Tom: I highly recommend this version of Shankara’s Vivekachudamani, which is complete with detailed commentary by Swami Chinmayananda on every verse in case there is any doubt of the meaning of the text. You can download a copy of the text here but I recommend you buy a print copy:
Shankara’s Vivekachudamani, verse 366:
- By nirvikalpa samadhi the true nature of Brahman is clearly and definitely manifest, never otherwise, for then, the mind being unsteady, is apt to be mixed with other perceptions.
Swami Chinmayananda’s Commentary:
In the condition of nirvikalpa samadhi alone can this great Reality be apprehended with certainty. With cent per cent certainty you apprehend the Truth when all the waves and ripples in your mind have ended. Sankara is positive and declares, ‘Never by any other method’; bringing the mind to quietude is the only method.
To quieten the mind there are many methods. You may quieten your mind through devotion, or through knowledge, or through karma-yoga or through pranayama. Whether standing on the head or sitting down, whether by going to the Himalayas or by living in your own home – you have the freedom to choose these – but your mind you must quieten.
The mind’s nature is to be constantly active. ‘Thought flow’, it is called. Therefore, it is impossible to realise the changeless Self with the mind, which, by its very nature is unstable. Whenever you try to grasp anything through the mind and intellect, the object of knowledge gets entangled in your own thought patterns. Pure Self can never be understood [Tom: Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states that Brahman is unknowlable, see ‘Another definition of Jnana’ here for more], so all that you understand about the Atman through the mind and intellect is Saguna Brahman and not Nirguna Brahman.
The unconditioned Absolute is never understood; you just become It when the mind ends [Tom: also compare with Ulladu Narpadu – invocation verse 1 and verses 8, 12 and 21 which essentially state the same]. As long as you look at It through the mind. It is only the conditioned, the limited (Saguna) version of the eternal absolute Self.