From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Shankara Bharadwaj Khandavalli

Happiness is a natural and an essential craving of every being. While the aspirations of various beings appear to be diverse, the essential craving of every being underlying all the instincts, desires, aspirations, ambitions, pursuits and goals is singular - happiness. The cravings are diverse not because their ultimate purpose is different, but because the approaches to fulfilling that ultimate purpose are diverse and that purpose manifests diversely. A desire is sought to be fulfilled, or a goal pursued because there is an inherent assumption of happiness in such fulfillment or pursuit. Thus every being is apparently craving towards different ends but essentially craving for a singular end. That is happiness. Happiness is the purpose of craving of every being through its life.

While this far is simple, the difficult part is to define what happiness is. Happiness is experienced, but happiness is itself not an experience. The one that is experienced, and the one that is experiencing, still needs to be defined.

A simple experience of pleasure could be taken as an example for this purpose. A person eats something and gains some pleasure. His body did the physical act of eating and pleasure is experienced by the tongue. If observed more keenly, tongue is engaged by the mind to gain that pleasure. When mind is withdrawn, the experience of pleasure is hardly there – irrespective of how tasty the food is. Thus body, senses and mind are engaged in the act at different levels, the ultimate enjoyer being mind. Here there is something being enjoyed (bhoga) and an enjoyer (the bhokta). The state of experience is a manifestation of happiness. There is a glimpse of happiness, but that happiness is in the experience.

There is a bhokta, an enjoyer in every experience. The senses and various faculties of mind are the enjoyers of varied experiences in life. While senses experience objects, mind experiences feeling or bhavana. Mind, ego and intellect are the three faculties that enjoy experiences like feeling, ownership and knowledge respectively.

There is a pleasure in seeing a beautiful flower. The eye is its bhokta. There is a pleasant impression it has on the mind. That is a bhavana. Now if the flower is owned or is kept in one’s home, there is a sense of ownership or “my” sense. Ego is its bhokta. The knowledge about the flower is the quality of intellect. Each faculty or upadhi has its level of experience of happiness. Being vast and as the controller of senses, mind experiences a greater content of happiness than senses. Similarly intellect, the space of ideas can experience a still greater level of happiness.

The Nature of Happiness

Synthesis brings completeness to the being, and completeness brings happiness. An unconscious attempt to happiness through various pursuits in life does result in happiness, depending on the level of completeness one achieves, the kind of synthesis one engages in. That could be fulfillment of responsibilities, pursuit of an art-form, an intellectual pursuit, a collective pursuit, or in short any goal or positive contribution. Most of these pursuits start as responsibilities or hobbies, continue with a quest for perfection and excellence, and eventually culminate in attainment of completeness or a stateless happiness.

However, a conscious attempt to understand the nature of happiness and the way to attain it will result in a faster and a less painful route. So there are two things to know – the nature of happiness and the way to happiness.

While happiness in its absolute need to be experienced firsthand, its nature can be inferred from the experience of common pleasures and moments of peak experience. A few inferences:

  • Experience of happiness is a state of beauty. It is an aesthetic definition, but works for us.
  • Mind is the bhokta and not sakshi (the consumer and not a witness of the state). In a state of ecstasy, usually there is no awareness of the state. We would infer what we went through, after the state and the mind is only passively “aware” of its state while it is in it. In fact higher the passiveness of witness-mind and the activeness of enjoyer-mind, deeper the experience of happiness.
  • The experience of happiness is transient, but there is no sense of duration for the experience itself. The experience itself does not depend much on time, place or state of life. Any thought or event can trigger a state of happiness, provided mind is in a conducive state. This could either be because of a situation, or by a methodical training of the mind to be in such state. Therefore happiness is itself not transient, although its experience is for most men.
  • Happiness is a non-phenomenal reality. The experience of happiness is caused by phenomenal states and objects, but happiness is itself un-changing and non-phenomenal. It is the same experience for any being anywhere anytime.
  • There is a kind of freedom in the experience of happiness – apparently, if one manages to set his mind free of his external impulses or situation in life, there is no binding on happiness. In other words, one who could achieve the freedom of mind has got happiness – there is happiness in freedom.
  • Happiness is impersonal, and is not individual-specific.
  • Happiness is not a thing to be achieved – it is not apurva. It does not come into existence as a result of something – it is pre-existent or purva. It exists always, and is a matter to be experienced. The experience is a consequence of something, but not what is experienced.

