Last Friday, the last of six verses of Nirvana Shatakam (Atma Shatakam) was posted along with the Tamil Translation thereof. This Shatakam addresses the very complicated inquiry of “Who am I?”. Though the answers provided by Adi Sankara appears very simple from an over all reading perspective, the subject itself is the essence of the Advaita philosophy and I can vouch for myself that my understanding is not even at the “skimming” level in this field. My attempt however provides me a reminder that what was attempted was just a drop of water in an ocean. This was also reinforced by the quality of comments that I received from my friends and relatives. One of them was in the form of a poetry rightly titled “Master Piece”. 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.” Here is that Masterpiece

Master Piece

And so I chiseled

Stone by stone

For there was to be none


Than this

For He had given me the skill par none

They had borne support as they must

And All the world had but come together

To make this dream come alive

The sculpture that would reveal it all

That masterpiece before we fall

The true identity that we all search

The salvation I was looking for

And as I painstakingly

chipped each piece away

True hue of its, I want to bare

Art of mine I trust

Though in me, I felt rust

And as it revealed itself

The masterpiece I see! All its glory!

In shock, I recognize

The masterpiece!

The masterpiece…

Its nothing but me! my story!

For while in search of

Our destiny

We fail to see

Lost our sight

For such is our plight

This masterpiece is the star

That carves the stone beyond par

For however tall the sculpture stands

Shows it not

But What a masterpiece

The sculptor was!


Sanskrit Verse

मनोबुद्ध्यहङ्कार चित्तानि नाहं

श्रोत्रजिह्वे घ्राणनेत्रे

व्योम भूमिर्न तेजो वायुः

चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥१॥

English Transliteration:

Mano-Buddhy-Ahangkaara Cittaani Naaham

Na Ca Shrotra-Jihve Na Ca Ghraanna-Netre |

Na Ca Vyoma Bhuumir-Na Tejo Na Vaayuh

Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivo[a-A]ham Shivo[a-A]ham ||1||

Meaning of the Sanskrit Words:

मनोबुद्ध्यहङ्कार (Mano-Buddhi-Ahangkaara): Mind, Intelligence or Ego

मन (Mana) = Mind மனம்

बुद्धि (Buddhi) = Intelligence அறிவு

अहंकार (Ahamkaara) = Ego அகந்தை

चित्तानि (Cittaani): memory/intent/The Mind stuff

चित्त (Citta) = memory/intent/Mind stuff

नाहं (Naaham): Not I

न (Na) = Not

अहम् (Aham) = I

न (Na): Not

च (Ca): Also

श्रोत्रजिह्वे (Shrotra-Jihve): Organ of Hearing [Ears] or the Organ of Taste [Tongue]

श्रोत्र (Shrotra) = The organ of Hearing செவி

जिह्व (Jihva) = The Tongue, the organ of Taste நா

घ्राणनेत्रे (Ghraanna-Netre): Organ of Smelling [Nose] or the Organ of Seeing [Eyes]

घ्राण (Ghraanna) = The Nose, the organ of Smelling

नेत्र (Netra) = Eyes, the organ of Seeing

व्योम (Vyoma): Sky

भूमिर्न (Bhuumih-Na): Not the Earth

भूमि (Bhuumi) = Earth

न (Na) = Not

तेजो (Tejo): Energy signifying Fire

तेजस् (Tejas) = Energy signifying Fire

वायुः (Vaayuh): Air

चिदानन्दरूपः (Cid-Aananda-Ruupah): Nature of Blissful Consciousness

चित् (Cit) = Consciousness

आनन्द (Aananda) = Bliss

रूप (Ruupa) = Nature

शिवोऽहम् (Shiva-Aham): I am Shiva, the Blissful Consciousness

शिव (Shiva) = signifying Consciouness

अहम् (Aham) = I

Meaning of the Verse

1.1: Neither am I the Mind, nor the Intelligence or Ego,

1.2: Neither am I the organs of Hearing (Ears), nor that of Tasting (Tongue), Smelling (Nose) or Seeing (Eyes),

1.3: Neither am I the Sky, nor the Earth, Neither the Fire nor the Air,

1.4: I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva, The Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness.

