You are on page 1of 9

The equation you are that

Am I the body or mind?

The equation 'you are that' has two sides and the inquiry starts with the meaning of the word 'you'. The
immediate meaning of 'you' is the individual, I. What is this I? It seems clear and easy. I will reply that I am
a male, was born 40 years ago, I am 70 kg and 1,75m tall, I am short sighted, I am healthy, I am happy.
Implied in this answer is the conclusion that I am as good as the body, the capacity of my senses or the
condition of my mind.
Am I the body?
Let us examine the status of the body. This body is known to you; therefore it is an object and not the
subject 'I'. Still you think I am as good as the body and claim I am tall, young, mortal. Theses are in fact
characteristics of the body. What is the body? It is nothing but numerous cells put together. But the present
cells of my body are not the one I was born with. Cells undergo changes every moment. If you take your
body at a given time, in the next twelve years, none of the existing cells will remain. What does it mean?
This whole group of cells disappears but you remain to know their transformation. This clearly shows that
you are not the body 57, but somehow you have concluded that I am as good as the characteristics of my
Am I the physiological functions of the body?
But then what is this I? Another statement you make about I is 'I am hungry, thirsty, sick, or healthy.' What
about these conclusions? You can see that these conclusions are connected to respiratory, digestive and
other physiological functions of the body. Again, all these conditions are known to you. The hunger comes
and goes. You are the one who knows the presence as well as the absence of hunger. Since you know both,
you are none of the two. Therefore you say at different times, I am hungry and then I am not hungry any
more! You are neither one nor the other as you cannot be both! Hence, 'I am sick, I am hungry, I am thirsty,
etc.' are not right conclusions about I.
Am I the senses?
So what am I? Maybe I am the senses. Therefore I say 'I see, I hear, I smell'. However, when I examine this
further, I can understand that it is not that I see but my eyes that see. It is not that I hear but my ears hear. In
fact I am able to see if my eyes see or not! I am aware of them as they function or not function. Then, any
conclusions that I have about the nature of 'I' based on the capacity of my senses are wrong.
Am I the mind?
You can say it is clear now: I must be the mind. Therefore I say, 'I am sad, I am agitated, etc.' Now, let us
examine what is the mind. In fact the mind is nothing but thoughts. These thoughts depending upon their
function, can be divided into four types, emotions, intellect, memory, I sense or ego.
emotions : are because of which I say 'I am sad, angry, agitated, etc.' However, these emotions are
momentary. They change frequently. Therefore, at times I find myself happy and other times sad. In fact, I
am neither happy nor sad or any other emotions which vary. I am the one who observes the coming and
going of the emotions. I am not the emotions.
intellect : is the capacity of the mind to know objects and concepts. Let us examine what is involved in the
knowledge of the objects. The object 'rose' which is outside is known by you. How? The physical 'rose'
does not enter in your mind, what happens is a thought occurs in the mind, which is in keeping with the
object 'rose'. All knowledge, whether it is about tangible objects or ideas or concepts, takes place when the
thoughts that take place in the mind are in keeping with objects, ideas or concepts. However this cognition
using which I know various things comes and goes. I cannot conclude that I am the very thought which
leads to a discovery of a given thing. Because even without this thought, which led to the knowledge of a
given thing, I am very much there.