The pursuit of happiness should, therefore, follow its nature:

  • Happiness is not phenomenal and therefore can be experienced irrespective of situations of the phenomenal world
  • Since happiness is not transient or limited, its pursuit is also not a sangraha-approach or an attempt to accumulate. Its pursuit is rather the attempt to see than to gain
  • The pursuit of happiness involves training the faculties of consciousness rather than creating the external situation or objects, since ultimately it is the enjoyer of happiness that is to prepare
  • When happiness is experienced, there is no witness to it – the experience involves, a kind of dissolving the mind in the experience

Grades in Ananda

There is a gradation in the experience of happiness, and this is explained in modern as well as traditional philosophies. Taittireeya Upanishad grades Ananda as experienced by the body-beings, sense-beings, work-beings, mind-beings, aesthetic-beings, ego-beings, intellect-beings and absolute as increasing in multiples of hundred, culminating in infinity. In the modern parlance, the greatest work on consciousness is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where he arranges the needs of a being in a pyramid, with physiological, psychological and intellectual in the ascending order. The fulfillment of base needs forms the basis for aspiring for higher level of fulfillment.

There is happiness in everything – work, art, service, research, philosophy… everything. But that is not just in the excellence achieved, whose enjoyer is the ego. It is in the way in which it is pursued. As Maslow says, self-actualizing people are interested in something beyond their skin. That comes so close to saying, those who see the ultimate level of happiness are they who transcend their deha-atma buddhi or the “I am the body” sense. That is possible through any synthesis, any approach to attain completeness or happiness.

The five sheaths of consciousness of Vedanta are kind of parallel to Maslow’s pyramid. Anna-maya or the physical is the bottom, which is the base for every pursuit. Prana-maya has no exact equivalent. Mano-maya or the mind-sheath encompasses the psychological (mind), self-esteem (ego) layers. Vijnana-maya or the knowledge principle maps to Maslow’s self-actualization. Ananda-maya, the fifth sheath maps to what Maslow saw very late in his life and had not actually put in the pyramid – he called it the layer of self-transcendence.

These five sheaths of consciousness are narrated to be progressively unfolded by the seeker in Taittireeya.

The Three Stone-cutters

There is a story that describes the pursuit of excellence, which explains Maslow’s hierarchy. A person goes to some stone-cutters, picks three of them and asks them what they are doing. One of them says he is earning his bread and butter – this is the physiological need. The second says he is trying to be the best stone-cutter on earth – this is the self-esteem. The third says he is building a cathedral – he is the self-actualized man.

Apart from that, this story explains another gradation – that of the gross, subtle and causal. One who works on the survival is a gross being. One who looks into the “how” of things, has a subtler vision. One who works with the purpose of things and not things themselves has a causal vision. There is a greater freedom, greater knowledge and greater happiness for people working at these levels progressively.

Being Ananda

Thus to be happy one needs to realize happiness, and not gain it. What exists is only seen – and that can be seen when one has the knowledge and vision. Mastery of consciousness (Yoga) is one of the few ways to it. Another way is analysis of experiences and mastering one’s actions and reactions (Mimamsa). Yet another way is to inquire into and realize who the ultimate enjoyer of phenomenal world is and who the witness (Vedanta).

Whichever way it is done, it is known that happiness is something that exists within, without and irrespective of what creates the within-without phenomena. The essence of matter is subtle matter, whose essence in turn, is causal matter. And that cause of matter, life and mind, is the existential bliss that pervades these and manifests in these at different levels. The causal sheath of consciousness or the KAraNa of universe is called Maya or Ananda.

