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AuthorAttributed to Adi Shankara
SubjectHindu philosophy
GenreAdvaita Vedanta
PublisherOriginal: 8th century or later; Modern: T.K. Balasubramania Iyer (1910)[1]
Published in English
Many (Madhavananda (1921), Charles Johnston (1946), John Grimes (2004))

The Vivekachudamani (Sanskrit: विवेकचूडामणि; IAST: Vivekacūḍāmaṇi) is a philosophical treatise within the Advaita Vedanta tradition of Hinduism, traditionally attributed to Adi Shankara of the eighth century,[2] though this attribution has been questioned and mostly rejected by scholarship.[3][4][5][6][7][2][8] It is in the form of a poem in the Shardula Vikridita metre.[9]

Vivekachudamani literally means the "crest-jewel of discernment".[10] The text discusses key concepts and the viveka or discrimination or discernment between real (unchanging, eternal) and unreal (changing, temporal), Prakriti and Atman, the oneness of Atman and Brahman, and self-knowledge as the central task of the spiritual life and for Moksha.[11][3][12] It expounds the Advaita Vedanta philosophy in the form of a self-teaching manual, with many verses in the form of a dialogue between a student and a spiritual teacher.


The authorship of the Vivekachudamani has been questioned.[3] According to Reza Shah-Kazemi the authorship of Shankara is doubtful,[4] though it is "so closely interwoven into the spiritual heritage of Shankara that any analysis of his perspective which fails to consider [this work] would be incomplete".[4] [note 1] According to Michael Comans, a scholar of Advaita Vedanta, though the Hindu tradition popularly believes that Adi Shankara authored the Vivekachudamani, this is "most probably erroneous".[5] Comans gives the following reasons for his doubts: the highly poetic style of the Vivekachudamani is not found in other genuine works of Adi Shankara; there is a lack of extensive commentaries (bhasya) on the Vivekachudamani which is unusual given the extensive commentaries on his other works; and unlike Shankara's other genuine works which give minimal importance to nirvikalpa samadhi practices, the Vivekachudamani gives special importance to it.[5] Though the Vivekachudamani is a popular manual on Vedanta, it is probably the work of a later Shankara, and not Adi Shankara, states Comans.[5] Yet another theory, states Berger, is that "rather than simply having been written or not written by [Adi] Sankara, the Crown Jewel of Discrimination may be a corporately authored work [of Advaita monasteries] that went through revisions".[2]

According to Natalia Isayeva, a scholar of Advaita Vedanta, it is "far less probable" that Adi Shankara authored the Vivekachudamani.[6] Sengaku Mayeda, another scholar of Indian Philosophy and Advaita Vedanta, states that though widely accepted as Shankara's work, the Vivekachudamani is likely not his work.[7]

Paul Hacker, an Indologist and scholar of Advaita, set out a methodology for ascertaining authorship of Advaita texts and he concluded that though the Vivekachudmani is unusual in parts, it was likely authored by Adi Shankara.[2][8] Hacker stated that the definitions of the key concepts, premises and ideas found in the Vivekachudmani match with those in Shankara's established authentic works.[2] Daniel H. H. Ingalls Sr., another influential Indologist, rejected Hacker's conclusion by accepting Hacker's methodology and presenting evidence from its manuscripts that some of the ideas in the text do not fully agree with those of Adi Shankara.[2][8]

According to John Grimes, a professor of Hinduism and Buddhism known for his translation of the Vivekachudamani, "modern scholars tend to reject that Adi Shankara composed Vivekachudamani, while traditionalists tend to accept it", and there is an unending "arguments and counter-arguments" about its authorship.[13] Grimes states that his work strengthens the case that "there is still a likelihood that Śaṅkara is the author of the Vivekacūḍāmaṇi," [13] noting that "a strong case can be made that the Vivekacūḍāmaṇi is a genuine work of Sankara's and that it differs in certain respects from his other works in that it addresses itself to a different audience and has a different emphasis and purpose."[14][2]

Irrespective of the attribution, the Vivekachudmani is a significant work of Advaita. According to Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a Vedanta teacher, "I do not think we lose anything even if the authorship is attributed to any other Sankaracharya of one of the various Sankara-mathas."[15]


Many historic manuscripts of the Vivekachudamani have been found in different monasteries of Advaita Vedanta. These have minor variations, and a critical edition of these has not been published yet.[1] The earliest original Sanskrit manuscript of the Vivekachudamani was published from Srirangam (Tamil Nadu) by T.K. Balasubramania Iyer in 1910.[1] This edition has attracted much of 20th- and 21st-century scholarship, and has been republished in 1983 after some revision and re-arrangement to reflect studies on it since 1910. Other editions have been the basis of a few Indian translations. The five most referred to manuscripts in Advaita scholarship have been published by Samata (Chennai), Advaita Ashrama (Kolkata), Sri Ramakrishna Math (Chennai), Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Mumbai), Chinmayananda Ashrama (Mumbai).[1]


The Vivekachudamani consists of 580 verses in Sanskrit. These cover a range of spiritual topics and their answers according to the Advaita Vedanta tradition of Hinduism.

