The Mahavakyas are "Great Sayings" of the Upanishads, the foundational texts of the Vedanta. Though there are many Mahavakyas, four of them, each from one of the four Vedas, are mentioned often as Mahavakyas.
The subject matter and the essence of all Upanishads being the same, all the Mahavakyas essentially propagate the same, say the same in a concise form. The four statements indicate the ultimate unity of the individual (Atman) with the Absolute (Brahman - The Cosmos).
The Mahavakyas are :
- Prajanam Brahma - "Consciousness is Brahman" (Aitareya Upanishad 3.3 of the Rig Veda)
- Ayam Atma Brahma - "This Self (Atman) is Brahman" (Mandukya Upanishad 1.2 of the Atharva Veda)
- Tat Tvam Asi - "Thou Art That" (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 of the Sama Veda)
- Aham Brahmasmi - "I AM Brahman" (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 of the Yajur Veda)
The Kanchi Paramacharya says in the book Hindu Dharma: "It is to attain this highest of states in which the individual self dissolves inseparably in Brahman that a man becomes a sanyasin after forsaking the very karma that gives him inward maturity. When he is initiated into sanyasa he is taught four mantras, the four Mahavakyas."
Swami Krishnananda says that the "Mahavakyas convey the essential teaching of the Upanishads, namely, Reality is One, and the individual is essentially identical with it ... the identification of the self with the Absolute is not any act of bringing together two differing natures, but is an affirmation that absoluteness or universality includes everything, and there is nothing outside of it."
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