I have read the Mahavakyas, which are central to the Advaita School, from the following Wikipedia page; however, did Shri Adi Shankaracharya mention them in his works or were they promoted to Mahavakyas by his followers because of the Advaita-like message they carry? If the former is so, what verses from Shri Adi Shankaracharya's works declare that the Mahavakyas carry the purport of the Vedas?

  • Mahavakyas are part of the Upanishads. Adi Shankara did write commentaries on Upanishads including Mahavakyas.
    – user29449
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 3:46
  • @AbhasKumarSinha Thank you
    – Debbie
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 17:28

1 Answer 1


Mahavakyas with Shankara Bhasya

  1. Tat Tvam Asi: Ch Upanishad: 6.8.7

[Now, that which is this Subtle Essence,—in that has all this its Self; that is the Self; that is the Truth; that thou art , O ‘Śvetaketu’.—‘Revered Sir, please explain this to me again’.—‘Be it so, my boy’,—he said.]


That which has been spoken of above as named ‘Being’—which is the subtlest essence,—the point of ultimate subtlety,—source of the Universe—in that has all this its Self:—‘that which has this Being for its Self’ is Sadātmā’, and the abstract form of this is ‘aitadātmya’. That is, it is through this Self known as ‘Being’ that all this Universe is imbued with Self; and there is no other Self for this which passes through births and deaths; as has been declared in such other Vedic texts as—‘other than this, there is no Seer, other than this, there is no Heaven’ (Bṛhadā. Upa. III. viii. 11.)—that through which all this Universe becomes imbued with Self is its origin, called ‘Being’, which is True and Absolutely Real. Hence, it is this that is the Self of the Universe, its counter-form, its very essence, its very Soul. The term ‘Self’ (Ātman), without any qualifying prefix has its denotation restricted by convention to the Self in Evolution, (Jīvātmā), like the term ‘cow’ and the like; hence, thou art that Being, O Śvetaketu.—Having been thus taught, the son said—‘Revered Sir, please explain to me again; I still have doubts with regard to what you have told me in regard to all creatures, during deep sleep, becoming merged in Being; if that is so, then, having become so merged, that they do not know that they had been so merged in Being, seems to me doubtful. Hence, please explain this to me further, by means of illustrations.’—Being thus addressed, the father said—‘Be it so, my dear’.—(7)

Src: https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/chandogya-upanishad-shankara-bhashya/d/doc1145311.html

Tat Tvam Asi commentary by Shankara:

“Tat tvam asi”—thou art that. This is called the mahāvākya, the great saying, it is the magic formula. If your mind has been purified, as soon as the mahāvākya is uttered your eyes are opened and you realize your own Self. But this can happen only after a long process of preparation. It does not come by a fluke. After years of hard work and after shedding many tears, at last one day your mind becomes pure and free from ego. You have attained cittaśuddhi, purification of the mind. Your mind is then like a clean mirror. Now there is a layer of dust on the

Once you know who you are you can never be deluded. Can there be darkness where there is light? If you are really enlightened there can be no room for ignorance in your mind. But without cittaśuddhi, even if the teacher tells you that you are the Self, you will not believe it. You will think: ‘No, that is nonsense. I am this body.’ The father is again telling Śvetaketu, ‘You are That,’ but still it is not clear to him.

  1. Ahaṁ Brahmāsmi: Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10

[ब्रह्म वा इदमग्र आसीत्, तदात्मानमेवावेत्, अहम् ब्रह्मास्मीति । तस्मात्तत्सर्वमभवत्; तद्यो यो देवानाम् प्रत्यबुभ्यत स एव तदभवत्, तथार्षीणाम्, तथा मनुष्याणाम्; तद्धैतत्पश्यन्नृषिर्वामदेवः प्रतिपेदे, अहम् मनुरभवं सूर्यश्चेति । तदिदमप्येतर्हि य एवं वेद, अहम् ब्रह्मास्मीति, स इदं सर्वम् भवति, तस्य ह न देवाश्चनाभूत्या ईशते, आत्मा ह्येषां स भवति; अथ योऽन्यां देवतामुपास्ते, अन्योऽसावन्योऽहमस्मीति, न स वेद, यथा पशुरेवम् स देवानाम् । यथा ह वै बहवः पशवो मनुष्यम् भुञ्ज्युः, एवमेकैकः पुरुषो देवान् भुनक्ति; एकस्मिन्नेव पशावादीयमानेऽप्रियम् भवति, किंउ बहुषु? तस्मादेषाम् तन्न प्रियम् यदेतन्मनुष्याविद्युः ॥ १० ॥]

