31 – Tattva Bodha: What Happens to Liberated Being After Death? / Logic of  Rebirth


Discourse 31 explains the logic of why the liberated person is no longer reborn. And explains the mechanics behind sanchita-karma, prarabdha-karma and agami-karma. And what happens to jnani after death?

Source: Tattva Bodha


  • Session started by summarizing the whole book in 4 verses.
    1. Adhikari (qualified recipient of self-knowledge): 
      sādhana-catuṣṭaya-saṁpannādhikāriṇāṁ mokṣa-sādhanabhūtaṁ tattvaviveka-prakāraṁ vakṣyāmaḥ: We shall explain to those who are endowed with the fourfold qualifications (adhikari), the mode of enquiry into the Reality (tattva viveka), which is the means of Liberation (moksha).
    2. What is nature of Self?
      ātmā kaḥ? sthūlasūkṣmakāraṇa-śarīrād-vyatiriktaḥ pañcakośātītaḥ san avasthātraya-sākṣī saccidānanda-svarūpaḥ san yastiṣṭhati sa ātmā: What is the Self ? That which is other than the gross, subtle and causal bodies, beyond the five sheaths, the witness of the three states of consciousness and of the nature of Existence-Consciousness-Fullness, is the Self.
    3. Origin of Universe in 24 principles:
      atha caturviṁśati-tattvotpatti-prakāraṁ vakṣyāmaḥ: Now we shall explain the evolution of the twenty-four factors.
    4. Implied meaning of “Tat tvam asi”
      iti cenna, sthūlasūkṣma-śarīrābhimānī tvaṁ-pada-vācyārthaḥ upādhi-vinirmuktaṁ…: The difference between you (body-mind) and Ishvara (total) is in knowledge and power. The sameness is in existence-awareness.

Verse: What is purpose of Self-Knowledge? What is my gain from it?

brahmaivāham-asmītyaparokṣajñānena, nikhila-karmabandha-vinirmuktaḥ syāt
By the immediate knowledge ‘I am Brahman alone’, one becomes free from the bondage of all karmas [actions which produced merits/demerits which demand new body].

  • Benefit is I, being the jagat-karanam (cause of universe), and not the effect — there is instant disowning of all karmas. They are named in next verse…

Verse: 3 types of karmas

karmāṇi katividhāni santīti cet āgāmi-sañcita-prārabdha-bhedena trividhāni santi
If asked, ‘How many kinds of karma are there?’ They are of three types with differences as āgāmi, sañcita and prārabdha.

  • Intro to Karma:
    • Law of Karma is unique to Vedas.
    • Karma has 2 meanings:
      • (a) action
      • (b) result of action (karma-phala: pleasant or unpleasant experience). 
      • For example, Karma (action) produces karma (result of action)”.
    • Result of action is of 2 types:
      • (a) Seen (dṛṣṭa): Result is experienced right now
      • (b) Unseen (adṛṣṭa): Result is yet to come when circumstances/environment is conducive.
    • Seen/unseen result of action will provide you feedback in form of:
      • (a) Puṇya: an experience given to you from a past noble action, or…
      • (b) Pāpa: an experience given to you from a past ignoble action.
      • Thus intention behind your action determines puṇya-pāpa ratio.
  • 3 Types of Karmas (results of past actions):
    1. Sañcita (TOTAL):
      • All past karma generated by one's search for happiness, as result of ignorance. In other words, unseen punyapapa waiting for it's turn. Think of it as your bank account.
    2. Prārabdha (PRESENTLY EXPERIENCED): 
      • From the Sancita, a portion (called prarabdha) is assigned to the current lifetime. 
      • It fashions mental inclinations you'll have since birth. Type of body, gender, parentage. And delivers pleasurable/painful experiences without working for them.
      • Causes jiva to have experiences it's never had before. EG: One life, jiva might be born in a village with dirty water, while another life in pious family with a troubled sibling, etc.
      • In English, prarabdha can be called fate/destiny. Yes, your fate is set for life — but it's also subject to mitigation via free will, and having a proper attitude about what you're given. 
      • You're helplessly acting to handle all the pleasant and unpleasant experiences given by prārabdha. Every action produces new puṇyapāpa, called Agami. Some agami will fructify in this life, but most won't as you're busy experiencing punya-papa of present life's prarabdha. Thus the unfructified agami spills into Sancita at time of death.
  • Process of rebirth: 
    • Born > I do actions to maximize happiness and minimize sorrow > Each action generates agami > Agami spills into sancita after death > From sancita, a portion called prarabdha, fashions a new birth, giving you a unique personality.
  • Animals & Karma:
    • Until jiva's prarabdha fashions a human body, the jiva can't attempt to get out of samsara, but is forced to enjoy/suffer without any say in the process. 
  • When is one free of the 3 karmas? 
    • When discover, “I am not this doer/thinker/emoter/doubter. I perform no action. I (Awareness) never move”
    • For example, by mere presence of electricity, the fan moves, unintentionally killing flies (papa) and providing comfort for the residents (punya). The punyapapa belong to the fan, not electricity. 
  • Practical benefits of incorporating Law of Karma into your life:
      • I can never blame anyone, nor God for my experiences. Because the past life doer is me in this life. Thus I have no choice but to enjoy/suffer whatever virtues and foolishness was done by the prior person.  Blaming the society/parents is counter-productive. 
      • Everyone's human experience is made up of: Prarabdha (results of past life's actions from usage of free will) + Present life's free will + Circumstances out of our control (such as storm wiped out one's home and wealth, irresponsible driver caused an accident, etc).
      • Knowing this, we can explain away hard-to-explain situations beyond psychology or therapy.
      • Prarabdha can be somewhat known or mitigated.
      • Method of knowing: Horoscope; planet alignment are indicators of your prarabdha.
      • Method of mitigating: Your unpleasant prarabdha can be reduced through prayer, as you're introducing a new cause into the universe. 
  • NEXT VERSES: What happens to 3 karmas for a jnani (liberated being)?

