30 – Tattva Bodha: Who is an Enlightened Person? What does He Know? (Jivanmukta)


Discourse 30 shows that enlightenment isn't a random occurrence, but one that's a result of deliberately gaining knowledge about reality. Who is an enlightened person? How to identify a buddha (one whose alive to the reality, the truth)? What does a jnani/jivanmukta know? What specifically makes them liberated?

Source: Tattva Bodha


  • IMPLIED/DIRECT MEANING: We've seen there's no match between individual and cause of universe (ishvara) at direct/literal meaning in statement “You (jiva) are That (Ishvara)”. Ishvara is limitless knowledge, from which laws come, facilitates connections, and uphold cause-effect relationship. While jiva is limited knowledge. So both sides look different, for example: 3+2 = 6-1. But upon resolution, both sides resolve to 5. Both jiva and Ishvara resolve to Consciousness.

Section 3 of the Book: The Liberated One  (jīvanmukta)

Verse: Means by which one come to know the truth (Brahman)

evaṃ ca vedānta-vākyaiḥ sadgurūpadeśena ca sarveṣvapi bhūteṣu yeṣāṃ brahma-buddhir-utpannā te jīvanmuktāḥ ityarthaḥ
Thus by the words of Vedānta's statements (like ‘tat tvam asi' from prior verse) and the teachings of the Sadguru (teacher of Truth), those in whom the vision of the Truth (Brahman) is born in all beings, are Liberated while living (and called jīvanmukta).

  • Verse points out two important points:
    1. Dawn of truth is result of your DELIBERATE KNOWING IT through (a) vedanta-vakyaih: Vedantic statements, and (b) sadguru: teacher showing how those statements are true in your own experience, right now. 
    2. Many truth seeker carry an ERRONEOUS NOTION that, “This truth will dawn upon me one fine day, and I'll become enlightened!”. It’s like saying “Why should I study physics, I’ll just dawn upon me and I’ll understand it all”. This idea is negated in this verse, because…
      1. IGNORANCE OF SELF IS DEEP: Person thinking about “I” is ignorant of “I” — since it's mixed up with the upadhi.
      2. KNOWLEDGE IS REQUIRED: To be NOT liberated, is to NOT know the Reality as it is right now. And the only solution to knowing something, is through knowledge. Therefore an appropriate knowledge and means-of-knowledge (pramana) is needed. Knowledge is the actual information and statements from the scriptures. While means-of-knowledge is the specific way how that information is elucidated so it's captured by your intellect, as it's meant to be captured. For example, through implied meaning, and not direct meaning. Through metaphors and comparisons (such as wave-ocean-H2O, etc).
  • However for knowledge to have maximum effectiveness, it needs to be revealed by one who is already rooted in the Reality and is proficient at communicating it. This person is called a sadguru (revealer of the truth — a teacher, guru, acharya).  A teacher infuses potency, enthusiasm and emotion to the words and reveals their lakshyartha (implied meaning) — such as  of statement “tat tvam asi“. Else it's interpreted literally or misinterpreted. Guru further need to show you the knowledge is directly verifiable in your every-day-experience, unlike heaven which can't be proven here-and-now. To help us appreciate the glory of a guru: It's said, your mom and dad give rise to your body. Society gives rise to your mind. While a guru gives rise to YOU (atman).
  • Furthermore, brahma-buddhiḥ-utpanna; What is captured by your intellect, is exactly as-is intended by the pramana and guru. If that's successful, then you are called a jivanmukta; free while your body and mind is breathing and thinking. You are free because atma (Awareness) was never born, nor dies nor decays/grows. Meanwhile, the body and mind continue to responds to situations as usual. Otherwise if thought process isn’t keeping with what-is, one continues to live with doubt and confusion.
  • But how EXACTLY does dawn of truth take place? What specifically happens in that moment when moksha takes place? 
    • Since birth, definition of your “I” has been loaded with hundreds of notions. To know the real nature of “I”, a mind of Adhikari is needed. Meaning one with relative maturity and readiness. One with dispassion and discernment (see Discourse 4-7).  Otherwise if person can’t even depart with small things, how can one depart from fact that this body-mind is not mine. So through adhikari's growing clarity and striving — he or she becomes self-assured in one's ability to figure things out, more interested in knowledge, and less interested in doing endless actions in hopes to experience God. When they finally cross path with a guru and hear the Vedantic teachings — slowly the pieces of Vedanta puzzle are put together. And at one point, at once, the whole Reality becomes clear. When it all becomes clear, then what has taken place is called akhanada-akara-vrtti. It's a one-of-a-kind thought, different from all other thoughts. It's a thought that removes ignorance of a reality, without creating a mental image of reality.
    • To help you understand akhanada-akara-vrtti, let's see how knowledge of anything takes place in your buddhi:
      • To know a rose, two things happen:
        1. Vrtti vyapti: A mental vrtti (thought) takes form of a rose. Meaning external rose is re-presented in your mind.
        2. Phala-vyapti: Once the mind re-presents image of what your eyes are picking up, ignorance of rose goes away. Thus you say, “Aha! It's a rose!”.
      • However, in case Consciousness (the truth nature of I) — it can’t be captured by your buddhi in any form, as consciousness is attributeless (it doesn't have boundaries and is limitless). At the same time, since consciousness is self-evident, and limiting-factors are removed through inquiry — the ignorance goes without creating image of consciousness in the mind.
    • SUMMARY:
      • All other vrttis remove ignorance by objectifying the object in the mind.
      • Akhanada-akara-vrtti removes ignorance without objectifying consciousness.
  • NEXT VERSE: Who is a person that is completely free? Tell me more about the enlightened being…