Thus happiness is not to be got, or something one possesses. It is something *one is* and one has to see. The knowledge of one-self is the same as the knowledge of the riddle of the world as far as one is concerned – and that knowledge is the undifferentiated associate of the existential bliss.

Defining Ananda

From the inferences about happiness, the one word that best describes it is – absolute. Happiness is absolute, impersonal, permanent, beautiful and existent. What describes it the best, is the tripe of truth-beauty-permanence (satyam-sivam-sundaram) or existence-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda). It has no source, and is the ultimate purpose, source and inspiration for everything phenomenal. It is not apurva, and is existential – every being is in its essence the existential bliss and a witness as well as enjoyer of the same. Freedom, permanence, knowledge are the attributes of Ananda.

The world is born in Ananda, from Ananda, and evolves with its purpose as Ananda, and dissolves in Ananda. Ananda is the essential principle of the world, and is its absolute principle. It is the substantive, active and undifferentiated cause of the world, the birth and experience of every being. The whole play of world is a sequence of experiences for the happiness of beings.

Explaining Misery

If happiness is the purpose of world, then how does one explain misery, which is equally prevalent? Misery is phenomenal. It is not a purpose but an eventuality. It is the state, which is eventually transcended.

Cause of Misery

If knowledge, freedom, sense of permanence, rid one of all kinds of misery and difficulty, then what is the purpose of creation, what is the purpose of all the phenomenal suffering?

The experience of fulfillment of hunger is possible only when there is the state of hunger. The experience of fulfillment of a desire is possible when there is a state where it was unfulfilled. The experience of fulfillment is called bhoga. It is for undergoing the pleasure of experience that jiva assumes the state of un-fulfillment. When one has the knowledge of smell, he enjoys what is fragrant and dislikes what stinks. Nevertheless, both are phenomenal and one has to have a smelling faculty to experience them. Smell is a bhoga.

Why bhoga at all, when beings are eternally all-knowing? Why should they assume a body-consciousness and consequently its limitations? The answer is two-fold:

  • Body is the means to action, it is the basis for all experiences and fulfillment
  • The ignorance caused by the insentient body, which veils the otherwise vast mind and invincible intellect, in a way forms the basis for the jiva’s bhoga. There is no experience in the witness-state. The all-knowing, is not all-enjoying. The one, who enjoys, is the one who is a participant and not a witness.

Human effort in Ananda

What should one do to be in Ananda? Does it require human effort? If so, what kind of effort? The answer depends on the worldview one has. While there are multiple worldviews and many flavors within them, there are two major schools – the becoming school (parinama vada) and the being school (vivarta vada).

Matter and Consciousness are the two primal principles and the world is a play of these. The general take of most of the philosophies is that the former transforms and the latter does not. Matter has qualities, and consciousness makes matter "alive". The play of these is the diversity and the “happening” of the phenomenal world. The self or the essence of individual being is pure consciousness.

The Becoming

According to Parinama Vada, the universe transforms in cycles. Its essence is absolute and immutable, but the universe itself is a manifestation of absolute, and the manifestation transforms. The mutable rises from the absolute and dissolves into it, somehow without making a difference to absolute which is immutable. The “somehow” is explained in different ways, but that is not important to this discussion.

Most of the schools follow parinama vada. Its implication on the human quest is that it emphasizes positive action towards acquiring happiness. In parinama vada, the individual self is the enjoyer or the bhokta of all experiences, and evolves through them. So the parinama vada schools typically involve mastery of consciousness and its various faculties – the body, senses, mind, and intellect. Each school emphasizes different faculties and focuses on different methods, based on its worldview.

In Hatha yoga the emphasis is on the vital body, and its knowledge is gained through a severe discipline of physical body. Here the mind is assumed to fall in line when body and vital consciousness are mastered. There are several contributions of hatha yoga to yogic practices in general, such as the bandhas.

