‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 4/4

Part – 3

What happens by the ascertainment of the implied meaning of the words in the sentence “You are That”?

Just as the idea of a snake is negated from a rope (in the snake-rope analogy), everything of the nature of non-Self is negated from the eternally existing Self implied by the word “I.” In other words, ‘ignorance’ vanishes (immediately on the attainment of right Knowledge) – 18.4-5, US.

In addition, the (false) conception of the pain with regard to the Self vanishes forever when the right Knowledge of the Self arises like all kinds of pain which is experienced in a dream comes to an end as soon as one wakes up.

What action should I take to augment my “understanding” and attain brahman?

Shankara tells us,

चतुर्विधमेव हि सर्वं कर्म कार्यम् — उत्पाद्यमाप्यं विकार्यं संस्कार्यं वा ।  – 1.2.12, muNDaka B.

Meaning: All the effects of actions are of four kinds: Production; Acquisition; Modification; and, Purification.

  • brahman being eternally present, It need not be newly produced;
  • brahman being all-pervasive, It need not be procured from elsewhere;
  • brahman being homogeneous and undivided, It needs no modification or assemblage;
  • brahman being pure and unattached to anything, It needs no purification.

Therefore, no action is either called for or necessary to attain Liberation which has an eternal existence (18.19, US). It is prAptasya prAptiH (प्राप्तस्य प्राप्ति: – attainment of what is already attained). See here.

It sounds too theoretical. I may hear any number of lectures, but unless I get down into a stream, how can I know swimming?

That is true. Only indirect knowledge is produced by [listening to] the sentences with regard to matters that pertain to non-Self.

But it is not so with regard to sentences like “You are That” which are about the Innermost Self. In fact, the Knowledge obtained is direct and certain like in the case of the 10th man story (18.202, US).

The sentence “You are That” produces the immediate Knowledge of the Self like the saying ‘You are the tenth’ in the story of “The Tenth Man” (18.172, 18.176, US). No action is necessary to produce such an understanding.

We have also the example that BrahmA removed the ignorance of Prince Rama by means of words only. He did not teach him any action to remove ignorance (18.100, US). The Knowledge of the Innermost Self becomes possible when the ego vanishes 18.203, US).

I diligently read Part – 1, Part – 2, and Part – 3. Still, I feel I didn’t “get It.” 

Shankara is said to belong to the 7th-8th CE. Nearly 6 or 7 hundred years later came along Swami Vidyaranya, the 12th Pontiff of the Sringeri maTha in 14th CE. The Swami Ji lamented in his book, “jIvanmuktiviveka (JMV),” that too many aspirants after liberation were thronging the Ashrams in his days but they lacked the vigor and rigor in the cultivation of the prerequisite eligibility conditions that had been the norm in Shankara’s times. He writes,

इदानींतनास्तु प्रायेणाकृतोपास्तय एवौत्सुक्यमात्रात्सहसा विद्यायां प्रवर्तन्ते । वासनाक्षयमनोनाशौ च तात्कालिकौ संपादयन्ति । तावता श्रवणमनननिदिध्यासनानि निष्पाद्यन्ते । तैश्चदृढाभ्यास्तैरज्ञानसंशयविपर्ययनिरासात् तत्त्वज्ञानं सम्यगुदेति । उदितस्य ज्ञानस्य‌ बाधकप्रमाणाभावान्निवृत्ताया अविद्यायाः पुनरुत्पत्तिकारणाभावाच्च‌ नास्ति तस्य शैथिल्यम् । वासनाक्षयमनोनाशौ तु दृढाभ्यासाभावात् भोगप्रदेन प्रारब्धेन तदा तदाबाध्यमानत्वाच्च सवातप्रदेशदीपवत्सहसा निवर्तेते ।  –  2.4.3, JMV.

Meaning:  The contemporary candidates “generally do not carry out contemplative training and proceed towards Gnosis rashly and out of impatience. Moreover, they accomplish both eradication of impressions (vAsanAkShaya) and quieting of the mind (manonAsha) momentarily. [Having done] this much, they perform listening, reflection and deep contemplation. …  However, since such practitioners lack a resolute practice and on account of being harassed, sometimes, due to the ripening of the operative karma, which produces empirical experience, vAsanAkShaya and manonAsha quickly blow out like a lamp in a windy place.” (Trans: J. Madaio).   

We are further removed by another 700 years or so from Swami Vidyaranya’s times. So, one can easily surmise with how much more patience and diligence we have to persevere in our efforts in fulfilling the gap in our prerequisites that were spelt out by Shankara at 1.1.1, BSB.

