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One of the most profound philosophies of life is Advaita Vedanta. The very word ‘advaita’ which literally means ‘not two’ summarises the entire philosophy succinctly. The Atman (self) and Brahman (God) are not two distinct entities; they are one and the same. Aham Brahmasmi, as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad puts it: I am Brahman. The Chandogya Upanishad repeats the idea many times using the phrase ‘Tatvamasi’ which means ‘You are that’. You are God.

The distinction between Brahman and Atman, God and man, peters out as we move from the early Upansihads towards the later ones. As S Radhakrishnan (academic, professor, philosopher, and India’s second President) puts it in his scholarly introduction to the major Upanishads, “God is not merely the transcendent numinous other, but is also the universal spirit which is the basis of human personality and its ever-renewing vitalising power.”

God is not an entity lying somewhere in the outer space tinkering with the earth and its creatures or even with the cosmos itself. God is part of you, you are part of God. Better still, God is you and you are God. If you take a drop of water out of the ocean, the drop is not the ocean and yet it is in a way. Throw that drop back into the ocean and it becomes an undistinguishable part of the ocean. You and God are similar to that drop and the ocean. Tatvamasi.

What a great philosophy!

This philosophy endows us with divinity. We are divine, no less. This divinity bestows upon us certain responsibilities too. We should behave like gods. We should strive to live like gods. We should become God. It is we who make up the reality of Brahman. Our perfection is God’s perfection. And our imperfection too belongs to the same God. Tatvamasi.

Liberation or salvation lies in this knowledge, according to Advaita Vedanta. You don’t need to wait for death to attain moksha. Liberation can be achieved while living here on the earth by attaining that high level of consciousness which rises above the illusions of all dualities.

One of the biggest mistakes made by most human beings is to perceive God as a person with certain human characteristics at their best. Long ago Aristotle said that we create our gods in our own images. More than 23 centuries later, we still keep creating gods in our own images. We still keep building enormous temples (churches / mosques / whatever) for these gods whom we create.

Mahatma Gandhi refused to believe in man-made gods. “I have no knowledge that the Krishna of Mahabharata ever lived,” Gandhi wrote in Young India (Jan 1, 1925). “My Krishna has nothing to do with any historical person.” He went on to assert unambiguously, “I believe in Krishna of my imagination as a perfect incarnation, spotless in every sense of the word, the inspirer of the Gita.” Gandhi could not believe that the Krishna of the Mahabharata could actually be an incarnation of God because of the many immoral things perpetrated by him to win the war. Krishna of the Mahabharata was yet another creation of fertile human imagination.

Gandhi’s favourite god was Rama. Yet the Rama Gandhi worshipped was not the Rama of Ramayana. “My Rama,” said Gandhi, “the Rama of my prayers is not the historical Rama, the son of Dasharatha, the King of Ayodhya. He is the eternal, the unborn, the one without a second…” (Harijan: April 28, 1946)

Gandhi’s God was a metaphysical consciousness, perhaps the Brahman of Advaita. We can see the philosophy of Tatvamasi in complete practice in Gandhi’s life. In fact, most saints irrespective of their religions believed in that sacred oneness of all reality.

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Yesterday’s post in the series: Spirituality



  1. Loved this post immensely! Yes what a great philosophy to imbibe and practice for a harmonious living.

    1. Ironically in the very birthplace of this profound philosophy, we find its opposite in full practice today.

  2. Tattvamasi is such a beautiful concept
    From atoz

  3. Thanks for introducing such a wonderful concept.

    1. It's an age-old concept. I thought this would be dismissed as a cliché. Thanks for this.

  4. Beautiful post, Thanks for sharing.

  5. This is indeed a profound post. The drop of ocean is still ocean, what a wonderful way to explain and such a beautiful concept. What you wrote about Gandhi and his belief about Rama and krishna i wasn't aware
    Deepika Sharma

    1. Now you know why the right wingers in India love to hate Gandhi.

  6. Such an insightful post with interesting examples.

  7. It is indeed the most powerful and most divine concept.

  8. Five simple words strung together in your post :"sacred oneness of all reality" is the only lesson Harari's 'reckless gods' need to learn to save themselves.
    Reading all your posts in quick succession, hence:)

    Thank you for reminding me of this powerful word.

    1. You made me intoxicated with a series of comments today. Thank you.

  9. "God is not an entity lying somewhere in the outer space tinkering with the earth and its creatures or even with the cosmos itself. God is part of you, you are part of God."
    What a grand explaination. A great post..

  10. Very good post indeed. I respect your knowledge and your style of writing.
    Even though I may not fully agree with the viewpoints about Rama and Krishna,I wouldn't still undermine the greatness of this post.
    Once again thanks for a wonderful post.

    1. Accepting differences of views is a sign of greatness. Glad to have you as a friend here.

  11. We should strive to live like Gods. My takeaway from the post, today.


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