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Tat Tvam Asi : VakyaVritti of Sri Adi Sankaracharya

Sri Sankaracharya wrote the Vakyavritti to explain the sentence Tat Tvam Asi, (That Thou Art).

There are 53 slokas in the VakyaVritti. This translation plus explanation is in progress.

Sri Ganesaya Namah.

  1. I bow to that darling of Sri (light, beauty, grace, prosperity, auspiciousness, Lakshmi), the cause of creation, its existence and its return to the original state, of unthinkable ability, the Master and Knower of the Universe, of endless forms, beyond bondage and salvation, the ocean of endless comfort (happiness), who is the wealth of pure knowledge (vimala bodha dhanam).
  2. I bow to my Guru, by whose grace I learned my true nature (Atma Rupam), that I alone am Vishnu and everything is superimposed on me.

I bow to Vishnu and I bow to my Guru who taught me that my Self (Atma) is Vishnu.

  1. A student approaches a Guru and asks him to explain he means to liberation from the three miseries (caused by Body-Mind, Mortal Creatures, Nature).
  2. Please explain an easy way by which I may become free of the bondages of being.
  3. The teacher said ‘I will answer your excellent question’.
  4. The knowledge that arises from sentences like ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ and explains the relation between the Jiva and the Paramatma is the  means to liberation.
  5. The student wished to know who is Jiva and who is Paramatma? How can they be the same? How are they connected with statements like Tat Tvam Asi?
  6. The teacher said, you are the Jiva who asks ‘who am I”. and you are the Brahman.
  7. The student said, I don’t even understand the words, how can I understand the sentence?
  8. The teacher said, you are right, you must understand the words to understand the sentence.

A student approaches a teacher and asks him to explain the sentence Tat Tvam Asi, word by word.

  1. Why don’t you recognise yourself?  The vigraha (embodiment) of *Caitanya (enlightened consciousness), Ananda Rupa (of the form of joy), **Satya (Existence), the Sakshi (witness) of the Antah Karana (Inner Ear – Inner Sensor)  and tat vritti (its modifications).

You are your Caitanyam (enlightened consciousness), which is true, joyful and a witness to your mind.

  1. Think about that which is of the form of satya and ananda, which is the witness of the Dhi (mind – the thing you think with), which binds itself as knowledge. Give up thinking about the body etc…
  2. The body (pinda) is not the self, made as it is of  matter. It is like a pot.
  3. On the strength of what has been said, accept that the self is not the body. Think of it like an amla fruit in the palm of your hand.
  4. Just as the one who observes a pot is not a pot, the one who observes the body is not the body. Know this.
  5. Thus determine that “I am the seer of the senses and not the senses, I am neither the manas, nor the buddhi, nor the prana (the life).”
  6. Similarly determine that “I am not a combination of the above”. Infer the difference between the drashta (one who sees) and what is seen.

Know that you are not your body, your senses, your life or your mind or a combination of both. You are a witness to them.

  1. Think thus, ” I am He by whose proximity all these other things like the body, senses work”.
  2. Know that ‘ I am He who thugh changeless, sets into motion, the buddhi etc as a magnet would iron”.
  3. Know that ” Aham (I) am He, by whose proximity the deha (body), indriya (senses), manas and prana, though jada (not conscious), appear ajada (conscious) like the self (atma).
  4. Know this, ” I am He who knows the vrutti (circle – orbit) of the mind (dhi), like my mind went here and there and I brought it to rest”.
  5. Know this, ” I am He who is changeless and knows what is directly percieved as well as the dreaming, waking, deep sleep states as well as the existence and absence of the mind or intellect”.
  6. Just as a lamp that illuminates the jar is different from the jar, the bodha – vigraha , (the body of the intellect – the consciousness – the self) is different from the body it illuminates.
  7. Know this, ” I am that Seer, the dearest of all, for whose sake, the bhavah (things – perceptions) like son and wealth are dear.
  8. Know this, ” I am that Drashta (seer), the object of the greatest love, regarding whom there is the feeling, ‘may I always be’, ‘may I never cease to exist’.
  9. The word ‘Thou’ refers to Bodhah( Consciousness – that which knows). Witnessing (Sakshitavam) and Knowing (Bodhrutvam) are the same, caused by the unchangingness of the Self (Atma).
  10. The word You (Thou – tvam), is different from your body, senses, mind, prana (life or breath), ego (ahmakruti is doership actually). It is free from the six changes to which all other (non-conscious) things are subject. (The six changes being phenomenal existence, birth, growth, state changes, decline and death).

