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'THAT THOU ART! - 'Thus the Sruti emphatically and boldly voices forth the highest and most sublime truth that is the essence of all scriptures, nay, that is the goal of all scriptural teachings and assertions.

It is the greatest declaration ever made on the face of the earth. It is the profoundest teaching ever given since the dawn of creation. It is the only way of expressing and indicating the Truth that is beyond the reach of the mind and the senses. It is the one unique teaching that comforts the distressed humanity and infuses inner spiritual strength and courage into them to pooh-pooh the miseries and pains of mundane existence and soar high into the realm of non-dual, all-blissful eternal Existence.

If it be simple in the words that it employs, it requires the well-polished sharp intellect of the advanced aspirant to understand the subtlest Truth that it wishes to convey. If it be unostentatious in its expression, it is at once majestic and imperative in its utterance. If it be brief and blunt, aphoristic in its exposition of the highest Truth, it readily gets instilled deep in our hearts and minds, and from within us, it mysteriously raises our consciousness to that non-dual eternal plane of existence.

Such is the greatness of this Mahavakya, Tat-Tvam-Asi, which the Upanishadic Rishi, Uddalaka, employed to impart Brahma-Vidya to his son and disciple, Svetaketu.

The Means to Realisation

Man is essentially Divine. He is not different from that eternal, non-dual substratum, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. He is neither born into this Samsara, nor is he ever in a state of bondage. He is ever free, Nityamukta.

His present miseries and sufferings, his pains and limited pleasures, births and deaths, are all due to his erroneous identification with the five sheaths and the three bodies. And, in turn, this erroneous identification is the result of not-knowing of the truth, or the forgetfulness pertaining to it. This ignorance, Causal Ignorance, is at the root of all actions and reactions. Only the annihilation of this ignorance can lead us to our original state of non-dual blissful immortal existence.

This ignorance is not born of anything so that it can be destroyed through some action or other. It is simply a negative aspect. Just as absence of lights brings in darkness, absence of the sun brings in the night, so too, absence of Real Knowledge has brought in this Causal Ignorance.

No amount of fighting with darkness or night will destroy them. But, when the lamp or the sun is there, they disappear into nothingness, without leaving a trace. Similarly, where there is True Knowledge, there exists not even a trace of this Causal Ignorance. That True Knowledge is the Knowledge pertaining to our real, eternal, immortal Self which is not touched either by the causal ignorance or the effects of causal ignorance, just like the sun is not touched by the darkness of the night.

So, knowledge alone is the means for the Realisation of the Self; Self-Knowledge alone can liberate man from the meshes of Samsara.

The Mahavakyas

The scriptures, the Vedas and the Upanishads, exist to impart this Knowledge to all humanity so as to free them from this evanescent and ephemeral existence. Scriptural declarations can be grouped under three heads, viz., Vidhi-Vakya or injunctions; Nishedha-Vakya or prohibitions; and Siddharthabodha-Vakya or the Mahavakya that proclaim the highest Truth, the identity of the Jivatman with the Paramatman, of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul.

The first two exist to purify the deluded Jiva and make him fit to understand and assimilate the third; for, only in a purified mind intuition will dawn, and with that alone can one attain the Highest Knowledge.

There are four Mahavakyas, each of the four Vedas containing one of them. The four Mahavakyas are:

Prajnanam Brahma: 'Consciousness is Brahman.' This is called the Svarupabodha-Vakya or the sentence that explains the nature of Brahman or the Self. This is contained in the Aitareya-Upanishad of the Rigveda.

Aham Brahma Asmi: 'I Am Brahman.' This is the Anusandhana-Vakya, the idea on which the aspirant tries to fix his mind. This is contained in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad of the Yajurveda.

Tat Tvam Asi: 'That Thou Art.' This is the Upanishadic Vakya contained in the Chhandogya Upanishad of the Sama Veda. The teacher instructs through this sentence.

Ayam Atma Brahma: 'This Self is Brahman.' This is the Anubhavabodha Vakya or the sentence that gives expression to the inner intuitive experience of the aspirant. This is contained in the Mandukya Upanishad of the Atharva Veda. Of these four Mahavakyas, Tat Tvam Asi is of great importance. It is the Upadesa-Vakya or Upanishad-Vakya. The Guru initiates the disciple into Brahma-Jnana only through this Vakya. This is also called Sravana-Vakya. This Mahavakya gives rise to the other three Vakyas.

The Guru instructs the disciple through 'Tat Tvam Asi, 'Thou art That. The disciple hears it (Sravana), considers it deeply and reflects over the idea contained in it (Manana), meditates on that idea (Nididhyasana) and enters into Samadhi which leads to the Aparoksha Anubhuti, signified in the assertion Aham Brahma Asmi. To this experience, he gives expression through the Mahavakya Ayam Atma Brahma, and also asserts the nature or Svarupa of Brahman or the Self that he intuitively experiences through the Mahavakya Prajnanam Brahma.

The three words contained in this Vakya have got to be carefully analysed and understood. Through Sravana and Manana of the meaning of this Sentence, indirect knowledge or Paroksha-Jnana is had, and that is enough to destroy all sins. This Knowledge helps the aspirant to disown all actions and reactions, to renounce all attributes that he has taken upon himself in ignorance. He can lead a care-free, unperturbed and detached life in this world.

Nididhyasana and Samadhi give him the direct Knowledge or Aparoksha Jnana that frees him from causal ignorance which is the cause of the successive recurrence of births and deaths.

Therefore, it is essential to study this Maha­vakya in all its details, word by word, taken separately and all together, and understand its meaning.

The A Priori Method

Prakriti, the cause of ignorance, is made up of three Gunas, and carries with her the reflection of that transcendent Reality, Satchidananda. This Prakriti is divided into two aspects, called Maya and Avidya. Maya is Suddha-Sattva-Pradhana or that state of Prakriti in which the principle of Purity or Sattva, predominates over the other two, Rajas and Tamas. Avidya is Malina-Sattva or that state of Prakriti in which Sattva is predominated and sullied by the other two.

When that pure Intelligence, Chit, is reflected through Maya or Suddha-Sattva, the reflected Consciousness is called Isvara. It is one only, and controls Maya. When that Chit is reflected in Malina-Sattva or Avidya, the reflected Consciousness is called Jiva. Due to the multifarious nature of Avidya, Jivas are too many, and being individualised and separated from one another, they are swayed by Avidya or ignorance. And this ignorance leads them to identification with the five sheaths and the three bodies. Thus, there is activity, pain and suffering for the Jiva.

In the sentence, Tat Tvam Asi, Tat refers to the reflected Consciousness in Maya and Tvam refers to the reflected Consciousness in Avidya. The word Asi proclaims their unity. It asserts that one Chit alone, reflected in a twofold way, goes under the names of Isvara and