sAmAnAdhikaraNyam/intros and table

ken knight hilken_98 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Aug 11 02:19:14 CDT 2002

> Namaste all,

Sorry to take up space but this seemed to be the best
option. I am posting the monograph of Dr Ganapathy
with footnotes.  I have omitted some of his. I should
have thought of this simple way of putting the
footnotes to start with but I was too keen to get the
text scanned and ITRANSed. If I miss the first impulse
to do something then other matters soon move in to
take precedence.  I picked up a couple of errors on
the way through but I am sure that there are more but
I am sure that you have enough for the moment. I will
not post anymore of this unless requested.
> Om sri ram
> ken Knight

Swami Vivekananda said, “All Knowledge is Veda.”
Knowledge is eternal and therefore knowledge can only
be discovered, not created. The Vedas are the
repositories of all knowledge, secular and spiritual.
In our scheme of education all secular knowledge
should lead us to the higher knowledge or the
spiritual knowledge, the parA vidyA. The VedAnta is
the culmination of the Vedas and the mahAvAkya, the
‘great dictum’ is the logical conclusion of VedAnta.
The four Vedas which contain several Upanishads give
us the four mahAvAkyas, generally recognised as such.
These statements are ‘great’ in meaning and are
authoritative pronouncements on the essential identity
between the JivAtman and the ParamAtman according to
the Advaita system of philosophy. Generally it is held
by the Advaitins that the mahAvAkya by itself can
cause the direct cognition of this essential identity
while only VAcaspati MiShra, holds it is the
meditation on the meaning of the mahAvAkya that causes
this cognition and not mere Shabda (hearing the
mahAvAkya). Either way the full import of the
Mahãvãkya is to be correctly understood and this
realisation is the goal of all SAdhana. To those
initiated into the method of Shravana, manana and
nididhyAsana, the meaning of the mahAvAkya is
explained using the dialectical method. It is this
kind of reasoning that has been rendered into simple
readable English by Prof.T.N. Ganapathy in this book.

For the uninitiated, however, the meaning and message
of the mahAvAkyas may come through secondary
scriptures like the PurANas and even literature. A
distinctive characteristic of our national literature
is its capacity to convey the message of Mukti,
freedom. The meaning may also be brought home to us by
the testimony of seers. As such we come across
glimpses of this knowledge in the utterances of
prophets even outside the fold of Hinduism as for
example in the utterance of Christ “I and my Father
are one” and in the love poems of the Sufl mystics.

This profound philosophy of VedAnta which seeks to
discover unity, and its possible social implications
are elaborately discussed by Swami Vivekananda in his
lectures on J~nAna Yoga and Practical VedAnta. They
may be summed up as follows: “All reasoning ends only
in finding unity; so we first use analysis than
synthesis. In the world of science the forces are
gradually narrowed down in the search for one
underlying force. When physical science can perfectly
grasp the final unity, it will have reached an end,
for reaching unity we find rest. Knowledge is final.”

“Religion the most precious of all sciences, long ago
discovered that final unity to reach which is the
object of J~nAna Yoga.
All is the Self or Brahman. The saint, the sinner, the
lamb, the tiger, even the murderer as far as they have
any reality, can be nothing else because there is
nothing else... Nothing can be higher than this
knowledge, and in those purified by Yoga it comes in
flashes to the soul... This was discovered 4,000 years
ago, but has not yet become the property of the race,
it is still the property of some individuals only. For
the man who has become perfect, nothing remains but to
apply his understanding. He lives only to help the
world, desiring nothing for himself. What
distinguishes is negative — the positive is ever wider
and wider. What we have in common is the widest of
all, and that is ‘Being’.”

Again the process, the methodology of spiritual
striving, is given in the words of Swamiji, as, “The
awakening of the soul to its bondage and its effort to
stand up and assert itself — this is called life.
Success in this struggle is called evolution. The
eventual triumph, when all the slavery is blown away,
is called salvation, NirvANa, freedom. Everything in
the universe is struggling for liberty. When I am
bound by nature, by name and form, by time, space and
causality, I do not know what I truly am. But even in
this bondage my real self is not completely lost. I
strain against the bonds; one by one they break, and I
become conscious of my innate grandeur. Then comes
complete liberation. I attain to the clearest and
fullest consciousness of myself— I know that I am the
infinite spirit, the master of nature, not its slave.
Beyond all differentiation and combination, beyond
space, time and causation I am that I am.” So this is
the meaning of the mahAvAkya, and Swamiji has
elaborately dealt with the social implications of the
mahAvAkya in his lectures on Practical VedAnta.

There is another way to understand the meaning of
mahAvAkya which the Upanishad describes using a
brilliant poetic imagery. This can best be explained
using Swamiji’s paraphrase of the relevant verse. “Two
birds sat on one tree. The bird at the top was calm,
majestic, beautiful, perfect. The lower bird was
always hopping from twig to twig, now eating sweet
fruits and being happy, now eating bitter fruits and
being miserable. One day, when he had eaten a fruit
more hitter than usual, he glanced up to the majestic
upper bird and thought, “How I would like to be like
him!” — and he hopped up a little way towards him.
Soon he forgot all about his desire to be like the
upper bird, and went on as before, eating sweet and
bitter fruits, and being happy and miserable. Again he
looked up, again he went up a little nearer to the
calm and majestic upper bird. Many times was this
repeated until at last he drew very near the upper
bird; the brilliancy of his plumage dazzled him,
seemed to absorb him, and finally, to his wonder and
surprise, he found there was only one bird he was the
upper bird all the time and had but just found it out.
Man is like that lower bird but if he perseveres in
his efforts to rise to the highest ideal, he can
conceive of, he too will find that he was the self all
the time and the other was but a dream.”

If we delve into the meaning of our art, architecture,
poetry, or drama, we shall discover that the same
theme of unity is depicted in all these various
expressions of human will or emotion. Sister Nivedita
says, “The Indian picture expresses unity. The Italian
would have been full of broken suggestions... A true
picture must be suggestive.” Our philosophy and
psychology of aesthetics, and literary criticism again
are informed by this theme of unity. The evolution of
thought from BhaTTalollaTa to Abhinavagupta
illustrates this fact. This runs parallel to the
evolution of philosophical ideas from
NyAya-VaiSheshika to VedAnta. Some of these ideas are:
A real aesthetic enjoyment is possible, according to
our AlankArikas, only when BhAvas are universalised.
They lose their effects when perceived in a general
way. Again this enjoyment is alaukika or
transcendental (this comes very near to the Vedäntic
idea). Even grief depicted in literature creates only
joy in the mind of the sahR^idaya.

Thus we see that the theme of the mahAvAkya, the
essential unity of all existence, is the most
fascinating theme and provides us the key to
understand the hidden sources of our strength and
meaning of all our endeavours in various fields of
thinking and action. It is this that Swami Vivekananda
wanted to be broadcast in a language understood by the
common man. This problem has several aspects. The
author has made a good start in tackling one aspect of
the problem, of rendering in simple English the
traditional approach. We hope that he will continue to
work on this noble theme and convey its message
effectively to one and all.

Secretary & Correspondent
Ramakris/ina Mission Vivekananda College


Dr. Ganapathy is to be congratulated on his brochure
on the mahAvAkyas mahAvAkya, wherein he has expounded
a highly technical subject in a non-technical manner,
without however sacrificing the profundity of the
subject in the interest of a simplified exposition.
The interpretation given is exclusively according to
the tradition of KevalAdvaita or pure Non-dualism, and
is meant to show that a mahAvAkya is called so because
it is akhaNDArthabodhaka — that is, it declares the
unitary and partless nature of the supreme Truth.
There are two steps in the establishment of this
thesis. First it is pointed out that the
above-mentioned relationship is established through
aikya-sAmAnAdhikaraNya or co-ordinate relationship of
the identity of the two terms of the vAkya (sentence)
like Tat tvam asi (That thou art). sAmAnAdhikaraNya
(co-ordinate relationship) occurs when the two terms
of a sentence have a common reference. But this need
not necessarily be one of identity. This is explained
by analysing sixteen forms of sAmAnAdhikaraNya and
showing how none of them except the aikya-
sAmAnAdhikaraNya can establish the true unity of the
twoterms, and therefore of the unity of existence as a
whole, which is the purport of all VedAnta.

