मनोबुद्ध्यहङ्कार चित्तानि नाहं
न च श्रोत्रजिह्वे न च घ्राणनेत्रे ।
न च व्योम भूमिर्न तेजो न वायुः
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥१॥

manobuddhyahaṅkāra cittāni nāhaṃ
na ca śrotrajihve na ca ghrāṇanetre .
na ca vyoma bhūmirna tejo na vāyuḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham ||1||

Neither am I the mind nor intelligence or ego,
Neither am I the organs of hearing (ears), nor that of tasting (tongue), smelling (nose) or seeing (eyes),
Neither am I the sky, nor the earth, neither the fire nor the air,
I am Shiva, the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss.
I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

न च प्राणसंज्ञो न वै पञ्चवायुः
न वा सप्तधातुः न वा पञ्चकोशः ।
न वाक्पाणिपादं न चोपस्थपायु
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥२॥

na ca prāṇasaṃjño na vai pañcavāyuḥ
na vā saptadhātuḥ na vā pañcakośaḥ .
na vākpāṇipādaṃ na copasthapāyu
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham ||2||

Neither am I the vital breath, nor the five vital air,
Neither am I the seven ingredients (of the body), nor the five sheaths (of the body),
Neither am I the organ of speech, nor the organs for holding (hand), movement (feet) or excretion,
Iam the ever pure blissful consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,
The ever pure blissful consciousness.

न मे द्वेषरागौ न मे लोभमोहौ
मदो नैव मे नैव मात्सर्यभावः ।
न धर्मो न चार्थो न कामो न मोक्षः
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥३॥

na me dveṣarāgau na me lobhamohau
mado naiva me naiva mātsaryabhāvaḥ .
na dharmo na cārtho na kāmo na mokṣaḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham ||3||

Neither do I have hatred, nor attachment, neither greed nor infatuation,
Neither do I have passion, nor feelings of envy and jealousy,
I am not within the bounds of dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (desire) and moksha (liberation) (the four purusarthas of life),
I am Shiva, the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss.
I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

न पुण्यं न पापं न सौख्यं न दुःखं
न मन्त्रो न तीर्थं न वेदा न यज्ञाः ।
अहं भोजनं नैव भोज्यं न भोक्ता
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥४॥

na puṇyaṃ na pāpaṃ na saukhyaṃ na duḥkhaṃ
na mantro na tīrthaṃ na vedā na yajñāḥ .
ahaṃ bhojanaṃ naiva bhojyaṃ na bhoktā
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham ||4||

Neither am I bound by merits nor sins, neither by worldly joys nor by sorrows,
Neither am I bound by sacred hymns nor by sacred places, neither by sacred scriptures nor by sacrifies,
I am neither enjoyment (experience), nor an object to be enjoyed (experienced), nor the enjoyer (experiencer),
I am Shiva, the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss.
I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

न मृत्युर्न शङ्का न मे जातिभेदः
पिता नैव मे नैव माता न जन्मः ।
न बन्धुर्न मित्रं गुरुर्नैव शिष्यं
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥५॥

na mṛtyurna śaṅkā na me jātibhedaḥ
pitā naiva me naiva mātā na janmaḥ .
na bandhurna mitraṃ gururnaiva śiṣyaṃ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham ||5||

Neither am I bound by death and its fear, nor by the rules of caste and its distinctions,
Neither do I have father and mother, nor do I have birth,
Neither do I have relations nor friends, neither spiritual teacher nor disciple,
I am Shiva, the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss.
I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

अहं निर्विकल्पो निराकाररूपो
विभुत्वाच्च सर्वत्र सर्वेन्द्रियाणाम् ।
न चासङ्गतं नैव मुक्तिर्न मेयः
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥६॥

ahaṃ nirvikalpo nirākārarūpo
vibhutvācca sarvatra sarvendriyāṇām .
na cāsaṅgataṃ naiva muktirna meyaḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham ||6||

I am without any variation, and without any form,
I am present everywhere as the underlying substratum of everything, and behind all sense organs,
Neither do I get attached to anything, nor get freed from anything,
I am Shiva, the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss.
I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

Nirvana Shatkam (Atma Shatakam) of Adi Sankara

Commentary and Notes Translated by S. N. Sastri

Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada has blessed posterity with a large number of invaluable compositions. These can be grouped under three broad categories. The first category, meant for the intellectually most advanced, comprises his commentaries (Bhashya) on the Upanishads, Brahmasutra, and the Bhagavadgita. The second category consists of independent works, known as prakarana granthas, which expound the gist of the Upanishads in simple language. These vary in length from half a verse to one thousand verses. In the third category fall devotional hymns.

