select category_id from item_category_relation where item_id='402' Crown Jewel of Sagacity: Adi Shankara’s Viveka Chudamani: part 4

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Crown Jewel of Sagacity: Adi Shankara’s Viveka Chudamani: part 4

Adi Shankaracharya


manah prasoote vishayanseshaan

sthoolatmanaa sookshmatayaa cha bhoktuh

sareera varnashrama jaatibhedhaan

gunakriyaa hetuphalaani nityam 179

Unattached and the form of chit, is atman. Manas is the thing that draws one with moha and binds one with the senses, pranaas and gunas while performing reaping the fruit of karmas, it is the manas that makes one think that they are real.

For a man to think that the body etc. which are anatman as atman, the cause is manas. Manas is the basic reason for the aviveki, the one without viveka, to feel the grief of birth and death and the faults of the gunas. For this reason, great sadhakas say that manas itself is avidya. So, to obtain or attain moksha one should get his manas cleansed by severe practice and austerities. If the manas is pure, getting moksha would be easy - a gooseberry in the hand. When one has aspiration and interest only in moksha, one should give up all affection and attraction for vishayas. One should relinquish deeds with desires. One should listen to and follow the precepts of vedanta and the teachings of the guru. One should be committed and dedicated to sravan, manan. Then only can one be able to keep the rajoguna away from him.

Even the manomaya kosha cannot be atman. This has a beginning and an end. This evolves. This is grief ridden. This is the reason for experiencing vishayas. Paramatma is always a seer, a drashtha. Thus seen by him this kosha disappears. So how can the seer, the paramatma, be seen? Never, he can never be seen.

vijnanamaya kosha - Intellectual Sheath

Jnanendriyas and their actions with egosense and buddhi become the vijnanamaya kosha. This is the cause of sansara.

buddhirbuddheendriyai saardham savruttih kartru lakshanah

vijnanamaya koshah syat punsah sansarakaranam  186

The chaitanya that follows the three states (like jagradavastha) along with its reflection is considered vijnanamaya kosha. This is the vikara (variant) of prakriti which has the three gunas. This sense makes one feel that he is the doer, the actor etc. with the influence of this kosha he feels that he is learning and feeling the shape and nature of things through the body and the senses.


anuvraja chchitrapratibimba saktir

vijnaana sanjnah prakriter vikarah

jnaana kriyaavaanam hamitya jasram

dehendriyaadi shvabhimanyate bhrusham  187

The image of the chit is whithout beginning, anaadi This is of the form and shape of ego sense (ahankara) This is referred to as Jeeva. This conducts all the affairs and activities. According to the vasanas brought down from the earlier births, it performs meritorious deeds (puna karyas) and sinful ones, (paap karmas). It undergoes and experiences the fruit thereof. This one is born in several yonis (genitals of the female).

That means he takes various births. He goes into the upper worlds, and the lower ones. He goes on experiencing the fruit of the actions (karmas). All the three states and all the experiences of joy and grief are his.

This kosha has the affection that in the ashram dharmas, karmas and gunas that they are his. Since it is closest to the paramatma, it has extra rediance. For this reason this is the upadhi (base) for the Jeevi. For this reason, it has the buddhi that it is the atman and behaves in the way it does.

They one with vijnaana would appear as prana in the heart as ajyoti. Though atma is kootastha, since it has vijnanaamaya kosha as upadhi or base, it is both the doer and the eater, karta and bhokta. Though it has neither, since it is in that base, it feels the two.

Since it identifies itself with buddhi which is a mirage, for this lapse or dosha it is called separately as Jeevatma. Though a form of clay, clay and pot are given different names.

In the same way the all pervading paramatma is spoken of as jeevatma. With contact with upadhi, paramatma with the qualities of upadhi shines with the dharmas of upadhi. Agni does not have vikaras, changes. But when it is with iron it gets the angularities of iron. In the same way though paramatma has a single form. According to the upadhi, with its nature, it is differently referred to as jeevatma. Shishya's Pariprasna, Questioning

Sishya asks thus;

"For paramatma the idea of Jeevatma may be caused by illusion or something else. Avidya that is the base for paramatma c!is without beginning and is indestructible. Then the Jeevatma bhava that has come to Atman would bring along the idea that sansara too is nitya. If that is so, since sansara cannot be removed, guruji, how I can get liberation from sansara?"

Gurujis statement


"Young man! your question is proper and relevant. Listen carefully. That which is created by avidya can never be stable. Paramatma is asanga, unattached. He is formless and without kriya, action. For such there can be no attachment with vishayas, things or objects. To think that there is a relation is bhranti, illusion. Blackness of the cloud is only a bhranti, isn't it?

