Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Tattvabodha - Part 30

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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Go to Part 29

Overview of Tattvabodha

Based on an online audio lecture of Swami Paramarthananda

Tattvabodha text can be broadly classified into five portions. These are:

1. अधिकारी – Eligibility for self-enquiry Four-fold qualification
2. जीव or आत्म विचार – Analysis of the individual or microcosm
3. ईश्वर विचार – Analysis of the totality of creation or macrocosm
4. जीवेश्वरयोः ऐक्यम् – Essential identity of the individual and total creation
5. ऐक्य ज्ञान फलम्  – Benefit of the knowledge of essential identity


1. Eligibility or qualifications for self enquiry. अधिकरी

Four Sadhanas are mentioned sādhanacatuṣṭayam (साधनचतुष्टयम्). These are:

  • Discrimination nityānityavastuvivēkaḥ (नित्यानित्यवस्तुविवेकः)
  • Dispassion ihāmutrārthaphalabhogavirāgaḥ  (इहामुत्रार्थफलभॊगविरागः)
  • Desire for the higher mumukṣutvam (मुमुक्षुत्वम्)
  • Disciplines śamādi-ṣaṭkasampattiḥ  (शमादि-षट्कसम्पत्तिः)


1. Nityānityavastuvivēkaḥ: Discrimination is between the real and apparent goals of life. There is no doubt that the goal of life is enduring happiness. But a vedantin realizes that real happiness does not come from any objects they are themselves fleeting in nature and therefore the happiness generated by them is also limited and fleeting in nature. By proper application of mind, a seeker is able to pick up the real spiritual happiness from his two options, material and spiritual. This capacity to differentiate from real and fake goal is called Discrimination or vivēka (विवेक0.


2. Ihāmutrārthaphalabhogavirāgaḥ:  Dispassion is detachment or disinterest. What the seeker does with the apparent or fake goals of life is to downgrade their status in his life.  That means he does not give them so much importance. He uses the fake goals as a sadhana or a means to achieve his final goal that is realization of God.


3. Mumukṣutvam: Desire is a burning urge or passion for accomplishment of the goal of realization of God. When we have realized by study of scriptures and lectures by Guru that the material goals are nothing but fake, we gradually re-orient our attitude to life and nourish the desire for realization. Thus the desire becomes burning.  


4. śamādi-ṣaṭkasampattiḥ: Discipline is attuning of our body, senses, mind and intellect towards our goal. All the organs become spiritual friendly.

With genuine practice of these four Sadhanas one becomes eligible to study the subject of self-enquiry. One can indeed read and understand the entire book but it becomes only an academic knowledge but not a self-transforming knowledge. Therefore eligibility is emphasized.


Tattvabodha mentions the steps of eligibility but not the method of obtaining eligibility. It has to be supplied by us. Out of the four eligibility factors the first three viz. discrimination, dispassion, and desire are accomplished through karma yoga. The fourth one namely discipline śamādi-ṣaṭkasampattiḥ (शमादि-षट्कसम्पत्तिः) comes from Upasana yoga.

The first three steps are religious way of life and the last one is spiritual way of life. Religion gives me qualification and spirituality gives me wisdom.


2. jīva or ātma vicāra (जीव or आत्म विचार)

Analysis of the individual or microcosm vyaṣṭi vicāra; piṇḍāḍa vicāra (व्यष्टि विचार; पिण्डाड विचार)

Every individual has broadly two personalities

  • Material part anātma aṁśa (अनात्म अंश)
  • Spiritual part ātmā aṁśa (आत्मा अंश)


The material part of the individual is made up of matter. For convenience of study the material body is divided into three separate entities. These are:

  • The three bodies: Based on finesse of matter sthūlaśarīram (स्थूलशरीरम्) - Gross body, sūkṣmaśarīram (सूक्ष्मशरीरम्) - the subtle body and kāraṇaśarīram (कारणशरीरम्) - the causal body. Evolution of the individual started with the un-manifest or potential form of the body which is also called causal body or maya.  As the process of evolution unfolds, it becomes the subtle body and finally the gross body.
  • (पंचकोशाः)  paṁcakōśāḥ based on functions. There are five Koshas or sheaths. Annamaya kośa (अन्नमय कॊश) –the gross body प्राणमय कॊश (prāṇamaya kośa) –the vital sheath, मनॊमय कॊष (manomaya koṣa) –the mental sheath, vijñānamaya koṣa विज्ञानमय कॊष the intellectual sheath, and ānandamaya koṣa आनन्दमय कॊष –the blissful sheath
  • अवस्थात्रयम् (avasthātrayam)  –the three states of existence: जाग्रत्, jāgrat the waking स्वप्न- svapna the dream सुषुप्ति suṣupti- the sleep अवस्थाः avasthāḥ – states

Spiritual part of the individual is non material. Distinct from the material part (अनात्म अंश) is the consciousness principle (आत्म अंश, or चैतन्य तत्त्व). The consciousness principle is not a part, product or property of the material body. It is called Atma or Brahman. Just as electricity is not a part, product or property of the bulb, but the very source of energy, atma is also not a part of the body. 


3. ईश्वर विचार–Analysis of the totality of creation or macrocosm. This is also called ब्रह्माण्ड, समष्टि विचार. The universe being matter can neither be created nor destroyed. This is called principle of indestructibility of matter. We can only change its form. We can see the universe and transact with it. It was not so before evolution. It was available in a dormant, un-manifest or potential form. This is the causal universe or maya. The casual universe evolves into subtle universe. It is as subtle as to not be available for perception and transaction.

From the subtle universe evolves the totally manifest universe which we have today. It is visible, perceptible and transact-able.

