Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Tattvabodha - Part 7

Notes on Tattvabodha
Dr. Vishnu Bapat

Dr. Bapat (72) was the co-founder of an Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Industry and served as its Managing Director for 26 years until retirement. He is associated with several professional and spiritual bodies. He is now fully engaged in the study and practice of Vedanta.




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2. ātma vicāra

आत्म विचार

Analysis of the individual or microcosm


14. What is true knowledge

तत्वविवेकः कः? । आत्मा सत्यं तदन्यत् सर्वं मिथ्येति ।

तत्वविवेकः - enquiry into the truth कः - what आत्मा – self सत्यम् - real तदन्यत् - other than that सर्वम् - all मिथ्या - is unreal इति - thus

What is enquiry into the truth? It is the firm conviction that the self is real and everything else is unreal.

Here three technical words are introduced. These are आत्मा, सत्यम्, and मिथ्यम्

आत्मा Brahman or the absolute truth; Self, spirit, soul

सत्यम् or truth in normal language means that which confirms to reality or is factual, or a statement is accepted as truth by faith. Anything contrary to truth is false. In the terminology of Vedanta, satya or सत् or truth is something which is present without change in all the three periods of time; present, past and future. It is not dependent on any other phenomenon. If anything does not confirm to this pramana or standard it is considered as mithya or false. Satya is also called as Real. Real has further been classified as sat and asat, (सत्-असत्); existent and non-existent. असत् is that which although appears like sat does not exist in all periods of time. Common example given is a barren woman. A woman exists and the child exists but the barren woman’s child does not exist. It is asat.


Unreal or mithya (मिथ्यम्) is that which cannot be defined as real or सत्. It also cannot be defined as non-existent or असत्. If a thing exists and is experienced, but keeps on changing, it is called unreal. The world exists and is experienced, but it does not exist all the time and its experience is also not the same all the time. So it is mithya. आत्मा सत्यम् – Self is real or satya. तत् अन्यत् सर्वम् मिथ्यम् इति –all other things are unreal. Here the first viveka or discrimination is put to test. It is नित्य अनित्य विवेक or discrimination between eternal and ephemeral.


There are two aspects to life; “I”, the experiencer of the world, and the world, the experienced object. The name, form, quality, and experience of every object of the world changes but “I”, the experiencer, remains the same. I am never absent but the world gets negated. So “I” am the real and everything else is unreal.


15. Who is Self?

आत्मा कः? स्थूलसूक्ष्मकारणशरीरात्व्यतिरिक्तः पंचकॊशातीतः सन् । अवस्स्थात्रयसाक्षी सच्चिदानन्दस्वरूपः सन् यस्तिस्ष्ट्ति स आत्मा ।
- self कः - what स्थूलसूक्ष्मकारणशरीरात् व्यतिरिक्तः – different from the gross, subtle and casual bodies पंचकॊशातीतः – beyond the five sheaths सन् - indeed अवस्स्थात्रय-साक्षी – the witness of the three states of consciousness सच्चिदानन्द-स्वरूपः – of the nature of existence, consciousness and bliss (सत् चित् आनन्द स्वरूपः) सन् - indeed यः – who तिष्टति - remains सः – he आत्मा - the self
What is self? That which is other than the gross, subtle and casual bodies, that which is beyond the five sheaths, that which is the witness of the three states of consciousness and is of the very nature of existence-consciousness-bliss is the self.


The teacher introduces several technical terms in this paragraph. So it needs to be studied in detail. The new terms are:

  • The three bodies: शरीरत्रय -gross (स्थूल), subtle or astral body (सूक्ष्म), and causal (कारण शरीर).
  • The five sheaths : पञ्चकोशः -Food sheath (अन्नमय), Vital air sheath (प्राणमय), Mental sheath (मनोमय), Intellectual sheath (विज्ञानमय) and the Bliss sheath (आनन्दमय)
  • The three states of consciousness अवस्थात्रय: Waking state (जाग्रत् अवस्था), the dream state (स्वप्न अवस्था) and deep- sleep state सुषुप्ति अवस्था
  • Existence-Consciousness-Bliss: - सत् चित् आनन्द स्वरूपः


आत्मा कः? -What is self? When asked to introduce ourselves, we say I am the son/daughter of so and so. I belong to such a place. I am of such a nationality. I am the business owner, I weigh so many kilograms. My skin and eye colour is such and such. If seen carefully what we are describing is our physical body, our possessions, our breed etc. These are indeed the conditionings or उपाधि. My physical structure, attributes etc do not make me. The conditionings superimpose their quality upon that which remains in its proximity. For example a colourless crystal appears as blue when kept on a blue sheet. When the sheet is removed, the crystal appears ‘as it is’; colourless. The three bodies, five sheaths, and the three states of consciousness are the upadhi or conditionings of the self. “I” the knower or witness of the conditioning is different from the conditioning.

