Vedanta
 
Parampara Acharyas
Swami Paramarthananda

Vedanta

Tatvabhodha is a small book that many believe was written by Sri Adi Shankaracharya. The contents are so valuable that is considered an essential book for students of Vedanta. It is an important and fundamental prose work in Sanskrit listing all the terms and terminologies used in Hindu scriptures. Understanding terms and terminologies is very important to understand all Vedic scriptures whether they are the Vedas or Puranas or Ithihasas. So, serious students of Hindu scriptures read and understand this book first before diving into the larger texts.

In these pages, we present these publications as printed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The first subject covered is Purushartha. Broadly explained, the word means Humans Goals.

One of the meanings for the word Purusha is human being—both male and female. So, we can substitute the term Purushartha to be Manusha-artha. The word Artha in Sanskrit has many meanings. It could be “meaning” or “wealth.”  In this context, the word Artha is used to connote “goal.” The word Purushartha is also used with different meaning in our scriptures. In some contexts, it would mean free will, choice, or effort. However, the primary meaning in this context is human goals or goals sought only by human beings—not by animals or plants.

Because of their pursuit of Purushartha, human beings are considered unique from animals and plants and therefore considered to be superior to animals and plants. This begs the question why human beings are superior to animals or plants. Why should human beings alone have Purushartha? What faculties do human beings have that make them superior to animals or plants?

[Click on picture to enlarge]
Emblems from some of the states
Pu-ru-shaar-tha

The Shastras themselves declare that human beings are very similar to animals and plants in several respects. There are several common features or Saadharnyam. However, there is one unique feature in human beings that makes them superior. This concept is presented in a beautiful shloka:

“Aahara Nidhraa Bhaya Maithunancha
Saamanya Mae Thathu Pasubhir Naraanam
Bhudhirhe Thessham Adigo Visaesha
Bhudhiya Viheenaha Pashubhir Samaanaa”

As this Shloka says, there are several common features between human beings and other beings. All living forms seek Aahara or food. After activity, all living forms want Nidhraa or sleep. All living forms have Bhayam or fear-- insecurity and therefore a desire to protect itself. All living beings desire Maithunam or desire to procreate. If these four features are similar, why are human beings considered superior?

While these four features are common to all living beings, there is one unique feature called Bhuddhi or intellect. This Bhuddhi enables the human being to be different. It is because of Buddhi alone that human beings have the intellect to think, judge, reason, plan, deduce, work for the betterment of the future, and be rational. All these are possible only by human beings because of their Bhuddhi. The Sanskrit poem also warns that if we do not use this Bhuddhi, human beings are more or less equal to animals.


Since human beings are endowed with this extra faculty, we are more self-conscious and compare ourselves with other human beings. We use this faculty to compare ourselves to other human beings. Animals and plants do not compare themselves to others. They may be disdainful of other creatures of the same type—for example; thorough-bred dogs are known to treat mongrels with great contempt. However, they do that more from instinct than a desire to be picky or disdainful.

Since human beings are endowed with this extra faculty, we are more self-conscious and compare ourselves with other human beings. We use this faculty to compare ourselves to other human beings. Animals and plants do not compare themselves to others.

In a dog show, a dog may win the first prize for its posture. However, it does not aspire to do that or resolve to win the next dog show. Similarly, the dog that came second does not introspect to find its growth areas nor does it resolve to win the next time. On the other hand, the human being who owns the dog desires the end result and is self-judgmental. So, Buddhi gives human beings a unique faculty of self-judgment, complex development, and comparison with other members of the same species. Once, the human determines his or hiser level, the person thinks of improving and starts planning for the future—which is a natural extension of the Buddhi faculty.