Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Tattvabodha - Part 15

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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30. The blissful sheath

आनन्दमयः कः?

एवमॆव कारणशरीरभूताविद्यास्थमलिनसत्वं प्रियादिव्रत्तिसहितं सत् आनन्दमयः कोशः ।

एतत्कॊशपंचकम् ।।

आनन्दमयः – the bliss sheath कः – what it is एवम् – in this way एव – alone कारणशरीरभूत - that which is in the form of causal body अविद्यास्थ-मलिनसत्वम् – impure sattva born of ignorance प्रियादि-व्रत्तिसहितम् - सत् – having the modifications of dear etc आनन्दमयः कोशः – is called Blissful sheath ऎतत् - this कोशपञ्च्कम् – the five sheaths

What is the blissful sheath? Established in ignorance, which is in the form of causal body, of impure nature, united with the thoughts like priya etc. is called the blissful sheath.

कारणशरीरभूतम् - that which is in the form of causal body. The causal body or karana sharira is the subtlest and the most pervasive of the three sheaths.

Swami Shivananda writes: “As soon as one gets knowledge of the Self, avidya terminates. Brahman appears as the world on account of avidya, just as the rope appears as snake in the dusk. If we bring a lamp, the snake disappears, but the rope alone remains. Even so, when we get knowledge of Brahman, the appearance of the world will vanish. Avidya is not negative, but is positive. It is absence of Knowledge. It is erroneous knowledge. Avidya or Ajnana which constitutes the causal body is the cause for the two bodies, gross and subtle”.

अविद्यास्थ-मलिनसत्वम् – The karana sharira is in the nature of impure sattva born of ignorance. What is this impurity? It is the sattva mixed with rajas. An envelope of pure sattva without rajas covers the Brahman. This envelope is called Maya. It is nothing but ignorance. Impure sattva or malina sattva shrouds the self at the body level. Then it is called avidya. So the veil is called maya at the level of Ishwara or Brahman. It is called avidya at the level of jiva.

प्रियादि व्रत्तिसहितम् सत् – having the modifications of dear etc. The blissful sheath or Anandamaya kosha has three degrees of Ananda. They are priya, moda and pramoda. Priya is the love or Happiness one experiences on beholding a desired object (इष्ट दर्शनजम् सुखम्). Moda or the next gradation of happiness is experienced by the acquisition and possession of the desired sense object (इष्ट ग्रहणजम् सुखम्). Pramoda is the next gradation of happiness or the happiest state. It is obtained by possession and enjoyment of desired object (इष्ट अनुभवजम् सुखम्). आनन्दमयः कोशः This is the bliss sheath.

ऎतत् कोशपञ्च्कम् – This is about the five sheaths. The five sheaths discussed here are, the food sheath, vital air sheath, mind sheath, intellect sheath, and blissful sheath.


31. beyond the five sheaths


३१. मदीयम् शरीरं मदीयाः प्राणाः मदीयं मनश्च मदीया बिद्धिर्मदीयं

अज्ञानमिति स्वेनैव ज्ञायते तद्यथा मदीयत्वॆन ज्ञातं

कटककुण्डलग्रहादिकं स्वस्माद्भिन्नं तथा पञ्चकोशादिकं स्वस्माद्भिन्नं

मदीयत्वेन ज्ञातमात्मा न भवति ।।

मदीयम् – my शरीरम् – body मदीयाः – my प्राणाः – pranas मदीयम् – my मनः – mind च –and मदीया – my बिद्धिः – intellect मदीयम् – my अज्ञानम् – ignorance इति – thus स्वेन – by oneself एव – alone ज्ञायते – understood तद्यथा – just as (that which is) मदीयत्वॆन – known as mine ज्ञातम् – understood. कटक-कुण्डल-ग्रहादिकम् - bangles, earring, house etc स्वस्मात् – from myself भिन्नम् – different तथा – so also पञ्चकोशादिकम् – the five sheaths etc. स्वस्मात् – from myself भिन्नम् – different मदीयत्वेन – as mine ज्ञातम् – known आत्मा – self न भवति – is not

Even if one has a feeling that the bangles, ear-studs, and the house etc, are one’s own property, they do not become the self. Similarly if one has the idea that this is my body, my vital breath, my mind, my intellect, and my knowledge my ignorance and so forth, they too do not become the self but remain different.

The author has so far discussed the following points of self-identification:

. साधनचतुष्टयम् –Four-fold qualifications

. शरीरत्रयम् –Three-fold body. स्थूलशरीरम् सूक्ष्मशरीरम् कारणशरीरम्

. आवस्था त्रयम् –Three-fold states of experience जाग्रत्, स्वप्न, and सुषुप्ति अवस्थाः

. पंचकोशाः Five–fold personality of an individual: अन्नमयः कॊश – the gross body प्राणमय कॊश – the vital sheath, मनॊमय कॊष – the mental sheath, विज्ञानमय कॊष – the intellectual sheath, आनन्दमय कॊष – the blissful sheath


The three fold body and five-fold personality of an individual refer to the same subject but looked at from different angles. The self is enveloped by five sheaths. These five sheaths and their modifications of three states of consciousness have enveloped the infinite atman like the peels of an onion tuber as Swami Ramakrishna’s famous example goes. These shrouds on the atman cause all the trouble.

When the wise man realizes that these false points of identification indeed are exterior to me and they do not belong to me; thus he negates them as anatma. In this paragraph the author makes a positive assertion that “I am the atman; but not the points of identification”.

