Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Wed Dec 3 14:49:48 CST 1997

On Tue, 25 Nov 1997, Charles Wikner wrote:
> While advaita analyses "tattvamasi" as three words (tat tvam asi), dvaita
> treats "tattvam" as a (i.e. "tat" is in
> some case relationship to "tvam"), giving "tasmin/tasya/tasmaat tvam asi",
> which translates as "Thou art in/of/from That".

This thread came up while I was away in India, so I would like to point
out another unique feature of dvaita inerpretation.

The upanishad text where the sentence "tattvamasi" occurs reads -

sa AtmA | tattvamasi Svetaketo |

Among the four or five meanings which Madhva gives to this line, one is
based on a reading -

sa AtmAtattvamasi ...

which is grammatically interpreted as

sa AtmA atattvamasi .....

Thus, the sentence tattvamasi is changed to read atat tvam asi, thereby
directly denying the equation of tat and tvam, as atat is the opposite of
tat. In my opinion, this interpretation is simply invalid, as it is just
not supported by the context of the argument. However, it is one of the
interpretations given by the dvaitins.

Another interpretation that is frequently found is that the sentence
tattvamasi is nothing more than a praise of the one who meditates in order
to attain brahman. This makes tattvamasi to be an arthavAda, meant to
describe the fruits of action, for after all, meditation is also an

While meditation is indeed given a high place in advaita practice, Sankara
forcefully argues that brahman-realization is not the result of such
meditation, for it already exists, always. Meditation assists in
uncovering this truth which is not known to people, but it does not cause
this truth. Advaita also argues that tattvamasi cannot be arthavAda, for
it describes a truth that is not known by normal pramANas, such as
perception etc.

And I believe that Ramanuja agrees with this much, but he gives a
different interpretation of tattvamasi, which says that all beings are
vibhUtis of the one brahman, and tat and tvam constitute an inseparable
(aprthak) reality, although not identical. The inseparability is explained
in terms of the body-embodied (SarIra-SArIrin) analogy, according to which
all animate and inanimate things (cit and acit) constitute the body of


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