Nirvana Shatakam also known as Atma Shatakam is a prakarana grantha consisting of six verses. Prakarana has been defined in the Vishnu Dharmottara Purana thus: “Prakarana is a text which explains some particular aspects of the Sastra and deals with certain secondary questions arising out of the explanations given”.

The instruction emphatically conveyed by the six verses of Nirvana Shatakam is that identification with the body, mind, and senses is the root cause of all sorrow and that it should be given up and one should realize one’s real nature as none other than the supreme Brahman. This realization is what is known as Liberation. One by one, Adi Shankaracharya negates all the usual identifications that we have and repeatedly insists, “chidananda roopa shivoham shivoham.”

Verse 1
I am not the mind, nor the intellect, nor the ego-sense, nor the store-house of memories. I am not the ear, nor the tongue, nor the nose, nor the eyes. Nor am I the sky (space), or the earth, or fire, or air. I am the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss. I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

Commentary: In all these verses the term ‘I’ stands for the pure Atma. The mind is defined thus in Brihadaranyaka upanishad, 1.5.3 – “Desire, resolve, doubt, faith, lack of faith, steadiness, unsteadiness, shyness, intelligence, fear – all these are nothing but the mind”. The idea brought out here is that all emotions are in the mind and not in the Atma. A person identifies himself with his mind when he says, “I desire this”, “I have resolved to do this”, etc. This verse points out that this identification is wrong and is due to ignorance of the fact that everyone is in reality the Atma or self, which is identical with the supreme Brahman. The question arises, why have the intellect, ego-sense and the chittam been mentioned separately, when they are all included in the mind itself? The reason is that, though the mind is only one, it is given four different names in Vedanta according to the four different functions performed by it. This has been explained by Sri Sankara in Vivekachudamani in slokas 95 and 96 as below:

“The one antahkarana or inner organ is known by four different names, manas, buddhi, ahankara and chittam according to the different functions. When the mind cogitates it is called manas. When it comes to a decision it is called buddhi. When it stores memories, it is called chittam. When it identifies itself with each of these functions it is known as ahankara. The manner in which these functions take place can be explained by taking an illustration. I am walking along the road and I see at a distance a person whose gait seems to resemble that of a certain friend of mine, named Raman. I begin to debate whether the person I see at a distance is Raman or not. This function of debating is what is called ‘manas’. When he comes nearer and I am able to see his face clearly, I compare it with the memory of the face of Raman stored in my mind. This memory is ‘chittam’. If I find that the two tally, I decide that he is Raman and I greet him. This function of deciding is called ‘buddhi’. The performer of all these three functions is ‘I’, which is known as ‘ahankara’. The term ‘manas’ is also generally used to denote all these four collectively, when these distinctions are not intended.

By the statement “I am not the mind, etc.”, we are asked not to identify ourselves with these activities of the mind and to look upon ourselves as the pure Atma which is actionless and is a mere witness of the activities of the mind. In this way we will not be affected by the joys and sorrows that arise in the mind. In the Bhagavad Gita, 3.27, the Lord says that all actions are performed by the body, mind and senses, but because of delusion everyone thinks that he is the doer.

A person identifies himself with his body and his sense organs when he says, “I am stout, I am fair-complexioned, I hear, I taste, I smell, I see, etc”. The second line points out that this identification is also wrong and is due to delusion. The body is made up of the five elements, space, air, fire, water, and earth. By denying identification with these in the third line, identification with the physical body is denied.

The last line says that we are none other than the supreme Brahman which is existence-consciousness-bliss. The word Siva should not be mistaken to mean Lord Siva. Those who want to attack Advaita interpret this as meaning that Advaita asks the individual to arrogate to himself the status of God Himself. This is a wrong understanding. The term ‘Siva’ is used here in the same sense as in the Mandukya Upanishad, 7, where it means ‘auspiciousness’ and denotes the supreme Brahman. The identity declared by Advaita is not between the individual or jiva as such and God. What Advaita says is that the jiva, as well as God, are in reality none but the pure Brahman, with the vesture of the body, mind, and senses in the case of the jiva and Maya in the case of God. These vestures are not real. When these unreal vestures are negated, what remains in both cases is only the pure Brahman.

The body and mind have only empirical reality, i.e. they appear to be real only until the dawn of self-knowledge. Atma, which is identical with Brahman, is alone the absolute reality which is eternal and changeless. Thus, the very essence of Advaita Vedanta, namely, the identity of the jivAtma and paramAtma is brought out in this verse and in all the subsequent verses.

