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  1. I am Brahman.

  2. I need to find out that I am Brahman. But who is this “I”? “I” refers to Brahman.

  3. So, Brahman needs to find out that It (Brahman) is Brahman.

This makes no sense.

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  • 1
    Why it makes no sense? When you are dreaming and find yourself living king’ life. Do you realize that you are actually dreaming? No. Similarly Brahman need to find out that it is brahman by realizing that it is not gross body, not prana, not intellect . Call it maya. Because of maya you don’t know who you are
    – Ketan
    Sep 6, 2021 at 3:06
  • This brahman is encompassed in avidya or ignorance that he is not brahman and one realize that he is brahman then his avidya is lost and he becomes brahman.. now this logic makes sense right..But there lot many realized brahman before us right.. then there is only one brahman right if that one brahman is already realized we shouldnt exist right.. there is perpetual chicken and egg problem if you assume the above.. otherwise advaita have perfect answer for all your questions
    – Prasanna R
    Sep 6, 2021 at 7:32
  • @Rahul Brahman is not all knowing. Very very simple. Ishwara is all knowing. Advaita is all about the difference between Ishwara and Brahman. Ishwara is Sarvajna. Brahman is incapable of knowledge, thinking, memory etc. Brahman is only Sacchidananda. Existence Consciousness Bliss. If you have anymore doubts you could ping me here or you could read tattva bodha.
    – user22253
    Sep 6, 2021 at 9:53
  • 1
    @Ketan I have removed that part.
    – Rahul
    Sep 6, 2021 at 17:01
  • 1
    Thanks. I highly recommend this lecture. You will find it helpful youtu.be/4JkvlzXczpY
    – Ketan
    Sep 6, 2021 at 17:12

4 Answers 4

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The second point is wrong. 'I' does not refer to Brahman. Here 'I' is the subtle body of Jiva that consists of manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara. It is this I that is searching for Brahman.

Marwari Devotee: "Who is this 'I' that says, 'O Lord, I am Thy servant'?"

Sri Ramakrishna:"This is the lingasarira or embodied soul. It consists of manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara. Lingasarira is the Atman bound by the eight fetters. Chitta is the 'I-consciousness' that says 'Aha!'"

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Chapter 30, The Master in Various Moods

Fetters are shame, hatred, fear, caste, lineage, good conduct, grief, and secretiveness.

Some Comments on the nature of Brahman

The question has been changed. The first version of the question stated that Brahman is all-knowing. Is it a correct description of Brahman? I would like to state that Brahman is Pure Consciousness in the Advaita Vedanta scheme. To interpret the Advaita Brahman as jada is completely missing the point. The concepts of 'all-knowing' or 'not all-knowing' can not possibly apply to Pure Consciousness. Such dualistic concepts can apply only to conscious beings. Narayana of Vishistadvaita Vedanta and Vishnu of Dvaita Vedanta are conscious beings and are all-knowing.

It is very difficult to say anything affirmative about Advaita Vedanta Brahman. The description 'Sat-Chid-Ananda' illustrates this point. Brahman may be said to be existence (SAT), be Pure Consciousness (CHID) and be bliss itself (ANAND). The above description is not stating that Brahman exists but what is being claimed is that Brahman is the principle of existence. Similarly Brahman is not a conscious being but consciousness itself and is not blissful but bliss itself.

It is this difficulty that has led to describing Brahman negatively. An example of Brahman described negatively is given below.

Yajnavalkya said: O Gargi, it is the supreme being that the non-yogins call gross but, in fact, that is eternal and wonderful lord; one that is not long, not red, that has no head, that has no setting, hence that has a lasting taste, that has no contact, no smell, no juice, no eyes, no ears, neither speech nor mind, no brilliance, no proof [or magnitude], no (worldly) happiness, no name, no race, no death, no age, no ailment; that is nectarine, that is expressed by the word Om, that is immortal, that has neither a predecessor nor a successor, that is endless and non-external. It eats something. It does not eat anything. ..