The mind has to be emptied from all its “priors” – biases, prejudices, handed-down wisdoms and self-centeredness. It has to be steady, sharp, focused and be able to stay on course in Self-inquiry. ‘manonAsha‘ implies such a well-trained mind. The seeker has also to attain “desirelessness” through an elimination of all triggers that give raise to desires. This is called ‘vAsanAkShaya,’

Swami Vidyaranya introduced certain measures to remedy the inadequacy of preparation on the part of the renunciates by adopting the methods that Sage Vasishta recommended in Yogavasishta.

Sage Vasishta gave high importance to “dispassion and detachment” in the pursuit of  liberation. He says:

अस्ति चेद्भोगवैतृष्ण्यं किमन्यद्ध्यानदुर्धिया ।
नास्ति चेद्भोगवैतृष्ण्यं किमन्यद्ध्यानदुर्धिया ।।   —  6 (2).46.19, YV

Meaning: Meditation is useless without Detachment. Meditation is meaningless once Detachment is in place.

The Sage suggests that an aspirant should work on all the three aspects of Self-knowledge, Eradication of impressions and Calming down the mind together. 

तत्त्वज्ञानं मनोनाशो वासनाक्षय एव च 
मिथः कारणतां गत्वादुःसाध्यानि स्थितान्यतः ।।
तस्माद्राघव यत्नेन पौरुषेण विवेकिना 
भोगेच्छां दूरतस्त्यक्त्वा त्रयमेतत्समाश्रयेत् ।।  —  5.92.14-15, YV.

“Let me stress once again,” says the Sage to Prince Rama,

वासनाक्षयविज्ञानमनोनाशा महामते 
समकालं चिराभ्यस्ता भवन्ति फलदा मुने ।।  —  5.92.17, YV.

“You will achieve Reduction of impressions, Knowledge of Truth and Annihilation of mind only if the three are simultaneously practiced equally. If they are practiced separately, the effect will be like a single soldier going each time to seize an enemy fort. It is not advisable to do so. So, practice non-stop all the three together at all times – whether eating, walking, sitting, standing, sleeping or working – irrespective of what you are doing.”

If liberation is eternally existing and is an attainment which is already attained, why is there pain and sorrow?  

Just as the distress experienced by the offspring is superimposed by the father on himself who has no distress at all, so also the ego with all its miseries and afflictions is superimposed on the Self which is eternally free from any misery whatsoever (18.20, US)!

Such a superimposition is like the pink elephant below the bed – an imagination and not real.

Who is the experiencer of the transmigratory existence?

It’s a delusion (like the pink elephant below the bed) due to non-discrimination!

A delusion is a persistent false belief in a thing that does not really exist; but we can’t help but perceive it like the Kanisza Triangle or Ehrenstein’s Bright Disk in the figure to the right. Such delusory objects emanate, perhaps, from the limited and inadequate preceptory apparatus (5 senses + mind) we use (See here). Even the sense of “me” gets generated likewise.

The delusory objects have an apparent existence because of the real existence of the changeless Self and therefore, appears to be pertaining to the Self, says Shankara (18.45, US).

Is it the intellect or the Inner Self that “knows” all these things – pain, misery, transmigration etc.?

The intellect has no Consciousness and the Self has no action. The word ‘knows’ can, therefore, reasonably be applied to neither of them (18.54, US).

We speak of the Self to be knowing things on account of the superimposition of the ‘agency’ on It. Similarly, the intellect is called a ‘knower’ owing to the superimposition of Consciousness on it (18.65, US).

Whom does imparting the mahAvAkya, ‘tattvamasi’ benefit?

The teaching is of use to those only who are acquainted with the discrimination between the Self and non-Self.

The following clues help in discriminating the Self from the non-Self (18.91-94, US):
‘Mine’ and ‘it’ are ideas that connote the non-Self and the idea of the ‘ego’ (which appears like the Self through reflection).
Ideas such as ‘I am a man,’ imply both the ‘ego’ and non-Self. Both the ideas ‘mine’ and ‘it’ qualify the ego, as for example, ‘a man having wealth.’ Similarly, the gross body qualifies the ‘ego.’

Everything (the gross body and the things connected with it) pervaded by the intellect together with the ego (including the subtle body) is the qualification of the Witness. Without being connected with anything and pervading everything by means of Its reflection, the Self is of the nature of “Knowing principle” Itself.

