Meditation is one of the most fundamental aspects of any spiritual journey. Although it has become a popular word in the modern parlance, the real relevance of meditation and the proper ways of practising it, are not known to many. Meditation has a strong scriptural foundation. Many of the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita contain elaborate discourses on meditation.
One of the quintessential questions pertaining to meditation is what one has to meditate upon. The scriptures put forth the idea that one should meditate upon nothing but the true nature of Self. Nirvana Shatkam, composed by Sri Adi Sankaracharya, is a text which contains reflections on the essential nature of Self. Therefore, a deep understanding of this text can help one to learn and master what one has to meditate on. The ideas conveyed in the text are nothing but the doctrines of Advaita Vedanta. The title Nirvana Shatkam is resplendent with meanings. Vana refers to agitations. Nirvana refers to a state which is free of all agitations. It is a state of absolute peace and joy. Shatkam refers to six. So, the title precisely denotes the six verses through which Acharya enlightens us on the true nature of self which is formless and eternally blissful.
In the first verse Sri Shankaracharya asserts that he is not his mind, intellect, thought, ego or the five elements which constitute the human body and the world. Here, Acharya negates everything that constitutes an individual self. In the second verse Acharya declares that he is not the vital-airs or prana. According to Indian knowledge systems prana or the vital-airs are of five types. They are prana, apana, samana, vyana, udhana. He identifies himself as a Self beyond the physiological functions of the body and the five sheaths or pancakosha which constitute the human body. They are called annamaya kosa, pranamaya kosa, manomaya kosa, vijnanamaya kosa and anandamya kosa, respectively. Therefore, in the first two verses, Acharya makes it evident that he is beyond the gross and subtler aspects of existence. In the following verse, further, states that he is detached from everything as he has no likes or dislikes and does not care about the four attainments of life. In the Indian tradition, dharma, artha, kama and moksha are identified as the four attainments of life which can be roughly translated as self-righteousness, economic values, desire and liberation. This is a clear indication that for a liberated soul, there is no need of the earthly attainments and not even the ultimate goal of life, which is liberation.
In the fourth verse it becomes clearer that what Sri Sankaracharya is trying to explain is nothing but the infinite and formless nature of the Self. For an individual soul who attained this, there is no need of scriptures, rituals and chants. The fifth verse establishes that such a person is beyond birth, death, human relationships and the four varnas. Such a person is neither a Guru nor a disciple. This all-inclusive, yet formless, Self, which is beyond the gross, subtle and causal body, is regarded as the true Self. The refrain of this composition explains its essence in a very beautiful manner. In the refrain Acharya states that his true identity is nothing but the eternally blissful form of Shiva. Hence, Self is nothing but pure consciousness.
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥१॥
Chidananda Rupah Shivoham Shivoham.
My true identity is the eternally blissful form of Shiva.
One must understand that Nirvana Shatkam is profound. A deep understanding of this composition can be experiential in nature. Nirvana Shatkam helps one to perceive the actual nature of Self and eventually it will help one to meditate upon this essential nature of Self to attain the ultimate aim of life.
About the authorHarsha Vincent is a creative content writer at CIF. She is a Post-graduate in English literature and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Indian English Literature. She is interested in Indian Spirituality, Aesthetics and Yogic Philosophy.