Linga Purana II.9.53–54

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  • But isn't it more precise to say that Brahman is not all knowing. Ishwara is all knowing. Advaita is all about the difference between Ishwara and Brahman. Ishwara is Sarvajna. Brahman is incapable of knowledge, thinking, memory etc. Brahman is only Sacchidananda. Existence Consciousness Bliss.
    – user22253
    Sep 6, 2021 at 11:46
  • Brahman and Ishvara are not 2. Vivekananda says, 'Ishvara is the highest manifestation of the Absolute Reality, or in other words, the highest possible reading of the Absolute by the human mind. ' Brahman when experienced by human mind is called Ishvara. One can't say Brahman is not all-knowing because then Ishvara also becomes not all-knowing. We can use anthropomorphic concepts like all-knowing up to Ishvara, Brahman as seen through the mind. There is no way to use such anthropomorphic concepts regarding Brahman. Sep 6, 2021 at 11:58
  • Thanks for this answer.
    – Rahul
    Sep 6, 2021 at 12:13
  • What are the 8 fetters?
    – Rahul
    Sep 6, 2021 at 12:15
  • 1
    @PradipGangopadhyay Yes, a user named Ketan edited the question title.
    – Rahul
    Sep 8, 2021 at 0:37
5

There are two question, the title of the question asks a different question and description of the question asks as totally different question.

Title question

If I am Brahman, and Brahman is all-knowing, then why do I (who is already Brahman) need to find out that I am Brahman?

Description question

  1. I am Brahman.

  2. I need to find out that I am Brahman. But who is this “I”? “I” refers to Brahman.

  3. So, Brahman needs to find out that It (Brahman) is Brahman.

This makes no sense.

These both may seem as the same question, but there asking vastly different questions, so I'm going to answer then separately.


Question 1

If I am Brahman, and Brahman is all-knowing, then why do I (who is already Brahman) need to find out that I am Brahman?

Brahman is not all knowing. Very very simple. Ishwara is all knowing. Advaita is all about the difference between Ishwara and Brahman. Ishwara is Sarvajna. Brahman is incapable of knowledge, thinking, memory etc. Brahman is only Sacchidananda. Existence Consciousness Bliss.

There are five koshas or layers

  1. Annamaya Kosha
  2. Pranamaya Kosha
  3. Manomaya Kosha
  4. Vijnanamaya Kosha
  5. Anandamaya Kosha

Now any knowing and thinking happens only in Manomaya kosha and Vijnanamaya kosha. You know something means the information is stored in Manomaya kosha.

But Brahman is beyond all these five koshas. Brahman can't think, cant remember or know in the colloquial sense. Brahman can only experience and is pure witness alone. It is the inner most core of all the koshas. Whatever thinking and knowing happens in these five koshas which are all inside Maya.

Refer Tattva Bodha enter image description here
enter image description here


Question 2

  1. I am Brahman.

  2. I need to find out that I am Brahman. But who is this “I”? “I” refers to Brahman.

  3. So, Brahman needs to find out that It (Brahman) is Brahman.

This makes no sense.

Most of such confusing paradoxes arise because one is confusing the Paramarthika truth (Absolute reality outside maya) with Vyavaharika truth (Illusory reality within maya.) The answer by Pradip Gangopadhyay answers this part of question correctly. But this answer doesn't apply to the first part of question.

Let's see this second question.

  1. I am Brahman - This is Paramarthika truth.
  2. I(1) need to find out that I(2) am Brahman. But who is this “I”? “I” refers to Brahman. - Here the first I, the I(1) who needs to find out the truth, is within maya, so this I(1) is within Vyavaharika level. This I(1), as Pradip pointed out, is the ego of Linga Shareera, but the I(2) is the I at Paramarthika level. So in this statement you are confusing the two truths.
  1. So, Brahman needs to find out that It (Brahman) is Brahman. Now after resolving statement 2, you can see that statement 3 is wrong. Brahman need not find out anything, as it is there in Paramarthika level
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    You should cite sources.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Sep 6, 2021 at 9:42
  • @TheLittleNaruto yes have added it.
    – user22253
    Sep 6, 2021 at 13:30
  • Is thinking the property of jaDa padArtha then?
    – user23407
    Sep 6, 2021 at 14:42
  • @zero yes exactly
    – user22253
    Sep 6, 2021 at 14:45
  • @zero Advaita is in line with modern science as computers and robots can also think. Also even according to Dvaita thinking is done by Jada.
    – user22253
    Sep 6, 2021 at 14:46
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The question is a classic question in Advaita Vedanta. Ancient Advaita teachers have dealt with it. In a nutshell, the answer is that in different places, the word "I" is used in different senses: familiar meaning, figurative meaning and indirect meaning.

