Essential Upanishad Understanding: Subject & Object (96)


Lesson 96 introduces Subject-Object inquiry… the first process for establishing clarity of “I AM”.


  • What is connection between Krishna suddenly telling about nature of “I” to Arjuna… and Arjuna’s confusion whether to do his duty or not?
    • We all have 2 questions in life:
      • Situational: EG:
        • Should I __ (marry this person, raise my kids, negotiate, unique to each individual).
        • How do I make the best of life? Specific.
        • All are arising out of insecurity or, “I’m small”.
          • All we do all life is try to be Big (physically, emotionally, intellectually, spirituality).
            • What is definition of final reality? Brahman, Big.
              • We pursue Bigness, because of inherent knowledge, “I am big”.
                • If knowledge wasn’t present, no one would have desire to grow.
              • That’s why Brahman is perfect word for final reality. Limitlessly big.
            • Most life goes into solving #1.
            • Behind all these questions, there are fundamental questions, common to all.
      • Fundamental: EG:
          • Mortality (not situational, but all have to face).
          • We see not all are equally blessed. Why I have this much, and they have THAT much?
          • Why is life giving me A experiences, and giving another B experiences?
          • One sees oneself as ONE of many.
          • What is the cause of the universe?
          • SHARED.
    • How to distinguish fundamental FROM situational inquiry?
      • Situational: Relates to you. Not a problem for another.
      • Fundamental: Common to whole humanity. EG: Mortality. I'm insignificant in this universe.
    • Two extremes: (Black-white, either-or)
      • I'm not interested in ultimate reality! 100% situational.
      • Discards everything, knowing “All is one“. 100% foundational.
      • Reason why maturity is required for Big Vision to take place and become integrated.
        • EG: If habituated towards either-or in past, will apply habit towards Big Vision.
          • Won’t work, since Big-Vision excludes nothing.
    • B.Gita deals with both: SPECIFIC & SHARED.
      • Thus B.Gita is not self-help.
    • When focusing on situational/fundamental, don’t mix up with another.
  • Again, what made Krishna speak about nature of “I” when Arjuna found himself immobilized by enormity of the situation?
    • Because Arjuna gave 4 reasons which said, “Whether I win/lose this war, I actually lost”.
      • So Arjuna was thinking past situational problems.
        • Therefore only other option was Fundamental, out of which his reasons were conveyed.

Water-Wave Analogy Applied To You:

  • Krishna started out with (CH2): Reality of “you”, is the Reality of everything else.
  • We used wave-water analogy to demonstrate how that may be true.
    • Also used to demonstrate that no wave ever “dies” or goes out of existence. Because it’s never separate from itself (being the water).
    • However to bridge this understanding to myself right now, we need to bring in the teaching of Upanishads to see what is the nature of the individual.

The Nature of the Individual “I”:


  • Object:

    • 2 Means of knowledge to know any Object:
      • Perception (pratyakṣa):
        • Use senses to know about any object.
          • EG: Is there a pot in another room? We say, “Let me go and check”. Because object is not here now.
      • Perception based inference:
        • Through prior perception, I postulate existence of __.  EG:
          • Crime detective postulates origin of bullet by angle of hole in wall.
          • Husband carrying unidentified female aroma.
          • Sharp kidney pain.
      • SUMMARY: Every field relies on these 2 methods.
        • Genetic research. Medical specialist. Aeronautics propulsion engineer. Quantum Physics.
  • Subject:

    • If someone asks, “Do you exist?”, we don’t say “Wait, let me go and check, and I’ll let you know!”.
      • Because “I AM” is always present. It's the only self-evident presence, which doesn’t need perception/inference for validation.
    • If “I AM” always self-evident, why do we need Upanishads?
      • Self-revealing presence gets mixed up with body.
        • Why mixup? Because preoccupied with perception/inference, so we miss out.
          • To demosntrate:
            • Your body condition in 10 years is yet to come. Does it mean you don't know yourself right now? No.
              • Problem is, in 10 years, I'll be (as ignorant) convinced THAT's who I am, as today.
            • In other words, “I AM” even before the new condition of body.
    • Again, why do we need Upanisads / B.Gita, if “I AM” (final reality; water) is always self-evident?
      • Knowledge of what I am is not completely clear. Hence room for teaching.
      • For this very reason, the Upanishads teaching DIVIDES the One Reality into two categories:
        • Subject & Object. The (One without a second) AND (One without a second) appearing as many.


