8 – Tattva Bodha: Analysis into Ontological Status of Reality (Satya, Tuccham & Mithya)


Discourse 8 performs an analysis into reality using 3 significant ontological terms; a prerequisite to reconciling apparent differences in later parts of text.

Source: Tattva Bodha

Section 2: Tattva Viveka — Method to Distinguishing the Real & Unreal

What will we learn? How to apply “tattva viveka” to get clarity of reality. How to distinguish real/unreal. How to get clarity? Process of classification. Viveka comes from root √vic , meaning to: (1) differentiate, (2) gain clarity. So by differentiation, one gets clarity.


tattva vivekaḥ kaḥ?  ātmā satyaṃ tadanyat sarvaṃ mithyā iti
What is the discriminative knowledge of truth? Ātmā, (I) is the truth; all else other than that is mithyā (apparent). 

  • Atma = Subject. The one who experiences/transacts/responds to the world. “I”.
  • 3 Ontological Terms to Relate with Reality:
    1. SATYAM:
      • Means:
        1. It's empirically-real, like real-rose, cloud, hand, fire.
        2. It exists.
    2. TUCCHAM:
      • Means:
        1. Fake, like fake-rose.
        2. Doesn't empirically exist. Non-existent. 
          • EG:
            • Man's horns.
              • Man exists. Horn exits. But together don't exist in empirical/public world, except in one's imagination.
            • Square-circle.
            • Sky-flowers.
            • Cold fire.
            • TUCCHAM STORY: Man bathing with mirage water. Embellishing hair with sky flowers. Making bow from rabbit horns. Who told this? Person who can't speak. Who saw this? Blind man. Who heard this? Deaf man.
    3. MITHYA:
      • Satya & Tuccham is not enough to completely explain the existential status of an object. With these 2 words, we operate our life, and make analysis. To demonstrate, take the following example…
        • Yarn/Cloth: Take yarn out of cloth, where did the cloth go? Cloth was never there. Now yarn is satyam. Can we say cloth is tuccham? No, because cloth DOES exist. Hence must introduce 3rd ontological word to cloth; mithyā. Thus mithyā is attributed by your cognitive understanding of the object. Mithya means object is neither satyam/tuccham. But whose existence is dependent. We can both talk and agree on mithyā (empirical).
      • Mithya DEFINITION: Mithya is an object which can't create without another object. It has no existence apart from the other object. Apparent. Can't even imagine mithya without another object. 
        • EG:  Imagine shirt without material.  Think of the world/ignorance/knowledge/space between two thoughts, without yourself. All things depends on You. Atma IS throughout; invariable. While object-of-thought is or isn't. Hence Atma is satyam.
      • Shirt/cotton analysis to help explain mithya further: While pointing to the shirt, person A says it's a shirt. Person B says it's cotton.
        • There can only be 3 options:
          1. They're both right. This is incorrect, because shirt/cotton are not synonyms. 
          2. They're both wrong. This is incorrect, as it's clear shirt is there. 
          3. One is more right then the other. This is the correct analysis. It is a shirt, but it has no existence apart from the cotton. Thus person B is more right. As the object investigated, despite it taking form of shirt, is ACTUALLY nothing but cotton in form of a shirt. So technically, there's no shirt. Cotton was before creation of shirt. Continues during shirt. And remains after shirt is gone. While shirt is mithya.
            • In short, option #c is most right as it doesn't dismiss the shirt, while at same time, acknowledges that shirt is farther away from the truth, while cotton is closer to the truth (the actual substance that makes up the shirt).
        • Purpose of Shirt/cotton analysis is to ask: Do you need to remove thought (shirt) to know Atma (cotton)? No. Else thought is equally real. Verse states that Atma alone is satyam (that which is nityam; obtains in all 3 periods of time). All else is mithya.
      • So mithya is attributed by your understanding, in reference to reality of object. Mithya refers to object whose reality is dependent on something else; and whose reality is functional.
      • If mithya becomes satyam, you're in trouble. Because then every object is given satyam status, thus becomes worthy of chasing after. Spiritual world is no exception.
        • EG: A spiritual-awakening-satyam. Kundalini-raising-satyam.  Literally, thousands of books are written, and keep getting written because of author's ignorance of mithya ontological term, thus treats every time-bound experience as satyam.
  • Do you need to remove mithya to see satyam? No. Only recognize wherever there is mithya, that's where satyam is. Mithya is never away from satyam. For example, a wave can't transcend (go beyond) wave to see water, as wave is water only. To know yourself, should you remove your thoughts? No. Otherwise, that means when thought comes, then “I” am pushed aside. If I, the conscious being, was pushed aside upon manifestation of thought, then who is it that's conscious of the thought?! 
  • Conclusion:
    • Thus to understand reality, must have 3 words.
    • Satyam/tuccham/mithya are ontological terms. Indicates status of object's existence. Satya/tuccham are 2 terms general society knows.


  1. What is “ontology” per our lesson?
  2. Satyam, mithya, tuccham are ontological terms.  T/F
  3. Satya, mithya, tuccham are for purely intellectual gymnastics and have no benefit in real life.  T/F
  4. Satya, mityha, tuccham reveal your cognitive understanding of what reality an object enjoy.  T/F.
  5. Define satyam, tuccham and mithya per your understanding so far. We will discuss it further, so your knowledge will expand. 


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

Recorded 9 July, 2023



  1. Next to crystal and red cloth, this video is fantastic. CRYSTAL CLEAR! I AM BLESSED to be blessed by this teaching and teacher that are perfect for me! I am here now – around time 44:00 – Do you need to remove the thought to know yourSELF? [message shortened by admin to include only the question]

    1. Thoughts can’t be removed. It’s job of mind to generate thoughts. One only needs to understand: Thought doesn’t displace the presence because of which the thought is known. Thought comes. What is there? I am. Thought goes away. What is there? I am. This will be explained in detail as course progresses.

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