Tat tvam asi?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Feb 11 23:20:01 CST 2002

On Mon, 11 Feb 2002, S. V. Subrahmanian wrote:

> I read the explanation above you gave for neti, neti.  Thank you very much.
> You say that the "there is no void, but the supreme self" - how do you say
> that?  Instead I will pose a set of questions that amplify my doubt in your
> statement.
> 1.  At the end of 'neti, neti' what is one left with?

As you guessed, I'm going to answer the Self. :-)

> 2.  If you say I am left with the Self, who remains to cognize the Self?

Again you answer for me :-)  The atma is svayamprakash.

> 3.  If it is the buddhi, then we have to negate even that for the Self cannot
> be an object of thought for the buddhi.

Right which is why I do not say it is the buddhi per se.  But ask yourself
what is involved in the process of negation?  To understand the difference
between two things must have some idea no matter how tentative of the
lakshanas of the two things.  The negation of non-being cannot happen
unless one has an idea of being.  Where did that idea come from?

> 4.  If you say, it is known through the shastras, then who is the one
> who knows it?  Atman is swayamprakAsha, it does not need shastras.  And
> anything other than Atman is already negated by 'neti, neti'.

Knowledge from the shastras is really just a different case of the above.
Whether one is reading or hearing or thinking or seeing or feeling it all
boils down to a mental effort.  Why are those mental efforts meaningful to

If the shastras just recorded that which is known through other means such
as perception or reasoning they would be superfluous.  They are a valid
pramana precisely because they are not dependant on any persons state of
being.  They are relevant here because it is the shastras that introduce
the idea of the atma being svayamprakash which you have taken as a given.

> My argument is the idea "what is left after neti, neti" is a
> contradiction. "Whatever is left" cannot be cognized by the buddhi and
> if it is then it is not Atman.  So 'neti, neti' has to destroy even the
> buddhi and "I am"-ness.

Yes.  In order to do that there has to be knowledge of what is beyond
buddhi.  To negate "this" one has to be aware of the difference between
"this" and "that."  That's why another mahavakya says "You are that."

> Even then we cannot say "what is left is Atman"

You just did!

>- for even to say that is an
> object of our thought.  That is why probably it is indirectly refered to as
> "Grace" to which we have to "Surrender" ie., destroy our own limited identity
> with buddhi as the cognizing ability.

Yes but such surrender by itself cannot be enough.  There also has to be a
positive cognition of identity.  And that knowledge might not be of an
object in the conventional sense but it is a thing that can be known.  It
just cannot be pinned down to names and forms like a normal object.
Shankaracharya points out that immediately after the "not this, not this"
text, the upanishad makes such a positive statement of identity "It is
called the truth of truth."  If one were supposed to stop at
unknowability, that statement is completely pointless.

> Because I existed before sleep and after sleep is not enough
> justification for me to say that "the same I" existed during sleep.
> What really proves that I existed during sleep is the ability to say
> statments like "I had a good sleep" or "I slept well" or "MY sleep was
> disturbed" etc.  That gives the proof that I existed during sleep.
> That I was an enjoyer of the sleep state is the proof.

If you are not sure you existed before sleep and after sleep, how can you
assume "you" were the enjoyer of that deep sleep?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list