The Sūtasamhitā – Part 11
Sutasamhitā Chāndogya Upaniṣat
The discussion on the method of deriving the meaning of the mahāvākya is continued here:
त्वमहंशब्दवाच्यार्थस्यैव देहादिवस्तुनः ।
न तच्छब्दार्थतां वक्ति श्रुतिस्तत्त्वमसीति सा ॥ ७८॥
त्वमहंशब्दवाच्यार्थस्य the direct meaning of the words ‘thou’ and ‘I’ एव alone देहादिवस्तुनः of the body etc. न does not तच्छब्दार्थतां the meaning of the word ‘That’ वक्ति says श्रुतिः Veda तत्त्वमसि ‘tat tvam asi’ इति thus सा she
The verse clarifies that the Upaniṣad does not attempt to unite the jīva and the Supreme in identity as they stand. In other words, the direct meaning of the term ‘tvam’ (‘thou’) is the individual endowed with body, mind, etc. and the direct meaning of the term ‘tat’ (‘That’) is the Supreme Brahman endowed with the attributes of omniscience, etc. Certainly such an identity is impossible as the characteristics of the jīva and Īśvara are quite distinct from one another. Even though there is unity, identity, aikyam, oneness, non-difference, with respect to the Consciousness aspect of the jīva and Īśvara, the upādhis, limiting adjuncts, are quite poles apart. Hence, the Veda does not intend to equate the samsāritva (bound nature) of the jīva with the Omniscience, etc. of Īśvara. This clarification is required in order to quell any doubt about the efficacy, workability, of the vedāntic mahāvākya.
तदर्थैक्यविरुद्धांशं त्यक्त्वा वाच्यगतं श्रुतिः ।
अविरुद्धचिदाकारं लक्षयित्वा ब्रवीति हि ॥ ७९॥
तदर्थैक्यविरुद्धांशं that aspect which is contradictory to the identification with the meaning of ‘Tat’ त्यक्त्वा having given up वाच्यगतं emanating from the direct meaning of the word श्रुतिः the Veda अविरुद्धचिदाकारं the non-contradictory nature of Consciousness लक्षयित्वा indicating ब्रवीति conveys हि indeed
Why does not the Śruti unite the ‘tvam’ with the ‘Tat’ on the basis of the direct meanings of the terms? It is because of the incompatibility that would arise if that is attempted. So the indicated meanings of the two terms are resorted to. This is accomplished by giving up those aspects of the ‘tvam’ and ‘Tat’ that conflict with each other. These are stated in the earlier verse: the bound nature of the jīva and the attributes of Omniscience, etc. of Īśvara. Once these are ignored, negated as products of nescience, what remains un-negatable is the Consciousness aspect in both the jīva and Īśvara. Since there can never be any distinction in the Consciousness that is pure, homogenous, objectless, eternal, self-luminous, the identity is happily possible. In fact, there are no ‘two’ Consciousness-es but only One that merely appears as two owing to the superimposed limiting adjuncts.
तदर्थे च त्वमर्थैक्यविरुद्धांशं विनैव तु ।
कारणत्वादिवाच्यस्थं लक्षयित्वा तु केवलम् ॥ ८०॥
तदर्थे In the meaning of ‘Tat’ च too त्वमर्थैक्यविरुद्धांशं the aspect of meaning contradictory to the identification विना एव without alone तु indeed कारणत्वादिवाच्यस्थं the one denoted by the causehood, etc. लक्षयित्वा is indicated तु but केवलम् exclusive
चिदाकारं पुनस्तस्य त्वमर्थैक्यं ब्रवीति च ।
तत्त्वंशब्दार्थलक्ष्यस्य चिन्मात्रस्य परात्मनः ॥ ८१॥
चिदाकारं Pure Consciousness पुनः again तस्य of that त्वमर्थैक्यं identity with the ‘tvam’ ब्रवीति says च too तत्त्वंशब्दार्थलक्ष्यस्य the indicated meaning of the words ‘tat’ and ‘tvam’ चिन्मात्रस्य that is Pure Consciousness परात्मनः the Paramātman
That meaning taught with respect of the words ‘tvam’ (‘thou’) and ‘aham’ (‘I’) earlier, is now being applied to the meaning of the word ‘Tat’ as well. The word ‘tvam’ is denoting the samsāritva of the jīva. The word ‘Tat’ denotes the causehood of the world, omniscience, etc. Certainly the two denoted meanings conflict with each other. Such a conflicting identity (between ‘tvam’ and ‘Tat’) is certainly not proposed by the Śruti. Similarly the causehood, etc. that is the denoted meaning (vācyārtha) of the word ‘Tat’ is not compatible with the denoted meaning of ‘tvam.’ Hence this way too, no unity is proposed by the Śruti. Here, the attributes (viśeṣaṇa) such as causehood of the world and omniscience are excluded and the subtantive (viśeṣya) that is the Pure Consciousness is what is indicated to accomplish the unity, aikyam, with the meaning of ‘tvam’, which is also Pure Consciousness.
