Wednesday, November 24, 2010



(Sanskrit Verses - by)
 Sri Adi Sankaracharya

Text & Commentary – Post 1

What is your Goal in life?

Do you have a goal for your life  right now? How do you select and fix your goal? What do you do to achieve it? How fast and well do you achieve it? These are ‘Goal oriented’ questions which bother some of us, who happen to have goals.

If these questions bother you, it means, you aspire to achieve some distinction in life and want to be a winner in your own eyes and in the eyes of others. But, most people, almost 90 percent and more, have no such specific goals in life.

They just drift from moment to moment, till their last breathe. When they look back, there is nothing in their life to recount with any satisfaction; their life is of no particular use to any one. Their death can some times be a big relief to others.

If your life is goal-oriented, if you want to be a winner in life –  whether you will actually be a winner, depends on the nature of your goals, your knowledge and skills, the strength of mind you put into your goals, your efforts and lastly, circumstances.

In Spirituality, these are called, Jnana Sakthi (Strength of your Knowledge and skills); Icchaa Sakthi(strength of your desire); Kriyaa Sakthi (strength of your effort) and last of all, your Praarabdha karma.

Prarabdha Karma in simple terms means that - what you did yesterday inevitably has its impact on your present and future life. This is the cause and effect theory which says that - every cause has its effect and vice versa. The only additional factor in spirituality is Prarabdha Karma, which makes it more scientific. In Karma theory, the fruits of all actions are divided into 2 parts : (i) Drista Phalam (visible immediate result) and (ii)Adrista Phalam (invisible, postponed result). Adrista phalam visits you back at an appropriate time in future which is not in your hands. For instance, the immediate result of a bad deed may be that you get more money or pleasure – but the adrista phalam strikes back later at a time unknown to you.

Lord Krishna defines Yoga in Bhagavad Gita  as – “Yogaha karmasu Kausalam” – which means that yoga is the “ensuring of utmost excellence in all of our efforts”. Krishna emphasizes the need for excellence in every duty and every effort of us.

If you select and persist, in a worthy, realistic goal, you come out a happy winner. Selecting a Goal, persisting in efforts and achieving the goal are part of an exciting, satisfying life.

When a few personal goals are satisfied, it is very common for man to look for socially beneficial goals and go after them. In them, there are really no limits.

What do you need in life?

Needs always come first in our life and goals come next.  If needs are not satisfied, needs will be the goals. But then, the question is – what are our needs? If you are very hungry and food is not there, food is the first need. If you are thirsty and water is not at hand, water is the first need. You may be hungry and thirsty both – but if you are under water and choking, your immediate need is Air.

Why are we discussing all this in an article, in a blog,  on the highest spiritual goals? Because – if these minimum needs are not satisfied, spirituality does not arise at all.

The ancient saying is – “deho devaalayo prokthaha, Jeevo devah sanaathanaha” which means – take care of the body as it is the temple in which the eternal Brahman resides. If minimum needs are not satisfied, spirituality does not arise. If minimum needs are satisfied, then, spirituality may  arise.  It then depends on other factors. Spirituality in itself is neither a need nor a goal. It is Self Discovery. It is the ultimate – which is you and to which you must return. All needs and goals tend to distract you from the self.

Who are YOU?..... Who am I?

When needs are satisfied and goals are satisfied to some level, a nagging question may arise – why all these? Who needs all these? Who am I? For many, these questions may not arise or the answer may seem very obvious.

Yes. This is me. What I see in the mirror is what I am. I  can feel myself. This is therefore what I am. But, when you look deep into your physical, intellectual and emotional self, which only is in your present awareness, you will find a certain compulsiveness driving you in life and driving many times into pursuits that are really harmful to you.  Why am I doing this? What is forcing me into it? Why am I angry? Why am I addicted to this, this, this and that? Why can’t I live a more peaceful, enjoyable life? 

Such questions are bound to nag your mind. Many have no patience to pursue these questions to their logical end. Many don’t have the humility to accept the fact that ‘ I don’t know’.

