Meaning of “tat tvam asi”, “aham brahmasmi”, “ayamatma brahma” and “prajnanam brahma” from the perspective of Achintya bheda abheda Vedanta


If we understand the meaning of only one verse out of the 4, then we can easily understand the remained three. Let’s consider the first one “tat tvam asi”.

The “tat tvam asi” means you are that. Now “that” is not so easy to define or understand. People speculate that “that” is the God or Brahman based on Advaita philosophy. The Advaita philosophy ignores the difference aspect of the Vedas completely and consider only the oneness view which results in half understanding of self and God. The Advaita philosophy speculates so much by focusing only on the oneness aspect and hence it is not free from the errors (Refer: Analysis and refutation of Advaita Vedanta). Without considering both the oneness and difference view at the same time, we cannot completely understand “tat tvam asi” and develop our spirituality further.

The references which reveal both oneness and difference aspect between the Individual soul and Supersoul:

Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.1:

sarva khalv idam brahma “Everything, both matter and spirit, is non-different from the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is the Supreme Brahman.

Chandogya Upanisad 7.52.2:

atmaivedam sarvam iti, “Everything that is visible is spirit (atma).”

Katha Upanishada 1.2.20:

aṇor aṇīyān mahato mahīyān ātmāsya jantor nihito guhāyām tam akratuḥ paśyati vīta-śoko dhātuḥ prasādān mahimānam ātmanaḥ

“Both the Supersoul [Paramātmā] and the atomic soul [ jīvātmā] are situated on the same tree of the body within the same heart of the living being, and only one who has become free from all material desires as well as lamentations can, by the grace of the Supreme, understand the glories of the soul.”

The Svetasvatara Upanishad 5.9:

bālāgra-śata-bhāgasya śatadhā kalpitasya ca bhāgo jīvaḥ sa vijñeyaḥ sa cānantyāya kalpate

“When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul.”

Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1

dva suparna sayuja sakhayah samanam vriksham parishasvajate tayor anyah pippalam svadv atty anasnann anyo ‘bhicakasiti

“The Lord and the living entity are compared to two birds sitting in a tree. While the illusioned living entity eats the fruits of the material world, the Lord as Supersoul and best friend witnesses these activities.”

Katha Upanishad 2.2.13

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman

“The Supreme Lord is eternal and the living beings are eternal. The Supreme Lord is cognizant and the living beings are cognizant. The difference is that the Supreme Lord is supplying all the necessities of life for the many other living entities.”

Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad 4.3.8:

sa va ayam purusho jayamanah shariram abhisampadyamanah sa utkraman mriyamanah

“At the moment of birth the spirit soul enters a material body and at the moment of death the soul leaves the body.”

Srila Jiva Goswami says in the Sri Tattva Sandarbha:

One should not deal with the Vedas according to the logic of “ardha-kukkuti,” accepting only statements favorable to one’s viewpoint and rejecting opposing ones. The Vedas contain statements declaring both the difference and the non-difference between Brahman and the jiva (the individual soul). These seemingly contradictory views can most naturally be reconciled by the application of the acintya-bhedabheda (simultaneous difference and oneness) philosophy. This doctrine of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s is the greatest gift of philosophy to the world. His teachings do not contradict any Vedic scripture or authentic point of view; rather, they resolve the apparent contradictions in the Vedic literature in accordance with the Vedas’ final conclusions. His teachings are the natural and direct explanation of the Vedic literature.

Srila Prabhupada says in the introductory chapter of Bhagavad-gita as it is:

A particle of gold is also gold, a drop of water from the ocean is also salty, and similarly we the living entities, being part and parcel of the supreme controller,īśvara, or Bhagavān, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, have all the qualities of the Supreme Lord in minute quantity because we are minute īśvaras, subordinate īśvaras. We are trying to control nature, as presently we are trying to control space or planets, and this tendency to control is there because it is in Kṛṣṇa. But although we have a tendency to lord it over material nature, we should know that we are not the supreme controller. This is explained in Bhagavad-gītā.

What is the meaning of “tat tvam asi” then?

