1 – Tattva Bodha (Knowledge of Truth) – A Comprehensive Introduction to Wisdom of Advaita Vedanta

Summary:

Vedanta is a means of knowledge. Not a philosophy or “School of thought”. Definition of Vedanta (veda + anta). Three texts of Vedanta.  What kind of text is Tattva Bodha?


Tattva Bodha Summary Notes:

  • Tattvabodha is name of text we're going to study. It is preliminary/foundational text of Vedanta.
    • For example:
      • Basic addition/subtraction is foundational to anything related to number calculations.
      • Basic walking is stepping stone to winning a triathlon.
      • Basic words in any language is means to communicating many things. A billionaire knows less then 2% of total language vocabulary. Yet changes lives of millions and successfully conducts transactions.
    • Meaning nothing lasting can get accomplished without first mastering the basics.
    • What use is a house with the best books on life, if it’s bottom foundation (which no one ever thinks about nor sees) is badly planned, thus cracked and sinking – jeopardizing the entire house of knowledge.
  • What does Vedanta mean? It has 2 words: veda & anta. What are they?…

Definition of: Veda

  • Every word has a root/core/essence behind it.
    • EG: Greek root word “archy” (government), makes up:
      • Anarchy: absence of government rule.
      • Monoarchy: state ruled by single government.
      • Hierarchy: government in rank.
  • What is root of word “veda“? √vid: To know / To attain.
      • EG: Vidyā (knowledge) comes from √vid.
      • So “Veda” means: to know (OR) to attain.
      • Formula: Know + attain = That by which we attain knowledge.
  • Additionally, we also have senses/mind-intellect by which we attain knowledge.
      • Senses: Used to perceive the world of sound/sight/taste/etc.
      • Mind: Can give knowledge of inner world, and external world. Limited.
  • If senses, mind & intellect is also means of knowledge, then why do we need Veda? Firstly let’s define function of senses, mind-intellect:
    1. SENSES:
      • What kind of knowledge gives? External.
      • However has limits. EG: Can an eye see mitochondria/nucleus, inside white blood cell? No.
        • What is solution? Use microscope instrument. Gives us knowledge beyond eye’s limits.
        • Thus microscope/telescope called: Exceptional means of knowledge.
          • Because adds another layer of knowledge to our eye-sense, previously unknown.
        • Meaning microscope/telescope are BOSS (supreme authority) in their OWN field.
    2. MIND:
      • What kind of knowledge give? Internal (reference to individual).
      • Meaning it is limited to domain of mind-intellect.
        • EG: Emotions, epiphanies, understandings, etc.
    3. SUMMARY: Senses can perceive external world. Mind can perceive internal world.
        • But what are both restricted to perceiving? Reality which is BEHIND them.
        • What is behind them? To answer “BEHIND”, let’s look at word “Veda”…
  • VEDA: Means of knowledge for BEHIND
    • Veda is an EXCEPTIONAL means of knowledge, which gives knowledge of REALITY which is BEHIND the senses, mind & intellect. Meaning Veda gives knowledge of consciousness which illumines the senses/mind. Consciousness because of which one has a sense of “I AM”.
      • EG: Suppose sight/hearing is lost, does one lose their “I AM” sense?
      • So can senses/mind reveal this “am-ness”? No.
    • Therefore, Veda is an instrument by which am-ness is revealed. It is a guide HOW to discover “I AM” behind the mind/senses.
      • We are NOT talking about:
        1. Body: because body growth hasn't affected your “I AM”.
          • EG: Machine with 4 motors, 2 lights, 1 speaker, CPU. Suppose 1 light breaks. That doesn’t affect electricity.
        2. Mind: because even when mind is forgetful (eg: old age), it does NOT mean “I AM” forgets itself. Because if it did, then who would be left to know, there is forgetfulness in mind.
      • Who is this “I” which is BEHIND senses/body-mind? That is what Veda uncovers.
        • This “I” we’re speaking of, is NOT behind senses/mind because it chooses to be behind, but because it EMPOWERS everything.
          • EG:
            • Electricity is behind the speaker. Battery behind the torch. Both enjoy their function because of that which is “behind” them.