In raja yoga the emphasis is more on the mind, though pranayama is used in the preliminary stage for the same purpose. Subsequently the analysis moves to the space of mind and its four faculties – mind proper, intellect, ego and memory.

Every faculty is an uncontrollable beast in the lower rung but a powerful instrument when looked from above. For instance senses are instruments of mind, mind an instrument of ego, ego an instrument of intellect and intellect an instrument of divine intelligence. But senses are hard to crack without withdrawing mind from them and then mind being applied on them. Mind is hard to hold without ego being separated from it. Ego impossible to win over without intellect being applied after its separation from ego. And this mastery is the essence of excellence or perfection or “growth to the pinnacle” or whatever other names one gives to an individual's evolution.


The experience of happiness in a common man’s life, to a good extent, though not noticed, is vital. Subtle senses are its consumers. While mind vaguely knows it is “happy”, a keen observer makes out that this happiness in many cases is not strictly physical or of the mind. Once the sense of happiness is there, mind is immune for some time to some level of displeasing thought-feelings. While the state of mind and one’s control over it has some role in it, it can also be observed that there is a non-mind and non-body experience that keeps one “happy” and “peaceful”. This is the vital experience or the “life”-experience.

The “vital” or “life” outer sheath of subtle body is the master of all living beings, and the link between mind and matter/body. It is central in the mind-life-matter triple. It is spandana-atmaka or vibration-sustained. It is known through discrimination from mind and body.

One can easily observe that any claim of happiness is not just a mind-state but results in a body-state. Even when the body is not actively involved (say as in singing for instance), even when the reason for happiness is purely a thought, its consequence is not just a mind-state but a body-state, more accurately the subtle-body state. There is an apparent peace felt with the nerve-currents. There is similarly a disturbed subtle-body state when the mind is unhappy.

This works two-way. When one observes his vibrant body dynamics and achieves control over them, he would notice that he has better control over his mind-state too. So the vibrant body and mind affect each other, and taming the subtler faculty (mind) can be done indirectly to start with, by taming the less subtle faculty – the vibrant body.


Often we hear statements like "its all in mind" and "ultimately happiness is a state of mind". Mind is the central faculty that binds the consciousness-complex. It is the witness of sense-experiences and the enjoyer of thought-feelings or bhavanas. Mind-proper or manas, is the ocean of bhavanas. It is vast and deep, and one is oblivious to most of the mind-space in the day to day life. The mind is the complex that binds all the faculties of consciousness and many qualities of mind as they appear are because of the faculties that are attached to the mind and not of the mind itself. For instance the mind appears to be flaky, inconsistent, ever craving and prone to be ever disturbed. But this is because of the limited and flaky nature of the senses mind is attached to, and not because mind is itself such. To understand the workings of mind, one should look into mind as separated from the force of senses. For this, one needs to withdraw mind from the senses – this is called pratyahara. However, this is not really about "winning over the senses". It is about understanding the cause-effect sequence of experiences, the way impressions are received by the mind from the senses and the influence mind and senses have on each other, and working on the mind to control the senses instead of allowing the senses to control the mind. When the mind is realized as the controller of senses, then a totally different mind seems to be there, than what was before – the mind will be known as the deep and the vast, the space of thought-workings that drives the whole world. This seems to be the space one really lives in, and the activity-world seems to be the field of fruition of what all happens in the thought-world. While the physical and vital faculties have their needs, their relevance and fulfillment becomes a small part of the whole scheme of thought-life. Life in particular and the world in general no more seem to be running after the fulfillment of these, but is known to be the playground for bigger thought-forces that act through these. The qualities of mind-proper that is the master of senses (Indra, whose subservient instruments are the indriyas), are quite contrasting to the sense-mind – it is consistent, capable, unlimited, powerful, intuitive, all-knowing, and all-enjoying. The flaky nature of mind is like the sea at its shore – with continuous waves, making it difficult to ride. The shores are the senses. But as one kind of withdraws and moves inwards, into the ocean, into the mind-proper, its depth, its vastness, its richness, its profundity and its stability are known.