The next step in the argument seeks to show how there
can be unity and a common reference even when the
two-terms —Tat, standing for IShvara and Tvam standing
for jIva — have, apparently different denotations.
This is achieved by the doctrine that words in a
sentence can have two meanings — one vAcyArtha or
manifest meaning, and the other lakshyArtha or implied
meaning. In the great sentence Tat tvam asi, the
manifest meaning of tat is IShvara, but the implied
meaning, Brahman, the attributeless Absolute. So also
in the case of tvam ‘you’ too, the implicit meaning
(lakshaNA) is Brahman while the manifest meaning
(vAcya) is the jIva. Thus the identity of both the
terms is obtained by the elimination of the adjuncts
of both. When this is done, their common substratum,
which is their implied meaning too, is found to be
identical. To further elucidate this point, the
various forms of lakshaNA, or meanings by implication,
are analysed. Of the three types of lakshaNAs
considered, what is called jahad-ajahal-lakshaNA
(exclusive-non-exclusive implication) ,is favoured as
applicable to the context of mahAvAkyas.
If a critique of the theme is allowed in a Foreword,
the present writer would like to offer the following
reflections. The whole thesis is based on the
acceptance of the idea that the purport of the VedAnta
is to teach the unity of all existence. This position
is unexceptionable. But the study of the Upanishadic
texts would show that there are two types of unity —
unity by sublation of all multiplicity, and unity
through the subordination of all multiplicity by the
one unifying principle. Now the traditional standpoint
of kevalAdvaita is that the first of these types of
unity alone is the ultimate position, and that
wherever the second type of unity is referred to, it
is only provisional, base camp to be abandoned and
negated ultimately.

Now is it absolutely necessary that a liberal doctrine
like that of VedAnta should be interpreted in such an
exclusive fashion? Why should only one kind of
sAmAnAdhikaraNya, namely Aikya-sAmAnAdhikaraNya, be
favoured? Some of the other kinds of co-ordination
like kArya-kAiraNa (effect and cause) and aMsAMShin
(part and whole) mentioned in the thesis can as well
be considered as applicable. There are some arguments
brought against them, but they are not convincing to
those who take this latter view of VedAnta. Similar
shortcomings can be found also in the type of identity
favoured by the kevalAdvaita. It can only lead to
endless controversy of an inconclusive nature,
weakening the doctrine of the VedAnta.
The better course therefore will be to hold that
VedAnta particular to show only the unity of
existence, accepting at the same time several types of
co-ordination like those of absolute identity, of part
and whole, of cause and effect, etc. Immediately the
objection will arise how the same sentence can have
conflicting meanings. The answer is that they are not
conflicting but complementary and that there is no
rule that a sentence can have only one meaning, which
is so in regard to a logicians sentence no doubt, but
not of a poet. In the compositions of great poets like
KAlidAsa and Shakespeare we get passages having more
than one layer of meaning. All these meanings co-exist
in the passages without any conflict. And if we
conceive of God more as a poet than a logician, we can
understand how His revelation can be multifaceted,
catering to the needs of men of different temperaments
and capacities. Scriptures are revelations only
because unlike the compositions of logicians and
grammarians, they are meant to cater to humanity at
large. And a mahAvAkya is the quintessence of
revelation. For the grammarian a mahAvAkya as opposed
to a laghuvAkya, is a sentence with a very large
number of words. For the logical Advaitin it is a
sentence of a few words teaching a great truth, namely
akhaNDArtha or the doctrine of non-difference. But
perhaps a saint and a seer will find its mahattva,
greatness, in that it is many-faceted, expounding the
unity of existence in its several aspects. The
greatness of mahAvAkyas consists in that they embody
several forms of co-ordination without any conflict.
Scriptural exegesis in VedAnta has to pass from the
sway of logical exclusiveness into the liberalism of
mystical all-inclusiveness.

Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras,


bAdhAyAM                              adhyAsa
aikya                  others


ShastrakR^ita           sa~NketakR^ita      guNakR^ita

sampad-upAsti               pratika- upAsti
          (3)                                (4)

kriyA-kriyAvat                       guNa-guNin
       (8)                                        (9)

prakR^iti-vikR^iti                stuti
       upacAra             aMShaMShin
       (13)                               (14)
                 (15)                        (16)

1. bAdhAyAM                      Coordinate relation
in terms of contradiction
under adhyAsa comes dosha-kR^ita and adosha-kR^ita:
2. dosha-kR^ita                     Coordinate
relation due to error.
Under  adosha-kR^ita comes ShastrakR^ita  and
sampad-upAsti and pratika- upAsti, under ShastrakR^ita
3. sampad-upAsti                  Coordinate relation
in terms of meditation on the excellence of something
4. pratika-upAsti                         Coordinate
relation in terms of meditation on a symbol.
Directly under adosha-kR^ita come sa~NketakR^ita  and
5. sa~NketakR^ita                 Coordinate relation
based on convention.
6. guNakR^ita                     Coordinate relation
due to quality.
Under viSheshaNa-viSheshya come 7,8,9,10.
7. jAti-vyakti                          Coordinate
relation in terms of the universal and the particular
8. kriyA-kriyAvat                  Coordinate relation
that exists between the act and the doer.
9. guNa-guNin                       Coordinate
relation in terms of substance and attribute
10 upakaraNa-upakaraNin.    Coordinate relation in
terms of an instrument and its possessor
aikya is by itself
11 aikya                                 Coordinate
relation in terms of identity
under others come the rest.
12.kArya-kAraNa                  Coordinate relation
in terms of cause-effect
13 prakR^iti-vikR^iti            Coordinate relation
in terms of matter and form
14. stuti                                      Coordinate
relation in terms of eulogy
15. upacAra                       Coordinate relation in
terms of courtesy
16. aMShaMShin                    Coordinate relation
in terms of the part and the  whole.


At the outset it may be stated that the main aim of
this monograph is to show that the mahAvAkyas are the
declarations of the identity of individual self with
the Supreme Self.

Before we enter into a detailed discussion on the
subject proper, let us see what a vAkya or sentence
is. A sentence is a unit of words. It is a single and
complete expression of thought.

The collocation of words in a sentence is such that it
does not leave the hearer in the eager expectation of
hearing more to get an information complete in itself.

A sentence is defined as follows:

That sentence is a means of valid knowledge in which
the relation (among the meanings of words) that is the
object of its intention is not contradicted by any
other means of valid knowledge.

This means that a sentence is not a mere combination
of words. Every sentence should have at least two
words, a subject and a predicate. A sentence with an
intransitive verb (akarmaka) requires a minimum of two
words. A sentence with a transitive verb (sakarmaka)
requires a minimum of three words. Both these types
are called simple sentences (1aghu-vAkyas). A sentence
may also contain more words. It may run to several
pages with a large number of words in it. Only such
sentences because of their size and the number of
words they contain should be called mahAvAkyas in the
strict sense of the term. A mahAvAkya, on this
classification, is one which contains limitless number
of words. If this be the case how can we call the
following vAkyas which contain not more than three
words as mahAvAkyas.

        The     four major texts are:
        (1)     praj~nAnam brahma       (Consciousness is Brahman)
        (2)     aham brahmAsmi  (I am Brahman)
        (3)     tat tvam asi    (Thou art That)
        (4)     ayam AtmA brahma        (This Atman is Brahman)

Strictly speaking, the above texts cannot be called
mahAvAkyas. Yet they are. What is the criterion by
which we decide that they are mahAvAkyas? The
criterion is the message they contain viz., the truth,
that is, the declaration of the identity of the
individual self with the supreme Self.(1) Since these
vAkyas are said to be akhaNDartha-bodhaka (conveying
unitary impartite sense free from all distinctions),
they are called mahAvAkyas . These sentences contain
the kernel of the Vedas conveying the supersensuous
truth. mahAvAkyas  are VedAnta aphorisms which inform
the seeker about things unknown by other means. All
other sentences are called avAntaravAkyas (subsidiary

Let us see what type of vAkyas these four mahAvAkyas
come under, in order to facilitate our discussion on

A sentence, though it consists of words, signifies
more than what its constituent words convey. “More is
meant than what meets the ear.”  To grasp its import
one has to know not only the meanings of the
individual words, but also their relation. The
significance of a sentence is brought out by the
apprehension of the mutual relation of the meanings of
the constituent words.(2) The apprehension of this
relation is the verbal cognition.

Sentences are classified on the basis of their use
into two:
vyadhikaraNa and samAnAdhikaraNa. In vyadhikaraNa each
word in the sentence conveys a meaning that is
different from others. “The application, to one thing,
of several words having the same case of which there
is a different reason” is defined as sAmAnAdhikaraNya
or grammatical coordinate relation. Literally the word
sAmAnAdhikaraNya means ‘the relation of abiding in a
common substratum.’ In sAmAnAdhikaraNya  the words are
shown to stand in that relation by their being in the
same case and in the same number. In vyadhikaraNa
vAkya the words have different case and number. The
four mahAvAkyas fall under the category of coordinate
relation or sAmAnAdhikaraNya.

