What are the mahavakyas?


Every Upanishad must have a maha-vakya महावाक्य, not just four Upanishads. For the sake of समन्वय samanvaya, showing that all four Vedas have only one तात्पर्य tattparya, vision, four maha-vakyas are quoted, one from each Veda:

  1. तत् त्वम् असि, Tat Tvam Asi -> That Thou Art.
    from Chandogya Upnishad, Samaveda.
  2. अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि, Aham Brahmasmi -> I am Brahman.
    from Brahadarnayaka Upnishad, Yajurveda
  3.  प्रज्ञानम् ब्रह्म, Prajananam Brahma -> Consciousness is Brahman.
    from Aitareya Upnishad, Rigveda
  4. अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म, Ayam Atmā Brahma -> This self is Brahman.
    from Mandukya Upnishad, Atharvaveda.

In fact, every Upanishad has maha-vakya. Without a maha-vakya there is no Upanishad, there is no Gita, and there is no शास्त्र sastra either. Any sastra reveals what is to be revealed, and therefore, maha-vakyas are seen in all the Upanishads.

In maya-vakyas there are no differences. It is not proper to create differences among them, like some people do. Some claim that, tat tvam asi is an upadesa-vakya, a sentence giving the teaching; aham brahmasmi is an anubhavakya, a sentence revealing the experience of oneness, and so on. The whole Upanishad is meant for upadesa, revealing an equation between जिव Jiva and ईश्वर Isvara.

Sawmi Dayanand Saraswati

Excerpts from Kenopanishad

What is the cause of Creation?


सदेव सोम्य इदम् अग्रे आसीत!

छान्दोग्योपनिषत, Chnadyogyop Upnisad (6.2.1)  says, “This world was there before as ‘sat’ सत्.  Without any differentiation”. Pure knowledge alone was there before. The jagat जगत् (unverse) is now differentiated. For this differentiation to take place, knowledge has to manifest. The time has come now for the jagat to get out of the un-manifest condition. ‘The time has come’-  this is only an expression because time itself is yet to come. Getting out of the un-manifest condition is like waking up from sleep. You wake up because of the prarabdha प्रारब्ध  karma. But lsvara ईश्वर  does not have any karma to clamor for fructification. The karmas of the individuals in the un-manifest condition clamor to manifest, and we refer to that condition when we say, “The time has come”. What does lsvara do now?

From the un-manifest, the world manifests. This is cyclic. Here we are talking about a given cycle. Before the manifestation, there must be a certain motion, some commotion is involved. That is pointed out here. The Sankhyas say that before the creation there is some commotion in pradhana प्रधान, the cause, consisting of the three gunas – sattwa सत्व, rajas रजस, and tamas तमस. They are in equilibrium in the un-manifest condition. That equilibrium gets disturbed due to some vibration and the creation starts. Here we ask, “How did it get disturbed? Who disturbed it?” Purusa पुरुष, the conscious being, has nothing to do with pradhana. Other than purusa nobody else was there. If pradhana gets disturbed on its own, then it should always be disturbed. How come the disturbance did not take place so far? Another section of the Sankhyas, who accepts lsvara, says, “lsvara disturbs the equilibrium.” Then What is the occasion for lsvara to disturb it? Sankhyas have no logical answer. But every one of them has to point out that before the creation there must be a disturbance in the un-manifest, and there was a disturbance.

It is like the factor that wakes you up in the morning from sleep. Why do you wake up in the morning? What makes you get up? While you were sleeping you did not have any agenda to wake up. In sleep you do not recognize anything. A person who is sleeping should be sleeping all the time, sleep being a pleasant experience. No. There is a karmic pressure working. One more day you have to live. You have to undergo the experiences that are brought about by the karma on a day-to-day basis. This is one model of explanation, the karmic model. You can also give a physiological model. The body had enough rest, and, of course, it is hungry in the morning. A physiological stimulation in the body wakes you up. A psychological explanation also is possible. But it is all finally karma only. Day-to-day karma has got to be exhausted.

Similarly, something happens before the creation. Whenever we say ‘creation’ you must take it as one cycle. It has no end. This creation is like the previous creation. The previous creation was like its previous creation. Thus every creation was preceded by a creation. In between two creations Isvara brings about dissolution, which is called pralaya प्रलय. When one goes to sleep, one dissolves one’s own individuality and ceases to experience any object. This dissolution is called laya लय, sleep. When the creation goes to dissolution it is called pralaya. After dissolution and just before creation there must be another state, and that is said to be tapas in the sastra शास्त्र. The nimitta निमित, occasion, for the tapas is the karmas of all the beings that clamor to fructify.

Tatah annam abhijayate: the un-manifest world is born from that Brahman ब्रह्मन्. Anna is food. Adyate iti annam, that which is eaten is called anna. Here it means, that which is going to be experienced by all the manifest jivas जीव later. The entire jagat that is devoured at the time of dissolution is anna. It refers to avyakta अव्यक्त, the un-manifest. Anything with distinct features, anything that is created, is vyakta  व्यक्त. That which is in a causal form, without distinct features, is avyakta. If you take a seed, the entire tree is there in it. The tree has a number of distinct features like trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits and so on. But if you look into the seed, you do not see any of them. At the same time, you know that the tree has come from the seed alone. Given the time, place and atmosphere, all those features will manifest. The seed in vyakta, manifest form, is a tree. The tree in avyakta, un-manifest form, is a seed. Similarly, the causal form of this World called anna or avyakta is the upddhi of Brahman. It is also called maya. When the sruti says that anna is born, it means that Brahman identifies – with this upadhi, identifies with the knowledge of avyakta which is going to be manifested later as jagat, and thereby, it becomes the potential cause for the creation. The avyakta has to be differentiated for others’ perception, and this differentiation is called the creation or manifestation.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Excerpts from Mundakopanisad Vol. 1
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