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Thursday, 3 June 2010

Atma Shatakam - Chidanand roopah shivoham shivoham

In this post my aim is to explain Atma shatakam, a poem summarizing the concept of Advaita Vedanta, written by Sri Adi Shankaracharya. To do that I will first explain about the Advaita philosophy and then I’ll put up the explanation of Atma shatakam sholkas. The content of this post is mainly aggregated from Wikipedia, My earlier post, ‘Hindu Philosophy’ by Theos Bernard and the exposition of Atma shatakam by C.V Reddy published on Sri Ramakrishna math’s website.

Vedanta: The Vedanta is one of the six schools of Hindu Philosophy (Darshana). The others being Nyaya, Vaisesika, Smakhya & Yoga. A more elaborate description I have posted here. The Vedanta is technically classified as Uttaramimamsa. ‘Uttara’ means last; ‘mimamsa’ means “investigation, examination, discussion or consideration”; therefore, the last consideration of Vedas. This system of thoughts is commonly referred to as Vedanta, composed of Veda and Anta, “end’; literally, “the end of the Vedas”. Because the central topic is the Universal Spirit; called ‘Brahma’, the name Brahmasutra and Brahmamimamsa are frequently used. Another title is Sarirakamimamsa, an enquiry into embodied spirit.

Tradition attributes the Vedanta sutra to Badarayana whose actual date is quite unknown. The dates range from 500 B.C. to as late as 200 A.D. Some scholars contend that Badarayana is the alias for Vyasa the sage who wrote ‘Mahabharata’. The central theme of Vedantasutra is the philosophical teachings of Upanishads concerning the nature and relationship of the three principles, that is, God, the world, and the soul, this also includes relationship between Universal soul and individual soul.

Three schools have developed from the interpretation of the Vedantasutra. They are: The Advaita (non dualism); Visistadvaita (qualified non dualism) and Dvaita (dualism) propounded respectively by Shankaracharya (8th century), Ramanujacharya (11th century) and Madhavacharya (12th century). The Advaita school contends that all phenomenal existence is an illusion called maya, and that only the Ultimate Principle (Brahma) is real, the Visistadvaita system maintains that there is only one Reality, but that in the objective world it manifests itself as duality; the Dwaita schools treats the evolutionary scheme in the same way as Samkhya. Its only contribution is the way in which it deals with the supreme Deity.

Shri Adi Shankaracharya and Advaita Vedanta: Adi Shankaracharya consolidated the Advaita Vedanta treaties. In his ‘Vivekachudamani ‘, a famous work that expounds Advaita Vedanta philosophy, he succinctly summarizes this philosophy as:

‘Brahma satyam jagat mithyā, jīvo brahmaiva nāparah’

(Brahma is the only truth, the world is illusion, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and individual self)

According to Adi Shankara, God, the Supreme Cosmic Spirit or Brahman, nominative singular Brahma, is the One, the whole and the only reality. Other than Brahman, everything else, including the universe, material objects and individuals, are false. Brahman is at best described as that infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, incorporeal, impersonal, transcendent reality that is the divine ground of all Being. Brahman is often described as ‘neti neti’ meaning "not this, not this" because Brahman cannot be correctly described as this or that. 'It' (grammatically neutral, but exceptionally treated as masculine) is the origin of this and that, the origin of forces, substances, all of existence, the undefined, the basis of all, unborn, the essential truth, unchanging, eternal, the absolute. How can it be properly described as something in the material world when it is the basis of reality? Brahman is also beyond the senses, it would be akin a blind man trying to correctly describe color. It, though not necessarily a form of physical matter, is the substrate of the material world, which in turn is its illusory transformation. Brahman is not the effect of the world. Brahman is said to be the purest knowledge itself, and is illuminant like a source of infinite light.