Coordinate relation may be broadly classified into
four main types. They are: bAdhAyAM sAmAnAdhikaraNy
(coordinate relation in terms of contradiction),
adhyAsa sAmAnAdhikaraNya  (coordinate relation in
terms of error), viSheshaNa-viSheshya sAmAnAdhikaraNya
 (coordinate relation in terms of substance-attribute)
and aikya sAmAnAdhikaraNya  (coordinate relation in
terms of identity).

AdhyAsa and viSheshaNa-viSheshya  types have special
varieties under each head. In addition to the above
four main types and their subdivisions, five other
types of coordinate relation are also recognised. All
told, there are sixteen varieties of coordinate
relation. (see table)

The aim of this monograph is to show that the
mahAvAkyas  can be meaningfully interpreted to come
under aikya or abheda sAmAnAdhikaraNya. This is shown
first by demonstrating that no other type of
coordinate relation can satisfactorily explain the
true meaning of the mahAvAkyas ; secondly, it is shown
that only abheda sAmAnAdhikaraNya  can give the
correct interpretation; and thirdly it is shown that
the mahAvAkyas  are to be interpreted through
jahadajahallakshaNa (exclusive signification).

Before we proceed further let us make clear the
meanings of the words ‘Tat’ and ‘Tvam’ in ‘Tat tvam
asi.’ Caitanya is either associated with antaHkaraNa
or not. Caitanya associated with antaHkaraNa  is jIva.
Caitanya not associated with antaHkaraNa  is pure
Brahman. The jIva (associated with antaHkaraNa) is the
primary meaning (vAcyArtha) of the word ‘tvam’ and
Brahman is the secondary meaning (lakshyArtha) of
tvam. Similarly, the words denoting jIva (3)  in the
other mahAvAkyas  have both vAcyArtha  and
lakshyArtha. Caitanya is either associated with mAyA
(nescience) or free from mAyA. The caitanya associated
with mAyA  is iShvara; and the caitanya not associated
mAyA is pure caitanya. The pure caitanya is called
Brahman. The vAcyArtha of ‘Tat’ is iShvara; the
lakshyArtha of ‘Tat’ is Brahman. Similarly the words
denoting ‘iShvara’ (Brahman) in the other mahAvAkyas
have both primary and secondary meanings. iShvara is
the primary meaning, and Brahman the secondary
meaning. When associated with the limiting adjunct
(antaHkaraNa or mAyA), jIiva as well as iShvara is
different from Brahman. Without the limiting adjuncts,
jIva and iShvara are identical with Brahman.

Let us now explain the different types of
sAmAnAdhikaraNya (other than aikya) and show how they
are inadequate to bring out the true meaning of the
mahAvAkyas. (4)

1.      bAdhAyAM sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate relation in
terms of contradiction): Someone mistakes a post for a
thief. Another man corrects him saying that the ‘Thief
is a post’ (coraH sthANuH). The statement is intended
to show that the object is only a post. The terms
‘thief’ and ‘post’ are contradictorily related. Yet on
hearing the statement, the man, who has misunderstood
the post to be a thief, corrects himself by abandoning
the object ‘thief’. The coordinate relation, that
exists between the terms ‘thief’ and ‘post’ in the
above statement is in terms of contradiction.

If we accept this type of coordinate relation in
interpreting the mahAvAkyas (which express the truth
that jIva is Brahman), we have to abandon either the
jIva or Brahman. If jIva or Brahman is to be abandoned
by this process, the purpose of the mahAvAkyas is

Let us assume that either Brahman or jIva is to be
abandoned. If Brahman is to be abandoned by this
process, the purport of the mahAvAkya that ‘the jIva
is nothing but Brahman’ is lost. That is, Brahmanhood
which is to be attained by the jIva (by annihilating
ignorance), is itself negated or abandoned. This
cannot be the meaning of the mahAvAkyas which seek to
show the identity between the two. On the other hand,
if jIva is to be abandoned by this process of
bAdhAyAM sAmAnAdhikaraNya, the object with which the
Brahmanhood is to be identified is lost. And if jIva
is abandoned, to whom are the mahAvAkyas addressed?
Further, bAdhAyAM sAmAnAdhikaraNya cannot be applied
to the mahAvAkya ‘Tat tvam asi,’ as the word ‘Tat’ (in
the primary sense) denotes only iShvara and not
Brahman. Similarly the word ‘Brahman’ in the other
three mahAvAkyas denotes (in the primary sense) only
iShvara and not Brahman. The word ‘Brahman’ here
stands for saviShesha Brahman (Brahman with qualities)
and not nirveShesha Brahman (Brahman without
qualities). Since the aim of the mahAvAkyas is to show
the identity of the individual self with the ultimate
Self, they cannot be interpreted through        bAdhAyAM

In this connection it may be pointed out that some
Advaitins use this type of sAmAnAdhikaraNya in
interpreting the mahAvAkyas. But a careful examination
of such an interpretation will show that such thinkers
use aikya sAmAnAdhikaraNya and not      bAdhAyAM
sAmAnAdhikaraNya. Even if bAdhAyAM sAmAnAdhikaraNya is
adopted in interpreting the mahAvAkyas, what is
abandoned is not the jIva in its essential nature,
since by brahmabhAva (brahmanhood) only the jIvabhAva
(jivahood) which is adventitious is lost. The
knowledge of the object as post abandons only the idea
that it is a ‘thief’ and does not abandon the
substratum, ‘object,’ itself. The Advaitins who use
bAdhAyAM sAmAnAdhikaraNya in interpreting the
mahAvAkyas do not accept the abandonment of Brahman.
As the question of sublating Brahman does not arise,
the abandonment can only be that of  jIva and not of
Brahman. In the case of the abandonment of jIva what
is abandoned is the jIvabhAva and not the jIva.
Further, the word tat denotes, according to this
section of Advaitins, nirupAdhika Brahman
(unconditioned Brahman) which is mentioned before in
the sentence “svam apito bhavati.” (5) (He attains his
own nature) which occurs in the course of the
description of deep sleep. Yet the difference between
the Advaitins who accept        bAdhAyAM sAmAnAdhikaraNya
and those who do not accept this type of coordinate
relation in interpreting mahAvAkyas is a difference in
upeya (end) for, both accept that the mahAvAkyas teach
the non-difference of the Atman from Brahman. Hence
both sections of advaitins accept, in essence, that
the aim of the mahAvAkyas is not to abandon the jIva
but to show the identity of the jIva with Brahman.

(2)     DoshakR^ita-sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate relation
due to error): This is one of the main varieties of
adhyAsa- sAmAnAdhikaraNya. AdhyAsa is the apprehension
of something as something else.(6) AdhyAsa-
sAmAnAdhikaraNya is broadly classified into
doshakR^itam and adoshakR^itam or AhAryajam. Mistaking
a rope for a snake is doshakR^itam. When we see a rope
as a snake we express our cognition in the form “This
is a snake”. This statement is due to erroneous
cognition (or bhrAntij~nAna). The difference in the
resulting statements distinguishes bAdhAyAM
sAmAnAdhikaraNya from doshakR^ita sAmAnAdhikaraNya
In doshakR^ita sAmAnAdhikaraNya, the difference
between the rope and the snake is not known. Though
the term ‘this’ stands for the rope, it is not known
because snake is superimposed on the ‘this’. As the
main aim of the mahAvAkyas is to remove false
knowledge, they cannot be interpreted through
doshakR^ita sAmAnAdhikaraNya. If it is argued that
this type of coordinate relation can be applied to the
mahAvAkyas, then the mahAvAkyas should have been in
the form “This is IShvara” or “This is jIva”. But the
mahAvAkyas are in the form ‘jIva is IShvara’. Hence
they cannot be interpreted through doshakR^ita
sAmAnAdhikaraNya, as the identity between Brahman and
jIva is not doshakR^itam  which is nothing but
adoshakR^itam (coordinate relation not due to error)
is classified into three types. They are:
        (i)     ShAstrakR^itam (coordinate relation due to
        (ii)    Sa~NketakR^itam (coordinate relation due to
and (iii)   GuNakR^itam (coordinate relation due to

(3)     & (4) Sampad-upAsti sAmAnAdhikaraNya, and
pratIkaupAsti sAmAnAdhikaraNya: The first type of
adoshakR^itam, viz., ShAstrakR^itam may be sub-divided
into two:

(i)     Sampad-upAsti (coordinate relation in terms of
meditation on the excellence of something), and

(ii)    Pratika-upAsti (coordinate relation in terms of
meditation on a symbol).

