Mighty Māhāvākyas 

The Great Sayings or ‘Māhāvākyas’ are short and powerful sayings (‘māhā’ translates to great, and ‘vākya’ means sentence) that hold the essence of Advaita Vedanta (or non-dual philosophy) within them. As we continue our āsana/prānayāma/externally aware practices in Yoga, it is wise to yoke our minds upon the eternal truths covered by ancient scriptures too. For this task, the Māhāvākyas provide us an excellent starting point for a lifetime of meaningful contemplation…hopefully you explore the article and deepen your practice too. 

The Māhāvākyas are empowering statements that, when contemplated upon correctly under the guidance of a teacher, help us realise that our individual self (jīvātman) is essentially a manifestation of the whole (Brahman) in a phenomenon-driven world. In this way, we are not separate from the Divine. We are mere manifestations, infinitely so and across dimensions of the phenomenal world. 

The reason why I share this today is because I recently came across a beautiful saying from the Torah through one of my Yoga teachers and guides (the remarkable Taliaji). The saying translates to “I am that, I am” — which also points to this beautiful oneness between our essential natures and the Divine. The saying in Hebrew letters is as below:

אהיה אשר אהיה

As the first day of the Hanukkah festivities (see endnote for more context), it is a beautiful reminder to us all to honour the Divine within, and around. Even as the yogis sought to distill this wisdom across various Sanskrit texts, the Māhāvākyas provide us an excellent starting point for a lifetime of meaningful contemplation.

To help us correctly yoke or unite (root word ‘yuj’, where ‘yoga’ is derived from in Sanskrit) our infinite individual consciousnesses to the eternal (non-dual) truth, the Māhāvākyas have been presented to us. Traditionally, the Māhāvākyas comprise of 4 statements. They are: 

1. Tat Tvam Asi (तत् त्वम् असि) – “That, you are” (source: Çhandogya Upaniśad) 

2. Aham Brahmāsmi (अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि) – “I am Brahman”, or “I am Divine” (source: Brhadāranyak Upaniśad)

3. Prajnanam Brahma (प्रज्ञानम् ब्रह्म) – “Prajñāna is Brahman” or “The Ultimate Reality is wisdom” (source: Aitareya Upaniśad)

4. Ayam Atma Brahma (अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म) – “This Self (ie Atman) is Brahman” (source: Māndūkya Upaniśad) 

While there are multiple interpretations, notations and even explanations of deep concepts like Prajña mentioned in the Great Sayings above, it is wise to remember that even the final state of union as described by Advaita sages is ‘anirvacaniya’ or inexpressible. Notwithstanding, all traditional Yoga teachers guide us to study these Māhāvākyas so we may correctly acquire vidyā (knowledge) of our true identity, and unveil the self-luminous Witness-consciousness (svayam prakāśa) that spreads like a beacon of light unto all. This, is after all, the true and final goal of our Yogic undertakings. 

The intention of this short write-up is merely to stir your curiosity, and to set you on a path of self-discovery through surrender to the right teacher who guides you as you walk the road! 

As you continue to shine the light within and unveil new layers of consciousness and wisdom, may you always hold gratitude in your heart for those who walked before you. Sending lots of blessings to everyone reading this, may every festival of every culture remind us all – we are One. 

Endnote: Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is an 8-night celebration in the Jewish faith. Hanukkah means “dedication”, and it commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah is celebrated in accordance to the Hebrew calendar, which follows suit with the lunar changes – hence, like several Indian holidays, it falls on a different calendar date every year. This year, in 2022, the first day of Hanukkah falls on December 18th. 

🙂 Looking back on your year, what are you grateful for? I’d love to read your answers in the Comments section!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s