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Tat Twam Asi

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Tat Twam Asi
Mahaa Vaakya  of Chhaandogya Upanishad

This article explains the significance of the Mahaa Vaakya "Tat Twam Asi" which is the basis of A-Dwait Philosophy. Hope this message helps us for better understanding. The Knower And The Known Are One. After traveling long distances and trekking difficult terrains, Ayyappa pilgrims reach the Sabaree Hill. On climbing the sacred 18 steps, the first thing they see is the Mahaa Vaakya displayed above: "Tat Twam Asi", "You are That". This indicates that your Self is Parabrahmn, the eternal reality. This teaching which underlines the truth of your oneness or non-dual existence is revealed in the dialog between Sage Uddaalak and his son, Shwetaketu in the Chhaandogya Upanishad. The seeker-son asks. "How can "Tat" which means "Brahm" and "Twam" which means "You", the individual, be one and the same? While Brahm is the universal Self, the knowledge-absolute, the individual self is the limited being, groping in the darkness of ignorance.

The difference lies in your perception. The statement underlines the basic identity of Brahm in both cases. Since Aatmaa or Self is the reflection of Brahm, the all-pervading reality, the individual is asked to find his identity with Brahm. While reminding him that the reality behind the universal Self and the individual Self is the same, the Mahaa Vaakya exhorts the individual to seek his true identity with Brahm, the eternal reality. His liberation lies in realizing this truth.

Despite the Upanishad's assertion, the individual Jeev, who identifies himself with his body and mind, is not convinced. Living in the world of Maayaa or illusion and limited by various Upaadhi or obstacles, he seems to have lost his identity. Unaware of his inherent power, he goes with a begging bowl seeking limited favors. He seems to be rotting in the quagmire of Sansaar while destined to be the embodiment of Sat-Chit-Aanand - knowledge, consciousness and bliss.

The Kathopanishad says: "Arise, awake; reach the learned advice of the Guru and walk the path towards realization. Turn your attention away from the world, the scriptures say "and direct it inward so that you recognize your innate power and realize that you are infinite, perfect and Poornam or complete.

Most problems can be traced to one single cause. It is his eagerness to know everything about the world except about himself. Unless he knows about himself, he cannot know anything about others. Unless he knows the subject first, he cannot know the object. Rather than engaging himself exclusively to gain knowledge of the world or science and technology, he needs to strive for complete knowledge that deals not only with material but also spiritual aspects. Only that knowledge of the Self is complete and self-sufficient by knowing which all the un-knowable can be known.

Uddaalak asked his son Shwetaketu - "What is that one should know beyond which there is nothing else to be known?" When Shwetaketu had no answer, his father asked him to bring the seed of a Peepal tree and then break it. And what did he see inside? When the son said that he found only a small particles, he was asked to break the small particles also, till at last the son said that he could find nothing. Uddaalak then said - "Though you say you could see nothing, understand that it is from nothing that the great Peepal tree formed." Though you see yourself as a mere individual, you have great power within; of Self-knowledge, similar to the power inherent in the seed, to become a great tree. Realize this and your potential to rise up to the level of Brahm."

Modern instruments of knowledge cannot know Brahm because Brahm Gyaan is the knowledge of Self gained from contemplation and experience; there is neither knower nor known. Only he who has discarded his ego, who has come out of his attachments and bondages, can attain the state of Brahmn. Then, "You are That"

In Its Support
Once a simple woman wrote to Maharshi Raman - “I am not learned in the scriptures and I find the method of Self-enquiry too hard for me. I am a woman with seven children and a lot of household cares, and it leaves me little time for meditation. I request Bhagavan to give me some simpler and easier method.”

Sri Ramana gave her the following practical advice - “No learning or knowledge of Scriptures is necessary to know the Self, as no man requires a mirror to see himself. All knowledge is required only to be given up eventually as not-Self. Nor is household work or cares with children necessarily an obstacle. If you can do nothing more, at least continue saying ‘I, I’ to yourself mentally all the time, as advised in "Who am I?", whatever work you may be doing, whether you are sitting, standing or walking. ‘I’ is the name of God. It is the first and greatest of all Mantra. Even OM is second to it."



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 12/19/12