The statement “ManaH viShvedevAH” can be cited as an
example for sampad-upAsti. Here the numerical
many-ness (anantam) is mentioned as similarity between
the individual mind and viShvedevAH

Meditation upon the mind as Brahman and worshipping a
stone as VishNu are examples of pratika upcAsti. In
the first example we are asked to superimpose the idea
of Brahman on mind and in the second we are asked to
superimpose the idea of VishNu on the stone, even
though no point of similarity is mentioned between the
mind and Brahman or between VishNu and the stone. We
may distinguish sampad-upAsti from pratika-upAsti. In
sampad-upAsti the points of similarity are mentioned
whereas in pratika-upAsti it is not so.

Further, if the superimposed thing or idea is more
important than the substratum, it is sampad-upAsti,
e.g., “The preceptor is the God” (GururdevaH). If the
idea of substratum is more important than the
superimposed, it is pratika-upAsti e.g., “Om Brahma”.
In both the cases the idea of the substratum is not

Both sampad-upAsti- sAmAnAdhikaraNya and
pratika-uAisti- sAmAnAdhikaraNya are not applicable to
the mahAvAkyas for the following reasons:

(a) If the mahAvAkyas are to be interpreted as
statements for meditation, they should have contained
the word ‘upAsti’ directly in them. This is not the
case with the mahAvAkyas.

(b) It may be argued that even though terms indicative
of meditation are not included in the mahAvAkyas, they
are meant only as statements of meditation. This point
may be met by showing that, since moksha is given as
the fruit of these mahAvAkyas and as eternal
liberation cannot be produced by our meditation, the
mahAvAkyas cannot come under this category of

(c) That which is worshipped cannot be Brahman.’(7)
The mahAvAkyas are not for the sake of including
upAsana on Brahman because when the non-dual nature of
Brahman is experienced, the knowledge of duality
disappears and one who has realised one’s identity
with Brahman, cannot meditate on Brahman.

(d) Statements of meditation should contain the word
‘iti’ (thus). The mahAvAkyas do not have the word

(e) In the mahAvAkyas  we are not asked to reflect on
the individual soul as if it is Brahman. It is
categorically stated in all the mahAvAkyas that the
jIva is Brahman itself.

(f) If we assume that the mahAvAkyas are upAsana
vAkyas (statements enjoining meditation) several
difficulties arise. Are we to meditate (i) on Brahman
as jIva or (ii) on jIva as Brahman? We cannot meditate
on Brahman as jIva for, in that case we will be
meditating on the highest or superior principle in
terms of the lower one. If we are asked to meditate on
jIva as Brahman, repetition of the mahAvAkya (8)  is
not necessary.

In upAtsana there is no place for argument or
dialectic. Only where there is the employment of
argument or dialectic repetition is necessary. Since
the mahAvAkyas has been repeated nine times to clarify
the doubts raised by Shvetaketu it cannot be a upAsana
vAkya, but it must be a tattva-vAkya.

An objection may be raised to this line of argument by
pointing out that the other mahAvAkyas have not been
repeated at all and that therefore they, at least,
must be upAsana vAkyas. But it must be remembered that
the other mahAvAkyas are not meant to clarify any
doubts on the part of the student; they are uttered in
the course of teaching and not in the course of a
Further the moment these mahAvAkyas are uttered one is
able to grasp the identity between Brahman and Atman.
Three types of adhikArins (qualified aspirants) are
recognised in the Upanishads viz. uttama (best),
madhyama (average) and manda (below average).
Uttama-adhikArin is one who can understand the inner
truth even through the silence of the teacher. This is
the way DakshiNAmUrti teaches his disciples. The
madhyama-adhiAirin catches the inner meaning as soon
as he hears the statement. Only for the last category
of persons manda who have a bundle of doubts to be
dispelled by the process of dialectic, repetition of
truth is necessary.
Only the mahAvAkyas ‘tat tvam asi’ is uttered nine
times in the ChAndogya Upanishad during a dialogue
between the teacher and the student. In the case of
the other mahAvAkyas they are uttered not in the
course of a dialogue between the teacher and the
taught, but in the form of direct teaching by the
Upanishads themselves. Hence where direct teaching has
been resorted to, repetition is not necessary. The
difference among mahAvAkyas is a difference in the
methodology, of stating the truth. Further it can be
shown that the method of dialogue can also be
successfully applied to the other three mahAvAkyas.
Hence the objection does not stand scrutiny.

(g)     If the mahAvAkyas are meant to be upAsana-vAkyas,
they should have come under the karmakANDa and not in
the j~nAnakAnda. So even with reference to the context
(or section) in which they occur, we cannot call them

Because of these reasons we cannot establish the
coordinate relation between Brahman and Atman in terms
of ~strakrta~sjim~n?t~ dhikara~iya.

(5)     ShAstrakR^ita- sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate
relation based on convention): The best example of
this type of sAmAnAdhikaraNya is found in
superimposing the sound ‘a’ on the syllable ‘a’.        The
coordinate relation that exists between the syllable
representing the sound ‘a’ (not the meaning of the
letter) and the akshara (syllable) ‘a’ is referred to
as sa~NketakR^ita. In spite of the coordinate relation
between the syllable and the sound of ‘a’, the
syllable cannot be identical with the sound ‘a’. It is
only a symbol for akAra-akshara. This type of
sAmAnAdhikaraNya cannot be resorted to in interpreting
‘identity statements’ like the mahAvAkyas, for we can
neither say that the ‘I’ is the symbol for jIva nor
say that jIva is the symbol for IShvara.

(6)     In guNakR^ita-sAmAnAdhikaraNya, the coordinate
relation is a metaphorical one. When we say that
“Devadatta is a lion”, the coordinate relation is
between the common qualities (like valour and courage)
found in Devadatta and the lion. This type of
coordinate relation cannot be employed in interpreting
the mahAvAkyas for the following reasons:

(a)     Brahman has been described as nirguNa, nishkriya,
ShAnta, etc. jIva is described as not bound
(aaMsAirin), etc. Hence this type of
guNakR^ita-sAmAnAdhikaraNya  cannot be applied to the
qualityless Brahman or Atman.

(b) When we compare two things, the things compared
should be really different from each other; at the
same time they should possess certain common
characteristics which enable us to make the points of
comparison. We cannot apply this type of coordinate
relation to Brahman and jIva, for they are not really
different from each other, but they only appear to be

(c) It may be argued that there are statements in the
Upanishads which describe Brahman as possessing
qualities; hence guNakR^ita-sAmAnAdhikaraNya may be
applied to the understanding of the mahAvAkyas. But a
little reflection will show that these mahAvAkyas are
statements which have been specifically stated in
order to negate such attributes in Brahman. Hence pure
Brahman is nirviShesha and nirguNa.

(d) Further, it may be argued that this type of
coordinate relation can hold good in the
interpretation of the mahAvAkyas since we view IShvara
as different from jIva, and jIva as different from
IShvara considering the primary meaning of these terms
(vAcycArtha). Both are sopAdhika (with a limiting
adjunct) and hence they can be compared on the basis
of their common qualities. If we can institute a
comparison between jIva and IShvara (because they are
different and yet have common qualities) a question
‘arises whether we compare jIva with IShvara or
IShvara with jIva.

We cannot compare IShvara with jIva, for according to
the definition of comparison, the higher cannot be
compared with the lower. On the other hand can we
compare jIva and IShvara on the basis of their common
qualities? Even this cannot be done, because there
cannot be any common qualities between jIva and
IShvara in the primary senses of these terms. Some may
argue that sentient quality is the common
characteristic between IShvara with jIva, and hence a
comparison is possible. If we accept this point of
view of comparison, then we can also compare a pebble
with IShvara by saying that they have ‘existence’ as a
common quality. This will defeat the very purpose of

Thus we have shown that any variety of the adhyasa-
sAmAnAdhikaraNya cannot be resorted to in interpreting
the mahAvAkyas.

(7)     JAti-vyakti-sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate relation
in terms of the universal and the particular): This is
one of the four varieties of viSheshanNa-viSheshya-
sAmAnAdhikaraNya  (substantive-attribute relation).
The other three varieties are kriya-kriyAvat, guNa
guNin and upakaraNa-upakaraNin.

Words which are placed in the coordinate relation as
in the expression ‘this cow’ refer to one and the same
object. Though the connotations of the words are
different — the word ‘this’ refers to the particular
(vyakti), and the word ‘cow’ refers to the universal
(jAti), they nevertheless refer to one and the same
object. This type of coordinate relation between jAti
and vyakti is known as JAti-vyakti-sAmAnAdhikaraNya.

