Dakshinamurthy Slokam – 7 – Part 1 – RE Cognition – An Introduction

Wow – I know it – I have seen it

In this verse Adi Śankarācārya is restating the ātma svarupam. We have been told that ātma is not deha, prana, indriyani, buddhi and śūnyam. If ātma is not anyone of them, then what exactly is ātma? That is beautifully described here; Svātmānam. Svātma means my own self; my own essential nature; or the real self. What is this real self?

If it is concluded, on the strength of recognition or pratyabhijná of self-identity, that Ātman is a persistent entity, what is this pratyabhijná? And what its purpose? In Vedanta, Pratyabhijná is also not enumerated among the right sources of knowledge called pramánas along with pratyaksha, etc. Then how can it be a source of knowledge (pramâna)?

The answers to these questions are enlightened in this seventh stanza of the Sloka/Hymn.

The Concept of Re cognition of an object/thing:

Recognition which is essentially a re- cognition (Pratyabhijnána) consists in re-cognising an object/thing—in the form ‘this is the same as that’—which, having once before presented itself to consciousness, again becomes an object of consciousness at present. Semantics in English can give different names for this – recollection, episodic memory, self awareness, Autonoetic consciousness etc. The basic fact is the transaction between consciousness and an object. Let us see an example – a black colored box with golden handle.

  1. First let us see cognition. In the case of external objects, whenever we experience an object, let us say a box, we invent/use an expression to refer to that experience – a box. Let us say that as a kid I have seen a black colored box with a golden handle.
  2. Now after several years later as an adult I see an identical black box with a golden handle, then what do I say “Wow; it is exactly the same or like the same that I saw/experienced several years earlier as a kid”. All the accidental circumstances of place, time and form are left out of account when I recall and say “wow…”.

In this recollection (Recollection here means consciousness of something as having been experienced before), “I” remain the same; there has been no change to that “I”. In other words, in this recollection, Ātman remains the same through all the varying states of wake, dream and deep sleep (jagrat, svapna, and suṣupti), unchanging though the body changes in infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, and old age of an individual. This Black colored box with golden handle is recognized as that Black colored box with golden handle in all the above states. Present both before and after, both at the time of experience and at the time of recollection, Ātman recollects the thing which has persisted in Himself in the form of a samskára or latent impression. So, in the whole process of initial cognition, re-cognition and recall, the Ātman remains the same irrespective of the states of the individual.

The Concept of Re cognition of an Ātman:

Similarly, the pratyabhijnána of Ātman consists in His becoming conscious that He is omniscient, etc., after casting aside the notion that He is of limited knowledge and so on, a notion engendered by His association with Mâyâ. That is to say, the recognition of Ātman’s self-identity consists in the intuitive realisation of His essential nature as the infinite Consciousness and infinite Bliss, after eliminating all limitations of Maya and its effects ascribed to Him by the ignorant.

And how do I refer to that experience? As said earlier, every experience is identified through an “wow” expression. What is that expression for ātma? This ever-experienced ātma, is referred to me by me as Aham – Aham iti. It is ever experienced in the form of I-am; I-am; I-am; “I-am’ experience is there continuously. Throughout the waking state, “I-am” continues; the ātma is experienced as I am, during the dream state; even during the sleep state, “I am” continues. You do not verbalise during sleep; but that experience is verbalised after waking; “I am” experience is present in sleep, but it is verbalised, vocalised only in the waking state; verbalisation is later, but the experience is there; even during sleep. Therefore I-am, I-am, I-am, this continuously experienced I am is ātma.

This “I am” or “aham” is present silently without verbalisation. That is why silence is golden and has no price tage attached to it. That is why we don’t understand it also.

“இதற்கு சொல் என்றும், பொருள் என்றும், மொழி என்றும் இல்லை. அதனாலேதான் இந்த சொல்லாத சொல்லுக்கு விலை ஏதுமில்லை” என்றான் கவிஞன்.

When and where do I have this experience of “I am” or aham ? The answer to this question is provided by Adi Śankarācārya in this Sloka. Let us see the meaning of the Sloka in the blog scheduled on 24th October 2021.