Shankara's commentary:

Prima facie view: Brahman here must be the conditioned Brahman,[23] for then only can the identity with all be t(?)roduct of effort. The Supreme Brahman cannot (?)me all as a result of knowledge. But this identity (?) all is spoken of as a result of knowledge: ‘There (?) It became all.’ Hence the Brahman referred to i(?) passage, ‘This was indeed Brahman in the beginn(?) must be the conditioned Brahman.

Or, since(?)n alone are qualified (for this identification with(?)the word ‘Brahman’ may refer to a future knowe(?) Brahman who will be identified with It. For in (?) passage, ‘Men think... we shall become all’ ((?). 9), men have been introduced, and it has alread(?)en said that they alone are specially qualified for (?) practice of the means of prosperity and liberatio(?)neither the Supreme Brahman nor Hiraṇyagarbha(?)he conditioned Brahman. Therefore by the word (?)ahman’ is meant a man who through the knowledge(?) the conditioned Brahman—identified with the who(?)niverse—combined with rites, attained identity with(?)e conditioned Brahman (Hiraṇyagarbha), and (?)ing away from all enjoyments (in that ! state) and having broken his ties of desire and action by attaining everything, sought unity with the Supreme Brahman through the knowledge of It. ...

Src: https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/the-brihadaranyaka-upanishad/d/doc117939.html#:~:text=Prima%20facie%20view,knowledge%20of%20It.

  1. Prajñānaṁ Brahma: Aitareya Upanishad: 3.3

[He is Brahman, He is Indra, He is Prajapati; He is all these gods; He is the five great elements-earth, air, akasa, water, light; He is all these small creatures and the others which are mixed; He is the origin-those born of an egg, of a womb, of sweat and of a sprout; He is horses, cows, human beings, elephants-whatever breathes here, whether moving on legs or flying in the air or unmoving. All this is guided by Consciousness, is supported by Consciousness. The basis is Consciousness. Consciousness is Brahman]

No commentary for Ait. Upn. Verse 3-10, as the statements themselves are direct.

  1. Ayam Ātmā Brahma: Mandukya Upn. 2

[All this is verily Brahman. This Ātman is Brahman. This Ātman has four quarters.]

Shankara's commentary

All this is verily Brahman. All that has been said to consist merely of Aum (in the previous text) is Brahman. That Brahman which has been described1 (as existing) inferentially2 is now pointed out, as being directly3 known, by the passage, “This Self is Brahman”. The word this, meaning that which appears divided into four quarters,4 is pointed out as the innermost Self, with a gesture5 (of hand) by the passage, “This is Ātman”. That Ātman indicated by Aum, signifying both the higher and the lower Brahman, has6 four quarters (Pādas), not indeed, like the four feet (Pādas) of a cow,7 but like the four quarters (Pādas) of a coin8 known as Kārṣāpaṇa. The knowledge of the fourth (Turīya) is attained by merging the (previous) three, such as Viśva, etc., in it in9 the order of the previous one, in the succeeding one. Here10 the word ‘Pāda’ or ‘foot’ is used in11 the sense of instrument. The word ‘Pāda’ is again used in the sense of an object when the object to be achieved is the fourth (Turīya).

Src: https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/mandukya-upanishad-karika-bhashya/d/doc143593.html#:~:text=All%20this%20is%20verily%20Brahman.%20All,be%20achieved%20is%20the%20fourth%20(Tur%C4%ABya).

  • 1
    Thank you very much
    – Debbie
    Commented Dec 28, 2023 at 1:46

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