Monday, April 23, 2012



The three basic texts in VedaAnta studies are the Brahma-sootras, Upanishads and Bhagavadgeetaa, called Prasthaana Trayi. Brahmasootra is the most difficult of the three to understand without the explanation of Adi Sankaraacharya and others. Even the other two texts would be difficult to comprehend without understanding the basic Vedic terms which cannot be found in Sanskrit dictionaries. Tattva Bodha by Adisankaraachaarya is a basic text called Praakarana Grantha which gives definitions to various Vedic terms which are essential to know before studying various scriptures like Upanishads, Vedas and Bhagavadgeetaa. Tattva Bodha is written in a simple question and answer style. These answers help in understanding various discourses on Vedanta as they contain essence of Vedaantic terminology and basic philosophy to expound Brahman, the Supreme Principle and seek liberation for eternal bliss. It helps the study of other Vedaantic texts.
The main topics covered in the above texts for spiritual evolution are Yoga Sastra, Dharma and Brahman. Dharma means the laws governing the individual Self called Jeevaatma and the creator who is Easwara and their inter relationship as well as Laws Karma that binds every human being. Brahman is the Knowledge of ultimate Truth. Tattva also means this Truth and Bodha is its Knowledge (Jnaana).
For those of us who have missed early education in Vedas and major Upanishads, it will not be too late to start with, reading and understanding Tattva Bodha, Aaatma Bodha, Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishad (MNU) and Bhagvadgeetaa. Major Upanishads are those on which exhaustive explanation has been given by great philosophers like Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhwa and others. MNU explains who Brahman is, how to do Brahmopaasana (meditation on Brahman) and what the means to Liberation are. One can walk through Vedas if one studies MNU as it contains all essential Vedic Mantras. Bhagavdgeetaa reflects the teachings from all Upanishads. Atma Bodha teaches us the basics in understanding of Self and Tattava Bodha is the basic document to understand Vedaantic terms with explanation by none other than Sankaracharya the Guru of all Gurus. In this discourse attempt has been made to give definitions for basic Vedantic terms with simple explanation for quick reference as a guide to those engaged in Vedantic studies.
What is Tattva-Bodha?
Knowledge of Truth (Supreme Principle/Brahman/Aatman)
What is Truth in Vedanta?
"Brahma satyam jagat mithyam" says Vedanta. Supreme Principle (Brahman or Self) alone is Truth. All else including the world we live in is Illusion. Self is real and all others are unreal.

What is Self?
  1. It is that which is other than Gross (Bhoota), Subtle (Sookshma) and Casual (kaarana) bodies that constitutes a human being. That which is beyond five sheaths that constitute human being: The Food sheath—physical functions (Annamaya Kosa); The Vital Airs Sheath (Praanamaya Kosa); The Mental Sheath—emotional projections (Manomaya Kosa); The Intellectual Sheath (Vijnaanamaya Kosa)—the faculty by which one is conscious of one's knowledge and accomplishments; The Bliss Sheath—when one is ignorant of his surroundings and feels no pleasure or pain (Aanandamaya Kosa); the deep sleep state.

  2. That which is beyond three states of Consciousness: A) Waking State (Jagat; Jaagriti; Awastha)—sense objects are perceived through sense organs; B) Dream State (Svapna Avastha); C) Deep Sleep State (Sushupti Avastha)
A) The self identifying with the gross body is called Visva (Waking State); B) the Self identifying with subtle body is called Taijasa or shining one (Dream State); C) the self identifying with casual body is called Praajna (Deep-sleep State) or almost ignorant --We know nothing here because the mind instrument of knowledge is absent momentarily. We are also free from limitations and so it is called Bliss State.

  1. It is of the nature of Existance (Sat), Consciousness (Chit), and Bliss (Aananda)
What is Sat?
Sat is Existance—that which is eternal; remains unchanged in the past, the present and the future. It does not depend on anything for its existence.
What is Chit?
Chit is Consciousness--it is of the nature of absolute Knowledge about the Supreme Principle.
What is Aananda?
Aananda is Bliss (also called limitlessness) . It is of the nature of absolute happiness differentiated from the temporary happiness we experience in life which is ever fluctuating or changing. Bhagavadgeeta calls pleasures of the world as Preyas while calls absolute happiness as Sreyas.
What four-fold pre-requisites are needed to focus on Liberation?
We need four-fold qualifications to focus on Liberation. These are: 1) to discriminate between the permanent and the non-permanent (Viveka)—Nitya Anitya Vastu; capacity to discriminate between the eternal andephemeral 2) Dispassion--Absence of desire in this world as well as heaven to enjoy fruits of action. (Vairaagya) 3) The six-fold wealth: a) control of mastery of the mind (Sama); b) control of sense organs like eye, tongue, ear etc (dama); c) strict observance of one's moral duty, individual dharma (uparama). It is the state of mind and senses that has withdrawn from reveling in world objects; d) Endurance of heat and cold, pain and pleasure etc.--forbearance. (titiksha); e) faith in self, Guru, as well as scriptures (sraddhaa; f) steadfastness of the mind and single pointed mind (samaadhaana) 4) Desire for Liberation (mumukshatva).


