Shankaracharya’s Atmabodha

The following is an extract from page 111-114 of the introduction to the book Self-Knowledge in which Nikhilananda has provided an Introduction and translation to Sri Sankacharya’s Atmabodha. The Publisher is Sri Ramakrishna Math. The book can be purchased through the Vedanta Society in New York City for $5.00.

The Goal:

The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman. Knowledge is accompanies by realization. The illusion of name and form is destroyed, and the knower is no longer a victim of the false fear and false expectation that plague at every step the life of the unillumined person. For the knower of Truth, the seen, the seer and the seeing all merge in the indescribable experience of the Absolute. Consciousness of time and space is obliterated; the fetters of causality are broken forever. This is the experience of Peace, Knowledge, and Reality that passes all understanding. In the graphic words of Sankara*:

“The illumined person, realizes within himself, through samadhi, the infinite and indescribable Brahman, which is of the nature of Eternal Knowledge and Absolute Bliss, which is without a peer in the world of relative experience, which transcends all limitations and is ever free and actionless – which is like the limitless sky, indivisible and absolute.

“The illumined person realizes in his heart1, through samadhi, the Infinite Brahman, which is devoid of the ideas of cause and effect, which is Reality untouched by any imagination, homogeneous, matchless, beyond the range of proofs, established by the pronouncements of the Vedas, and ever familiar through the manifestation of I consciousness.

“The illumined person realizes in his heart1, through samadhi, the Infinite Brahman, undecaying and immortal, the positive Substance which precludes all negation, which resembles a serene and waveless ocean and is without a name, in which there are neither merits nor demerits – which is eternal, serene and One.”

The man illumined by the realization of Brahman enters the realm of Pure Consciousness. His mind vanishes; his activities associated with the ideas of a doer, instrument, and result come to a stop. Emerging from the experience of samadhi and still inebriated with the Bliss of Brahman, he cries out in amazement2:

“Where is the universe gone? By whom is it removed? And where is it merged? It was just seen by me; and has it ceased to exist? I see everywhere the Ocean of Reality filled with the nectar of Absolute Bliss. There is nothing to shun, nothing to accept, nothing to despise. I do no see anything; I do not hear anything; I do no know anything. I simply exist as the Self, the Eternal Bliss. Blessed am I; I have attained the Goal of my life. I am free from the clutches of transmigration. I am unattached. I am free from the body, both the gross and the subtle. I am undecaying, immaculate, and eternal. I am neither the doer nor the enjoyer. I am changeless and beyond activity; I am the essence of pure knowledge.

* Vivekacudamani, 408-410
1 Hrdayam (the spiritual heart to the right, not the Anahata Chakra or the physical organ)
2 Amazement that this non-dual Consciousness is and has always been ones true and natural state

Sankara’s Self-Knowledge, an excerpt

“I am indeed Brahman, One without a second, without a peer, the Reality that has no beginning, beyond the illusion of ‘you’ or ‘I,’ ‘this’ or ‘that.’ I am the Essence of Eternal Bliss and Truth. I alone reside in all beings as Knowledge and Reality, their internal and external Support. I am the enjoyer and all that is enjoyable.

“In me, the Ocean of Infinite Bliss, the waves of the universe arise and merge by the playing of the wind of maya. Like the sky, I am beyond contamination; like the sun, I am distinct from all things illumined; like a mountain, I am motionless; like the ocean, I am limitless. I have no connection with the body, as the sky has no connection with clouds; I am unaffected by waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. I do not engage in work nor desist from it. How can I ever exert myself, since I am allpervading, like the ether? Merits and demerits cannot affect me, neither heat nor cold, neither good nor evil; I neither work nor make others work; I neither enjoy nor make others enjoy; I nether see nor make others see – I am Atman, self-effulgent and transcendent. Let this inert body drop away, either in water or on land. I am not touched by what may happen to it. Is the sky inside a jar ever befouled by the properties of the jar? Let there be changes in the body or in the senses, tenfold, a hundredfold or a thousandfold; I, Pure Consciousness, am ever free. Can the clouds ever touch the dome of the heavens.

“I am verily Brahman, the One without a second, which, like the sky, is beginningless and endless, in which the whole universe, from the causal to the gross, appears to be a mere shadow. I am verily Brahman, the One without a second, which is the Support of all, which has infinite forms, is omnipresent, devoid of multiplicity, eternal, pure, unmoved and absolute. I am the Soul of the universe. I am the All, I am transcendent. I am Absolute and Infinite Knowledge.”

The illumined person realizes his indebtedness to his guru, through whose grace he has received the splendour of the sovereignty of Self-effulgence. Prostrating himself before the teacher, he says: “O teacher, out of sheer grace thou hast awakened me from sleep and completely saved me, who was wandering in an interminable dream, in the forest of birth, decay, and death created by illusion, being tormented day after day by countless afflictions and sorely troubled by the ugly beast of egoism. Salutations to thee, O prince of teachers! O thou of indescribable greatness, thee I salute.”*

* The state of Liberation cannot be comprehended by our relative minds. The terms existence and non-existence, as we understand them cannot be applied to a liberated soul. All that can be said about such a person is that he is forever freed from the spell of ignorance. He has entered into the realm of Light, compared to which the highest knowledge of the relative world is sheer darkness. He no longer dreams but is fully awake. He no longer enjoys the shadows of the phenomenal world. It is often asked how long the embodied soul must practice discipline in the relative world before attaining Liberation.. The concept of time cannot be applied to the Knowledge of Brahman. Time is a relative thing, dependent on the state of mind. Many years spent in the dream world may be only a few minutes from the waking standpoint. The passage of the soul from the realm of relativity to the Absolute is dependent upon the Knowledge of Reality, and not upon any period of time; it is instantaneous, like lightning.

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