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Atma bodha

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Title: Atma bodha  
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Subject: Adi Shankara, Advaita Vedanta, Sanskrit texts, Indian philosophy, Ajativada
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Atma bodha

Author Attributed to Adi Shankara
Translator Nikhilananda
Country India
Language Sanskrit
Subject Hindu philosophy
Genre Advaita Vedanta
Publisher Original: 8th century AD; Reprinted in 1947 by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai
Published in English
First publication in 1812 translated by J. Taylor

Ātma-bōdha (Sanskrit: आत्मबोधः ) which means - 'Self-knowledge' or 'Knowledge of the Self' or 'The awakening of ātmān', is a short Sanskrit text believed to have been written by Shankara for his disciple, Sanandana, also known as Padmapāda. This text is traditionally attributed to Shankara even though present day scholars do not accept this contention. In sixty-eight verses he has described the method to attain the knowledge of the Self or Atman.[1][2][3]


  • Authorship 1
  • Contents 2
  • Commentaries and translations 3
  • References 4


The authorship of Ātma-bōdha, written in Sanskrit language, is traditionally ascribed to Adi Shankara who is believed to have lived in the 8th century A.D. Even though the authenticity of this work is doubted by present day scholars, it does not contradict the Advaita system which it advocates.


The original text consists of sixty-eight verses and describes the way to the attainment of the knowledge of the Atman. Once again, as he does in Vivekachudamani, Shankara teaches that the Ultimate Reality or Brahman, the foundation of all relative ideas and whose effulgence radiates through the vesture of name and form, is beyond name and form and of the nature of Pure Consciousness, but who can be realized by pursuing the Path of Knowledge, not by worship. He reiterates that the Path of Knowledge consists in shravana (hearing the instructions of a teacher), manana (reflecting on what is heard) and nididhyasana (meditating on Truth with single-minded devotion); viveka (philosophical discrimination) and vairagya (renunciation of all that which is unreal) are the basic disciplines required to be followed and that it is not possible for actions (Karma) to destroy ignorance (avidya) and cause liberation (moksha) –

अविरोधितया कर्म नाविद्यां विनिवर्तयेत् |
विद्याविद्या निहन्त्येव तेजस्तिमिरसङ्ववत् ||
"Action cannot destroy ignorance, for it is not in conflict with ignorance. Knowledge alone destroys ignorance, as light destroys dense darkness." – (Ātma-bōdha Sl.3)

Shankara, through unimpeachable reasoning, reveals the spiritual nature of the world and the individual soul all the while insisting that the true essence of these two is the Absolute of the nature of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. Brahman is the substratum on which is projected by imagination all the manifested things of the world; the all-pervading Atman illumining the mind and the senses shines in the intellect (Buddhi) just as the reflection in a mirror. His Vedic non-dualistic (Advaita) philosophy is based on the divinity of the soul, the unity of existence, the Oneness of the Godhead and the harmony of religions.[4]

Commentaries and translations

The first translation of Ātma-bōdha into English language from Sanskrit by J. Taylor was published in 1812 titled - The Knowledge of Spirit,[5] later another translation rendered by Rev. J.F.Kearns, along with English commentary and titled - Atma Bodha Prakashika, was published in the May, 1876 issue of The Indian Antiquary (pages 125-133).[6] An English translation and commentary of 1944 by Swami Nikhilananda was published in India in June, 1947 by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. Ramana translated Ātma-bōdha into Tamil in verse-form.[7] Chinmayananda Saraswati has also written a translation of the same.[8]


  1. ^ Reza Shah-Kazemi. Paths of Transcendence. World Wisdom. p. 4. 
  2. ^ Roshan Dalal. Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 48. 
  3. ^ N.V.Isaeva. Shankara and Indian Philosophy. SUNY Press. p. 78. 
  4. ^ Sankaracarya. Sanskrit-English.pdf Atma-bodha with translation and commentary by Nikhilananda] (PDF). pp. xiii, xiv, xiv, xviii,. 
  5. ^ Bibliotheca marsdeniana philological et orientalis. p. 220. 
  6. ^ Indian Antiquary Vol.5. 
  7. ^ Ramana, Shankara and Forty Verses. Motilal Banarsidass Publications. p. 82. 
  8. ^  
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