actually means noun, but as we know that noun refers to an object, which has attributes that make it distinct from the rest of the objects in the universe. Any definition of an object involves its attributes.  Precision in the definition involves precise description of the attributes that can help in differentiating the object from all other objects whose attributes differ. All objective knowledge is attributive knowledge. Attributes need a locus and that locussed object is a noun. Here we are more concerned about attributes that inhere with the object, which Nyaaya calls as having samavaayu sambandha, inherent relationship and not incidental attributes called samyoga sambandha or contact relationship. Example for the former one is blue lotus where blueness is intrinsic with the lotus and that blue cannot be separated from the lotus. Crow sitting on John house is samyoga sambandha or contact relation.  Here it is an incidental qualification to identify John's house, which is otherwise looking similar to all other houses in the neighborhood.  Our discussion here pertains to qualifications that inhere with the object. They are also referred to as swaabhaavika lakshaNas, the inherent qualifications that distinguishes the objects. (I am carefully avoiding the use of the word swaruupa lakshaNa as we will discuss later that no created object in the universe has swaruupa lakshaNa; only Brahman has that as given by Tai. Up. as satyam, jnaanam and anantam, and it is neither created nor it is not an object.)

Substantive of an object is more than just a noun, although the words are synonymous. It is the substance that the object is made of or its material content which is the real locus or true noun for its attributes. Nyaaya calls it as dravyam, which is locus of guNa and karma. (Nyaaya-VaisheShikas have taken the lead in Indian logic and are generally referred to as taarkikas. Incidentally they are also Astikas, i.e, they believe in Veda pramANa). Then, is there a difference between a noun and a substantive? Epistemologically, it is important to explore this aspect as it makes easier for us to understand the identity equation -tat tvam asi. Let us take for example, ring, bangle, bracelet, etc which are objects thus nouns, each with distinguishing attributes that differentiates one from the other, as well as from the rest of the objects in the universe. Thus ring is different from non-ring as well as no-ring or put it in Nyaaya's terminology ring is abhaava pratiyogini of the ring or ring is counter to the absence of ring- a round about way of saying. According to Nyaaya, the absence of a ring is all pervading and hence ring's presence at a location A and time t1, then, is obstructing (pratibhanda) its all pervasive absence (abhaava) at that location and time. All that means is ring is there at location A at time t1, while it is absent everywhere else, since the same ring cannot be there at two places at the same time. The creation of a ring is then termination of its absence that was present, before the ring was created or technically called praagaabhaava pratiyogini that is it is counter to its previous absence. Similarly with reference to its destruction we can call a ring as pradhvansaabhaava pratiyogini, that is, it is counter to its posterior non-existence. Anything that is created gets destroyed and matter cannot be created or destroyed these are fundamental laws of physics  and Vedanta too. If ring is a matter, then it cannot just come into universe and disappear from the universe. Since ring is coming into the universe and disappearing from the universe, ring cannot be matter or cannot be the locus for its attributes.  Then what is a ring which appears to be a locus for its attributes such as ID, OD, width, ellipticity, etc., which are different from the attributes of a bangle that is also made of the same material. Ring, bangle, etc are nouns with no substantives of their own. Can we say that the attributes of the ring belong to the gold, as gold is its material cause or substantive for the ring?  We cannot say that since in that case bangle attributes which differ from those of ring also belong to the gold, which is the material cause also for bangle. Gold cannot have mutually contradictory attributes of the ring and bangle at the same time. Besides, ring can be modified into bangle but gold still remains as gold. Therefore attributes of the ring or bangle do not inhere with the gold.  The fundamental problem, if one looks into this carefully, is that there is really no ring or a bangle. What we call ring and bangle are only apparent or only transactional reality but they are not really there.

A lady objects: Sir, that cannot be, since I am warring a ring and a bangle. Ring is distinctly different from bangle and their utilities are different. How can you deny their existence? -  In response, we can say ring and bangle exist, at the same time we can also say that they really do not exist. This contradiction is inherent in the transactional reality. The existence is accepted at transactional level but is denied at higher order of reality. Hence there is no contradiction.  In reality, what one is wearing is actually not ring, not bangle but only gold, but in two different forms. The names of the forms are ring and bangle, without any substantives of their own. Therefore, the attributes of the ring belong to the gold only but now in the form of a ring, and the attributes of the bangle belong to the same gold only but that gold is now in the form of a bangle. Ring and bangle are not different from gold, yet they are different, since each has their own attributes and utilities that differ from those of the other. That is they are there, yet there are not really there, since what is there in only gold in different forms. This is called maayaa. It is that force by which one appears distinctly as many. The different attributes of the many do not really belong to the substantive, the one, the material cause for the many. Hence Shankara defines maayaa in VivekachUDAmaNi as:

