Notes on Tat Tvam Asi

On Tat Tvam Asi (That Thou Art):

From Yogapedia.com

Tat Tvam Asi is repeated in the sixth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad, in which the teacher Uddalaka Aruni instructs his son in the nature of Brahman. The text served as a foundation for the Advaita Vedanta branch of Hindu philosophy, providing detail on the concepts of Atman and Brahman.

Representing a central theme of Advaita philosophy, Tat Tvam Asi unites the macrocosmic ideas of God and universal consciousness with the microcosmic individual expression of the Self. This mantra highlights the notion that all beings are intimately connected to universal energy and cannot be separated from it.

Tat Tvam Asi is one of the four principle Mahavakyas, short statements from The Upanishads. The essence of each of these Mahavakyas is the same, since all are intended to guide practitioners toward the realization that all beings are one with Brahman. Understanding this is believed to be the ultimate form of compassion, in which individuals recognize one another as part of the same whole.

The great insight of Advaita Vedanta is, the reality you reach through the God-centred approach or the ‘that’ based approach, and the reality you reach through the Self-inquiry approach or the ‘thou’ based approach, is exactly the same reality. By bringing them together – Atman is Brahman, ‘That thou art’, the stunning insight is – that indubitable personal existence is also the infinitude of God. The unproblematic, infinite nature of God and the indubitable certain existence of the self are brought together. You have an infinite existence which is also beyond doubt.

– Swami Sarvapriyananda, What is Vedanta

From the Bhagavad Gita:

The 18 chapters of the Gita can be viewed as three shadgams of six chapters each. In each of these sections, three broad topics are dealt with.

In the first set of six chapters, the three topics discussed are:

  • Jiva vichara
  • Sadana of karma yoga to attain moksha
  • Human effort, purusha prayatna, to gain self knowledge.

The second shadgam discusses:

  • Ishwara swaroopa
  • Sadana of upasana yoga or meditation on Saguna Brahman
  • Ishwara Kripa.

The focus in the third shadgam is on:

  • The oneness of Paramatma and jivatma
  • The sadana of jnana yoga through practices – sravana, manana, nidhidyasa, etc.
  • The importance of character building by cultivating worthy qualities and virtues.

It is shown that the first topic in each of the three shadgams, namely jiva vichara, Ishwara vichara and Jiva-Brahma Aikya Jnana, respectively unfolds the explanation of the three terms Tvam, Tat and Asi in the Mahavakya. The ‘Tvam’ pada refers to the essential nature of the individual soul, the ‘Tat’ pada is about the nature of the Supreme Brahman and the ‘Asi’ pada affirms the oneness of Paramatma and the jivatma. The second and the third topics in each of three sections comprehensively deal with the yoga sadanas, karma, bhakti and jnana and of the importance of human effort, God’s grace and the cultivation of Daivi sampath or virtues.

Speaking Tree Article by Nitin Sridhar

The Sruti makes statements like “Tat Tvam Asi”(Thou Art That) and “Aham Brahmasmi”(I am Brahman) which often may lead to confusion.

Every verse can have three kinds of meanings- sAmAnadhikaranam, visheshana-visheShya bhava and lakshya-lakshana sambhanda (Naishkarmya-Siddi 3.3).
If we interpret the Mahavakya according to sAmAnadhikarana, the Thou and That, the Jiva and Brahman which are different are being equated. The Mahavakya will mean that the Jiva that is limited and temporary is equal to/same as Brahman, that is infinite and birth-less. This is called as “sAmAnAdhikaranam” or “Co-ordination”.

On the other hand, if we are to take that the Mahavakya is implying that “Thou” is being qualified by the term “That” and vice versa; then it would mean that to the Jiva (in its limiting aspect) is attributed the Brahman-hood (i.e. the qualities like Birth-less, Infinite) and to the Brahman (which is ever-free) is attributed the Jiva-hood (i.e. the qualities like temporary and bounded. This kind of interpretation is called as “visheshaNa-visheshya bhAva” or “Subject-Predicate Relation”.

But, it is visible that in the case of the Mahavakya- “Tat Tvam Asi”, both sAmAnAdhikaranam and visheshaNa-visheshya bhAva does not apply because, neither the limited and temporary Jiva that is subjected to Karma and bondage can be equated to Brahman/God who is eternal, birth-less and ever free, nor can the qualities of one be attributed to another. Gaudapada in his Mandukya Karika (3.21) says that-“the immortal cannot become mortal. Similarly, the mortal cannot become immortal. The mutation of one’s nature will take in no way whatsoever”. Hence, in the case of this Mahavakya, the “Co-ordination” and “Subject-Predicate Relationship” does not apply.

Hence, one must take into consideration only the “lakshya-lakshana sambandha” i.e. Indirect Indication. And accordingly, the “Thou” refers not to the Jiva who is limited by body and mind, but to the Atman, the Inner-most Self who is ever-free and the lone Witness of the body, senses and the mind. Hence, it is the Innermost Atman who is eternal and ever-free is being identified with Brahman, the substratum of the Universe who is also eternal and birth-less. In other words, the Mahavakya implies that, it is the Brahman who is infinite and eternal inhabits all the objects of the Universe as their Atman/Innermost Self.