It is from a clear and open acknowledgement of what ‘I don’t know’, that a need for ‘I want to know’ arises. But, I want to know – only from a person who already knows. As some one said – your problem arose at a certain level of ignorance and it cannot be solved at the same level of ignorance. You must become a seeker of higher knowledge from a knowledgeable person, a Guru to be precise.

It has been said –

He who knows and knows that he knows is wise – follow him.
He who knows but knows not that he knows, is sleeping, wake him.
He knows not but knows that he knows not is innocent, teach him.
He who knows not but knows not that he knows not is dangerous – shun him.

Don’t go near the fourth person. He could destroy every thing in his ignorant ignorance. He is ignorant. He is ignorant that he is ignorant. He is arrogant.

He poses that he knows. That is the biggest problem facing every society. These Posers can even become leaders. The ignorant (who are the majority) follow the ignorant-ignorant (Double ignorance – one who is ignorant that he is ignorant). Be never in the fourth category. Wake up. Stop posing that you know. Let us at least come quickly into the third category. Let us at least acknowledge that we do not know what we do not know and find what we do not know. Let us go to the first person, the Guru, who knows that he knows. Let us prostrate before him in all humility and seek from him, the real knowledge.

Which is the first and foremost knowledge that you need? It is not about the whole world. It is not about your spouse, family members, friends etc.

It is about you. You need to know your self first and foremost. I need to know about my self. Each Individual needs to know about his self. There is a lot that we do not know about our own self!

There is only one real knowledge, the Upanishads say – the knowledge of the self. Know who you are. The greatest of Gurus have found that once you know who you are – all else falls in place for you. All answers are found in the answer to this one central question. All needs are understood instantly. All goals are understood instantly. The seeking ends. The pursuit ends. The buck stops here.

And, who else is there who can teach us this central knowledge of ‘who you are’ – other than the great Adi Sankaracharya? Adi Sankaracharya himself learnt the last piece of this knowledge from the Adi Guru, Siva himself, as we have seen in Maneesha Panchakam in two of the earlier blog Posts.

From Maneesha Panchakam, we had jumped straight into ‘Atma Bodha’ the science of self knowledge, taught meticulously by Adi Sankaracharya, driving home into us the central point from all possible angles. Even if you miss one or two angles, you can’t miss all.  Somewhere along Atma Bodha, it begins to happen to every serious seeker – that life is full of joy, that you are yourself that joy, that you are not temporary, that you are eternal and that you are all that there is. Atma Bodha conclusively established our real self to us.

We have seen that Atma Bodha follows a three step process – consisting of Sravanam (listening from Guru), Mananam (recalling mentally several times all that we have understood from the Guru) and finally Nidhidhyasanam (deep contemplation, which itself is a two step process of denying what you are not , as nethi, nethi, nethi.. and then, asserting what you are, as ithi,ithi,ithi..). It is an extraordinarily scientific process that takes you beyond all boundaries. I do urge readers to go through Atma Bodha as many times as is needed  to digest its import fully.

How would Adi Sankara do the Nidhidhyasanam process?
How would he do the nethi process and the ithi process?
How is this best of all meditations to be done?
Nirvana Shatkam is precisely the answer to all these questions.

In Nirvana Shatkam,  you will find Adi Sankara’s Six Sanskrit verses, which give you the  quintessence of Atma Bodha, which itself is the quintessence of all Upanishads, which essentially deal with self knowledge.  I have added, as in Atma Bodha, my commentary explaining the same to the levels of my ability.

In all these verses, the word I (or aham in Sanskrit), signifies the Atma.  More precisely, it signifies the total identification of jeeva with the Atma or Brahman, with there being no second entity at all. In other words, the reader is expected to identify himself totally with Brahman (Atma) and do the Mananam and Nidhidhyasanam with the six verses of Nirvana sahatkam.

