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Teachings of Adi Shankaracharya

A collection of teachings of Adi Shankaracharya from various sources.

Just as a piece of rope if imagined to be a snake and an oyster to be a piece of silver, so is the Atman (soul) determined to be the physical body by an ignorant person. Atman (Eternal Self) is verily one and without parts, whereas the body consists of many parts and yet the people see these as one. What else can be called ignorance but this?

Action cannot destroy ignorance, for it is not in conflict with ignorance. Knowledge alone destroys ignorance, as light destroys darkness.

Never boast of your wealth, friends, and youth. Time may steal away all these in the twinkling of an eye. Giving up attachment to this world which is full of illusion, try to realize Brahman soon and merge in it.

Just as a piece of rope if imagined to be a snake and an oyster to be a piece of silver, so is the Atman (soul) determined to be the physical body by an ignorant person.

Atman (Eternal Self) is verily one and without parts, whereas the body consists of many parts and yet the people see these as one. What else can be called ignorance but this?

Action cannot destroy ignorance, for it is not in conflict with ignorance. Knowledge alone destroys ignorance, as light destroys darkness.

The impression of "I am Brahman" created by uninterrupted reflection, destroys ignorance and its distractions, as medicine destroys disease.

All beings are, by nature, pure consciousness itself. It is due to ignorance that they appear to be different.

If the mind ever so slightly strays from the ideal and becomes outgoing, then it goes down and down, just as a play-ball inadvertently dropped on the staircase bounds down from one step to another.

Self-revelation according to the dictates of Shruti cuts off the worldly bondage.

Self-revelation is the purpose of salvation.

Heaven is achieved only through non-violence.

He sleeps in peace who meditates on God.

He is awakened who knows the good and bad.

He is poor person who has uncontrolled lust.

Upasana, or meditation, means approaching an object of meditation as presented by the scriptures, making it an object of one’s own thought, and dwelling on it uninterruptedly for long by continuing the same current of thought with regard to it— like a stream of oil poured from one vessel to another.

Childhood skips off in sport and play. Youth flies off in pursuits of love-making. As one grows older he is drowned in worry about the security and future of his wife and children. One’s whole life gets spent in some kind of worry or other.
And at no stage does man find time to lift his thoughts to God.

If the mind ever so slightly strays from the ideal and becomes outgoing, then it goes down and down, just as a play-ball inadvertently dropped on the staircase bounds down from one step to another.

Everywhere in the spiritual scriptures, the very characteristics of a person who has attained fulfillment [through spiritual realization] are taught to be the means of sadhana as these are attainable through practice and effort. [Thus], those that are attainable through practice and effort, verily become means of sadhana [for a spiritual aspirant or sadhaka] as well as the [natural] characteristics [of a person who has attained to realization].

Khsama is a complete absence of agitation in the mind, when insulted or beaten.

The knowledge of one's identity with the pure self, that negates the notion of the identity of the body and the self, sets a man free even against his will from the belief that he is a human being.

The world, which is full of attachment, aversion and the like, is like a dream. It appears to be real as long as one is ignorant. With the dawning of knowledge, the world becomes unreal.

The yogi endowed with complete enlightenment, sees through the eye of knowledge the entire universe in his own and regards everything as the Self and nothing else.

The world is filled with attachments and aversions and is like a dream; it appears to be real as long as one is ignorant but becomes unreal when one is awake.

Just as a piece of rope is imagined to be a snake and an oyster to be a piece of silver, so is the atman (soul) determined to be the physical body by an ignorant person.

Atman is verily one and without parts, where as the body consists of many parts, and yet the people see these as one. What else can be called ignorance but this?

All beings are, by nature, pure consciousness itself. It is due to ignorance that they appear to be different.

Who is the one afflicted by poverty? 
The person is considered poor if he has an ever-expanding craving for something or the other.

Who then is a wealthy person?
One who has complete contentment is wealthy.

Who is considered dead even while living?
A person who puts in no effort to rectify, change, modify or uplift an existing situation or circumstance is almost dead.

The true nature of a thing is known only in a state of awakened perception.

When the time comes as it is bound to come – the time for ultimate decision – your grammar which you are discussing will not help you at all.

The highest state is the natural state.

Both freedom and bondage are illusions created by the human mind.

The water drop playing on a lotus petal has an extremely uncertain existence; so also is life ever unstable.