Verse: Āgāmi Karma

āgāmi-karma kim? jñānotpattyanantaraṃ jñāni-dehakṛtaṃ puṇya-pāpa-rūpam karma yadasti tadāgāmītyabhidhīyate
What is āgāmi karma? The results of actions, good or bad performed by the body of the wise man (jñāni) after the dawn of knowledge, are known as āgāmi.

  • Agami Karma In General:
    • As you use free will to make decisions and respond to situations, the actions produce unseen results (agami), which may or may not fructify totally in this life.
    • EG: Suppose man releases arrow towards person. Whether man runs away or stays, either way the arrow will hit the target. The consequence will fructify somehow in the future.
  • In reference to Wise Person (Jnani):
    • Once there is understanding that, “I am free of this body-mind-sense complex”, the as-though confinement (body-mind) continues. Jnani is still related to one given body, which continues to produce punya/papa. Total avoidance of hurting isn’t possible as jnani’s mind isn’t perfect, steps on insects, etc. Although jnani’s papa is minimum due to prior Adhikari qualifications.

Verse: Sañcita Karma

sañcitaṃ karma kim? anantakoṭi-janmanāṃ bīja-bhūtaṃ sat yatkarmajātaṃ pūrvārjitaṃ tiṣṭhati tat sañcitaṃ jñeyam
What is sañcita-karma? The results of actions performed in (all) previous births which are in seed form and giving rise to endless crores of births (in future), are called sañcita (accumulated) karma.

  • Sancita means “well collected”. Meaning well-collected karma-phalas (results of actions from all previous lifetimes) that remains in seed form. They haven't sprouted. They are yet to give pleasant/unpleasant experiences to the jiva.
  • So where do unseen (agami) results of your actions go – in hopes to find fulfillment? Into your bank account (sancita). Due to cyclical nature of creation, there are infinite karmas in sancita, which can give different bodies for eternity. Can’t exhaust it, as exhausting involves action, which produces new karmas (that once again replenish sancita).

Verse: Prārabdha Karma

prārabdhaṃ karma kimiti cet, idaṃ śarīram-utpādya
iha loke eva sukha-duḥkhādipradaṃ yatkarma
tatprārabdham, bhogena naṣṭaṃ bhavati,
prārabdha-karmaṇāṃ bhogādeva kṣaya iti
If asked, what is prārabdha-karma? That karma (which) having created this body in this world in this manner (of parentage, limitations of body etc.), which gives comfort, pain, etc., is prārabdha; it gets destroyed by going through the experiences; thus, (it is said) ‘only by going through experiences does the exhaustion of prārabdha-karma take place.’

