The meaning of the word ‘tādātmya’

The inherent bhakti-vādis claim that the primary meaning of the word ‘tādātmya’ is ‘relationship of something with itself’. They then proceed to argue that the ātmā’s relation with the siddha deha is one of ‘tādātmya’ where tādātmya is defined in the previous sentence. That is, the ātmā is the same as its siddha deha, in the same way that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the same as His body. In this article, I examine the validity of such claims.

Definition of tādātmya

The primary meaning of tādātmya, at least for Vedāntins, is not ‘relationship of something with itself’. An important purpose for tādātmya in nyāya is to explain anyonya abhāva. The use of tādātmya for expressing oneness between two entities is an important concern in Vedānta, and naturally Vedāntins have a different definition for it from nyāya.

Below I provide several definitions of tādātmya from different schools, taken from Nyāya koṣa, which was explained to me by Śrī Babaji. I will then examine how this word is used by Śrī Jīva Goswami.

तादात्मयम् – १ ॰क॰ तद्वृत्तिधर्मविशेषः।

Tādātmya: 1) It is a specific dharma which exists (vrtti) in that (tat). 

[my notes- this definition is from prācina-nyāya.

यथा प्राचीनोक्ते तादात्म्यसंबन्धावच्छिन्नप्रतियोगिताको यः अभावः सोन्योन्याभावः इत्यन्योन्याभावस्वरूपे निरूपणीये घटान्योन्याभाव इत्यत्र घटत्वमेव घटतादात्म्यम्।

As stated by the prācina-naiyāyikas in the description of the svarūpa of anyonya-abhāva, “anyonya abhāva is that abhāva which is characterized by pratiyogitā delimited by tādātmya-sambandha”. There, in the statement “pot-anyonya abhāva”, the potness itself is pot-tādātmya.

[Notes: An abhāva has two avachedakas or delimiters: saṁbandha and dharma. In the statement:

bhutale ghatābhāva – absence of a pot on the ground,

[The pot is absent by saṁyoga saṁbandha (relation of contact) on the ground. As such, the pratiyogitā of the abhāva (see here for the meaning of pratiyogitā) is delimited by potness and saṁyoga saṁbandha. The specific type of abhāva called anyonyābhāva seeks to express the absence of one object in another. For example, there is anyonyābhāva of a pot in cloth, and of cloth in a pot. To express the absence of a pot in cloth, one recognizes that one avachhedaka or delimiter would be potness. But by what saṁbandha would it be absent? According to nyāya, the pot is absent in the cloth by tādātmya saṁbandha.]

तादात्मयं च संबन्धताविशेषः प्रतीतिसाक्षिकः।अत्रायं भावः। घटान्योन्याभावबोधे घटत्वं संबन्धविधया प्रकारविधया च प्रतियोगितावच्छेदकम्  इति द्विविधतया घटत्वस्य भानम्। तदवच्छिन्नप्रतियोगिकाश्चान्योन्याभाव इति लक्षणसमन्वयः इति (त प्र १ पृ ४५)।

And tādātmya is a specific type of relatedness that provides perception of the appearance (of the anyonya abhāva). The sense here is as follows. In the perception of the anyonya- abhāva of the pot, the potness is a delimiter of the pratiyogitā of the abhāva by 1) sambandha and 2) by prakāra, and this is how [abhāva of] potness is perceived. anyonya abhāva is that whose pratiyogitā is delimited by potness. This is the samanvaya in the definition.

[Needless to say, this type of definition of tādātmya is used in a technical sense in the context of anyonyābhāva.]

॰ख॰ स्ववृत्त्यसाधारणो धर्मः। तादृशधर्मस्तद्व्यक्तित्वादिरूपः। (ग व्यु का १ पृ ५।

The unique dharma of existence in itself is tādātmya. This type of dharma is nothing but that-objectness.  

[This is another way to define it in nyāya].

यथा नीलो घट इत्यादौ प्रथमाविभक्तेरभेदार्थकत्वमते नीलादिनिष्ठतद्व्यक्तित्वमेव नीलपदोत्तरप्रथमविभक्त्यर्थस्तादात्म्यम्। अत्रासाधारण्यं चैकमात्रवृत्तित्वम् (ग व्यु क १ पृ ५)।

As in statements like “blue pot”, when one takes the meaning of the nominative case as indicative of non-difference (between the color blue and the nominative case), the objectness which resides in the color blue, is the meaning of the nominative case of the word blue. This is tādātmyam. And here, the word asādhāraṇa (unique) means existence only in that.

