Who am I? According to Adi Shankara in Tattva Bodha (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 pramāṇa (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.
  • Svarupa vs Tatastha Lakshana:
    • svarūpa-lakṣaṇa:  Intrinsic nature of a thing. So intrinsic nature of sugar is sweet.  Or fire, is hot. Of Atma is sat-cit-ānanda (Existence-Consciousness-Wholeness/Limitlessness).
    • taṭastha-lakṣaṇa:
      • Incidental nature of a thing.  For example, stove heats the pan, and pan heats the water. The water's hotness is not svarupa-lakshana, but tatastha-lakshana (in other words, the water's hotness is incidental or borrowed from the stove).
      • NOTE:taṭastha-lakṣaṇa” may have been translated in the video as “indirect definition or implied meaning”. This is incorrect. As “indirect definition or implied meaning” is an entirely different word, “lakṣyārtha“. For example, how does one DIRECTLY describe “happiness”? Impossible! All words would fail and be relative.  Only way is to resort to lakṣyārtha: “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. 
  • Tattva: Reality (Known and unknown. Perceived and hidden. Real and unreal. Satya & Mithyā. Meaning: nothing is excluded from word “Tattva”).
  • 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



  1. 1. Tattva = reality
    2. Viveka = discriminate
    3.Purpose of tattva viveka= to define/clarify what is reality
    4. Clarity is established through process of definition and classification
    5. Consciousness at Microcosmic level = Atman
    6. Consciouness at Macrocosmic level = Brahman
    7. “It can be falsified/negated/ended by knowledge” = badhita = unreal that which changes = Mithya ( the snake is ended by knowledge of the rope)
    8. What is abādhita? = That which cannot be negated /made false by knowledge (direct or indirect)
    9.What is ātma NOT? = Atma is NOT BMI ( body – mind- intellect)
    10.True / False
    a. Ātma is thoughts. = F
    b. Ātma is memories.= F
    c. Ātma is epiphanies. = F
    d. Ātma is born. = F
    e. Ātma is = Ātma is the ungraspable,
    unverbalized, non-interfering Awareness behind the “I AM”
    f. Ātma is = Ātma is the knower of the silence
    g. “I am bored”. Is Ātma bored (OR) BMI is bored? = BMI is bored
    h. “I am afraid to die”. Is Ātma afraid (OR) Ātma is aware of ahaṃ
    kāra experiencing fear, owning to BMI’s activity? = Atma is aware of ahamkara (ego) experiencing fear due to BMI activity.
    11.What are the 3 states (avasthā traya)? Waking , dreaming, and deep sleep.
    12. Define: sākṣī = sākṣī is watcher/illuminator of the 3 states.
    13.Satcidānanda is svarūpa-lakṣaṇa (OR) taṭastha-lakṣaṇa ? = Satcidānanda is svarūpa-lakṣaṇa ( Direct definition of existence/consciouness/bliss)

    My favorite part of the teaching is the classification of Tattva as microcosmic/individual ( Atman) and macrocosmic/world( Brahman) .
    QUESTION: Can we say that Jugut is to Brahman what BMI is to Atman ?

    1. “QUESTION: Can we say that jagat is to Brahman what BMI is to Atman ?” > No. Keep them in their own place. BMI refers to a sentient entity. Jagat (world) can refer to both sentient and insentient.

  2. “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.”
    Andre,I find it hard to report that this is my experience.
    Because the mind and intellect are not functioning,I am not aware that my awareness is functioning.
    Therefore, how do I experience a state of wholeness if I am not consciously aware of it?
    I feel that I might be a difficult student ?‍?

    1. =====
      Therefore, how do I experience a state of wholeness if I am not consciously aware of it?

      Statement doesn’t apply during sleep. During sleep, there nothing. It’s total ignorance. No subject-object. Just blank. This is universal experience of all.

      However, you have to go one step further and make an inquiry from waking state…

      Are you scared of going to sleep? No. So obviously there is knowledge that “I won’t go out of existence” during sleep.

      In fact, we can hardly wait to go to sleep! Why? Because there is no body-mind. Hence “I” is released from all problems (since all problems are associated to body-mind).

