2 – Tattva Bodha (Intro to Vedanta): Origin of Vedas & Anubandha-chatushtaya


Discourse 2 speaks of Vedas origin. If they're not from the mind, how did they come? What is role of Bhagavad Gita and Brahma-Sutra, in Vedanta? What type of text is Tattva Bodha? Importance of mangalacarana; means to doing anything in best possible way. Text is for mumuksu; one desirous of liberation (moksha). And anubandha-chatushtaya (4 considerations before entering any text).

Source: Tattva Bodha (by Adi Shankara)


  • 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.
      • Behind:
        • That which is behind senses. Empowers it. The consciousness.
        • Why senses can’t detect/sense ātman:
          • 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) itself is formless, soundless, sensation-less, motion-less.
            • But ātman is formless (no properties), so eyes can’t see, ears can’t hear.
        • Why mind can’t THINK of ātman:
          • Mind can only grasp thought concepts, but not ātman 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 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.
        • Thus Veda reveals THAT which is behind. Which enlivens everything. Makes everything function.
        • Called: jñāna-kāṇḍa, or Upaniṣad, or Vedānta.
      • Beyond:
        • For this, you CAN use sense/mind, but still can’t come to know what Veda
          • 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.


Discourse 2 begins:

What is origin of Veda?

  • Veda (both karma & jñāna-kāṇḍa) 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.
    • COMPARING “flash of clarity” between common man & ṛṣi:
      • Common man:
        • Gets flash of insight. Except insight pertains to worldly-knowledge.
        • PROCESS: Gets understanding as flash of insight. Then re-creates understanding close as possible, in native language.
          • EG: Newton observed 2 objects interacting, and to explain, created word/concept “gravity”. Mozart saw entire symphony in dream, recreated upon waking. Einstein through trial-error, devises E=MC2. Ramanujan “sees” complex mathematical equations.
      • Ṛṣi:
        • PROCESS: Got flash of understanding, which came in form of mantrās. Then wrote down exactly as seen/heard.
        • Meaning: No commentaries, or thinking about them before writing down.
  • WHO is a ṛṣi? ṛṣayaḥ mantra draṣṭāraḥ
    • Draṣṭa: Those who saw.
      • Meaning they didn’t think it themselves.
      • That’s why Vedas are “revealed texts”.
    • TRANSLATION: Ṛṣi’s are seers of mantrās.
      • That’s why ṛṣi English translation is: Seer.
    • EG: Who is seer of:
      • Gāyatrī mantra? Viśvāmitra.
      • Taittirīya Upaniṣad? Vaiśampāyana.
      • Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad? Yājñavalkya.


Now let’s go specifically to jñāna-kāṇḍa section:

  • If Veda is called śruti. Then Upaniṣad section of Veda is called: śruti-prasthāna.
    • Śruti: synonym for Veda.
    • Prasthāna: Something which takes you. Enables one to walk / attain.
    • So what is śruti-prasthāna? Revealed knowledge by which one discovers ātman.
  • 2 more important texts related to Vedānta:
    • 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.
      • So who put Upaniṣads in certain way throughout Vedas? Vyāsa.
      • 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 Vedāntic picture becomes clear.
          • Meaning Vyāsa had knowledge of all Upaniṣads in order to author Gītā.
        • COMPARISON: All Upaniṣads are like cows. And Gītā is like milk of ALL the cows.
        • OBJECTION: Would Krishna & Arjuna really speak in Gītā form? No.
          • It’s a battle field. Can’t keep ślokās 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.
        • SUMMARY: Vedānta is now Upaniṣads + Bhagavad Gītā.
    • Brahma-sūtra:
      • Also authored by Veda Vyāsa.
      • Whatever doubts/questions possible in Upaniṣads, he logically answered.
      • Called: nyāya-prasthāna. (nyāya: Logic)
    • Revision of 3 Vedānta texts:
      • Upaniṣads: śruti-prasthāna.
      • Bhagavad Gītā: smṛti-prasthāna.
      • Brahma-sūtra: nyāya-prasthāna.
  • Since all 3 texts are intended to reveal the self (purpose of Vedānta), they are called: prasthāna-traya.
    • Meaning, journey to self is ENABLED by these 3 texts.
    • Each of 3 texts are 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 Vedānta text? Yes.
  • Śāstra-grantha (text) of Vedānta = Upaniṣads + Bhagavad Gītā + Brahma-sūtra.
  • What TYPE of text is Tattva-Bodha?
    • Prakaraṇa-grantha.
      • Prakaraṇa: Topic.
      • Meaning: Deals with a specific topic.
    • Comparison:
      • Śāstra-grantha: Deals with TOTAL knowledge.
      • Prakaraṇa-grantha: Deals with topical knowledge.
    • What topic Tattva Bodha gives?
      • Most important śāstric revelations/teachings.
      • Purpose? To help students enter śāstra-grantha, masters have written prakaraṇa-grantha (like Tattva Bodha).