You (Tvam) are the knower of your body and mind and their behaviour, while awake or asleep. You are what makes them appear as if they were conscious. You are that for whose sake other things become dear. You are that which desires never to die and to always be eternal. You are the Knower, the Witness and You are unchanging.

  1. Having determined what the word Tvam (You) means, we need to understand what the word Tat (That) refers to, by saying what it is not (na iti = neti vadam) and by saying what it is.
  2. The Universal self is said to be Absolutely free from the flaws of the entire world, without the gunakas (qualities) of grossness (largeness),  has the lakshanas (qualities) of being invisible etc, beyond form, darkness and dirt,
  3. beyond whom there is no greater bliss, the embodiment of truth andconsciousness, who is complete and whose own trait is goodness (reality, existence).
  4. Know that to be the Brahman whose Sarvagnyatvam (all knowingness), supreme mastership, complete competence is accepted/stated (samarthyate) by the Vedas.
  5. Know Tat to be that Brahman, by knowing which everything is known, as demonstrated in the Upanishad using the example of earth. (If you know mud, you know mud pots as well as mud walls… If you know the material, you know the product – its properties etc. Modern example, if you know wood and metal you know that wooden slippers will insulate you from electricity and not the metal slippers… )
  6. Know Tat to be Brahman, which the srutis (vedas) declared as infinite. To prove this they say Tat is the cause of the Prapancha (Expansion, Manifestation, Universe).
  7. Know Tat to be that Brahman, which is very carefully established to be the goal of the mumukshus (seekers  of  liberation) in the Vedanta.
  8. Know Tat to be that Brahman, which is heard of in the Vedas, as that which enters creation as Jiva Atma (the self of living beings), to be their controller.
  9. Know Tat to be that Brahmam, which is heard of in the Srutis, which gives (us) the fruit of karma (consequences of our actions) and is the cause of (our) actions.

Tat refers to the Brahman discussed in the Vedas and the Upanishads, as the infinite (ananta), the knower of all (sarvagnya), flawless, untainted, subtle, invisible, the greatest joy, truth and consciousness, the supreme, competent, controller, knowing which everything is known, the cause of Prapancha (Universe, Expansion), the goal of the seekers of freedom, which enters creation as the Jiva Atma, which causes our actions and gives us the fruit of our actions.

  1. Now that the meaning of Tvam and Tat have been ascertained, the meaning of the sentence (identity of tvam with tat) must be thought of.
  2. It is not acceptable to connect (samsarga) this sentence as in a compound sentence, or to qualify (visishta) it. According to the wise, the meaning of the sentence is of an undivided single essence. (For example Tat and (ca) Tvam is not correct bevause Asi is is singular, or Tvam too are (api) Tat  and so forth. It is not to be explained in the way – I am dark, where dark is a qualifier, an attribute. It means You are That – one single sense and sentence.)
  3. Individual Consciousness and Incomparable Bliss are of the Same Nature. (You may be conscious of being sad, but your consciousness is not sad, you mind is sad.)
  4. When we understand this, we see that a meaning of Tat and Tvam other than Brahman are meaning less.
  5. The Individual Consciousness is the Complete and Incomparable Bliss.
  6. Sentences like That Thou Art go to establish the identity of what are Indirectly Expressed by the words Tat and Tvam.
  7. This sentence rejects what is directly (commonly) expressed by the words Tat and Tvam. (Don’t ask – if I am God, why can’t I fly etc – then you are dabbling in dorect meanings).
  8. Maya (Illusion) is the Upadhi for Brahman, it is mistaken for the Brahman, as your body-mind is mistaken for you.
  9. It is also possible for people to make partial mistakes Tat for the Brahman and Tvam as your body-mind or Tat as Maya and Tvam as you consciousness-bliss. Then the identity still fails.
  10. Tat must refer to the Brahman and Tvam to your consciousness., then and only then is the identity true.
  11. You need to think over this in your mind over and over again till you get it right.
  12. Once you have it right then you will no longer be bound to this existence and you will be free.
  13. A man who truly understands the meaning of Aham Brahmosmi is immediately liberated from the subtle and gross states of existence and from all karma.
  14. Once he stops accruing new karma (An-arabhda karma), he is a jivan muktah (one liberated in life), and then when his previous (initial) karma (prarabdha) is discharged, he attains that ultimate state of Vishnu, Kaivalyam (Oneness), from which there is no return.