Notes: Mind (manah), intellect (buddhih), ego (ahamkara), and memory (chittani) together are referred to by the technical term antah karana or internal instrument. Ear, tongue, nose, eyes, and skin together are the five jnana indriyas. Space, earth, fire, air, and water are the five elements (pancha bhutas).

Meaning in Tamil

மனம் யானில்லை மதி யானில்லை

ஆணவம் யானில்லை செவியிரண்டும் யானில்லை

நாவு யானில்லை நுகர்நாசிகள் நானில்லை

விழியிரண்டும் யானில்லை விண்வெளியும் யானில்லை

இப்புவியும் யானில்லை அழலொளியும் யானில்லை

வீசும் காற்றும் யானில்லை உள்ளிரு நீரும் யானில்லை

உள்உணர்வின் பேரின்ப வடிவான சிவமே யான் சிவமே யான்


Remember the two vital questions which I missed while I was “role playing” during the Corana Virus! Who am “I”? What do I mean when I use the word “Happy”?

There are numerous ways by which one can explain “happiness” – the state of being happy. I was looking for an apt definition for happiness. Pop! Came the answer from Twitter. Here is the link

Here is my interpretation. Modern psychology brings out the science behind “happiness”. As an “experiencer”, I look at “being happy” in a different perspective. When I am in deep sleep without any application whatsoever of my mind and sense organs, I am in a state unaffected by anything – “It is a Bliss” – indicating how happy I am when I am sleeping without any miseries. That is what I mean by the word “happy”. That kind of happiness is what I want in every second of my life. Am I the only one desiring like that? The lady there in Anand Mahindra’s tweet brings out exactly what is happiness. It depends on oneself (attitude of myself decides what is happiness). So who is myself or who am I?

This question however is a complex one. The self inquiry in the question has one challenge. Am I splitting myself as inner and outer Self? Dr S Radhakrishnan, a great philosopher and the former President of India, says “To divide human being into outer desire and inner quality is to violate the integrity of human life. The two orders of Reality – the transcendental the empirical are closely related”. If I agree with this argument, then, who am I ?

I don’t have an answer ready made. The real answer cannot be provided either by a theory or by dialectic. These alone, as in themselves and without reference to personal experience cannot carry conviction. But I am still in the process of experiencing the answer (otherwise called as my life) and won’t be able to answer till my experiences (life) end.

Luckily, the experiences elucidated by legendary philosophers and thinkers are available for me. Their teachings are presented either as metaphysics or ethics. In the traditional Hindu system this is called “Brahmavidya” and “Yogashastra”. The universally acclaimed classic Indian treatise “Bhagwad Gita” is a combination of both – the science of Reality and the art of Union with Reality.

In India, there are two outstanding treatises, considered equivalent to The Divine Response available for the vital question “Who am I?”. The answer to my question was provided as early as in 8th Century by Adi Shankaracharya. He brought out the “Brahmavidya” to the question “Who am I?” through a hymn in Sanskrit comprising six verses – “Atma Shatakam or Nirvana Shatakam”. The word shatakam means six and the word nirvana means freedom or liberation. It is thus a hymn of six verses on liberation, each of which is like a jewel in the garland of Vedanta. It is also called as atma shatakam or six verses on the nature of the Self. The first three lines in each of the first five verses negate all that is not “I”(Atman), while the last line in each verse strongly affirms what “I”(Atman) is.

In the year 1902, in a town called Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, Bhagwan Shri Ramana Maharishi provided answers to one Sri M. Sivaprakasam Pillai, a graduate in Philosophy, who was at the time employed in the Revenue Department of the South Arcot Collectorate. This was published in 1923. The teachings of Bhagwan Shri Ramana Maharishi is published by SriRamanasramam in Thiruvannamalai as “Who am I”.

My next series of blogs will focus on Adi Shankaracharya’s Nirvana Shatakam/Atma Shatakam.