The Vivekachudamani
Section Verses Topics[16]
1 1-31 Man's life and quest, spirituality, liberation: basic aspects
2 32-71 The need for a teacher, characteristics of a good teacher, characteristics of a good student
3 72-110 The physical, the body: discriminating the three essences
4 111-135 Nature and effects: five sheaths, three gunas
5 136-146 The goal of spirituality, the nature of bondage, the nature of confusion, the nature of sorrow
6 147-153 Atma and Anatma: discrimination, self-knowledge and bliss
7 154-225 The path to self-knowledge
154-164 Annamaya kosha and its negation
165-166 Pranamaya kosha and its negation
167-183 Manomaya kosha and its negation
184-188 Vijnanamaya kosha and its negation
189-206 The free soul, what is freedom and liberation, why self-knowledge is necessary
207-210 Annamaya kosha and its negation
211-225 Atman, what it is not? what is it?
8 226-240 The absolute brahman, the atman, the oneness, and the Vedic precepts
9 240-249 That thou art: you are it!
10 250-266 Meditation, its purpose, the method, questions to ponder and reflect on
11 267-338 The method
267-276 Understand and end vasanas (impressions, inertia, memorized beliefs and behavior)
277-292 Understand and end svadhyasa (superimposed sense of self)
293-309 Understand and end ahankara (false ego)
310-319 Renounce egocentric work, craving and sense objects
320-329 Be true to supreme self, be vigilant against delusion
330-338 Cherish oneness, there is no duality, no plurality; dwell in the real, not the unreal
12 339-383 Spiritual growth and nirvikalpa samadhi, the entire universe is you, you are the self of all
13 384-406 Continuous attention to one's true nature
14 407-425 Atam-vichar: self-inquiry
15 426-445 Signs of a realized seer: jivanmukta
16 446-471 The saint without plurality
17 472-520 The disciple of knowledge and the experience of self-hood
18 521-575 Final words of advice from the teacher
576-580 Epilogue: the liberated disciple and the innermost essence of Vedanta

The text begins with salutations to Govinda, which can be interpreted either as referring to God or to his guru Sri Govinda Bhagavatpada.[10] It then expounds the significance of Self Realisation, ways to reach it, and the characteristics of a Guru. It criticizes attachment to the body and goes to explain the various Sareeras, Kosas, Gunas, Senses and Pranas which constitute the Anatman.[17] It teaches the disciple the ways to attain Self-realisation, methods of meditation (dhyana) and introspection of the Atman. The Vivekachudamani describes the characteristics of an enlightened human being (Jivanmukta)[18] and a person of steady wisdom (Sthitaprajna) on the lines of Bhagavad Gita.[19]


The Vivekachudmani has been celebrated as a lucid introductory treatise to Advaita Vedanta.[2] It is, states Berger, not a "philosophical or polemical" text. It is primarily a pedagogical treatise, as an aid to an Advaitin's spiritual journey to liberation rather than "philosophy for the sake of philosophy". It is one of the texts of "spiritual sustenance" in the Advaita tradition.[20]

The Vivekachudmani is one of several historic teaching manuals in the Advaita tradition, one of its most popular. Other texts that illustrate Advaita ideas in a manner broadly similar to the Vivekachudmani but are neither as comprehensive nor same, include Ekasloki, Svatmaprakasika, Manisapancaka, Nirvanamanjari, Tattvopadesa, Prasnottararatnamalika, Svatmanirupana, Prabodhasudhakara and Jivanmuktanandalahari.[21] These texts are not attributed to Adi Shankara. Upadesasahasri, another Advaita teaching manual, is attributed to Adi Shankara.[22][23]

Commentaries and translations[edit]

There are two Sanskrit commentaries on this work. Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrusimha Bharati, the pontiff of Sringeri, wrote a commentary titled Vivekodaya (Dawn of Discrimination) on the first seven verses of this work. His disciple, Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi, has written a Vyakhya or commentary on the first 515 verses of this work.

This work has been repeatedly translated into various languages, often accompanied by a commentary in the same language. English translations and commentaries include those by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, Swami Madhavananda, Swami Turiyananda and Swami Chinmayananda. Tamil translations and commentaries include those by Ramana Maharshi. Swami Jyotihswarupananda has translated the Vivekachudamani into Marathi.[24]

A recent scholarly translation of the text was published in 2004 by John Grimes – a professor of Hinduism and Buddhism. His translation has been reviewed by Douglas Berger, who states, "the [Vivekachudmani] translation itself is a testament to Grimes' surpassing Sanskrit skills and thorough knowledge of Vedantic textual exegesis. The unusually lucid presentation of the Sanskrit slokas is rendered with exactness and eloquent clarity in the English. The accompanying Upanisadic cross-referencing and Sanskrit-English lexicon of key terms will prove themselves enormously helpful to lay readers, students, and scholars."[25]

Hundreds of commentaries in several languages are available on internet in the form of blog articles, videos etc.