By himself Paramatma is a visionary, a seer, qualityless and deedless. Pratyagatma is the embodiment of ananda, bliss. His jeeva bhava comes only because of the illusion of buddhi. Paramatma does not have jeeva bhava at all. When illusion is removed there is nothing that is different from paramatma. As long as bhranti is there with unreal knowledge, mithya jnaana, by accident, there is the expanding jeevana bhava. When illusion is gone the bhava is gone too. Only because of illusion there appears a snake: when it is gone there is only a rope. As long as illusion is there only avidya and its activities would appear to be anaadi, without beginning. With Jnaana emerging this avidya disappears. The experience in the dream is there only till one does not become wakeful. With wakefulness, the experiences are destroyed.

Though 'anaadi', avidya is never nitya. Nitya is ever present and everlasting. The earlier feeling of ghata (pot) is also anaadi. When ghata comes the earlier feeling is obliterated. In the same way avidya too is extinct after jnaana comes.

Owing to the connection of buddhi with upadhi (base) in the atman the quality of jeeva is well imagined. So, there is no jeeva without atman. Only through comprehensive knowingness, samyag jnaana the illusive knowingness would be destroyed. Shruti accepts that samyag jnaana is the knowingness of the oneness of (or the unity of ) jeeva and brahma and not the performance and observance of karmas (deeds). Samyag jnaana is obtained only with the viveka (realization and discrimination of atma and anatma). For this reason it is important to know what is prayagatama and what is jeevatma.

Water in slush would be unclear. If the slush is removed, the water is clear. In the same way atman would be effulgent if there are no flaws in it. If asat is not there, pratyagaatama would appear clean and radiant. For this reason ahankara (ego-sense) etc. need to be rejected. Then the form of sat, atman would be resplendent.

For this reason vijnanamaya kosha (Intellectual sheath) is not atman. The changeful jada is considered to be limited to only one avarana, covering. That is drishyam, visible. It is seen in many forms. So, the intellectual sheath is anitya. So it can never be atman.

Anandamaya kosha - Blissful sheath

Anandamaya kosha is said to be an expanded reflection of ananda. With tamoguna its body gets blown up. Its quality is to like and be liked. This feeling comes when a thing dear is accessible. In the meritorious (punyatmas) this would appear in experiencing punya (merit).

If only there is body, without effort, it would make one experience bliss.


ananda pratibimba chumbitanurvrutti stamojrumbhitaa

syaadananda mayah priyadi gunakah sweshthartha laabhodayah punyasyanubhave vibhaati krutinaamaanandaroopah swayam

bhootva nandati yatra saadhu tanubhrunmatrah prayatnam vinaa  209

This kosha would be felt most in deep sleep state. In the other two states there would be some joy. This kosha too is not atman. This is not so since this has for its upadhi, (base) tamoguna. This is a variant ofprakriti. This accrues because of meritorious deeds. This comes because of various mutations.

Thus considered with the support of several vedantic statements, none of the koshas can be atman. If all these are thus gone, only that which remains as a witness with the form and shape of jnaana can only be considered atman. This is self-effulgence. It is different from the five koshas. This is witness to the three states. It is free from the six mutations, vikaras like birth, growth etc., it is niranjan, pure and worth knowing by the learned ones as being ever blissful.

The Disciple - Shishya's question

Asks the shishya thus:

Crown of gurus! if I am to reject the five sheaths as the result of illusion or mithya, everything etc. too would appear as non-existent. If it so is there anything in him that the learned one has to know?

The preceptor's answer

Explains thus the guru,

"O! Learned one! You spoke the truth: you have become skilled in thinking of atman. Realise now with your sharp buddhi that paramatma is one who sees egosense and of mutations. He is the one who knows all. He is one who cannot be seen by anybody too.

If something is seen by anybody he would be a witness to that. It is not possible to be a witness to something not seen. In that case there could be no witness. Paramatma is he or that which is seen by Paramatma alone. So he is witness to himself or itself. That is parambrahmam. That is Pratyagaatma. Nothing other than that. It is not different from Pratyagaatma.