Due to ignorance (avidyā), the Brahman is visible as the material world and its objects. The actual Brahman is attributeless and formless (Nirguna Brahman). It is the Self-existent, the Absolute and the Imperishable. Brahman is actually indescribable. It is at best "Satchidananda" (merging "Sat" + "Chit" + "Ananda", i.e., Infinite Truth, Infinite Consciousness and Infinite Bliss). Also, Brahman is free from any kind of differences or differentiation. It does not have any sajātīya (homogeneous) differentiation because there is no second Brahman. It does not have any vijātīya (heterogeneous) differentiation because there is nobody in reality existing other than Brahman. It has neither svagata (internal) differences, because Brahman is itself homogeneous. In Islamic parlance the verse ‘wahdahu la sharika lahu’ (GOD is one and he has no partner) is what Advaita philosophy is about.

According to Adi Shankara, Māyā is the complex illusionary power of Brahman which causes the Brahman to be seen as the material world of separate forms. Maya has two main functions — one is to "hide" Brahman from ordinary human perception, and the other is to present the material world in its (Brahmam) place. Māyā is also said to be indescribable, though it may be said that all sense data entering ones awareness via the five senses are Māyā, since the fundamental reality underlying sensory perception is completely hidden. It is also said that Māyā is neither completely real nor completely unreal, hence it is indescribable. Its shelter is Brahman, but Brahman itself is untouched by the illusion of Māyā, just like a magician is not tricked by his own magic. Māyā is temporary and is transcended with "true knowledge," or perception of the more fundamental reality which permeates Māyā.

Since according to the Upanishads only Brahman is real, and yet the material world is seen as real, Adi Shankara explained the anomaly by the concept of this illusionary power of Māyā.

According to Advaita Vedanta, when man tries to know the attributeless Brahman with his mind, under the influence of Maya, Brahman becomes the Lord. Ishvara is Brahman with Maya — the manifested form of Brahman. Adi Shankara uses a metaphor that when the "reflection" of the Cosmic Spirit falls upon the mirror of Maya, it appears as the Ishvara or Supreme Lord. The Ishvara is true only in the pragmatic level. God's actual form in the transcendental level is the Cosmic Spirit.

Ishvara can be described as Saguna Brahman or Brahman with attributes that may be regarded to have a personality with human and Godly attributes. This concept of Ishvara is also used to visualize and worship in anthropomorphic form deities such as Shiva, Vishnu or Devi by the Dvaitins which leads to immense confusion in the understanding of a monistic concept of God apart from polytheistic worship of Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti in Hinduism .

To think that there is no place for a personal God (Ishvara) in Advaita Vedanta is not a misunderstanding of the philosophy. Ishvara is, in an ultimate sense, described as "false" because Brahman appears as Ishvara only due to the curtain of Maya. However, just as the world is true in the pragmatic level, similarly, Ishvara is also pragmatically true. Just as the world is not absolutely false, Ishvara is also not absolutely false. He is the distributor of the fruits of one's Karma.

The soul or the self (Ataman) is identical with Brahman. It is not a part of Brahman that ultimately dissolves into Brahman, but the whole Brahman itself. Now the arguers ask how the individual soul, which is limited and one in each body, can be the same as Brahman? Adi Shankara explains that the Self is not an individual concept. Atman is only one and unique. Indeed Atman alone is {Ekaatma Vaadam}. It is a false concept that there are several Atmans {Anekaatma Vaadam}. Adi Shankara says that just as the same moon appears as several moons on its reflections on the surface of water covered with bubbles, the one Atman appears as multiple atmans in our bodies because of Maya. Atman is self-proven, however, some proofs are discussed—e.g., a person says "I am blind", "I am happy", "I am fat" etc. The common and constant factor, which permeates all these statements is the "I" which is but the Immutable Consciousness. When the blindness, happiness, fatness are inquired and negated, "I" the common factor which, indeed, alone exists in all three states of consciousness and in all three periods of time, shines forth. This proves the existence of Atman, and that Consciousness, Reality and Bliss are its characteristics. Atman, being the silent witness of all the modifications, is free and beyond sin and merit. It does not experience happiness or pain because it is beyond the triad of Experiencer, Experienced and Experiencing. It does not do any Karma because it is Aaptakaama. It is incorporeal and independent.

