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TATTVA-BODHA

Note: Text in brown is English translation of a sloka in Sanskrit and text in blue is notes and explanation of it.

Vedas (books of knowledge) are Hindu scriptures. They were revealed to the masters during meditation. Vedant (Jnanakand of Veda, or Upanishad), meaning the end part of Veda, is a section of Veda and discusses the knowledge of the ultimate truth. Tattva-Bodha (Knowledge of the essence of life) is a Prakarana Granth (book of introduction). It was written by Adi Shankaracharya to explain the basic concepts of Vedant in a question-answer style for the seekers of ultimate truth of life. One who gains this knowledge can attain liberation.

Vedant texts begin with a prayer to invoke the grace of the Lord and the Guru (Teacher).

After saluting Sri Vasudevendra (Lord Krishna), the king of Yogis, the Guru (Teacher) who is the bestower of knowledge, I expound 'Tattva-Bodha' for the benefit of the seekers.

Vasudendra incarnated as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki due to the demands of time and is known as Lord Krishna to his followers.

We shall explain to those who are endowed with the four-fold qualifications, the type of discrimination which is the means of liberation.

The discrimination considered here is not of one object from another object but of the real from the unreal and that can lead to the path of liberation.

What are the four-fold qualifications?
Discrimination between the permanent (eternal) and the impermanent (ephemeral); dispassion to the enjoyment of the fruits of one's actions here and hereafter; six (inner) wealths of shama, etc; and yearning for liberation.

What is meant by the discrimination between the permanent and the impermanent?
Reality alone is permanent; everything else is impermanent. This is the discrimination between the permanent and the impermanent.

Everything in the world is changing with time and hence is unreal. Only one thing does not change and that is the eternal, infinite factor known as Reality, called Brahman in Hindu scriptures.

What is dispassion?
The lack of desire for the enjoyments in this world and in heaven.

Dispassion does not imply running away from the existing life and society. One has to accept the joys and sorrows as they come resulting from his actions and the environment. Usually a person runs after worldly things believing they can bring him joy. But over time he realizes that they are not the source of joy. To stop craving for these worldly things whose inherent nature is not permanent joy is dispassion.

Which are the shama and other wealths?
Shama, dama, uparati or Uparama, titiksha, shraddha and samadhana.

What is shama?
Control of mind.

The mind is a source of incessant stream of thoughts. We are slaves to our minds because they direct us to laugh or cry, to be elated or depressed, etc. If we want to live with discrimination and dispassion, we have to discipline our minds by intellectual practices so as to become masters of our minds.

What is dama?
Control of the external sense organs like eyes, etc.

The senses are extrovert by nature. They perceive and act and provide the mind with situations and thoughts indiscriminately. There is no control over unwanted thoughts. If the mind is controlled then discrimination automatically comes in; otherwise the senses are to be disciplined by intellectual practices and that will aid the control of mind also.

What is uparama?
Observance of one's own duties.

Everyone should perform his duties in life and to society with dedication and enthusism. A person who has attained control over mind and senses will find his ultimate duty to be in his true nature of existence-consciousness-bliss.

What is titiksha?
Endurance of heat and cold, pleasure and pain, etc.

Everyone experiences heat and cold, joys and sorrows, praises and censures, etc. We have no choice in that and have to pass through the situations. But we have the choice of attitude with which we can pass through the situations. That attitude to bear the situation can absorb the shocks in life.

What is shraddha?
Faith in the words, etc of the teacher and Vedant.

When we know things, we believe in them. However when we deal with unknown things, we believe in the words of our learned teachers and in the statements of our religious books. Faith is this belief in the words. Faith, without the control of mind and senses and without the attitude to bear, can be blind and can make us fanatic or superstitious.

What is samadhan?
Concentration of mind

Samadhan is the state of mind in which we concentrate on one single goal in life. If we have a single goal in life, our minds and efforts are concentrated in one direction only and we move faster towards our goal.

What is mumukshutva?
The desire that 'let me attain liberation'.

