Atma Bodha

by Adi Shankaracharya

  1. For those who are purified by austerities, who are contemplative, free from desire, and seeking enlightenment, Atma Bodha has been composed.
  2. As opposed to other spiritual practices, self-knowledge is the direct means for enlightenment, just as fire is the direct means for cooking. Without self-knowledge, enlightenment is impossible.
  3. Other spiritual practices can coexist with ignorance, so they can’t remove ignorance. Self-knowledge alone removes ignorance, like light removes darkness.
  4. Because the true self, atma, is covered by ignorance, when that ignorance is removed atma reveals itself, like the sun reveals itself when clouds drift away.
  5. A person, tainted by ignorance, is purified when ignorance vanishes due to self-knowledge. Then, that self-knowledge itself vanishes, like the powder used to purify water.
  6. The world is like a dream, filled with pleasant and unpleasant experiences. It seems real until you wake up and discover that it’s not.
  7. The world seems absolutely real, like a glittering seashell seems like a piece of silver, until brahman is discovered as the world’s underlying non-dual reality.
  8. Created from the sentient, underlying reality, eternal and all-pervasive, are all things that exist, like a bracelet made from gold.
  9. Like the space in many pots, all-pervasive consciousness dwells in many bodies and seems divided by them. In the absence of pots or bodies, space and consciousness remain undivided.
  10. The attributes of bodies, like caste, color, status, etc. are superimposed on atma, like different tastes & colors superimposed on water.
  11. Composed of physical elements and born due to karma is the physical body, where pleasure and pain are experienced.
  12. Having five vital forces, mind, intellect, and ten faculties, made of subtle elements, the subtle body is the means for experience.
  13. Beginningless, indescribable ignorance is said to be the causal body. Distinct from these three bodies is your inner self, atma, which you should discern.
  14. In the presence of the five sheaths, atma seems to acquire their natures, like in the presence of a blue cloth, a clear crystal appears blue.
  15. Like rice kernels covered by husk, by threshing it with reason, atma, the pure, inner Self, should be separated.
  16. Even though atma is all-pervasive, it doesn’t appear everywhere. In the mind alone it shines, like a reflection on a shiny surface.
  17. Separate from your body, senses, mind, intellect, and world, independent as the witness of them all – like a king – atma should be known thus.
  18. When your body, mind and senses are active, atma also seems to be active, due to ignorance, like when clouds drift across the moon, it’s the moon that seems to move.
  19. With the help of the conscious self, atma, your body, mind and senses engage in various activities, like people engage in activities with the help of sunlight.
  20. The qualities & activities of your body, mind & senses are attributed to pure consciousness, atma, due to ignorance, like blueness is falsely attributed to space.
  21. Due to ignorance, your mind’s qualities and activities are attributed to atma, like when the moon is reflected in water, the water’s ripples are attributed to the moon.
  22. Desire, pleasure, pain, etc. are experienced when your mind is active, but cease to exist in dreamless sleep, when your mind is inactive. Therefore, they belong to your mind, not to the conscious self, atma.
  23. The sun’s nature is brightness, water’s nature is coolness, and fire’s nature is hotness. So too, atma’s nature is existence, consciousness, fullness, changelessness and purity.
  24. When atma’s pure existence and consciousness are united with your mind’s activities, then due to ignorance you experience being an individual person.
  25. Atma is unchanging consciousness, and your mind is itself insentient. Considering yourself an individual person, a jiva, you wrongly assume that you see and know objects.
  26. Like misidentifying a rope as a snake, misidentifying atma as a limited person causes fear. If you know, “I am atma, not a jiva,” then you will have no fear.
  27. Atma alone reveals the activities of your mind and senses, like a shining lamp reveals a clay pot. But your mind & senses, being insentient, cannot reveal atma.
  28. No other consciousness is required to reveal the self-revealing conscious Self, atma, like no other lamp is required to see a lamp shining by itself.
  29. After negating your body, mind and senses with the teaching, “Neti neti – I am not all this,“ using the mahavakyas, you should realize the oneness of your consciousness and brahman.
  30. Your body, mind and senses, born of ignorance, are as impermanent as bubbles in water. You should know you are independent of them, thinking, “I am pure brahman.”
  31. “Because I am not my body, I have no birth, old age, decay or death. I have no association with worldly objects because I am independent of my senses.”
  32. “Because I am not my mind, I have no suffering, desire, aversion or fear. Independent of my prana and mind, I am pure consciousness, as the scriptures say.”
