Who am I? According to Adi Shankara in Tattva Bodha (36)
Who am I According to Adi Shankara in Tattva Bodha: Atman & Anitya-Anatman (36)


Lesson 36 analyzes Tattva Bodha (Knowledge of Reality) verse 2.1/2.2 to answer “Who/What I am NOT?”, and “Who/what I am?”. Both INDIRECT and DIRECT means must be employed for CLARITY in viveka (differentiation between Real & Unreal). Verses summarize Truth of “I” according to Ādi Śaṇkara.

Source: Tattva Bodha

If haven't attended the physical class, then be ready to write. It's process of writing that'll help mind assimilate the knowledge.


  • 2 Categories of śāstra-grantha (scripture-texts):
    1. Prasthāna-traya: another name for śāstra. When we say śāstra (scriptures) in Vedānta, we are specifically referring to: (1) Bhagavad Gītā (2) All Upaniṣad (3) Brahma Sūtra. All 3 (traya) are COMPLETE texts (meaning: dharma-śāstra + mokṣa śāstra). Meaning all 3 teach us (1) how to live a Dharmic/harmonious life on earth (2) How to attain liberation.
    2. Prakaraṇa-grantha: Grantha means “text”. Prakaraṇa means: topical (dealing with one topic of śāstra). Prakaraṇa-grantha goes into DETAIL about only ONE topic of śāstra.
      • Purpose of category 2 is to PREPARE student for category 1. Else category 1 will seem ambiguous, shallow, mysterious, non-nonsensical, unbelievable or boring.
        • Meaning category 2 qualifies (makes one suitable) student for category 1. Just like warm-up makes athletes heart suitable for a 100 meter sprint.
      • Tattva Bodha (text studied in this lesson) is pakaraṇa-grantha. It's author is Ādi Śaṇkara, and is result of extracting terms from Upaniṣads and Bhagavad Gītā and explaining them with precision.
  • ānandamaya-koṣa: same as kāraṇa-śarīra. This is the deep-sleep state. In sleep, every individual experiences the state of wholeness (ānanda). Because the mind and intellect are not functioning in deep sleep, there are no problems.
  • abādhita: opposite to bādhita.
  • anamaya: maya: full of | ana: food.
  • anyat: everything else / other then. IE: tat anyat sarvam mityhā iti: Other then (ātmā satyam), everything else is mithyā
  • ātmabrahmāikya / brahmātmāikya / jīvabrahmāikya: Aikya means “same”. All 3 mean same, despite putting words in different order. Truth of Ātma and Truth of Brahman are the SAME.
  • anātma/anitya: Both means the same. bādhita.
  • atītaḥ: beyond/behind.
  • avasthā: state. avasthā-traya: 3 states
  • bādhita: That which can be falsified/negated/ended upon knowledge of it's ACTUAL Truth.
    • EG: Snake ends when the Truth of snake is known; being the Rope. Similarly, until truth of Body-Mind-Intellect (BMI) is known to be Ātma, the BMI will remain as the absolute truth for the ignorant Jīva. Just like the snake remains as the absolute truth… until the snake is falsified by Knowledge.
      When one is exposed to Vedānta pramaṇa (means of knowledge), it's as good as gradually removing the snake. It's not an overnight process, because jīva literally saw the snake for indefinite lifetimes.
      This is why mokṣa (where one doesn't even see an atom of a snake left over the rope), actually requires full time effort. A sincere aspirant should be joyed by this statement. Be immersed in śāstra, listen to the teacher(s), and eventual total snake removal is guaranteed. There's literally no other way around it. (At least it's 10,000x faster then investing lifetimes in Buddhist monasteries denying one's natural desires). Cheer up!  😀
  • CLARITY: gained by classification > leading to > understanding/clarity of subject matter. EG: Visitor has immediate clarity of library and directions – only because of it's bookshelf classification/categorization system. Clarity empowers the individual.
    • Categorization/classification does not rob/restrict spontaneity. Just like road rules (nothing but a system of classification of roads/signs/intersections/traffic lights) only provide spontaneity for drivers… thus CLARITY of where-I'm-going.
    • Opposite to Clarity is Overwhelm. Overwhelm is LACK of classification of thoughts regarding subject matter. Overwhelm dis-empowers he individual.