The Self is ever the Witness and never ceases to exist. It is self-existent and never a ‘qualification.’ On the other hand, the ego etc. that are witnessed by the Self and depend for their existence on It are always of the nature of qualifications. They are, therefore, unreal. All this non-Self exists for those people who are non-discriminating; but it does not exist at all for men of Knowledge (18.95, US).

The scriptures themselves discriminate between Knowledge (i.e. the Knowing element) Itself on the one hand, and the knower-knowing-known on the other. They prove that the former is changeless and really existing. The non-Self deviates from Existence.  The scriptures declare that ‘The Self is self-effulgent and the Knowledge of the Knower does not (ever cease to exist)’ – 18.98, US.

If right Knowledge were not produced immediately after this teaching, should one not repeat the mental idea, “I am brahman“?

The answer is “No.”

Then why Mr. Svetaketu Aruni was taught tattvamasi 9 times?

Because, he did not ascertain the correct meaning of the two words “You” and “That.”

[The ‘ignorance’ of the implied meaning of the words “You” and “That” is the only obstacle to the right Knowledge of the Self.]

When and where does the “realization” of the Self-knowledge take place?

The listening to the teaching and the genesis of the right Knowledge are simultaneuos (18.103, US). The intellect and its modifications having the reflection of the Self in them for It, and are non-Conscious. Liberation, the result, is, therefore, supposed to be in the Conscious Self (18.107, US). 

Some hold that ‘ignorance’ of the Self lies in the mind and, therefore, Self-knowledge has also to take place in the mind in order to negate the ignornace.

No. Mind is not a container like a Fruit bowl holding things. Moreover, there is no place where the all-pervasive Self is already not there! Therefore, as Shankara says at 18.50, BGB, one has to shed the non-Self and no action is needed to instil Self-knowledge. No sooner the non-Self is negated, the Self will shine in all Its pristine glory. See here.

What is the essence of the message, “You are That” and how does it work?

Every one of us know and feel that there is a “knowing / understadning / sentient” element within us. It IS present even before we identify ourselves with our mind (thought) or body. That “Knowing element” Itself has no form or describable attribute. It is, in fact, not only within us but everywhere inside and outside us, though we think of It as our Inner Self, the Witness. From an assumed sense of proximity, we call It ‘AtmA.’ The same is referred to as ‘brahman‘ or ‘tat‘ from Its aspect of all-pervasion. Shankara writes:

अहं शब्दस्य निष्ठा या ज्योतिषी प्रत्यगात्मनि ।
सैवोक्ता सदसीत्येवं फलं तत्र विमुक्तता ॥  — 18.101, US.

Meaning: It is the indirectly expressed meaning of the word “I,” viz., the Innermost, self-luminous Self which is expressed in the teaching “You are That.” The result is “Liberation.”

The right Knowledge of the Self becomes manifest from the sentence “You are That,” like the knowledge acquired from the sentence “You are the tenth” (18.192, US).

The renunciation of all actions in order to discriminate the (implied) meaning of the word “YOU” becomes the means (to Self-knowledge) according to the teaching (18.222, US).

One should know the Self, the innermost One and the implied meaning of the word “You” in the combination of the body and the senses. One then knows the Pure Self to be brahman, the all-comprehesnive principle. And that is the meaning of the sentence, “You are That” (18.223, US).

Is there a duty to perform for an idnvidual who attained the Self-knowledge?

Knowing oneself to be brahman, one has no duty to perform. Nor one can be a Knower of brahman, when one has duties to perform. One deceives oneself by having recourse to both sides (18.210, US).

Is there any action that has to be undertaken by him?

Once it is “Known” that one is eternally existing Liberation, and still desires to perform actions is a man of clouded intellect. It is against what the scriptures stand for (18.209, US). No actions can be enjoined on one when one has known the meaning of the sentence (“You are That”). For, the two contradictory ideas, “I am brahman” and “I am an agent” cannot exist together (18.225, US).

[Acknowledgements: Unless otherwise specified, I used the translations of Swami Gambhirananda for most of the Upanishadic texts and brahma sUtra-s, Swami Madhavanada’s work for the brihadAraNyaka Upanishad and Swami Jagadananda’s text for upadesha sAhashrI. I also express my indebtedness to all my friends who functioned virtually as my gurus through their searching questions which inspired me to delve deeply into the subject matter.]