And when, an individual through vichara/discrimination understands the Real-Self, the Atman as devoid of the Non-Self entities like body and mind and then through Niddhi-dhyasa/contemplation realizes the identity of Atman who is Immidiate (Aparoksha) and Self-established with Brahman who is birthless and ever-free, then he becomes “Jivan-Mukta” due to the destruction of all Ignorance.

It is consciousness over mind and matter

Life is an experience is created by the interaction of the tangible energy and the intangible energy.

The tangible external world that provides the experience is different from the intangible internal consciousness within a life form that experiences.

Even the intangible, is differentiated into pure consciousness that is filled with sat-chit-ananda and other semi-tangible processes such as the mind, thoughts, memory and so on.

Every experience a life form has, rests on its own consciousness. Without one’s own consciousness, all the complexity of constructs of the universe and mind have no meaning. Thus, when examines one’s own life, consciousness is treated as real and the world outside as unreal.

The tangible world outside and the semi-tangible mind are constantly changing. But the consciousness inside is regarded as an unchanging observer. No matter what a human acquires or loses in the tangible world, the ability of the consciousness to experience is not altered. But when the conscious soul leaves the body, life is said to have ended and the body can be disposed of.

Because life experience is a two part process, which needs both consciousness and matter, the question of which is more important has had different answers.

People such as scientists and atheists, who take the side of tangible matter argue that the semi-tangibles and intangible somehow arises from the tangible. However, no such proofs exists of consciousness arising from matter. Stones, for example do not come alive.

People such as theists and spiritualists, take the side of intangible and argue that the changing nature of semi-tangibles and tangible universe makes them unsuited for building the foundation of life upon it. Therefore, the eternal unchanging consciousness is the only suitable foundation of life.

So the question “Mind over matter or Matter over mind?” has an unexpected answer because both the mind and matter are some what tangible and constantly changing. The answer really should be “It is consciousness over mind and matter”.

Notes on ahamkara

Sources:
1. Drig Drishya Viveka
2. Shaiva Siddhantha
3. Swami Sarvapriyananda
4. Samkhya

Alternate terms: Ahankara, ahankar
English translation: Ego, Identity, Awareness, I-ness,

Meaning: (Ahamkara= I am the cause, I am the doer)
Ahamkara is a Sanskrit word that describes the ego, the image a person has of him/herself or the conscious mind as he/she perceives it. The term comes from the root, aham, which translates as “I am”; and kara, which means “doing” or “making.”

Purpose: The purpose of ahamkara is to create self-awareness. It is only by this self-awareness, a life form develops the ability to differentiate itself from the world around it and take ownership of objects as mine and not mine.

Position: Ahamkara is one of the four aspects of antahkarana, or the “inner organ”. In addition to ahankara, antahkarana includes buddhi , chitta and manas. The anthakarana are a part of the subtle body and exist in impure maya.

Working: The atman/soul is a source of pure consciousness. Ahamkara reflects the consciousness of the soul in its most true form to create a true reflection of the soul and thus create an identity. This reflection is not like the moon reflecting the sunlight but more like a dewdrop reflecting the sun. Moon’s reflection of sunlight does not reflect the sun truly and creates the illusion as if moon is also a source of light. But the dewdrop’s reflection of the sun is a miniature version of the sun itself. Like a red hot iron ball has both the attributes of iron as well as heat, this image of the atman created on anthakarana has attributes of both consciousness of the atman and the inertness of impure maya.

Role: The pure consciousness of the soul, is reflected and transmitted to ahamkara, is further transmitted to the other anthakaranas, sense organs and body so that the whole body till the tip of fingernails is illumined with consciousness.

This process of consciousness transmitting from the soul to ahankara to anthakarana to body organs is similar to heat flowing from fire to vessel to water to vegetable.

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Inference only – not from text:
This consciousness that is imparted to anthakarana and the body is called “reflected consciousness” because:
1. It is an unclear indication of the source consciousness (like moon reflects the sun)
2. It is different from pure consciousness due to its association with impure maya of the anthakarana and the body.
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Connections:
1. Connection of ahankara with other anthakaranas is natural (sahaja) and cannot be broken
2. Connection of ahankara with the body has its roots in the karma (karmajam) carried by the subtle body and will be broken only by resolving the karma
3. Connection of ahankara with the atman is false (bhranthijam). By breaking this connection, the soul is liberated by staying rooted in pure consciousness.

Chit-Jada Granthi

In the Verse 24 of “Reality in Forty Verses”, Ramana Maharshi says that neither the insentient body says “I”, nor the sentient, self-effulgent, ever-present Consciousness says “I”. Between them, the Ahamkara (ego-self) rises as “I” and ties both of them together and it is known as Chit-Jada Granthi (Sentient-Insentient Knot). This knot needs to be cut using Viveka, the sword of reasoning and discrimination. The non-emergence of the egoistic “I” is the pure state of being. To destroy the ego, the source of its emergence has to be sought by digging deep and turning the mind inwards. Then the Ahamkara (ego-self) subsides and the experience of the Self emerges as the real “I” – “I” – “I”.

Arun Kumar, Author of “Pearls of Vedic Wisdom to Succeed” on Quora