      • EG: One feels overwhelmed about life-in-general because thoughts about “life-in-general” lack classification. For example, needs of work/survival is mixed with needs of relationships/intimacy. Relationships are mixed with recreation. Recreation mixed with alone time. Alone time mixed with duties. Duties mixed with studies. Etc.
        • CAUTION: There is a difference between unintelligent spontaneity and intelligent spontaneity. EG: Drunk person is unintelligently spontaneous. While person whose taken time and effort to classify one's thoughts by means of viveka, is able to act spontaneous in an intelligent/educated manner.
          • Unintelligent Spontaneity: Claiming “spontaneity is heart, and classification is head”, while acting on bases of selfish needs of “Do what feel good right NOW!”. Meaning it's acted upon by partial knowledge. This is called Path of Preyas (Path of Pleasant).
          • Intelligent Spontaneity: Acting on bases of viveka (differentiation/classification). Meaning one's educated intellect and nourished emotional system is engaged, thus is able to make spontaneous choices that bring harmony to oneself and the environment. This is called: Path of Śreyas (Path of Good).
  • kāraṇa: That which causes __. EG: 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen atom is a kāraṇa for ONE water molecule. Cause.
  • koṣa: pocket, container. That which keeps and hides what it keeps.
  • manomaya: Mind
  • padārtha: object (IE: anātma/anitya)
  • pañca: five.
  • prāṇamaya: Energies. What kind of energies? Ones that maintain 3 bodies (śarira-traya) breathing/digesting/excretion/circulation functions. When prāṇa leaves, that exact moment “body” takes new name: corpse
  • sākṣī: Witness, that which illumines, watcher.
  • sthūla: gross, physical, can be known/visible to senses.
  • sūkṣma: So small/minute that it can't be perceived/known/visible to senses. Hence it's nature is: subtle.
  • svarūpa-lakṣaṇa: svarūpa means Direct. lakṣaṇa means: Definition. So Direct Definition (to directly explain) sugar, we say “sweet”. To directly explain “fire”, we say “hot”. svarūpa-lakṣaṇa of Ātmā is: sat-cit-ānanda (Existence-Consciousness-Wholeness/Limitlessness).
  • Tattva: Reality (Known and unknown. Perceived and hidden. Real and unreal. Satya & Mithyā. Meaning: nothing is excluded from word “Tattva”).
  • taṭastha-lakṣaṇa: Indirect definition. Many concepts can't be described with svarūpa-lakṣaṇa. For example, how does one DIRECTLY describe “happiness”? Impossible! All words would fail and be relative.
    • Only way is to resort to taṭastha-lakṣaṇa: Happiness is when you go to sleep. OR Happiness is hearing from the doctor that your child has survived the major cancer operation, and is healthy!
    • I didn't tell you anything about Happiness directly. You were guided by appropriate words/example in order to discover DIRECTLY for yourself. Advaita Vedānta teacher makes intelligent use of svarūpa/taṭastha-lakṣaṇa by means of examples/words to help dissolve aspirants false notions of reality.
  • vijñānamaya-koṣa: koṣa which keeps the Intellect (buddhi).
  • Viveka: √vic: differentiate/clarity.

  • Tattva Bodha verse used in class to answer “Who I am and who I am NOT”…

tattva bodha - verse 2



  • Class test to be completed in 20 min, right after watching video above.


Keywords: abadhita, advaita vedanta, anandamaya kosha, atita, atitah, atma, atmabrahmaikya, avastha, badhita, bhagavad gita, brahma sutra, jivabrahmaikya, karana, karana sharira, kosa, kosha, lakshana, mithya, padartha, panca, pancha, Prakarana grantha, pramana, pranamaya, prasthana traya, preyah, sakshi, saksi, sarira, sastra, shastra, shreya, sreyas, sthula, sukshma, suksma, svarupa laksana, tatastha laksana, upanishad, vijnanamaya

Credit to Swami Advayananda (senior āchārya at Chinamaya Int. Foundation) whose style of word-for-word Sanskrit analysis has been utilized in this session.

Recorded 12 Feb, 2019


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