What is Gross body?
Gross body is made up of five great elements air, water, fire, space and earth that have undergone grossification. It is similar to the universe in its make-up. Gross body undergoes six modifications: formation into being; birth; growth; maturity; decay; and death. The gross body is the one perceived by us through our senses.
What is subtle body?
Subtle body is made up of five great elements (Pancha Bhootas) before grossification born of the good actions of the past, the instrument of the experience of joy, sorrow etc. They constitute five sense organs of perception, five organs of action, five vital airs, mind and intellect.
Five sense organs are organs of perception consisting of ear, skin, eye, tongue and nose.
Five organs of action are organs of speech, hands, legs, anus and the genital organ.
Five vital airs are Pancha Praanaas consisting of Praana (power of respiration), Apaana (power of evacuation), Udaana (power in the body to reject unwanted materials); Udaana expels subtle body from the gross body at the time of death, Vyaana (Power of circulation) and Samaana Power of assimilation).
The subtle body cannot be perceived by the senses but known to each one of us--I know I am hungry while others may not, unless I give expression to it.
What is Casual body?
Casual body is the subtlest among the three bodies and pervades the gross and subtle bodies. It is inexplicable, beginning-less in the form of ignorance, ignorant of one's own true nature and free from duality. The casual body is the seat of all our inherent tendencies which are the cause of other two bodies. It is the cause of subtle and gross bodies. We often hear I slept like a log of wood. Casual body is responsible for this state of bliss which an individual feels in the waking state. The body in that state feels no pleasure or pain and is indifferent to all activities.
What are the three aspects of life?
The Individual (Jeeva), the World (Jagat) and Easwara (Creator)
What is Universe?
Universe is Macrocosm while individual is Microcosm, both constituting five elements. The cause for their creation is called Easwara. Universe is born out of Maaya.
What are the twenty-four factors that constitute the world?
Five organs of Perception + Five organs of Action + Five Vital Forces + Five Great Elements + Mind + Intellect + Ego + Memory


What is Maayaa (Illusion)?
That which is not but yet appears to be: for example--Rope seen as a snake. Maayaa is of the nature of three qualities (gunas): Truth or Knowledge (Sattva); Rajas Activity (Rajas); Inertia (Tamas).
When Self operates Maayaa and produces the apparent Reality we call that World. We then call that Self as God or Creator.
When Self identifies with Maaya or three bodies of Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) it is called Jeeva.
How are the five great elements evolved?
From Maaya space was born; from space air was born; from air fire was born; from fire water was born; from water earth was born.
  1. From the total Sattvic aspect of five great elements mind, intellect, ego and memory are formed.
  2. From the total Rajasic aspect of five great elements the gross five vital airs are formed.
  3. From the total Taamasic aspect of five great elements five gross elements are formed.
How the grossification of five elements takes place?
Gross Space is formed by the combination of Taamasic aspect of subtle elements: ½ Space + 1/8 Air + 1/8 Fire + 1/8 Water + 1/8 Earth
Gross Air is formed by the combination of Taamasic aspect of subtle elements: ½ Air + 1/8 Space + 1/8 Fire + 1/8 Water + 1/8Earth
Gross Fire is formed by the combination of Taamasic aspect of subtle elements: ½ Fire + 1/8 Space + 1/8 Air + 1/8 Water + 1/8 Earth.
Gross Water is formed by the combination of Taamasic aspect of subtle elements: ½ Water + 1/8 Water + 1/8 Space + 1/8 Air + 1/8 Fire + 1/8 Earth.
Gross Earth is formed by the combination of Taamasic aspect of subtle elements: ½ Earth + 1/8 Earth + 1/8 Space + 1/8 Air + 1/8 Fire + 1/8 Water.
What is Pindaanda and what is Brahmaanda?
Pindaanda is individual grossbody; Brahmaanda is the total gross body. The individual gross body is part of the total gross body. Pindaanda is microcosm. Brahmaanda is macrocosm.

What is Jeeva?
The reflection of Supreme Principle (Brahman) which identifies with the gross body, mind, sense organs with ignorance is called Jeeva. When Self identifies with three Gunas it is called Jeeva.
Who is Easwara?
The Self when conditioned by Maayaa is called Easwara.
What are the three types of Karmas?
Aagaamee Karma (coming forth in the future)—the results of the actions performed by the body of the realized soul (Jnaani) after the dawn of knowledge.
Saanchita Karma (Accumulated Karma)—The results of action performed in all previous births which are in seed form which may or may not be exhausted in the present birth.
Praarabhda Karma (Karma for the present life from Saanchita)—the actions which give results in the very world, that have to be gone through in the present life.
[Actions can be beneficial or detrimental]
Who is Jeevan-muktah?
One who is liberated while living; in whom the vision of the Truth is born in all beings.
He is one a) who has realized that the Self is limitless; b) who has realized that Self and the World are not different; c) who has the vision he is the Self and not a separate individual.
What is Tat-tvam–asi?
That you are: That Truth alone are You. (Tat=Truth; tvam=you; asi=alone are).
What is Mumuksatva?
It is the burning desire for Liberation of Jeeva from repeated births and deaths.
What is
Total gross body of the universe
What is Pindaanda
Individual gross body