Verse 2
I am not what is known as the life-breath, nor am I the five vital airs. I am not the seven ‘dhatus’ or constituents of the body. I am not the five sheaths. I am not speech, nor the hands, nor the feet. I am not the genital organ, nor the organ of excretion. I am the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss. I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

Commentary: The praana or life breath is given five names in Vedanta according to the five functions performed by it. These are what are spoken of as the five vital airs in this sloka. The five vital airs are praana, vyaana, apaana, samaana, and udaana. These are described in Sri Sankara’s Bhashya on Prasnopanishad. 3.5, thus: He (praana) places apaana, a division of himself, in the two lower apertures, as engaged in the work of ejecting the excreta. Praana himself, who occupies the position of the sovereign, resides in the eyes and the ears and issues out through the mouth and nostrils. In the navel is samaana, which is so called because it assimilates all that is eaten or drunk, distributes them equally in all parts of the body and effects digestion. Udaana, another division of praana, moves throughout the body and functions upwards. It leads the soul out of the body at the time of death and takes it to other worlds according to one’s punya and paapa. Vyaana regulates praana and apaana and is the cause of actions requiring strength. All these are only air and are therefore insentient. Kathopanishad, 2.2.5 says, “Mortals do not live by praana or apaana, but by something else on which these two depend”. They depend on the Atma which is what gives them sentiency. Here we are told not to identify ourselves with the life-breath.

The seven dhatus are the constituents of the body such as marrow, fat, flesh, blood, lymph, skin, and the cuticle.
The five sheaths: These are described in the Taittiriya Upanishad. The physical body is the outermost sheath. It is called the annamayakosha or sheath of food because it is nourished by food. Within this is the praanamayakosha or sheath of vital air, which is made up of the vital air with its five divisions and the organs of action, namely, speech, hands, feet, the genitals, and the organ of excretion. The next inner sheath is the manomayakosha or sheath of the mind, which is made up of the mind and the five organs of perception, namely, ear, eye, and the senses of smell. taste, and touch. The next sheath is vijnaanamayakosha or the sheath of the intellect. This consists of the intellect or buddhi and the five organs of perception. The innermost sheath is the anandamayakosha or sheath of bliss. This is the primal ignorance or avidya which is the cause of transmigratory existence. These five sheaths constitute the body-mind complex. The instruction is that we should not identify ourselves with these which are all ephemeral and always undergoing changes.
The third line says that we are not the five organs of action. The last line is the same as in the first sloka.

Verse 3
I do not have any aversion or attachment, nor do I have greed, delusion, pride, or jealousy. I do not hanker after Dharma, wealth, pleasures, or liberation (the four purushaarthas). I am the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss. I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

Commentary: All the emotions such as likes, dislikes, greed, etc., belong to the mind and so the Atma has no connection with them. The rules of Dharma apply only when there is identification with the body-mind complex. The Atma has no desire for wealth or pleasures. The Atma is ever liberated. It is only when the Atma is identified with the body-mind complex that there is the notion of bondage and it is only then that liberation has to be sought. The pure Atma is ever free. A person who has become totally free from identification with his body and mind is already liberated. As far as the Atma itself is concerned, it has neither bondage nor liberation, just as there is neither day nor night in the sun itself.

Verse 4
There is no such thing as merit or sin for me. Nor is there joy or sorrow. I have no need for mantras, or pilgrimage, or Vedas, or sacrifices. I am neither the enjoyed nor the enjoyer, nor enjoyment.I am the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss. I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

Commentary: All these are only for the jiva who identifies himself with his body and mind. The Atma is pure, untainted, and actionless. Once a person has realized that he is the pure Atma, he has no need of mantras, pilgrimage, etc., because there is nothing more to be attained. The joy and sorrow referred to in this sloka are those which arise due to external circumstances. These have a beginning and an end and these pertain only to the mind and not the Atma. The Atma is of the very nature of supreme eternal bliss.

I am neither the enjoyed nor the enjoyer, nor enjoyment – What is enjoyed is an object. So this means that the Atma is not an object. The enjoyer is one who performs an action, a doer. So this means that the Atma is not a doer. Enjoyment is an act. Atma is not an act.

Verse 5
I have no possibility of death, nor distinction of caste. I have no father, nor mother. I have no birth. I have no relations, nor friend, nor guru, nor disciple. I am the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss. I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

Commentary: All relationships exist only as long as a person looks upon himself as the body-mind complex. The Atma is eternal and so it has no birth and no death.

Verse 6
I am unconditioned (and so free from all attributes). I am formless. I am all-pervading. I am beyond the organs. I am ever the same. There is neither bondage nor liberation for me. I am the supreme auspiciousness of the nature of consciousness-bliss. I am (Shiva) the auspiciousness.