memory : may be I am memory? Again, I am the one who gathers and recollects memories of my
childhood and what I ate yesterday. I cannot be me memories that constitutes the autobiographic I, since I
am aware of coming and going of all the thoughts related to past.
I sense or ego : If I am neither body, nor senses nor emotions, nor intellect nor memories, finally, I must
now say: I am the subject, the individual who is aware of all these body, senses and mental activities. But
what is exactly this I sense? For example, while you read this page, you are aware not only of the page you
are reading and the words on the page, you are aware of the changes of thoughts as you go along with the
ideas presented, you are aware of the emotions triggered by them but you are also aware of yourself reading
the page. Try to see this as you read this page. This is the 'I' thought. Or when I jog in a park, I can see the
trees around me, and I am aware not only about my heart beat and the pain in my muscles, but also aware
of myself jogging.
This capacity to relate to the external world and one's own body, mind and senses is also a product of a
evolved neurobiological processes in the brain that gives rise to this sense of I, of being a conscious being,
knowing and doing various things. The brain has been designed in such a way that it includes the self
reflective capacity that gives rise to sense of I. This 'I' in turn has the ability to know the internal activities
of the body, mind, senses, etc, and the capacity to know external things.
Am I the body or mind?
However this 'I' sense itself, what seems to be the basic I or subject, is nothing but a series of thoughts
whose subject matter is 'I'. It is changing all the time along with the changes of the objects of my
environment, the changing conditions of the body, etc. For example, at one moment, one says, I know a
given thing, at the other moment, knower is replaced by the doer and one says 'I do a certain act', etc.
Moreover, this I sense which seems such an integral part of me, becomes unmanifest during deep sleep, it is
not present in the same manner as it is in the waking. The wonder is that even though the I thought is the
result of always changing neurobiological process, it is able to give me a seeming continuous sense of I, a
seeming continuity of my individuality through all my different experiences. But the fact that it is changing
means that I am not essentially these series of 'I' thoughts which constitute the ego.
If I am none of these, am I emptiness?
If I am not the body, not the senses, not the various modes of mind, such as emotions, cognitions,
memories, ego, who am I? As everything has been negated, maybe I am emptiness, I am nothing, a void?
No, because you are not non existent 58. You may doubt about many things, but one thing you are sure,
that is 'I am', 'I exist' 59. But then, if all the conclusions about myself are wrong and if still 'I am', what is
the nature of I?
I am consciousness that is the truth of the body-mind-senses
The Upanishads reveal that the true nature of I is consciousness, because of which my sense of I, my
emotions, the conditions of the body, senses, etc, are known to me 60. This consciousness is completely
independent of all the above conditions and is never affected or displaced by any of them 61. How can I
recognize this fact that I am consciousness, invariable in all of them? To understand this, we need to revisit
the definition of satyam and mithya explained in the section about orders of reality Satyam was said to be
that which does not depend upon anything for its existence. Mithya is that which depends upon something
else for its existence.
Consciousness is satyam and the mind is mithya
Now, let us first apply this definition with reference to all the different types of thoughts that take place in
the mind, including the I thought. The Upanishads point out that thoughts are just forms and are variable.
But as one given thought exists momentarily and gives way to a completely new thought, the content of
both thoughts is invariable and that is consciousness 62. When one thought is replaced by another thought,
for example, a cow thought by horse thought, what changes is the thought, that is a form, but the content of
both thoughts is consciousness that is invariable in both thoughts. You can see it, the thought forms keep
changing, but the content of all thoughts is the same. You can apply this principle to all other types of
thoughts such as emotions, memories, etc. My emotions keep changing, sometimes I say 'I am sad' which is

then replaced by 'I am happy'. The content of both these thoughts is consciousness. It is clear that every
thought depends upon consciousness for its existence, therefore it is mithya. And consciousness does not
depend upon any thought for its existence; therefore it is satyam in terms of reality.
Then, what about in between the thoughts? When there is silence? There also, there is consciousness
without any thought or form. This means that consciousness is invariable in absence and presence of all
types of thoughts that comprise emotions, intellect, memories, ego. Consciousness is never displaced by
any of them, it is independent of them all. However, all the thoughts are only forms and depend entirely
upon consciousness for their existence. Hence, consciousness is satyam, and all thoughts are mithya.
Consciousness is satyam and the body is mithya
Now, let us apply the definition of satyam and mithya with reference to the body to understand that
consciousness is also the reality of the body. Body consists of cells, which in turn can be reduced further to
their constituents, namely nucleus, cellular membrane, mitochondria and so on.
If you take the DNA in the nucleus of a cell, you find there is a unique sequence of genes that defines our
biological individuality. Actually, these genes are molecules assembled together in the peculiar helix shape
of DNA. These molecules themselves can be reduced further into atoms and particles, etc. What is
invariably present in and through all these forms is the intelligence which makes each DNA or cell to
behave in a given way and gives each individual a unique body-mind-sense capacity. This intelligence, like
any other intelligence, depends upon consciousness for its existence. Thus, consciousness is satyam while
the body-mind-senses are mithya. They have no being of their own, no independent existence from this
Consciousness is not a parallel reality
If the relation between satyam and mithya is seen properly, we can understand that consciousness and the
body-mind-sense complex are not two parallel things having the same order of reality. Like clay with
reference to pot, when I look at the pot, there is only clay. The pot is only as though real, empirically real,
just a name for a form. Similarly when I look at this body-mind-senses, there is only consciousness. The
body-mind-senses, are only empirically (as though) real, because each one is a name for a form within
many forms, whose reality is consciousness 63.

