Atma Bodha (Self-Knowledge)
By Adi Sankaracharya,
Translated by Swami Chinmayananda
Published by Chinmaya Mission, Mumbai
1. I am composing the ATMA-BODHA, this treatise of the Knowledge of
the Self, for those who have purified themselves by austerities and
are peaceful in heart and calm, who are free from cravings and are
desirous of liberation.
2. Just as the fire is the direct cause for cooking, so without
Knowledge no emancipation can be had. Compared with all other forms
of discipline Knowledge of the Self is the one direct means for
3. Action cannot destroy ignorance, for it is not in conflict with or
opposed to ignorance. Knowledge does verily destroy ignorance as
light destroys deep darkness.
4. The Soul appears to be finite because of ignorance. When ignorance
is destroyed the Self which does not admit of any multiplicity truly
reveals itself by itself: like the Sun when the clouds pass away.
5. Constant practice of knowledge purifies the Self (`Jivatman'),
stained by ignorance and then disappears itself as the powder of
the `Kataka-nut' settles down after it has cleansed the muddy water.
6. The world which is full of attachments, aversions, etc., is like a
dream. It appears to be real, as long as it continues but appears to
be unreal when one is awake (i.e., when true wisdom dawns).
7. The Jagat appears to be true (Satyam) so long as Brahman, the
substratum, the basis of all this creation, is not realised. It is
like the illusion of silver in the mother-of pearl.
8. Like bubbles in the water, the worlds rise, exist and dissolve in
the Supreme Self, which is the material cause and the prop of
9. All the manifested world of things and beings are projected by
imagination upon the substratum which is the Eternal All-pervading
Vishnu, whose nature is Existence-Intelligence; just as the different
ornaments are all made out of the same gold.
10. The All-pervading Akasa appears to be diverse on account of its
association with various conditionings (Upadhis) which are different
from each other. Space becomes one on the destruction of these
limiting adjuncts: So also the Omnipresent Truth appears to be
diverse on account of Its association with the various Upadhis and
becomes one on the destruction of these Upadhis.
11. Because of Its association with different conditionings (Upadhis)
such ideas as caste, colour and position are super-imposed upon the
Atman, as flavour, colour, etc., are super-imposed on water.
12. Determined for each individual by his own past actions and made
up of the Five elements that have gone through the process of "five-
fold self-division and mutual combination" (Pancheekarana) are born
the gross-body, the medium through which pleasure and pain are
experienced, the tent-of-experiences.
13. The five Pranas, the ten organs and the Manas and the Buddhi,
formed from the rudimentary elements (Tanmatras) before their "five-
fold division and mutual combination with one another"
(Pancheekarana) and this is the subtle body, the instruments-of-
experience (of the individual).
14. Avidya which is indescribable and beginningless is the Causal
Body. Know for certain that the Atman is other than these three
conditioning bodies (Upadhis).
15. In its identification with the five-sheaths the Immaculate Atman
appears to have borrowed their qualities upon Itself; as in the case
of a crystal which appears to gather unto itself colour of its
vicinity (blue cloth, etc.,).
16. Through discriminative self-analysis and logical thinking one
should separate the Pure self within from the sheaths as one
separates the rice from the husk, bran, etc., that are covering it.
17. The Atman does not shine in everything although He is All-
pervading. He is manifest only in the inner equipment, the intellect
(Buddhi): just as the reflection in a clean mirror.
18. One should understand that the Atman is always like the King,
distinct from the body, senses, mind and intellect, all of which
constitute the matter (Prakriti); and is the witness of their
19. The moon appears to be running when the clouds move in the sky.
Likewise to the non-discriminating person the Atman appears to be
active when It is observed through the functions of the sense-organs.
20. Depending upon the energy of vitality of Consciousness (Atma
Chaitanya) the body, senses, mind and intellect engage themselves in
their respective activities, just as men work depending upon the
light of the Sun.
21. Fools, because they lack in their powers of discrimination
superimpose on the Atman, the Absolute-Existence-Knowledge (Sat-
Chit), all the varied functions of the body and the senses, just as
they attribute blue colour and the like to the sky.