            • Fan thinks it’s doer of spinning hence cooling. Other appliances congratulate it for being so useful. Fan becomes proud! In reality, fan is not the doer. Because it’s dependent on electricity. Neither is electricity doer, because electricity is simply a presence that enlivens the appliance according to appliances body.
        • Meaning, because of “I AM”, everything functions. But we cannot know this “I AM”, because it is BEHIND senses/mind instrument.
    • SUMMARY SO FAR:
      • Vedas is exceptional means of knowledge. Because it gives more then what senses/body-mind can unveil.
      • What does Veda unveil? Reality/truth which is BEHIND everything; Self. Veda gives knowledge of Self.
  • VEDA: Means of knowledge for BEYOND
    • What else does Veda show us? Knowledge which can’t be known through any means, including biology, physics, science, chemistry, etc.
      • For example, Veda shows logically that brain is different from mind (something that biology/science can't necessarily show). Brain is gross, while mind is subtle. Just as computer hardware is gross, while software is subtle. To demonstrate…
        1. Brain is physical and weighs 1.3kg. But how much do thoughts, memories, emotions weight? Thus they're subtle in nature.
        2. Brain is subject to gravity. Thoughts/emotions/desires/memories are not pulled down by gravity as they are not subject to physical laws.
        3. Near-Death experience. Person’s heart stops for minutes. Brain ceases neural-activity. Yet upon resurrection, person reports seeing/hearing doctor's conversations, own body and room.
        4. Brain can be perceived by the physical senses. While mind cannot. Difference implies the two cannot be same order of reality.
        5. Brain structure of people is exactly the same, with minor differences. Yet mind's desires/thoughts/emotions/experiences are vastly different. Thus mind can't be the physical brain.
        6. Hooking up Brain to EEG, will only show parts of electrical activity in brain. So brain/electricity is gross. Won't show subjective experience (like imaginations, desires, etc) person is having.
        7. We can examine our subjective experience, but can't introspect our own brain's physical processes in same way. Demonstrating that mind is different from brain.
        8. One may have physical brain conditions, like dementia, brain injury, memory loss… but one's sense of “I” remains intact. Which indicates distinctness between brain and subtler mind (carrier of “I-sense”).
      • CONCLUSION: Mind is different from the brain/body. Thus the mind survives the death of the body.
    • Examples where Vedas becomes an exceptional means of knowledge for BEYOND:
      1. What happens to individual after fall of body.
      2. Inescapable phenomena of action-reaction. Cause-effect. Law of Karma.
    • DOUBT: How can I PROVE this?
      • ANSWER: One can only know AFTER going through the logic of Vedas. For example…
        • Microscope unveils the existence of mitochondria. Suppose, I refuse to use microscope to find out for myself.
          • Can I discover mitochondria, unless I FIRST use the microscope? No.
          • Meaning, microscope remains the final authority as means-of-knowledge for revealing mitochondria.
          • How long does microscope remain authority? Until I use microscope, and find out for myself.
          • Meaning, microscope doesn't care whether I doubt it’s ability to reveal. It’s my loss.
        • Similarly, Vedas remains authority as means-of-knowledge, to reveal Self. In same way, Veda doesn't care if person rejects it’s authority. It’s person’s loss.
        • Therefore, individual discovers Self by treating Veda as authoritative means-of-knowledge. For how long? Until Self is discovered.
          • Metaphor: Just how science learner needs Guide to show how to use microscope, the spiritual seeker needs teacher to help reveal Self through Veda.
  • SUMMARY SO FAR: Vedas only job is to reveal Self, “I”.
  • Definition of Veda in sanskrit: alaukika viṣaye vedāḥ pramāṇam:
    • Pramāṇam: Means/instrument of knowledge.
    • Viṣaya: area, topic.
    • Alaukika:
      • Laukika: World which is seen by senses/mind.
      • Alaukika: What cannot be seen by senses/mind.
    • Translation: Veda are means of knowledge for all things beyond senses & mind.