When the reflection of atman falls on Avidya (ignorance), atman becomes jīva — a living being with a body and senses. Each jiva feels as if he has his own, unique and distinct Atman, called jivatman. The concept of jiva is true only in the pragmatic level. In the transcendental level, only the one Atman, equal to Brahman, is true.

Atma Shatakam or Nirvana shatakam: Nirvana shatakam, attributed to Adi Shankaracharya. It is a hymn popular with all those who feel drawn to the practice of Vedantic spiritual practices. It is also recited on important occasions in Hindu temples, prayers meetings, and satsangs. As this is a dhyana stotra, a hymn for meditation, it is of special significance and importance.  
The word shatakam means six and the word nirvana means freedom or liberation. It is thus a hymn of six verses on liberation, each of which is like a jewel in the garland of Vedanta. It is also called as atma shatakam or six verses on the nature of the Self. The first three lines in each of the first five verses negate all that is not Atman, while the last line in each verse strongly affirms what atman is.

मनोबुद्धिअहन्कार्चित्तनि नाहं  न च श्रोताजिह्वे  न च घ्राणनेत्रे
न च व्योम्भुमिर्ण  तेजो  न  वायु चिदानंदरूपः शिवोहं  शिवोहं 

manobuddhy-ahamkara chittani naham na cha shrotra jihve na cha ghrana netre
na cha vyomabhumirna tejo na vayuh chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham

manah mind buddhih intellect ahamkarah ego (I-consciousness) chittani memory na not aham I na not cha and shrotra ear (organ of hearing) jihve tongue na not; cha and ghrana nose (organ of smell) netre eyes; na not cha and vyomah space bhumih earth na not tejah fire (light) na not vayuh air chidananda rupah nature of pure consciousness shiva Shiva aham I shiva Shiva aham I
1. I am not the mind, intellect, ego, or memory; nor the ear or tongue; nor the nose nor eye; nor the space, earth, fire, or air (and water), I am of the nature of Pure Consciousness-Bliss-Absolute, I am Shiva, I am (verily) Shiva.

Notes: Mind (manah), intellect (buddhih), ego (ahamkara), and memory (chittani) together are referred to by the technical term antah karana or internal instrument. Ear, tongue, nose, eyes, and skin together are the five jnana indriyas. Space, earth, fire, air, and water are the five elements (pancha bhutas).

न  च  प्रानसंगयो  न  वै पंचावायु  न  वा सप्ताधतुर्ना  वा  पंचाकोशः 
न  वाक्पानिपादम   न  चोपस्थापायु  चिदानंदरूपः  शिवोहं   शिवोहं

na cha prana-samjno na vai panchavayuh na va saptadhaturna va panchakosah
na vakpanipadam na chopasthapayu chidanandarupah shivoham shivoham
na not cha and pranah life-breath samjnah sign na vai neither pancha vayuh five vital airs na not va or sapta dhatuh seven basic elements (of the body) na not va or panchakoshah five sheaths na not vak organ of speech pani hand padam foot (or leg) na not cha and upasthapayuh generative and excretory organs chidananda rupah nature of pure consciousness shivo Shiva (the auspicious one) aham shivo shiva aham I

2. I am not indicated by prana, nor the five-fold vital airs nor the seven elements (sapta dhatuh) of the body, nor the five sheaths; nor the organs of speech, nor hand, nor leg; and not generative or excretory organs, I am of the nature of Pure Consciousness-Bliss-Absolute, I am Shiva, I am (verily) Shiva. 
Notes: Five vital airs are : Prana (controls respiratory system), Apana (controls excretory system), Vyana (controls circulatory system); Samana (controls digestive system), and Udana (controls ejection of the prana from the physical body). Seven basic elements (sapta dhatuh) consist of: skin, flesh, fat, bone, blood, bone marrow, and semen. Five sheaths (pancha kosha) are believed to veil our understanding of the atman include, in order from
gross (outer most) to the subtle (inner most): annamaya kosha (food sheath); pranamaya kosha (vital air sheath);
manomaya kosha (mind sheath); vijnanamaya kosha (intellectual sheath); and anandamaya kosha (bliss sheath).