The ladder to success is endless. A person can get married, have children, get wealth, power, status, fame, etc. However so long as he feels incomplete, he is on the ladder and yearns for more. The remedy to this incompleteness is not to seek more incomplete things, but to seek the permanent and complete. This desire to seek the Reality is mumukshutva.

This is the four-fold qualification. Thereafter, they become fit for the enquiry of truth.

Any one who has attained these qualities of discrimination, dispassion, inner virtues and desire for Reality is considered qualified for the enquiry of truth.

What is the enquiry into truth?
Conviction that self is real and everything else is unreal.

The words used here are satya and mithya. Satya means true, existing and not changing and is referred to as real. Mithya means existing but subject to change and is referred to as unreal. There is another word asatya which is the negative of satya and means untrue and nonexisting and will be referred to as nonexisting. Only self is suggested to be real and everything else that exists in this world is considered unreal.

What is self?
That which is separate from gross, subtle and causal bodies, beyond five sheaths, the witness of the three states of consciousness, and of the nature of existence-consciousness-bliss is self.

Three bodies, five sheaths and three states of consciousness are explained later.

What is the gross body ?
That which is made up of five great elements that have undergone the process of grossification, born of good actions, the abode of experiences of joy, pain, etc. and subject to six modifications namely to exist, to be born, to grow, to mature, to decay, and to die, is the gross body.

Gross body houses the self, and is different from the self. Five elements and the process of their grossification are explained later.

What is the subtle body?
That which is composed of the five great elements that have not undergone grossification, born of the good actions, the instrument for the enjoyment of pleasure, pain, etc. and constituted of seventeen items, namely, five sense organs of perception, five sense organs of action, five vital airs, one mind and one intellect, is the subtle body.

Subtle body perceives and acts through our gross body. It is different from the self.


Five sense organs of perception are ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose. The deities of the organs of perception are digdevta of the ears, air of the skin, sun of the eyes, water of the tongue, and asvinikumars of the nose. The functions of the sense organs of perception are cognition of sound for the ears, cognition of touch for the skin, cognition of form for the eyes, cognition of taste for the tongue and cognition of smell for the nose.

Five sense organs of perception have their deities namely dig-devta, air, sun, water and Ashvinikumars respectively for the ear, skin, eye, tongue and nose. In Hindu scriptures deities are assigned to direct and oversee various activities.

Five sense organs of action are speech, hands, legs, anus and genitals. The deities of the organs of action are Agni of the speech, Indra of the hands, Vishnu of the legs, Yama of the anus, and Prajapati of the genitals. The function of speech is to speak, that of the hands to grasp things, of the legs to move, of the anus to eliminate waste, and of the genitals to procreate.

Five sense organs of action have their deities namely Agni, Indra, Vishnu, Yama and Prajapati respectively for speech, hands, legs, anus and genitals. In Hindu scriptures, deities oversee and direct various avtivities.

What is karana sharira (causal body)?
That which is unexplicable, beginningless, in the form of ignorance, the sole cause of the two bodies, ignorant of one's own true nature, free from duality, is causal body.

The causal body is not formed of the five elements. It is in the form of ignorance about one's true self. If ignorance is removed, then self can be realized.

What are the three states?
Waking, dream and deep sleep states.

What is the waking state?
The state in which the sense objects like sound, etc are perceived through the sense organs like the ears, etc is the waking state. The atma (self) identifying itself with the gross body, is then called vishva.

In the waking state we are conscious of our gross body and our mind and intellect are continuously fed with the perceptions and actions of our sense organs. We form attachments to objects around us. One who identifies himself with the gross body is called the world.

If the question is 'What is the dream state?', then the explanation is : The state in which the world that is projected during the period of sleep from the impressions born out of what was seen and heard in the waking state is the dream state. The self identified with the subtle body is called taijasa.

Whatever we have seen, heard, experienced, and imagined form the basis of our experiences in the dream state. The dreamer has an entirely different identity from the waker. The dream may seem non-existing to the waker but seems very real to the dreamer. Dreams are thought related. So one who identifies himself with the subtle body is called taijasa.