What appears as very clean in all the three states. and the one which appears as 'I' inside, the one who sees all vikaras (mutations) and egosense always remains in the form of bliss. Then realize that it is your form and shape in your heart.

jagrat swapna sushuptishu sphutataram yo sau samujhrumbhate pratyagroopataya sadaahamahamityantah sphurannekathaa

nanaakaara vikara bhajina imaan pashyannaham dheemukhaan nityananda chidamatnaa sphurati tam viddhi swametam hrudi 219


The stupid sees the reflection of the sun in the pot and thinks that it is the sun. In the same way an ajnaani sees the jeeva in upadhi called buddhi and thinks that he (chidaabhas) is atman. The learned one capable of discriminating what is atman and what is anatman, leaves both the reflection and the pot and looks at the sun in the sky. He realizes that the sun above is neutral and making both the pot and the image in it shine. But the sun alone is self-shining. In the same way, the learned one gives up both the body and the buddhi along with the jeeva, the reflection of chaitanya and sees the Pratyagaatma in the cave of buddhi, buddhiguha. In the same way he realises is that he is of the form of atman and the seer of atman and the solid, undivided form of jnana. He knows what is atman and what is not atman. He knows that sat makes everything shine and that it is all pervading. Thus he becomes solid bliss one who has no death and the one who is without sin and rajoguna. He sheds all grief. He is not afraid of anything. For the one who aspires to get liberation, there is no other way of getting liberation except realizing his self.

Experiencing the sameness (abhinnatva - quality of not being different)-that capacity - is the cause for liberation from sansara. The learned ones attain brahman, the second to none experience of the form of solid bliss. The one who realises and experiences the abhinnatva or sameness would never get into sansara again. So it should be learnt he himself is brahman and is in no way different from brahman.


The form of brahman


Brahman is true: it is the form of jnaana, endless, eternal, pure, and transcending all. It is self-born; ever living, form of bliss absolute, nor different from pratyagaatma; ever shining and the form of sat. There is nothing from it separately. It is non-dual. When paratattwa is known, there would be nothing else in the mind or memory. Only brahman is seen all round, everywhere. The entire world in different forms and shapes is seen only because of ajnaana. But even that is brahman that is without imagination.

What is made of clay is only clay. It is not different from clay. Pot is always in the form of clay. There could be no pot different from clay. The name 'pot' is a creation of 'mithya' illusion. Can anyone show a pot removing the clay from it! This is impossible. So only ignorance, ajnaana creates pot. In fact what there is only clay. In the same way wherever that comes from the form of sat, brahman is sat, that is brahman only there is nothing that is different from it.

If there is anyone who says there is something different from it, it means that he is an ajnaani. It is like talk in a delirium.

A uniquely best declaration in the Atharvana Veda says very clearly that the "Universe is brahman. Brahmai vedam vishwamidamsarvam”. So this entire universe is only brahman. In rope-serpent illusion, rope is adhisthana-serpent is the ascribe. The two are not different there are no two things. In the same way brahman is adhisthna. The universe is only an ascription something that is not real. So the universe and brahman are not different. They are the same (ashishthara is the thing, the ignorance of which causes bhranti, illusion)

If the universe were sat what is said about brahman "satyam jnaanam anantam brahma” in the Veda would go waste. The Veda is valid for all time. Secondly, the declaration would become non-standard. Thirdly, Parameshwar who gave vedas would be faulted with an allegation of being untruthful. Great minds do not accept any of these.

Eshwar who knows and is brahmatattwa declared that He is not in the beings and He is not among them. The Gita 9-45 asserts: ‘matisthaani sarvabhootaani na chaahamteshwva sthitah na cha matsthaani bhootaani’. According to this too the all-pervading brahman is second to none. There is nothing that is different from it. If this universe were real or true in the deep sleep state it should be obtained. But it is not obtained. So the universe is asat (not true, not real). It is only illusion. It is like the rope appearing as a serpent. Is it possible for the non-existent thing to have being? So, there is no universe different from brahman. To appear different is illusion. Only brahma which is adhishthana appears as universe only awing to illusion.

For the one in illusion that which he sees in illusion is only brahman. The shell of the pearl which appears as silver is only a shell-not silver. So what is shown as the universe is only brahman, the form if sat. The universe ascribed in brahma is only there in name.

Thus brahman is sat, second to none, pure. Brahman is called jnaana, flawless (niranjan), without beginning or end, calm and peaceful, without action and the form of perpetual bliss absolute. It does not have any differences created by maya. It is permanent, everlasting, certain and without any dependence or relation to anything. It is aprameya, immeasurable, incomprehensible, inconceivable, beyond human understanding. It has no form or shape. It is without a name, it is inexhaustible self-effulgent. It is beyond the triputi of the knower, and thing to be known and knowingness, jnaata, jneyam and Jnana. It is purely indivisible chit. It is paratattwa. Only the most learned know or realize this. It is impossible either to have or leave it or leave it. It cannot be obtained through either manas or vak (speech). It has no beginning and no and. It is only the perfect effulgence par excellence.


Justification of the declaration tattwamasi


'Tat' and 'twam' are explained by 'abhidavritti' as the forms of brahma - as jeevatma and paramatma. Chandhogya upanishad clearly posits that they are one. It teaches that you are the parabrahman. The glow-worm-the sun the king-the servant, the well-the sea, the atom-the-all have different dharmas. So too jeevatma and paramatma. In the actual word meaning they are not a union but in substance their unity is possible.