But this type of coordinate relation cannot be adopted
in interpreting the mahAvAkyas, for jAti-vyakti
relation is applicable only to insentient objects.
Both jAti and vyakti are insentient. But IShvara and
jIva are sentient. Hence the mahAvAkyas cannot be
interpreted by this type of coordinate relation.
Further, Atman has been described as ‘agotram’,
‘avarNam’ meaning thereby that it cannot be classified
under any jAti. If one interprets the mahAvAkyas in
terms of jAti-vyakti- sAmAnAidhikaraNya, then a
question arises as to which of these two words refers
to jAti (universal) and which to vyakti (particular).
We do not have any valid reason to treat either
Brahman or Atman as jAti or vyakti; hence it is not
proper to interpret the mahAvAkyas in terms of
jAti-vyakti- sAmAnAdhikaraNya.

(8)     kriyA-kriyAvat-sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate
relation that exists between the act and the doer):
The coordinate relation that exists between the words
in statements like ‘Devadatta is standing’ (tishThan
devadattaH) is called kriyA-kriyAvat-sAmAnAdhikaraNya
But such a sAmAnAdhikaraNya cannot exist between the
words in the mahAvAkyas,. KriyA is action and kriyAvat
is that which has the action, or that which acts. In
the mahAvAkyas,, of the two terms, jIva and IShvara,
is Jiva the kriyA of IShvara, or IShvara the kriyA of
jIva? Both cannot be, because both are sentient
beings. Further, since Brahman and Atman are described
as nishkriya (actionless), akriya (without actions)
and vikriya (beyond actions) in the Upanishads, we
cannot resort to this type of coordinate relation in
interpreting the mahAvAkyas.

(9)     guNa-guNin- sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate relation
in terms of substance and attribute): The well known
example for this type of coordinate relation is ‘the
blue lily’ (nIlam utpalam). This expression denotes
one and the same thing which, while being a lily
(substance) has also the attribute ‘blue colour.’(9)
Adjectives are useful for the purpose of
differentiating objects belonging to the same class.
In the above example, in the class ‘lily,’ there are
many individuals which are red, white, blue, etc. So,
when we predicate a quality ‘blue,’ of a particular
individual of this class, this adjective serves not
only to distinguish it from others of different
colours, but also to negate the application of other
adjectives. Though the two words, ‘blue’ and ‘lily,’
have different connotations, they have the same
denotation. But this type of relation involving the
substantive-attribute relation cannot be applied to
the mahAvAkya. The oft-repeated form of the question
will arise here: 01 the two words referring to Brahman
and Atman, which is the substance and which is the
attribute? Neither Atman nor Brahman can be considered
as guNa or attribute, for only insentient things are
attributes of something else. Further, since Brahman
is unique, there is no ‘use of applying adjectives to
it. Adjectives applied to Brahman will be meaningful
only if it is a known entity (prasiddha) and since it
is not such an entity, any number of adjectives to it
is meaningless. Though there is the element of
identity in substance-attribute relation, the identity
that is referred to is a relational identity. But in
the mahAvAkyas, the identity that is referred to is a
non-relational identity. The identity is akhaNDArtha
non-relational, unitary identity. Hence guNa-guNin-
sAmAnAidhikaraNya cannot be applied to the mahAvAkyas.

(10)    UpakaraNa-upakaraNin- sAmAnAdhikaraNya
(coordinate relation in terms of instrument and
possessor): To cite the best example of this type of
coordinate relation there is the statement, “The man
with a stick is Devadatta” (daNDI devadattaH). Here
the coordinate relation is in terms of the
‘instrument-possessor’ relation. It is obvious that
this type of coordinate relation cannot be made use of
in the explanation of the mahAvAkyas, since we cannot
interpret either the word that stands for Brahman as
the instrument of Atman or the word that stands for
Atman as an instrument of Brahman. Further, as Brahman
is niravayava (partless) this sort of coordinate
relation is inapplicable to the mahAvAkyas.
(12), (13) and (16): Now let us take up karya-karana
(coordinate relation in terms of cause-effect),
prakR^iti-vikR^iti and aMShAMShin varieties of
sAmAnAdhikaraNya together for discussion.
 ‘This book is Upanishad’ (granthaH upanishad) and
‘Ghee is life’ (AyurghR^itam) are cited as examples
for kArya-kAraNa- sAmAnAdhikaraNya. In these examples,
the coordinate relation is in terms of ‘cause-effect’
relation. The book, by itself, is not changed into the
Upanishad; only the knowledge that comes from it is
called Upanishad. In the same way, the ghee, by
itself, is not life. The book is kAraNa which contains
the kriyA  i.e., the Upanishadic teaching. Similarly
ghee is the cause which enables one to have long life
(which is the effect).

‘The clay pot’ is the example given for
prakR^iti-vikR^iti- sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate
relation in terms of matter and form). Here, unlike
the previous examples given for kArya-kAraNa-
sAmAnAdhikaraNya, the clay itself becomes the pot.

‘Sparks of fire’ is the example given for aMShAMShin-
sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate relation in terms of part
and the whole). The coordinate relation between spark
and fire is aMShAMShin. It is also called
avayava-avayavin coordinate relation. The sparks are
not the bits of fire; they are bits of firewood only
on which we have the fire. Fire is one and the sparks
are the parts of the one fire. The relation between
‘sparks’ and ‘fire’ in the said expression is termed
as ‘part-whole’ relation.

Now we have to show that all the above mentioned three
types of coordinate relation are not applicable to the
mahAvAkyas,. If we try to interpret them in terms of
kArya-kAraNa, we have to say that either jIva is the
cause and IShvara is IShvara the effect or that
IShvara is the cause and jIva is the effect. The
Upanishad do not lend Support to the view that jIva is
the cause, and IShvara the effect. Further, on this
view if we have to treat IShvara as effect, then
IShvara cannot be eternal. So IShvara cannot be the
effect of jIva.

On the other hand, if we hold the view that vara is
the cause and jIva the effect, then that which is the
cause cannot be eternal. Cause-effect relation can
hold only between non-eternal entities. Since IShvara
and jIva are eternal entities cause-effect
relation cannot hold between them. Similarly the
coordinate relation that exists between IShvara and
jIva is not that of prakR^iti-vikR^iti-
sAmAnAdhikaraNya. In this type of coordinate relation
one becomes the other. But according to the Upanishad
neither jIva becomes IShvara, nor IShvara becomes jIva
The mahAvAkyas, are statements which have come to
establish the identity between jIva and IShvara
(Brahman). They do not say that many jIvas have come
out of IShvara.

In the same way we cannot resort to aMShAMShin-
sAmAnAdhikaraNya to explain the coordinate relation
that exists between jIva and IShvara, because neither
jIva is a part of IShvara nor IShvara a part of jIva.

(14) and (15) Stuti-sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate
relation in terms of eulogy) and
upacAra-sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate relation in terms
of courtesy): When we call a man (who is not Indra
himself) “You are Indra” the coordinate relation
(between the word ‘you’ and the word ‘Indra’) is in
terms of eulogy. Knowing fully well that the man is
not Indra, we still call him Indra. We use the term
‘Indra’ as a term of eulogy.
In upacAra-sAmAnAdhikaraNya we call a man who is very
close to the king as a king, or the P.A. to the
principal as principal, since he does the important
work of the king or the principal even though he is
not the king or the principal as such. Here the
coordinate relation is in terms of upacAra (courtesy).
In both the cases we are calling a thing by what it is

These two types of sAmAnAdhikaraNya exhibit a
coordinate relation between a thing and what it is
not, and not between a thing and what it is. It is
obvious that these two types of coordinate relation
cannot be resorted to in interpreting the
mahAvAkyas,since they are statements of truth and not
statements of eulogy or courtesy. When jIva is called
Brahman, we are not praising jIva; we say that in
essence jIva is Brahman. If we try to resort to either
of these coordinate relations, we will be landing
ourselves in absurdities. We cannot praise IShvara as
jI va.
This is obviously absurd. Nor can we praise jIva as
IShvara, since jIva is not really different from

If it be said that Shruti is praising jIva as IShvara,
it may be pointed out that Shruti is not deriving any
gain by praising jIva; further, ShrutivAkyas are
disinterested statements. The praise is intended for
the purpose of conveying the sense of identity between
jIva and IShvara vara. Therefore the mahAvAkyas are
neither ShrutivAkyas nor upacAravAk.yas.

So far we have shown that the different types of
coordinate relation, other than aikya, are inadequate
to bring out the true meaning of the mahAvAkyas. Now
we have to show that the mahAvAkyas, can be
interpreted only in terms of aikya- or abheda

(11)    Aikya-sAmAnAdhikaraNya (coordinate relation in
terms of identity): Let us explain this by taking the
well-known example, so’yaM devadattaH, “This is that
Devadatta”. This judgment refers to the identity
(aikya) of the individual (Devadatta) in spite of the
differences in respect of time, place and
circumstance. An individual who was seen a few days
ago at a certain place is seen today at a different
place under other circumstances. When we say that he
is the same man, we overlook the unessential
differences and emphasize the essential identity of
the person.

