12 – Tattva Bodha: Ananda has 2 Definitions & Origin of Ignorance


Discourse 12 looks into two definitions of ananda and which is to be understand, and origins of ignorance (avidya).

Source: Tattva Bodha

Verse: (Intro Verse to What Self is and is NOT)

ātmā kaḥ?
sthūla-sūkṣma-kāraṇa-śarīrād vyatiriktaḥ (distinct from the gross, subtle, causal bodies)
pañca-kośā atītaḥ (…and is beyond the 5 layers of experience).
san avasthā-traya-sākṣī (…is the witness of the 3 states of experience)
sat-cit-ānanda-svarūpaḥ san (whose nature is of Existence-Consciousness-Fullness)
yaḥ tiṣṭhati sa ātmā (…who abides in this way, he is the Self)

The one who is distinct from the gross, subtle and causal bodies, who is beyond the five levels of experience, being the witness of the three states (of experience), that which remains in the form of existence, consciousness and fullness — he (is) the self (atma).

  • Let's continue analyzing the word “ananda” (fullness) in the “sat-cit-ananda” line…
    • ANANDA IS A COGNITIVE KNOWING, NOT AN EXPERIENCE: We started out with giving  Tattva Bodha some context by looking at it as Chapter 2 of Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna was expounding the highest knowledge to Arjuna to help him resolve his dissatisfied, confused and overwhelming state of mind, caused by giving absolute reality to mithya forms (such as the bodies of the Kauravas, grandsire, Bhishma, etc). Krishna was pointing out Arjuna's truth is nityam Brahman (unborn, unchanging, ever-true reality not only of Arjuna but of all of his opponents, and Krishna included). Arjuna's mind wasn't entirely ready to grasp the big vision even after hearing it, so Krishna suggested a practical way to ready his mind via Karma Yoga. In Tattva Bodha sense, the order is reversed. We started out with 6-fold virtues (shamadi shatka sampatti), which are life long practices to continue refining the mind, becoming nobler, relatively-satisfied, discerning and responsible human being. Amidst our care to protect and nourish our mind, Tattva Bodha then proceeds with teaching the highest knowledge, knowing which, let's one appreciate oneself through a cognitive understanding that I am unborn, unchanging and full. Meaning, despite your ongoing challenges to maintain a relatively stress-free and cheerful lifestyle — by cognitive understanding,  “I remain full” while intelligently responding in the empirical world.   Just as one cognitively knows that 1 + 1 = 2, whether one is stressful, joyful, elated, deflated — in that similar manner, I cognitively know that “I am fullness”, no matter what the state of mind or physical body is.
      In fact, in Taittariya Upanishad 2.1, it says, “brahmavid āpnoti param; The knower of Brahman gains the highest [ananda; fullness]”. And in Chandogya Upanishad 7.1.3, it says “ātmavit śokam tarati; The knower of Atma crosses suffering”. Notice, both verses state “knowers”. They don't state  “experiencers of brahman/atma“. This is just one example showing “ananda” word in the “sat-cit-ananda” is not  referring to a momentary “special” experience of bliss/happiness (gained by spiritual experiences, awakenings, kundalini raisings, sacred plants, epiphanies, unexplainable transcendental states, etc) — but a cognitive appreciation that the source of bliss/happiness is arising out of my fullness.
      Furthermore, experiential happiness won't and can't be available all the time because it's taxing on the physical brain to continue releasing endorphins/dopamine/etc — and the mind isn't made to experience only happiness, but a host of emotions that correspond to the needs of the environment. Despite this fact, the wise person (jnani) doesn't hoard after events that will induce happiness in order to appreciate one's nature as fullness (ananda). Even if happiness thought-form is absent; cognitively I acknowledge my fullness. Therefore a wise person's mind is relatively settled, in spite of unsettling life situations. We say “relatively” as not to give a false impression of a mind that's completely indifferent to life circumstances, as implied in pseudo-spiritual circles.
    • 3 URGES: Sat-cit-ananda is expressed in every human being as 3 urges which drive all human behaviour:
      1. sat (existence):
        • “I want to live”. Noone wants to die today, but tomorrow. Even love for children is to perpetuate one's Existence. So it's love for immortality. 
      2. ananda (fullness):
