[Advaita-l] Explanation needed regarding the Mahavakya "aham Brahmasmi"

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Apr 14 23:15:18 EDT 2017

On Sat, Apr 15, 2017 at 2:58 AM, Shashwata Shastri via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> To all the learned members of group-
> It has been a long time since I posted a question.
> Above mentioned statement reveals the highest truth of Vedas. My question
> is- the word "Brahma" which is contained in the sentence, is it a noun or
> an adjective?

Dear Sir,

The reply given by Shri Shriram is quite in order. The Masters of Advaita
have given examples such as: Karna knew himself to be Rādheya (son of
Rādha, his foster mother). Later in life it was revealed to him that he was
the son of Kuntī, whereby he realized himself to be 'I am Kaunteya.'  Here,
taking the worldly standpoint, it would appear, and correctly too to some
extent, that Kaunteyatva is an adjective to 'I', like manushyatva,
brāhmaṇatva, etc. In the worldly sense we take the 'I' to be a jiva, a
person, and then add the various adjectives, attributes.

However, in the 'aham brahma asmi' such is not the case. The 'I' is Pure
Consciousness. And 'Brahman' is also attributeless pure consciousness. The
identity is of this nature.

One more reason why there is no attribute imposition here is: In the
pāramārthika state only Brahman is there. The jiva realizes himself as
Brahman and the jivatva goes. So, Brahman alone is there. When the realized
jiva dies, he does not lose anything; he remains as Brahman as ever before,
even when he was ignorant.

There is what is called 'akhanḍārthatā' in knowing the meaning of 'aham
brahma asmi'. It is not any relationship like attribute-noun. This is
explained by a verse in the ‘Vākyavṛtti’ of Shankaracharya:

संसर्गो वा विशिष्टो वा वाक्यार्थो नात्र सम्मतः |

अखण्डैकरसत्वेन वाक्यार्थो विदुषां मतः .      || 23 ||

What is meant by a sentence is not accepted either to be connected with
(samsarga) or qualified by (viśiṣṭa) anything else. The meaning of the
sentence, according to the wise, is an indivisible Being consisting of
Bliss only.

In the sentence ‘the lotus is blue’, the words ‘louts’ and ‘blue’ are in
the same predicaments. Hence the word ‘lotus’ is qualified by the word
‘blue.’ The sentence, therefore, means that it is a blue lotus – not white,
yellow or of any other color.  Again, the word ‘blue’ is qualified by the
word ‘lotus’ i.e. the blueness does not belong to a piece of cloth or
anything else. In this way the words ‘lotus’ and’blue’ qualify each other.
That is what is called in the above verse ‘samsarga’ i.e. mutual connection
or mutual qualification.

Again, the same sentence may be construed to mean a lotus having the
qualification of blueness and not vice-versa. This is what has been
described in the above verse as ‘viśiṣṭa’ or ‘qualified’.

Even though the words ‘Thou’ and ‘That’ are in the same predicament in the
sentence ‘Thou art That’ (‘Tat tvam asi’), neither of the two constructions
mentioned above is applicable to it. We therefore accept the meanings
indirectly expressed by the words ‘Thou’ and ‘That’ as absolutely
identical, aikya, akhaṇḍārthatā.



> Best Regards and Pranam,
> Shashwata Chowdhury
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