Vedānta series 25

Tattvabodha now summarises sat-cit-ānanda. It says, “evam saccidānanda svarūpaṁ ātmānaṁ vijānīyāt एवम् सच्चिदानन्द स्वरूपं आत्मानं विजानीयात्” Thus, one should know himself as the nature of existence-consciousness-bliss. The word ātmānaṁ means the Self within. The Brahman and the Self within are not different; they are the same. When we say that Brahman is beyond all attributes, is not sat-cit-ānand attributes? Yes, sat-cit-ānanda is undoubtedly part of attributes. But then, how do we explain Brahman? We need some basic inputs to know who Brahman is. We need additional inputs beyond knowing Him as the creator, sustainer and dissolver. In order to elucidate the Self or the Brahman, we need to draw some comparisons that are familiar to the human mind. For example, when we say that Brahman has the effulgence that is several billion times brighter than the sun and the sun derives its light only from the Brahman, it makes us to comprehend the potentiality of the Brahman, though He cannot be comprehended through senses. Brahman can be realized only through the mind. We cannot see the Brahman, we cannot hear Him, we cannot touch and feel Him, etc. That is why scriptures attempt to explain the Brahman with those attributes that are known to us. This makes our job of knowing the Brahman easier. The saying of Tattvabodha “saccidānanda svarūpaṁ” is one among them.

The next logical argument would be why describe Him with known attributes. Is it not enough to elucidate Him with the saying of Upaniṣad-s. For example, Kaṭha Upaniṣad (I.ii.20) says, “aṇoraṇīyānmahato mahīyān ātmā” which means ‘the Self is smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest.’ Unless one has a basic idea about the Brahman, it is difficult to understand this saying of Kaṭha Upaniṣad. In the first place, many of us are unaware what is the smallest and what is the biggest? Without knowing the smallest and the biggest, how can one understand the smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest?

Tattvabodha comes to our rescue here. When Tattvabodha says that Brahman is saccidānanda svarūpaṁ, at least we know what is sat, cit and ānanda. We know that sat is the existence. Sat means the one who exists in all the three periods of time viz. past, present and future. We know about the three periods of time. Therefore, by sat we know that the Brahman is eternal, and we know what eternity is. We also know cit or consciousness. Cit is knowledge that is related to the mind. We also know that gross body is nothing but the superimposition on one’s consciousness. What is the necessity for consciousness to know the Brahman? Brahman is surrounded by ignorance known as māyā and this ignorance can be disbanded only by knowledge. Knowledge not afflicted by māyā is the purest form of consciousness, the Brahman. Therefore, we know that the Brahman is to be known only through the mind, where there should be no other thought process except the Self. This is the attentive awareness or the consciousness. Finally, it is ānanda or the bliss. We know the difference between joy and bliss. Joy is temporary state of mind, which is bound to change. When there is joy, there is bound to be sorrow, as nothing is permanent for an untamed mind. However, bliss is perpetual happiness that arises only if renunciation is practiced. One can effectively renounce only if he is beyond desires and attachments.

There are other Upaniṣad sayings such as “satyaṁ jñānamanataṁ brahma सत्यं ज्ञानमनतं ब्रह्म (Taittirīya Upaniṣad II.1)” It says that Brahman is truth, knowledge and infinity. Here also we know about truth and knowledge. Infinite refers to the one who is beyond three time periods, discussed under sat in Tattvabodha. Therefore, scriptures like Tattvabodha, Ātmabodha, Pañcadaśī, etc form the connecting link between the teachings of Upaniṣad-s and normal human knowledge. These scriptures deal with fundamentals and those who are well versed in these scriptures can easily assimilate the teachings of Upaniṣad-s, Brahma Sūtra, etc. In order to effectively pursue the spiritual path, both knowledge and practice are important.

Tattvabodha then proceeds to explain the twenty four principles, known as tattva-s that play a vital role in formation of the universe.