Then what is the deep sleep state?
That state about which one says later, "I did not know anything. I enjoyed good sleep." is the deep sleep state. The self identified with the causal body is called pragnya.

Every one who experiences deep sleep says in the waking state that he had a good sleep. In this state he does not recognize his gross body or subtle body. He identifies himself with the causal body. Sleep is the experience of the true self which is unknown due to ignorance. One who identifies himself with the causal body is known as pragnya.

What are the five sheaths?
food sheath, vital air sheath, mental sheath, intellectual sheath and bliss sheath.

What is the food sheath?
That which is born from the essence of food alone, grows by the essence of food and merges into the earth which is of the nature of food is called the food sheath or gross body.

From the earth we are born, to earth we shall return. Or we are born from food and we shall go back to food. Gross body is born, grows and matures from food, can decay by food and can get destroyed to food.

What is the vital air sheath?
Five airs such as prana, etc and five sense organs of action such as speech, etc form the vital air sheath.

The vital air sheath pervades the food sheath. Five vital airs which control physiological functions of our body are (1) prana which governs breathing, (2) apana which governs evacuation of waste, (3) vyana which governs circulation, (4) udana which governs reactions such as vomiting, sneezing, etc and (5) samana which governs digestion and assimilation. They connect the subtle body to the gross body.

What is the mental sheath?
The mind and the five organs of perception together form the mental sheath.

The mind perceives the objects of the world through the sense organs. If mind is not linked, then the perception is absent.

What is the intellectual sheath?
The intellect and the five sense organs of perception together form the intellectual sheath.

The mind carries the perception to the intellect which recognizes, understands and decides the response.

What is the bliss sheath ?
That which is of impure nature, established in ignorance, which is of the form of causal body, which is united with thoughts like priya, etc is the bliss sheath.
These are the five sheaths.

Bliss sheath can be considered to be in the form of the causal body. It is of the nature of ignorance. All joys whether dull, agitated or calm, are reflections of the bliss. These sheaths form a cover and conceal the self.

Just as bangles, earrings, house, etc known as mine are different from myself, so also the five sheaths, etc known as my body, my prana, my mind, my intellect, my ignorance, are different from myself and therefore not self.

Just as my house, etc are mine but are not myself, so also my body, my sheaths, etc are mine but are not myself. The knower of the things is not the same as things. Self is different from all these things.

Then what is self?
It is of the form of existence-consciousness-bliss.

After knowing what is not self, one should know positively that self is existence-consciousness-bliss.

What is existence?
That which remains unchanged in three periods of time (past, present, and future) is existence.

style="color:Blue;"Existence is changeless. It is one aspect of self.

What is consciousness?
It is of the form of absolute knowledge.

Consciousness is evershining knowledge principle of self.

What is bliss?
It is of the form of absolute happiness.

Bliss is absolute happiness.

Thus one should know oneself to be of the form of existence-consciousness-bliss.

Self is infinite and existence-consciousness-bliss are its three aspects or indicators. It can be known by meditation.

Now we shall explain the evolution of twenty four factors.

Hindu scriptures describe the evolution of the world in terms of twenty four factors.

Residing in the Reality exists Maya which has three qualities of sattva, rajasa and tamasa.

Reality is considered changeless. To believe in the evolution of the changing world from the changeless Reality alone would be difficult. So Vedant of the Hindu scriptures postulated the concept of Maya which is not but appears to be. When the rope appears as snake, snake is not existing but appears to exist. Maya has similar existence and it resides in the Reality.
To suggest the creation of the world from Maya, it has been assigned two powers:(1) veiling power that veils the Reality by its nature of ignorance, and (2) the projecting power that projects the world by its creative nature. In the example of the rope, first there is ignorance of rope and then the projection as snake. The veiling power is thus necessary for the projecting power to work.
The Reality together with Maya is called Isvara, the creator. In Hindu scriptures, the creative power of Maya in Isvara is worshipped as Shakti. Maya has no separate existence but depends on the Reality for its existence.
Maya has three qualities, sattva of the nature of knowledge, rajas of the nature of activity and tamas of the nature of inertia.