Here, I am quoting "Naishkarmasiddhi", one of the classics of Advaita Vedanta. This is the work of Suresvaracharya (direct disciple of Sankaracharya).

Between the verse II.53 and II.54, Suresvaracharya raised this question. He explained the meaning of the word "I" in the authoritative texts (for example, in the sentence "I am Brahman").

"We proceed to explain the (different) senses (of the word "I") viz. the familiar meaning ("Prasiddha"), the indirect meaning ("Lakshana"), and the figurative meaning ("Guna")."

Familiar meaning is the primary or usual meaning. Let's take the following example. "Yesterday, I saw a lion in a zoo." Here, by the word "lion", we mean the real lion - the animal. This is the familiar meaning ("Prasiddha"). But, consider the following sentence. When we say, "Devdutta is a lion", it is a figurative usage ("Guna"). It is based on the common qualities of Devdutta and the lion (they are both brave). Now, move on to the third example. When we say "a village on the Ganges", we mean "a village on the bank of the Ganges". This is an indirect use ("Lakshana). Indirect usage is based on proximity (between the Ganges and its bank). But there is no common quality between them.

Now, "I" can be used in these three ways in different situations. In the sentence "I am Brahman", the word "I" is used in a figurative sense ("Guna-Vritti") to represent Brahman.

"On account of the interiority of the ego-sense to everything else but the pure Self, on account of its subtlety, and because it behaves as if it were the perceiving Self - for these reasons all other notions (Vritti) are discarded and the ego-notion (i.e., the word "I") is chosen to represent the pure Self figuratively." - Naishkarmasiddhi II.55

Elsewhere, Suresvaracharya explained that in the text "I am Brahman", the primary or familiar meaning of the word "I" is "ego".

"As, in the judgement "this post is a man", the notion man cancels the notion "post", so all notion of ego is cancelled by the conviction "I am Brahman (the absolute)." - Naishkarmasiddhi II.29

So, basically, "I am Brahman" is not an affirmative identity proposition; rather, it is an affirmative proposition involving concealed negation. In simple words, "this post is a man" really means "this post is not a post, but a man".

Therefore, in the Mahavakya "I am Brahman", whatever sense you choose for the word "I" (familiar or figurative), in any case, the central message remains strict non-duality.

Reference:

  1. The Realization of the Absolute (Naishkarmasiddhi) by Sri Suresvara translated by A. J. Alston
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    1. “the word "I" is used in a figurative sense ("Guna-Vritti") to represent Brahman.” 2. “ this post is a man" really means "this post is not a post, but a man.” - nailed it.
    – Adiyarkku
    Oct 20, 2021 at 9:21
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As long as "I" exists Brahman cannot exist, when there is no "I" there is only Brahman. So, what would "I" be if Brahman is the ultimate reality? The "I" is the delusion that you are separated from Brahman. Like a wave ("I") on the ocean (Brahman), and the wave saying it's not the ocean.

It's the root cause of all suffering.

There is no separation. The Jiva just thinks that the Jivatma is separate from Brahman due to ignorance. There is no real answer one can provide to why the Jiva experiences this separation (other than lack of knowledge). It's a bit like asking why did God create the world. We can ponder on it forever, but in the end it's just the ultimate reality. In the same way we cannot define Brahman there are not enough (finite) words to describe it. Same as in how love cannot be understood with words but can only be experienced, and only those who experienced it, understand it.

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