The nature of I
Consciousness is the reality of everything including space and time
Is this consciousness, that is the reality of I, confined to my body and mind, even though independent from
them? When I think that thought or any mental process is consciousness then I may conclude wrongly that
consciousness is within the body or the brain. It therefore would have a form and be confined within the
limits of my body. However, I have already seen that I am the content of any type of thought form and
hence not any particular form.
The question arises as to if consciousness is not any particular form, how far does it extend? The
Upanishads reveal that consciousness that is I, which is the truth of my body and mind, is also the truth of
all objects, as well as the truth of time and space64. How can that be possible, it is a tall order to understand
First, I understand that just as my body-mind-sense complex depends upon consciousness, the same
analysis can be applied to understand that consciousness is also the truth of all sentient beings whether it is
human, animal, bird or insect or any other form. Then what about insentient objects?
Existence is the reality of all objects
We have to go back to the analysis of all objects we saw in the section about the orders of reality. Any
object I take, let us say pot, can be further divided, into clay which in turn is nothing but molecules, atoms,
particles, etc. That means any object that you see is nothing but a form within forms to the extent that you
don't even know what it is really. The tangibility or solidity of the object has vanished. Upanishads point
out that when you take a form, it resolves into another form, but what is invariable in all forms is existence,
an 'is' upon which each and every form depends. That means existence is satyam and simultaneously
appears as particles, atoms, molecules, clay and pot which are mithya in terms of their order of reality.
Similarly, when you take all other objects belonging to empirical reality, whether a planet or a flower, a
mountain or a river, this 'is', existence, is invariable in all of them while forms are variable. Being
invariable, existence is completely independent of forms while forms cannot even exist without existence.
Consciousness is existence
Does it mean that the truth of my and all other body-mind-senses is consciousness and the reality of
insentient objects is existence? Are those two different entities? No, that consciousness is existence;
consciousness is the same as the invariable 'is' that is existence. Is it also true the other way around? Is
existence that is invariable in a mountain, the moon, a river, a flower also consciousness? Yes, because
there is some intelligence which makes every form what it is and enables this existence to be
simultaneously mountain, moon, river, flower, molecules, atoms, particles, etc. That intelligence is in and
through all the forms. What is the content of that intelligence? It is consciousness, just like the content of
my intelligence is consciousness.
That means, what is invariable in all forms, all objects is existence-consciousness which is also invariable
in my and all other body-mind-senses. Now, I can understand that consciousness is not confined to an
individual but is also in and through all objects in the universe, being their reality 65.
The nature of I
Consciousness-existence is the truth of time and space
Then, there still remains one important question. The individual and the world of objects both exist within
space and time framework. Is consciousness located within time and space?
Again, the Upanishads declare that consciousness is not limited by time and space but is the truth of time
and space. How is it possible? In order to understand this, let us analyze time and take an interval of one
hour. That hour can be divided further in minutes which constitute one hour. One minute can itself be
further divided into seconds, milliseconds, nanoseconds, etc. Then what is really this interval of one hour?
What is the building block of time, its reality? Time looses also its seeming absolute reality. What is
invariable in minutes, seconds, nanoseconds, etc, is existence which simultaneously appears as hour,