  • Prarabdha Karma In General:
    • Out of total pool of sancita, a given set (prarabdha) is assigned for length of time, which produces given body, nationality, parentage, siblings, inclinations, capacity of mind. Since prarabdha give inclinations, it establishes a general trajectory for life (types of people you’ll meet, and types of experiences you’ll have). However, free will contributes more, thus prarabdha doesn't have final say. The less free will is used, the more prarabdha is eminent. Meaning taking initiative to help yourself counts.
    • Proof your life isn’t totally predetermined (where you have no choice):
      1. Quality of present life reflects your daily choices: Who I am today isn’t independent of choices and actions done in past 30 years. And 10 years from now will be sculpted by what has happened up to now, but also how you’re guiding your life from now on. So we can see that prarabdha (quality of my life today) and free will relationships is inseparable. And Vedas shows this inseparable relationship isn’t isolated to just 80 years, but endless.
      2. Random assignment of personality or circumstances contradicts reality:
        • Objection: “This life's prarabdha (inclinations, body, parents, environment) was randomly assigned to me. Free will played no part in it as free will doesn't exist!”.
        • Answer:
          • By whom or what was it prarabdha randomly assigned? If by God or his laws-orders, then He is neither loving nor can I trust him to release me from bondage. If I didn't do anything to deserve my personality and birth circumstances, then any action to help myself in this life is fruitless. Life becomes meaningless.
          • A random assignment contradicts life experience because any effect in the world has a cause (whether it's seen or unseen). Effects is our life situations, emotional and intellectual makeup, and how we respond to challenges. Cause is free will and to what extent it's applied.
    • Why does person come into world?
      • Because of prarabdha. Meaning in previous body, that person, whoever they were, didn’t understand “I am free of sancita. Didn’t figure out the body is the doer, not I. If I am not the doer, no question of having sancita.
      • So person can use one’s punya (human form) to release from future births, or to become celebrity.
  • In reference to Wise Person:
    • It doesn’t disappear for jnani, because prarabdha only goes when exhausted completely (by experiencing pains and pleasures). 
    • 3 Reasons why Jnani remains after knowing truth:
      1. If fall dead upon knowing truth, no one would pursue moksha.
      2. Remains to pass the knowledge. It’s said the order uses the jnani as conduit to carry on the tradition.
      3. Gets to enjoy vision of oneness for one life.
  • Technical Aspects of Prarabdha Karma:
    • Moment of conception, prarabdha begins to unfold. Thus can’t tell tomorrow as prarabdha hasn’t unfolded yet. Vedic astrology can allegedly access unmanifest prarabdha, thus help you see the future.
    • Prarabdha is the efficient cause of your subtle & gross body. While the 5 elements are material cause for your subtle & gross body.
    • Prarabdha & Sancita Relationship: Think of Sancita as pressure cooker pot. What kind of foods do you put inside the pot? The ones that reflect your likes/dislikes or what's been habitually cooked before. Both factors will determine the smell of the steam. Prarabdha is like the steam. It's flavor reflects what kind of results of actions you've been putting inside the sancita pot. It's released outwards due to pressure of Sancita.
    • How does prarabdha-karma cease?
      • It exhausts itself only when you experience it in form of enjoyments or sufferings.  When suffer, papa is exhausted (thank God!). When happy, punya is being exhausted (oh no!).
      • Same applies to jnani. If his or her prarabdha is to be exhausted by travelling the world and teaching, or sitting alone, then the jnani will travel or sits alone. Meaning you can't tell a wise person how still or active they are or what lifestyle they have
      • When prarabdha is finished, body dies. EG: Meaning today's prarabdha is less then yesterday.
  • NEXT VERSE: What happens to sancita of the wise person?

Verse: What happens to sañcita of Wise Person?

sañcitaṃ karma brahmaivāhamiti niścayātmaka-jñānena naśyati
Sañcita karma is destroyed by the firm knowledge, ‘I am the Truth (Brahman) alone’.