How did Nirvana Shatkam come into being. There are some stories as follows: Sankara, as a young boy of eight years age, while wandering in Himalayas and seeking to find a guru, came across a sage who asked him, "Who are you?"  Sankara’s answer was this "Nirvana Shatakam." "Nirvana" is complete freedom, liberation, peace and tranquility. True liberation is in knowing the self. "Atma" is the True Self. Sankara, the boy, was talking to Swami Govindapada Acharya, his teacher thereafter. There is no way of confirming these anecdotes – but, Nirvana shatkam is an extraordinary piece of work – which is eminently suitable for Nidhidhyasanam, bringing together in a very beautiful way, the self knowledge contained in Atma Bodha (which is a later work of Sankara) and the Upanishads.

We will now start with Verse.1. You can listen to all these verses on Internet from several beautiful voices at YouTube and other web sites. You can even practice Nidhidhyasanam with these audios initially – until they become familiar to you. You can also practice with one verse at a time. Find the way which is most effective for you.


Mano budhyahankara chithaa ninaham,
Na cha srothra jihwe na cha grhana nethre,
Na cha vyoma bhoomir na thejo na vayu,
Chidananda Roopa Sivoham, Sivoham.

As we have seen in Atma Bodha, our existence is perceived through Sareera Thrayam – the gross body, which is visible to us, the subtle body which runs the gross body in different ways from inside and the causal body which causes  the existence of these two bodies but remains more or less dormant later with very less functions. These are Micro level bodies. At  Macro level, the five great elements cause the existence of all the three micro bodies in each of us.

Sankaracharya is first negating that part of the causal body which feels as the ‘I’, the perceiver, then the sense organs (indriyaas) which act as the medium of transactions between this perceiver and the external world and then the external world, which is perceived by this perceiver.

The negation process is contained  in the first 3 lines of the verse and is followed by the assertion process in the last line – in strict adherence to the Nidhidhyasanam process. The meaning of the verse is explained below:

I am not the emotional mind, the manas, which vacillates between thoughts and remains indecisive.
I am not the intellect, the Buddhi either, which is involved in decision taking.
I am not the ego, the ahankara,   which is responsible for the ‘I’  feeling.
I am not the Chittam, which indulges in deeper thinking and storing of all memories.
I am not the ears which hear the Sounds from external world, or the tongue which tastes, or the nose which smells or the eyes which see.
I am not the earth or the sky or the air or the light, the great elements of the universe.
I am the all pervading, universal consciousness and eternal bliss. I am the Siva, I am the Siva.”

The reader is urged to identify totally with the all pervading consciousness, the eternal Bliss, which is Brahman and  perform the negation and assertion process as above.

Readers who have completed the previous Blog Posts on Atma Bodha know well that Siva, Vishnu, Brahma, Brahman, Atman – all refer to the same entity which is Chidananda roopa.  The word, Roopa, here need not be confused with a fixed shape and form. What is all pervading has no fixed, limited shape. It pervades the whole universe.

What is it that pervades the whole universe?

It is YOU. It is I.

‘I’ have no emotions, no desires, no transactions, no dilemmas and no decisions to make. I am not also any of the five great elements. When ‘I’ am the only one, without any second, when I am the all pervading bliss – where is the question of the ‘I’ feeling – as different from you and others?

Liberate yourself from what you are not and be what you are.

Readers can discern some apparent omissions in the verse – which are inconsequential and which we may supply if we so desire. The second line mentions four out of the five Panchendriyaas and omits the touch sensation. The third line omits water and mentions only four of the five great elements. The fourth line omits the “Sath (the eternal existence)” and mentions only Chith (the all pervading consciousness) and Aananda (the eternal bliss). These are easily “understood” and need no mention. Denial / assertion of all others implies denial/assertion of the omitted ones also.

When Sankara asserts twice emphatically – I am the Siva, I am the Siva – all else merges into this ultimate understanding of the self.

Generally the four faculties of “mano,Buddhi,ahankara,chittam” together are called “antahkarana”. But, based on four different functions performed in anthahkarana – we give them four names. More details of this can be seen in Viveka choodamani of Adi Sankara.
We will continue the other verses in next post.

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  1. excellent. simple and not a single word is insipid or repititive. good work sir.

    Ramprasad, mysore

  2. interesting and useful i came to know about this blog only this morning through a FB link . Incidentally I wrote this for this new year
    New Year with a New Realization of Reality