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Shankara teachings - Text Shankara (estimated to have lived in the 700s CE) expounded the philosophy of the non-dualistic (Advaita) Vedánta, and in some works also in a popular style. To those who do not tackle the standard works of Sankara, the follow extracts offer some help. The main features of Shankara's great philosophy are summed up very briefly throughout.

Shankara teaches that from a non-dualistic, deep state, bondage and liberation from bondage are illusory. That state of highest emancipation (liberation, freedom) is had by yoga-meditation (higher yoga). He stands for a thorough knowledge of reality through direct realisation, which is an actual experience. In it, the individual soul perceives the Supreme Self as itself, and this great insight is the highest goal, called moksha (Sanskrit: freedom) or liberation.

Shankara also teaches that devotion to a personal God (Saguna-Brahman) is not inconsistent with the true Vedanta philosophy, and that spiritual perfection is liberation. It is helped by the grace of God and one's initiating Master (gurudeva).

Note that a few grammatical inconsistencies below, such as "He am", are on purpose; from a higher vantage point it has to be "I am", and so on. Here are the selections:

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From the Hymn to Hari

The Ultimate Reality am Supreme Lord and Inscrutable Resplendence in the heart. He am cognition itself. (7, 38, 8)

Let the mind be confined within the heart amidst the repetition of the sound Om within yourself - it is the Sound-Brahman. (6, 7)

Without realising Him within one's self as "I am He", all this appears as real, but if realised, all this becomes unreal. (40)

Every object of perception has an underlying reality and is identical with Brahman, the Supreme Lord - pure existence, pure consciousness. (9, 5, 37)

You should realise that bliss which is self-resplendent consciousness, pure self-resplendent Self, infinite like space, the Unborn residing in the heart. (10, 11, 13)

The pure intelligence residing as Witness in the heart - many have realised that Supreme Lord within their own selves, yet He can be hard to realise. But He am realised, though, as "He who is I is that Supreme Lord and I am verily He". The Supreme Lord am One in all beings that sees and smells and tastes and touches and hears and knows, and by others the witness that is the seer in all doers. This universe is not his real nature. He am not the objective world, nevertheless always the knower. (23, 24, 26, 28, 14, 4)

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The Supreme Lord, the Self, hold this body together as the individual self it it, and am happy, unperturbed, blissful. The Supreme Bliss am the incoming and outgoing life. (15, 16, 19, 34)

It is the Self who ultimately enjoys the objects of enjoyment. One Supreme Self, fully permeates every part of this creation. "Who is this Shining One in the body?" This Shining One am indeed the knower, the hearer and the thinker, and realised as "I am the conscious principle in this body"... (27, 22, 33, 35)

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The consciousness that ultimately remains when impurity is burnt in the fire of knowledge, is not the object of cognition. The resplendent light of consciousness shines within the heart. (41, 39, 42)

Owing to the diversity of intellects, the Self is conventionally spoken of in various ways. (18)

Sages worship Brahman with devotion as the ultimate reality within their own selves, the essence of all organs. (42)

This devotee is an individual self [Purusha] existing in Himself. (43)

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From the Ten-versed Hymn

All that is other than the Self, is unreal. It is absolutely non-dual in Its nature. How then can I describe That? (9, 10)

By special realisation it is revealed that my nature is absolutely pure. I am attributeless Bliss. (4)

The consciousness of the reality am the fourth [state of mind, Turiya] beyond [waking, dreaming, deep sleep]. (7, 8)

Self alone am the ultimate goal and am self-established and self-dependent. (9)

For me is not concentration, meditation, Yoga and other practices. (2)

I am neither white, nor bent, nor even formless; for I am self-resplendent consciousness. How then can there be a second, other than That? There is no non-absoluteness. (6, 9)

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From Hymn to Dakshinamurti

Whose light alone that is the reality shines in things that resemble non-entities, and Who being realised, there is no more coming back in this ocean of Samsâra, be this bow. (3)

Who is the inner self which, under the veil of illusion, but which when He wakes, is recognised by Him as "I have slept", be this bow. (6)