  • Firstly, let's revise. For whom is sancita for? For the person who engages in world to satisfy oneself through actions, thus accrues results of actions, and unseen results go to sancita which produces another body. Therefore sancita is for the ignorant I who takes myself to be a doer, an inquirer, a thinker, a person, an enjoyer.
  • However upon dawn of knowledge, Sancita is negated or disowned at once, because the notion that I am a doer is negated. Moment there is shift of identity onto the limitless reality which never does any action — at once sancita is no longer claimed by Me. I am Awareness. Without attributes. Nothing sticks onto me.
  • Widow Metaphor: To help explain how Sancita is written off after shift of identity — imagine husband with 3 wives. Mrs. Sancita, Prarabdha and Agami. Upon husband's death, at once all 3 wives are disowned. Noone owns them. They're equally widows. Unable to return due slaps nor delights onto the non-existing husband.
    • There is a belief that wise person can consciously decide to come back for benefit of humanity. Several problems with this thinking…
    • PROBLEM 1:
      • For jnani, the sense of “I am an individual who will come back” is totally gone. Knowledge of jnani is, “I was never born”. If want to come back, means “I” still connected to individuality.
    • PROBLEM 2:
      • Moment you disown sancita, then what will give rise to another body?
      • When person isn’t born of sancita karma, Vedas calls this avatara, who is born to accomplish a given task, and isn’t born of past karma.
    • PROBLEM 3:
      • That person can decide to come back, means person can decide future. Person can’t even decide future in this life. Who comes back, when and how, isn’t up to individual but Ishvara-srsti. To think you can manipulate Ishvara is presumptuous (conceited).
    • PROBLEM 4:
      • Having attitude “I will save humanity” is arrogant approach, as if humanity needs you. No wise person has been able to stop violence, nor bring permanent world peace. Trying to take on burden of saving the world is unknowingly trying to be IshvaraIswara has already organized everything in most amazingly perfect manner.

Verse: What happens to āgāmi of Wise Person?

āgāmi karma api jñānena naśyati kiñca āgāmi-karmaṇāṃ, nalinīdalagata-jalavat jñānināṃ sambandho nāśti
The āgāmi-karma is also destroyed by knowledge. Further, just like the water on the lotus leaf, the wise men have no connection with āgāmi-karma.

  • At time of death, whatever you have accumulated in this life (agami), joins sancita. But jnani has disowned sancita, thus also agami. Meaning jnani’s punya-papa won’t produce a body.
  • Nalinīdalaga-jalavat: Just as lotus is not tainted by dirty water, jnani isn’t touched by agami, thus remains pure from punya-papa generated by his or her actions.
  • NEXT VERSE: Where then does jnani’s agami go?

Verse: Where do Jnani's results of actions go?

kiñca ye jñāninaṃ stuvanti bhajanti arcayanti, tānprati jñānikṛtam āgāmi puṇyaṃ gacchati
Those who praise, serve, and worship the wise man, to them goes the results of good actions done by the wise man.
ye jñāninaṃ nindanti dviṣanti duḥkha-pradānaṃ, kurvanti tānprati jñānikṛtaṃ sarvam-āgāmi, kriyamāṇaṃ yadavācyaṃ karma pāpātmakaṃ tadgacchati, suhṛdaḥ puṇyakṛtyaṃ durhṛdaḥ pāpakṛtyaṃ gṛhṇanti iti
To those who abuse (verbally), dislike, give discomfort, to the wise man, go the results of all unpraiseworthy and sinful actions done by the wise.

    • Who look up to, learn from, praise, and help the wise person… to them jnani’s agami goes. Greatest punya one can get is to help take another person from mortality to immortality. That punya goes to jnani’s friends and students.
    • Jnani’s papa goes to those who criticize, show hatred, inflict pain.
    • Why would anyone criticize wise person, when he/she is teaching, endowed with good qualities? No matter who evolved you are, the other person has to be evolved also to see your value. EG: Krishna was hated by many (EG: uncle Kansa), despite being objective & intelligent. Thus no such thing as wise person being loved by all.
  • NEXT VERSE: Benefit of understanding all that is here is Ishvara

Verse: Result of Actualized Self-Knowledge

tathā cātmavit-saṃsāraṃ tīrtvā brahmānandam-ihaiva prāpnoti, tarati śokam-ātmavit iti śruteḥ
And thus, the knower of ātma, crossing saṃsāra, gains (by knowledge) Brahman that is fullness here itself (while living).  (This is so) because of the śruti (statement) being there: ‘the knower of ātma crosses sorrow.’
tanuṃ tyajatu vā kāśyāṃ śvapacasya gṛhe’tha vā, jñāna-saṃprāpti-samaye mukto’sau vigatāśayaḥ, iti smṛteśca
(This is so) also because of the smṛti (statement): “Let him give up the body at Kāśī or in the house of a dog-eater, (and is) one whom all abodes have left (he has no special preference for a place), is liberated (even) at the time of gaining knowledge.”