Verse: More about the jīvan-mukta (one who is free while their body-mind is alive)…

nanu jīvan-muktaḥ kaḥ?
yathā dehaḥ aham puruṣaḥ aham
brāhmaṇaḥ aham śūdraḥ aham asmi iti dṛḍha-niścayaḥ
tathā na aham brāhmaṇaḥ na śūdraḥ na puruṣaḥ
kintu asaṅgaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-svarūpaḥ prakāśa-rūpaḥ
sarva-antaryāmī cid-ākāśa-rūpaḥ asmi iti dṛḍha-niścayaḥ
rūpaḥ aparokṣa-jñānavān jīvan-muktaḥ
Then, who is a jīvan-mukta (liberated-while- living)? Just as there is the firm conclusion (before self- knowledge), ‘I am the body, I am a man, I am a brāḥmaṇa, I am a śūdra,’ so too, the one who is liberated while living has firm, abiding, immediate knowledge, (not mediated by sensory perception) that, ‘I am not a brāḥmaṇa, or a śūdra, or a man, but, (on the other hand) I am unattached, of the nature of existence, consciousness, fullness, whose nature is effulgence, who is (the indweller) in all beings, in the form of all-pervasive consciousness.

    • Normally, people look for enlightened person by looking at their psychology (kind, compassionate, smart). But none are indicators of jivanmukta. Because you can be extremely compassionate, but ignorant of “I”.
    • Only way you can tell jivanmukta is how they see the reality. If reality is one way, and they see it another, then they can’t be truly wise. And where do we find the uncontradictable explanations of reality? In the Upanishads, in this course/book; Tattva Bodha.
    • Therefore an unwise person can NEVER identify a wise person. Ironically, the unwise person has an urge to proclaim who is liberated and not. “Only Ramana Maharshi, Buddha, Adi Shankara, etc were enlightened, because ___. This teacher is fraud. That teacher is the real deal!” — proclaims the fool who has a long way to go.
  • REALITY FOR COMMON MAN: And ignorant person carries deeply entrenched notions, “I’m man, woman, brahmana, kshatriya. I’m small, and Ishvara is big”. Notions are considered “THE TRUTH”. When they hear opposing notion, “I and Ishvara enjoy the same reality”, they can’t handle it, because old notions are deeply entrenched.
  • REALITY FOR JIVANMUKTA:  Just as common man is definitively convinced “I am a body, CEO, employee, etc” — with that equal conviction, the wise person is convinced, “I am NOT a brahmana, man/woman, mind, none!”.
    1. Asanga:
      • I am asanga, in-and-through everything (EG: H2O is in entire Ocean and waves), while being free from it. Therefore there's no need to distance oneself from anything, or give up anything. I am asanga (free from it all).
      • Logical example showing how consciousness is asanga (free of attributes): 5 neurons come together and produce fear. But none of the individual neurons have intrinsic fear in them. So even neuron doesn't have attribute of fear. Atom is free from fear. Proton is free from fear. Consciousness is free from fear.
      • STANDPOINT: We can also say, from one standpoint, Awareness IS INVOLVED as the body-mind, since body-mind is nothing but Awareness. While from another standpoint, Awareness IS NOT INVOLVED, just as space is uninvolved in spite of involvement (accommodating all objects in it).
    2. Prakāśarūpa: Like light, in presence of it, everything is revealed. I am the Knowledge principle that illumines all thoughts/emotions/memories.
    3. Sarvāntaryāmī: Same awareness obtains in all minds and Ishvara's total mind. Just as H2O alone is in all waves.
      • If you say that awareness is NOT the same in all minds, that implies that each mind has a different awareness, and that mind = awareness. Meaning, as many minds is as many awarenesses. Let's see if that's really true… 
        1. When I speak, my mind (in form of words) is object of awareness to you. When you speak, your mind is an object of awareness to me. Thus mind is an object of awareness, and NOT awareness.