Who is the supreme self that, dreaming or waking, under the sway of illusion, sees the universe under various distinctions such as that of cause and effect, owner and owned, pupil and teacher, father and son, - to that Teacher incarnate, the Lord facing the south, be this bow. (8)

The self is identical with the universe (10)

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Abstracts of Shankara's Self-Knowledge, Atma-bodha

Knowledge [gyana, gnosis] is the only direct means to liberation. [2]

Ritual cannot dispel ignorance, because they are not mutually contradictory. [3]

The unconditioned self shines by its own light, like the sun when the clouds have disappeared. [4]

The phenomenal world seems to be real, but . . . only until [something different] is realized. [6, 7]

Pure existence and consciousness, comes in contact with various conditions. [8-11 abr]

The place for experiencing happiness and misery is called the [dense] body. [12, partial]

The self as other than the physical, astral and causal bodies [sheats surrounding it somehow]. [14]

One should separate the grain of the pure inner self from the chaff of the body. [16]

The self will shine in the consciousness. [17]

One should understand the self to be the witness of the organism's activities. [18]

The body, senses, mind and consciousness, carry on by depending on the consciousness of the self. [20]

The self is absolute consciousness as distinguished from buddhi, individual consciousness. [21, from a note]

Being, consciousness, bliss, eternity and absoluteness are the very nature of the self. [24]

By mistaking the self to be the individual soul, one only imagines that the individual soul knows, does and sees everything well. [26, 27]

The self illumines the consciousness. [28]

The body and other objects of perception are evanescent. The unconditioned self should be understood as "I am Brahman." [31]

I am other than the senses. [32]

I am not the mind. As declared by the scripture, the self is neither the senses nor mind, but is unconditioned. [33]

I am attributeless, functionless, eternal, doubtless, stainless, changeless, formless, eternally free, and unconditioned. [34]

I pervade everything, inside and outside. I am ever the established. [35]

I am that reality or knowledge that is ever unconditioned and ever free. [36]

Sitting in a lonely place one should contemplate the one self, one-pointedly. [38]

Contemplate the one self that is like unlimited space. [39]

One who has realised the supreme truth abides in self-bliss. [40]

Being sole consciousness and bliss, the supreme self shines by itself. [41]

The self is ever with us. [44]

The devotee [yogin] that has gained right realisation sees all things by the eye of knowledge, as existing in his own self. [47]

Liberation-while-living means that the wise person has attained Brahman - has got being, consciousness and bliss. [49]

The realized seer, united to tranquillity, is supremely happy in the enjoyment of the bliss of his own self. [50]

Happy in the bliss of the self, such a one forever shines within. [51]

The seer tends to be unruffled. He should be like one that knows not, and should wander about. [52]

The seer merges unreservedly in the Supreme. [53]

There is no greater gain, no higher bliss, higher knowledge, than Brahman. [54]

Seeing which naught else remains to be seen, becoming which there is no becoming * again, knowing which naught else remains to be known, – that should he understood as Brahman. [55]

The uninterrupted bliss should be understood as Brahman. [57]

Brahma and others are but parts of that self – uninterrupted bliss, and become happy, each in his own degree, by possessing a bit of that bliss. [58]

Sat [being] and Chit [consciousness] are aspects of the self, and Ananda [bliss] too. [59, note]

All activity has consciousness running through it. The Supreme Self, therefore, pervades the whole universe. [59]

What is neither subtle nor dense, neither short nor long, but unborn, immutable [etc.] is understood as Brahman. [60]

By virtue of which all the perceived world shines – that should be understood as Brahman. [61]

Pervading and illumining the whole perceived world inwardly and outwardly, Brahman shines by itself,. [62]

Brahman is different from the universe. [63]

Whatever is seen or heard, other than Brahman, cannot be real [enough] Yet even that is Brahman - being, consciousness and bliss - when the reality is known. [64]

He who has the eye of knowledge sees Brahman - being, consciousness and bliss - but he who has not the eye of knowledge cannot see it thus. A blind man cannot see the shining sun. [65] [Compare]

The well instructed, realized individual soul is freed from all taints and shines by itself. [66]

The self is the sun of knowledge in the firmament of the heart, supporting all. [67]

He who gets perfectly tranquil, attains the sanctum of the self - the all-pervading, stainless, eternal bliss. [68]

Based on the Commentary on the Text

Supreme ocean of unbounded bliss,
I alone am.
Things are merely superimposed. [1-2]

What is the individual soul? What is the Supreme Self? How can there be identity between the two?