One identifies with the body, Pranas, mind, or intellect due to ignorance of my own true nature. I come to think that I am the mind, intellect, and body. So the egotism of “I” and “mine” arises. Blinded by the egotism an individual thinks that he is an independent agent with regard to the actions and their fruit. He thinks, “I am the doer of action; I am the enjoyer of its fruit”. The fact is it is the prakrati who is the doer and enjoyer.

In this verse the author gives a good example. Just as my possessions like ornaments and house do not make my personality; so also my five sheaths, my mind and intellect do not make me. I am different from my possessions. I am the pure consciousness. Once this ignorance is removed by the enlightenment that “I am of the nature of Existence-consciousness-Bliss” there is no more identification with the body.


32. The nature of self

आत्मा तर्हि कः?

आत्मा तर्हि कः? सच्चिदानन्द स्वरूपः ।

आत्मा – self, Atman तर्हि – then कः – what सत् - existence true reality (being) चित् consciousness आनन्द – bliss स्वरूपः - of the nature

Then what is Self? It is of the nature of existence-consciousness-bliss.

सत् - existence (being), कालत्रये अधितिष्टति इति सत् that which prevails in all three periods of time. Anything that is changing or modifying can never be called existence. Sat is changeless principle and everything that changes is called asat (सत् - असत्). Atma never changes (अविकार) but anatma is ever-changing (निर्विकार). Atma does not have birth or death, eternal or Anadi. Atma is not bound by time and space. So he is called अनन्त. It is all pervading.

चित् - consciousness or chaitanya is ज्ञानस्वरूपः. Awareness is not a quality of body or matter. It is separate entity. It is the nature of chit. Chit is called witness because it is the eternal awareness. A changing thing cannot be an eternal witness. It is also not a property of the body. It is not bound by time and space. It is all pervading.

आनन्द – bliss सुख स्वरूपः dukha or grief is borne out of change. Since atma is changeless he is of the nature of eternal happiness or Ananda. Just as grief is indication of limitation, Ananda is indication of a state of beyond limitations. It is called पूर्णत्व.

Consciousness is studied by the students of Vedanta at two levels. At the level of individual body it is called self or Atma. At the level of the all pervading nature or total cosmos it is called Brahman, Atman or the spirit.

Atman is the nature of existence, consciousness and bliss. This is the best possible definition of atman. Swami Sunirmalanada says in his book, “Insights into Vedanta”, that this definition is not used in any of the major Upanishads. It is used for the first time in Tejobindu Upanishad (तेजोबिन्दु उपनिषद्).

Since the infinite Atman cannot be defined by finite words or perceived by sense organs, Vedas have used negative teaching modalities to describe Atman as a pointer. Here are some examples.


1. Tattvabodha defines Atman as

स्थूलसूक्ष्मकारणशरीरात्व्यतिरिक्तः पंचकॊशातीतः सन् ।

अवस्स्थात्रयसाक्षी सच्चिदानन्दस्वरूपः सन् यस्तिस्ष्ट्ति स आत्मा । (Para 15)

Atman is that which is other than the gross, subtle and casual bodies, that which is beyond the five sheaths, and which is the witness of the three states of consciousness and of the very nature of existence-consciousness-bliss.

Searching for Atman is like playing a game of blind man’s Bluff where one player is blindfolded and as another player points his finger at other play-mates and says, “Hey come on, identify this guy, except this guy, this one and this one” Tattvabodha has used the same modality to assert that Atman is the one other than the three-fold body, five-fold Koshas and three states of experience. He is the unchanging eternal witness in all three states of consciousness. He is of the very nature of existence-consciousness-bliss. He lends consciousness to the three bodies. As swami Chinmayanada says, just as electricity lends light to the bulb and heat to the microwave, Atman lends consciousness to the otherwise insentient bodies. All the plants and animals are alive because of the presence of Atman.


2. Taittiriya Upanishad describes atman as सत्यम् ज्ञानम् अनन्तम् ब्रह्म – Truth (reality), knowledge and infinity is Brahman.


3. Kena Upanishad describes atman as:

श्रोत्रस्य श्रोत्रं मनो यद् वाचो ह वाचं स उ प्राणस्य प्राणाः ।

चक्षुषष्च्क्षुरतिमुच्य धीराः प्रेत्यास्माल्लोकादम्रुता भवन्ति ।। Ch. 1: 02 ।।

“Atman is the ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of the speech, soul of the soul. Neither the eyes, nor the speech, nor the mind can reach the self. It is different from all that we know and do not know. This is what we have heard. That which can never be seen, heard or cognized, and enlivens the eyes, ears, mind, or prana respectively and that which makes these organs function by its mere presence. ”

Swami Paramarthananda gives a long list of features of atman. These are:


1. आत्मा चैतन्य स्वरूपः Atman is of the nature of consciousness. We have seen above that the sharira trayam is of material in nature and therefore insentient. Atman is not material in nature. He is the nature of pure consciousness.

2. आत्मा स्वतन्त्रः Atman is independent. It is independent because it does not depend on matter for its existence and production.

3. आत्मा निर्गुणः Atman does not have any attributes which are the characteristics of matter. The attributes belong to the matter. Shabda, sparsha, roopa rasa and gandha are products of their basic elements; Akasha, vayu, Agni, aapah, and prithivi. Atman is free from these attributes. He is therefore attributeless or free from guna.

4. आत्मा नित्यः Atman is ever-existent. Atman does not depend upon the matter or the three bodies for its existence and production. So when the matter perishes, the atman survives, just like the electricity is present in the system even though the filament in the bulb has blown out and the bulb does not emit light.

5. आत्मा सर्वगतः Atman is all-pervading.

6. आत्मा एकः Atma is one. आत्मा अद्वैतः अद्वयः Atma is one conscious principle, non-dual in nature although there are several individual bodies.


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Page last updated: 03-Jul-2016