mahatbhuutaanirvachaniiya ruupa||

Applying to ring, neither you can say ring exists nor you can say ring does not exist, nor you can say both as it exists and it does not exist, as they are self-contradictory;  neither you can say ring is different from gold nor the same as gold, nor same and different from gold; neither you can say ring is part of gold or not a part of gold or both it is mityaa or due to maayaa, which is incredible and inexplainable.

Sir, I cannot see maayaa and there is no proof for maayaa, a dvaitin protests. For that the answer is maayaa is a force or shakti and existence of any force is established only by the observed effects. A stationary object if it starts moving, or a moving object if it comes to rest or if it changes its direction of motion, there must be a force causing it, even if I do not see it- says Physics. In fact, that is how the force itself is defined. The change of status quo is the very proof for the driving force for the change. One gold becoming into many ornaments without itself undergoing any change is itself a proof for maayaa.  It is a transformation-less transformation where gold remains as gold, yet varieties of ornaments, each with distinct attributes, different from each other, come forth, which have no bearing on gold, the substantive for all.

Hence ring and bangle, in these examples are just name for a form of the material gold only. In truth, there is no object ring or bangle other than gold. Gold in different forms expresses itself as different ornaments with different names to distinguish the forms - it can also exist without forming any ornaments. It is the glory of the gold to be able to exist in varieties in names and forms as ornaments. Gold can declare, all the ornaments are in me, but I am not in them, since their six fold modifications, asti, jaayate, etc., existence, birth etc do not belong to me. I remain as changeless in all changes. I am unaffected by any of the changes in terms of name and form. Most importantly knowing one, the Gold, we can as well know all the ornaments that are created in the past, in the present and those that will be created in the future, since gold is the substantive for all. We will discuss this example again when we discuss the perceptuality condition.

With this background, let us examine now the tat tvam asi statement. Let us examine the word 'tat' which is being pointed out. Obviously it is an instruction for me from my Vedantic teacher. The word - that normally refers to something remote from me, spatially remote or temporally remote or remote from both aspects or remote from understanding wise; that is notionally remote. Since it is a pronoun, in order to understand what that -tat- that is being referred to, we need to go back to the original context where it was used. It occurs in the Ch. Up. 6th Chapter which is popularly called Sat Vidya. (This is not a commercial, but for those in States, who are interested, this text was taken as a part of two-day Memorial Day camp, and MP3-CD is available with Chinmaya Mission Washington Regional Center; The discussion starts with the father Uddaalaka asking his son, Swetaketu, who just returned after his 12 years of Vedic studies and posing that he knows everything, whether he has learned that knowing which everything else is known. The son says that it is impossible  if I know physics, how can I know chemistry, zoology, etc, unless I study and know each and every subject separately. The father says it is possible in some cases. He provides three examples to illustrate the point. In essence, he says, if we know the material cause, like gold for example, then all the products of gold, say, all the ornaments, made of that material are as well known. By knowing one, gold, we have substantive knowledge of all the products of gold. The products are nothing but names and forms which are just superimpositions on the substance gold. Form constitutes a representative attribute and name constitutes the knowledge of that formed object. Hence ring, bangle, etc are what scripture calls as vaachaarambhanam vikaaraH in Hindi it is naamkevaaste- modified forms of gold, since gold remains as gold in becoming a ring or a bangle.  Are ring and bangle really there? Well there are there, but not really there, says the scripture itself. Our above analysis points to the same.  There are no ringly or bangly substances that exist, and what is there is only gold. Although for transactional purposes we use the word as golden ring or golden bangle making golden as adjective qualifying the noun, really it should be correctly called ringly gold or bangly gold, since the substantive or noun should be gold, the substance with which they are made up off. Thus ringly, bangly, etc are attributive content of the ornaments and not their substantive content. Thus in the very naming itself we are giving importance to the attributes than to the substantive. For purpose of transactions or vyaavahaara to differentiate one form of gold from the other, naming the forms as ring, bangle, etc is O.K., as long we do not loose sight of the fact they are just gold with different forms, and names that go with forms.