Commentary: The pure Atma is not conditioned or limited by the body and mind. The Atma, being identical with Brahman, is all-pervading and changeless. Bondage is nothing but identification with the body and mind. This is due to ignorance of our real nature. When this ignorance is destroyed by the knowledge of our real nature it will be realized that there never was any bondage at all. It is not as if everyone is in bondage and becomes liberated on attaining self-knowledge. Everyone is in reality none other than the supreme Brahman even before the dawn of self-knowledge. Liberation is not the production of a new state that did not exist earlier. Liberation is only the realization that one has always been Brahman but has been wrongly thinking of himself as a limited being. This can be understood by taking the classic example of the rope being mistaken for a snake. In the presence of light when it is found that there is only a rope, no one will say that there was previously a snake, but now there is only a rope. Similarly, it is wrong to say that there was previously bondage and after the dawn of knowledge there is liberation. In reality, there is neither bondage nor liberation, but both are attributed to the jiva due to ignorance.

Notes on Tat Tvam Asi

On Tat Tvam Asi (That Thou Art):


Tat Tvam Asi is repeated in the sixth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad, in which the teacher Uddalaka Aruni instructs his son in the nature of Brahman. The text served as a foundation for the Advaita Vedanta branch of Hindu philosophy, providing detail on the concepts of Atman and Brahman.

Representing a central theme of Advaita philosophy, Tat Tvam Asi unites the macrocosmic ideas of God and universal consciousness with the microcosmic individual expression of the Self. This mantra highlights the notion that all beings are intimately connected to universal energy and cannot be separated from it.

Tat Tvam Asi is one of the four principle Mahavakyas, short statements from The Upanishads. The essence of each of these Mahavakyas is the same, since all are intended to guide practitioners toward the realization that all beings are one with Brahman. Understanding this is believed to be the ultimate form of compassion, in which individuals recognize one another as part of the same whole.

The great insight of Advaita Vedanta is, the reality you reach through the God-centred approach or the ‘that’ based approach, and the reality you reach through the Self-inquiry approach or the ‘thou’ based approach, is exactly the same reality. By bringing them together – Atman is Brahman, ‘That thou art’, the stunning insight is – that indubitable personal existence is also the infinitude of God. The unproblematic, infinite nature of God and the indubitable certain existence of the self are brought together. You have an infinite existence which is also beyond doubt.

– Swami Sarvapriyananda, What is Vedanta

From the Bhagavad Gita:

The 18 chapters of the Gita can be viewed as three shadgams of six chapters each. In each of these sections, three broad topics are dealt with.

In the first set of six chapters, the three topics discussed are:

  • Jiva vichara
  • Sadana of karma yoga to attain moksha
  • Human effort, purusha prayatna, to gain self knowledge.

The second shadgam discusses:

  • Ishwara swaroopa
  • Sadana of upasana yoga or meditation on Saguna Brahman
  • Ishwara Kripa.

The focus in the third shadgam is on:

  • The oneness of Paramatma and jivatma
  • The sadana of jnana yoga through practices – sravana, manana, nidhidyasa, etc.
  • The importance of character building by cultivating worthy qualities and virtues.

It is shown that the first topic in each of the three shadgams, namely jiva vichara, Ishwara vichara and Jiva-Brahma Aikya Jnana, respectively unfolds the explanation of the three terms Tvam, Tat and Asi in the Mahavakya. The ‘Tvam’ pada refers to the essential nature of the individual soul, the ‘Tat’ pada is about the nature of the Supreme Brahman and the ‘Asi’ pada affirms the oneness of Paramatma and the jivatma. The second and the third topics in each of three sections comprehensively deal with the yoga sadanas, karma, bhakti and jnana and of the importance of human effort, God’s grace and the cultivation of Daivi sampath or virtues.

Speaking Tree Article by Nitin Sridhar

The Sruti makes statements like “Tat Tvam Asi”(Thou Art That) and “Aham Brahmasmi”(I am Brahman) which often may lead to confusion.

Every verse can have three kinds of meanings- sAmAnadhikaranam, visheshana-visheShya bhava and lakshya-lakshana sambhanda (Naishkarmya-Siddi 3.3).
If we interpret the Mahavakya according to sAmAnadhikarana, the Thou and That, the Jiva and Brahman which are different are being equated. The Mahavakya will mean that the Jiva that is limited and temporary is equal to/same as Brahman, that is infinite and birth-less. This is called as “sAmAnAdhikaranam” or “Co-ordination”.