However mind, needs food – it needs thought-impressions to feed on, and to dwell upon. Its nature is to “enjoy” or consume the thought-impressions. When the vast part of mind is unfed, it processes the same impressions in a cycle, what it receives from the senses and the subconscious. Therefore in the attempt to fulfill the mind, there needs to be a conscious choice to feed the mind with seed-thoughts to dwell upon. If the impressions fed are of transient nature, most of the mind space will remain unused. If the mind is fed with question-impressions, if those questions are such that they engage the mind in analyzing itself, then that will be the best food for mind. A strong one-pointed thought is the best habit for mind in the initial stages, and subsequently it knows to drive its way in a thought-space without losing its way. Any synthesis that engages mind with such impressions, whether it is inward-looking or looking into the essence of the world or the pursuit of art-forms, successfully fulfills the mind and pleases it.

The most part of one’s inward evolution is in the space of mind or the bhaava-jaladhi, and for this reason the analysis of mind assumes the highest importance in the quest for existential bliss. The happiness in fulfillment of these thought-forces, one knows, to be thousand-fold greater than the happiness in the fulfillment of the physical-vital needs, impulses and instincts.

The mind is therefore to be seen as a treasure, and not as a distraction. It is discrimination between mind and the faculties that give it the impressions, which is required to dig into this treasure.


Often, contentment of mind is said to be a stoppage in one's advancement, say career or otherwise. The burn to achieve is said to suffer because of the happiness-morphine. And the rat-race is said to keep one from deriving happiness in life too. While this is mostly seen as a “balance” issue in the life of an above-average man, these two are not really opposites but lead to one another. The happiness derived from one level of comfort or achievement can last only as long as one does not grow enough to see the higher level and starts longing for it. Whether one jumps to it or struggles because of his situation or capability is a different matter. But there is no real “stagnation” in any aspect of life, unless one draws his mind off of growth.

But the most important thing to note is that growth in any aspect is only the individual's perception – the real growth is of the individual himself, his exposure and experience. By climbing up the ladder in career or otherwise one is only taking his growth to be implicit while looking at its reflection in the more explicit outward growth. The whole excellence story is about turning mind inwards, and about being able to see the one who is growing and not his outward reflection. Yes, the latter can give us a kick – but that is only when one is in his initial stages of inward growth.

And as long as one seeks to grow, there cannot be a stagnation. Yes, growth suffers if one is not pragmatic enough to choose what his approach, his situation and his responsibilities permit. However, that by itself only means one has to *see* the fact that he is trying to achieve and not grow, and that he needs to use the situation rather than to fight it. After all, every situation is a divine opportunity and that it will be useful if seen the right way!


Citta or memory is the faculty that carries forward the impressions of experiences of beings. This is the “secondary store” of thought-feelings for the being in the sense that either the mind feeds on impressions from senses or intellect, or defaults to cycling the impressions from citta.

Every action, apart from its visible result, leaves an impression on the mind. The accumulation of these impressions is memory or citta, and the impressions are samskaras. Traditionally, utmost care is taken around every action so that these accumulated samskaras resulting from actions are positive in nature, because a memory that is clean (citta suddhi) results in a cleaner and active mind.

The mind that dwells on past as a result of ill-impressions, is less likely to be synthetic and plastic.

Training memory is the first phase in traditional education, for the same reason. To train the mind to create the right impressions and judge the right data for memory is the idea. For this reason, traditional education usually begins with memorizing. Training the logical faculty comes at a later stage, because that involves the judgment of all the faculties including memory.

The emphasis in karma marga is mostly on the choice of action that leaves no impression on mind. Most actions, noble or ignoble, leave impressions pleasant or unpleasant as long as the doership is there. Actions where the doership is not there, or where the doer gives up his ownership on the action, its purpose and result, that creates no impression and is virtually not an action. The analysis of action and the impressions, and its specialization into inaction is the essence of karma mimamsa. While it is apparently simple, sense of ownership or agency is the primary inspiration behind most of our actions, without which most of the actions do not happen in the world. Desire, instinct, need, impulse and various other inspirations behind actions are nature's mechanisms for running the cosmic play.

