You ARE That!
Direct Experience of Reality as your own Self!
The students of Vedānta are very familiar with the great saying, Mahāvākya, तत्त्वमसि, Tat Tvam Asi, translated generally as “Thou art That,” originally occurring in the Chandōgya Upaniṣad 6.8.7. It means “You, the reader, the listener, are THAT, the Absolute Reality, the Brahman.
The Absolute Reality is described in the Upaniṣads as ‘Satchitananda’—‘Pure Existence- Consciousness-Bliss Absolute.’ ‘Pure Existence’ means existence that does not depend upon (or is beyond) time, space, and causality. ‘Pure Consciousness’ means consciousness bereft of objects. ‘Pure Bliss’ means bliss devoid of objects, persons or situations.
This Absolute Reality is the Self of all and everything (sarvātmā) and is always directly and inwardly experienced as “presence-awareness” or “I AM” by everyone: अहम् इति अन्तः स्फुरन्तं सदा: [अहम् aham= I; इति iti = thus; अन्तःantaH = amongst all these states; स्फुरन्तम् sphurantam = illumining; सदा sadA= ever] ~ Ṣrī Ḍakṣiṇāmūrti Ṣtotram, mantra 7
The sole purpose of this teaching is to lead a sincere seeker, mumukshu, to have a direct awareness of his or her true nature as the Self of all, in his or her own experience, anubhava.
Please note the Upaniṣad says, “You ARE That!” It does not say, “You Will be That in future after you do this or that. It says, You ARE That, right here, right now! One may ask at this point, that if we are already THAT, then why do we need all the yogas and spiritual practices?
The simple answer to this perennial question is this: this teaching is very subtle and requires a subtle (सूक्ष्म) intellect to intuit it. Thus, in order to “purify” the mind: yoginaḥ karma kurvanti saṅgaṃ tyaktvātmaśuddhaye ब्रह्मण्य् आधाय कर्माणि… योगिनः कर्म कुर्वन्ति सङ्गं त्यक्त्वात्मशुद्धये BG 5.10-11: Dedicating them to Brahman…Yogis perform actions, renouncing attachment, for the purification of the mind. Please note that the great Śhankara singles out these verses in the conclusion to his introduction to the Gita Bhashaya. Hence, their unique importance.
Method of Vedānta!
Or the Method of Communicating Supreme Truth in the Upaniṣads
So, this is the method of Vedānta: All teaching is, as though, a concession for instruction purposes, out of the inexhaustible compassion of the ṛṣḥis. The student approaches the teacher thinking that s/he is “this”—the body, mind, and senses. Through various techniques, prakriyās, such as ‘wintness-witnessed’ discrimination, dṛg-driṣya viveka, analysis of three states of consciousness, avasthātraya viveka, etc., the seeker is slowly led to the understanding that s/he is not “this”– body-mind-senses complex that s/he generally takes himself or herself to be but “That”—the Absolute Reality, the Witness-Consciousness of the body, mind, and senses.
While the teaching is taking place, the teacher is well aware that the student is already That. So, the teaching takes place in the “as though” mode. Pujay swami Dayananda-ji used to emphasize this point. It will also evident to serious students of Swami Paramarthananda-ji discourses on Māṇḍukya-Kārikās and Panchadasi. It is very important to grasp this vital point.
This method is called adhyaropa-apavāda nyāya—the deliberate superimposition and subsequent retraction. Śhaṅkara alludes to this traditional method of Vedānta only at one place in the Bhagavad Gītā Bhāshya as follows:
तथा हि सम्प्रदायविदां वचनम् — ‘अध्यारोपापवादाभ्यां निष्प्रपञ्चं प्रपञ्च्यते’ इति । BG 13.13
So also there is the saying of the knowers of tradition—‘By superimposition and refutation the indescribable is described.’ [Trans., V. Panoli, p. 606]
This then is the method of communicating the Supreme Reality in the Upaniṣads: Whatever is attributed to the Absolute Reality initially is negated later so as to bring the mind to a halt.
We conclude these musings with the most important verse on this topic from Gauḍapāda Kārikās, as follows: [a favorite of Sri Ramana as well]
न निरोधो न चोत्पत्तिर्न बद्धो न च साधकः ।
न मुमुक्षुर्न वै मुक्त इत्येषा परमार्थता ॥ कारिका २. ३२॥
na nirodho na cotpattirna baddho na ca sādhakaḥ |
na mumukṣurna vai mukta ityeṣā paramārthatā || kārikā 2. 32||
There is no dissolution, no origination, none in bondage, none striving or aspiring for salvation, and none liberated. This is the highest truth. [Trans., Gambhirananda, p. 251]