If the meaning of either Tat or Tvam is mistaken (as Maya or the body-mind), then the identity Tat Tvam Asi fails. When Tat (Brahman) and Tvam (Pratyak Bodha) are correctly identified with Sat-Cit-Ananda (Existence – Consciousness – Bliss), a person attains the state of Aham Brahmosmi, and stops accruing new karma. He becomes a Jivan Muktha – one who is liberated in life and need only work off the karma that he started off with. After this he will attain Kaivalyam or Vishnupadam.

Notes :

  1. It is very important to note that in the words and mind of Sankaracharya, the Tat or Brahman indicated by the Vedas and the Upanishads, was infinite.
  2. Tat is the cause of the Prapancha (Expansion, Manifestation, Universe).
  3. Tat is very carefully established to be the goal of the mumukshus (seekers  of  liberation) in the Vedanta.
  4. Tat is heard of in the Vedas, as that which enters creation as Jiva Atma (the self of living beings), to be their controller.
  5. Tat  is heard of in the Srutis, which gives (us) the fruit of karma (consequences of our actions) and is the cause of (our) actions.

Tat refers to the Brahman discussed in the Vedas and the Upanishads, as the infinite (ananta), the knower of all (sarvagnya), flawless, untainted, subtle, invisible, the greatest joy, truth and consciousness, the supreme, competent, controller, knowing which everything is known, the cause of Prapancha (Universe, Expansion), the goal of the seekers of freedom, which enters creation as the Jiva Atma, which causes our actions and gives us the fruit of our actions.

This disproves those Western and Indian Vedic Scholars who give an animist or elements of Nature interpretation to the Vedas.

It proves the theory of Aurobindo that the Upanishads Supported, Expanded and Explained the Vedas.

It sets the philosphical context for Vedic Studies.

See Also:

  1. http://ancientindians.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/tat-tvam-asi/

Notes :

*Cit means consciousness and is different from manas – mind, buddhi – intellect and ahamkara – ego. (I am the doer-ness)

**Sat means existence, satya is an attribute of existence and is frequently translated as truth or reality.

That Thou Art!

Tat Tvam Asi : You are That!

Tat Tvam Asi : You are That!

I took this picture on one my small adventures to visit the ancient Dharmaraya (Yudhisthira) temple in Bangalore. This picture is from the adjacent Naga Devata Temple, the pictures for which I am yet to put up.

This radiant child who looks far more brilliant than my little camera could capture was the personification of the “Ananda” (Bliss, Joy, Delight…). May Sri Rama protect him, as we say, Sri Rama Raksha!

I am currently reading the Vakya Vritti of Sri Adi Sankaracharya, where he explains the sentence Tat Tvam Asi.

Tat refers to Brahman – the great, the absolute, the God that is referred to in the Vedas and in the Upanishads, also called Paramatma by some.

Tvam refers to your Jiva. (Not your mind, body or ego etc). To that Sakshi (witness) of your activities and your mind.That consciousness that wishes never to die and which loves itself the best. For whose sake it holds family, wealth etc as dear. Also referred to as the Self or Jivatama by some.

Tat Tvam Asi equates your Jivatama or Self with Paramatma or God.

The Jivatma of this young boy is the same as the Paramatma, resident in the Devata Vigraha that the child is respecting. So my caption Tat Tvam Asi.

That is Advaita. (Absence of Two).

When an Indian greets another with a Namaskaram as that little boy is doing, he is respectfully greeting the Jiva-Brahman in that other person.

All Rights Reserved: Photography and Content : Satya Sarada Kandula

Authorship and Copyright Notice: All Rights Reserved. Satya Sarada Kandula

Written by Satya Sarada Kandula

October 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

4 Responses

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  1. It has been an accident and chance to visit your website which has excellent collection on various Hindu topics and the point that it is written for your children and students…. moved me most…. for long I have been thinking of putting my thoughts at one place….. as I keep discussing my spiritual friends ….. now I have something to share with them later today…. and a good discussion points….for evenings / weekends….

    Your blog has made my evenings for years to come, more interesting and lively……. I am touched and blessed….

    sreeram

    June 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm

  2. Jai Sreeram!

    Satya

    June 9, 2012 at 8:41 am

  3. I chanced up on this site..It seems like the Universe is small now..I went in search of this bliss.It met me half way through this site…

    Prema vati

    August 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm

  4. […] Tat Tvam Asi : VakyaVritti of Sri Adi Sankaracharya […]


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