न  में  द्वेषरागौ  न  में  लोभमोहौ  मदों  नैव  में  नैव  मात्सर्यभावः
न  धर्मो  न चार्थो  न  कामो  न  मोक्षः   चिदानंदरूपः  शिवोहं  शिवोहं
na me dvesha-ragau na me lobha mohau mado naiva me naiva matsaryabhavah
na dharmo nacha-artho na kamo na mokshah chidanandarupah shivoham shivoham

na not me to me dvesah hatred (aversion) ragah attachment na not me to me lobhah greed mohah delusion madah arrogance na not eva only me na eva not to me matsarya bhavah feeling of jealousy na not dharmah dharma na not cha and arthah wealth (money) na not kamah desire  na not mokshah liberation chidananda rupah nature of pure consciousness shiva Shiva aham I shiva Shiva aham I
3. I have neither aversion nor attachment, neither greed nor delusion; I have neither arrogance nor jealousy; I have no duty (to perform) nor any wealth (to acquire); neither desire nor liberation; I am of the nature of Pure Consciousness-Bliss Absolute, I am Shiva, I am (verily) Shiva

Notes: Greed, delusion, pride and jealousy together with lust and anger constitute shad ripu (also called ari shad varga), the six-fold internal enemies of a human being. Dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (desire), and moksha (liberation) are together known as purusharthas, the four objectives of a human being.

न  पुण्यं  न  पापं  न  सौख्यं  न दुखं  न  मंत्रो  न  तीर्थं  न  वेदा  न  यज्ञं
अहम्  भोजनं  नैव  भोज्यं  न  भोक्ता  चिदानंदरूपः  शिवोहं  शिवोहं 

na punyam na papam na saukhyam na duhkham na mantro na tirtham na veda na yajnah
aham bhojanam naiva bhojyam na bhokta chidanandarupah shivoham shivoham

na punyam not virtue na papam not sin na saukhyam not pleasure (material happiness) na duhkham not sorrow (pain) na mantrah not a sacred chant; na tirtham not a holy place of pilgrimage na veda not Vedas (not scriptures) na yajnah not sacrificial fire rituals aham I bhojanam na eva not the act of enjoying bhojyam (nor) the object of enjoyment na bhokta not the enjoyer chidananda rupah nature of pure consciousness shiva Shiva aham I shiva Shiva aham I
4. Neither virtue (punyam) nor sin (papam) nor happiness nor sorrow; nor a holy chant nor a holy place of pilgrimage nor Veda nor sacrifice; I am neither enjoyment, nor enjoyable object, nor the enjoyer; I am of the nature of Pure Consciousness-Bliss Absolute, I am Shiva, I am (verily) Shiva.

न  में  मृत्युशंका  न  में  जाति  भेदः  पिता  नैव  में  नैव  माता  न  जन्मः   
न  बंधुर्ना  मित्रं  गुरुर्नैवा  शिष्यः  चिदानंदरूपः  शिवोहं  शिवोहं

na me mrityushanka na me jati bhedah pita naiva me naiva mata na janma
na bandhurna mitram gururnaiva shishyah chidanandarupah shivoham shivoham

na me not to me mrityuh shanka fear of death na me not to me jati caste (and creed) bhedah distinction pita father na eva not either me to me na eva mata nor mother na janma not (even) birth na bandhuh nor relation na mitram nor a friend guruh guru na eva not either shishyah a disciple chidananda rupah nature of pure consciousness; shiva Shiva aham I shiva Shiva aham I
5. I have no apprehension of death; neither do I have any distinction of caste (or creed); I have neither father, nor mother, nor (even) birth; neither friend nor kith and kin; neither teacher (guru) nor disciple; I am of the nature of Pure Consciousness-Bliss-Absolute, I am Shiva, I am (verily) Shiva.

