The Gold Ring & Bangle
The Vedas reveal that ‘You are That’. You = Individual Living Being (Jiva), and, That = Total Universe which was created from Maya (Isvara). This is presented as a fact, rather than a belief or opinion. Just like saying ‘fire is hot’ is simply a statement of fact, not belief. Fire does not care if you believe ‘fire is hot’, it will remain hot whether you believe it or not. So to, ‘You are Isvara’ is told as a statement of fact by the Veda. Whether you believe it, understand it, realise it, or not, will not affect the fact that it’s a fact. Really speaking, a fact is not to be ‘believed’ in, rather it is to be ‘understood’. You do not believe fire is hot, you know fire is hot. Knowledge or clear understanding is required. Vedanta is not a belief system or philosophy in this sense. Vedanta purely deals with facts.
So our problem is that we do not understand this apparent fact that ‘You are That Isvara’. It seems impossible. Why? Because Jiva (me) and Isvara (God) have such different qualities: Jiva is small, Isvara is big. Jiva knows a little, Isvara knows a lot. See the full explanation of differences here: http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/you-are-that-a-teacher-student-dialogue/ .
Vedanta’s answer to this doubt is this: If we think Jiva and Isvara are different, then please clarify what we mean by the word ‘I’ (Jiva)? And what do we mean by the word ‘God’ (Isvara)? It’s similar to asking the following question – are the gold ring and gold bangle the same or different? Hmmm…well you could answer both ways.
1. Different. They cannot be the same, because you can’t interchange the 2 words? E.g. “Put the ring on your wrist and the bangle on your finger”. No that does not make sense which clearly proves the 2 words are different in the sense that the name, form and function of a ‘ring’ is different from a ‘bangle’.
2. Same. They are also the same because the Ring is essentially nothing but Gold. The Bangle is essentially nothing but Gold. Therefore both the Ring and Bangle are essentially the same thing – Gold.
So the ring and bangle are both the same and different at the same time! But whetehr you see them as the same of different depends upon one key factor – the standpoint from which you view them:
1. Name-Form-Function (nama-rupa-karma) Standpoint
2. Essential Nature Standpoint
From the 1st standpoint they are different. From the 2nd standpoint they are the same.
Similarly if you ask are Jiva and Isvara the same or different? Then there are 2 answers to this question. From the 1st standpoint they are different (from the perspective of Jiva with a body/mind and Isvara with Maya/Universe). From the 2nd standpoint they are essentially the same/identical (Jiva is Consciousness, Isvara is Consciousness).
So when the Vedas say ‘You are That, are they wrong? Is it an impossible fact to understand? Yes, if you think they are talking from the 1st standpoint (Body/Mind and Maya). Because from the 1st standpoint of name-form-function, you and God are the complete opposite, yes. But the Vedas are not talking from this 1st standpoint at all. They never claim to be. The Vedas are talking only from the 2nd standpoint. This is a very important point. From the standpoint of consciousness, you and God are identical. The Vedas reveal this highest truth which will give you Moksha.
Tat Tvam Asi.