Entry into Tattva Bodha text: Invocation

  • Author: Ādi Śaṅkara. Written commentaries on all śāstra-granthās (3 texts). He knows all Vedānta.
    • When great ṛṣi like Ādi Śaṅkara writes, they think of future generations.
  • Usually a text begins with an invocation: maṅgala ācaraṇa.
    • Maṅgala: auspiciousness.
    • Ācaraṇa: Performing / doing / conduct.
    • Meaning: Offering or performing an auspicious act. Invoking auspiciousness.
      • Does NOT mean “prayer” (stuti).
  • Why author performs auspicious act? Instead of immediately writing/speaking?
    • Invokes Lord. Thereon, one becomes instrument for the Lord. Drops selfish thoughts “I am writing from my experience” > “Lord I seek your blessings so something useful comes for all”.
      • LOGIC: Lord is manifestor of entire universe. Whatever talent I have is not mine. It belongs to Him.
    • Whatever is done with maṅgalācaraṇa, is done with full completion. Because subjectivity is not interfering.
      • EG: Suppose close eyes and sing. Forget yourself in singing. Then open eyes and see people watching. Quality reduces.
    • Therefore, to do anything BEST: Forget yourself.
      • How forget? maṅgala ācaraṇa: I am only an instrument and not a doer.


Maṅgalācaraṇa begins:

Vāsudevendra-yogīndraṁ natvā jñāna-pradam gurum,
mumukṣūṇaṁ hitārthāya tattva-bodha abhidhīyate

Having saluted Vāsudevendra, the foremost of the yogins, the guru who gives knowledge, Tattvabodha, the knowledge of the truth is presented for the benefit of those desirous of liberation.


  • Natvā: Having prostrated.
    • Meaning first offer myself. To whom?
  • Vāsudevendra-yogīndraṁ:
    • Vāsudeva: Lord Krishna. Son of Vāsudeva.
      • Why invoking Krishna? Because it was Lord himself who gave message of Vedānta.
      • He could invoke any Lord, but specifically Śankara remembers Krishna.
    • Vāsudevendra: He is Lord of all gods. He is avatāra representing ultimate Truth.
    • Yogi indraṁ: You are the highest of all yogīs.
      • Not ordinary yogī with siddhis, but one established in highest Truth (ātman).
    • CONCLUSION: In you, I surrender.
  • jñāna-pradam gurum:
    • Guru (ācārya) who bestows knowledge.
    • Meaning: After prostrating to the guru, let me be an instrument to the knowledge which guru May I not mingle with it.
      • Every guru (including Krishna) has a personality. If appeals to student, will choose that guru.
        • Adi Shankara chose Krishna.
        • Point is: all gurus represent one SAME Reality.
  • mumukṣūṇāṁ hitārthāya tattva-bodhaḥ abhidhīyate:
    • FOR WHOM: mumukṣu: (For those) desirous for liberation (mokṣa).
    • PURPOSE: hitārthāya: to help them (get liberation).
    • FOR THIS REASON: tattva-bodha abhidhīyate:
      • Tattva: Reality.
      • Bodha: Knowledge.
      • Tattva-Bodha is expounded/taught.
  • TRANSLATION OF VERSE: After offering my salutations to Guru, Tattva-Bodha (knowledge of reality) is expounded to those who seek liberation.


Qualifications to enter any text:

  • In Vedānta, before learning any literature, preliminary qualifications are given, called: anubandha-catuṣṭaya
    • catuṣṭaya: 4-Fold.
    • anubandha: Associated.
    • TRANSLATION: 4-Fold Associations (Considerations)
      • Helps reader decide if should continue reading.
  • FOLD 1: Adhikārī: Person who is eligible.
    • For WHOM (is text written)? Who is eligible person to study this text?
    • ANSWER: Mumukṣu: Seekers of liberation.
  • FOLD 2: Viṣaya: Subject matter. Means.
    • What is being taught?
    • ANSWER: Tattva-Bodha. Knowledge of reality is taught.
  • FOLD 3: Prayojanam: Result. End.
    • What is result of studying text?
    • ANSWER: Mokṣa (Where? In word ‘mumukṣu’)
  • FOLD 4: Sambandha: Relationship.
    • In what way is the text connected to my pursuit? By having the solution to my problem.
    • ANSWER: abhidhīyate (this book expounds).
    • Gives reason WHY I should study this text.
    • Technically called: bodhya-bodhaka-sambandha
      • Bodhaka: Teacher/expounder/revealer.
        • Tattva Bodha (actual book).
      • Bodhya: Expounded/taught/revealed.
        • Knowledge of reality.
      • Sambandha: Relationship.
      • MEANING: Relationship between expounder and expounded.


Keywords: abhidiyate, adhikari, alaukika visaya vishaya, anubandha-catushtaya, anubandha-catustaya, atma, atman, avatara, bhagavad gita, bhagavat gita, brahma-sutras, brhadaranyaka upanisad, brihdaranyaka upanishad, drastha, gayatri mantra, hitarthaya, jnana kanda, jnanam, karma kanda, mangala acarana, mangalacarana, mantras, moksa, moksha, mumukshu, mumuksu, 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, taittiriya, upanisad, upanishad, vaisampayana, vaishampayana, vasudeva, veda-vyasa, vedanta, visaya vishaya, vishvamitra visvamitra, yajnavalkya, yogis


Credit for help in Tattva Bodha to Chinmaya Mission's – Swami Advayananda & (book by) Swami Tejomayananda.

Recorded 7 March, 2020


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