17 – Tattva Bodha: Range of Mistakes In Reference to “I AM” & Wise Use of Sense Organs


Discourse 17 speaks of the 5 faculties that enable perception and 5 faculties that enable action.

Source: Tattva Bodha


Atma (“I”, or Self) is Satyam.

Satyam is an ontological term pointing out an order of reality on which everything else in existence depends on. This “everything else” is called mithya.

So satyam is the final reality — the content of all things in existence. Satyam is Consciousness.

And mithya are objects appearing in Consciousness; have no existence apart from Consciousness, and are nothing but modifications of Consciousness. Just as various silverware with their unique function such as a knife and a fork — all have their existence not apart from the one silver.

Mithya means “that which has no existence apart from something else”.

For example, if you investigate into the make-up of any form — you'll discover it's just forms within forms — until eventually it's not possible to go smaller. Because eventually you arrive to formless space and time. Thus scientists, quantum physicist, astrophysicists have to turn to mathematical equations to continue explaining away space-time mithya.

They are unable to find the “God particle” or discover “theory of everything”, because their models don't have access to the final reality, satyam (Consciousness).  

They are yet to understand that even theories are nothing but concepts in the mind, which further depend on a conscious being, I. 

That's why number of scientists eventually turn to philosophy — recognizing limitations of mathematical equations to explain away the universe, time and space.

However philosophy is also incapable of revealing Consciousness, because philosophy are also concepts in the mind. 

So mithya-objects have changed. But one still remains ignorant of satyam.

Thus the only way to bring in the final reality (satyam) and understand it's relationship to the universe (time-space, objects) — is through the Upanishad texts which are specifically intended for this purpose. As are texts like Tattva Bodha.

Tattva Bodha starts out by stating “I” am the absolute reality (satyam). However one carries erroneous notions of I.  A range of errors are made by attributing the 3 bodies, 3 states and 5-koshas onto I. 

Therefore, Tattva Bodha begins by negating these notions by simply pointing them out.

So far, we have ruled out the Physical and Subtle Body; neither of them are I.

Now let's rule out…


Verse: (What are 5 Faculties of Perception?)

śrotraṁ tvak cakṣuḥ rasanā ghrāṇaṁ iti
śrotrasya digdevatā, tvaco vāyuḥ, cakṣuṣaḥ sūryaḥ,
rasanāyā varuṇaḥ, ghrāṇsya aśvinau,
iti jñānendriya-devatāḥ,
srotrasya viṣayaḥ śabda-grahaṇam, tvaco viṣayaḥ
cakṣuṣo viṣayaḥ rūpa-grahaṇam,
rasanāyā viṣayaḥ rasa-grahaṇam,
ghrāṇasya viṣayaḥ gandha-grahaṇam iti

The five organs of perception are the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose. The presiding deities of the organs of perception are Space of the ears, Air of the skin, the Sun of the eyes, Water of the tongue and the two Aśvini Kumāras of the nose. The fields of experience for the organs of perception are, cognition of sound for the ear; cognition of touch for the skin, cognition of form for the eyes; cognition of taste for the tongue and cognition of smell for the nose.

  • WHAT ARE 5 ORGANS OF PERCEPTION: (śrotraṃ tvak cakṣuḥ rasanā ghrāṇaṃ)
    • The five organs of perception are: the ear (sense of hearing); the skin (sense of touch); the eye (sense of sight); the tongue (sense of taste); the nose (sense of smell).
      • NOTE: These don’t refer to physical instruments such as physical ear, or physical eye. These belong to the Subtle Body, which enable sight and hearing. 
    • One way to show Subtle Body pervades the entire Gross body? External physical touch (which is enabled by the Subtle Body's faculty of touch) is felt all over the body. Subtle-body stops at hair/nails, that’s why your relationship to them are different then other parts of the body.
  • FUNCTION OF EACH ORGAN OF PERCEPTION: (srotrasya viṣayaḥ śabda-grahaṇam, tvaco viṣayaḥ sparśa-grahaṇam, cakṣuṣo viṣayaḥ rūpa-grahaṇam, rasanāyā viṣayaḥ rasa-grahaṇam, ghrāṇasya viṣayaḥ gandha-grahaṇam):
    • The 5 organs of perception have capacity to:
      • To Hear/receive sound (by help of physical ears).
      • To Feel/receive touch (by help of physical skin).
      • To See color/form (by help of physical eyes).
      • To Taste (by help of physical tongue).
      • To Smell/odor (by help of physical nose).
    • Each sense organs can pickup only 1 type of data. So each contributes to 1/5th of the world. EG: Ear picks-up sound. It can’t pickup color/form.
  • PRESIDING DEITIES OF EACH ORGAN OF PERCEPTION: (śrotrasya digdevatā, tvaco vāyuḥ, cakṣuṣaḥ sūryaḥ, rasanāyā varuṇaḥ, ghrāṇsya aśvinau, iti jñānendriya-devatāḥ)
    • This will be explained end of the course. For now, an introduction…
    • Verse says: The presiding deities (devata) of the organs of perception are Space-devata of the ears, Air-devata of the skin, the Sun-devata of the eyes, Water-devata of the tongue and the two Aśvini Kumāras for each nostril of the nose.
    • To explain above, the entire universe is governed by laws/orders because of which things function in particular way.
      • EG:
        • White blood cell is to help fight infections/diseases. It follows an order. And the order is always consistent in every living being.
        • Pancreases behave same in all human beings; they all produce insulin.
    • So when we view the TOTAL intelligence (that's governing the entire universe) — which is assigned to ONE specific function — then we call that TOTAL intelligence a devata (presiding deity). It's a way of emotionally relating to the intelligence, besides intellectually. 
      • EG: White-blood-cell-devata. Sperm-devata (which is able to seek out egg to fertilize). Etc…
    • The Vedas state that entire universe is alive with intelligence; we just don’t see it because all we see is the physical effects — but not the behind-cause.
      • EG:
        • To a bird, a tree is merely a home to rest and edible source of food. Yet tree is a complex, intelligent entity.
        • Your body is home for billions of bacteria. To them, your body is an insentient edible. They don’t know the body is presided over and sustained by an intelligent entity; you. And no matter how intelligent the bacteria, it’ll never completely grasp YOU.
        • Similarly, our limited minds can’t quiet conceive that laws/orders observed in universe are actually presided by intelligent deities. That’s why in Vedas, there are special prayers like āditya-hṛdaya, which is praying to Sun-deity (intelligence presiding over sight). This is known to improve eye-sight.
    • When verse speaks of Sun/Air/Fire — these are only the physical forms of the respective Deities; however Deities SPECIFICALLY refers the intelligence behind the physical forms. For example, verse says Sun-deity is ruler of our sight. The physical Sun provides physical light. Why? Besides to sustain the plant and animal kingdom and maintain seasons — so that human beings can see, survive and therefore evolve. In this manner, “seeing-to-survive-and-evolve” implies intelligence behind the Sun's creation. So praying to the physical sun, you're actually invoking one aspect of TOTAL intelligence.
      • Just as the best bacteria (suppose it has a mind for a moment) is still a spec who will never understand you in whom it resides — in that same manner, our limited minds cannot easily grasp the possibility this universe is very much alive and presided not only by human beings, but living deities.
      • Deities is one of the subject matters where Vedas serve as 6th sense. Reincarnation is another example. Definitively provable? No. Possible? Yes.
    • QUESTION: What is a presiding-deity? One aspect of TOTAL Intelligence.

