As we saw earlier, a word can convey a normal meaning and an implied meaning too. When I say, “I am tall”; it means this physical body is tall. In the very next moment when I say, “I am elated”; it does not mean the physical body is elated. Here, the word ‘I’ implies the mind, not the physical body. This is how, we first take the normal, routine meaning and whenever it does not make sense, we apply the alternate, implied meaning.
Let us take another example for clarity. We say “I bought water from the grocery store”. Here when we say so, we very well know that the water comes with a bottle. We cannot buy just water. So, the bottle is included in the meaning. When we say “I drank water”, we, however, do not include the bottle, we mean only the water. So, we took an implied meaning in this case.
Words employed in the scriptures are used in a similar way.
Now, the word satyam also has general meanings and an implied meaning. In normal parlance (non –vedAntik parlance) we call any real, existent object as satyam; For eg, a pen, shirt, watch, computer etc are all perceived and used in our daily lives and hence are counted as real(non vedantically). Similarly, whatever we see in dream is counted as unreal. If a child sees a demon in his dream; we comfort him saying it is unreal, not really existent.
So, by this regular meaning, any existent ‘object’ is satyam. If we take this meaning of satyam in satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma, then, there will be a contradiction. Any existent ‘object’ is limited, time wise, space wise and attribute wise. We saw earlier that brahman is anantam, limitless in all three ways. Hence, this meaning to satyam will contradict the limitlessness. We have to take the implied meaning of satyam.
A look into the implied meaning of satyam…
Any object has 3 aspects, as it were; name (nAma), form (rUpa), existence (satta). Let us take a pencil; it has a name (pencil) and a specific shape. Apart from these two, it is existent. Now shifting our attention to a phone, it also has a name, a form and is existent. Is the existence enjoyed by the phone different from that enjoyed by the pencil? A lay man would never even think in these lines, because he is so stuck in names and forms that he conveniently ignores the existence. Even when asked, he would say that it is an existent object. He merely converts the existence into an attribute of the object. For him, the existence of object depends on the name and form.
Let us take the eg of gold. The necklace, ring, bracelet, pendant are all gold. Nothing is apart from gold. The names and forms called bracelet, necklace and ring differ; but how do we address it?; we say ‘gold necklace’, ‘gold ring’ etc. We convert gold to an attribute of ring and necklace. In our delusion we mix up the two and take the bracelet, ring etc as the truth and the gold as an attribute. From a lay man’s perspective, the ring is truth, the necklace is truth and gold is a mere attribute. What Vedanta teaches is the opposite; gold is the ONLY truth and the bracelets and rings are names and forms which have no existence apart from gold.
We can understand that gold is the truth, basis, substratum for all ornaments. Similarly, the Upanishads convey that existence is the basis of all the appearing forms. The phone ‘is’; the book ‘is’, the watch ‘is’. This ‘is-ness’ is the one and only truth which provides existence to all names and forms. The is-ness is not object specific. If it is fragmented on the basis of objects then it will become limited and again which will be a contradiction.
Hence, for understanding the meaning of satyam, we cannot take all the three aspects, viz, name form and existence. We have to get rid of the name and form cognitively and appreciate only the existence of it (just as we cognitively got rid of the bottle when we say “I drank water” and arrived at the implied meaning). The existence in one object is the same as the one enjoyed by other. In fact, all objects borrow their existence from this very satyam. This satyam, is undifferentiated, all pervading, uniform existence not limited by name, form and attributes; meaning this satyam is anantam. brahman is anantam satyam– limitless existence.