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Upadesa Sahasri Of Adi Shankaracharya – What Is It All About?

Upadesa Sahasri is a work of Sri Adi Shankaracharya explaining means of liberation. Upadesa Sahasri means a thousand teachings on the subject. It is written in both prose and poetry. It explains the means of liberation for aspirants who are – seeking liberation, desirous of such a teaching and possess faith in it.

The distinction between one’s self and body, mind, etc., when rightly comprehended under the benevolent guidance of a teacher, will perfectly convince one that he/she is not other than unlimited bliss, untouched by hunger and thirst, grief and delusion, old age and death.

Part one of the prose part deals with a method of enlightening the disciple, knowledge of the changeless and non-dual self, and ‘repetition’, reminding oneself that one is of the nature of consciousness, changeless, etc. Knowledge which is the way of liberation, should be explained to a disciple who is indifferent to everything transitory, has given up desire for worldly things, has control over one’s mind and senses, has the qualities of a disciple stated in the knowledge texts, and has approached the preceptor (guru) properly.

The work Upadesa Sahasri also mentions the qualities of a guru, viz., one endowed with the capability of understanding the disciple’s questions, tranquility, self-control, compassion, etc., well-versed in knowledge texts and unattached to enjoyments, a realize of Brahman and never a transgressor of the rules of conduct. He should first teach the Shruti text, establishing the oneness of the self with Brahman, and then show that the nature of the body is different from the self.

The disciple should learn that ignorance is the cause of transmigratory existence. It is knowledge that ends this ignorance, and fearlessness results from the cessation of transmigratory existence.

The aspirant to liberation keeps reminding himself of the nature of the self, which is unborn, devoid of old age, death, and fear and so on. The supreme reason for this unattached condition, which is beyond pain, is that nothing else exists except the self.

Part two of Upadesa Sahasri deals with introduction, negation, self or Brahman, nature of right knowledge, error in understanding, negation of attributes, knowledge through the intellect, merging of the mind, subtleness and pervasiveness, right conception of the nature of consciousness, nature of the witness, light, eyelessness, dream and memory, impossibility of one being another, consisting of earth, right knowledge, thou art that, a conversation between the self and the mind.

By crossing the forest o the body infested with the ferocious beasts of grief, delusion, etc., man attains one’s own innermost self. The knowledge that the self is identical with the Brahman destroys ignorance. This knowledge of one’s identity with the pure self sets one free. Transmigratory existence is wrongly thought of as belonging to the self.

The work teaches that Brahman is pure consciousness, unborn, imperishable, unattached and all-pervading, non-dual, clearly manifest, one only and ever-free.

When there is no delusion, there is no birth. The one with the firm conviction that he is Brahman is never born again. Knowledge leads to immortality.