So using the right action to transcend the sense of action or ownership on the action is tricky, and begins with moving the focus from the fruit of action to perfection in phenomenal action, then to the purpose of action and then to the agency of action. To perfect action without giving up the fruit, is the phase of positive accumulation (pravritti) and to perfect the agency and lack of ownership is the phase of ridding the impressions (nivritti). The first phase is a positive use of ego, the second phase is the use of intellect to dissolve ego.


While the self-in-essence is bereft of “I”ness and all the phenomena are superimposed on the self, all the experiences of an individual are known to be of the individual because of ahamkara. In fact the word ahamkara itself is coined in a way it enlists the alphabet - “a+ham+kara”, the one that makes everything between “a” and “ham”, the first and last letters of Sanskrit alphabet. Since words and their meanings (the phenomena of world) are inseparable, making the alphabet is synonymous to making the world.

I-ness, sense of belongingness, sense of ownership, relating anything to oneself are the qualities of ego or Aham-kara. In a way, this is what relates one to the world and creates the world as one sees it. Without “I”ness there is no sense of belongingness, no sense of achievement, no world in short. Ego is therefore that consciousness, that knowledge which is the origin of all other phenomenal knowledge of one's life and of the world. And practically the knowledge required for every worldly success or gain.

The distinction between “mine” and “not-mine”, whether it is a scope of action or possession or responsibility, is apparently trivial but fundamental. In a way, this is a block between the individual and the universe but the other side is this is what defines an individual.

While “ego” in the general is used in a negative sense, this only shows that its positive side is not defined as ego but something else. In some cases adjectives are added to separate the positive and the negative – for instance “strong ego” is desired but not “large ego”.

Ego alone does not become “positive” or “negative”, but has positive or negative results depending on which faculty is involved in the discrimination. The mind is cyclic and when it feeds on ego unchecked by discrimination, it does not contribute to one's growth. But when the same ego is driven by discrimination or vicakshana, it is the means for growth.

The Miniature world

By drawing a line between individual and the world, ego is creating a miniature world, a reflection of universe in oneself. Every faculty of consciousness one exercises, is a reflection of the otherwise universal primal principle of consciousness.

The cosmic intelligence reflects in one's intellect. The divine will that drives every action in the universe flows through as desire in the mind, as will in the intellect, craving in the senses and as ownership in the ego.


The other negative connotation of ego is that it overrides morality or righteousness. The same condition of discrimination applies here too. In a way, morality and righteousness are relevant only when the line between I and non-I exists. When the individual consciousness is universalized, there is no right, no wrong or duty at the phenomenal level.

And as long as that line exists in one's consciousness, the discrimination of mine and not-mine, and hence the “right” and “wrong” applies. One's sense of ownership on a collectivity or a nation or a region is a phase in expanding his identity, a part of universalising the being. However, when the discrimination is one-way (say what is mine is not of others, but vice versa does not hold), this will only result in selfishness.

Thus righteousness in a simple sense is about a consistency in everything that happens across the I and non-I line. This applies to the give and take or the “runa” one negotiates, to the rule one applies to make his decisions. Ultimately making this equilibrium is the goal, and forms the basis for any higher life. And that is the basis for happiness resulting in every impression on the mind (and its faculties like ego).

This is why, it is traditionally said that Dharma is the basis and source of artha and kama, the fulfillment of one's desire and acquiring possessions. While this is a simple cause-effect thing, the place where most people falter is the right discrimination across the veil.

Understanding the cause-effect of action, righteousness, ego, and the underlying principle of phenomenal world are thus synonymous. One leads to the other and includes all others.

The ideal action is possible in equilibrium, and is thus one which results in “no action” - or leaves no negative impression on the doer. To know the ideal choice of action through performance of calibrated action, is the karma yoga and the analysis of right action is Mimamsa.