        2. If mind = awareness, then what is aware of no mind (such as in sleep, thoughtlessness, nirvikalpa-samadhi)?
        3. If you say your consciousness is different from mine, that implies your consciousness has a different attribute to my consciousness. If consciousness has an intrinsic attribute, then that attribute will be interfering with your perception.  For example, if red light is shining on a blue and green box — then you'd see pink and yellow box. In otherwords, if light source has an attribute of color, it interferes from distinctly identifying other colors. Similarly, only attributeless consciousness can distinctly identify happy from sad, this from that. For example, if your consciousness was happy, you'd be experiencing yourself happy all the time.
    4. Cidākāśarūpa: It’s like space, all pervasive. “I know that I am”, is true anywhere you go.
      • Space and/or light are two best examples to help one understand what is Consciousness:
        • Both space/light are formless (without attributes). Consciousness is without attributes.
        • Both space/light are without divisions. Consciousness is without division. 
        • Both space/light cannot be contaminated by anything dirty or clean. Consciousness, I, don’t have a track record of either merits or demerits.
        • Both space/light don’t have boundaries. Consciousness is without boundaries (limitless; meaning without limitation).
    5. Dṛḍhaniścyaya: Firm knowledge. I don’t judge myself based on my upādhi.
    6. What kind of knowledge is it? Aparokṣa-jñāna.
      • 3 Types of knowledge:
        1. Pratyaksha: Immediately perceived.
        2. Paroksha: Heard of it, but not experienced it directly. Indirect knowledge.
        3. Aparoksha: Atma is never away from you. Direct knowledge. No vagueness. Meaning knowledge of Reality is so firm, there's no doubt, even when challenged with brilliant arguments from opposing schools. EG: Bhagavad Gita 2.53, says: When your intellect remains firm in the knowledge, even when presented with confusing statements from the scriptures, then you have gained mastery.
  • LIBERATED PERSON'S PROBLEMS REMAIN: Limitations, stresses, joys and all the usual emotions remain for the jivanmukta's body-mind. Because both the body and mind are Ishvara-srishti (Ishvara's creation). When we knock off a wrong notion about Ishvara-srishti, the experience remains the same. For example, even after knocking off notion that sun sets and rises, and that it's the globe turning, or that earth is not flat, but round — even then the experience of sun set and sun rise continues. Only the notion is knocked off. Similarly, for the jivanmukta, only the notion that “I am limited by this person and life”, is knocked off — and despite that, the experience of limitation and stress still continues (until the body-mind is completely dropped at time of death).


  1. “What is captured by your intellect, is exactly as intended by the teaching and guru”. Explain.
  2. What is the difference between knowledge of rose taking place in your mind, and knowledge of the limitless reality taking place in your mind?  (HINT: Akhanda-akara-vrtti)
  3. What is the only true way to tell who is wise (jivanmukta)? 
  4. Look above under “REALITY FOR JIVANMUKTA”. It's describing your nature. Which one word do you resonate with most? Asanga, etc.
  5. Wise person's psychological and physical situations (ups and downs) don't go away. What DOES go away?


Credit for help in Tattva Bodha to [1] Chinmaya Mission's Swami Advayananda, [2] Arsha Vidya's Swami Dayananda, [3] Neema Majmudar.

Recorded 24 Dec, 2023

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