This is an identity judgment. But the words ‘this’ and
‘that’ represent a pair of incompatible determinants.
“...‘this’ means here ‘as determined by the present
time and space’, as seen here and now; and ‘that’
means ‘as determined by some other time and space’, as
seen at some other time and space .... Still there is
not the least doubt about the fact that we do mean
something, and mean nothing short of an identity.”  So
we have to bring out the import of the term ‘this’ and
‘that’ contained in the sentence ‘This is that
Devadatta’ in order to justify that they refer to the
same thing.
The clarification is done in two stages. The first
stage of interpretation is called aikya-
sAmAnAdhikaraNya. Though the two terms stand to denote
two incompatible determinants, since they are in
grammatical apposition5 we conclude that, in some
manner, the two terms must denote the same thing. That
is, here we show the coordination between the two
words. But if we take the literal meanings of the two
terms we cannot say that they stand for the same
thing. So we have to sublate the incongruous elements
in the words ‘this’ and ‘that’. This is the second
stage called lakshaNA. That is, we have to go beyond
the primary meanings of these words to their implied

Besides primary meanings, words and sentences have
implied meanings. Primary meaning (10) is something
directly meant by a word. An implied meaning (11) is
its secondary meaning. In case the primary meanings of
words of a sentence prove inadequate for the
apprehension of their logical connection and their
import, then the implied meanings are sought for. In
other words, where the primary meanings lead to a
contradiction, we resort to lakshaNA or secondary
signification in order to get at the purport of the

lakshaNA or secondary signification is of three kinds:

(1) jahallakshaNA  (exclusive secondary implication),

(2) ajahallakshaNA  (non-exclusive secondary
implication), and

(3) jahadajahallakshaNA  (exclusive non-exclusive
secondary implication).

(1) When the primary meaning is altogether given up
and a new meaning is acquired it is jahallakshaNA.
‘The village in the Ganges’ is a classic example of
the primary meaning being rejected. The reason for
treating it as an example of jahallakshaNA  is that
the village and the river Ganges stand to each other
as the supported Adheya) and the support AdhAzra).
When it is interpreted literally the primary meaning
does not hold good. A village cannot be in the Ganges
immersed in it. All that it means is that it refers to
a particular village on the bank of the river Ganges.
In the primary sense, the word ‘Ganges’ refers to the
river not the bank.  So we are leaving the primary
meaning river (Ganges) but take, instead, the ‘bank’ (
which is  associated) with the river Ganges, as the
secondary meaning. Now there is no contradiction in
understanding the meaning of this expression.
(2)     When we add a suitable meaning in understanding
the sentence without abandoning the primary meaning it
is called ajahallakshANA. Here the primary meaning is
not discarded, but it is supplemented. ajahallakshANA
is therefore, explanation by implication in which a
word, instead of discarding its own meaning, implies
something else together with its primary meaning. When
it is said that ‘The red is rushing forward,’ the
implication is ‘someone with the red colour is rushing
forward’. Here the quality that is described is added
to the object in which that quality is inherent. The
primary meaning is included in the implied meaning. In
this way, without rejecting the primary meaning, an
explanation by the secondary signification is

(3)     When a part of the primary meaning is preserved
and another part of it is rejected, it is called
jahadajahallakshANA ; e.g., “This is that Devadatta”.
It is by rejecting the incongruous element that we
arrive at the identity of the person referred to. In
this judgment, a part of the meaning of the words
‘this’ and ‘that’, viz., Devadatta, is taken and the
other part of their meanings viz., ‘qualified by
present time’ and ‘qualified by past time’, is
rejected. Such an interpretation is known as

In this connection it may be pointed out that lakshANA
is used not only when there is contradiction of
primary meanings (mukhyArthaAdha), but also wherever
we want to get the true purport of the sentences. That
is, secondary signification may be adopted in places
even when the primary meaning does not suffer
contradiction. What is intended to be conveyed above
the meaning of a sentence (tAtparyavishaya). And if a
sentence does not directly express its intended
meaning, then it should be obtained from noting the
implied meaning of the words in the sentence.(12)

In the sentence, “Protect the bowl of curd from the
crows, there is no contradiction of primary meaning of
words; but if we take the primary meaning only then it
goes against the intention of the sentence
(tAtparya-anupapatti). The tatparya is the protection
of the curd not only from the crows, but also from
other creatures that are likely to spoil the curd. So
the term crows, in addition to the primary meaning
implies all creatures that can spoil the curd. Here,
in the above example, we resort to ajahallakshANA and
take the lakshANA of the sentence. We do so not
because the primary meaning is contradicted but
because it goes against the intention of the sentence;
and the purport can be grasped only by resorting to
lakshANA. But in all the three examples cited for
jahallakshANA, ajahallakshANA and jahadajahallakshANA
we get the implied meaning of the expressions by
pointing out the inadequacy of the primary meaning of
words in getting the purport of the sentences.

Now the question arises as to the specific kind of
lakshANA (secondary signification) that could be
adopted in interpreting the mahAvAkyas. This depends
on the primary and the secondary meanings of the words
constituting the mahAvAkyas. Let us take ‘tat tvam
asi’ as representing all the mahAvAkyas and try to
apply these three lakshANA, one by one.(13)

The primary senses of the words ‘tat’ and ‘tvam’ are
IShvara and jIva respectively. IShvara is omniscient
and is known mediately (paroksha).  jIva is ignorant
and known immediately (aparoksha). The contradiction
between them is too apparent to be reconciled. Is it
ever possible that there can be any unity between two
such mutually exclusive entities? Any literal
interpretation would contradict the accepted meanings
of both these terms. But we would do violence to the
spirit of the Shruti text if we should, on that
account, reject the underlying identity that is

The aim of the Shruti is to inculcate the identity
between Atman and Brahman. If we take the intention of
the Shruti text into consideration, jahallakshANA is
unacceptable in interpreting the mahAvAkyas. For, if
we leave the primary senses of these two terms
completely, then what is the secondary meaning that is
to be taken to show their identity? There is none,
because the terms ‘tat’ and ‘tvan’ through
jahallakshANA totally abandon their primary meanings
IShvara and jIva. Further, in the example cited to
explain jahallakshANA the village and the river Ganges
stand to each other as the sustained and the
sustainer. But such is not the case between ‘that’ and
‘thou’ in the sentence ‘that thou art’. Hence it is
not a case of jahallakshANA.

Nor can we interpret the maMvakyas through
ajahallakshANA, where we are free to add to the
primary meaning. If our aim is to find out the
underlying identity that is implied in the mahAvAkyas,
then there is no point in adding something which,
instead of stressing the identity, would widen the
differences already there in their primary senses.
Hence ajahallakshANA will not satisfy our need.

The only alternative is that a part of the direct
meaning of each of the two words, has to be
eliminated, and the remaining part of them is to be
retained just as in the example, “This is that
Devadatta.” In the example “This is that Devadatta,”
it is by rejecting the incongruous that we arrive at
the identity of the person referred to. We should
apply the same principle with reference to “tat tvam
asi.” In this mahAvAkya, when the individual self is
asserted to be identical with Brahman, the individual
self as characterised by agency, suffering and
ignorance is not asserted to be identical with

In the mahAvAkya, “that thou art,” the word ‘thou’
stands for the self or consciousness as characterised
by immediacy,
finitude and parviscience. The word ‘that’ stands for
the self or consciousness as characterised by mediacy,
infinitude and omniscience. In interpreting this
mahAvAkya, a part of the primary meaning of the term
‘thou’ is abandoned and a part of it is retained; and
a part of the primary meaning of the term ‘that’ is
abandoned and a part of it is retained. We abandon the
‘immediacy-mediacy’ ‘finitude-infinitude’ and
‘parviscience-omniscience’ senses of the terms ‘thou’
and ‘that’ respectively and get beyond them to the
self or consciousness which is common and is implicit
in both. That is, while rejecting one part of the
primary meaning of the terms ‘thou’ and ‘that,’ we
retain the other part of the primary meaning of the
terms ‘thou’ and ‘that’, namely ‘consciousness.’
Therefore, the final import of ‘tat tvam asi’, viz.,
the identity of the individual self with the ultimate
Self is established by jahadajahallakshANA or
bhAgavatyAga lakshANA.

Now, it may be asked: Will it not be enough to have
lakshANA for one word only in the mahAvAkyas instead
of applying lakshANA to both the words? The intention
of the question is that it is enough that we take one
of the words in each of the mahAvAkyas  in the
secondary sense and the other word in the primary
sense, and thereby deny that the mahAvAkyas are
declarations of the identity of the individual self
with the supreme Self. The argument in support of this
view is as follows.