What else, indeed, is the individual soul except you alone. You who question me, "Who am I," are Brahman itself. [8]

A knowledge of the word-meaning is indeed essential for the understanding of the sentence-meaning. [10]

Meditate on that whose nature is reality, bliss, and knowledge and which is the witness of consciousness, as yourself. [12]

Understand by "I am He" that "I am that inner, unchanging self, the direct witness, the witness that is the dearest of all, the object of highest love." [18-19, 22, 24-25]

The self is the witness and the knower. [26]

Bliss unsurpassed, reality, knowledge, and existence - 'that' is spoken of as the Supreme Self. [30]

Understand that to be the Brahman. [31]

Understand that to be the Brahman. Vedas declare the universe to be the effect of that. [i.e, Brahman is the cause of the universe.] [33]

Brahman is to be realised for liberation. [34]

The inner consciousness is absolute bliss. [41]

When one becomes liberated while living, he remains as such for some time by virtue of such of his past actions as have brought about his present life. [52]

Thereafter he attains absolute liberation, which is of unsurpassed bliss and is known as the supreme abode. [53]

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From Direct Realisation

Constant eradication of mental impressions is called control of mind. (6)

The prime cause of both ignorance and desire is the one, subtle and immutable Reality. (15)

The self is of the nature of knowledge and pure. (19)

The self is eternal and real by nature. (21)

"I am indeed Brahman, without difference, without change, and of the nature of reality, knowledge and bliss." This is what the wise call knowledge. (24)

Your own self is the informing spirit beyond the body, absolutely real by nature and utterly incomprehensible [if unrealised]. (30)

The "I" is devoid of change. (33)

All this universe is verily the self [in one of its modes]. (35)

The self is the informing Spirit, the Supreme Lord, the soul of all, identical with all. (40)

[At bottom] Consciousness is one by nature. (43)

All creatures are born of Brahman, the Supreme Self. (49)

The Eternal is the witness of these three states [waking, dreaming, sleeping deeply], pure consciousness. (58)

Just as it is water alone that appears as waves and tides, so does the self alone appear as many universes. (63)

The self always shines as unconditioned for the wise and always as conditioned for the ignorant. (68)

The distinction between the self and the not-self [body] is unnecessary for the wise. (69)

All things, however big in size, appear very small at a great distance. (80)

The [reflected] moon appears to some one as moving in the waters. (86)

You who are most intelligent! Spend your time in realising the self. (89)

Vedas speak of past action in order to help the understanding of the ignorant. (97)

The self that is pure existence and knowledge can be realised. Meditate on Brahman. (101)

Absorption in the all-pervading Brahman is known as the equipoise of the limbs. (115)

Dhâranâ, in its highest sense, is the holding of consciousness by realising Brahman whereever the consciousness reaches. (122)

The condition wherein there is only the uncontradictable thought "I am Brahman itself" and there is no external hold, is denoted by the term dhyâna and is productive of the highest bliss. (123)

Samâdhi, whose other name is knowledge, is the forgetfulness of all mental activity by first making thought changeless and then identifying the consciousness with Brahman. (124)

Those that give up this highest and purest Brahmic consciousness live in vain and, though human, are like beasts. (130)

They that have realised this consciousness and, having realised it, develop it more and more, are the best of men, fortunate, and venerable in all the three worlds. (131)

This consciousness grows and also fructifies - attain identity with the eternal Brahman. (132)

One should by diligent investigation attain the nature of the cause. Then will shine the absolutely real (self) realise the cause as inherent in the effect itself. (135-39)

The wise man should attentively meditate on his own self, of the nature of subjective consciousness. (cf 141)

Realising everything to be Brahman itself, the wise man should then dwell in eternal bliss with his mind full of the essence of pure consciousness. (142)


Sankara, Adi Shankara, Literature  

S. Venkataramanan, tr. Select Works of Sri Sankaracharya: Samskrit Text and English Translation. Madras: G. A. Natesan, 1921.

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