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Three Ways of Definition

by Swami Sivananda

A thing can be defined in three ways:

  1. By distinguishing it from others (Vyavartaka Lakshana);
  2. By pointing out its apparent attributes (Tatastha Lakshana); and
  3. By describing its essential nature (Svrupa Lakshana).
For example a particular house may be defined:

  1. It is to the north of another house.
  2. That is the house wherein the crow is just perching on.
  3. That is the house which has four storeys.
Similarly the Self or Brahman or Atman may be described as:

  1. The Atman is distinct from Anatman (not-self) (Vyavartaka Lakshana).
  2. The Atman is the seeming substratum of the phenomenal universe (Tatastha Lakshana).
  3. Atman is essentially Satchidananda (Svarupa Lakshana).
Atman can again be described in another manner:

  1. (a) Atman is distinct from the three bodies (gross, subtle and causal).
    (b) Atman is distinct from the Pancha Koshas or five sheaths, viz., Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya (Vyavartaka Lakshana).
  2. Atman is the seeming witness of the three states, viz,, waking state, dreaming state and deep sleep state.
Atman is essentially Satchidananda.

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