8 thoughts on “‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 4/4

  1. You buttoned up the entire “tat twam asi” in this post. This post will be of immense benefit to Sadhakas now and in future. Though no action is required for the realization, you have shown the way for those who insist on some process to get there.
    Since this post is concise like a sutra, one needs to read it more than once to grasp the essence.
    I think that you should elaborate more on few things that I stumbled on:
    Who is the experiencer of this transmigratory existence? You say delusion. Your example of the imagined triangle might drive the point home.
    Realization takes place in Consciouness?
    How can any ignorance take place in pure pristine C for the eventual realization. Is it the imaginary vibration in C that caused duality hence it is said so.
    Your next question really hits the nail on head “shedding the non self , Self will shine”. This is Neti Neti and that is all required for Self to shine.

  2. Thank you, Vijay for your comments and kind observations.

    As you can appreciate, the length considerations of the article were the main reason for me to be brief in expression. However, as suggested by you, I expanded the write up a bit on the topic of “delusion.” Hope the outcome is better now.

    The stand that Advaita takes, as you are well aware, is that the so-called ‘ignorance’ is also a delusion. It does not truly exist but only appears to be. Because Self is the only ‘sentient’ entity present, we attribute to It the ‘realization’; but both ignorance and realization are concepts which are valid within avidyA only.


  3. Dear Ramesam

    Just to add to this:

    Tat cannot be directly known. Twam, when negated through neti, neti, leaves Tat alone.

    Suresvara NS:
    3.27: The ‘I’ is something which indicates the inmost Self, as the false snake indicates the rope. When the ‘I’ is negated, the meaning of the sentence [tat twam asi] is known, for that which it indicates is the substratum of the ‘I’.

    3.29: Because the body, etc are a veil, one (at first) accepts the meaning of ‘that’ as something not immediately evident, even though it is really one’s own Self, and one takes as immediately evident what is (in fact) not of the nature of that Self (ie ego, mind and body).

    As Vijay says in summing up Tat Twam Asi, you also have highlighted that the essence of the knowledge imparted – and the requisite sadhana – is not just to intellectually understand the meaning of the sentence, but to actually dissolve the ego / mind through detachment, discrimination (of neti neti). This sadhana is not to be confused with action (that is not required for Knowledge), but rather to be understood for its culmination in the non-action of dis-identification.


    PS I’m just reading ‘Losing Ourselves’ by Jay Garfield (a buddhist scholar who translated Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti). He seeks to demonstrate logically that the idea of an ego or soul that we inherently believe we are – and which develops from a early childhood (when we first gain the idea of ‘me’ by being the target of attention of a ‘you’) – is just a pyscho-physical process, with no separate ’soul’ in the machine. Of course, as a buddhist he stops there, rather than realise that the underlying undifferentiated substratum. Interesting exercise nevertheless.

  4. A very impressive series, Ramesam, metculously researched. As Vijay points out, an invaluable source for seekers!

    Just a minor ‘complaint’ for the record, In case any reader is still unaware, I do not accept that the Yoga-based interpretations of Vidyaranya and Vasishtha are in accord with Shankara Advaita. But, again, this IS just for the record. Overall – brilliant!

    Best wishes,

  5. Thanks to both of you, Venkat and Dennis for the kind comments and the supplementary information provided by you.


    Though one may not agree with the remedial measures suggested by Swami Vidyaranya, it is hard to deny his observation itself that in the current times (as was in his days), more and more people aspire for “Self-realization” without having had adequate preparation in the pre-requisite qualifications.

    The inevitable question that arises is, if Sw-V’s suggestion is not acceptable, how do you like to close this gap in the modern-day seekers? Maybe you have already dealt with this topic in one of your books. Will be grateful if you please elaborate your views on this important subject.


  6. My understanding is that gaining Self-knowledge IS enlightenment. But, if sAdhana chatuShtAya sampatti was insufficient prior to the gaining of Self-knowledge, then the ‘fruits’ of that knowledge will not be gained completely. I.e. jIvanmukti will not follow.

    In such a case, it is necessary to do nididhyasana until this occurs. That may take the form of further study, listening to a qualified teacher, writing or teaching oneself etc. This is all described at length in VIvekachUDAmaNI (although I do not believe that was written by Shankara).

    None of this, or indeed any other practice, ever ‘nAShes’ the mind (fortunately)!

    Best wishes,

  7. Whom does imparting the mahAvAkya, ‘tattvamasi’ benefit?
    The teaching is of use to those only who are acquainted with the discrimination between the Self and non-Self.

    The previous question on who knows pain etc, you answered neither antaratma nor the intellect but it the pink elephant!

    In this case, you mention “,teaching is for those ….do you mean jivas,?

Comments are closed.