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Crown Jewel of Sagacity: Adi Shankara’s Viveka Chudamani: part 5

Adi Shankaracharya

The Three Tendencies - vasanatriyam


Even though one experiences brahman, the effort of the tendencies (vasanas) acquired down the births is very strong. This is without beginning, anadi. The tendency that 'I' am the doer 'I am the one who experiences', if it is there, that would be the cause of the person's bond to sansara. With a deep commitment, withdrawing the powers of senses inside, one has to feel that he is pratyagaatma, and try to get rid of the tendencies. The munis, accomplished ones, declare that mukti is to be rid of vasanas.

The feeling that the body etc. is mine is adhyasa. The body etc., are anatma. The learned one with dedication, staying in his form of atman should be rid of this adhyasa.

aham mameti yo bhaavo dehaadavanatmani

adhyasoyam nirstavyo vidusha swatmanishtaya 269

Realising that pratyagaatma that is witness to buddhi and its nature, is your own form and staying in the realization that that is the very brahman, give up the feeling of atman in anatma.

There are three kinds of vasanas, tendencies, lokavasana, dehavasana and shastra vasana. Leave the adhyaasa that results from these. As long as these tendencies are there, there could be no jnaana. Philosophers tell us that these are iron shackles to our feet. The one who frees himself from these would obtain mukti liberation.

If a piece of sandal wood remains in water for long bad smell would cover it. It loses its fragrance. But if it is to be ground on a grinding stone, the extermal bad smell would disappear. It smells fine as earlier. In the same way the difficult-to-shed vasanas spoil the perfume of the tendency or fragrance of the atman. With the friction of prajna (the feeling that jeeva and Eshwara are one and the same) the bad smells would be lost. The fragrance of atman becoming once again pure manifests.


yadha yadha pratyagavasthitam manah

tadhatadha munchati bahyavasanah

nissesha mokshe sati vasanaanaa

maatmanubhutih pratibandha shoonya 277


The manas of Yogis is always steady in the atman. For that reason destroy your vasanas. Remove adhyaasa. With satwarajogunas tamoguna would be destroyed. Rajo gunam would be destroyed by satwaguna. Misratatwas would be destroyed by shuddha satvam. Determined that the body would sustain prarabda karma, be steady. Courageously try to get rid of adhyaasa.

You drive away adhyaasa, by constantly contemplating the fact that you are not jeeva but parabrahma. The speed of vasanas creates adhyaasa. By the knowledge of vedas yor own experience and your skill, realize that you are all in all and get rid of adhyaasa caused by the vasanas. For the one dedicated to atman either taking or leaving a thing even to a small extent would make his deed unfruitful. Stay undeviatingly steady in your atman always. Reject your adhyaasa.

By declarations like taattwamasi the knowledge of the unity of jeeva andparamatmawould get reinforced. To make youjeevatma live strongly in brahman destroy your adhyaasa. You have to restrain you manas till the feeling that you are your body is completely destroyed and your adhyaasa is given up totally.

O! Learned one! jeevatma andjagat are both created like things seen in deep sleep. They are not real. Till this feeling is destroyed, consciously restraining your manas, you get rid of your adhyaasa. Contemplate on the atman without any laxity in your approach. Won't allow any word relating to the unreal world enter your mind.

With your father's sperm and the mother's ovum, your body is made. It is full of faeces and flesh. Leaving at afar, be brahman and make your life worthy. O, muni! As you coalesce the sky in the pot with the sky in the firmament let your jeevatma lose itself in the paramatma. Be neutral and unconcerned with your form and contemplating nature of brahman. Paramatma is self-effulgent. It is the base of all. Obtain that in your manas leave both the pindanda (your body) and brahmanda (comprising the four worlds) considering them both as pots filed with excreta. The 'I' feeling of the body be kept in the ever conscious sadanand, in brahman and leave the linga sareera, or the physical body. Become parabrahma.

Like the reflection of the palace in the mirror, this world (jagat) is abhas. But the parabrahma is yourself. This realized, you would be successful. Your real form is sat It is shapeless; unacting; jnaana, the ultimate bliss. Get into that condition leaving the body. That is like the costume worn by the actor.

All that we see is only mithya, that would be destroyed in a trice. That is not truth. Saying that that is 'me' is meaningless. Ego is momentary. If one thinks that he knows all, how can be attain jnaana?

For things like ahankara, ego sense, pratyagaatma is witness. That is seen clearly in deepsleep state. The Vedic statement "ajonityam" clearly states that pratyagaatma is without beginning and that is uniquely distinct from sat and asat. This pratyagaatma knows all the six vikaras, mutations, like birth upto death. For that reason if it is eligible to know that it is without change. vikara rahit.