The incompatibility or inconsistency (virodha) is created because of upadhi (base). In fact they are not different. For Eshwar upadhi is maya. For the jeeva the five sheaths which are responsible for avidya are the upadhi. If the upadhis are removed, there is no difference between the two. If the Kingdom of the king and the weapon of the soldier are removed they are the same.

‘Athadita a adesho netineti’ says the veda. By this and by logic the 'difference' between Eshwar and brahman is rejectable. The difference is created and not true. It is like the serpentine quality in the rope, or, like the world obtained in a dream. Jeeva in Eshwar too is not real. The most important thing is to realise that the universe is a creation of illusion and infact it is not different from brahman.

The unity of jeeva and Eshwar is obtained only because of the quality. To obtain the form of absolute bliss the difference of jahad and ajahad lakshanas alone is needed. Looking at a man seen somewhere at sometime and saying that the he is Devadutta can be established only when the time, place difference is removed. Than only can he be taken as Devadatta. In the same way only when the chaitanya alone in jeeva and parameshwar is taken then unity becomes clear. The learned ones take only chaitnya to establish that the two are only one. Many mahavakyas, grand declarations, in the Vedas teach the oneness or unity of jeeva and brahmatma.

When we prohibit the asat as per the statement in Brihadarayaka Upanishad “asthoola manmahraswa madeerghama lohita masneham", it becomes clear that atman is self obtained and like the sky unimaginable. So, the seen body etc., are only illusion. One has to leave the feeling that that is me. With a pure buddhi, one should realize that he is brahman, the indivisible form of jnana.

A pot made of clay etc. are not different from the clay. In the same way the body etc. that have come from sat or the world too are part of it. There is nothing apart or different from sat. That sat are you and by yourself you are brahman. So, disciple! You are brahman; tat twam asi. You are the brahman, second to none.


mrutkaryam sakalam ghataadi satatam mrinmaatrevabhi tah

tadvat sajjanatam sadaatmakamidam sanmaatramevaakhilam

yasmannasthi satah param kimapi tat satyam sa aatmaa swayam

tasmaat tatwamasi prashantamamalam brahmaadvayam yatparam 253

That the country, place time, matter, the seer one who sees are all mithya, illusion is clear. In the same way the body, the senses, prana, ahankara etc. are all asat mithya, illusion. So you are parabrahman, peaceful, flawless, and brahman with none second.


The explanation of the vakya - tattwamasi


Brahman is far and different from sea, race, caste, clay etc. It has no name, no form or shape, no guna (attribute) or flaw (dosha). It transcends time and place. Such brahman are you. Keep thinking we that you are that brahman.

It in the wakeful state too the world is there owing to ajnaana. Above all it is not to be seen or felt-it can be seen by the eye of jnaana alone. You are that. Pure, solid, chit, without beginning or end. You keep thinking, contemplating that. It, the brahman, is free from the six oormis like hunger and thirst, grief and attraction and birth and death. It is contemplated in the heart by the yogis. It can not be imagined or felt by the senses. It is to be 'known' only through buddhi. It is flawless. You are that brahman.

You are that brahma, the resort and refuge of the illusion-created world and the deeds there in, it is different from sat and asat. With no limbs or organs, incomparable, and perfect. You are the brahma with neither birth nor death, no mutations or vikaras. It is stable like a huge water body without waves and unattached and unbounded. Contemplate on that brahman. It is above karya and karana, cause and effect; it is totally independent, autonomus. Contemplate this in your heart.

You are that parabrahma, with no alternatives, it is no small thing; it is ever living; unique; it transcends everything. It is ever lasting. It would not get diminished. It is unexpendable and the form of comfort. It can not be measured. You contemplate on that brahman. You are that. Just as gold is called a bracelet ring etc. by different names for different shapes it is just gold. Sat also appears different with various names (gunas) owing to bhrama illusion. It is actionless by itself. That is brahman and contemplate that: you are that.

It is one and only thing and it excels, transcends all; it ispratyagaatma, and it has only one sat that is bliss. It has the quality of atman: it is sat, truth, and the comfort of chit. Contemplate on that: you are that.

Brahman, thus described, is to be contemplated by you. By that you would get jnaana immediately accessible like the water in the cup of you palm. Realize the pure tattva as jnaana. This shines like a monarch both in the public and the army. You seek refuge in that paratattwa. You coalesce every thing in the atman. Your own form, in you.

In buddhi guha (the cave of buddhi) there is a unique brahman for sat and asat. That is TRUTH; the transcendent,param and second to none. Shishya!

... to be continued

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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

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