[Advaita-l] The Flawless Advaitic teaching of ‘Tat tvam asi’ - Part 2 (Concluded)

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Wed Dec 1 05:36:05 CST 2010


*(Contd. from Part 1)

*3. Misconception about the Chandogya Upanishad VI Chapter contents of the
teaching of the Tattva.*

The Upanishadic teaching commences with the boy asking to know what is the
nature of that Important Teaching.  UddAlaka gives out three examples to
show how  the knowledge of the material cause of effects results in gaining
the knowledge of all the effects of that class. The ultimate, pAramArthika,
unreality of the effects and the ultimate reality of the cause is brought
out through the three examples. This is applied in the Tattva teaching by
declaring that all this was Sat alone before manifesting as the world. The
Cause Sat and the universe, the three elements, tejas, ap and annam (fire,
water and earth) as effects are presented.  The elements are shown to be the
cause of the individual body-mind apparatus.  On the analogy of the
‘VAchArambhana Shruti’ (…..mRttiketyeva satyam), at every stage UddAlaka

   - the non-difference of the effect, the elements, from their cause, the
   - the non-difference of the body-mind apparatus from their cause, the
   elements, and ultimately
   - the non-difference of the body-mind apparatus from their ultimate
   cause, the Sat.

The ‘VAchArambhana Shruti’ is repeatedly demonstrated by both utterance and
application.  It is based on this logic that the teaching ‘Tat tvam asi’
occurs nine times in the Upanishad.

*4. Misconception about the Advaitic method of interpreting the Mahavakya
‘Tat tvam asi.’

The Dvaita objection: // In this context, no useful purpose would be served
if he is told that *he is identical with the God*. //  is clearly misplaced
as this is not the way 'Tat tvam asi' is understood in Advaita. *

Surely, Shvetaketu, as a jiva, cannot be identified, equated, with Sat, the
Supreme (God).  The jiva is alpashakta, alpajnaH, with finite power and
limited knowledge.  Sat, on the other hand is infinite.  The two cannot be
the same as they now appear to be.  But the Upanishad teaches that
Shvetaketu is Sat in truth.  That means, since the body-mind apparatus is in
reality Sat, Shvetaketu, free of the body-mind apparatus, is Sat,
Existence.  Since the elements –  that make up the body-mind apparatus of
all living beings and the whole of the inert material world – is really Sat,
their Cause, Sat Itself is not a cause really.  The elements are only
vikara-s, appearances, of Sat and therefore only mere names; essentially
they are Sat alone, just as the clay-products are substantial only as their
material cause, clay,  but unreal as mere names. The unreality of the
effects is understood only from the analytical point of view; the practical
utility of effects like using a clay pot for cooking, storing water, etc.,
is not denied.  Thus, in the Tat tvam asi equation, the essentially-Sat
Shvetaketu is non-different from the essential-Sat.

*A few similarities:*

   1. There is a similarity between the opening question, forming the core
   teaching, in the Mundaka and the Chandogya (VI) Upanishads:

For example, in the Mundaka Upanishad (1.i.3) it is said:

शौनको ह वै महाशालोऽङ्गिरसं विधिवदुपसन्नः पप्रच्छ । कस्मिन्नु भगवो विज्ञाते
सर्वमिदं विज्ञातं भवतीति ।

[Shaunaka, well known as a great householder, having approached Angiras
duly, asked, ‘O adorable Sir, (which is that thing) which having been known,
all this becomes known?’]

Here, Shounaka, the aspirant, reverentially approaching the Acharya,
Angiras, seeks to know of ‘That by knowing which everything becomes known.’
This same question is asked by Uddalaka, the teacher, addressing Shvetaketu,
the aspirant:

येनाश्रुतं श्रुतं भवत्यमतं मतम्, अविज्ञातं विज्ञातं इति । (६.१.३)

[Are you aware of ‘That by which the unheard of becomes heard, the unthought
of becomes thought of, the unknown become known?’]  (6.1.3)

The entire focus of the teaching, along with several examples, is to make
known That crucial Truth, Brahman, called Sat in this Upanishad.

2. In the Mundakopanishad, the mantra 2.1.10 reads:

// पुरुष एवेदं विश्वं कर्म तपो ब्रह्म परामृतम् । एतद्यो वेद निहितं गुहायां
सोऽविद्याग्रन्थिं विकिरितीह सोम्य ॥

The Bhashya:

//  एवं पुरुषात् सर्वमिदं सम्प्रसूतम् । अतो वाचारम्भणं विकारो नामधेयमनृतं,
पुरुष इत्येव सत्यम् । अतो पुरुष एवेदं विश्वं सर्वम् । न विश्वं नाम
पुरुषादन्यत्किञ्चिदस्ति । अतो यदुक्तं तदेवेदं अभिहितं ’कस्मिन्नु भगवो
विज्ञाते सर्वमिदं विज्ञातं भवतीति’ । एवं अस्मिन्हि परस्मिन्नात्मनि सर्वकारणे
पुरुषे विज्ञाते पुरुष एवेद्ं विश्वं नान्यदस्तीति विज्ञातं भवतीति । //

[Translation of the above]

‘Thus from the PuruSha emerged all this.  Therefore, ‘All modification is
supported by speech and it is name only’ (Chandogya Up. VI.i.4 – 6), and it
is false; but only that which is the PuruSha is true. …

The Mundaka mantra:

‘The PuruSha alone is all this – (comprising) karma and knowledge.  He who
knows this supreme, immortal Brahman, existing in the heart, destroys here
the knot of ignorance, O good-looking one!)’