minutes, seconds, nanoseconds, etc. What makes that existence simultaneously appear as hour, minutes,
seconds, nanoseconds, etc., is intelligence, which again depends upon consciousness. That means,
existence-consciousness is truth of time.
We can analyze in the same manner space. Space is generally measured in terms of distance between two
points, for example one meter. This measurement of a meter can further be divided in centimeter,
millimeter, etc. which ends up with existence as before. The intelligence which makes the existence appear
in those units of measurements is consciousness.
Therefore both time and space depend for their being upon existence-consciousness, they are mithya,
whereas existence-consciousness is satyam, not displaced or subject to time and space since it is the very
truth of time and space.
Modern physics helps us to assimilate the relativity of space and time. Objects are not inserted in a fixed
and eternal frame work of space and time. A massive object can also curve the space/time by the
gravitational field it creates. Time and space are changing, collapsible in some conditions and relative to
the speed and the location of the observer as the theory of relativity shows. It also shows that there is not on
one side time as a linear one absolute dimension flow towards the future and the other side, an absolute
space with its three dimensions. The space and time are not only relative but also not independent from
each other.
To conclude, the inquiry into the nature of the individual, of I, led me to the discovery that I am limitless
existence-consciousness, that is the truth of all names and forms, both sentient and insentient and not
limited by space or time or any object in the entire universe 66.
I am not subject to birth, death, sorrow or fear
That means my conclusions that I am limited by space and time, subject to birth and death, confined to this
body, limited in my knowledge and skills, subject to sorrow, fear, etc. are therefore wrong 67. This sense of
limitation is not real. It is just a notion. The notion that I am the body, the mind, etc., has its origin in my
not knowing the true nature of myself.
One by one, these notions are negated by the teaching which then makes me see that the entire space time
framework and the objects and beings within this framework, exist in me alone. I am limitless
consciousness-existence, free from mortality and not confined by space, I am the limitless whole that is the
truth of the entire universe.

The cause of the universe

We will now inquire into the second side of the equation 'you are that'. The immediate meaning of the word
'that' is the cause of the universe.
Up to now, we saw that I am not the individual I was taking myself to be but I am limitless consciousnessexistence, that is the truth of the world which consists of many forms, and forms within forms. But the
question arises as to how my and every other sentient being's body-mind-sense complex, and all other
objects came into being? I now have to examine what is the cause of the universe, if there is one; and what
is its nature.
It is clear that I was born with a certain body and a self conscious mind, with a faculty given to me to
understand, explore, ask questions, the capacity to have desires and pursue them. When I look more
attentively, I see that everywhere in this world there is an order, a marvelous balance. Everything is
amazingly and very intelligently put together. My body itself is a marvel, with hundreds of billions of cells
all working together in harmony, I see a biological order in all the connections in my brain firing all the
time and giving me knowledge of this world around me. In that knowledge there is an epistemological
order, governing my knowing the different objects. In my interaction with the other human beings, there is
a psychological order. The galaxies and the planets are also governed by a physical order and the earth with
all its life forms by a biological and ecological order.
The fact that there is an order, an arrangement, a predictability and a network of laws governing the whole
universe, leads me to conclude that there must an intelligent being at the origin of the creation. And this
being must necessarily have all knowledge and the capacity to create the universe. Just like the creator of a
pot has to know all about the pot and must have the skills to create a pot, the creator of everything should
have all knowledge and all capacity.
Upanishads reveal the presence of an intelligent being, Isvara, that created the universe 68. It seems that
Upanishads also say the same thing as all sacred scriptures, that the universe has a creator, that is God. Is it
true? No, the differences become apparent when we look into the material cause of the creation.
Anything that is intelligently put together has two causes, an efficient cause (a maker with appropriate
knowledge and skills) and a material cause. For example, in the case of a pot, the pot maker is the efficient
cause while the clay is the material cause. Just as there is a material cause for every thing that is
intelligently put together, what is the material cause of the entire universe? In other words, Isvara created
the universe but where did the material that constitutes this universe come from? Where did this intelligent
cause with all necessary skills find the appropriate material to create the universe? We can not say he found
the material somewhere else, because everything is yet to be created! The only logical possibility is that the
material is also Isvara. Isvara is not only the intelligent cause but also the material cause of the universe.
That also means that Isvara pervades the whole creation 69 just like the clay as the material cause of the pot
pervades the pot.
How can I accept this statement? To help us assimilate this unique vision of Isvara as both efficient and
material cause of the world, the Upanishads give us two examples from our experience of a given entity
being both the material and efficient cause. One is the example of the spider who is the intelligent designer
of the web and also the material, since the soft fiber comes also from his body 70.
The dream is even a better example: you are the creator of the dream as you have the power and the
intelligence to create the dream world, based on your own experiences, memories, etc. in the waking. You
are also the material from which the space/time and all the objects such as rivers, mountains, road etc. and
people, yourself and everyone around you in the dream are created. As the material cause of the dream
creation, you pervade the whole dream world. You are the lord of the dream world, both efficient and
material cause of the dream world. Similarly, Isvara is both the efficient and material cause of the entire
universe 71.

