Ātmabodha

(‘Knowledge of the Self’)

Śaṅkara (A. D. 788-820), the doyen of Advaita Vedānta, has composed three types of works: bhāṣyas, prakaraṇas and stotras. The bhāṣyas are his commentaries on the prasthānatraya (the three basic works of Vedānta viz., Upaniṣads, Brahmasūtras and Bhagavadgītā). The stotras are devotional hymns. The prakaraṇas are elementary treatises on Advaita philosophy. Out of nearly 40 prakaraṇas attributed to him Ātmabodha is one of the smaller works. It consists of 68 verses.

As the very name suggests, the work deals with Self-knowledge. After describing briefly the qualifications of an aspirant for mokṣa, the work proceeds to assert that only jñāna (knowledge) can give mokṣa (liberation) directly, even as it is the fire that is directly responsible for cooking food. This is followed by a descrip-tion of the world as ‘mithyā’ or transient. Then comes an analysis of the three śarīras (bodies) and the five kośas (sheaths) to prove that the ātman is different from all these. The process of meditation on the ātman comprising the three well-known steps of śravaṇa (hearing), manana (reflection) and nididhyāsana (meditation) comes next. It ends with the description of the identity of the jīva (individual soul) with Brahman (Supreme Self), and the state of a liberated soul.