Greatest saying ever uttered by any human being is “TAT-TWAM-ASI, SVETKETU”
In India, there exists a very old and very beautiful parable in the Upanishads.
His son, Svetketu, asked the great sage, Uddalaka, “Father, who am I? What is it that exists in me? I try and try, I meditate and meditate, but I cannot find it.”
Svetketu was a small child but he raised a very difficult question. Had somebody else asked the question, Uddalaka could have answered easily, but how to help a child to understand? Moreover, he was asking the greatest problem that exists. Uddalaka had to create a device.
He said,“You go there, yonder, where you see the nigrot tree and you bring a fruit from it.” The child ran. He brought a small fruit from the nigrot tree.
The father said, “Now you cut it. What do you see inside it?”
The child said, “Millions of small seeds.”
The father said, “Now you choose one seed and cut that seed. Now what do you see in it?”
The child said, “Nothingness.”
The father said, “Out of that nothingness arises this big tree. In the seed just at the centre exists nothingness! You cut it – there is nothing, and out of that nothingness arises the being of this big tree. And the same is true with you, Svetketu.”
And one of the greatest sayings ever uttered by any human being was born: “TAT-TWAM-ASI, SVETKETU” – (That Art Thou, Thou Art That, Svetketu.) You are also that nothingness which exists just at the heart of the seed. Unless you find this within you, you will not attain authentic truth.
The boy meditated on his nothingness and he became very silent. He contemplated, he enjoyed this nothingness, and he felt it very deeply. But then again a question arose.
After a few days, he came to the father again, and he said, “I can feel, but things are still not very clear, they are vague, as if a mist surrounds everything. I can see that out of nothingness, everything is born, but how does nothingness mix with thingness? How does isness mix with nothingness? How does being mix with non-being? They are paradoxical.”
The father was again in difficulty – whenever children raise questions it is very difficult to answer them. Almost 99% of the answers that grownups give to children are false – just face saving devices. They deceive. But Uddalaka didn’t want to deceive this child. And his curiosity was not only a curiosity, it was deep inquiry. He was concerned. His body may have been that of a child but his soul was ancient. He must have struggled in the past, tried hard to penetrate into the mystery. He was not just curious – he was authentically concerned. It was not just a vagrant question in the mind, it was very deep-rooted.
The father said, “You go and bring a cup of water.” The boy fetched a cup of water. Then the father said, “Now you go and bring a little sugar.” He brought the sugar, and the father said, “Mix them both.”
The sugar dissolved into the water, and the father said, “Now, can you separate the sugar from the water?”
The boy said, “Now it is impossible. I cannot even see where the sugar has gone.” The father said, “You try.”
The boy looked into it but he could not see any sugar; it had dissolved, it had become water. Then the father said, “You taste it.”
The boy tasted, it was sweet. And the father said, “Look, just like this. You may not be able to decide what is being and what is non-being; they are melting into each other just like water and sugar. You can taste and you can know that this water contains sugar. You may not be able to separate them right now – in fact nobody can ever separate them because they are not separate.”
Water and sugar can be separated – that was just a device to make the child understand – but nonbeing and being cannot be separated, life and death cannot be separated. It is impossible. They are not separate, how can you separate them? They always exist together. In fact to say that they exist together is not to say it rightly, because the very word “together” carries the concept of two-ness. They are not two they are one. They only appear two. From where have you come? Have you ever pondered over this very basic problem? – From where have you come? - Nothingness.
Where are you moving, where are you going? Nothingness. From nothingness to nothingness… and just in between two nothingness’s arises 'being'. The river of 'being' flows between two banks of nothingness’s. Being is beautiful, but non-being is also beautiful. Life is good, but death is also good – because life cannot exist without death. Ordinarily you think that death is against life, that it destroys. No, you are wrong. Without death, life cannot exist for a single moment. It supports it. It is the very base. Because you can die, that is why you can live.