  • Body:

    • We make statements of “I” in ref to body: I am fat, tall, slim, dark, unattractive, attractive.
      • Called adhyāsa: I take the changing conditions of body as myself. I superimposition body characteristics onto my identity.
    • Why I’m not body?
      • It’s objectified (perceptible).
        • To perceive something, you must be other then the perceived.
      • Constantly changing.
        • If “ I “ was body, would have no connection to yesterday.
        • I know of all the changes taking place.
          • Therefore I must be free FROM the body-changes to report the body-changes.
      • Body is collection of cells.
        • Which specific cell is “I”?
          • How many non-I cells have to combine to magically create “I AM”?
          • Non-I + Non-I can never equal I.
    • Do you confuse yourself with branch-OBJECT? No.
      • Then why do we confuse ourself with body?
        • Because to be born, you get one special relationship with body-OBJECT.
        • In reality the body is instrument for conducting life. But your identity has been placed in the instrument.
    • What is the mistake we make in reference to body?
      • Katha Upanishads: The charioteer (I AM: Driver of the chariot) has mistaken himself for chariot.
        • Thus have to figure out “I'm not the instrument. I'm the owner”.
  • Senses:

    • Why I AM not the senses?
      • Capability of senses change over time. EG:
        • Eyes vision changes. But I am present to know the changing capability of the eye’s vision.
        • If hearing is lost, I’m not lost.
    • How identity with senses causes unnecessary extra suffering:
      • Old age challenging for older people.
        • Senses deteriorate over time, and person can't handle “I” deteriorating.
          • EG: Refuse to wear hearing aid. Because it contradicts my identity which is placed in healthy hearing.
            • Irony:
              • We have no problem fixing a computer instrument. But have problem fixing hearing-instrument.
              • Meaning we're not factual about our senses, unlike towards external objects.
    • SUMMARY: Since I can objectify degrading/improving conditions of our sense organs, I must be different from them.
  • Mind:

    • What does mind consists of?
      1. Emotions
        • Create feelings such as: I am sad, happy, doubtful.
      2. Cognitive capacity
        • Capacity to understand things like 3 + 5 = 8. E=Mc2.
      3. Memory
        • Remember events.
        • Subset called:
          • Unconscious: impressions from past which govern present decisions.
            • Causes generalizations, impulsive judgements.
      1. Sense of I (ahaṇkāra)
        • Give sense of CONTINUITY or connects all events associated to your body and mind’s experiences.
        • Gives sense of “I lived so many years and these things happened to me”.
        • I-sense is constantly changing in reference to memory, emotions, cognition, senses and body sensations.
          • EG: I am tired > (Drinks coffee) > I am energized.
        • SUMMARY: Since the “I am” is constantly making different statements in reference to body-mind-senses experiences, it is thus: ahaṇkāra (I-sense).
    • PROBLEM: We place our “I AM” identity into these 4 functions of mind.
    • Why I AM not the mind?
      • Status of all 4 are fleeting in nature.
        • While in presence of non-fleeting-I… the fleeting states are recognized.
      • All thoughts are fleeting.
        • If the thought was “you”, it would stick to you forever.
        • Analysis: Before thought, while thought remains, after it goes, I am equally present throughout.
    • We need decently purified mind to grasp the reality:
      • If mind is wallowing in miseries of life, it's not going to be interested in subject/object teaching.


  • I AM “silence”.
    • In that case, if thought comes (opposite of silence), I should go away!
    • I am present… in presence OR absence of thoughts.
  • You must eliminate the mind:
    • The only instrument you have to figure out the irreducible reality is this mind.
  • What is problem of saying “I am not body-mind?
    • You'll disown it and not take care of it. This inquiry is not about disassociating body/mind.
    • Neo-Advaita VS Traditional:
      • Neo-Advaita:
        • Disown body-mind, and create imaginary reality and live in it.
        • Whenever something is excluded, it’s imaginary.
      • Traditional:
        • You are much more then body-mind-senses, which you need to accurately understand.
          • For this you need a sharp mind.
            • That's why can't afford to disown the mind, because need the mind (sharp, cultivated) to FIGURE out the equation.


  • I am the presence, in whose presence, all conditions are known to be taking place.
  • Upanishads: You’re not the changing body-mind-sense complex. But the presence which never comes and goes.

Keywords: adhyasa, ahankara, aham kara, ahamkara

Recorded 6 Oct, 2020



  1. Because “I AM” is always present. It’s the only self-evident presence, which doesn’t need perception/inference for validation.