  33. “Attribute-free, motionless, eternal, thought-free, stainless, unchanging and formless – I am eternally free and pure.”
  34. “I am like space, inside and outside of everything, immutable, always content, perfect, detached, pure, and immovable.”
  35. “Eternally pure and free, undivided fullness, non-dual, real, conscious and limitless – I am indeed that supreme brahman.”
  36. Through constant practice of these contemplations, the conviction, “I am brahman” removes ignorance and identification, like medicine removes illness.
  37. Seated in a solitary place, free from desire, undistracted, you should meditate on atma being one and limitless, with unswerving attention.
  38. Merging the entire world into atma through contemplation, you should meditate on atma being one and eternally pure, like space.
  39. Giving up all identification with the body, an enlightened person, whose true nature is limitless consciousness, abides in that nature.
  40. Distinctions between knower, knowledge & known are absent in the true Self, atma, because it’s nature is limitless, nondual consciousness. It alone shines.
  41. On atma, like on a fireboard, constant drilling with the spindle of meditation kindles the flame of knowledge and burns up the fuel of ignorance.
  42. Like at sunrise, the dawn of knowledge removes the darkness of ignorance. Then atma reveals its own nature, like the shining sun.
  43. Even though atma is always present, it seems absent due to ignorance. When ignorance is removed, it seems like atma is found, like the gold chain on one’s neck.
  44. Like a tree stump is mistaken for a thief, brahman is mistaken for a limited person, jiva. When the jiva’s true nature is discovered, the mistake disappears.
  45. After realizing your true nature, knowledge arises immediately and removes ignorance like “I” and “mine,” like the sun removes confusion about directions.
  46. Enlightened yogis see the entire world in themselves and see everything as non-separate from atma, with the eye of knowledge.
  47. This entire world is atma alone. Nothing exists other than atma, like pots are nothing but clay. Thus everything is seen as oneself.
  48. By knowing brahman, enlightened persons cease to identify with their bodies and minds. Because their true nature is limitless, unchanging consciousness, they become brahman like larvae become wasps.
  49. Crossing the ocean of delusion, destroying the demons of attraction and aversion, yogis, endowed with peace, revel in themselves.
  50. Free from attachment to worldly pleasures, content with the fullness of atma, like a lamp shining inside a pot, the enlightened ones shine, established in themselves.
  51. Even though embodied, by their bodies the enlightened are unaffected, like space. Even though enlightened, they act like fools, moving about without attachment, like the wind.
  52. When their bodies die, the enlightened merge into all-pervasive consciousness like water into water, like space into space, or like fire into fire.
  53. Gaining which, nothing remains to be attained, no other happiness, no other knowledge – that brahman should be realized.
  54. Seeing which, nothing remains to be seen, becoming which, there is no rebirth, knowing which, nothing remains to be known – that brahman should be realized.
  55. Extending endlessly, around, above and below, limitless, unchanging consciousness, non-dual, infinite, eternal and one – that brahman should be realized.
  56. Through a process of negation, Vedanta teaches that brahman is non-dual, one, limitless fullness – that brahman should be realized.
  57. Of brahman’s limitless fullness, only a tiny portion is enjoyed by gods like Brahma, who thereby become fulfilled.
  58. Brahman is present in all objects and in all activities. Therefore, brahman is all pervasive, like the fat in whole milk.
  59. Neither tiny or large, neither short or long, unborn, undecaying, without form, quality or color – that brahman should be realized.
  60. By which light, the sun and moon shine, but which shines without the help of any other light, by which the entire world is illumined – that brahman should be realized.
  61. Pervading the world and extending beyond, illumining the entire universe, brahman shines like a glowing red-hot lump of iron.
  62. Brahman is other than the universe, but nothing exists other than brahman. If something other than brahman seems to exist, then it is false, like a mirage.
  63. All that is seen or heard is nothing but brahman.With knowledge, brahman is realized to be identical to your limitless, unchanging, non-dual consciousness.
  64. The all-pervasive, unchanging, conscious Self is discovered with the eye of wisdom. One without the eye of wisdom cannot discover it, like the blind cannot see the sun.
  65. Through the practice of Vedanta, you become engulfed by the blazing fire of knowledge and freed from all impurities, shining like gold.
  66. Atma abides in your heart as the light of consciousness, destroying ignorance, pervading the universe, sustaining all, and illumining everything.
  67. Atma pervades all directions, times and places, removing suffering and bestowing pure, eternal joy.By worshiping at this holy pilgrimage place in yourself you become enlightened, limitless and immortal.