Some translated works of the Vivekachudamani
Language Author Publication/Year
Hindi Munilal Gupta Gita Press, 2017
Telugu A. Venkata Sesha Kavi 1990
Kannada Central Chinmaya Mission Trust 2018
Tamil Sri Ramana Maharshi 1905, Audio Book
English Sri Jnanananda Bharati 2015

Famous verses[edit]

  • Brahma satya jagat mithya, jivo brahmaiva naparah

Translation: "Brahman is the truth. The world is illusory. There is ultimately no difference between a living being and Brahman."[26] While this verse is frequently attributed to the Vivekachudamani, in fact it comes from Verse 20 of the Brahma Jnana Vali Mala.

  • अर्थस्य निश्चयो दृष्टो विचारेण हितोक्तितः | न स्नानेन न दानेन प्राणायमशतेन वा ||१३|| (arthasya niścayo dṛṣṭo vicāreṇa hitoktitaḥ | na snānena na dānena prāṇāyamaśatena vā ||13||)

Translation: "By reflection, reasoning and instructions of teachers, the truth is known,

Not by ablutions, not by making donations, nor by performing hundreds of breath control exercises."[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See also, Sri Sankara's Vivekachudamani, p.3-4, The Question of Authorship of Vivekachudamani


  1. ^ a b c d Grimes 2004, pp. 274–278.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Berger, Douglas L. (2005). "The Vivekacudamani of Sankaracarya Bhagavatpada: An Introduction and Translation (review)". Philosophy East and West. 55 (4): 616–619. doi:10.1353/pew.2005.0032. S2CID 144412379.
  3. ^ a b c Grimes 2004.
  4. ^ a b c Shah-Kazemi 2006, p. 4.
  5. ^ a b c d Toṭakācārya (1996). Extracting the Essence of the Sruti. Translated by Comans, Michael. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. xv–xvi. ISBN 978-81-208-1410-3.
  6. ^ a b Natalia Isayeva (1993). Shankara and Indian Philosophy. State University of New York Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-4384-0762-3.
  7. ^ a b Sengaku Mayeda (2006). A Thousand Teachings: The Upadesasahasri of Sankara. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 10 footnote 33. ISBN 978-81-208-2771-4.
  8. ^ a b c Govind Chandra Pande (1994). Life and Thought of Śaṅkarācārya. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 117–119. ISBN 978-81-208-1104-1.
  9. ^ Usha 1990
  10. ^ a b Madhavananda 1921, p. 1
  11. ^ Sri Sankara's Vivekachudamani, Achyarya Pranipata Chaitanya (Translator) and Satinder Dhiman, Tiruchengode Chinmaya Mission, Tamil Nadu (2011)
  12. ^ Espín & James B. Nickoloff 2007, p. 1471
  13. ^ a b Grimes 2004, p. 23.
  14. ^ Grimes 2004, p. 13.
  15. ^ Sri Sankara's Vivekachudamani, Achyarya Pranipata Chaitanya (Translator) and Satinder Dhiman, p. 4
  16. ^ Grimes 2004, pp. 56-273 (see pages 274-278 for variant readings).
  17. ^ Sri Chandrashe hara Bharati of Sringeri (1973). Sri Samkara's Vivekacudamani. Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. p. xxi.
  18. ^ "Man of wisdom". The Hindu. 29 June 2005. Archived from the original on 26 May 2006. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  19. ^ "State of liberation". The Hindu. 18 February 2009. Archived from the original on 22 February 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  20. ^ Berger, Douglas L. (2005). "The Vivekacudamani of Sankaracarya Bhagavatpada: An Introduction and Translation (review)". Philosophy East and West. 55 (4): 618–619. doi:10.1353/pew.2005.0032. S2CID 144412379.
  21. ^ Govind Chandra Pande (1994). Life and Thought of Śaṅkarācārya. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 117–121. ISBN 978-81-208-1104-1.
  22. ^ Śaṅkarācārya (1979). A Thousand Teachings: The Upadeśasāhasrī of Śaṅkara. Translated by Sengaku Mayeda. State University of New York Press. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0-7914-0944-2.
  23. ^ N. V. Isaeva (1993). Shankara and Indian Philosophy. State University of New York Press. pp. 220–221. ISBN 978-0-7914-1281-7.
  24. ^ Nagpur, India: Ramakrishna Math; 2009
  25. ^ Berger, Douglas L. (2005). "The Vivekacudamani of Sankaracarya Bhagavatpada: An Introduction and Translation (review)". Philosophy East and West. 55 (4): 619. doi:10.1353/pew.2005.0032. S2CID 144412379.
  26. ^ Rosen, Steven (2007). Krishna's Song. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-313-34553-1.
  27. ^ See:
    • D. Datta (1888), Moksha, or the Vedántic Release, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, New Series, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Oct., 1888), pp. 513-539;
    • Madhavananda's translation of Vivekachudamani published in 1921, Himalayan Series 43


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]