If the purpose of resorting to lakshANA is to avoid
contradiction of primary meanings, then this can be
done successfully by resorting to lakshANA for one
word only. Hence there is no necessity for construing
both the terms in the secondary sense.

Assuming that we can have lakshANA for one word only
in the mahAvAkyas, the question arises: Are we to have
lakshANA for the first word only or for the second
word only? Let us say that we take the first word only
in lakshANA in each of the mahAvAkyas.

The mahAvAkyas are:

(i)     tat tvam asi,
(ii)    a ham BrahmAsmi
               (iii) ayam AtmA Brahma, and
               (iv) praj~nAnam Brahma.

The first word in ‘tat tvam asi’ is ‘tat’. The first
words in the other three mahAvAkyas are ‘aham’ ‘atmA’
‘praj~nAnam’. The word ‘tat’ in its primary sense
refers to IShvara and the first words in the other
three mahAvAkyas, in their primary sense, refer to
jIva. If we take the first word in each of the
mahAvAkyas in the secondary sense, and the second word
in the primary sense it would be as follows:

 tat   ………………………………….             lakshANA
tvam………………………………….            primary
Here we say that caitanya is jIva. Here there is no
contradiction of meanings of the words if we take the
first word only, in the secondary sense.

In the other three mahAvAkyas,

First word (denoting jIva)…………………………..
Second word  (Brahman)……………………………primary
sense…………………IShvara (14)

We say that ‘caitanya is IShvara’. Here also there is
no contradiction of meanings of the words in the
mahAvAkyas if we take the first word only in the
secondary sense. In short, by resorting to lakshANAfor
the first word only, we are able to show that there is
no contradiction of meanings of words. The difficulty
here is that, if we take all the four mahAvAkyas
together, then there is contra~ diction between the
first mahAvAkya and the other three. For, the first
mahAvAkya on the above interpretation says that
‘caitanya is jIva’ and the other three, on the above
interpretation, say that caitanya is IShvara. This
goes against the doctrine that all mahAvAkyas convey
one and the same truth (ekArtha-bodhaka). Hence,
taking the first word only in the secondary sense
leads to contradiction among the mahAvAkyasthough
there is no contradiction between the meanings of each
of the words in the mahAvAkyas.

Let us see what happens if we take the second word
only in lakshANA in each of the following mahAvAkyas.


Here we say that ‘caitanya is IShvara’.  In the other
three mahAvAkyas:

First word (denoting jIva)……………………primary
Second word (Brahman)…………………. Secondary

Here we say ‘caitanya is jIva’.

Here also there is contradiction among the
mahAvAkyaseven though there is no contradiction
between the meanings of each of the words in the
mahAvAkyas. For, the first mahAvAkya, on the above
interpretation, says that ‘caitanya is IShvara’ and
the other three, on the above interpretation, say that
‘caitanya is jIva’. This goes against the doctrine
that all the mahAvAkyas convey one and the same truth.
In either way, whether we take the first word only in
the secondary sense or the second word only in the
secondary sense, both lead to incompatibility between
the first and the other three mahAvAkyas.

It may be argued that, (without resorting to
lakshANAeither to the first word only, or to the
second word only) we can
take the word denoting IShvara only (wherever it
occurs) in the secondary sense, and show that there is
no contradiction among the words in the mahAvAkyas,
and also show that there is no incompatibility between
the first and the other three mahAvAkyas. On this
assumption, if we take the word denoting IShvara in
the secondary sense wherever it occurs in the
mahAvAkyas, then we have to take the word denoting
jIva in the primary sense wherever it occurs; or if we
take the word denoting Jiva in the secondary sense
wherever it occurs in the mahAvAkyas, then we have to
take the word denoting IShvara, in the primary sense
wherever it occurs.

On this assumption, let us first take the word
denoting IShvara only in the secondary sense in the
mahAvAkyas and see what happens. In ‘tat tvam asi’ the
word ‘tat’ stands for IShvara in the primary sense,
and in the other three mahAvAkyas the word denoting
Brahman stands for IShvara in the primary sense. Now
we have to take the word denoting IShvara in the
secondary sense in all the four mahAvAkyas.



primary sense               IShvara
secondary sense          caitanya
                                          jIva primary

In the other three mahAvAkyas:


                                   IShvara - primary

primary sense
                     caitanya – secondary sense

In both sets of mahAvAkyaswhat we say according to
this interpretation is that ‘caitanya is jIva’. On
this view we will be compelled to conclude that the
main purport of the Upanishads is not to say about the
ultimate reality (Brahman), but to say something about
the jIva. Further, it will amount to saying that the
knowledge of the jIva will lead to complete
liberation. Obviously this is not the purport
(tAtparya) of the Upanishads.
The intention of the Upanishad is to liberate jIva
from bondage, by showing that the jIva in essence is
Brahman itself. The Upanishadic aim is to release the
jIva from its ‘jIvabhAva’ and to make it realise its
essence, namely ‘BrahmabhAva’. This aim of the
Upanishad is thwarted if it be said that the jIva’s
aim is to attain ‘jIvabhAva’ by acquiring a knowledge
of the jIva’. Further, knowledge of the “jIvabhAva’ is
not a release from bondage but a push into it. This
way of applying lakshANAto the word denoting IShvara
only, wherever it occurs in the mahAvAkyas, leads to
the opposite purport of the mahAvAkyas, and thereby we
do violence to the spirit of the Shruti. Further, by
this process we have reduced the status of
IShvara-caitanya to a lower level i.e., the level of
the jIva. Hence it is not correct to resort to
lakshANAfor the word denoting IShvara in the

Now it may be argued that we can resort to lakshANA
for the the word denoting ‘jIva’ only wherever it
occurs in the four mahAvAkyas, taking the word that
stands for ‘IShvara’ in the primary sense. Let us
apply this procedure to the mahAvAkyas and find
whether this interpretation holds good.

Tvam, aham, AtmA , praj~nAnam…….    these words
denoting jIva would mean in the secondary sense to
refer to caitanya (pure). Then the meaning of the
mahAvAkyas would be ‘caitanya is IShvara.’  This
reduces nirguNa Brahman to saguNa Brahman. Even though
this way of interpretation may not lead to any
contradiction in the meanings of the words, it is
incompatible with the ideal of liberation and the
tAtparya of the Upanishads. It is also contrary to the
statement of the Upanishad “Brahmavid brahmaiva

Further, by taking the word denoting ‘jIva’ only in
the secondary sense, what is left will be the caitanya
in the limited sense because it is this caitanya with
which alone the element of antaHkaraNa is associated
before. The denotation of the word jIva is caitanya
limited by antaHkaraNa.

When we resort to lakshANA for the terms denoting
‘jIva’, antaHkaraNa only is left out. ‘That which
remains is ‘limited’ caitanya.

According to the vAcyArtha, the caitanya that remains
will be limited caitanya. Let us illustrate this by an
analogy. If one looks at a building through a mirror,
the building that is seen by him is the building
limited by the scope of the mirror. If we remove
mirror and ask him what is it that he saw in the
mirror, he would say that he saw a building. The
“building” which has been referred to by him is the
building that he saw in the mirror and not “the
building itself as such.”

In the same way, if we resort to lakshANA for the term
denoting jIva, the caitanya that is referred to (and
remains after the removal of antaHkaraNa) is the
limited caitanya (which was known earlier through
antaHkaraNa). According to the primary meaning of the
word denoting ‘IShvara’ in all the four mahAvAkyas,
the caitanya that is referred to is the akhaNDa
(unlimited or rather of an infinite) caitanya…………..
(akhaNDa in the relative sense only, because the
caitanya that is referred to in IShvara is like a
building seen through a relatively bigger mirror).
Then the four mahAvAkyas are to be interpreted as
identifying the limited caitanya with the unlimited
caitanya of IShvara.

This would be an identity of the unlimited with the
limited.(15) Again, by identifying jIva -caitanya with
the IShvara -caitanya we have completely forgotten the
aim of jIva. The aim of jIva is not to identify itself
with IShvara (which is the vAcyArtha of the word
denoting IShvara), but to identify itself with Brahman
which is completely akhaNDa. Hence we cannot resort to
lakshANA for the word denoting jIva only.
So far we have shown that we cannot apply lakshANA (i)
only to one word, namely the first word; (ii) only to
one word, namely the second word; (iii) only to one
word, namely the word denoting if IShvara; and (iv)
only to one word, namely the word denoting jIva. This
amounts to the fact that we have to resort to lakshANA
for both the words in interpreting the mahAvAkyas.

