Gaudapada & Shankara: The Self is Attainable by ‘Samadhi’ | What is Samadhi according to Advaita Vedanta

According to Advaita Vedanta, what is meant by Samadhi? If you read the following carefully, you will see that Gaudapada and Shankara are both stating the following:

  1. The Self is realisable only through Samadhi
  2. In Samadhi there are no thoughts present
  3. In Samadhi there are no gross or subtle objects present

Whilst this is clearly explained in texts such as Shankara’s Vivekachudamani and many others, some dispute the authorship of these texts saying it was not the original Shankara but a later Shankara that wrote these other texts. So here I will quote from Gaudapada’s Karika and Shankara’s commentary on this. Both Gaudapada and Shankara are considered authorities in Advaita Vedanta and in the case os these texts there is no dispute in the authorship, so we can be clear this is the correct teaching that represents their views. Let us see:

The Self (Atman) is beyond all expression by words beyond all acts of mind; It is absolutely peaceful, it is eternal effulgence free from activity and fear and it is attainable by Samadhi.

~ Gaudapada, Mandukya Upanishad Karika 3.37

Some people translate the last phrase differently, but when we look at Shankara’s commentary on the verse, we can see the meaning is made clear, ie. the above translation is the correct one – the Self is attainable by Samadhi. In fact Shankara goes further, he states the Self is only realised through Samadhi:

Shankara’s commentary from the above verse from Gaudapada 3.37 states:
…The Self (Atman) is denoted by the word Samadhi as it can be realised only by the knowledge arising out of the deepest concentration (on its essence), Samadhi. Or the Self (Atman) is denoted by Samadhi because it is the object of concentration, the Jiva concentrates his mind on the Self (Atman)…

Now others will say that Samadhi doesn’t mean that all thoughts should cease, as that is yogic samadhi, and vedanta samadhi is something different in which thoughts and objects of perception can be present. However, what do Gaudapada and Shankara say?

In the next verse Gaudapada writes in verse 3.38 of his Mandukya Karika. Note that this verse is a continuation following on from the previous verse which has just stated the Self can be realised by Samadhi:
There can be no acceptance or rejection where all mentation stops. Then knowledge is established in the Self and is unborn, and it becomes homogenous

We can see the emphasis is on cessation of all thoughts (‘all mentation stops’), implying this is what will happen in Samadhi. Then self-knowledge is established, the verse goes on to say, ie. once all mentation has stopped. This Self-Knowledge is unborn, meaning it was never created and is not subject to birth and death. This self-knowledge is also homogenous, meaning there are no differences in it whatsoever. This is another way of stating there are no objects perceived, for the presence of objects would make it heterogenous, not homogenous. Note that thoughts are also objects.

Again, many state this is not the correct interpretation of the verse, and that homogenous does not mean there are no objects present, but let us see what Shankara has to say in his commentary on the above verse.

Shankara’s commentary on this verse 3.38 is as follows:
…therefore there is no rejection or acceptance in It, where thought does not exist. That is to say, how can there be rejection or acceptance where no mentation is possible in the absence of the mind? As soon as there comes the realisation of the Truth that is the Self, then, in the absence of any object, knowledge (Jnanam) is established in the Self, like the heat of fire in fire. It is then birthless (ajati) and becomes homogenous.

Again, we can see that Shankara is clear that there are no thoughts, and therefore no mind (as mind is just the presence of thoughts, or the movement of thinking). Shankara also states clearly that Jnana (Self-Knowledge) arises in the absence of any objects being present.

So hopefully we can now clearly see that, according to Gaudapada and Shankara:

  1. The Self is realisable only through Samadhi
  2. In Samadhi there are no thoughts present
  3. In Samadhi there are no gross or subtle objects present

I hope the above verses are of help for you



Also see:

Advaita Vedanta: Gaudapada’s Method (Mandukya Upanishad Karika)

Recommended Reading: Books for Enlightenment, Liberation and Self-Realisation

What exactly is Jnana (knowledge) according to Shankara and Gaudapada and the scriptures?

Shankara: how to Realise the Self (commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)

7 thoughts on “Gaudapada & Shankara: The Self is Attainable by ‘Samadhi’ | What is Samadhi according to Advaita Vedanta

    1. Abiding as Self is the same as Samadhi. Self enquiry can be thought of as leading to Self-Abidance, or it can be thought of as Self-Abidance itself, depending on how you use the term

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Appreciated for sharing your thoughts Dear Tom, but there is long way to analyze in what sense Shankara use the Samadhi. This can be better understand by reading last chapter of Aparokshanubhutu by Shankara where he emphasis only on knowledge of the self and centering on that knowledge irrespective of states of the mind that he means Samadhi.
    For more on this pls. check full length article from Blog


    1. Thank you for your comments. As I mentioned in the post, Shankara discusses Samadhi in detail in texts such as Vivekachudamani (note that in Aparokshanubhuti, Shankara only mentions Samadhi brieflt right at the very end of the text), but a minority of people dispute the authorship of these texts whereas everyone agrees that Shankara is the true author of the texts I have mentioned in this post.

      Vivekachudamani is a far superior text when it comes to understanding Samadhi in Vedanta compared to Aparokshanubhuti – please see this link below for more, thank you:

      Shankara on the Mind, Samadhi (stillness of mind), Manonasa (destruction of mind), and Liberation


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