अहम्  निर्विकल्पो  निराकार्रुपो   विभुर्व्याप्य  सर्वत्र  सर्वेंद्रियानाम  
सदा  में  समत्वं  न  मुक्तिर्न  बन्धः  चिदानंदरूपः  शिवोहं  शिवोहं
aham nirvikalpo nirakararupo vibhurvyapya sarvatra sarvendriyanam
sada me samatvam na muktirna bandhah chidanandarupah shivoham shivoham

aham I nirvikalpah without dualities nirakara rupah without a form; vibhuh omnipresent; vyapya pervading (spread out) sarvatra everywhere sarva all indriyanam sense organs sada always; me samatvam I am equanimous na muktih neither liberation na bandha not bondage chidananda rupah nature of pure consciousness; shiva Shiva aham I shiva Shiva aham I

6. I have neither dualities nor shape or form; I am present everywhere (omnipresent) and pervade all the senses; I am always equanimous; I am neither liberation nor bondage; I am of the nature of Pure Consciousness-Bliss-Absolute, I am Shiva, I am (verily) Shiva.


Yugal Joshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yugal Joshi said...

Amazing work PD bhai ..this kind of proves what we always discussed that when it comes to thinking, human beings think pretty much alike, especially if the topic is abstract. The same teaching of defining the God as negation are there in Islam, Judaism and almost every other religion. Because once you start defining the God you put attributes to it using your human brain, which is incorrect. That's why many times its said that "God is nothing", does not mean God does not exist, it means it cannot be defined. Adi Sankara has also used negation to tell about God. I believe he is the greatest thinker of ALL time when it comes to complex questions of God, humanity etc.

Shikha said...

Last year, i searched google for "kesariya balam" lyrics, and i was sent to this blog.
Since then, i silently admired your blog for all the wonderful posts you have been posting.
I am a Shiva and Sai follower, and had to shed the veil of invisibility and had to say.. Amazing post!!!
Thanks a lot for all the work you have done and appreciate for all the time you have put into it!!
Oh by the way, i stole one of your shayari and pasted it on my blog coz i liked it a lot. Hope you don't mind. :)

Prashant said...

Shikha, Thanks for the appreciation. Its my pleasure that you are liking my ghazals.

Atul said...

Excellent post !
I has CD for these slokas and was searching for lyrics. Here I found not only lyrics but the meaning and the background. Thanks for putting the complete information at one place!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the stupid question. What is the best search engine or

kmano said...

Thanks .. well & succinctly explained

urja said...

Thanks for putting Lyrics with their meaning.Thankyou thanks a lott............From Urja

Anonymous said...

For the first time, I understood the distinction between Brahman-Ishvara and Maya...beautifully explained.
I was just left with one question after reading your excellent blog: If the Nirvana Shatkam is about the nature of the Brahma (Atma) and on the other hand Shiva, Vishnu and Brhama are the 'ishvaras', what is the significance of 'Shivoham, Shivoham'? I would have understood if the last line of each verse was 'Atman'. Its just my curiosity after reading your blog. I wish Adi Shankaracharya was here! :-)

Jai Haravu said...

Thanks a lot for the post on a wonderful ashtakam extolling the truth of all of us.

Vladimír Ekrt said...

Thank you very much for this post! I can't read sanskrit so the word-by-word translation is really helpful. It reminds me of what Swami Dayananda has done in the Gita Home Study Course.