The nature of 'that'

As the Upanishads reveal, I can see clearly Isvara as both efficient and material cause of the universe,
pervading the whole creation. Then the next question is: what is the nature of this Isvara.
When I examine the creation, the laws that govern the whole creation, I recognize that there is intelligence
that makes it possible. I see that the entire creation is intelligently put together 72. In fact, all disciplines of
knowledge, physics, biology, chemistry, etc. are an expression of this intelligence pervading the empirical
world. It is also the same intelligence which gives a human brain the capacity to know through means of
knowledge such as perception and inference. That means Isvara is all intelligence that pervades throughout
the creation and makes everything what it is.
There is also a creative power working together with this intelligence, which makes one thing that was
unmanifest one moment ago, manifest the next moment. And within this constant shift between unmanifest
and manifest, this power also makes every thing appear to be steady and tangible. We have seen before,
that the entire universe is only forms within forms within forms. Even though the forms exist only as
though, there is this power which enables everything including time and space to manifest in a given way,
and appear to be solid entities or real objects. Hence Isvara is both all intelligence and all power which
exists in manifest creation and also what governs the unmanifest.
Then Isvara, this all intelligence and power seems to be the ultimate reality. But is it true? No, as
Upanishads point out, if the ontological status of the universe is mithya, then the status of Isvara as its
cause is also mithya.This is because the cause and effect are relational words (for example like father and
Son), both depend upon on each other for their status. That means there is no father without son and vice
versa. That is why the status of cause (Isvara) can not be satyam if the status of effect (universe) is mithya.
How to understand this?
There is only one way to appreciate this. I have seen that the truth of my intelligence (all the thoughts,
memory, and cognitions together with all the neurobiological processes involved) is existenceconsciousness. Similarly, the truth of "all intelligence" is also consciousness. That is because no
intelligence can exist without the presence of consciousness, but consciousness is independent of
intelligence. That means "all intelligence" or Isvara is also existence-consciousness. This can be clearly
appreciated if I see that where my individual mind is, there is "all intelligence" of Isvara making the mind
what it is. When I examine the content of my intelligence and all intelligence, I find only one content which
is consciousness, which is existence.
To put it differently, my intelligence is mithya, what is its reality, what is satyam , is the consciousness that
is invariably present in every piece of cognition. What applies to me as an individual is equally valid for all
other forms, and for the total intelligence which includes all forms. That means, this consciousness is not
limited or confined to a single individual or any entity but is present everywhere.
One question may arise: if Isvara is consciousness and is all pervasive, how come the insentient objects,
have no trace of intelligence in them? Really speaking, the status of anything being inert or insentient is just
a standpoint. For instance, in the dream where one sees the inert objects like mountain, river, rocks etc. and
the sentient objects such as varied people, animals etc. are in reality nothing but the manifestation of the
intelligence of the dreamer. Similarly, the intelligence of Isvara is manifest in the whole creation. This
intelligence can be appreciated by seeing the wonder behind how particles come together to form atoms,
and these atoms again differentiate according to a certain order to appear in form of diverse objects of the
universe. This means, that Isvara in form of intelligence is appearing as both sentient and insentient objects
of the universe.
That means, even so called inert objects are intelligently put together. And again, wherever there is
intelligence, consciousness is present as its very basis. The real nature of Isvara is now limitless existenceconsciousness and that is satyam, whereas the entire universe, including the status of being the creator for
Isvara, is mithya 73.