In desires, in dream, in deep sleep ahankara mentioned earlier is being seen as really noexistent. For this reason, shed the feeling that the body is you for it is made up of blood, flesh etc. Leave that egosense that all that is you. Realize that the solid jnaana form is not affected by the three time as past, present and future (trikaalas). That form of jnaana is your pratyagaatma. Note that it is your form and attain peace. Leave your affection for the body and things like caste, race, clan etc. that depend upon it. Leave also the doership, experiencership etc. that belong to the body. Become the form of solid undivided sukha, comfort.

Ahankara-Ego sense

There are several hurdles for man to be the reason for getting entangled in the bonds of sansara. The main reason among these is ego-sense or ahankara. That is the first mutation, or, vikara. As long as atman has a relation with the evil egosense there would not be even the slightest desire for salvation. Only the one who frees himself from ahankara would be able to attain his original form of pratyagaatma. That is pure like the moon; perfect and full, self illuminating and everlasting, absolute bliss. This body is obtained from buddhi which lost viveka owing to the pervading tamoguna. When the feeling that the body is nine is totally destroyed the idea would dawn that one is the bondless, shackleless brahman.

Brahmananda, Absolute Bliss is a treasure. That is guarded by a powerful serpent called ahankara, egosense, entwining it. For this serpent the three gunas are the most dangerous hoods. These have to be chopped off with jnaana as laid down by the Veda. Only the one who does that is capable of getting the treasure of great comfort.


brahmananda nidhirmahaa balvantaahankaara ghoraahinaa

samveshtyaatmani rakshyate gunamayaischandai stribhirmastakaih

vijnaanakhya mahaasinaa shrutimataa vichchidya seershatrayam

 nirmoolyahimimam nidhim sukhakaram dheeronubhoktum kshamah 303

Even if there is a little poison in the body, there would be no complete good health. In the same way even if there is a wee little bit of ahankara, the yogi would not get salvation. Only when the yogi gets rid of ahankara totally along with its various alernatives, he would atttain to the state of 'aham brahmasmi” You have to shed the idea of 'I' and 'me' -feeling 'I' am seeing, 'I' am doing etc. This would be in several various variation several shapes. It would just cover or cloud your atmaswaroopa You are pratyagaatma, the form of sukha, joy, you have acquired sansara birth, grief, old age etc. only because you have ahankara and attraction and attachment to anatma forms like the body etc.

You are the form of sat; second to none, full of chit, master and lord if all. You are the embodiment of bliss; endless fame; one without mutation or vikara. For one like you sansara is only adhyasa. Nothing else. Ahankara is like a thorn in the throat for the one eating. That is like an enemy. You have to slay it with the sword of your jnaana.

You enjoy the bliss of ruling the empire of atman which appears very clearly to you. Divert your manas from things like anatma and ahankara. Be without any reaction, without any action in the feeling of the bliss of the atman shedding all affection for vishayas.

The Power and Sway of vasanas

Even though ahankara is chopped off, if the manas merely touches it, it would became powerful again. Just as the cloud in the rainy season is spread in many directions, ahankara rouses many intentions sankalpas. For this reason ahankara has to be reined in. Don't ever leave a chance for attraction towards vishayas. Just as water makes the lemon tree break into bud, vishayas and thoughts about them, would become a reason for the sprouting of ahankara again.

The one who thinks the body is he would be one with several desires. The one who believes that he is not his body would never be one with desires. Bedhabuddhi, the feeling of discrimination, is fostered by attachment and attraction to vishayas. It becomes the cause for sansara. If karya activity grows, the seed grows. By destroying activity the seed would be destroyed. So activity needs to be restrained. Karya means the desire for vishayas. This karya, activity, has to be destroyed. With desire removed vasanas would be removed. If vasanas grow vishaya chintana, desire for things and attraction grows. If there is increase of karya, increase of desire for vishayas, man cannot find liberation from sansara.

Yati has to sever the bonds of sansara and for that destroy vasana and karya too which increase desires and attachments. Thinking about things, experiencing things would increase vasana. For this reason, in all the three states, of wakefulness, of dreams and of deep sleep, efforts must be made to nip, cut off vasana, vishaya chintana and bodily, external experience. In every thing, everywhere one should be able to see only brahman. If the feeling that everything is brahman is strong all the three mentioned above would be destroyed.

When the experience of Vishaya is destroyed chinta would be destroyed. By that vasana would be destroyed. Moksha is a state where all vasanas are destroyed. That is liberation.

kriyaanaashe bhave chchintaa naashosma dwaasanaa kshayah

vaasanaa prakshayo mokshah sa jeevanmukti rishyate 318


Though there is a dense darkness, when the sun rises it is totally dispelled. If the inspiration relating to sat grows, the darkness of ahankara and vasana would be destroyed. The group of untoward things done in darkness too would disappear. When the feeling of absolute bliss is attained there would be no bondage to sansara. There would not be a whit of grief also. Both would be destroyed.