Of the tree Samsara ignorance is the seed the identification with the body is its sprout attachment its tender leaves, work its water, the body its trunk, the vital forces its branches, the organs its twigs, the sense-objects its flowers, various miseries due to diverse works are its fruits, and the individual soul is the bird on it.  (Vivekachudamani 145)

This bondage of the non-Self springs from ignorance, is self-caused, and is described as without beginning and end. It subjects one to the long train of miseries such as birth, death, disease, and decrepitude. (Vivekachudamani 146)

There are three things that are rare indeed, a human birth, the longing for liberation (freedom from reincarnation), and the protecting care of a perfected sage. (Vivekachudamani 3)

Since all beings without exception are modifications of the essence of food and since all are equally descendents of Brahman, why is man alone unique? Because of his pre-eminence. In what again does this pre-eminence consist? In his competence for  karma (work) and  jnana (knowledge). For man alone is qualified for rights and duties as also for knowledge, by virtue of his ability, craving (for results) and non-difference (to results). Taittiriya Upanishad (II, I, 1) Commentary

Through discriminative self analysis and logical thinking one should separate the Pure Self within the sheaths as one separates the rice from the husk, bran, etc., that are covering it. (Atma Bodha Verse 16)

The knowledge of an object is only gained by perception, by investigation or by instruction but not by bathing or giving alms, or by a hundred retentions of the breath. (Vivekachudamani shloka 13)

By reason of ignorance a connection between you who are Paramatman and that which is not Atman is brought about and hence this wheel of embodied existence. By the fire of wisdom arising from this discrimination the growth of ignorance is burnt up to its very roots.

Sons and others are capable of taking care of a father’s debts, but no one except oneself can remove his own bondage.

If the mind ever so slightly strays from the ideal and becomes outgoing, then it goes down and down, just as a play-ball inadvertently dropped on the staircase bounds down from one step to another.

As a swan separates milk from water, so does he — a dhira, a wise person— separates good from the pleasant.

The Shruti [the Upanishads, the essence of human wisdom] are nudging the sleeping soul from its endless sleep of ignorance and tells man to approach those wise men who have known the Self and seek the way to Self-realisation from them. Indeed the path of seeking the Self is extremely challenging and exacting like walking the sharpened edge of a blade or razor. Be up and doing.

There are three things that are rare indeed, a human birth, the longing for liberation (freedom from reincarnation), and the protecting care of a perfected sage.

Teachings from Dakshinamurti Stotram of Adi Shankaracharya

One who comes out breaking the power of maya and by withdrawing sense organs will be like a sun or moon after eclipse.

People who are deluded by maya see the universe with its difference like a man who dreams in sleeping and waking states.

The Supreme Lord encompasses the Universe and is all pervading, nothing exists out of Him.

By Hearing, reflecting and meditating, the Supreme Self can be realized as the Self in all.

The whole world is found to exist entirely in the mind like a city’s image reflected in a mirror.

Like a magician, or a might yogi, Dakshinamurti (Shiva) projects outside this infinite universe by the sheer power of his will. Prior to this projection, it was potentially present like a tree in a seed.

His light alone looms through the five senses.

Misguided men look upon their body, breath, senses and the mind as ‘I’. The grace of the guru dispels the mighty illusion caused by the play of ‘maya’.

The whole world is found to exist entirely in the mind like a city’s image reflected in a mirror. It appears outside, like a dream, through the power of maya. But, by the grace of the guru, it is perceived as the everlasting and non-dual self, on the dawn of knowledge.

Like a magician or a mighty yogi, Dakshinamurti projects outside this infinite universe by the sheer power of his will. Prior to this projection, it was potentially present like a tree in seed, by the power of time and space, imagined through maya, it appears to be many and multiform.

His light alone looms through the five senses. That alone brings in the state of knowing characterized by the awareness ‘I Know”.

Misguided men look upon their body, breath, sense, and the mind as ‘I.’ The grace of the guru dispels the mighty illusion caused by the play of maya.

Teachings from Tattvabodha

What are the Four Perfections?

The Discerning between lasting and unlasting things;
No Rage for enjoying the fruit of works, either here or there;
the Six Graces that follow Peace;
and then the Longing to be free.

What is the Discerning between lasting and unlasting things?
The one lasting thing is the Eternal; all, apart from it, is unlasting.

What is No Rage?
A lack of longing for enjoyments here and in the heaven-world.

What is possession of the Perfections that follow Peace?
Peace; Self-Control; Steadiness; Sturdiness; Confidence; Intentness.

What is Peace?
A firm hold on emotion.

What is Self-Control?
A firm hold on the lust of the eyes and the outward powers.

What is Steadiness?
A following out of one’s own genius.

What is Sturdiness?
A readiness to bear opposing forces, like cold and heat, pleasure and pain.

What is Confidence?
Confidence is a reliance on the Voice of the Teacher and Final Wisdom.

What is Intentness?
One-pointedness of the imagination.

What is the Longing to be free?
 It is the longing: “That Freedom may be mine.”