In this connection it would be interesting to pass in
review the view that natural interpretation of the
mahAvAkyas is possible
without resorting to lakshANA or even bAdhAyAM
sAmAnAdhikaraNya. For example, take the sentence “The
pot is non-eternal” (ghataH  anityaH). Here the word
‘pot’ denotes the individual (vyakti) which has the
sAmAnya or jAti (universal) ‘potness’ in it. Here the
individual pot is non-eternal, whereas ‘potness’ is
eternal. When we say that pot is non-eternal, the
natural reference is to the individual pot and not to
‘jAti’ viz., ‘potness’ as such, even though the word
pot may stand for the individual pot as well as
‘potness’. The non-eternality in the said expression
can be indentified with the individual pot (which is
non-eternal), and not with ‘potness’ (which is

The non-eternality referred to here has the
appropriateness of association with the ‘vyakti’ and
not the jAti’. This is the natural interpretation of
the statement, “The pot is non-eternal”. When we speak
of the non-eternality of the pot, we do not say that
we are taking the ‘vyakti’ by lakshANA. No one will
say that the above statement is a vAkya to be
interpreted through lakshANA. Let us explain it
further. When someone says, “Pot is non-eternal,’ the
non-eternality may be associated with the individual
pot directly by the principle (nyAya) “padArthaH
padArthena anveti na tu tad ekadeShena” . (one meaning
fits in with another but not with a part of it only).

But let us assume that someone says, “Pot is eternal”
here, according to the principle (nyAya) cited above,
we have to connect ‘eternality’ only with pot, and not
with ‘potness’ because ‘potness’ is part of the pot
(padArtha ekadeSha) and not a separate padArtha
(entity). But we cannot connect the eternality with
the individual pot, because the individual pot is
non-eternal, and hence we have to apply lakshANA to
the word ‘pot’, and interpret it in the secondary
sense of ‘potness’ and connect the eternality only
with the ‘potness’ which is the ‘jAti’; thus when we
speak of the eternality of the pot, we resort to
lakshANA. But when we speak of the non-eternality of
the pot, we do not resort to lakshANA ,but connect
non-eternality by a natural interpretation with the
individual pot,. So everyone understands without
resorting to lakshANA the meaning of the statement
which is a natural one. In the same way, ‘tat tvam
asi’ also may be interpreted. Then the caitanya
referred to in both the the words is appropriately

Therefore our final view is that the mahAvAkyas are
sentences which indicate a single, non-relational
entity underlying their terms. If the validity of a
sentence depends on its purport, and not on its
literal meaning, then all the mahAvAkyas convey the
identity of the individual self with the supreme Self.

Before concluding, it would be better to examine the
view that ‘identity propositions’ are, by their very
nature impossible for the simple reason that they are
restatements (anuvada). “The thing itself is identical
with itself” makes no meaning. Hence treating the
mahAvAkyas as a case of restatement amounts to
rendering them meaningless. This type of criticism can
be met easily by examining what a re-statement
(anuvAda) is. In a restatement i.e., anuvAda, we
repeat what has been stated earlier (like a tape
recorder) or express a truth that is known already
e.g., “Heat is a remedy for cold” (agnirhimasya

Both the interpretations are not applicable to the
mahAvAkyas. When we say, “This is that Devadatta,” the
‘this’ may be taken as anuvAda in the first sense of
repetition, but the word ‘that’ cannot be taken as a
case of repetition. Similarly in the mahAvAkya ‘Thou
art that’, ‘Thou’ may be taken as a case of
repetition, but not the word ‘that’. This sense of
anuvAda does not fit in here. The mahAvAkyas therefore
is not an anuvAa or re-statement in the first sense of
repetition. When we say, “This is ‘that’ Devadatta” to
a man who wants to know whether ‘this’ Devadatta is
identical with the Devadatta seen earlier, we are then
expressing a truth that is not known earlier to the
man. There is an element of newness or a new idea in
this statement. He has come to know what is not known
to him earlier (aj~nAtasya j~nAnam). The same is the
case with the mahAvAkyas.

The mahAvAkyas set out to say ‘something that is not
known hitherto. Hence, on this count also, it is not
Further, identity is not a real relation. One thing
cannot become identical with another. Either it is
always identical, or it is always different, and so it
never becomes identical. The identity of the self and
Brahman is an eternally accomplished identity. Only we
are ignorant of it. The aim of the mahAvAkyas is to
remove this ignorance. The Self was, is, and shall
ever remain Brahman. The knowledge by identity is not
judgmental. We do not describe Brahman or add anything
by way of qualification to Brahman. In’ the instance
that we have taken to explain identity, i.e., “This is
that Devadatta,” the ‘this’ and the ‘that’ are only
seemingly different. Similarly is the case with the
‘thou’ and the ‘that’ in ‘That thou art’. In point of
truth they are just one and the same entity. To know
the difference ‘is not a problem for us. We just start
with it. The’ problem is ‘about unity or identity. It
is the knowledge of the unity that is rewarding and
that demands both effort and discernment. The
difference between Brahman and jIva is known to all.
But their identity is hidden for us. We need to
recognize, to bring out, or to re-discover this
identity and when we do so, the two do not become one.
There is only one real substance which has appeared to
us under two different names and forms. When the
superimposition goes, the one substratum reveals
itself and comes to stay for ever.

jIva is Brahman itself. When we speak of the identity
of jIva and Brakman, one may get the impression that
there are two entities which are sought to be
identified. This impression arises as a result of the
use of language. Nowhere are the words of George Eliot
more appropriate than there — “Our language is but a
broken lamp.”

1  The first mahAvAkya is a lakshaNavAkya
(definition); the second is an anusandhAna vAkya
(sentence of practice); the third is an upadeShavAkya
(sentence of instruction); while the last one is an
anubhavavakya (sentence of experience).
2. This has four conditions: expectancy (AkA~NkshA);
consistency (yogyatA);  contiguity (Asatti); the
knowledge of the purport (tAtparyarj~nAna).  Vide the
vedAntaparibhAshA, Chapter 4.
3. Praj~NAnam, ayamAtma, aham
4 Thus jIva and Brahman are not two distinct things;
similarly IShvAra and Brahman are not two distinct
things. They are the same conceived of from two
different standpoints. They are non-different only
when the limiting adjuncts are completely negated.
5. ChAndogya UpaniShad VI. 8.1
6 adhyAso nAma atasmiMstabuddiH  Introduction to
Shankara’s commentary on the Brahma SUtras
7. nedaM vadidam upAsate  Keno Upanishad 1.5 ‘That
which speech cannot reveal, but which reveals speech;
know that alone as brahman not this that people
8.Tat tvam asi is repeated nine times in the ChAndogya
9 This type of guNa-guNin- sAmAnAdhikaraNya is to be
distinguished from guNakR^ita- sAmAnAdhikaraNya in
that the former case is found in the substance itself,
whereas in the latter case the adjectives found in the
one are also found in the other. In the former the
quality is exclusive; it is not so in the latter.
10 mukhyArtha, vAcyArtha, ShakyArtha and abhidheyArtha
are synonyms which denote the primary meaning.
11  lakshyArtha and gauNArtha are Sanskrit words used
to denote implied or secondary meaning.
12The following principles are resorted to to get the
real purport of scripture. These are known as the
sixfold criteria or shad-li~nga. They are:
•       Upakrama-upanisaMhAra-aikya (unity of the initial
and concluding passages)_
•        abhyasa  (repetition)
•       apUrvatA (novelty)
•       phala  (fruit)
•       arthavAda (commendation)
•       upapatti  (intelligibility in the light of
13 We can apply to this sentence the sixfold criteria
in the following way. The teacher UddAlaka begins by
saying that the ‘Real’ alone ‘was’ in the beginning
and ends in concluding that ‘all this is of the nature
of the Self’. The unity of purpose revealed by
correlating the beginning and the end seems to be the
establishment of the doctrine of non-dual reality. The
test ‘That thou art’ is repeated nine times; the
conclusion is a novel one because it can be known only
through the Vedas and not through perception or
inference.  This teaching is highly commended in the
passage just preceding it, where it is said that by
knowing this truth all that is worth knowing is known.
The portion dealing with creation is the arthavAda of
this mahAvAkya. The fruitfulness of this dialogue
between the teacher and the taught exhibits upapatti
or reasoning. The true import of the text as
ascertained by the six tests is the identity of the
jIva with Brahman
14 Sarvaj~natvaviShishTaH asaMsArI IShvara
15 In both places wherever the words jIva or Brahman
occur, we are not referring to Brahman-caitanya but to
caitanya limited by antaHkaraNa or caitanya limited by
mAyA.  Compared to jIva-caitanya, IShvara-caitanya is

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