Even though there is the bond of karma, destroy the visible world totally. perfectly. Have faith that you are brahman. Solid bliss. Both externally and internally attain restraint and pass your time.

Unforceseen mischance Pramaad

While one is in brahman one should not nap. Sanat Kumar the mahatma, son of Brahma said that pramad is mrityu, death. For ajnaani while experiencing absolute bliss there could be no great untoward thing than this pramad or mischance. From this mischance there would emerge moha, from moha ahankara and because of that sansara and finally grief.

One may be a learned person. If he sits facing vishayas because of weakness in buddhi, as a loose woman draws a lecher, he would be drawn into the experience of vishayas. Thick moss would not be stable. It would soon spread. In the same way ifprajna is away from facing parabrahma, maya would engulf man. When the manas is away from the ultimate object or goal, like bull rolling down the stairs, it would fall down at great speed. Manas, when gets into vishayas, would meet with a free fall. It goes on thinking of experiences and because of this man would be drawn into sansara. He would fall very low and would never try again to attain brahman. For one who knows brahman and one having the discrimination of atman and anatman there could be no greater death than pramada. The one who in samadhi, a state of trance, restrains all senses and manas, attains siddhi, fulfillment, soon. For that reason, O, Learned one! Concentrate your manas on atman and be ever alert.

The one who while alive attains brahmatva, would attain the state of brahman even after death. He would be scared by seeing anything other than brahman. Yajur Veda says:

jeevato yasya kaivalyam videhe cha sakevalah

yat kinchit pashyato bhedam bhayam bhrooteyajuh shrutih 330


If a learned man ever sees even a whit of change in parabrahma he would be scared. He is afraid of seeing anything other than brahman. Hundred of declarations in the Veda prohibited in several ways the body and the related things. The one who feels that he is the body is the one who has performed prohibited deeds. His antahkarana is blemished, flawed and stained. He would experience a series of griefs. The one who is interested to apply all his manas to paramatma would be free from the bonds of sansara. He would constantly get the experience of his own form, brahmatattwa. Those who are interested in applying the mind to the body etc. which is asat would be destroyed. This difference is seen readily between the thief and a gentleman.

The one who has restraint of his senses should shed the idea that 'he' is the body, which is the reason for all bondage and sansara. He must experience the oneness of jeeva and brahman, the condition of sameness between him and parabrahman. It would make him enjoy the bliss supreme since he himself is brahman. The commitment and dedication to brahman relieves him of the grief of the visible world. Taking the manas to visible external things would lead to the growth of foul smell. With the vivek of atman and anatman, external attractions, vishayas should be given up. One

should connect the manas with the Supreme Being. Then he would be able to see Him. By seeing Him worldly bonds would be snapped. None who accepts the declarations of the Vedas and has viveka of sat and asat would not care for the body etc. which are anatman! The ignorant one does that but not the jnaani.

There is mukti or salvation for one who identifies himself with deha and related things. For the liberated ones there would be no feeling that the 'body' is the person. For the one in sleep, there would be no wakefulness. For the one wakeful there would be no dream state. The reason is that the two, wakefulness and sleep relate to two different gunas.

The one who sees himself in all and everything (that is the brahman) and leaves everything else and stays in the indivisible, perfect and full parabrahma, would be the one liberated from the bonds of sansara.

antarbahih svam sthira jangameshu jnaanaatmanaadhaaratayaa vilokya

tyaktva khilopaadhir akhandaroopah poornaatmana yah sthita yesha muktah 339

There could be no other way for liberation from sansara than the experience of the person that he is himselfparabrahmam in every way. The implication is that svatma bhava is the only way. This bhava would be obtained when nothing is seen and the feeling of deha is not accepted or felt. This leads to the thinking that all is brahman. The manas coalesced in the atman, always and ever, would make this feeling possible.

If one indulges in experiencing the external, visible world and goes on acting accordingly it is not possible for the person to resist taking these in. The implication is that for the ajnaani it is not possible to leave the feeling that the body is he and he is the body. Only those, who have given up all and everything relating to karma and dharma and are devoted to atman and those who know atman and desire only the bliss of atman, would be able give up the. Only for such, bliss is possible.


For the one who recapitulates and contemplates, for the samnyasi, the Veda prescribes samadhi. "shanto daanta uparati sthitishu samaahito bhootvaa aatmanyevaatmaa nam pashyet". The idea is the one who has shama, dama, uparati and titiksha and who stays in samadhi, would visualize and see paramatma in himself.

Even for the learned ones the destruction of the feeling that the body is atman is not easy. This is not possible for anybody except those in nirvikalpa samadhi. This is so because vasanas are attached since many births.

