Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Tattvabodha - Part 11

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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19. The Five organs of action


वाक्पाणिपादपायूपस्थानीति पञ्चकर्मेन्द्रियाणि ।

वाचो देवता वह्निः । हस्तयॊःरिन्द्रः । पादयोर्विष्णुः ।

पायोंर्मुत्युः । उपस्थस्य प्रजापतिः । इति कर्मेन्द्रियदेवताः ।

वाचो विषयः भाषणम् । पाण्योर्विषयः वस्तुग्रहणम् ।

पादयोर्विषयः गमनम् । पायोर्विषयः मलत्यागः ।

उपस्थस्य विषय आनन्दः इति ।।

इति – speech, hands, legs, the anus, genitals thus पञ्चकर्मेन्द्रियाणि – the five organs of action वाचः of speech देवता –deity वह्निः – fire हस्तयॊः – of the hands इन्द्रः – Indra पादयोः – of legs र्विष्णुः – Vishnu पायोः of anus म्रत्युः – death उपस्थस्य – of the genitals प्रजापतिः – Prajapati ब्रह्मा इति – thus कर्मेन्द्रियदेवताः – presiding deities of organs of action वाचःविषयः – the function of the speech भाषणम् – is to speak पाण्योः – of the hands र्विषयः -वस्तुग्रहणम् – to grasp things पादयोःविषयः – the function of the legs गमनम् – movement पायोः – of the anus विषयः – function मलत्यागः – is elimination of waste उपस्थस्य विषयः – the function of the genitals आनन्दः इति –is pleasure

The five organs of action are: speech, hands, feet, anus and genitals. The presiding deities of these organs are: fire presides over speech, Indra presides over hands, Vishnu presides over feet, and death (Yama) presides over anus and Prajapati presides over genitals. The function of organ of speech is to speak, the function of the hand is to hold things, the function of the feet is movement, the function of anus is excretion and the function of genitals is to enjoy (procreation).

It is important to note that the organs of knowledge and action are discussed under subtle body but not the gross body. It is because these organs belong to the subtle body but not to gross body.


Although these organs are located in the physical body their real driving force is in the subtle body. These ten organs have their contact office in the physical body. All the functions are controlled by the subtle body who is the boss. Swami Ramakrishna calls them 'pillow covers'.


The organs of action are created by using rajas guna of the five great elements. How do the organs of action function? The eye sees and knows some object. The nose smells it and the ears hear about it. The ego identifies itself with it. And the hands and les begin to adventure. The power to function comes from the Pranas or vital forces. The desire to function comes from the mind.


How is the individual subtle body created?


Unlike the gross body, the subtle body is created once and for all. At the beginning of this creation we get the subtle body, and it remains with us till we attain illumination. Its creation happens in this way: We have already mentioned that the five fundamental elements are air, fire water, and earth. In their essentially unmixed pure state called तन्मात्र (that alone). These are formed from Maya or prakrati. Prakrati constitutes of three qualities or gunas. These five tanmatras too are modifications of prakrati’s gunas.


Combining all the subtle bodies in the cosmos, we get the supreme subtle body. He is called Hiranyagarbha (हिरण्यगर्भ). He is the cosmic egg or the source of all gross physical and subtle universes. Because Hiranyagarbha is a collective subtle body, it has intellect. This supreme intelligence or a combination of all the intellects of all beings put together, must be enormous. Hence that supreme intelligence is called mahat (महत्). This cosmic intelligence or Hiranyagarbha becomes the source of the physical cosmos and our own individual physical body.


After discussing the gross and subtle bodies, Tattvabodha now takes up the third body namely causal body. Pancha prana, manas and buddhi are not discussed by the author.


20. What is causal body?

कारण शरीरम् किम्?

अनिर्वाच्यानाद्याविद्यारूपम् शरीरद्वयस्य कारणमात्रम् सत् स्वरूपाज्ञानं ।

निर्विकल्पकरूपं यदस्ति तत्कारणशरीरम् ।।

Causal body

कारणशरीरम् किम्? - What is causal body? अनिर्वाच्य – inexplicable अनादि – beginingless अविद्यारुपम् – in the form of ignorance शरीरद्वयस्य – of the two bodies कारणमात्रम् – the sole cause सत्-स्वरूपम्-अज्ञानम् – ignorance of one’s own true nature निर्विकल्पक – without modification रूपम् – form यत् – which अस्ति – is तत् – that कारणशरीरम् – is called causal body.

