Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Mon Nov 25 18:38:20 CST 1996

> One of the mahavakyas says "Aham Brahmasmi".  It sounds like one is telling
> other.  If you are brahmam there is no need to tell "aham brahma" as there is
> nobody around to listen.   My understanding of this mahavakya is that if you

Actually, if you look at the context of the br.hadAraNyaka upanishad,
where the mahAvAkya occurs in Sruti, there is no one else. brahman alone
is, in the beginning. He sees nothing else, and therefore says, "aham
brahmAsmi". Here, brahman is not saying this to somebody else, it is a
statement of fact, from the "mouth" of brahman, as it were.

> take away aham which has two meanings 1. Aham is "I"   2. Aham is "Ahankara".
>  If ahankara is removed Brahma only remains like when ignorance removed
> knowledge shines.  I think the second meaning is correct.

The removal of the ahankAra is the intention of advaita vedAnta. If
you see how Sankara analyzes the other mahAvAkya, "tat tvam asi", this is
quite clear. But note that in addition to removing the primary attributes
of "tvam", Sankara also removes the commonly held attributes of "tat" in
order to affect the identity between "tat" and "tvam". A similar process
has to be involved in understanding aham brahmAsmi also. What one commonly
means by "aham", and what one commonly understands by "brahma", have both
to be re-examined.

As a matter of fact, without examining one's understanding of "brahma",
there can be no removal of the ahankAra. This ahankAra is a powerful
thing. In my experience, the more one talks of removing it, or asserting
that one is without any ahankAra, the more one is susceptible to falling
prey to the same ahankAra. This happens mostly because people who talk of
having subdued ahankAra, seem to take great pride in having subdued it,
which is itself a sure sign that the ahankAra has re-asserted itself even
more strongly.



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