  • Ātmavit saṃsārvam tīrtvā:
    • Person has crossed over samsara (life of becoming). “Crossed over” means discovered there is no samsara. Through knowledge, you falsify absolute reality of jagat, which depends on I.
  • Brahma ānanda iha prāpnoti:
    • Jnani discovers limitlessness I was all along, and am right now. Thus moksha isn’t ceasing to exist, but gaining much more then while wearing a body-mind upadhi.
  • tarati śokam ātmavid:
    • Above phrase is borrowed from Chandogya Upanishad, CH7, Section 1, Verse 3.
    • It says: Knower of Self, permanently crosses over life of limitations, inadequacy, lack. Meaning, it's not a temporary moksha, as is true with action.
    • In Vedic tradition, when and where you die, is a possible indication who evolved you are and where going to next.
    • EG: There is belief, dropping body at Ganga in Varanasi (also known as: Kashi / Benares) — it’ll give punya. Or day is better then night. Or uttarayana is best (Jan-July). Or shukla-paksha is best (waxing of moon). And if die in dog-eaters house, it’s considered papa, as they won’t care for you. 
    • Whereas for jnani, doesn’t matter when and how dies, as there’s no individual left after death.
  • Jñāna samprāpti samaye, mukyaḥ:
    • Moment knowledge takes place, person is free.
    • Upon moksha, perception or experience of world and body-mind doesn’t change. Experience of I enclosed in this limited body-mind continues. This is because there are two kinds of superimpositions:
      1. Nirupadhika-abhyasa: When this superimposition is removed by knowledge, the false notion disappears, while experience changes.  
        • Removing a subjective notion (pratibhasika) – is nirupadhika.
        • EG: You're told gossip about someone. Moment you find out the truth – the false notion is knocked off, and your experience of the person immediately changes from resentful to apologetic.
      2. Sopadhika-abhyasa: When this superimposition is removed by knowledge – the false notion disappears, while experience remains the same.
        1. Removing an erroneous notion about the empirical world (vyavaharika) – is sopadhika.
        2. EG: Even after removing a false notion about the ontological status of the world (it's mithya) — you still experience the same world of duality. Even after discovering the body-mind is merely incidental and has no absolutely real — the experience of aging, pain, pleasure and forgetting still continues. Thus nothing changes after moksha.
    • ORDER: Growing clarity > akhanda-akara-vrtti > No more space for clarity about “I”, but can still improve communication > Body-mind still goes through physical/mental afflictions > Once body drops – there is total mukti (videhamukti) – I (Brahman) never come back connected to any entity.

Verse: Ending

iti tattvabodha-prakaraṇaṃ samāptam
Thus ends the prākaraṇa called Tattvabodha.

  • Text has expounded 5 topics:
    1. Sadhana Chatushtaya: 4 fold qualifications for the spiritual seeker who was, in this text, called adhikari (deserving recipient of self-knowledge).
    2. Microcosm (vyasti): Analysis of Individual (jiva).
    3. Macrocosm (samasti): Analysis of Total (Unmanifest Intelligence: maya / Manifest Intelligence: Ishvara).
    4. Oneness between Individual and Total via equation “You are that (Tat tvam asi)”. It showed both sides depend on and are nothing but Sat (Existence) and Cit (Awareness) — whose maya-upadhi makes sat-cit appear to be many.
    5. Description of a wise person (jnani / jivanmukta), and the benefit of actualized Self-Knowledge.

— THIS CONCLUDES THE END OF TATTVABODHA COURSE: All major terms from Upanishads or Bhagavad Gita have been thoroughly explained  —



  1. What is the purpose of moksha (liberation)? What is the intention behind it?
  2. Word “karma” has 2 meanings: ___ and ___.
  3. “By mere presence of electricity, the fan moves – helplessly and unintentionally killing flies (papa) and providing comfort for the residents (punya). The punya-papa belongs to the fan, not electricity.”  What is this sentence attempting to communicate? What is electricity analogous to?
  4. “Upon husband's death, at once, his three wives (Sancita, Prarabdha, Agami) are disowned. Noone owns them anymore. They're equally widows. Unable to return due slaps nor delights onto the non-existing husband. Similarly ____”Complete the sentence to justify why rebirth stops after dawn of knowledge.
  5. Suppose you have captured the teaching and actualized the knowledge. Does it matter how and when your body dies? If doesn't matter, why not?
  6. Prayers can mitigate the unpleasant results of actions I'm yet to receive.  T / F

Keywords:  prayashcitta-karma, prayascitta-karma

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

Recorded 31 Dec, 2023


  1. Your teachings have been amazing, thank you!
    It was a pleasure to listen to and reflect upon.

    Could not attend online on Sunday ‘s due to time zones differences.
    Nevertheless, I am looking forward to listening to you in person at the summer retreat in Europe.

    May you be blessed!

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