Parinama vada takes this cause-effect to be central, and asserts the importance of righteousness. In vivarta vada this is a matter of fact, while the empasis is on understanding the phenomenon of I-ness itself. Both agree that the latter is not possible without the former.


Since the happiness of mind is a result of impressions and the happiness resulting from ego is personal in nature, both are essentially conditional in nature and require continuous feeding. The continuous stream of happiness is still wanting, and its basis is in the faculty that must control these instead of being controlled by these. By definition a continuous and infinite stream is possible when the line of personal experience or the line of finite is crossed – and the only faculty in human consciousness that has a possibility of not being bound by that line is the intellect. The intellect is apparently controlled by mind and ego, but is actually the origin of all the other faculties and the field of impersonal stream of joy.

While mind-proper is the field of thought-feelings, buddhi/intellect is the field of knowledge and idea. If mind is known to be an ocean, intellect is known to be the vast sky. It has no shores or base to measure its vastness or depth. In the study of mind, we only say that it should be fed with proper thought-impressions. The decision of those impressions, the discrimination of what brings happiness and what brings unhappiness, is done by the intellect or buddhi. The witness and judge of mind-proper is the intellect. Bhavana is the quality of mind, and jnana is the quality of intellect.

Vijnana or the intelligence principle that creates and runs the whole play of mind-life-matter, shines on the intellect. However, knowledge, like happiness is not acquired – it is only grown into, dissolved into. The play of phenomena is seen by the mind, but its causal principle is known through the intelligence principle.

The truth-consciousness that is eternally present descends to intellect as knowledge. Intellect is the only faculty, when the being withdraws from the other faculties (senses, ego, and memory) that “sees” or has direct knowledge unalloyed from external impressions. It is also the only faculty that is beyond the “I” border and hence has scope for impersonal knowledge. Anything that descends down from intellect through ego assumes a personal form.

The functions of intellect – intuition, synthesis, discrimination and decisiveness are instruments of knowledge. The various instruments of thought like formalization, symbolizing, are the methods of intellect to convey its knowledge-impression to mind.

The intellectual function which is unbound by the other faculties of mind is called mahat or the pure intelligence principle. It is from this that ego emanates, and when the latter is superimposed on the mahat, the other faculties like subtle senses, mind-proper and memory sprout. Therefore the discrimination of intelligence principle from ego is the source of the uninterrupted and infinite happiness or the unalloyed existential bliss. All the exercise of mind, ego, senses, memory, their constant training is to this end.

While mind is the field of imagination and impression, intellect is the field of realization and experience. It is the experience of intellect that descends as an impression in the mind. For instance the principles like speaking truth, being honest and being equal unto others are beaten upon mind, and the mind can be conditioned to act so – but the discrimination of having applied of principle and its truth, is of the intellect. Consequent of that judgment, the impression of clean conscience or otherwise descends to the mind. The discrimination between self and not self, and the discrimination between ego and self are also the experiences of intellect, though this state is differentiated from an “intellectual exercise” in the sense that the latter is not beyond the confines of ego. But as it stands, there is no experience or exercise beyond the unbound intellect – the self is the inactive witness and is more of an absolute construct in both sankhya and vivarta vada. It is affirmed in many worldviews and is also negated in those that hold essenceless nature of the world for instance Buddhism.

It is at this stage that the knowledge is differentiated as deductive and direct – unbound intellect being the vehicle of direct knowledge and bound intellect (within the confines of mind-ego-memory complex) being the vehicle of deductive knowledge. In the latter, the instruments of knowledge are speculation, discrimination, memory, formalization, abstraction, generalization and so on.