22. The tremblings that belong to the waters are attributed through
ignorance to the reflected moon dancing on it: likewise agency of
action, of enjoyment and of other limitations (which really belong to
the mind) are delusively understood as the nature of the Self (Atman).
23. Attachment, desire, pleasure, pain, etc., are perceived to exist
so long as Buddhi or mind functions. They are not perceived in deep
sleep when the mind ceases to exist. Therefore they belong to the
mind alone and not to the Atman.
24. Just as luminosity is the nature of the Sun, coolness of water
and heat of fire, so too the nature of the Atman is Eternity, Purity,
Reality, Consciousness and Bliss.
25. By the indiscriminate blending of the two the Existence-
Knowledge-aspect of the Self and the thought-wave of the intellect
there arises the notion of "I know".
26. Atman never does anything and the intellect of its own accord has
no capacity to experience `I know'. But the individuality in us
delusorily thinks he is himself the seer and the knower.
27. Just as the person who regards a rope as a snake is overcome by
fear, so also one considering oneself as the ego (Jiva) is overcome
by fear. The ego-centric individuality in us regains fearlessness by
realising that It is not a Jiva but is Itself the Supreme Soul.
28. Just as a lamp illumines a jar or a pot, so also the Atman
illumines the mind and the sense organs, etc. These material-objects
by themselves cannot illumine themselves because they are inert.
29. A lighted-lamp does not need another lamp to illumine its light.
So too, Atman which is Knowledge itself needs no other knowledge to
30. By a process of negation of the conditionings (Upadhis) through
the help of the scriptural statement `It is not this, It is not
this', the oneness of the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, as
indicated by the great Mahavakyas, has to be realised.
31. The body, etc., up to the "Causal Body" Ignorance which are
objects perceived, are as perishable as bubbles. Realise through
discrimination that I am the `Pure Brahman' ever completely separate
from all these.
32. I am other than the body and so I am free from changes such as
birth, wrinkling, senility, death, etc. I have nothing to do with the
sense objects such as sound and taste, for I am without the sense-
33. I am other than the mind and hence, I am free from sorrow,
attachment, malice and fear, for "HE is without breath and without
mind, Pure, etc.", is the Commandment of the great scripture, the
34. I am without attributes and actions; Eternal (Nitya) without any
desire and thought (Nirvikalpa), without any dirt (Niranjana),
without any change (Nirvikara), without form (Nirakara), ever-
liberated (Nitya Mukta) ever-pure (Nirmala).
35. Like the space I fill all things within and without. Changeless
and the same in all, at all times I am pure, unattached, stainless
36. I am verily that Supreme Brahman alone which is Eternal, Pure and
Free, One, indivisible and non-dual and of the nature of Changeless-
37. The impression "I am Brahman" thus created by constant practice
destroys ignorance and the agitation caused by it, just as medicine
or Rasayana destroys disease.
38. Sitting in a solitary place, freeing the mind from desires and
controlling the senses, meditate with unswerving attention on the
Atman which is One without-a-second.
39. The wise one should intelligently merge the entire world-of-
objects in the Atman alone and constantly think of the Self ever as
contaminated by anything as the sky.
40. He who has realised the Supreme, discards all his identification
with the objects of names and forms. (Thereafter) he dwells as an
embodiment of the Infinite Consciousness and Bliss. He becomes the
41. There are no distinctions such as "Knower", the "Knowledge" and
the "Object of Knowledge" in the Supreme Self. On account of Its
being of the nature of endless Bliss, It does not admit of such
distinctions within Itself. It alone shines by Itself.
42. When this the lower and the higher aspects of the Self are well
churned together, the fire of knowledge is born from it, which in its
mighty conflagration shall burn down all the fuel of ignorance in us.
43. The Lord of the early dawn (Aruna) himself has already looted
away the thick darkness, when soon the sun rises. The Divine
Consciousness of the Self rises when the right knowledge has already
killed the darkness in the bosom.
44. Atman is an ever-present Reality. Yet, because of ignorance it is
not realised. On the destruction of ignorance Atman is realised. It
is like the missing ornament of one's neck.
