Tat Twam Asi!
“Meditate upon your reality and always remember this fact: “Wherever I am, I am always Divine”. Hold firmly to this belief. This is the truth contained in the scriptural proclamation Tat Twam Asi.” (Bhagwan Baba)
It is said that King Janaka once held a congregation of Sages. He asked them to give him the knowledge of the ultimate truth i.e. Atma jnana and do it in a minute! There was a large number of Rishis present but none of them took up the challenge of imparting the knowledge of the eternal truth to the king in just a minute’s time span. There was a throne, lying vacant next to the King. The king said, “Whoever can enlighten me; I invite him to occupy this throne.”
Still no one came forward. Rishi Ashtavakara was a very learned sage who had been born with a body that was twisted in eight places, such that he could move around with great difficulty. He was also present in that august gathering. Slowly he got up and painfully made his way, step by step and ascended the vacant throne. Just as he occupied the chair, every one present, burst out laughing. Rishi Ashtavakara said calmly, “How sad it is for me to have come all the way to attend this congregation. I thought this would be a place where many learned men would be present. But alas! It seems this place is full of shoemakers only.” Now that was too much. The Rishis rose in indignation. How dare this twisted and crippled creature call us shoemakers! Ashtavakara continued, “The learned are able to see through to the Atma resident within the body. They do not get impressed or put off by the deformities of the physical encasement of the soul. It is the shoemaker who deals in skin. He takes a look only at the skin and its shape and form. It seems all of you can see only my skin, so you must be shoemakers; all of you!”
There was pin drop silence. King Janaka was very impressed. He said, “Oh, Venerable one! Can you give me the knowledge of the ultimate, here and now?”The sage said, “That I can. But, you shall have to give me some Guru Dakshina in return for the knowledge.”
The king said, “I shall give you, whatever you want; whatever is there in my power to give!”
The sage smiled and said, “I too shall ask for only that, which I know is in your power to give!”
The king said, “I am ready. Ask for whatever you want.”
The sage again confirmed from the king if his resolve to give was strong and sound. Then he said, “Oh king! Give me your (tan- man- dhan) body, mind and wealth!” The king paused for a moment and said, “I give you my body, mind and wealth.”
As was the custom of the time, a handful of water was poured from the hands of the king to the hands of the Rishi and the transfer was completed virtually.
The sage said, “Oh Janaka, now come and sit down on the floor.” That almost took everyone’s breath away. But the king was a great soul. He quietly sat down on the floor in front of the Rishi. The Rishi said, “All your wealth, your palace and its riches, are mine. Don’t think about them; turn your thoughts away from them.” The king’s mind flew to the queen, his family and his people. Then he realized that all that belonged to the Rishi now. He thought of his army, his kinsmen, but that too belonged now to the Rishi.
The king’s mind flitted to and fro from this to that and the other, while the sage intently watched the changing expressions on his face. Finally, the king closed his eyes and withdrew his mind from everything and started understanding the truth. The Rishi whispered into the king’s ear, “Tat Twam Asi!” (Meaning: That is who you are!) A few moments later, the Rishi asked the king, “Now, do you understand?” The king nodded slowly. Yes! He had understood the ultimate truth. He and God were in unison! The Atma and the Paramatma are one and the same!