Discrimination’ is one of the greatest texts written by Adi Sankaracharya, in
581 verses, as an introduction to
Vedanta. A careful study of these verses
will be of immense help to the aspirants on the spiritual path. Given below
are selected slokas from this work maintaining the continuity of the
narrative. The bare translations (leaving out the detailed commentary) are
based on those of Swami Chinmayananda in ‘Talks on Sankara’s Vivekachoodamani ‘
published by the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai.
your own self while in this body. Identify yourself with it and cross the shore-less
ocean of samsar whose waves are births and deaths. Become blessed by getting firmly established
in Brahman which is your own essence.
not-self. This is the bondage of man and
brings, in its wake, the miseries of birth and death.
real. He identifies himself with it and
nourishes, bathes and preserves it with the help of sense-objects. Thereby, he becomes bound like the silk-worm
in its cocoon woven by its own threads.
for what it is not. In the absence of
discrimination, the snake is mistaken for a rope, and great danger befalls him
who seizes it through this false notion. So listen, my friend, it is mistaking
the not-Self for the Self (the unreal for the Real)
it covers, just as Rahu covers the sun
during a solar eclipse, the Self whose glories are infinite, which is
indivisible, Eternal and one without a second.
from his direct experience, that man, due to ignorance, comes to falsely
identify himself with his body which is the not-self. Then the merciless persecution of Rajas
of lust, anger etc.
‘powers’. Deluded by them he mistakes his body for the Self and wanders from
life to life.
identifying with the body is the sprout, desires are tender leaves, work is
water, the body is the trunk, the pranas are the branches, the sense-organs are twigs,
sense-objects are flowers, different miseries born out of the varieties of
actions are the fruits, and the individual jeeva is the bird which
enjoys the fruits perching upon it.
ignorance and is self-caused. It is
described as without beginning and without end.
It subjects one to the endless flood of miseries – birth, death, disease and senility.
millions of actions can this bondage be destroyed . By nothing save the wonder
sword of Knowledge which comes from discrimination and is sharpened by the
purification of the mind and the intellect, can we end this bondage.
established in his swadharma –
for these alone contribute to the purity of his mind – and is of pure mind realizes
the supreme Self. By this knowledge
alone is samsar destroyed, root and branch.
which are produced by its own Dvine Power, the Self ceases to appear, just as
the water in a tank ceases to appear due to the collection of moss, which is
born out of itself (water).
can quench the pangs of thirst and give immediate joy, becomes visible.
apprehended as being the essence of everlasting Bliss, as the indwelling,
self-effulgent Spirit Supreme.
food-sheath, it exists because of food
and dies without it. It is a
bundle of skin, flesh, blood, bones and filth. Never can it be the
Self-existing, the eternally pure Atman.
the Atman, for even if these organs are amputated or removed, it continues to
function efficiently. It is thus subject
to the rule of another and cannot be the Atman, the Ruler of all.
Reality, that it is different from the body and its characteristics, its states
and activities, that it is a witness of them all.
himself to be a combination of the body and the jeeva.
knows that ‘I am Brahman’, and looks upon the Eternal Atman as his Self.
identification with the body is the seed from which the misery of births etc.
stems forth. Therefore, put in all your
efforts to destroy it. There can be no
chance of rebirth if this identification caused by the mind is renounced.
the vital-air-sheath, pervaded by which the food-sheath (physical body)
performs all its activities as though it were living.
a modification of air(vayu). Like air it
enters the body and goes out of it, never knowing its joys or sorrows or those
of others. It is ever dependent upon the Self.
which is the sole cause for the “I” and “mine” diversity of things. It has the essential
faculty of creating differences of names etc. and it is powerful. It pervades the sheath preceding it – the
of numerous desires into the mental sheath which is the sacrificial fire. This fire (mental sheath)
when it is set ablaze by the sense-objects which act as a continuous stream of
The mind itself is the ignorance which is the cause for the bondage of
rebirth. When the mind is destroyed,
everything is destroyed. When the mind
manifests, everything else manifests.
with the outside world, the mind alone projects the entire dream-universe of enjoyer
etc. Similarly, the waking state is no different. All this (world of pluralistic phenomena)
and nothing perceivable exists as is proved by the universal experience of all
people. Therefore, man’s world of change
is just the creation of his own mind and has no objective Reality.
sense-organs. These attachments bind him
like an animal that is bound by ropes. Thereafter, the same mind creates a
distaste for the very same sense objects as though they were poison and
liberates man from his bondage.
of discrimination and dispassion, it turns towards liberation. These two must be strengthened by one who is
an intelligent seeker of liberation.
