The shrutisAra samuddharaNam
An Overview by C.S.Baskaran
Identity of the Self and Brahman: The indwelling self is identical with the ever changeless Brahman – the pure existence consciousness. It is the cause of this Universe. The indwelling self (jIvAtman) is aware of both the ‘I’ thought (ahaMkAra ) and ‘this’ (idam- vRRitti ) that resolves in deep sleep. This is the central theme of this text. How such a statement is made, if asked, the answer is that it is not a contradiction as revealed by The Scriptures/ Upanishads. It is proved by shruti, pramANa, logic, and experience as in deep sleep. Seven such pramANa-s are referred to as follows.
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (III.vii.11) ‘It is never thought, but is the Thinker, it is never known but the Knower; there is no other witness but This…’
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad ( III.iv.2) : ‘you cannot think that which is the thinker of thought; you cannot know that which is the knower of knowledge……….’.
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (III. vii.23): ‘…no other thinker but him; no other knower but him…’
- Chandogya Upanishad (VI.viii.7): ‘tat tvam asi’ you are that Brahman.
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad ( II.iv.6): ‘…all ousts one who knows it as different from the self …these worlds, these gods, these beings, and all are this self- Brahman’.
- Katha Upanishad: ( II.i.10): ‘what indeed is there is here’.
- Katha Upanishad: ( II.i.1): ‘a rare discriminating man sees the inner self’.
All these assert the oneness of the Self and Non-Self. Kenopanishad ( I.5 to 9) states that Brahman is not experienced by the sense organs through the mind but is the witness of all the sense organs and the mind. Such a Brahman is the substratum and it is ‘you’ the seeker. Brahman has been introduced as pure existence and the cause of the Universe as in Chandogya Upanishad to Svetaketu, the student, ‘sadeva soumya idam agra AsIt’ which is extremely subtle and imperceptible. Shruti teaches that it is ‘you’. The space inside a pot, called pot space, is not part or product of outside space (mahAkAsha ), which is indivisible. Similarly the indwelling self is also not a part or product of Brahman. This is the truth. One and the same space is called pot space because of its association with the pot. In the same way all pervading consciousness/ Brahman is given the name jIvAtman, the indwelling self, for transactions with the world because of its association with the body, mind, and intellect complex.
Scriptural passages distinguish the indwelling self and non-self (ahaMkAra/ego). Upanishads declare that Brahman created all this that exists and entered into that very thing [(Tai. Up. II.v.1) and (Ch. Up. VI.iii.3)], just as the space is available in the pot after creation of the pot. Another example is the waker creating the dream world of objects and witnessing the dream. Even though the Upanishads deal with creation of the universe from Brahman, the intention is not to establish the creation but only Brahman as one without second. Brahman is non-dual (ekam/advitIyam ). This is asserted indirectly by revealing the cause of creation as real/satyam and the creation as unreal or mithyA. On the other hand, if the scriptures establish the duality, then it becomes meaningless and useless as it has no benefit to the seeker/student.
The scriptural study is meant to give the result as realization of the oneness of jIvAtman and Brahman as in ‘ the knower of Brahman attains the supreme’ (Tai. Up. II.i.3), ‘ the knower of the self transcends sorrow’ ( Ch. Up. VII.i.3), etc. The duality of the Universe is not the central theme of Upanishads. It establishes Brahman as real/satyam and the Universe unreal/mithyA. If the scriptural statement reveals the plurality of creation it will not align with the Principal statement/mahAvAkya ‘tat tvam asi’ of the scriptures. The changeless indwelling self who witnesses, as though, all the functions of the mind, body (mobile and immobile), is the same as the pure existence-Brahman that establishes the central theme of Vedanta.
Dvaitin’s view and its refutations
Dvaitins ( opponents before Madhvacharya ) do not accept the oneness of the inner self with Brahman. According to them the principal statements need to be interpreted differently in four ways.
- If the witness of the mind is quite different from Brahman as fish from the ocean and not as pot-space, how will it not contradict the Principal statement ‘thou art that’? This is refuted by quoting the principal statements like ‘that thou art’ (Ch.Up.VI.viii.7.), ‘this is your self that is within all’ (Br.Up.III.iv.2), etc., which declare the absolute non-difference between the indwelling self and the supreme- self, Brahman.The Principal statement is never meant for the oneness of indwelling self with Brahman nor for removal of ignorance. It is only to prescribe meditation (upAsana) on Brahman which does not contradict but endorses the Dvaitin’s view. In scriptures we have injunctions like a) meditate on the mind as Brahman; b) meditate on the sun as Brahman, all of which gives result. Even though they are different it is only visualization; c) meditate on an idol of God retaining the individual hood.
- ‘tat tvam asi’ should be taken only as figurative expression, since the two are not equal but have common aspects. The common features are, sentience, powerful, etc.
- ‘Thou’ art Brahman can be said as a praise to eulogize a donor.
- Brahman is similar to the individual self in as much as it is eternal and sentient like the individual self.
The dvaitins further ask why, if the principal statement revealing the oneness of the individual self with Brahman is true, one does not experience the Bliss (Ananda ), the nature ( svarUpam) and have the knowledge already, in which case there is no need for the Principal statement. Hence tat tvam asi does not declare the individual self to be the nature of Brahman in reality. Similarly all the principal statements of the Shruti do not reveal the oneness.
Refutation of the above objections
The Principal statement is not meant as an injunction and is different from other scriptural injunctions known as vidhi vAkyam-s intended for meditation. It is meant for instructing the ‘I’ in indwelling self expressed by the term ‘you’ along with the word ‘tat’ in (Ch. Up. VI.viii.3), which states that Brahman itself entered in the form of the soul of each individual being. Hence the individual self is essentially Brahman alone. In the injunctions, visualization is prescribed to meditate upon mind, sun, space etc, ‘as’ (iti) Brahman only. Whereas the principal statement does not instruct for visualization, but states a fact to perceive. Hence it is different from all the injunctions which do not reveal the nature of Brahman in mind, space or sun; it only super-imposes them on Brahman.
A statement that conveys the true nature of an entity should contain the verb in the assertive sense. To convey the true nature of a pot a sentence formed will be ‘the pot is clay’ and not ‘the pot is imagined to be clay’. Similarly, the statement for the true nature of mind, etc. will be ‘the mind is Brahman ‘, and not ‘the mind is to be meditated upon as brahman’. In view of this it is clear that the term indicating the injunction such as ‘meditate upon’ (upAsIta ) and the word ‘as’ is of no use for conveying the true nature of any entity. But these terms are very much there in the Upanishads texts as ‘the mind is be meditated…..’ etc. Hence it is meant for meditation and not to convey the true nature of the mind.
Suppose the words ‘meditate upon’ and ‘as’ are removed from the injunction then the sentence becomes mind is Brahman. Here the mind becomes an effect and Brahman the cause. When the effect mentioned in a sentence is in the same case ending relation with the cause, it implies that the effect is unreal and the cause alone is real. Similarly the text ‘mind is Brahman’ declares that Brahman is real and the mind unreal. That runs contradictory to the very central theme of Dvaitins. For them this world consisting of mind etc is as real as Brahman. Secondly leaving out the terms ‘as’ (iti) and ‘meditate upon’ ( upAsIta ) in the injunction mentioned, the sentence cannot be on par with the text tat tvam asi because the former emphasizes the unreality of the mind and the truth of Brahman, while the latter asserts the absolute identity between individual self and Brahman.