[Advaita-l] mahAvAkya

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Sat Aug 26 00:21:55 CDT 2006

The mahAvAkya "That thou art"

   In the sentence 'tat tvam asi' the primary meaning of the word 'tat' is
Brahman as qualified by the functions of creation, sustenance and
dissolution of the universe, that is, ISvara. The primary meaning of the
word 'tvam' is the jIva as qualified by the states of waking, dream and deep
sleep. The qualities of ISvara and jIva are totally contradictory, like
those of the sun and the glow-worm, or the king and a servant, or the ocean
and a well, or the earth and an atom. ISvara is omniscient and omnipotent
while the jIva's knowledge and power are limited. The identity affirmed by
the mahavakya cannot obviously be between ISvara and jIva which are the
primary meanings of the words. Therefore the implied meanings of the two
words have to be taken. The contradiction between the primary meanings of
the two words is due to the limiting adjuncts which are not real. mAyA is
the limiting adjunct (upAdhi) of ISvara, while the upAdhi of the jIva is the
five sheaths. When these limiting adjuncts are negated, there is neither
ISvara nor jIva. The kingdom is the symbol of the king and the shield is the
symbol of the soldier. When these are removed there is neither king nor
soldier. The Sruti negates the duality imagined in Brahman. The negation of
the limiting adjuncts is to be effected by reasoning supported by Sruti.
Everything in the universe is a superimposition on Brahman by ignorance and
has no reality, like the snake superimposed on a rope. The entire universe
must therefore be rejected as unreal. Then what remains is only Brahman .
Thus both ISvara and jIva are found to be only Brahman when the unreal
upAdhis are rejected.

   Thus only the implied meanings of the terms 'tat' and 'tvam are to be
taken for affirming their identity. The implied meanings of words are of
three kinds—*jahallakshaNaa, ajahal- lakshaNaa *and *jahadajahallakshaNaa.

* jahallakshaNaa- *(exclusive secondary signification)--* *The literal
meaning is to be rejected and some other meaning consistent with it is to be
adopted. An example is—*gangaayaam ghoshah, *the literal meaning of which
is—a hamlet on the river Ganga. Since there cannot be a hamlet on the river
itself, it is the bank of the river that is meant. Here the literal meaning
of the word 'Ganga' has to be given up completely and the implied meaning
'bank' has to be adopted.  * *

*ajahallakshaNaa- *(non-exclusive secondary signification)--* *Without
giving up the literal meaning of the word, what is implied by it is also
adopted to get the meaning intended to be conveyed. An example is—"The red
is running", which is intended to convey that the red horse is running. Here
the literal meaning of the word 'red' is retained and the implied word
'horse' is added to get the correct sense of the sentence.

*jahadajahallakshaNaa-* (exclusive—non-exclusive secondary signification)--
Here a part of the literal meaning is retained and the other part discarded.
The sentence "This is that Devadatta" is interpreted by using this *
lakshanaa.* The meaning intended to be conveyed by this sentence is that
Devadatta who is seen at the present time in this place is the same as the
person who was seen earlier in another place. The literal meaning of the
word 'this' is Devadatta associated with the present time and place. The
literal meaning of the word 'that' is Devadatta associated with the past
time and some other place. Since this sentence purports to convey the
identity of the person seen in different places at different times, we get
this meaning by discarding the reference to the place and time conveyed by
the words 'this' and 'that' and retaining the reference to Devadatta. This
is also known as *bhaagatyaaga-lakshanaa. *The meaning of the sentence *tat
tvam asi *is obtained by using this method. Just as in the sentence "This is
that Devadatta" the identity is stated by rejecting the contradictory
qualities, so also in the sentence "That thou art" the contradictory
qualities (namely, the limiting adjuncts)  are rejected. Thus it follows
that the jiva and Brahman are in essence one when the limiting adjuncts,
namely mAyA* *and the five sheaths, are rejected.

 (Based on vivekachUDAmaNi)


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