स्थूलसूक्ष्मकारणशरीरात् व्यतिरिक्तः –शरीरत्रयात् व्यतिरिक्तः - Atma is different from the three bodies. अतिरिकतः, व्यतीतः - These words mean beyond, transcending. My corporal physical body has two aspects; one, the material aspect and the other spiritual aspect. Atma is one who is beyond the material aspect. He is the spiritual aspect. Each one of us has not one but three bodies’ शरीरत्रय. The three bodies are gross or स्थूल, subtle or सूक्ष्म, and causal or कारण शरिर. Gross body is the physical aspect of a person. This is perceptible to senses. It is nourished to the present size by food. The subtle body is not visible to us, but it is known to each of us. I know when I am hungry. Others may not be aware of it till I tell them or I show up physical signs. The causal body is also invisible. It is the seat of our all inherent tendencies (Vasanas). It is the cause of other two bodies.

पंचकॊशातीतः –transcending the five sheaths. Atma is beyond the five sheaths. A man in temperate zone wears layers of cloth when he is out in the snow. When he comes back home, he removes them all. Similarly the soul is wrapped in five layers. These are from outside: the food sheath (अन्नमय), Vital air sheath (प्राणमय), Mental sheath (मनोमय), Intellectual sheath (विज्ञानमय) and the Bliss sheath (आनन्दमय).

The food sheath अन्नमय constitutes the gross body or स्थूल शरीर. The Vital air sheath (प्राणमय), mental sheath (मनोमय), and the Intellectual sheath (विज्ञानमय) together constitutes the subtle body or सूक्ष्म शरिर. The bliss sheath or आनन्दमय कोश forms causal body or कारण शरिर.


What is the meaning of the soul or atma being beyond the five sheaths? “I am not the sheaths or its happiness and persecutions. I am distinct from the sheath. I am only a temporary resident. I am not identified with them. I am different.”

अवस्स्थात्रय-साक्षी –A witness for the three states of consciousness. The three states are: Waking state जाग्रत् अवस्था, the dream sate स्वप्न अवस्था and deep- sleep state सुषुप्ति अवस्था. This is the total range of experience an individual goes through every day.

In जाग्रत् अवस्था or the waking state, we are aware of the world of objects, emotion and thought. The mind is fully functional and all its four faculties such as emotional aspect of experiencing happiness and grief; rational aspect such as thinking (gathering knowledge), decision making etc, ego, and memory aspects are available to us. The waking state is in the realm of gross body.

In स्वप्न अवस्था or dream state, we experience our individual dream world through our mind. Senses are not available for perception in dream state. Only the memory part of the mind or chitta (चित्त) is active and it replays all the experiences gathered during the waking state. Memory of the physical world as also the emotions like sorrow, happiness etc., registered in the mind are projected in the dream state. However no new experience is gained. The dream state is in the realm of subtle body.

In the third state of सुषुप्ति अवस्था or the deep sleep state, the mind and senses are zero functional. All four faculties of emotion, rational thinking, ego and memory are inactivated. There is not even thought of “I am sleeping”. Deep sleep state is in the realm of causal body. The soul or “I” am” is available in all these three states of consciousness.


अवस्स्थात्रय-साक्षी –The consciousness is a witness for the three states of existence; but it is not a part of what has been witnessed. The soul is independent of the body and is not a part, or product of the body. It is a separate identity residing in the body. It is just a witness to the activities of the body. सच्चिदानन्द-स्वरूपः –The soul is the nature of existence-consciousness and bliss. On negating my identity as the three bodies, the five sheaths, and the three states of consciousness what remains is the pure self or the soul who is a bundle of सत् existence, चित् knowledge or consciousness, and bliss or आनन्द. सत् is the illuminating principle in all the three states. चित् is the knowledge principle that illuminates all the three states. Bliss or आनन्द is free from all conditioning and infinity in bliss. Consciousness is not a property of the body but different from the body. यः तिष्टति सःआत्मा –Which remains free from the above conditionings is the self or आत्मा.

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Page last updated: 24-Oct-2015