[Advaita-l] 'SarvAtmatvam' in the UpaniShad

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Jun 30 00:59:53 CDT 2011

श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

In the Upanishads an immediate fruit of attaining brahmavidyA is the
attainment of sarvAtmatva, the realization that 'I am the All'.  This is a
result that obtains in the Jnani during his lifetime.  In the BhagavadgitA
we have a verse that expresses this realization:

योगयुक्तो विशुद्धात्मा विजितात्मा जितेन्द्रियः। *
सर्वभूतात्मभूतात्मा* कुर्वन्नपि न लिप्यते॥५- ७॥

That this realization is experienceable in this life itself is not at all in
doubt as the Lord teaches this about a Jnani who is alive:  कुर्वन्नपि न
लिप्यते - such a Jnani is untouched by both the agency and the results of
action even if he engages in them.  सर्वेषां भूतानां आत्मा प्रियतमः यः भवति
परमात्मज्ञानलाभात् स *सर्वभूतात्मभूतात्मा.  [He who becomes the very Self,
the most loved one, of all beings due to the realization of the Universal
Self as one's Self, ......]

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 teaches this explicitly:
*ब्रह्म वा इदमग्र आसीत् । तदात्मानमेवावेत् । अहं ब्रह्मास्मीति । *
तस्मात्तत्सर्वमभवत्* । * तद्यो यो देवानां प्रत्यबुध्यत स एव तदभवत् ।
तथर्षीणाम् । तथा मनुष्याणाम् । तद्धैतत्पश्यन्नृषिर्वामदेवः प्रतिपेदेऽहं
मनुरभवं सूर्यश्चेति ।* तदिदमप्येतर्हि य एवं वेदाहं ब्रह्मास्मीति स इदं सर्वं
भवति ।

In the above mantra the portion highlighted is the subject matter of this
study.  Whoever among the devas, RShis and humans got such a realization
'aham Brahma asmi' attained the sarvAtmabhAva.  The Shruti is giving the
example of RShi vAmadeva who attained this realization and expressed it
thus: 'I became manu, I the sUrya'.

Now, a question might arise:  If the UpaniShad wants to say 'RShi vAmadeva
did realize the Supreme and attained the 'sarvAtmabhAva' why does it / he
express the names/entities of just two: manu and sUrya and not all the
others in creation? Surely just two is nothing in the entire creation.  If
'sarva' is really attained by vAmadeva the shruti / he would not have
stopped with enumerating just two names/entities.'

The Reply to such a question is:  It is impossible and impractical to
enumerate every being in the creation and hence just a representative sample
is stated by the Upanishad/vAmadeva.  Such a method/practice is eminently
adopted and demonstrated by none other than Veda vyAsa / Bhagavan KriShna in
the Bhagavadgita.  Here, in the tenth chapter, the Lord goes about
enumerating a number of vibhUti-s, His special manifestations, to Arjuna.
At the end of the discourse the Lord says:

नान्तोऽस्ति मम दिव्यानां विभूतीनां परंतप।
*एष तूद्देशतः प्रोक्तो विभूतेर्विस्तरो मया*।।10.40।।
O destroyer of enemies, *there is no limit to My divine manifestations*.
This description of (My) manifestations, however, has been stated by Me *by
way illustration*.

Shankaracharya comments:

न अन्तः अस्ति मम दिव्यानां विभूतीनां विस्तराणां परंतप। *न हि ईश्वरस्य
सर्वात्मनः दिव्यानां विभूतीनाम् इयत्ता शक्या वक्तुं ज्ञातुं वा केनचित्। * एष
तु उद्देशतः *एकदेशेन प्रोक्तः* विभूतेः विस्तरः मया।
Parantapa, O destroyer of enemies; asti, there is; na, no; antah, limit; to
mama, My; divyanam, divine; vibhutinam, manifestations. Indeed, *it is not
possible for anyone to speak *or know of the limit of the divine
manifestations of the of the all-pervading God. Esah, this; vistarah,
description; vibhuteh, of (My) manifestations; tu, however; prokatah, has
been stated; maya, by Me; uddesatah, *by way of illustration, * partially.
[Incidentally, the word '*सर्वात्मनः' *of the commentary so beautifully gels
with the theme of the Br.Up.passage we have cited above.]

Here we get the reply to the question raised above.  Even though the Jnani
has attained sarvAtmabhAva, it is impossible to mention each and every being
in creation, past, present or future.  So, just by way of an illustration,
the Shruti/vAmadeva expresses just two names/entities.

There is another speciality here worth noting.  The Upanishad has said in
this very mantra:

* तद्यो यो देवानां प्रत्यबुध्यत स एव तदभवत् । तथर्षीणाम् । तथा मनुष्याणाम् |
//Whoever among the devas, RShis and humans got such a realization 'aham
Brahma asmi' attained the sarvAtmabhAva. //

Now, in the words of the shruti/vAmadeva we get an example each for the
three types of jiva-s stated in the mantra: sUrya for deva, manu for
manuShya and vAmadeva himself for RShi.  We know from the Bhagavadgita
itself that sUrya and manu were endowed with AtmajnAnam:

श्री भगवानुवाच
इमं विवस्वते योगं प्रोक्तवानहमव्ययम्।
विवस्वान् मनवे प्राह मनुरिक्ष्वाकवेऽब्रवीत्।।4.1।।
The Lord Himself instructed the Atma vidyA to vivasvAn, sUrya.  And sUrya
passed it on to manu.

vAmadeva mentions just two names, both of Jnanis.  He expresses his identity
with these jnanis who are endowed with their realization of identity with
the entire creation.

Om Tat Sat

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