[The naiyāyikas assume a sort of difference in an object from itself by tādātmya saṁbandha. That is, a pot exists in itself by tādātmya saṁbandha. This is what was called as the potness in the pot above. There, the word potness refers to the pot itself (and not to the usual jāti of pots).

Now a definition is provided from the Vedāntins:]

भेदसहिष्णुरभेदस्तादात्म्यमिति केचिद्वेदान्तिन आहुः।

Some Vedāntins state that tādātmya means the abheda which accomodates bheda.

[This is the  definition which is relevant to Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavas, and Vedāntins in general, as we shall see later. Next a definition according to the māyāvādis:]

मायावादिमते तत्सत्तातिरिक्तसत्ताकत्वाभावः  इति तदर्थः (वेदा प)। 

In the opinion of the māyāvādis, tādātmya means the abhava of existence (sattā) other than existence as that (tat- sattā).

[This might look strange, but there is a purpose for this definition: to explain the process of perception (pratyakṣa). I will not get into it here, but the interested reader can read the excellent book Vedanta Paribhasa to learn more. Again, this definition is relevant only whenever perception is discussed in māyāvāda. Now, a definition from Sānkhya is presented:]

भेदाभेदबुद्धिनियामकः संबन्धविशेषः इति सांख्या आहुः (सांख्य भा) (वाच) 

The sānkhyaites state that the specific relation which subdues the perception of bheda and abheda is tādātmya. 

[Now a second generic meaning is provided for the term:]

। २ ऐक्यम्। अत्र व्युत्पत्तिः सः आत्मा यस्य स तदात्मा। तस्य भावः तादात्मयम् इति।

2) Onenness: Here the word is derived as follows: He is tad-ātmā whose ātmā he is. The nature of being tad- ātmā is tādātmya

Use of the word tādātmya in the Sandarbhas

I will now present a few usages of the word tādātmya in the Sandarbhas. From the Priti Sandarbha Anuchheda 1.3, we see this:

ततश्च जीवत एवाविद्याकल्पितमायाकार्यसम्बन्धमिथ्यात्वज्ञापकजीवस्वरूपसाक्षात्कारेण तादात्म्यापन्नब्रह्मसाक्षात्कारो जीवन्मुक्तिविशेष इत्यर्थः ॥

From this analysis, the verse’s import is that the sākṣātkāra of Brahman, attained by conscious identity with that Reality (tādātmya) and occuring in the living condition itself is one specific type of jīvan-mukti.

[tādātmya between Brahman and the ātmā does not match the definition of ‘relationship of something with itself’. Instead, the meaning of bheda-sahiṣṇu-abheda applies: abheda which accommodates bheda.

Śrī Babaji writes in his commentary:

“In aikātmya, there is no separate ontological existence, but in tādātmya, there is only the absence of awareness of the distinction that nevertheless exists between two related substantives. An iron rod placed in fire takes on the properties of fire due to proximity, but it does not actually become fire. It attains tādātmya with the fire but not aikātmya. This is the difference between the two forms of identity consciousness. The Brahmavādīs in fact mistake this tādātmya for aikātmya, or ontological oneness.”

The inherent bhakti-vādis claim that there is no difference between the siddha deha of an ātmā and the ātmā, just like there is no difference between the body of Bhagavān and His body. This claim is false. First, the siddha deha of the ātmā is made of Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti, while the ātmā is Bhagavān’s taṭasthā śakti. These are two different entities; they are ontologically different! There is only an absence of awareness of the difference when the ātmā is endowed with a siddha deha, just like an iron rod placed in fire. Second, the ātmā identifies with the siddha deha, but the siddha deha does not belong to the ātmā ontologically. Bhagavān’s body, on the other hand, is exclusively His own svarūpa śakti. It is not different from Him, as He is the sole śaktiman- the sole possessor of the śakti. There is no tādātmya between Bhagavān and His body- rather, the relation is acintya bheda-abheda.