The meaning based on both the difference and oneness aspect is, “You are Brahman”, but not the unlimited or whole Brahman, you are eternal atomic part of the Brahman as described with an example by Srila Prabhupada, i.e. You are Spirit soul (the eternal fragmental part of Supreme) which is different as well not non-different from Brahman. But, Brahman cannot be divided, how is that so then? The Energy and energetic are one and the same like the heat and fire. Similarly, we the eternal and atomic manifestations of his superior energy are his parts. The absolute truth, i.e. Sri Krishna himself confirms it in the Bhagavad-gita as follows:

Bhagavad-gita 7.5 —

apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat

“Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.”

In the 15th chapter, 7th verse, Lord Krishna says:

Bhagavad-gita 15.7

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke
jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ
manaḥ-ṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi
prakṛti-sthāni karṣati

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.”

The followers of Advaita sometimes try to give this verse another view like the bodies of the living entities are my (Krishna’s) parts, but here in the verse, Krishna clearly mentioned the word “sanatanah” which means eternal. The bodies of the living entities are not eternal, but temporary.

The same meaning applies for other verses:

  • Aham brahmasmi: “I’m the eternal part of the Supreme”.
  • Ayamatma brahma: “I’m (or my self is the) eternal part of the Supreme”
  • Prajnanam brahma: Knowledge is Brahman.

The fourth statement has a different level. It states the Knowledge (Veda) is Brahman, because it gives direct perception of the self and God, it is non-different from the Supreme Person or Brahman. (The 4th statement also means that the consciousness is Brahman)

First Anuccheda of Taittariya brahmananda-valli says:

satyam jnanam anantam brahma yo veda nihitam

“Brahma is truth, knowledge and eternity personified”

Srimad Bhagavatam 6.1.40 also confirms the same:

veda-praṇihito dharmo
hy adharmas tad-viparyayaḥ
vedo nārāyaṇaḥ sākṣāt
svayambhūr iti śuśruma

That which is prescribed in the Vedas constitutes dharma, the religious principles, and the opposite of that is irreligion. The Vedas are directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, and are self-born. This we have heard from Yamarāja.

Furthermore, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.28-29 says:

vāsudeva-parā vedā vāsudeva-parā makhāḥ
vāsudeva-parā yogā vāsudeva-parāḥ kriyāḥ
vāsudeva-paraṁ jñānaṁ vāsudeva-paraṁ tapaḥ
vāsudeva-paro dharmo vāsudeva-parā gatiḥ

“In the revealed scriptures, the ultimate object of knowledge is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead. The purpose of performing sacrifice is to please Him. Yoga is for realizing Him. All fruitive activities are ultimately rewarded by Him only. He is supreme knowledge, and all severe austerities are performed to know Him. Religion [dharma] is rendering loving service unto Him. He is the supreme goal of life.”

Lord Krishna confirms it in the Bhagavad-gita 15.15 as follows:

vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo

“By all the Vedas, I am to be known.”

References: Bhagavad-gita as it isSrimad Bhagavatam and Verses most quoted by Srila Prabhupada

Hare Krishna 

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Subbu says:

    consciousness is fundamental and therefore indivisible. the idea of individual soul and super soul is flawed. there were never two souls in the first place. the idea of separation arises based on identification with body mind intellect. when these three are absent as in sleep do you see separation. the separation rises and falls with your ego. when the ego realizes its essence as consciousness, the idea of a separate jiva also goes away. all the four mahavakyas help in realizing the oneness in terms of essence and attributes (sat-chit-ananda) of brahman and not about size which again is the ego’s idea.. from the point of view of the absolute jivas or parts don’t even exist. the scriptures are just roadmaps for varieties (devotional, intellectual, philosophical, yogic) of seekers and not one size fit all gospels. no philosophy including advaita will work for everyone everytime. truth is self luminous and does not need auxiliaries like scriptures to stand on.

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    1. Thank you for comment Mr. Sabbu.

      I humbly request you to first read the article completely in which it is described that how the individual soul is eternal fragmental part of the Brahman even when it is indivisible.

      “there were never two souls in the first place.”

      We cannot reject the Vedic statements. The Vedic texts clearly say that there are two types of souls,i.e. individual souls which are unlimited in number and Supersoul which resides in every single atom and in the hearts of living entities. The Rigveda also describes the same:

      Rig Veda, 1.164.20
      dvā suparņā sayujā sakhāyā samānam vŗkşham parişhasvajāte,
      tayor anyaĥ pippalam svādvatty anashnan anyo abhi chākashīti.