Definition of: Anta

  • 2 Meanings:
    1. Inside.  EG: Antaḥ karaṇa (Inner instrument).
    2. Final / end.
  • Veda has 2 portions:
    1. 1st PORTION: Gaining better worlds: Karma-kāṇḍa (Portion dealing with Action).
      • Contains instructions for going to better worlds, with greater pleasures: svarga loka.
      • Because earth is not the only loka in the universe. And it’s mixture of pleasure/sorrow.
        • Ratio of pleasure/sorrow depends on body. EG: Plants/animals have greater sorrow. Less options. We think birds are free, but are fearful.
      • Vedas tells us about 14 lokas and action needed to enter them.
        • 14 lokas are used in Vedas to convey the entire spectrum of Existence, covering all universes/worlds.
        • These 14 lokas are also often referred to as “Three worlds”, “The 3 worlds”, which are:
          • 3 Worlds Model:  bhūḥ (7 lower), bhuvaḥ (earth), suvaḥ (6 higher). Total 14.
          • Names:
            • 6 Higher worlds (from subtle to most-subtle): bhuvaḥ (pitṛ/candra), svarga (heaven), mahaḥ, janaḥ, tapaḥ, satyam (brahmaloka).
            • Middle: bhūḥ (earth). Both gross & subtle.
            • 7 Lower worlds (from gross to most-gross): atala, vitala, sutala, talātala, rasātala, mahātala, pātāla.
            • More about Hindu cosmology and the 14 lokas.
      • Because so many results and actions are possible, karma-kāṇḍa is bulkier then 2nd portion.
    2. 2nd PORTION: Speaks of nature of self: upaniṣads / jñāna-kāṇḍa
      • 1st portion has limitations: It’s results are limited. Because the actions to attain them are limited.
        • EG:
          • How long enjoy holiday? Until money runs out.
          • Similarly, once puṇya money gone, individual returns to Earth.
      • Whereas 2nd portion shows solution to discovering fulfillment which is permanent, limitless and unchanging.
      • Who is 2nd portion for?
        • Seekers who are tired of limited results. Only interested in ONE ULTIMATE RESULT which has no second higher.
        • DOUBT: I don't believe this claim!
          • ANSWER: Must follow logic of Veda in order to discover for yourself. Until then, Veda remains authoritative means-of-knowledge.
      • Meaning 2nd portion delivers ONE limitless result. Hence it’s shorter then 1st portion.
  • COMING BACK TO MEANING OF ANTA: It has 2 meanings…
    • Inside: Meaning Upaniṣads can be found throughout Veda. Beginning, middle, end.
    • Final/end: Meaning, it is the final message of Vedas. Culmination of Veda.
  • Then what is Tattva Bodha?
    • It is a basic text which will help you understand the FINAL message of upaniṣads (spread throughout Veda).

 

