That from whence these beings are born, that by which, when born, they live, that into which they enter at their death, try to know that; That is Brahman.
The first and the earliest reference to this Mahavakya is found in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10. It reads:-
This self was indeed Brahman in the beginning. It knew itself only as “I am Brahman.” Therefore it became all. And whoever among the gods had this enlightenment, also became That Brahman. It is the same with the seers (rishis), the same with men. The seer Vamadeva, having realized this self as That, came to know: “I was Manu and the sun.” And to this day, whoever in a like manner knows the self as “I am Brahman,” becomes all this universe. Even the gods cannot prevent his becoming this, for he has become their Self.
Aham Brahmasmi in Advaita Philosophy
Basic tenets of Advaita Philosophy
Advaita in Vedas and Upanishads
They called him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni and he is the heavenly bird of beautiful wings. The truth is one. The sages call it by many names and describe it in many ways, hence they call it Agni, Yama and Matraisvan.
Advaita and three planes of existence
- Paramarthika Satta – the plane of absolute existence or transcendental existence.
- Vyavaharika Satta – the plane of worldly existence.
- Pratibhasika Satta – the plane of illusory existence.
How Aham Brahmasmi explains Advaita Philosophy?
Hence Self has four aspects. Vaisvanara, Taijasa, Prajna, and Turya. Vaisvanara is the experiencer of gross objects. Taijasa is the experiencer of subtle objects. Prajna is the experiencer of causal objects. Turya is the absolute experiencer, the Supreme Atman.
Aham Brahmasmi in Vishishtadvaita
Aham Brahmasmi in Dvaita Philosophy
The interpretation of this Mahavakya by Madhvacharya in his commentary on verse 1.4.10 of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is as below.
“The word Aham in the sentence ‘Aham Brahma Asmi’ does not mean “I”, and the sentence above given does not mean “I am Brahman”. On the other hand, Aham means Aheyam “that which cannot be neglected, cannot be avoided”; similarly the word Brahma means “all-full”. Asmi does not mean “I am” but it is a compound of two words “As” meaning existence and “Mi” meaning knowable. So Asmi means ever-existing knowledge or him whose knowledge is ever-existing and never-obscured. Brahman knew (always realizes) the nature of His self as being Aheyam (all-pervading ruler of the world), Brahma (all-full), and Asmi (ever-existing knowledge).”