The purpose of the above discussion is to bring two essential aspects in terms of tat tvam asi statement: 1. The material cause which I call it as substantive cause pervades all the products of that material. The products are nothing but material cause itself in different forms and therefore different names. From the point of the material cause which does not undergo any transformation there are really no products, since what is there is material itself in different forms. However from the point of transactional utility the products are distinct from each other based on their attributes.  2. We discussed before two aspects: I see it, therefore it is there; and it is there, therefore I see it  the jiiva sRiShTi or Iswara sRiShTi  In the final analysis both are established because I SEE IT. Perception forms the basis for knowledge of their existence. Without my seeing it, definite existence of any object, hence the whole world cannot be established. Now without going into details we are establishing (for details see post no.  in the knowledge series) that even via perception we cannot establish the definite or as it is (yathaartha jnaanam) of what we perceived, since we can perceive only the attributes gathered by the senses, within the senses capabilities. We say, it is ringly gold, since we see ring form and gold-color and both are attributes. The perception of an object occurs via sense input where eyes see the form and color, ears sound, the skin the touch, tongue to taste, nose the smell. The five senses operating the five distinct fields of operation. In all these, the senses do not perceive the material substance or they can sense however the attributes of the material substance such as glittery-ness of the gold. Senses cannot gather whether it is really gold or gold-plated iron or some other metal that glitters like gold. When we see gold ring or bangle we assume that it is made of gold. Thus it is made of gold is an assumption, forgetting the fact that all that glitters need not be gold. That it is indeed gold, the material that it is made up of, has to be confirmed by an expert using some tests; thus involving karmendriyas. The story of Eureka is well known.

The bottom line is we cannot establish the reality to the existence of the objective world since we cannot really perceive the material cause for the world of objects. The transactional reality of the object is established by transactions. If not the object perceived may not be real, since it is based on perceptual data which can be defective as in the subjective or objective errors discussed earlier. Then how do we know the material cause for the world. We can say gold is the material cause for all the gold ornaments and mud is the material cause for all mud pots and iron is the material cause for all iron tools, etc says the Ch. Up. Perceptual knowledge cannot establish the material cause since perception is based on sense input which can only measure sensible things shabda, sparSha, ruupa, rasa and gandha which are guNas or attributes and not substantives. Mind operates with the senses. Interestingly perception forms the basis for all other pramaaNAs that operate in the transactional world. However, there has to be a locus for GuNs or attributes. What is the material for the world of objects which cannot be known by senses?

The true material cause of the world of objects can only be established by scriptures. With this understanding we can look at Uddaalaka teaching to his son that terminates in the tat tvam asi statement. Uddaalaka at the request of his son, teaches how the world of objects are created. The fundamental material cause for the whole universe, he says, is existence itself. That existence is not inert but it is existence which is conscious. Hence what was there before creation is sat chit, and being one without a second it is anantam, that is it is limitless. Also being one without a second it has no differences of any kind- that is no sajaati-vijaati-swagata bhedaas, in essence no attributive differences of any kind. The creation is transformation-less transformation like the three examples given before just as gold becoming ornaments, mud becoming pots, or iron becoming tools. Therefore scriptures says just as gold remains as gold in all the transformations without itself undergoing any transformation, the existence-consciousness remain as such in all products formation, that constitutes everything that is there in the universe, since it was one without a second and it will remain as such one without a second, in spite of all transformation-less transformations. That existence-consciousness that one without a second that pervades the whole universe as its material cause, which does not undergo or cannot undergo any transformation, is the real YOU, tat tvam asi, Swetaketu, says father-teacher Uddaalaka. Bhagavaan Ramana starts his sat darshanam text with the sloka that starts: sat pratyayaaH kinnu vihaaya santam.. that is, santam vihaaya, without the principle of existence, sat pratyayaah kinnu (bhaveyuH) how can there be any existence of anything in the world possible? Bhagavaan's direct teaching from the UpaniShadic statement (Video talks on Sat darshanam are available at for those who are interested for personal viewing, also some segments on U-tube). The material cause has to pervade all the products and the whole universe is creation starting from SAT. Materials has to be conserved during transformation, says Physics and Krishna declares (2:16) this conservation principle in absolute terms in terms of the fundamental material of the whole universe -SAT - naasato vidyate bhavo naabhaavo vidyate sataH| That which is non-existence can never come into existence and that which exists can never cease to exist. That existence pervades the whole universe of creation, and tat tvam asi, Swetaketu YOU ARE THAT.

More in the next post.
Hari Om!
« Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 09:25:43 AM by Dr. Sadananda »