        • Not only “I want to live”, but “I want to live happily”. Although “living” is a more powerful drive then “living happily”.
        • Some commit suicide because in one's loaded and disturbed living; if there's seems to be no hope, for far too long of “living happy” — one may be pushed to the limit of ending one's “miserable living” via suicide.
      3. cit (awareness):
        • I can't stand ignorance! EG: “I have secret to tell you, but only tomorrow”. One gets annoyed because “I want to know!”. Therefore I want to be aware of everything. 
      • Fullness (ananda) is our nature, which is glimpsed by presence of a happy-thought in the mind. Actually any attempt or motivation to experience happiness (whether by relationships, drugs, status, etc) is an attempt to momentarily enjoy one's fullness. And due to ignorance (that I am fullness even if I'm not experiencing sensation of happiness) — one places happiness in objects/time/etc — while life is lived to cope with the uncomfortable fact “I am a mortal, small human being; a dot in this vast universe”. In attempt to cope with this uncomfortable reality, one resorts to life of becoming; temporarily distracting oneself from fear of death and discomfort of smallness. Thus whole pursuit becomes about looking for happiness. Even if I live 50,000 years; it's still a flicker! Death still has the last laugh. Because body (śarīram; that which disintegrates) is made to end. Ignorance of one's fullness also extends to the spiritual world by “becoming spiritual”. Business person is “becoming a CEO for happiness”, while spiritual person is “becoming pure for happiness”.
      • Knowledge alone (like light alone eliminate darkness) can remove the erroneous notion denying self owning up to one's fullness. This is the task of our course Tattva Bodha.
  • Sthūla-sūkṣma-kāraṇa-śarīrād vyatiriktaḥ: Self is distinct from gross, subtle, causal bodies.
    • Notice it says “Self is distinct from gross/subtle/causal body”. Doesn’t say “Gross/subtle/causal body is distinct from Self”.  Just like can’t say table is distinct from wood, because whole of table is wood alone. Wood is not the table. But table is the wood. So if table takes itself as just a table, ignorant of it’s content (satya-wood; the truth of itself) — then it remains small. Whereas wise table understands; despite the seeming table-ness form, I am not bound to this table-form. It's experiences, faults and successes don't define me.
    • Definition of 3 bodies:
      1. Sharira (Body):
        • Literal: body, container.
        • Technical: decaying.
      2. Sthula Sharira (Gross Body):
        • Gross, physical body.
        • That which is known through the senses. Can see our own gross body and  others.
        • Alive/dead body is also sthula-sharira. But what makes the living-body alive? It's blessed by subtle-body (sukshma-sharira). Thus anything that dies (like tree/animal/bug), has a subtle body. Rock doesn't die, as it never had a subtle-body.
        • Gross Body is most dominant in waking state.
      3. Sukshma Sharira (Subtle Body):
        • Invisible to gross body senses of (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin). Because it refers to emoting/cognitive capacity. It has no weight. In short, the mind.
          • EG:
            • One can’t physically smell thought of rose. Can’t see your emotions.
            • Person’s gross body is in the class. But subtle body is elsewhere.
        • Most dominant in dream state.
      4. Karana Sharira (Causal Body):
        • Causal Body is called “ignorance” (avidya), because it is what causes the Subtle & Gross Body. In otherwords, jiva (living being) is caused or born from ignorance. How to prove this? Every jiva (including you) starts out life ignorant of one's nature, of maths, science, walking, talking, etc. You certainly don't come knowledgeable about things, but ignorant about things. So if jiva was born out of ignorance or from ignorance, then next question arises, “When was ignorance born?”. Yes, we can say jiva is born in this lifetime. But can we say ignorance is born in this lifetime only? No! Because if ignorance is born (IE: it comes at a certain point in time, like on June 1984 from which “I was born”), then that either means…
          • Either of these 2 options:
            1. “Ignorance was born out of nothing/void”: This is logically impossible. Because ignorance is always expressed as “I don't know” in reference to something. Since something opposes nothing, this statement is impossible. OR…
