Monday, 21 November 2016

Tatvamasi - What Is It?

Tat Tvam Asi (Sanskrit: तत् त्वम् असि or तत्त्वमसि), a Sanskrit sentence, translating variously to "Thou art that," "That thou art," or "You are that," is one of the Mahāvākyas (Grand Pronouncements) in Vedantic Hinduism. It originally occurs in the Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7, in the dialogue between Uddālaka and his son Śvetaketu; it appears at the end of a section, and is repeated at the end of the subsequent sections as a refrain. The meaning of this saying is that the Self - in its original, pure, primordial state - wholly or partially identifiable or identical with the Ultimate Reality that is the ground and origin of all phenomena. The knowledge that this is so characterises the experience of liberation or salvation that accompanies the Unio Mystica.

Sabrimala Ayyappa Temple
Sabrimala Ayyappa Temple
Tatvamasi is the fulfilment of spiritual knowledge. There is no second - "Iam that Supreme Entity". This complex advaithic wisdom is made simple in Ayyappa Thathwam. The State of Oneness. That's the reason, once we wear the maala, we are taught to see everything as Ayyappan and everyone as Ayyappan. Though we just call it outwardly and most of us never try to put the theory "everything is Ayyappan" into practice. Just imagine the situation if it is in reality. "Every being is Ayyappan" "Every Devotee is Ayyappan" "Every piece of rock and mud is Ayyappan". Now there is no question of "I" here. because even "Iam Ayyappan..." ie "Iam that Supreme Entity" ie "Thathwamasi".

"Tat tvam asi" translated to English would mean "Thou art That (Supreme Divinity)". It means that the Supreme Lord is within each and everyone. It means that everybody has divinity within him/her. The Supreme Conciousness, also known as Brahman (not Brahmin, which is a caste) or Para-Brahma is inherent in everything, is present everywhere and is beyond everything. In Hindu belief.. Brahman is often represented by the symbol of 'Om' or 'Omkar'.

This message was taken to heart by many followers. In the Ayyappa cult, all men who are undertaking the penance and observations to make the sacred pilgrimage to Sabarimala are called 'Ayyappas', and women are called as 'Maalikapurams'. During this Vratha, people greet others with folded hands and with the words "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa".. meaning "Oh Lord Ayyappa... Please take me into your Protection and Grace". This is a prayer to the Lord who is present within the person we greet. The greeting of "Namaste", "Vanakkam", "Namaskar", etc with folded hands practiced in different parts of India is also for the same reason as above. There is a soul stirring prayer in the Shaivite tradition which echoes the words "Shivoham Shivoham....." which means "I am Shiva" or "Shiva is present in me". It goes on to say what all we are not - I am not this body made of different elements. I am not the ego... not the anger.. not the jealousy or the avarice... I am not the feeling of hate.. etc etc.... I am the sublime and auspicious Shiva.

The true pilgrimage starts within oneself... to the temple that houses the Divinity that lives within us. For a truly awakened person, every act that he/she performs with the body or mind becomes an act of prayer... a prayer to this divinity. Bathing, cleaning the hair, excretion, etc. become acts of cleaning a temple. Eating becomes an act of offering food and drinks to the Lord. Walking becomes and act of offering dance to the Lord. Sleeping becomes an act of "Palliyara seva"... singing lullabies to the icon representing the lord.

When a person in the Vedic tradition starts walking on the spiritual path, he would see God everywhere. Abirami Pattar used to see the Goddess' form in every woman. He would fall at the feet of everybody... .even small kids with great reverence as he was able to see the Goddess in them. Tyagaraja used to see Lord Rama everywhere. He composed a lot of great songs describing Lord Rama doing different acts, in different poses, and in different forms. After he attained lofty heights in spiritualism, Saint Namdev once ran behind a dog that had snatched away his bhakri. He ran, with butter in his hands shouting "Hey Pandering... How will you eat the tough bhakri just like that... Please take this butter too". For him, Panduranga was no longer present just in the four walls of the temple at Pandharpur... the whole world became his temple, and he could see his beloved Vitthala in everybody and everything.

"Aham Brahmasmi"...... is a famous statement that occurs again and again in the Upanishads. It stands for enlightenment... and means "I am Brahma".... Here.. the "I" doesn't refer to the individual, but to the essence of the soul... to the Brahman / Para Brahma who is present in everything and everywhere.

On the pilgrimage to Sabarimala the abode of Lord Ayyappa. After ascending the 18 holy steps... One can see a quote displayed above the main gate of the Sannidhanam written as "Tat tvam asi"... three simple words to capture the essence of Advaita beliefs. Three words which show the oneness of all, and the meaning of life. Three words which communicate the meaninglessness of searching for truth and enlightenment outside, and how the true goal lies within.

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