The Bhashya:

There is not such thing as the Universe apart from the PuruSha.  Therefore
the very thing that was asked in the question, ‘O adorable Sir, (which is
that thing) which having been known, all this becomes known?’ (I.i.3), has
been declared here thus: On knowing this PuruSha alone, the Supreme Self,
the source of everything, there arises the realization, ‘PuruSha alone is
all this – there is nothing besides.’ //

In the Chandogya Upanishad too, the above theme, of the Mundaka Upanishad,
alone is what is discussed.

3. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is the AjAtashatru BrAhmaNam
(II.i).  AjAtashatru, a Kshatriya, a Jnani, is a King.  He is approached by
a Brahmana named BAlAki, a conceited one, priding himself with an assumed
Brahman-Knowledge.  He visits the King and offers to teach him Atma vidya
and only ends up as the King AjAtashatru’s disciple.  This transformation
came about as a result of the King questioning BaalAki.  Unable to answer
the King’s questions, BAlAki realized his shortcomings and submitted himself
to the King and sought to know the Tattva.  It is only when he thus
submitted and became a fit recipient of Knowledge, did Ajaatashatru proceed
to teach him.  Thus, pride is decidedly not the begetter of teaching of the

Similar is the case in the Uddalaka-Shvetaketu dialogue.  The conceited
Shvetaketu could not comprehend Uddalaka’s initial question regarding the
Paratattva. He was floored by the very depth of the question.  He realized
his limitation and surrendered to Uddalaka.  The teaching was given to him
only when the pride had given place to meekness and true desire to learn the
The Upanishadic/Advaitic teaching of ‘Tat tvam asi’ cannot ‘increase the
pride’ of Shvetaketu for the following reasons:

   - First, we have seen earlier that even at the start of the teaching
   Shvetaketu had shed his pride and had surrendered to his Father/Acharya,
   Uddalaka, and beseeched him to teach that Vidya.
   - The identity between Sat and Shvetaketu is only after Shvetaketu, by
   discrimination,  viveka, just as in the pancha-kosha viveka of the
   Taittiriya Upanishad,  separates the body-mind-senses apparatus from his
   being and knows himself as the pure Existence. This is called the
   ‘shodhita-tvam-padArtha’.  In this condition, no pride can ever creep in.
   There could have been a possibility of pride sneaking in if the teaching of
   Tat tvam asi had meant equating the JagatkAraNa Sat (Ishwara) with
   Shvetaketu, the jiva.  This we have already seen is an impossibility as Sat,
   the Cause of the Universe, can never be equated with Shvetaketu, the finite
   bound jiva.  If this Upanishadic/Advaitic method of establishing identity is
   clearly understood, there would be no room for the objection that ‘the
   Advaitic teaching of Tat tvam asi will increase Shvetaketu’s pride.’

Some possible arguments: If it is argued by the Dvaitin that ‘Even at the
start of the teaching Shvetaketu was conceited and only as the teaching
progressed he shed his pride’, then this argument applies to the Advaitin
too.  If the Dvaitin further argues: ‘Shvetaketu was proud at the start of
the teaching, but by repeatedly being pointed out that ‘he is not Sat’ but
only ‘dependent on Sat,’ by holding out various examples he became humble,
then the Advaitin would argue: Granting that Shvetaketu had pride at the
commencement of the teaching, by being exposed to the unreality of the
effects from the cause Sat, with the support  of various examples, he was
able to appreciate that he was after all not the body-mind apparatus but the
pure Existence, Sat, and shed his pride which had no meaning/purpose
whatsoever in the light of the Upanishadic teaching that he, in truth, is
the Infinite Sat. Pride could exist only in the wake of the possibility to
compare oneself with other/s.  The Sat divested of the jivatva upAdhi and
the JagatkAraNatva upAdhi will be the adviteeya entity and hence there will
be no ‘other/s‘ to make any comparison against.  Hence there will be no room
for pride, etc. in such a realized person. ‘Brahmavid Apnoti param’ says the
Taittiriya Upanishad.
A synopsys:

   - The objection from the Dvaita school arises only because of not
   appreciating the general norms of the Upanishad/Gita in giving out the
   teaching of Brahmavidya.
   - Even if Tat tvam asi is interpreted in the Dvaita way, to admit that
   Shvetaketu was proud even at the commencement of the teaching would
   implicate the Upanishad of flouting its own norms of bestowing Tattva
   Upadesha  to an adhikAri, a fit candidate,  alone and not to an *anadhikAri,
   *an unfit candidate.
   - Also, even the teaching of adheenatva/paratantratva (dependence) of the
   jiva will not sink in a mind that is filled with pride.  A great degree of
   humility, anahankAra, is required for appreciating and accepting the
   teaching that ‘I am dependent on the Lord’.
   - It would be best to recognize, from the wordings of the Upanishad, that
   Shvetaketu had shed his pride prior to seeking the teaching and therefore
   was a fit adhikAri for Brahmavidya.
   - The question of the Advaitic ‘Tat tvam asi’ increasing Shvetaketu’s
   pride does not arise at all.
   - The unreality of the effect, the material universe,  and the Sole
   reality of the Cause, Sat, has been brought out by the teaching culminating
   in Shvetaketu appreciating that his real nature is non different from the
   Sat, the universal Cause.  This knowledge would not have consummated in the
   presence of pride, etc.

 Related reading:




Om Tat Sat


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