[Advaita-l] [advaitin] Yet another Mahavakya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Venkatraghavan S agnimile at gmail.com
Sat Oct 23 04:29:39 EDT 2021

Namaste Vinodh ji

On Fri, 22 Oct 2021, 23:18 Vinodh, <vinodh.iitm at gmail.com> wrote:

> If meditation is taken to mean “upasana” (imagining one thing to be like
> another for the purpose of worshipping), it is right that a mahavakya
> conveys no such upasana. This is because a mahavakya is simply conveying a
> fact, and is not conveying any action (meditation is also an action).
> However, by “meditation” here, I mean the mananam and nididhyasanam of
> the statement (that is, a thorough analysis and reflection on the
> statement) that reveals that jiva is Brahman until one attains firm
> conviction of this Truth. Why is this required?
This is also an action only.

> By knowing a mahavakya, do we all immediately “know” the truth that jiva
> is Brahman? Clearly, we all seem to “know” that jiva is Brahman because
> we have heard it, but do we still not fall under the illusion of maya?
That is not the problem of the sentence, that is an issue with the knower.
The mahAvAkya does not attain the status of mahAvAkya because a
nididhyAsana on it reveals the truth. Rather the sentence itself reveals
the truth of identity. If the listener cannot accept it, more refinement is
required. Therefore the definition of mahAvAkya is simply that which
reveals the identity between Brahman and the jIva.

For example in the samkshepa sharIraka it is said:

पुरुषापराधमलिना धिषणा।
निरवद्यचक्षुरुदयापि यथा।
न फलाय भर्छु विषया भवति।
श्रुतिसम्भवापि तु तथात्मनि धीः।।

Just like the king clearly saw Bharcchu with defect-free eyes, he still
mistakes him for a ghost because of defects present in the king's mind.
Similarly the faultless mahAvAkya pramANa also reveals the truth, but
defects present in the seeker may lead him to think that he has not
understood and more is required to know the truth.

The reference is to a story where Bharcchu a king's minister is trapped in
a forest and some of the other ministers spread a false story that he died
while waging a war. The king goes to the same forest while hunting and sees
Bharcchu, but because of the incorrect vAsana-s created by the lies thinks
that what he is seeing is a ghost and runs away in fear.

> So what does it really mean to “know” the truth? Is it the same as
> “knowing” the mahavakya as an object of knowledge (like we know “this is a
> blue lotus”)? Clearly not, because if so, by simply “hearing” this
> statement one “knows” it, but this does not seem to liberate one from the
> spell of maya.

No, if one understands the sentence meaning of mahAvAkya in the manner of
"this is a blue lotus" it means they have not understood it, that's all.

Therefore one has to go beyond “knowing” the truth, wherein there is still
> the difference of knower and known, to having the firm conviction in the
> truth, wherein all subject-object differences disappear completely, at
> which point the one knowing and the one known are no longer seen as
> separate. At this point, one no longer knows the truth, but rather one is
> identical with the truth.

One need not go beyond knowing for that to happen. What you say above is
the sentence meaning conveyed if one has understood it properly.

nididhyAsanam happens after the truth has been revealed by shravaNam. Its
purpose is not to reveal a new truth. Its purpose is to remove the habitual
vAsana-s that act as obstructors to the acceptance of the truth already
revealed by shravaNam.

That is why in traditional advaita works, only shravaNam, and that too
mahAvAkya shravaNam, is the antaranga sAdhana - the direct means - for

The notion of jnAnAt mokshah also is on the basis that the mahAvAkya
shravaNam itself is sufficient for moksha. The position that for moksha,
one needs to go beyond knowing through the performance of nididhyAsanam -
has been refuted in the second varNakam of the samanvayAdhikaraNa of the
brahmasUtra bhAShya, where Shankaracharya refutes this view of the

Kind regards,

> Of course, for those whose minds have become purified through karma and
> bhakti, just hearing (i.e., knowing) the mahavakya (sravanam) immediately
> results in such a realization and all subject-object differences disappear.
> However, for those of us who have not attained that level of purity of
> mind yet, a meditation (read mananam + nididhyasanam, i.e., repeated
> analysis and reflection) on the statements conveying the truth is still
> necessary. In a way, this sort of meditation on the mahavakya is also just
> purifying the mind until the truth of the mahavakya shines through clearly.
>> Regards
>> Venkatraghavan
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