            2. “Ignorance was born out of knowledge”: This is logically impossible. Because “knowledge” means “absence of ignorance”. Ignorance can't be born out of absence of ignorance. 
          • Since neither of 2 options above are logically possible, only other explanation is, “Ignorance never started at some point in time. Ignorance was not an event that happened once-upon-a-time”. This doesn't mean ignorance doesn't exist, because it's obvious “I am ignorant of my nature; and that's why I am seeking to know my nature”.  In this context, “ignorance never started” means it is beginningless (anadi). Ignorance was always true for me (the individual).  Therefore, if ignorance is beginningless, and I'm born out of ignorance, then it stands to reason I wasn't born just this life, but since beginningless lifetimes. 
          • OBJECTION: If ignorance is beginningless, then it'll never end! ANSWER: Incorrect. Ignorance is mithya; because in wake of knowledge it ends.
        • Causal Body in…
          • DEEP SLEEP:
            • Causal Body is most dominant in deep sleep, and experienced as “I don't know anything; I don't even know that I don't know”.  In other words, Causal Body (ignorance) is experienced in sleep, where there's no subject to perceive either error or knowledge; there is ignorance of both.
          • WAKING STATE:
            • In waking state, when you say, “I am ignorant about __”, then Self is identifying with Causal Body (ignorance). 
            • The waking state shows us that Self is not the Causal Body (ignorance). How? If Self was ignorance (causal body), then you wouldn't know ignorance as an object. In other words you would never say “I am aware that I have ignorance about ___”. Hence Atma is also free of ignorance (Causal Body).
NEXT SESSION: 3 Bodies & 3 States Relationship
    • Let’s connect 3 bodies to 3 states of experience (waking, dream, deep sleep):
      1. From standpoint of WAKING:
        • There is presence of all 3 bodies. But dominant presence is Gross Body.
        • Meaning you only experience waking state WHEN most identified with Gross Body.
      2. From standpoint of DREAMING:
        • There is no presence of Gross.
        • Little presence of Causal (because it’s responsible for supplying the Subtle with thoughts, which then fill up your dream world).
        • Dominant is Subtle.
      3. From standpoint of DEEP SLEEP:
        • Is there awareness of Gross/Subtle-Body? No.
        • Meaning, there is only Causal Body, because it is the Causal Body which holds your entire life in potential. And this potential will manifest at level of Subtle, either during dream for X-hours OR upon waking for X-hours.
    • Therefore what is ātman? That which is other then the 3 bodies.
NEXT SESSION: 5 Sheaths or Covers
  • Pañca-kośā atītaḥ: Atma transcends the 5 layers of experience:
    • 3-bodies can be known more intimately by using a (5-sheaths) model.
      • 5 levels of experience with which mistake is committed. Becomes a kosha (cover) when mistake “I” for them. They need not be removed. Only known. 
      • 3 bodies produces 5 types of experiences which we mixup with Self. For example experience of being tall, black, white. Experience of being hungry/thirsty/healthy/ill. Of being agitated. Of sense of “mine”. Of being knowledgeable/ignorant.
      • Kosha means a sheath. Sheath means that which covers something. Sheath doesn’t actually cover Self. But when Self is placed into one of the 5, then it, as though, covers.
        • EG: Is water covered by wave? No. But due wave's to constant attention on wave-ness, the water remains unknown, thus it’s as though covered by wave-ness.
        • If take Atma for prana/body/etc, then it becomes a kosha (cover). Thus kosha is only for ignorance. It's sharira for jnani.
    • 5-sheaths:
      1. Gross Body:
        • Food sheath (Annamaya kośa).
          • If “anna” means “food”, what does “maya“? 2 meanings…
            1. Saturation / full-of.
              • This is NOT the definition to apply because it's clear your body is not “full of” carrots/rice/etc.
            2. Modification.
              • This is proper definition to apply. In other words your physical body is nothing but food (anna) which is modified/converted (maya) into calcium, bone, blood, etc.
          • When Atma is identified with the physical body, then it becomes a kosha (cover). IE: The physical body offers itself as locus for committing a mistake. Thus Atma, as though, becomes body, and sub-identity of body (EG: Doctor).  