45. Brahman appears to be a `Jiva' because of ignorance, just as a
post appears to be a ghost. The ego-centric-individuality is
destroyed when the real nature of the `Jiva' is realised as the Self.
46. The ignorance characterised by the notions `I' and `Mine' is
destroyed by the knowledge produced by the realisation of the true
nature of the Self, just as right information removes the wrong
notion about the directions.
47. The Yogi of perfect realisation and enlightenment sees through
his "eye of wisdom" (Gyana Chakshush) the entire universe in his own
Self and regards everything else as his own Self and nothing else.
48. Nothing whatever exists other than the Atman: the tangible
universe is verily Atman. As pots and jars are verily made of clay
and cannot be said to be anything but clay, so too, to the
enlightened soul and that is perceived is the Self.
49. A liberated one, endowed with Self-knowledge, gives up the traits
of his previously explained equipments (Upadhis) and because of his
nature of Sat-chit-ananda, he verily becomes Brahman like (the worm
that grows to be) a wasp.
50. After crossing the ocean of delusion and killing the monsters of
likes and dislikes, the Yogi who is united with peace dwells in the
glory of his own realised Self as an Atmaram.
51. The self-abiding Jivan Mukta, relinquishing all his attachments
to the illusory external happiness and satisfied with the bliss
derived from the Atman, shines inwardly like a lamp placed inside a
52. Though he lives in the conditionings (Upadhis), he, the
contemplative one, remains ever unconcerned with anything or he may
move about like the wind, perfectly unattached.
53. On the destruction of the Upadhis, the contemplative one is
totally absorbed in `Vishnu', the All-pervading Spirit, like water
into water, space into space and light into light.
54. Realise That to be Brahman, the attainment of which leaves
nothing more to be attained, the blessedness of which leaves no other
blessing to be desired and the knowledge of which leaves nothing more
to be known.
55. Realise that to be Brahman which, when seen, leaves nothing more
to be seen, which having become one is not born again in this world
and which, when knowing leaves nothing else to be known.
56. Realise that to be Brahman which is Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-
Absolute, which is Non-dual, Infinite, Eternal and One and which
fills all the quarters above and below and all that exists between.
57. Realise that to be Brahman which is Non-dual, Indivisible, One
and Blissful and which is indicated in Vedanta as the Immutable
Substratum, realised after the negation of all tangible objects.
58. Deities like Brahma and others taste only a particle, of the
unlimited Bliss of Brahman and enjoy in proportion their share of
59. All objects are pervaded by Brahman. All actions are possible
because of Brahman: therefore Brahman permeates everything as butter
60. Realise that to be Brahman which is neither subtle nor gross:
neither short nor long: without birth or change: without form,
qualities, colour and name.
61. That by the light of which the luminous, orbs like the Sun and
the Moon are illuminated, but which is not illumined by their light,
realise that to be Brahman.
62. Pervading the entire universe outwardly and inwardly the Supreme
Brahman shines of Itself like the fire that permeates a red-hot iron-
ball and glows by itself.
63. Brahman is other than this, the universe. There exists nothing
that is not Brahman. If any object other than Brahman appears to
exist, it is unreal like the mirage.
64. All that is perceived, or heard, is Brahman and nothing else.
Attaining the knowledge of the Reality, one sees the Universe as the
non-dual Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute.
65. Though Atman is Pure Consciousness and ever present everywhere,
yet It is perceived by the eye-of-wisdom alone: but one whose vision
is obscured by ignorance he does not see It; as the blind do not see
the resplendent Sun.
66. The `Jiva' free from impurities, being heated in the fire of
knowledge kindled by hearing and so on, shines of itself like gold.
67. The Atman, the Sun of Knowledge that rises in the sky of the
heart, destroys the darkness of the ignorance, pervades and sustains
all and shines and makes everything to shine.
68. He who renouncing all activities, who is free of all the
limitations of time, space and direction, worships his own Atman
which is present everywhere, which is the destroyer of heat and cold,
which is Bliss-Eternal and stainless, becomes All-knowing and All-
pervading and attains thereafter Immortality.
Thus concludes Atma-Bodha.