Source – Tattvabodha Translated by Charles Johnston

Tattvabodha is a text composed by Adi Shankaracharya

Upadesa Sahasri Teachings

Upadesa Sahasri contains the teachings of Adi Shankaracharya in both prose and verse form.

When you say I am Brahmin’s son belonging to such and such a family, you have identified the Atman, which is free from caste, family and purifying ceremonies, with body. This is ignorance.

The highest atman is not afflicted with any attributes of transmigratory existence.

The highest atman is the evolver of the unevolved name and form merely by being existent since it is possessed of inconceivable power.

Foam is neither identical with water nor absolutely different from water since it is not seen without water. But water is clear and different from foam which is of the nature of dirt. Likewise, the highest Atman is different from name and form which corresponds to foam, Atman is pure, clear and different in essence from it.

Thus in this beginningless world on account of my own actions I have been giving up successive bodies and assuming ever new ones.

I have in this way made to go round and round in the cycle of endless births and deaths, by my past actions. And having in the course of time obtained the present body I have got tired of this going round and round in the wheel of transmigration, and have come to the  Guru, to put an end to this rotation.

I am therefore always different from the body.

It is bodies that come and go, like clothes on a person.

I am different from the body. The body is born, dies, is eaten by birds, turns into earth, is destroyed by weapons, fire and so forth, and suffers from disease and so on.

I have entered this body as a bird enters a nest by force of the merit and demerit accumulated by myself. Again and again by force of the merit and demerit, when this body perishes, I shall enter another body as a bird enters another next when its previous one has been destroyed. Thus I am in beginningless transmigratory existence.

I have been abandoning old bodies which have been obtained one after another in the spheres of gods, animals, men and hells by force of my own karman and I have been getting other new bodies over and over again.

I am forced by my own karman to rotate in the incessant cycle of birth and death as in a water-wheel. I have obtained this body in the course of time.

Therefore I am eternal and different from the body. The bodies come and go like a person’s garments.

Source - The Essential Vedanta: A New Source Book of Advaita Vedanta  edited by Eliot Deutsch, Rohit Dalvi

Teachings on Guru from Upadesa Sahasri of Adi Shankaracharya

What is the nature of the teacher?

The teacher is one who is endowed with the power of furnishing arguments pro and con, of understanding questions and remembering them, who possesses tranquility, self-control, compassion and a desire to help others, who is versed (through the tradition handed down) in the scriptures and unattached to enjoyments both seen and unseen, who has renounced the means to all kinds of actions (ritualistic etc.), who is a knower of Brahman and is established in it, who is never a transgressor of the rules of conduct, and who is devoid of shortcomings such as ostentation, pride, deceit, cunning, jugglery, jealousy, falsehood, egotism and attachment. He has the sole aim of helping others and a desire to impart the knowledge of Brahman only.

Nirvana Shatakam Teachings

I am not mind, intellect, ego, or the reflection of inner self (Chitta). I am not the five senses, but beyond that. I am not ether, the earth, the fire, the wind (the five bhutas). But I am that eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

I cannot be termed as energy (Prana) or five types of breath (Vayus), or the seven material essences, the five sheaths (pancha kosha). I am not the five instruments (elimination, procreation, motion, grasping or speaking). But I am that eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

I do not have any hatred or dislike, affiliation or liking, greed, delusion, pride or haughtiness, feelings of envy or jealousy. I have no duty (dharma), any money, any desire (Kama) even for liberation (Moksha). But I am that eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness.

Teachings from Sri Brahmanucintanam – Meditation on Brahman

Free of all limitations
And with uninterrupted awareness,
Having known thus that I am Brahman,
How can one become one who observe castes and orders of life?

He who does contemplation for a moment on the Self thus as, ‘I am Brahman,”
Having the conviction that oneself is always Brahman, Should move about happily.

I am free of beginning, middle, and end.
I am never one bound at any time.
By nature blemishes, pure, I, indeed, am He.
There is no doubt of this.

By continuous, lifelong practice, one who strives shall become one liberated while alive. I am not the body and not the prana; and, likewise, not the senses, indeed.

Teachings from Dasi Shloka

The Atman is all pervading and self revealed. It has no support. The universe of name and form is insignificant and is separate from Me. The Atman is one without a second, attributeless and indestructible even when the whole of creation is destroyed. It is of the nature of supreme bliss and purity. (Dasi Sloka)

Unattached, unattached, unattached am I (to the body, mind and intellect).
I alone and changeless exist in the form of consciousness and bliss.
I am ever pure and free, without change of form and nature.
I am ever full… I alone exist, changeless.
I am eternal and without boundaries,
Immutable and unshakeable
I alone exist
Changeless in the form of consciousness and bliss. (Dasi Sloka)



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