    Advaita refutes one of the foundational tenets of Western Philosophy.
    Ren’ee Descartes said:
    “ Cogito ErgoSum”
    Which means-“I think therefore I am”
    It contains the inference that the “I” that thinks is the same “I” as the “I am”.
    Vedanta would say that the first “I” is Ahankara and the second “I” is Atman.
    Even though they are non-dual they belong to a different order of reality.
    The wrong assumption contained in Descartes’ statement is taught in every Philosophy Department of every Western University as a non-negatable fact!
    They assume the true nature and existence of the “I” can be established by inference.
    There is a PHD waiting here for some Western Philosopher who becomes sufficiently acquainted with the teachings of Advaita Vedanta!?

    1. “The wrong assumption contained in Descartes’ statement is taught in every Philosophy Department of every Western University as a non-negatable fact!” > This is the problem on relying on a single mind. Whether mind of Jesus, Buddha or Descrates. It is bound to provide mixture of truth/falsehood.

      They all have great teachings for sure in some areas. Respectable people who invested decades in their research. Even Charles Darwin with the distorted survival-of-fittest theory has valid points. However points are relative. They can be broken down with higher-thinking logic.

      The advantage of Vedanta is it’s self-critical. It analyses it’s own statements for flaws or loopholes. Thus it’s ever stronger, ever more clear as each century passes.

  2. Further comment:
    John-Paul Sartre, a French Philosoper( Descartes was French as well) was the first to raise the objection that the statement contains an assumption, more than 300 years after it was made!
    What he didn’t know, and Vedanta does, is that the statement refers to ahankara and Atman.
    It is amazing to think that this knowledge, with its complete and consistent supporting knowledge, is available but not known!

    1. Indeed. Typical scenario: Convincing theory comes out > Bought by millions > Theory negated by higher thinking decades later > Takes centuries to erase from educational curriculum.

  3. It is astounding.
    Advaita Vedanta also goes beyond what is taught in the field of logic.
    According to modern philosophy, there are two types of logic.
    1. Deductive logic.
    These statements are necessarily true, but tell you nothing about the world.
    Eg. It is either raining or not raining.
    All unmarried men are bachelors.
    The statements can’t be refuted, but they have no content as such.

    2. Inductive Logic.
    This method ‘proves’ by inference but can always be counter instantiated.
    Eg. If I drop this pen, it will fall to the floor.
    We can imagine a scenario where this wouldn’t happen( whirlwind or something).
    Western philosophy accepts that the two are mutually exclusive.
    Vedanta goes beyond this and uses deductive truths to tell us something about the world.
    This is why it can’t be refuted.
    Eg. You said that in order to perceive the body , something must exist that is not the body.
    This is deductive logic.
    I don’t see how such a statement can be refuted.
    Yet it tells us something about the world.
    We know from this statement that something apart from the body must exist to validate the existence of the body.
    The whole of Western Philosophical thought is stuck in black and white thinking and the Vedantic Rishis went beyond this thousands of years ago.
    What I could have done at University with this knowledge!
    Where were you 40 years ago Andre!

  4. Andre.
    Thank you so much.
    Just reviewed lesson 42.
    Couldn’t believe how much I missed.
    It’s all there!

  5. Hello Andre

    Your comment about the mind, how it must come to understand its capacity for what changes and what stays the same in order to find the Changeless Itself, was malfunctioning in the humanity we call “Arjuna” the “charioteer” in the Gita. What was unchanging was the suffering of the people; great tamas overcame the government and the polity alike in the presence of great rajas of the villain, Duryodhana.

    One thing was not discussed in your lecture and that is why even though Dharma was not being attended to, why didn’t Arjuna feel sad about the horror his government was allowing to take place? The only person who mentions it is Dhritarashtra who asked Sanjay why his people were upset. Does Arjuna ever recognize he needs to hearken to his duty because the people were troubled or only to clear up his tamas?

    1. Hi Micheal,

      why didn’t Arjuna feel sad about the horror his government was allowing to take place? The only person who mentions it is Dhritarashtra who asked Sanjay why his people were upset. Does Arjuna ever recognize he needs to hearken to his duty because the people were troubled or only to clear up his tamas?

      He did feel sad. But that was overridden by something stronger. Attachment for close members he was about to annihilate and future turning unfavorable for him.

      Truth is, the chaos/unethics caused by Kauravas was a greater concern to the WHOLE, then Arjuna’s personal emotions.

      Thus Krishna attempted to get Arjuna out of his self-justified story why fighting (doing what needs to be done) is NOT a good idea.

      Transferring this to us, we have Arjuna in us also. We know WHAT is to be done and HOW to do it. But we postpone for various personal reasons. Living a life with suppressed potential.

      So yes, Krishna was attempting to clear up Arjuna’s confusion (tamas) that was holding him back from being instrument of the Lord.

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