Let's revise notes above…

  • We saw what is Veda & Anta.
  • Veda: Exceptional means of knowledge.
    • EG: Microscope exceptional means of knowledge, when attached to eye. In same way, Veda is exceptional means of knowledge, when attached to mind.
    • Exceptional means of knowledge: Alaukika viṣaya – that which does NOT come to knowledge from the senses/mind. Alaukika viṣaya can be beyond OR behind.
      1. Behind:
        • That which is behind senses. Empowers it. The consciousness.
        • Why senses can’t detect/sense Consciousness:
          • If Consciousness comes infront of senses, it becomes an object to senses.
            • Meaning consciousness should have some properties which senses can observe.
              • EG: The only reason why sight can see color/depth/form is because sight itself is colorless/depth-less/formless. In same way, only reason why we can see form, hear sounds, feel sensations, is because consciousness (ātman, Self) itself is formless, soundless, sensation-less, motion-less.
        • Why mind can’t THINK of Consciousness:
          • Mind can only grasp thought concepts, but not Consciousness in which they arise.
            • EG:
              • What is 20 / 5? 4. Thought.
              • Imagine warm sun on skin? Thought.
              • Get sense of having total peace. Thought.
        • Conclusion: Senses/mind can’t apprehend ātman (Self) because ātman is “behind” them.
          • Also, no one can say “I am not consciousness”. Fact is, I AM conscious. Basic self-evident knowledge to all.
        • Called: jñāna-kāṇḍa, or Upaniṣad, or Vedānta.
      2. Beyond:
        • For this, you CAN use sense/mind, but still can’t come to know what Veda is speaking of.
          • EG: What happens to mind AFTER body dies? Veda explains, “Mind inherits new body type according to previous actions”.
          • Speaks about action/results relationship.
          • Called: karma-kāṇḍa.
  • Anta: 2 Meanings:
    1. Inside: Spread throughout. Not limited to one portion.
    2. Final message: Final message of Veda is found in upaniṣads, called: vedānta.
  • SUMMARY: Veda is means of knowledge for karma AND jñānam.

What is origin of Veda?

  • Veda is also called śruti (That which is heard).
    • Meaning, it did not come as “thinking about… then writing”.
    • Thus Veda is a revealed text. Hence “Veda” and “śruti” are synonyms.
    • Śruti came from ṛṣis depths of meditation. Received flash of clarity.
  • WHO is a ṛṣi? ṛṣayaḥ mantra draṣṭāraḥ
    • Draṣṭa: “Those who saw”.  
    • TRANSLATION: Rishi's are seers of mantras.
    • EG: Who is seer of:
      • Gāyatrī mantra? Viśvāmitra.
      • Taittirīya Upaniṣad? Vaiśampāyana.
      • Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad? Yājñavalkya.

About the 2nd Section of Veda (Upanishad or jñāna-kāṇḍa):

  • If Veda is called śruti. Then Upaniṣad section of Veda is called: śruti-prasthāna.
    • Śruti: synonym for Veda.
    • Prasthāna: A means / a vehicle which helps you attain.
    • So what is śruti-prasthāna? Revealed knowledge by which one discovers ātman (Self).
  • 2 more important texts related to Vedanta:
    1. Bhagavad Gītā:
      • Authored by Veda Vyāsa. Why called “Veda” Vyāsa? He took many parts which make up Veda and categorized it into 4. That way it would remain protected.
      • What do mean by “Gītā” is important text of Vedānta?
        • Complete message of all 108 Upaniṣads is presented in a narrative form between Krishna and Arjuna. Thus entire Vedantic picture becomes clear.
          • Meaning Vyasa had knowledge of all Upanishads in order to author Bhagavad Gita.
        • COMPARISON: All Upaniṣads are like cows. And B.Gītā is like milk of ALL the cows.
        • OBJECTION: Would Krishna & Arjuna really speak in B.Gita form? No.
          • It’s a battle field. Can’t keep verses going one after another.
          • In reality, messages were short. But Vyāsa expanded in line with message of Upaniṣads.
      • Therefore Gītā is a reflected text. Meaning, it is thought of according to Upaniṣads, in line with historical event between Krishna/Arjuna.
        • Meaning, Vyāsa was reflecting on Upaniṣads, then expanded Krishna/Arjuna’s conversation.
        • Reflected text: smṛti-prasthāna.
          • Smṛti: Reflected upon.
        • SUMMARY: Vedānta is now Upaniṣads + Bhagavad Gītā.
    2. Brahma-sūtra:
      • Also authored by Veda Vyāsa.
      • Whatever doubts/questions possible in Upaniṣads, he logically answered.
      • Called: nyāya-prasthāna. (Nyāya: Logic)
  • 2 Important figures in Vedanta Tradition:
    • Vyāsa:
      • śruti-prasthāṇa: Compiled the vedas.
      • smṛti-prasthāna: Bhagavad Gītā. Wrote himself.
      • brahma-sūtra: Wrote to clarify śruti.
      • Vyāsa is called sūtra-kāra. Writer of sūtras
    • Adi Shankara:
      • Called: bhāṣya-kāra. Writer of commentaries.
  • Revision of 3 Vedānta texts:
    1. Upaniṣads: śruti-prasthāna. Revealed.
    2. Bhagavad Gītā: smṛti-prasthāna. A past event Reflected upon, in light of Upanishads.
    3. Brahma-sūtra: nyāya-prasthāna. Logic.
  • Since all 3 texts are intended to reveal your Absolute nature, they are called: prasthāna-traya.
    • Each of 3 texts are independently complete. Meaning doesn’t depend on others.
    • Putting 3 texts together is called: śāstra.
  • Is Tattva Bodha a śāstra? No. Because it is not a complete text. Is it a Vedanta text? Yes.
  • Śāstra-granthatext  of Vedānta = Upaniṣads + Bhagavad Gītā + Brahma-sūtra.
  • What TYPE of text is Tattva-Bodha?  Prakaraṇa-grantha. Topical-text. Covers topics of śāstra, so can pursue it in more depth. And contains terminology of common words.
    • Comparison:
      • Śāstra-grantha: Deals with TOTAL knowledge.
      • Prakaraṇa-grantha: Deals with topical knowledge. However purpose of both is liberation.