(1) all sense-objects, gross or subtle, without exception, (2) distinctions
based upon body, cast, order-of-life and creed
as well as (3) the difference of qualities, actions, motives and
jeeva, but the mind beguiles it and binds it by ties of body, sense-organs and
Pranas. It causes this jeeva to wander
with the idea of “I’ and “mine” in the varied experiences of “results” gathered
alone is responsible for the bondage of superimposition. For a man who is tainted with Rajas
and Tamas and who lacks discrimination, this causes the misery of birth
sages who have discovered its secret. By
this alone the universe of experience is tossed around like the clouds by the
who seeks liberation. When the mind has
been purified, liberation becomes as readily available as a fruit in one’s own
roots out his attachments for sense objects, renounces all actions and with
faith in Truth, constantly hears (the Truth) etc. he can purge the Rajasic
nature in his intellect.
मनोमयो नापि भवेत्परात्मा
for it has a beginning and an end. It is
subject to modifications; pain and suffering characterize it and it is an
‘object’ of cognition. The subject can never be identified with the ‘object of
organs of perception form the intellectual sheath (vignaanamaya kosa). It has the characteristics of the “the
agent” (or doer) which is the cause for
intellectual sheath is a modification of Prakriti, it is endowed with
the function of knowledge and is always completely identified with the body,
sense organs etc.
and is called the jeeva,
the relative plane. It performs good and
evil actions according to its previous vasanas, and experiences their
results. It comes and goes, up and down,
taking birth in various bodies.
their duties and functions, which actually belong to the body, it considers
them as its own. The vignanamayakosa
is extremely radiant because of its nearness to the supreme self. It is a superimposition on the Self, which,
when it identifies with it (vignanamayakosa) , suffers transmigration
the Prana, in the heart. Though it is
immutable, it becomes the doer and the experiencer because of its
superimposition (the intellectual sheath).
ever unchanging, due to its relationship with the superimpositions, it assumes
the characteristics of these superimpositions and seems to act just as the
equipments do – like the changeless fire assuming the forms of the iron-pieces
which it turns red hot.
Witness, which is beyond all qualities and activities, and which is
subjectively experienced as Bliss and Knowledge Absolute, is unreal and is but
a delusion caused by the intellect.
Since by nature it (jeeva-hood) is unreal, it ceases to exist
once the delusion is lifted.
understanding, the jeeva-hood can exist
only as long as the delusion lasts. The
rope is mistaken to be the snake only when there is an illusion. Once the illusion is destroyed, there can be
no snake. So too, in this case.
of right knowledge and in no other way.
According to the scriptures, realisation of the identity of the soul and
Brahman is right knowledge.
discrimination made between the Self and the not-Self. That is why one must strive to discriminate
between the individual Self and the Eternal Self everywhere.
water when the mud has been removed. So too, the Atman manifests its clear
lustre when the impurities have been removed.
For the following reasons, the intellectual sheath which we have so far spoken
of cannot be supreme Self. It is subject to change, it is inert and insentient,
it is limited, it is an object of the senses and it is not constant. A mortal,
perishable thing indeed cannot be said to be the immortal, imperishable Atman.
modification of Nescience which is kissed by a reflection of the Atman, which
is Bliss Absolute. Pleasure etc. are its
attributes and it springs into expression when an object agreeable to it presents
itself. The fortunate feel it spontaneously when the fruits of their good
actions manifest. Every being without
the least effort derives great joy from it.
deep-sleep state, while in the dream and
waking states it is only partially manifest depending upon the sight of
pleasing objects etc.
because it has attributes which are ever-changing. It is a modification of Prakriti, is created
as the result of good actions of the past, and it lies embedded in the other
sheaths which are in themselves all modifications.
reasoning based upon authoritative scriptural texts, then at the acme of the
process what remains is the Witness, Knowledge Absolute, the Self.