What is meant by this accomplishment of unity? The ultimate, one only, absolute Truth taught in the Vedānta is the Pure, objectless, homogenous, Consciousness. This Consciousness alone appears, owing to the avidyā-created limiting adjuncts, upādhi-s, as the jīva characterized by samsāritva. Again, this Pure Consciousness alone, owing to the māyā-created upādhi-s such as kāraṇatvam (being the cause of the world) and sarvajñatvam (omniscience) appears as the Īśvara. The mahāvākya ‘Tat tvam asi’ (and ‘Aham Brahma asmi’) proposes to teach the identity, unity, of the two: jīva and Īśvara. Since the attributes of the two namely being bound and being the omniscient one are not compatible, the conflicting attributes are given up. When this is done, what remains is the subtantive that is Pure Consciousness. This method of giving up what is conflicting and retaining what is common to both is called bhāga-tyāga lakṣaṇā or jahat-ajahat lakṣaṇā. The example that demonstrates this lakṣaṇā is the sentence ‘He is this Devadatta.’ Supposing I encounter a person called Devadatta in a Temple in my neighborhood. I recognize him to be the same Devadatta whom I had seen a month ago in a different town. Now how does this recognition ‘he is that Devadatta’ happen? Surely, the ‘that’, the cirumstances, the time and place pertaining to the past event and the cirumstances, the time and place pertaining to the present event are conflicting; they are not the same. That town, that time and that situation are all different from this place, this time and this situation. Yet we conclude that this Devadatta is the same one as that. We do that by giving up, ignoring, disregarding, the place, time, situation triad of both the past and present, which are actually attributes, viśeṣaṇa-s and retain just the vyakti, the individual called Devadatta, who is the subtantive, viśeṣya and say ‘This is that Devadatta alone.’ All this exercise happens in the mind within a fraction of a second.
The method of arriving at the correct meaning of the identity, akhaṇḍārthatā (the condition of the subtantive alone pervading in the two situations, in the example, and presenting itself to the mind as a single entity), is essential to the understanding of the mahāvākyārtha.
एकत्वं यत्स्वतःसिद्धं स हि वाक्यार्थ आस्तिकाः ।
इतोऽन्यथा यो वाक्यार्थः सोऽवाक्यार्थो न संशयः ॥ ८२॥
एकत्वं Oneness यत् that स्वतःसिद्धं is self-established स that हि indeed वाक्यार्थः is the meaning of the sentence आस्तिकाः O āstika-s! इतः other than this अन्यथा different यः that वाक्यार्थः meaning of the sentence सः that अवाक्यार्थः is not the true meaning of the sentence न no संशयः doubt
As demonstrated in the foregoing, that Pure Consciousness, freed of all the upādhi-s is the entity indicated by the two words ‘Tat’ and ‘tvam’. This entity alone is the Paramātman taught by the vedic passages such as ‘vijñānam ānandam brahma’ [‘Consciousness, Bliss is Brahman’] (Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 3.9.28). Brahman is devoid of the three kinds of limitations: deśa, kāla and vastu (spacewise, timewise and objectwise). And therefore alone It is naturally One only without a second of any kind. This Unitary nature alone is taught by the mahāvākya and not an a priori non-existing unity or identity between the tvam and Tat. In other words, the objective of the mahāvākya is not to bring about a hitherto non-existing unity of either of the tvam or Tat with either of them.
Objection: Why cannot there be a unity of the following kind possible by the teaching of the mahāvākya? Just as copper, when comes into contact with the alchemical substance, turns into gold, the samsārin jīva who is really different from the Supreme, owing to the grace of Īśvara become one with the latter. Why not hold the mahāvākya to be teaching this kind of transmutation?
Reply: Other than the method stated in the foregoing verse, that highlights the unity of the jīva and Īśvara that are naturally One alone, no other kind of forging a unity is admissible. What are the kinds of vākyārtha, meaning of a sentence, possible? 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, akhāḍārthatā.
[The above explanation to the verse cited is found in the book ‘‘Vākyavṛtti’’ translated by Swami Jagadananda, Ramakrishna Maṭha, Chennai, year 1973.]
[Coming soon…Part 12]