The power of shifting called vikshepa shakthi takes man and joins him with moha which is a form if ahankara which is related to avaranashakti, the power of enveloping or covering. Later with their gunas he is thrown into sansara. It is difficult to overthrow this power. This is possible only when the power of covering, avaranashakti is overthrown, without leaving even a bit of it. Only when the sight (drishthi) and the scene (drishya) are clearly divided, the avaranashakti around the atman would be destroyed by itself. Drik is sight. It is pratyagaatma.

Everything else that appears like the body etc. and the whole world is drishya, appearing because of superimposition or adhyaasa. When the two-fold division is experienced, the enveloping cover dies. When it is dead the manas would not stray into the illusory anaatma. Then without hurdles, the atman vastu, would be experienced without doubt.

Clear and difinite knowingness, jnaana, the specific, exact discriminating power, nityanitya vastuvivek divides the nature ofpadarthas, things or matters. Along with that it severs the connection of moha created by maya. Thus through viveka when one gets liberation, the sansara would be destroyed along with the seed (beeja).

samyagvivekah sphutabodha janyo

vibajya drig drishya padarthatattwam

chinatti mayaakrita mohabandham

yasmaadimuktasya punarna sanskrutih  346

para (Eshwara) and apara (jeeva) are not different. The fire of jnaana teaches this and burns the entire forest. For the one who has advaitanubhava (the experience if feeling that jeevatma and paramata are not two but only one advaita-monism there would be no seed of sansara- no more birth or death and thus total liberation, mukti, is obtained.

With atmadarshan, the realization of atman. 1. The enveloping, covering power is destroyed 2. mithyajnaan, the idea that the body etc. is everlasting, nitya is destroyed 3. grief from the expansive power is destroyed. The one who feels that the rope is a snake realizes that there is no snake and what there is, is only a rope. By this the three cited above become possible. moha, mithyajnaana and bhaya (fear) all are gone.

Owing to the combination (samyoga) with fire the lifeless iron gets several forms and is referred to by several names. In the same way with the combination of buddhisat (pratyagatma), it expands in the forms of roopa, rasa etc. of sense perceptions. Avaran shakti is the function of buddhi. Mithyajnaan and vikshepashakti are its functions as well. All the three are asat, mithya, illusion. They are like seeing the serpent in the rope; like those experiences in a dream; like feeling various sankalpas in the manas. For that reason beginning from ahankara up to deha, the body, all vishayas are the mutations, vikaras of the prakriti with the three gunas, satva, rajas and tamo. They would be changeful and cannot be considered as atman, which is not changeful.

Ataman is nitya, permanent and true. It is second to none; indivisible and the form of chit. It is witness to buddhi etc. It is unique transcending both sat and asat. It is to be known only through jnaana. It is worth realizing. It is the form of pratyagatma. Even solid bliss. The learned one realizes that it is his form of atman, his own. Liberated from deha etc. which are anatma, he would get peace that surpasses all understanding.

When in stable samaadhi and when the feeling of non-duality is obtained the heart cord of ignorance or ajnaana is severed. Parmatma is second to none. It has no unique qualities. The idea of 'you' and 'I' comes only because of the flaw in buddhi. For the one in samadhi, all alternatives would be destroyed.

The yati with shama and the other fine qualities of shamadi shatkam, while in samaadhi feels that he is all - since he is experiencing the feel of all atmas, all alternatives that occur because of the darkness of ajnaana would be burnt. Thus he would be deedless, and without any alternatives. So he is joy and comfort only.

shantodaantah paramuparatah kshaantiyuktah samadhim

kurvannityam kalayati yatih swaswa sarvatma bhavam

tenaa vidyaatimira janitaan saadhu dagdhva vikalpaan

brahmakrityaa nivasati sukham nishkriyo nirvikalpah  356

Those in samadhi and coalescing all senses and chitta alone with the idea of 'my' in the pratyagaatma, alone are 'liberated' ones from sansara. Listening to the statement aham brahmasmi and thinking that one is brahman is useless. Such can not get liberated.

Though paramatma is only one, in different upadhis it obtains differences. When upadhis are removed it remains one. Then it would be experienced as an indivisible one. So the learned one should be in nirvikalpa samadhi to destroy the upadhis. The one in brahma with dedication becomes brahman. The insect always contemplating becomes the bee. In the same way, the yogi contemplating the parmatma, with concentration and dedication would obtain paramatma tattwa.

... to be continued

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

Dr V.V.B. Rama Rao (b.1938) is a retired ELT, English Language teaching, professional with more than sixty books in all genres both in English and Telugu besides hundreds of
essays, articles and book reviews in both the languages. He can be accessed on vadapalli.ramarao@gmail.com

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