On the other hand, if we are to take that the Mahavakya is implying that “Thou” is being qualified by the term “That” and vice versa; then it would mean that to the Jiva (in its limiting aspect) is attributed the Brahman-hood (i.e. the qualities like Birth-less, Infinite) and to the Brahman (which is ever-free) is attributed the Jiva-hood (i.e. the qualities like temporary and bounded. This kind of interpretation is called as “visheshaNa-visheshya bhAva” or “Subject-Predicate Relation”.

But, it is visible that in the case of the Mahavakya- “Tat Tvam Asi”, both sAmAnAdhikaranam and visheshaNa-visheshya bhAva does not apply because, neither the limited and temporary Jiva that is subjected to Karma and bondage can be equated to Brahman/God who is eternal, birth-less and ever free, nor can the qualities of one be attributed to another. Gaudapada in his Mandukya Karika (3.21) says that-“the immortal cannot become mortal. Similarly, the mortal cannot become immortal. The mutation of one’s nature will take in no way whatsoever”. Hence, in the case of this Mahavakya, the “Co-ordination” and “Subject-Predicate Relationship” does not apply.

Hence, one must take into consideration only the “lakshya-lakshana sambandha” i.e. Indirect Indication. And accordingly, the “Thou” refers not to the Jiva who is limited by body and mind, but to the Atman, the Inner-most Self who is ever-free and the lone Witness of the body, senses and the mind. Hence, it is the Innermost Atman who is eternal and ever-free is being identified with Brahman, the substratum of the Universe who is also eternal and birth-less. In other words, the Mahavakya implies that, it is the Brahman who is infinite and eternal inhabits all the objects of the Universe as their Atman/Innermost Self.

And when, an individual through vichara/discrimination understands the Real-Self, the Atman as devoid of the Non-Self entities like body and mind and then through Niddhi-dhyasa/contemplation realizes the identity of Atman who is Immidiate (Aparoksha) and Self-established with Brahman who is birthless and ever-free, then he becomes “Jivan-Mukta” due to the destruction of all Ignorance.

Notes on consciousness

  1. If there are three observers at 0 c, 0.5 c and 0.9999 c, their observations of the universe would be different. This is relativity. If observers see the same universe differently, then how can the universe be said to have a single nature?
  2. If a universe cannot have a single nature that it can present consistently to all observers, then there can be no unified theory of everything. If there is nothing fixed to refer to, then there is no standing ground for a theory. To arrive at the theory of everything, experience of constant existence at all frame of reference would be necessary. Interpretation of an observer at 0 c of the experience at 0.5 c, may not necessarily be true for the observer at 0.5 c.
  3. Thought experiment: Can relativity be applied on to quantum fields? If the large hadron collider is moving is at 0.9999 c with respect to the observer, would the experimental results still be valid?
  4. There are two different states of unconsciousness:
    • Death state of unconsciousness: Atman/Soul has left the body and reengagement with mind/body is not expected. Person is truly dead and appears so.
    • Pre-death state of unconsciousness: Atma/Soul has not left the body and reengagement with mind/body is possible. Person appears dead or in a coma to the world but is not truly dead.
  5. In between the two states of unconsciousness, pre-death and death, exists the clue to understand the bare essential functioning of the soul/atman. In this free state, the soul remains closer to its pure form, without having the need to engage the constructs of mind or the sense organs or the world outside or the need to look for a different body to live-in next.
  6. Like a person is standing at the door step of the house from where he can go inwards or outwards, the soul is free to engage the mind in the subtle body and go inwards into a given body and its experience or abandon the current body and seek another body more suited to the current evolved needs of the subtle body. If the current needs are zero, there should be no need for another body.
  7. When the soul decides to “go inside the house” by engaging the mind and the current body, the rules for extent of such engagement must be set. The sages (gyani) who study the soul (not so much the world) say that this engagement must be limited for it doesn’t matter how big the house and how deep one goes into it, the exit must happen. The scientists (vigyani) who study the world (not so much the soul) say this engagement must be maximum, for this one freak opportunity to learn the world should not be wasted. The sage says do not engage, for engagement creates karma and births. The scientist says engage with all your might or else your only go at life would be wasted.
  8. The scientists says, the universe is eternal but consciousness comes and goes. The sage says, consciousness is eternal and the universe comes and goes.

So, what are you? Are you a blip of consciousness that will be forever extinguished at death? Or are you eternal consciousness that will repeatedly come and go into the playground of universe till you learn to destroy your ego and burn your karma?

What is your world view? A fixed universe with random meaningless blips of consciousness and life forms? Or an eternal consciousness soul that craves for varying experiences in a semi-real universe?