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Understanding the meaning of Nirvana Shatakam

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pviyer

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Here is an easy reference to the great song of Shankara
http://www.svbf.org/journal/vol2no4/nirvana.pdf

I would like to venture into analyzing the meaning of these verses. Since this is a tough subject, I leave here with open ended questions for further discussion.

Verse 1.
"Mind-intellect-thought-ego I am not". Look at the sequence of these words. All these words are distinguished and separate. The real question is how do we analyze the source of each of these entities? For example is intellect the cause of thought or is it the thought which creates the intellect. Again is ego manifested because of thoughts or does ego cause thoughts. A simple question is , is it possible to have ego, if one does not have any thought.
The next lines describe that the self is not the mundane sense organs nor are we the five categories of matter. I guess these are self explanatory.
The final statement - I am chidandaroopam, I am siva, I am siva
Look at the words chidandaroopam. Chit-ananda-roopam. What is the implication of this. What does this mean what is the description. Are these attributes. Does it not contradict that the Brahman has no attributes? Where is the connection?
Finally I am siva. What does it mean to be Siva- Just auspiciousness or something more?


Verse 2-
"I am not the Prana". Look at the implication. The Upanishads declare that jiva leaves along with Prana after death. Then what is really the link between prana and jiva. How do they associate with each other. We probably know why but how?
"I do not have anything to do with physiological functions"- The word described here means panchavayu. What does that mean. If I do not have anything to with functions then how does mind control the body. Does it mean that the mind controls the body without involvement of self. Whether you directly or indirectly involve in an action, you are a culprit. But here it says I have nothing to do with physiological functions. What is the implication.
"Nor am I the seven fold material that goes into building the body"
"Nor am I attached to five sheaths of my personality". Look at the impilication here. That personality is different from the self. If so what is personality, how did it come up and who gave birth to it?

Verse 3-

"I have neither likes nor dislikes. " If so who is that which likes somebody or dislikes somebody. If this is so why do we give preference to something and reject something. Is that out of bounds of the self? How is that possible.
"Nor do I have covetousness or greed, nor do I have vanity or competition " Does that mean I am self satisfied. Is that not an attribute of the self?
"I do not have the need for dharma artha kama and Moksha"
This is a serious statement. Does that mean that a person going after truth need not follow any of the margas. Then what happened to Karma Marga for reaching the final destination , when you have to follow these dictates. To know myself dont I have to follow this path? If I have no need for it, why does society have it in the first place. What is then the purpose of daily life?

Verse 4-
"Sin or merit can never touch me". Then who acquires sin and merit? Then if that be so how can there be rebirth and how can there be moksha?
"Joy and sorrow cannot contaminate me". Refer here to the word Joy- Sukham. This is qualified to be different from anandam. Why is sukham different anandam. What is the implication, Why am I chidanandam?
"I have no need for mantra or teertha"
"No need for veda or yajna"
"I am neither the experiencer nor experienced?"- If so who is experiencing and who has been experienced. How is it then possible to know myself without experiencing myself?

Verse 5
"Neither death nor caste"
"Nor any parents" - Look at this implication. It means that God cannot even be described as one's own parents. Is it a heresy?
"Nor any friends nor any teachers and students" Does that mean I have no interaction with anyone. Can I not be my own friend or teacher or student?

Verse 6
"I am nirvikalpa" What is meant by nirvikalpa - does it simply mean thought freeness or is there more meaning to that word?
"I am the vitality behind sense organs of everyone". The word is vibhutva. How should this be translated in english?
"Neither have I attachment nor am I free from everything". Here is a key phrase how can you not have attachment to something yet be free from something? Is that a contradiction. What is the implication. Does that state really exist?
"I am all inclusive". Does this not contradict the previous statements of being not concerned with so many things?
 
I am attempting for the meaning of "Nirvikalp" used in verse 6. As we use and understand the word in our daily usage in Hindi in the North India, it would mean that "I am devoid of alternate" or "There is no substitute for me". This would extend the , discussion. "I am all inclusive" would refer directly or indirectly to the "Virat Swaroop" which encompasses the universe similar to the Viswaroopa of Lord Krishna as happened at the time of Gita Bodhanam. You can link these to the Dhyana-Dhyatru-Dhyeya roopa in which all the routes submerge.
 
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pviyer

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I am attempting for the meaning of "Nirvikalp" used in verse 6. As we use and understand the word in our daily usage in Hindi in the North India, it would mean that "I am devoid of alternate" or "There is no substitute for me". This would extend the , discussion. "I am all inclusive" would refer directly or indirectly to the "Virat Swaroop" which encompasses the universe similar to the Viswaroopa of Lord Krishna as happened at the time of Gita Bodhanam. You can link these to the Dhyana-Dhyatru-Dhyeya roopa in which all the routes submerge.
Thank you for the hardwork in trying to understand this great and profound set of verses.
I would normally agree with your understanding that nirvikalpa means no alternative, but the author of the translation has translated it to mean - "Thought free I am". Is there some reason for that statement?

I understand that "all inclusive concept" refers to the virat swaroop. But if we look at the brahman devoid of all attributes, this concept becomes self contradictory. Is there a way we can understand this verse consistently with the previous verses listed.
What do you think?
 