Prologue for the Sloka 1 – Master Piece

The Master Piece

It is an oft-quoted saying that philosophy begins in wonder. The mystery of the Universe with all its changes strikes the reflective temper of human beings. Through this reflective temper, human beings constantly question their experiences. The Vedic philosophy grew out of a demand for the explanation of actual experiences of an individual.

One of the fundamental laws of Vedanta is “ I am different from whatever I experience”. In general, this whole world that I experience therefore, comes under the Category – “The experienced” or in other words “The object” and I come under the category “The experiencer” or “The subject”.

Now, start the reflective temper by dismissing the object and the subject only remains. In this world I interact with persons and I clearly say that “I am not like this person; I am not like these group of persons; I am not this animal; I am not this; I am not that, I won’t be like that, I am different etc.”….and the list goes on. This way you go on dismissing everything that you experience as an object different from you and finally dismissing the world itself as an object. This is the first level of reflection. The next level is to look at yourselves, since you ruled out the world.

I am not the world that I experience ; but then who am I ? To my limited knowledge, there cannot be any other question other than this simple question which evoked such a vast, deep and wide analysis of the individual experiences by the Saints & Philosophers of Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma. One lifetime to understand the material available may not be adequate. Yet from this ocean of information and knowledge I will venture out and reproduce what is quoted in the basic source book on Vedanta “Tattva Bodha”.

स्थूलसूक्ष्मकारणशरीराद्व्यतिरिक्तः पञ्चकोशातीतः सन् अवस्थात्रयसाक्षी सच्चिदानन्दस्वरूपः सन् यस्तिष्ठति स आत्मा ।

‘I’ (addressed as Atma) am the one who is distinctly different from the gross, subtle and causal bodies; who is beyond the five layers (kośas); who abides as the self-evident witness to the three states of experience (of the nature of existence/awake-awareness/dream-fullness/deep sleep).

Vedanta identifies the features of a human body-mind-intellect complex with three types of bodies, 5 types of sheaths/layers, 5 sense organs 5 action organs , the mind the intellect and the three states of the consciousness (viz, wake, dream and deep sleep). This means that the “Atma (“I”) ” is beyond all these 21 seamlessly integrated features of body-mind-intellect complex.

“I” am not the world; “I” am not the body, “I” am not the mind/intellect. If “I” am different from all these three; then “I” must be a conscious principle, because I am experiencing them.

Thus the entire object or anātmā consists of three factors, the world, the body and the mind; and “I”, the ātmā, the observer consists of the consciousness principle called chaitanyam. This is the fundamental concept that we are trying to grapple with in Vedanta

At this stage I am again reminded of this excellent poem “Master Piece” by “Author Anonymous” which I posted in my blog on June 12, 2020 (Masterpiece – Prabhu’s Ponder (prabhusponder.com)).  It simply moved me – what deep understanding of the subject and what an expression! The author wanted to remain Anonymous and clearly stated that “spirituality decreases when it is attributed to a person. I was but a scribe.”

This master piece is what “I” am and can only be experienced rather than be defined.

Now in the first Sloka, the subject matter is: What is the relationship between I, the consciousness principle, and the entire universe; the inert matter. What is the relationship between I the ātmā, the consciousness principle, and the world, the inert principle called anātmā.

So अत्मअनात्म सम्भन्दः atma-anātma sambhandaḥ “ஆன்மாவும் அண்டமும்” “Jivatma and the Jagat” is the subject matter of the first verse; and Sankaracharya beautifully explains this with the help of two examples of mirror and dream, about which we will see in the coming blogs.


Throughout the blogs, you will see fair mix of words in Sanskrit and Tamil. Wherever possible, I will try to use the transliterated/ words with verbatim letters in English for easy understanding based on my elementary knowledge.


As each Sloka brings out the essence of Vedanta, it is necessary that some basic concepts of the Vedanta is discussed first before dwelling into the Sloka. As such there will be introductory blogs which will cover the concepts before taking up the Sloka and its meaning. With my limited understanding I will try and make these conceptual blogs simple through day to day examples. If you find them too elementary, please bear with my ignorance. It will turn out that we may need a minimum of 4-5 blogs to cover each Sloka. Get ready for a long haul.