Śrī Babaji points out that the Brahmavādīs mistake tādātmya for aikātmya. We can now add the inherent bhakti-vādis to the list: they mistake tādātmya for aikātmya (and in some places, tādātmya for acintya bheda-abheda) in the case of the ātmā and the siddha deha.

Here is another example of the word tādātmya from Paramātma Sandarbha Anuchheda 19:]

tasya manasaḥ kīdṛśatayā māyā-racitasya ? tatrāha—jīvasya jīvopādhitayā jīva-tādātmyena racitasya | tataś ca tattayopacaryamāṇasyety arthaḥ |

By what characteristics is the mind [to be understood as] a product of māyā ? In response [Jaḍa Bharata] says that the mind is that “which pertains to the empirical self ( jīva ),” meaning that it is created as an adjunct ( upādhi ) of the empirical self. This indicates that the mind is a creation with which the jīva becomes identified, meaning that it [the mind as adjunct] is thenceforth taken to be the living entity’s actual identity.

Here we see another use of the word tādātmya. Again it would be absurd to give it a meaning like ‘relationship of something with itself’, as the ātmā is not the same as the mind. Again, tādātmya here implies a ‘lack of awareness of a distinction between the two’. Ontologically, the ātmā is taṭasthā śakti while the mind is bahiraṅgā śakti. The bheda remains, even as abheda is construed to exist.


The meaning of tādātmya that applies in Vedānta is bheda-sahiṣṇu-abheda: abheda which tolerates bheda.

Tādātmya expresses the fact that there is an absence of awareness of bheda, although there is ontological bheda between two entities.

The ātmā’s relation with the body (whether material or spiritual) is tādātmya. The relation between Bhagavan and His body is acintya bheda-abheda. tādātmya is not the same as acintya bheda-abheda.

Just as Brahmavādīs mistake tādātmya for aikātmya between the ātmā and Brahman, the inherent bhakti-vādis mistake tādātmya for aikātmya between the ātmā and the siddha deha in some places, and mistake tādātmya between the ātmā and the siddha deha for acintya bheda-abheda between the ātmā and the siddha deha in other places.

Categories: bhāva, concepts, jīva-tattva

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7 replies »

  1. Radhe Radhe

    ” anyonya abhāva is that abhāva which is characterized by pratiyogitā delimited by tādātmya-sambandha”. There, in the statement “pot-anyonya abhāva”, the potness itself is pot-tādātmya.”

    How do you break the term “anyonya” and what is it’s meaning?

    Basically anyonya abhāva is the abhāva of “anything other than itself”?
    So presence of potness in a pot is anyonya abhāva? Because there is abhāva of things like “clothness” in the pot
    And presence of blueness in the pot(in case of a blue-pot) is not anyonya abhāva?

    • Radhe radhe.
      “How do you break the term “anyonya” and what is it’s meaning? “
      I think anyonyah is anyah anyah = anyo’nyah.

      “Basically anyonya abhāva is the abhāva of “anything other than itself”?”

      Anyonyah abhava= abhava of one thing in another.

      “So presence of potness in a pot is anyonya abhāva? Because there is abhāva of things like “clothness” in the pot.”

      No. The absence of pot in cloth is anyonya abhava.

      “And presence of blueness in the pot(in case of a blue-pot) is not anyonya abhāva?”

      No that example is talking about expression of tadatmya sambandha in language with prathama vibhakti.

    • Basically tadatmya is a way to express abheda while accommodating bheda in Vedanta. We think we are the body. This is abheda, although we are not- bheda.

      The word tadatmya in nyaya is invented for the purposes of language and comprehension- how to express the absence of one thing in another, or how to understand the meaning of the nominative case. Otherwise it is meaningless to say that an object exists in itself. For that, we have to first assume that the object is different from itself and then say it is in itself. Now people are trying to apply these concepts to the atma and siddha deha, which are two different entities!

      • I might add that such misinterpretations obscure the precise meaning of the word tadatmya that our acharyas intended, creating more unnecessary confusion.

      • I edited the article to include one more concept- that tadatmya is not the same as acintya bheda-abheda. The relation between Krsna and His body is not tadatmya, but acintya bheda-abheda.

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