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pviyer

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Let me take up one part of the concept in these verses. Here Shankara says in Verse 1 that "I am not the mind"
To understand this statement, we need to know what is the nature of mind then only we can understand whether or not we are the mind. This is tough. I did some investigation and I found this commentary on kena upanishad by Sri Aurobindo.
The reference is here http://www.aurobindo.ru/workings/sa/12/kena_e.pdf

I find some pertinent points here
Sri Aurobindo says -
If we fancy that we have grasped the Brahman by the
mind and in that delusion fix down our knowledge of Him to
the terms our mentality has found, then our knowledge is no
knowledge;
Here again the implication of the quote is clear. If mind is an attribute of the brahman , then atleast a part of brahman can be known by mind alone. But as our sages observe this is not the case. So the first thing is the confirmation of adi shankara that brahman has nothing to do with mind.

We now come close to what really is this mind
Mind and body are not our real self; they are mutable formations
or images which we go on constructing in the drive of Time as
a result of the mass of our past energies.
Let me summarize my understanding-
Here we find a statement that mind is a consequence of energies and a function of time. Energy and time are not entities that can wrap the brahman. Therefore mind if it is true, as declared by upanishads is construction of our past energies. What can be an analogy to this? Let us take the example of waves of the ocean. The waves are born from the ocean , they have a nature of motion and a certain physical characteristic as a consequence of their interaction with the forces of nature. The forces of nature by themselves are not born from this wave though they can interact with ocean to produce a wave. Cant we not think like this about the mind and the self? The self is not born from the mind, but it interacts with energy of the world to create impressions in the world( replace world by ocean and self by forces of nature to understand the analogy) but these impressions do not constitute the self. Remember this is just an analogy applicable to only a kind of relation, and not a real one to one correspondence in properties of the two subjects. So let us not force the forces wave ocean analogy on all aspects related to self.

Let me take another quote from Chandogya Upanishad 6.6.1-3,4
“Of the curd [yogurt] that is being churned that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes butter. So also, of the food that is eaten that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes the mind. Of the water that is drunk that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes Prana.…Hence, mind is made up of food, Prana is made up of water.”
Here we can understand that the mind is a production of food. This has other implications that we must be careful in what we eat or drink. But the essential realization from this verse is that mind is a material product.

Aurobindo points out an interesting analogy of the mind. He says mind is beyond matter and sense organs. These entities do not know the existence of mind. It is mind which knows the existence of matter. In the same way, mind cannot know the existence of what is beyond it.

We can thus conclude that when shankara says " I am not the mind" , he is actually implying that mind which is a consequence of the world and a subject bound to the world cannot be the brahman.
 
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Shri P V Iyer
I understand that "all inclusive concept" refers to the virat swaroop. But if we look at the brahman devoid of all attributes, this concept becomes self contradictory. Is there a way we can understand this verse consistently with the previous verses listed.
What do you think?
Let us try to fathom the unfathomable.
Many instances of this dwaita or bheda appear in Lalitha Sahasranamam. Like Neeraga, raga mathani, nir bheda, bhedanasini,
nishkrodha, krodhasamani. You are very right when you say that something free from attributes contain the descriptives of the same. It is indeed contradictory. But this contradiction is the very essence of the concepts. That is why we need to follow the interpretations of the Bhagawatpadal that the atman is a matter of feeling ( Shivo aham) but not capable of being put in a vyakhyanam or explanation. You would be very close but yet very far. These questions merge in the adwaita philosophy, I feel. Let me say that I am only a frog in the well.
 
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pviyer

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Shri P V Iyer

Let us try to fathom the unfathomable.
Many instances of this dwaita or bheda appear in Lalitha Sahasranamam. Like Neeraga, raga mathani, nir bheda, bhedanasini,
nishkrodha, krodhasamani. You are very right when you say that something free from attributes contain the descriptives of the same. It is indeed contradictory. But this contradiction is the very essence of the concepts. That is why we need to follow the interpretations of the Bhagawatpadal that the atman is a matter of feeling ( Shivo aham) but not capable of being put in a vyakhyanam or explanation. You would be very close but yet very far. These questions merge in the adwaita philosophy, I feel. Let me say that I am only a frog in the well.
Sir, we are all frog in a well. I completely agree that there are many things that cannot be intellectually put.
But because Bhagawatpadal has put in words, it would be helpful to understand what he has said so that we may know the true position in such matters. Please feel free to enlighten me with your knowledge of what BhagawatPadal or his great disciples have to say on this subject. The information may be incomplete but useful for our knowledge.
 
Sri Iyer Sir,
I do not know if you had occasion to read the "Deivatthin Kural" which contains the sayings of Paramacharyal. If you had not read them, I think it is a good reference to take you a step further as most of the experience from the scriptures would be out of atmananda anubhoothi and, in my humblest of opinions, these are felt and perceived and are not explained and even if you try to explain, you would get misdirected as our own words could lead you astray. It is only possible for the avadhutas like Sage Ramana or the Pratyaksha deiva of our times, the Paramacharya or the Sai Baba of Shirdi.
Please consider.
 
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