From that (maya) space was born. From space, air. From air, fire. From fire, water. From water, earth.

Five elements were created one from another, as space from Maya, air from space, fire from air, water from fire and earth from water. These elements are the material cause of the world.

Among these five elements, the organ of hearing, the ear, was evolved from the sattvic aspect of space; the organ of touch, skin, from the sattvic aspect of air; the organ of sight, eye, from the sattvic aspect of fire; the organ of taste, tongue, from the sattvic aspect of water; the organ of smell, nose, from the sattvic aspect of earth.

From the sattva aspect of these elements derived from Maya were formed the sense organs of perception.

From the total sattvic aspect these five elements were evolved the mind, intellect, ego and memory. The mind is of the nature of indecision, options. The intellect is of the nature of decision. The ego is of the nature of doership. Memory is of the nature of recollection. The deity of mind is moon, of the intellect is Brahma, of the ego is Rudra, and of the memory is Vasudeva.

The mind acquires impressions from the sense organs of perceptions and carries to intellect which takes decisions. The ego is the notion of doership and is linked to all thoughts. The deities moon, Brahma, Rudra and Vasudeva are assigned to these elements.

Among these five elements, from the rajas aspect of space was evolved the organ of speech; from the rajas aspect of air, the organ of grasping, hand; from the rajas aspect of fire the organ of locomotion, leg; from the rajas aspect of water the organ of procreation; from the rajas aspect of earth the anus. From the total rajas aspect of these five elements the five vital airs, pranas, were formed.

From the rajas aspect of the five elements derived from Maya were formed the five sense organs of action and from the total rajas aspect of those five elements were formed the five vital airs.

From the tamas aspect of these five elements the grossified five elements were evolved.
If it is asked as to how panchikarana took place, it is as follows:
The tamas aspect of each of the five elements divides into two equal parts. One half of each remains intact. The other half of each gets divided into four equal parts. Then to the intact half of one element one eighth portion of each of the other four elements gets joined. Then panchikarana is complete. From these five grossified elements the gross body is formed.

From the tamas aspect of those five elements derived from Maya were formed the grossified elements by the process of grossification.

Thus there is identity between the microcosm and the macrocosm.

Twenty four elements were thus formed in the world from Maya residing in Reality. Individual elements formed from total elements are therefore parts of the total. Thus individual gross body is part of the total gross body. and can be considered to be identical with the Reality from which they are created. So it is suggested that the microcosm has identity with the macrocosm.

Jiva which identifies itself with gross body is the reflection of the Reality. This jiva by nature takes Ishvara to be different from himself.The self conditioned by ignorance is called jiva. One conditioned by maya is called ishvara. One sees the diffrence between jiva and ishvara because of the difference of conditioning. So long as this exists, till then there is no removal from this sansara which is of the form of birth, death, etc. Due to that reason the notion of difference between jiva and ishvara should not be accepted.

Concepts of Jiva and Ishvara are now introduced. Jiva is the self conditioned by ignorance and Ishvara is the Reality conditioned by Maya. So long as one believes in different conditioning of Jiva and Ishvara, one has to undergo the cycle of birth and death in this world. So one desirous of liberation should not believe in the difference of Jiva and Ishvara.

But jiva is endowed with ego and limited knowledge, whereas ishvara is without ego and omniscient. Then how can there be identity, as stated in the great statement "Thou art that", between these two which have opposite characteristics?

One may like to believe in the identity of Jiva and Ishvara but Jiva has ego and limited knowledge and Ishvara has no ego and is omniscient. How can the two having opposite characteristics be accepted to have identity?