 

Keywords: acarya, acharya, antah karana, antahkarana, atma, atman, bahih karana, bhuh, buhvah, indriyani, janah, jnana kanda, mahah, mahatala, patala, pramana, rasatala, satchitananda, satcitananda, talatala, tapah, upanisads, upanishads, vedaah, vedanta, vidya, visaye, vishaye, bhuva, pitr, pitri, mahah, janah, tapah, talatala, rasatala, mahatala, patala, alaukika visaya vishaya, atma, atman, bhagavad gita, bhagavat gita, brahma-sutras, brhadaranyaka upanisad, brihdaranyaka upanishad, drastha, gayatri mantra, jnana kanda, jnanam, karma kanda, mantras, moksa, moksha, nyaya-prasthana, prakarana-grantha, prasthana-traya, rishi, rishi meditation, rsaya mantra drastara drashthara, rsi, sastra-grantha, shastra, shruti, shruti prasthana, smriti-prastana, smrti-prasthana, sruti, sruti prastana, upanisad, upanishad, vaisampayana, vaishampayana, veda-vyasa, vedanta, visaya vishaya, vishvamitra visvamitra, yajnavalkya, yogis

 


Credit for help in Tattva Bodha to Chinmaya Mission's Swami Advayananda, and Arsha Vidya's Swami Dayananda.

Recorded 21 May, 2023

 

8 Comments

  1. Tattva Bodha – by Shankara – “knowledge of the truth” of the supreme spirit……

  2. This is AWESOME… So complete beginning with the original sanskrit text and defining each word and interpreting the sentence by structure and words in context….foundational…. And, then the easy-going but sincere style of Andre…great plus, and his method of teaching is to come at complex topics from multiple vantages and with a variety relatable anecdotes and analogies and proper amount of restatement….crystal clear…..SO GOOD. I am retired after teaching in a top-ten US university for 20 years..both graduate and undergrads through the engineering school. I understand teaching and this is top-notch. Hands pressed together,
    bd

      1. Thank you so much for your work, Andre! I have been searching for this guidance for a long time… Hope to participate on your online sessions soon!

  3. Andre, much gratitude. I finally am aware about my samaras and God led me to Vedanta. You were the first teacher I found. Thank you so much for your work. I am forever grateful. I will be starting the course tomorrow.
    Blessings.

  4. Dear Andre
    You must be an ancient Seer to explains these deeper truths with such lucidity. May God bless you dear for creating new light from which we all can benefit so much!

    1. May you be blessed Mohinish. Involves lot of thinking, being vulnerable by exposing my ignorances to my teacher and willing to be corrected over-and-over again, then self-inquiring more from morning to evening for years in light of the Vedic knowledge. Like this, until last breath.

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