The former is distinguished as truth-consciousness and its instruments are intuition (or direct experience), discrimination (or validation) and revelation (the conclusive knowledge). While intuition seems a fancy term in objective discussion, it is not really so. It is the same in the lower reach too. While sixth sense is a beleive-it-or-not kind of thing in the layman level, it is known that senses are indeed six – sixth being mind. And mind is not only capable of sense-impressions but the central faculty that is capable of knowledge-impressions, though-impressions, memory-impressions too. Similarly the intuition is the function of intellect's unbound side.

Synthesis and analysis, the two functions of intellect are commonly called the right and left functions. In the unbound intellect, which is capable of experiential knowledge, these two functions are attributed divinity and are called prakasa and vimarsa. These are the originators of all other faculties in human consciousness. And in the Agamic parlance they are Isvara and Maya, the cosmic functions of consciousness and quality. They are inseparable and indistinct, and are two faces of the same principle of existence.

Therefore the ultimate consumer of knowledge and hence happiness is the intellect, and as the consciousness descends into ego, mind and senses, the nature of happiness also descends and assumes more concrete and narrow forms. But as we say intellect is the ultimate consumer of happiness, the evident question is - who then, is the witness of that consumption and where does that happiness reside? It is this principle of absolute witness and existential principle that is called the self or absolute. It is the one that witness but not the one that experiences. It is what *essentially* every being is – the principle of existential bliss. This is indeed the reason happiness is eternal and infinite.

The Sakshi-Principle

The pair of birds in the famous upanishadic story of two birds symbolizes the witness-consumer or the sakshi-bhokta. All the faculties of consciousness are enjoyers of happiness, of impressions, of knowledge – but the witness of enjoyment still goes unanswered, and that is the self. In the cosmic realm, the story is similar – world has two fundamental principles of consciousness and matter. Matter “exists” as it is seen, because there is an observer. Who was the observer for which the matter itself got created? As it stands, every observer within the world is an enjoyer in the temporal sense but not a witness of the world in the absolute sense. So this makes it imperative that consciousness, just like matter, be an underlying and eternal principle which must exist as a precondition to creation and not as a part of creation itself. This principle of absolute consciousness is not given a name but directly called “absolute”.

Thus the self is not a requirement for one's experience of happiness, but rather a metaphysical construct. However, just the way zero being a nothingness construct becomes imperative in arithmetic, affirmation of self changes not only one's philosophical or metaphysical but the practical positioning of mind too. It makes all the difference between an essential existence and an essential meaninglessness of the world, between eternal happiness and an eternal void, consequently the social, moral, economic, political theorization and their practical implications.

The Being

In vivarta vada, there are two levels at which the universe is seen – the vyavaharika (the relative, perceivable and temporal) and the paramarthika (the absolute and permanent). The universe appears to change because of the limitations of upadhi, but in its essence the universe is the immutable absolute. The difference in the temporal and absolute vision of the universe lies in the difference of upadhis or the observing faculties but not a difference or transformation in the universe itself.

There is just one vivarta vada school and that is Sankara Advaita. Its emphasis is not on action but on outlook to the world. Inquiry into the true nature of oneself and the world and understanding it is the key to ultimate happiness and not an effort to achieve happiness in itself. In vivarta vada, the individual self is the sakshi and not the bhokta. Various upadhis are the bhoktas. There is no evolution for the self.

Vivarta vada's approach is not of moral perfection, not of perfection through the understanding of cause-effect of action, not of devotion, not of training the faculties. While all these are acknowledged as means to get the mind working in the direction, the ultimate happiness is possible only through nididhyasa or contemplation on discriminating self from non-self (atma-anatma vivecana). Here the discrimination is not a result of a state of dissolution of mind (as in yoga's samadhi) but a result of discriminating mind and its faculties (although such dissolution may implicitly happen, that is not the area of primary emphasis). Although meditation (yoga's dhyana) and contemplation (nididhyasa) seem very similar, they have an axiomatic difference – the difference between trying to *do* and trying to *see*. And as noted earlier, happiness is to be seen and not gained. This is how vivarta vada reasons out its approach.


  1. Ananda Valli of Taittireeya Upanishad
  2. The Six Canonical Darsanas