If asked thus, then no. That literal meaning of thou is one identified with the gross and subtle bodies. The implied meaning of the word thou is pure awareness which is free from all conditioning and which is appreciated in the state of samadhi. So also the literal meaning of the word 'that' is ishvara having omniscience, etc. The implied meaning of the word 'that' is the pure awareness, free from all conditionings. Thus there is no contradiction regarding the identity between jiva and ishvara from the standpoint of awareness.

To understand the identity, consider the implied meaning and not the literal meaning of the words. Then Jiva is pure awareness free of conditioning and Ishvara is also pure awareness free of all conditioning. So from the standpoint of awareness the two have identity.

Thus by the words of Vedant and by the teachings of satguru those in whom the vision of the Reality is born in all beings are the liberated ones.

Any one who is well established in Reality and knows that the self in him is the self in all is liberated while living.

Then who is the liberated one?
Just as one has a firm belief that "I am the body", "I am the man", "I am a brahmin", "I am a shudra", in the same way one who has firmly ascertained and has immediate knowledge that "I am not a brahmin", "I am not a shudra", "I am not a man", but "I am unattached" and of the form of existence-consciousness-bliss, of the form of light, the indweller of all, of the formless awareness is the liberated one while living.

The words brahmin and shudra used here refer to different castes of the Hindu society. Any one who knows and realizes that he is that (Reality) and is aware of of that in all is the liberated one.

By immediate knowledge that I am the Reality alone, one becomes free from bondage of all karmas (actions).

Knowledgr cannot be direct or indirect but can be immediate. If one gains the knowledge that he is the Reality one gets free from the bondage of all actions.

If asked how many kinds of karmas are there, then there are three types namely agami, accumulated and destined.

The actions, good or bad, performed by the body of the realised soul after the dawn of knowledge are known as agami.

Actions, good or bad, performed by one has the knowledge of the Reality are agami actions.

What is accumulated action?
That which is born out of actions of previous births and which form the seed for endless crores of births is called accumulated karma.

The actions performed in the previous births can get acculated and are called accumulated actions. That is the capital with which the person starts his life, from which he exhausts some and to which he adds some.

If asked what is destined action, then having given birth to this body, those actions which are to be experienced in this world in the form of happiness, misery, etc , which get destroyed by enjoying or suffering and which get exhaused through usage are destined actions.

Destined actions are those accumulated actions which have fructified to give us the present life and the experiences in this life in this world. What I get now is the result of what I have done in the past. I may not have choice in what I get but I have a choice in what I should do with what I have got.

Accumulated action is destroyed by the firm knowledge that "I am Reality alone."

Jiva experiences actions. If Jiva identifies with Ishvara, then he realizes the Reality, becomes liberated from actions and his accumulated actions get nullified..

The agami action is also destroyed by the knowledge and the man with realization is not affected by it as a lotus leaf is not affected by water on it.

The lotus leaf grows in water but does not get wet by water. Similarly a person who knows the Reality has no notion of doership and hence remains untouched by the actions. For him the agami actions are also nullified.

Further, to those who praise, serve and worship the wise man, go the results of good actions done by the wise man. To those who criticise, hate or cause pain to the wise man, go the results of unpraiseworthy and sinful actions of the wise man. Friends receive the results of meritorious actions and enemies receive the results of unmeritorious actions.

A person who has known the Reality does act. But he has no notion of doership and the action is nullified for him. But the action is not destroyed. Such actions get transferred to his friends, followers, enemies, etc as directed by the Reality.

Thus the knower of the self, having crossed sansara, attains supreme bliss here itself. The shruti affirms that the knower of the self swims over all sorrow. Let the wise man cast off his body in Kasi or in the house of a dog-eater because at the time of gaining knowledge he is liberated from all actions. So assert smrutis, too.

Sansara is the life in this world. Kasi is the city in India. It is a desire of a Hindu to have his ashes taken to Kasi. Shruti is what was heard by the masters during meditation and smruti represents the knowlege passed on from the teacher to the taught as coming from the memory. Both shruti and smruti confirm that one who gains this knowledge of the Reality, attains bliss and gets liberated from all actions.

Thus ends the introductory book Tattva-Bodha.



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