What is meant by causal body? That which is formed by inexplicable, beginning-less, ignorance, that which is the cause of the other two bodies, that which is ignorant of its own nature, and that which does not undergo any modification is called the causal body.

Six qualifications have been given. These are:

1. कारणशरीरम् किम्? - What is causal body? Having already discussed the gross body and subtle body we now come to the final body called Causal body or Karana sharira. Like the gross body and subtle body, the causal body is also a sharira but not atma. It can also be considered under seven headings:

    • Material: As we have seen, the gross body is composed of gross material and as such it is always being renewed and changing. But the internal body is of the finest or subtlest material, so fine that it will endure eons of age. It cannot be destroyed.
    • Body parts: nil.
    • Function: The causal body is the ‘seed’ of the other two bodies’ namely subtle and gross body. These two bodies arise from the causal body. During Pralaya or dissolution, it serves as a store house for the other two bodies. Even during pralaya, the causal body is not destroyed.
    • Nature: It is the subtlest of the three bodies. It is the cause of other two bodies. It is without modification. Hence it is called निर्विकल्प स्वरूप. The gross body is called सविकल्प because it undergoes six modifications.
    • Visibility: Gross body is visible for everyone. Subtle body is visible only to oneself only. But the causal body is not visible to anyone.
    • Longevity: Causal body has longest life. Gross body is destroyed at the end of the body. Subtle body is destroyed at the time of final dissolution or Pralaya. But the causal body is never destroyed. It can only merge with God after self-realization.

2. अनिर्वाच्य अनादि अविद्यारुपम् - inexplicable, beginingless, and in the form of ignorance. The causal body has no shape, size or quality. It cannot be perceived by sense organ or by any instrumentation. So it is called indescribable, inexplicable etc (अनिर्वाच्य). It has no beginning or end. Being a part of prakrati it was always there. So it is called Anadi (अनादि).


3. अविद्या means ignorance. In Vedanta it means mithya. Furniture is mithya but the wood is Satya. Wave is mithya and water is Satya. Mithya is also called ignorance. That which does not have independent existence is called Mithya. Satya has independent existence and available unchanged in all periods of time. Atma is satya; all other things are mithya. Causal body is the nature of ignorance.The ignorance enveloping Brahman is called Maya. It is the first stage of creation. In the individual level it is called causal body and at the cosmic level it is called Pratyagatman (प्रत्यगात्मन्). Ignorance has two powers: to envelope and to project. It envelopes Brahman and becomes causal body. It projects the subtle and gross bodies. It brings the idea in the causal body, “I am the doer”, “I m the experiencer”.


4. शरीरद्वयस्य कारणमात्रम् - It is the cause of two bodies. Causal body is karana or cause of gross body and subtle body. Causal body is the cause and the two bodies subtle and gross are its effect or karya. So essentially, the two resultant bodies are same as the karana.


5. सत्-स्वरूपम्-अज्ञानम् – ignorance of one’s own true nature. I do not know my true nature which is सच्चिदानन्द स्वरूप (Existence-consciousness-bliss). I am mistaken that I am the doer and enjoyer. I know so much about the world but so little about who I am. निर्विकल्पक रूपम् – does not undergo any modification. निर्विकल्पः Vikalpa means division being of the nature beyond thought. कल्प or कल्पना refers to thoughts. निर्विकल्पः is beyond thought, or without thoughts. Ignorance is homogenous. It has no duality as a knower and known. There are degrees of knowledge, but not in ignorance. It is beyond thought or without thought (निर्विकल्पक रूपम्).


6. यत् अस्ति तत् कारणशरीरम् – that which exists is called causal body. Causal body is that which is other than the three conditions mentioned above. Causal body is called the blissful sheath (आनन्दमय कॊश). It is blissful because Brahman which is of the nature of bliss is the only reality. It is also the deep-sleep state (सुशुप्ति).

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Page last updated: 23-Feb-2016