Resolving the equation

The whole commitment of the Upanishad is to reveal to the individual that 'you are that', tat tvam asi). You,
the individual, are equated to that, Isvara. How can I can be Isvara? How can the Upanishad equate me,
with my individuality, limited knowledge and power to Isvara, the cause of the entire universe, with all
knowledge and power? It is true that there is a difference. According to the vision of Upanishads, it is only
a seeming difference that can be solved upon inquiry. For example, in an equation like E=mc2,
matter=energy, the two sides are dissimilar. However, upon inquiry, one understands that the difference is
only apparent and not real. Similarly, the identity cannot be found in the immediate meaning of the two
terms of the equation, the individual and Isvara but only in their implied meaning, which reveals both being
essentially existence that is limitless consciousness.
Let us introduce two words to help us understand this equation. An upadhi in Sanskrit is 'that which as
though lends its attributes to something else'. Upahita is 'the one which as though takes on the attributes of
something else'. Let us take the example of a crystal and a red rose. When a red rose is in proximity to a
crystal, the crystal appears red. Here, the rose becomes the upadhi because it as though lends its attribute of
'redness' to crystal. And the crystal becomes upahita as it takes on the attribute of redness. Now suppose
you change red rose to yellow rose, the yellow rose will become upadhi for the crystal, the upahita. Note
that since redness or yellowness is only 'as though' taken on by the crystal, you need not physically remove
the flower to make the crystal clear. Crystal is always clear. That means if one understands that crystal is
clear, in spite of the appearance of 'redness', one understands that 'redness' belongs to flower and not to
crystal. That means, one need not physically remove the flower to appreciate the colorlessness of crystal.
Now we can examine the relationship between the individual and consciousness, I. As we have seen before,
consciousness is always free from the conditions of the body-mind-senses complex. However,
consciousness appears to be confined to one's body-mind complex, which accounts for one's sense of
limitation and inadequacy 74. In this case, I the consciousness is upahita, as it as though takes on the
attributes of body-mind-senses, and the body-mind-senses are upadhi, as they seemingly lend their attribute
to consciousness. This results in confusion, a universal mix up because of which a person says: "I am 40
years old, I am mortal, I am tall, white, etc. ", conditions which are actually connected to the body ; "I am
angry, sad, I know this, I am ignorant of this, I remember this, etc." connected to the condition of mind.
The reality is that these attributes belong to the body-mind complex (upadhi) and not to consciousness
(upahita). Consciousness is always free from any attributes and untouched by the condition of body-mind
However we have to note that the analogy of crystal and flower can not be transposed totally to
consciousness and individual. Because the crystal and the flower enjoy the same order of reality, both are
empirically real. But between consciousness and the individual, there is a relationship of satyam and
mithya, as we have seen before. While the body-mind-senses depend entirely upon consciousness for its
existence, consciousness is completely independent of them. That means, this individual upadhi itself,
depending for its being on consciousness, as though lends its attributes to consciousness. As a result, I,
consciousness, appears to be limited.
Now if we examine the relationship between Isvara and consciousness, it is the same. We have seen before,
that the status of Isvara, the cause of the universe, with all knowledge and power is mithya, as it itself
depends upon consciousness, that is satyam, for its existence.
In this case, consciousness is upahita as it takes on the attribute of creator of the whole universe, even
though itself is free from any attribute. Whereas, the status of creator of the universe (Isvaratvam) is
upadhi, as it as though makes consciousness appear as creator of the universe.
That means, the status of Isvara as creator of the universe, depending for its being on consciousness, itself
becomes upadhi. It as though lends its attributes to consciousness. Consciousness in turn is upahita, as it as
though takes on the status of being the creator of the universe.

To sum up, upadhi alone (the body-mind-senses complex on one hand and all knowledge and power on the
other hand) accounts for the apparent difference between individual and Isvara. In reality, there is only one
consciousness that you can see from two different standpoints, the individual upadhi (the body-mind-senses
complex) and Isvara upadhi (the laws governing the universe of forms and the forms themselves) 75.
That means, from the standpoint of the ultimate reality, there is only one non dual consciousness that is
satyam, upon which both the individual upadhi and the universal upadhi depend for their being. In other
words, consciousness has not undergone any change whatsoever to create this universe.
To understand this, let us take the example of wave and ocean. The wave can understand that the wave is
water and the ocean is water. There is only water as though appearing in form of different waves and ocean.
By understanding all that is here is only water, the wave can say 'I am the ocean', 'I am everything that is
here', as the difference between wave and ocean is only in terms of form, but not in terms of content, the
When this identity between the individual and Isvara is understood, the sense of limitation and bondage
born out of identification with body-mind-senses goes away 76. I understand I am consciousness and all
that is here is me, one non dual limitless existence-consciousness.