Tat Tvam Asi – “Thou art That!”

From Chapter VI of the Chandogya Upanishad
The Story of Shvetaketu

Shvetaketu was Uddalaka’s son. When he was twelve, his father said to him: “It is time for you to find a teacher, dear one, for no one in our family is a stranger to the spiritual life.”

So Shvetaketu went to a teacher and studied all the Vedas for twelve years. At the end of this time he returned home, proud of his intellectual knowledge.

“You seem to be proud of all this learning,” said Uddalaka. “But did you ask your teacher for that spiritual wisdom which enables you to hear the unheard, think the unthought, and know the unknown?”

“What is that wisdom, Father?” asked the son.

Uddalaka said to Shvetaketu:

“As by knowing one lump of clay, dear one, we come to know all things made out of clay: that they differ only in name and form, while the stuff of which all are made is clay; as by knowing one gold nugget, dear one, we come to know all things made out of gold: that they differ only in name and form, while the stuff of which all are made is gold; as by knowing one tool of iron, dear one, we come to know all things made out of iron: that they differ only in name and form, while the stuff of which all are made is iron – so through that spiritual wisdom, dear one, we come to know that all of life is one.”

“My teachers must not have known this wisdom,” said Shvetaketu, “for if they had known, how could they have failed to teach it to me? Please instruct me in this wisdom, Father.”

“Yes, dear one, I will,” replied his father.

“In the beginning was only Being, One without a second. Out of himself he brought forth the cosmos and entered into everything in it. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme. You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

“Please, Father, tell me more about this Self.”

“Yes, dear one, I will,” Uddalaka said.

“Let us start with sleep. What happens in it? When one is absorbed in dreamless sleep, he is one with the Self, though he knows it not. We say he sleeps, but he sleeps in the Self. As a tethered bird grows tired of flying about in vain to find a place of rest and settles down at last on its own perch, so the mind, tired of wandering about hither and thither, settles down at last in the Self, dear one, to which it is bound. All creatures, dear one, have their source in him. He is their home; he is their strength.”

“When a person departs from this world, dear one, his speech merges in mind, his mind in prana, prana in fire, and fire in pure Being. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme. You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

“Please tell me, Father, more about this Self.”

“Yes, dear one, I will,” Uddalaka said.

“As bees suck nectar from many a flower and make their honey one, so that no drop can say, “I am from this flower or that,” all creatures, though one, know not they are that One. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme. You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

“Please, Father, tell me more about this Self.”

“Yes, dear one, I will,” Uddalaka said.

“As the rivers flowing east and west merge in the sea and become one with it, forgetting they were ever separate rivers, so do all creatures lose their separateness when they merge at last into pure Being. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme. You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

“Please, Father, tell me more about this Self.”

“Yes, dear one, I will,” Uddalaka said.

“Strike at the root of a tree; it would bleed but still live. Strike at the trunk; it would bleed but still live. Strike again at the top; it would bleed but still live. The Self as life supports the tree, which stands firm and enjoys the nourishment it receives. If the Self leaves one branch, that branch withers. If it leaves a second, that too withers. If it leaves a third, that again withers. Let it leave the whole tree, the whole tree dies. Just so, dear one, when death comes and the Self departs from the body, the body dies. But the Self dies not. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme. You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

“Please, Father, tell me more about this Self.”

“Yes, dear one, I will,” Uddalaka said.

“Bring me a fruit from the nyagrodha tree.”

“Here it is, sir.”

“Break it. What do you see?”

“These seeds, Father, all exceedingly small.”

“Break one. What do you see?”

“Nothing at all.”

“That hidden essence you do not see, dear one, from that a whole nyagrodha tree will grow. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme. You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

“Please, Father, tell me more about this Self.”

“Yes, dear one, I will,” Uddalaka said.

“Place this salt in water and bring it here tomorrow morning.” The boy did. “Where is that salt?” his father asked.

“I do not see it.”

“Sip here. How does it taste?”

“Salty, Father.”

“And here? And there?”

“I taste salt everywhere.”

“It is everywhere, though we see it not. Just so, dear one, the Self is everywhere, within all things, although we see him not. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme. You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

“Please, Father, tell me more about this Self.”

“Yes, dear one, I will,” Uddalaka said.

“As a man from Gandhara, blindfolded, led away and left in a lonely place, turns to the east and west and north and south and shouts, “I am left here and cannot see!” until one removes his blindfold and says, “There lies Gandhara; follow that path,” and thus informed, able to see for himself, the man inquires from village to village and reaches his homeland at last – just so, my son, one who finds an illumined teacher attains to spiritual wisdom in the Self. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme. You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

“Please, Father, tell me more about this Self.”

“Yes, dear one, I will,” Uddalaka said.

“When a man is dying, his family all gather round and ask, “Do you know me? Do you know me?” And so long as his speech has not merged in mind, his mind in prana, prana in fire, and fire in pure Being, he knows them all. But there is no more knowing when speech merges in mind, mind in prana, prana in fire, and fire in pure Being. There is nothing that does not come from him. Of everything he is the inmost Self. He is the truth; he is the Self supreme. You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

Then Shvetaketu understood this teaching; truly he understood it all.

OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI

~ * ~

Regarding the Upanishads, Swami Sivananda has written, “The Upanishads are the concluding portions of the Vedas or the end of the Vedas. The teaching based on them is called Vedanta. The Upanishads are the gist and the goal of the Vedas. They form the very foundation of Hinduism. … Even the Western scholars have paid their tribute to the seers of the Upanishads. At a time when the Westerners were clad in barks and were sunk in deep ignorance, the Upanishadic seers were enjoying the eternal bliss of the Absolute, and had the highest culture and civilisation.”

The Upanishads, the oldest of which were written at least 3,500 years ago, are timeless, beautiful, and inspiring treatises which all focus on the identity, unity, and literal sameness of the spiritual nature of the individual and the Divine Absolute Reality or, in other words, the Oneness of our Higher Self (Atman) with the Supreme Self (Brahman).

The Upanishads describe Brahman as the ONE Infinite Divine Life and speak of the oneness, non-separateness, and inner divinity of all things. They are the source and the deepest and most profound expression in history of the spiritual teaching of non-duality and universal oneness.

“Tat Tvam Asi” is one of the most famous and beloved phrases in the Hindu religion. It is a Sanskrit phrase which has been translated into English as “Thou art That,” “That thou art,” and “That art thou” or, in more modern English, as “You are That.” It is considered to be one of the four Mahavakyas (Great Sayings or Supreme Statements) of the Upanishads. The above excerpt from the Chandogya Upanishad is from the popular modern translation by Eknath Easwaran.

H.P. Blavatsky said that those who seek after Truth should go to the Upanishads and William Quan Judge – her colleague and co-founder of the Theosophical Movement – once wrote to a Theosophist, “Arouse, arouse in you the meaning of “Thou art That.” Thou art the Self. This is the thing to think of in meditation, and if you believe it then tell others the same. You have read it before, but now try to realise it more and more each day and you will have the light you want.”

~ * ~

Discover more in these related articles: Atman – The Higher Self, The Sevenfold Nature of Man, Some Questions and Answers about HinduismGandhi on Blavatsky and Theosophy, The Theosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, The Three Gunas, The Life & Times of Adi Shankaracharya, and Is Theosophy Hinduism, Buddhism, or Something Else?

~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~

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