      However because deep sleep also veils the “I”, it’s the reason why “I am not there experiencing wholeness as myself”.

      But nonone can deny that we all GLADLY look forward to sleep.

      1. Hi Andre,

        I have read the above texts several times. I have a question for you.

        Is life, after the death of the gross body, the same as that which we live in deep sleep?
        Is the experience of deep sleep the same as that of the Brahman? I guess there is a difference, maybe there are ego traces in deep sleep, after all deep sleep is a Kosha, not a pure Atman.

        “I” Consciousness is present in Deep Sleep, but there are no objects OBJECTING to Consciousness, does this mean that there is no difference between Ananda in Deep Sleep (Ananda Maya Kosha) and Ananda in Atman (which is SATH CHIT ANANDA).

        Thank you for your answer.

        1. ===============
          Is life, after the death of the gross body, the same as that which we live in deep sleep?
          Is the experience of deep sleep the same as that of the Brahman? I guess there is a difference, maybe there are ego traces in deep sleep, after all deep sleep is a Kosha, not a pure Atman.

          Life after death is not same as deep sleep. In deep sleep, one’s mind has temporarily resolved. No life, no sense of I. Whereas after death, the jiva is even more alert then now (as reported by hundreds of case studies with those whose heart completely stopped for minutes and were revived), carrying the exact same sense of I as when wearing gross body. Memories only erase when jiva takes on new physical body.

          “I” Consciousness is present in Deep Sleep, but there are no objects OBJECTING to Consciousness, does this mean that there is no difference between Ananda in Deep Sleep (Ananda Maya Kosha) and Ananda in Atman (which is SATH CHIT ANANDA).

          Consciousness is present everywhere, all the time. It is known to everyone as self-evident “I am”. It is illumining Andre’s subtle-body right now. Therefore “I” (refers to Consciousness) am aware of Andre.

          The same consciousness is equally illumining Nicholas’ subtle-body right now. Therefore “I” (refers to Consciousness) am aware of Nicholas.

          When Nicholas goes to sleep, his Subtle-body is temporarily resolved. Like the whole blueprint of a complex tree with branches, intelligence of photosynthesis, intelligence how to make fruits… all of that is suspended inside a seed. If you crush the seed, can’t find the tree, but it’s in there as potential.

          Similarly, subtle-body-called-Nicholas is like a tree inside a seed (Causal Body), during deep sleep.

          Why is there no experience? Because even though I (refers to Consciousness) am shining and illumining the minds of those who are aware… because subtle-body-called-Nicholas is nowhere in sight, there is no experience from Nicholas’ standpoint.

          However this “no experience” is not ānanda (stated in sat-cit-ānanda). Ānanda means without a second (no divisions, advaita) – and will be covered multiple times in the course.

          Rather, in deep sleep there’s neither knowledge of who I am, nor ignorance of who I am. You are neither liberated, nor ignorant.

          Deep sleep is a very unique phenomena. Vedanta does use it as an example of what non-duality is like (as there’s no subject/object split in deep sleep). But it’s only an example, no more, no less.

          SUMMARY: We use tool like deep sleep as examples, not as absolutes. Thus can’t say, “there’s no difference between ananda and deep sleep”. That’s why Vedanta employs many examples. Each one helps you grasp the reality a little more.

  3. Andre.
    At about the 1hour17 minute mark of your talk Martin said “ isn’t Atman the knower, the knowledge and the known”.
    You asked where he had got this from and indicated that it was not the case.

    In Dayananda Book 4 bottom of page 255 and top of page 256 he says
    “ because the knower is yourself, knowledge is yourself, and the object of knowledge is also yourself “.

    Is this self that is being referred to not Atman?


    1. While we’re talking about discriminating the [1] knower (atma), [2] knowledge and [3] known (object) – they are strictly different.

      Only once teacher recognizes that 3 have been sufficiently grasped by majority, then one can safely say “Actually, they’re all atma”.

      Just like when sometimes I bring topic of higher understanding in class with my teacher, the teacher will dismiss it infront of everyone (even embarrassing me), simply because not everyone is on the same page. Yet the next session, the teacher will say exactly the same what was dismissed only in last session.

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