      “The individual spirit-soul and the Supersoul, Personality of Godhead, are like two friendly birds sitting on the same tree. One of the birds (the individual atomic soul) is eating the fruit of the tree (the sense-gratification afforded to the material body), and the other bird (the Supersoul) is not trying to eat these fruits, but is simply watching His friend.

      This is again described it in the Upanishads such as mundaka and svetashvatara and especially by Absolute truth Sri Krishna himself in the Bhagavad-gita chapter 15.

      Regarding false ego or identification with body is of course illusion as per both Achintya Bheda Abheda and Advaita, but isn’t the Brahman is superior to Maya? Brahman is indeed free from the effects of Maya and full of knowledge, eternity and bliss, yet as per Advaita the Brahman falls under the the upadhis.

      According to Mayavada, the Ultimate Reality is ultimately pure undifferentiated oneness and all variety and individuality are but products of illusion. Accepting this view, one logically has to ask:Where does this illusion come from? This is a question that the Advaita can’t answer. If only oneness exists, illusion cannot also exist, because then we would have two-ness—duality—not oneness. And if we say that two-ness only seems to exist—that its existence is but an illusion—then we’re back where we started, and going around in a circle.

      The Conclusion about Advaita is the Maya is superior to Brahman and hence the permanent liberation is not guaranteed. There are many, many faults in the Advaitavada, you can study them all from

      https://nitaigaurangablog.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/mayavadi-philosophy-root-analysis-and-refutation/

      And the conclusion about Vedic view is the both oneness and difference aspects exists simultaneously. If we apply the logic of ardha kukkuti then we can never have complete realization of self and God and hence we cannot attain ultimate destination.

      Hare Krishna!

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  2. Subbu says:

    again its a question of what you are identified with. the rigveda verse is real as along as the idea that the jiva is a separate entity exists. when u see thoughts, feelings and sense perceptions and identify with them you become a jiva, when u remain a seer or a witness and drop identification u and brahman are one. duality is termed as an illusion because the same consciousness appears as the seer and seen because of which the jiva is deluded into the idea of separation. when he realizes his essence as brahman, the world also is transformed into brahman, meaning the world which he took for a solid separate reality is only an appearance because of maya shakti. not sure where u read maya is superior to brahman, maya is a property of brahman, just like heat is a property of fire and they can’t be separated.

    also when you say “the individual soul is eternal fragmental part of the Brahman even when it is indivisible.” can you say where the boundaries are between the individual soul and super soul instead of describing their differences in terms of actions or inaction.

    i will check out the link you have given, you should also check out teachings of ramana maharishi 🙂 . hari om.

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    1. It seems you didn’t read the article where it says the individual soul is part of the brahman and describes how it is the part of brahman even when it is indivisible.

      “”not sure where u read maya is superior to brahman, maya is a property of brahman, just like heat is a property of fire and they can’t be separated.””

      I didn’t read it anywhere in the texts, but the Advaita concludes such thing ultimately.
      BTW Your version of Advaita simply concludes that there are attributes in the Brahman and everything can be best described by the Achintya bheda abheda Vedanta since the Maya or material potency of Absolute truth is one and different from the absolute truth like the heat and fire are.

      Anyway, have a happy 1000th appearance day of Sripada Ramanujacarya 🙂 _/\_ Hare Krishna!

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  3. Subbu says:

    can fire exist without heat? when you talk of oneness and difference it is always in the context of manifestation (waking state). when there is no ego or world as in sleep there is neither oneness nor difference, only advaita.

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    1. Enough speculations my friend, there’s no need to manufacture. I call such perception as faulty perception because in the sleep state there always exists ego, Indeed, In every state (including liberated) it exists.

      Both the soul and supersoul co-exist always and that is why they are called as eternal and beginning less..

      Katha Upanishad 2.2.13 says nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman

      In the Bhagavad-gita 13.20, Krishna says the matertial nature and the living entities (individual souls) are beginning less: prakṛtiṁ puruṣaṁ caiva viddhy anādī ubhāv api
      In the Bhagavad-gita 15.7, Krishna says mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ “The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts.”

      ————————————————————————–

      Neither the fire can exists without heat, nor heat exists without fire, both co-exists. Such is the case with the Super soul and Individual souls which are one and different at the same time if compared to each other.