Along with the subtle universe and gross universe also developed subtle body and gross body from the causal body. So there is no creation. It is only evolution from un-manifest to manifest condition.  In Sanskrit it is called अविर्भाव.

At the time of devolution, the gross universe becomes subtle and later into causal body and merges with maya or un-manifest nature.  It is Just like our walking up and going to deep sleep every day.


4. जीवेश्वरयोः ऐक्यम् –Essential identity of the individual and total creation

This is also called िण्ड ब्रह्माण्डयॊः ऐक्यम् Unity of microcosm and macrocosm.

We have so far studied the nature of the individual or microcosm as well as the nature of the universe or macrocosm. Both these are material in nature and are evolved from the causal body, to subtle body and gross body.  Being made up of matter they are insentient. These two are the anatma amsha (अनात्म अंश) or inert principle. Consciousness is the energy principle (आत्म अंश, or चैतन्य तत्त्व). We know the bulb or its filament cannot give us the light. It needs electricity behind it so that the bulb can glow. Similarly consciousness is the illuminating principle which is capable of making the matter to evolve and to function.

The consciousness principle is not a part, product or property of the material body.


The consciousness operates through the media of individual body or universe and gets distorted and gets the attributes of the medium.  The medium is called उपाधि or conditioning. The reflected consciousness in the individual or micro is called Jiva (जीव) and the reflected consciousness in the total is called ईश्वर or the Lord. Jiva is more distorted than Ishwara due to the texture of its reflecting medium. Jiva has got inferior attributes but the Lord has superior attributes. Jiva is helpless but the Lord is the helper (अनाथ and अनाथ- नाथ, दीनand दीनबन्धु). Micro or reflected consciousness is the servant whereas the macro or original consciousness is Lord or the master (दास and स्वामी).

It has to be emphasized again that the original consciousness has neither an inferior or superior attribute. It is neither the cause nor the effect.

Suppose I stand before a concave mirror, my image looks elongated and before a convex mirror the same image looks flat. The distortion in the mirror is not my attribute but the result of the medium. Similarly the original consciousness has no distortion. Now a question arises. How to identify the original consciousness? It cannot be separated from either the individual jiva body or from the universe or the Lord, just as we cannot separate space from an object. The space is all-pervading and ensconced the object from inside as well as outside.  Similarly the consciousness envelops the individual and the total universe from inside as well as outside. It is pervading everywhere. So separation has to be made in terms of understanding or wisdom. The method advocated in Vedanta is to separate the micro medium and macro medium and forget the distortions as incidental and own up the distortion-free original consciousness.

This is called jiva Ishwara aikyam or pinda brahmanda aikyam.


4. ऐक्य ज्ञान फलम् Benefit of the knowledge of essential identity

By an analysis of the individual body and the total universe, we have seen that both of them are constituted of causal body subtle body and gross body. The individual is nothing but a miniscule of the total. Both of these are insentient and become dynamic only in the presence of a third independent entity called consciousness or truth. It is called as atma at the level of the body and Brahman at the level of the universe. The individual and universe are the reflected consciousness, reflection happening in the media of the matter. So the original consciousness is essentially one and a person who realizes that “I am the original consciousness having a temporary shelter in the body. I am different from the body and the transactions of the body and universe do not belong to me. This knowledge is called jnyana or wisdom.

The process of acquiring the wisdom is called jnyana yoga (ज्ञान योग). In Gita we have studied that there are two prerequisites before one becomes eligible for acquiring knowledge. These are कर्म योग, and भक्ति योग or उपासन योग. Without eligibility wisdom cannot come and without wisdom eligibility is useless.

Eligibility is acquired by the fallowing steps:

  • श्रवण: Receiving wisdom. Systematic and consistent study of scriptures under the guidance of a competent Guru.  The student gets a lot of inputs and the intellect starts questioning certain hypothesis which is discussed with the teacher.
  • मनन : converting knowledge into conviction. In this process certain doubts and objections in the mind of the student are removed.  An account of mananam the knowledge becomes clearer. All doubts are answered and the intellect does not raise any more objections. The student gets thoroughly convinced that he is not the reflected consciousness but the original absolute consciousness. This fact becomes his conviction.  He walks the talk.
  • निधिध्यासन : Assimilation of wisdom. Re- conditioning or re -orienting our attitude. It is a process of repeated hearing, reading of scriptures, discussion with the teacher and colleagues. The student assimilates the wisdom and gives up his old worldly habit of living like a reflected consciousness. In other words, it is the de-conditioning of the mind and re-orienting himself to his new found knowledge. It is called niṣṭhā (निष्ठा). Convert conviction into Nishtha.  So nidhidhyasana is the final stage of transformation of the seeker from “I or jiva “consciousness to Brahman “Consciousness”.

The following are the steps studied by us; study, reflect, and assimilation and transformation into Mukti. In the first place the knowledge is converted into conviction. Conviction becomes niṣṭhā (निष्ठा). From niṣṭhā he has to transform himself to jivanmukti. Consciousness is a formless spirit. He has to cast off his ideas of God as having attributes and form. Thus transcending the form is called transform. It is also called jivanmukti. His sanchita karma is burnt up by the flame of knowledge. Agami Karma is avoided. And Prarabdha karma is exhausted without adverse reaction. Once the three karmas are extinguished the body falls and the person is never born again. 

The benefits of jivanmukti all the Punya papa karma are burnt. I had dark colour vision earlier, now I have bright colour. There is no rebirth.



1. Swami Paramarthananda audio

2. Swami Sunirmalanada “Insights into Vedanta-Tattvabodha,” Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai

3. Swami Tejomayananda “Tattvabodha”, Central Chinmaya Mission trust, Mumbai

Go to Part 31 for the bare shlokas...

Contact Dr. Bapat at if you have any comments or questions.


Page last updated: 03-Nov-2017