          • If not identify with, then it's not a kosha, but annamaya-sharira. Kosha is only true for the the ignorant person (ajnani).
      2. Subtle Body(Divided into 3 experiences. At each, a mistake is committed) 
        1. Prana sheath (pranamaya kosha):
          • Physiological functions such as respiration, digestion, circulation, excretion. Don't call prāṇa “Vital air” as sometimes irresponsibly translated.
          • How does prana become a locus for committing a mistake?  In statements like “I am hungry”, or one takes pride or disappointment in one's health. Therefore, if take “I” for prana, then it becomes a kosha for me.
          • Prāṇa is a Vedic model of looking at physiological activities. Can present physiological functions in hundreds of different models, such as: Ayurveda (3 humors; vata, pitta, kapha), Homeopathy, Medical Qigong, etc.
          • How do we know Prana is different from the mind?
            • If mind was unintelligent, then physiological functions would act unintelligently. EG: We can have a low IQ fella, whose prana (immune system) is 5x more resilient to common colds, better at digestion, etc. Whereas prana of scientist is average.
            • Prana is active even while mind is in coma.
            • Prana is active during deep sleep, when mind is absent. 
        2. Mind sheath (manomaya kosha):
          • Capacity of emoting.
          • Capacity of doubting: Like pendulum swinging L-R. Is it THIS way or THAT way? It swings, as long as doubt remains. When doubt becomes a concrete decision, then thought-form mind BECOMES intellect-sheath. That’s why we say to indecisive people “Make up your mind”. Meaning, give the doubting mind some Intellectual material so a firm decision can be made.
        3. Intellect sheath (buddhi or vijnanamaya kosha):
          • Produces sense of Doership. I become a walker/talker. Becomes kosha, because atma assumes actor (karta). 
          • Where data/knowledge/thinking/analysis occurs.
          • Thus all clarity about anything comes from Intellect-sheath.
      3. Causal Body:
        • Bliss Sheath (anandamaya kosha):
          • Anandamaya kosha expresses in different degrees of experiential happiness (either in waking or dream). Anandamaya kosha expresses as:
            • Priya: This is happiness when object is far away, but it's heading your way. EG: We get SMS that our Amazon delivery is on the way. Or idea of eating your favorite dish pops in the mind.
            • Moda: This is happiness when object is in proximity. EG: The food is on the plate. Or delivery man is handing you the package.
            • Pramoda: This is maximum happiness when you are experiencing the object directly. EG: Eating the favorite dish, or the long awaited Amazon package is unwrapped and in your hands.
          • When Self identifies with Anandamaya kosha (various forms of happiness or in gaining fruits of past actions), then Self becomes an enjoyer (bhokta). In other words, even happiness keeps Atma bound.
          • As we stated top of this page, your ananda (fullness) is never modified; it remains eternally full. What seems to modify it is inhibiting factors such as the mind and brain chemistry. That's why the wise person doesn't hoard after anandamaya (experiential happiness), cognitively knowing even if happiness is not present, “I am full”.
          • How do we know deep sleep is a pleasant experience? (a) Nobody would go to sleep if it was a painful experience. (b) Do you feel sad/annoyed when can’t get sleep? Yes. Meaning we all know that deep sleep is delightful. Else nobody would look forward to it.
    • atītaḥ: Means “transcend”. Implies I must forget body, like in sleep of meditation or some special state. The implied meaning of “transcend” is cognitive knowing that despite their presence, I remain free of their conditions. Just as actor knows the role is not “I”.


  1. We have demonstrated you exist (sat) and are aware (cit). This was relatively straightforward. However to say “I am fullness/limitless” (ananda) contradicts our experience. We feel or experience ourselves as limited, and certainly not full. How would you resolve this contradiction?      (HINT: First attempt on your own. Need help? Read top of page.)



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

Recorded 13 Aug, 2023


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