Verse: (What are 5 Faculties of Action?)

vākpāṇipāda-pāyūpasthānīti pañca-karmendriyāṇi,
vāco devatā vahniḥ, hastayor-indraḥ, pādayor-viṣṇuḥ,
pāyor-mṛtyuḥ, upasthasya prajāpatiḥ,
iti karmendriya-devatāḥ, vāco viṣayaḥ bhāṣaṇam,
pāṇyor-viṣayaḥ vastugrahaṇam, pādayor-viṣayaḥ
gamanam, pāyor-viṣayaḥ malatyāgaḥ,
upasthasya viṣayaḥ ānanda iti

The five organs of action are: speech, hands, legs, anus and the genitals. The presiding deities of the organs of action are: Agni (Fire) of speech, Indra of the hands, Viṣṇu of the legs, Yama of the anus and Prajāpati of the genitals. The function of speech is to speak, that of the hands is to grasp things, of the legs is locomotion, of the anus is the elimination of waste and of the genitals is pleasure (procreation).

  • WHAT ARE 5 ORGANS OF ACTION: (vāk pāṇi pāda-pāyu upasthāni, pañca-karmendriyāṇi)
    • The five organs of action are: the organ of speech, hands, legs, evacuation, procreation.
  • FUNCTION OF EACH ORGAN OF ACTION: (vāco viṣayaḥ bhāṣaṇam, pāṇyor-viṣayaḥ vastugrahaṇam, pādayor-viṣayaḥ gamanam, pāyor-viṣayaḥ malatyāgaḥ, upasthasya viṣayaḥ ānanda)
    • Faculty of:
      • Speech is capacity to speak (expressed through physical tongue/vocals).
      • Hand is capacity to grasp things (expressed through physical hands). Includes: writing, holding, dropping, typing.
      • Feet is capacity of movement (expressed through physical legs). Includes: dancing, kicking, jumping.
      • Evacuation is capacity to eliminate waste from body (expressed through physical anus).
      • Procreation is pleasure for survival of species (expressed through physical genitals).
    • What about in case of amputation: If someone has no legs, but uses arms to walk, what capacity are they using? Capacity of movement (which is assigned to physical legs) — but redirected and expressed through the arms.
  • PRESIDING DEITIES OF EACH ORGAN OF ACTION: (vācaḥ devatā vahniḥ, hastayoḥ-indraḥ, pādayoḥ-viṣṇuḥ, pāyoh-mṛtyuḥ, upasthasya prajāpatiḥ)
    • Deities for:
      • Capacity of speech — is Fire-deity. Speech produces heat. If excess, can burn/hurt. If intelligent, can throw light onto matters. Thus to improve our communication, we pray to Fire-deity.
      • Capacity of healthy evacuation is presided over by Yama-deity. Hence we invoke Yama for healthy kidneys for example.


  1. Everyone knows “I exist”. But one also has notions about the existent I. These notions express in range of mistakes, such as ____.  Complete the sentence and expand into a paragraph(s). Compliment with a metaphor. 
    • EG: “…such as building up one's sense of “I” with education, privilege and background — consequently forming a complex such as need to compare, envy and sense of pride. Or holding back from contributing, afraid of what others will think of me if I share.”



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

Recorded 17 Sept, 2023


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