      There are two types of ego, i.e. false ego and real spiritual ego
      Srila Prabhupada says:
      False ego means accepting this body as oneself. When one understands that he is not his body and is spirit soul, he comes to his real ego. Ego is there. False ego is condemned, but not real ego. In the Vedic literature (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.4.10) it is said, ahaṁ brahmāsmi: I am Brahman, I am spirit. This “I am,” the sense of self, also exists in the liberated stage of self-realization. This sense of “I am” is ego, but when the sense of “I am” is applied to this false body it is false ego. When the sense of self is applied to reality, that is real ego. There are some philosophers who say we should give up our ego, but we cannot give up our ego, because ego means identity. We ought, of course, to give up the false identification with the body.

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  4. Subbu says:

    sir, i also completely agree with you about giving up false identification with the body. the only reason i commented on the post was, my journey started with prabhupada’s gita as it is. whatever he said was there in my head for around two years until advaita happened, so i share my learnings whenever possible.. the ego whether normal or spiritual rises and falls and is there for considered unreal and the self always there… to me the ego is nothing but a result of false identification with the body.. as far as gita or any scripture is concerned, i feel they should be seen andin the context of what the seeker has identified with and discarded on jnana.. if you allow me to copy paste what krishna says “yaavaanaartha udapaane sarvathaha samplutodake | taavan sarvheshu vedeshu braahmanasya vijaanataha || 46 ||” 🙂 the only issue with thinking your identity is a fragmented soul not the supreme soul is that the ego continues to carry that concept in its day to day actions, which is what happened with me after i read prabhupada’s gita and this thinking just disappeared on discovering advaita.. from the point of view of brahman all concepts (both spirititual and material) are unreal..

    again, completely agree with you on giving up false identification with the body.

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    1. Its surprising to see it, i’m sure that you have not practiced seriously what Krishna and Srila Prabhupada instructed. Anyway, Krishna says:

      ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
      “As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly.” –4.11

      Whether it is Sishupala in the mood of pure enemy or the Mayavadis in the mood of an offender, or the pure devotees, he accepts everyone and reward them accordingly.

      //////””yaavaanaartha udapaane sarvathaha samplutodake | taavan sarvheshu vedeshu braahmanasya vijaanataha || 46 ||””//////////

      Krishna says: vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo –15.15

      ///////””as far as gita or any scripture is concerned, i feel they should be seen andin the context of what the seeker has identified with and discarded on jnana””/////////

      Well, that is a form of manufacturing and it results in wrong perception of absolute truth. One should follow the authorities, i.e. the parampara system to understand the truth as it is. Krishna confirmes it in bg 4.2 : evaṁ paramparā-prāptam
      The Upanishads, Puranas and the Primary Vedas too confirm it.

      /////””from the point of view of brahman all concepts (both spirititual and material) are unreal..””///////////

      The fact is the Scriptures never said such thing about spiritual tattva. for e.g.

      Krishna says:
      aras tasmāt tu bhāvo ’nyo
      ’vyakto ’vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
      yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu
      naśyatsu na vinaśyati

      “Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.” –8.20

      avyakto ’kṣara ity uktas
      tam āhuḥ paramāṁ gatim
      yaṁ prāpya na nivartante
      tad dhāma paramaṁ mama

      “That which the Vedāntists describe as unmanifest and infallible, that which is known as the supreme destination, that place from which, having attained it, one never returns – that is My supreme abode.”

      the Advaitavadis define it differently, but the fact is Lord Krishna, the absolute truth himself compared his abode with the abodes of demigods..

      antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ
      tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
      devān deva-yajo yānti
      mad-bhaktā yānti mām api

      “Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.”

      The demigods are persons and their abodes are real places, similarly the absolute truth is a person and his abode is a real, non-material but eternal spiritual abode.

      na tad bhāsayate sūryo
      na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ
      yad gatvā na nivartante
      tad dhāma paramaṁ mama

      “That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world.”

      one can understand the truth as it is only by pure devotional service, other yogis can realize the impersonal feature and the parmatma form only:

      bhaktyā mām abhijānāti
      yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ
      tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā
      viśate tad-anantaram –BG 18.58

      I’m not at all expecting you to believe in this all, i just replied to you as it is my duty to reply you as you have commented on the blog, you are free to continue which path you desires. Good luck for your journey. Hare Krishna!

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    1. Hare Krishna ❤️

      Like

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