Ātma-bodha (Sanskrit: आत्मबोधः ) is a short Sanskrit text attributed to Adi Shankara of Advaita Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. The text in sixty-eight verses describes the path to Self-knowledge or the awareness of Atman.[1][2]

AuthorAttributed to Adi Shankara
SubjectHindu philosophy
GenreAdvaita Vedanta
PublisherOriginal: 8th century AD; Reprinted in 1947 by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai
Published in English
First publication in 1812 translated by J. Taylor

The Vedanta tradition states that the text was written by Shankara for his disciple, Sanandana, also known as Padmapāda.

Atmabodha is also the title of an Upanishad attached to the Atharvaveda.


Atmabodha means "Self-knowledge", self-awareness, or one with the "possession of a knowledge of soul or the supreme spirit".[3]


The authorship of Ātma-bodha, written in Sanskrit language, is traditionally ascribed to Adi Shankara who is believed to have lived in the 8th century A.D. According to Isaeva, even though the authenticity of this work is doubted by present day scholars, it does not contradict the whole of Shankara's system which it advocates.[2] Yet, in contrast to Shankara, the Atma Bodha argues for constant practice and meditation, whereas Shankara rejected 'activity' and argued for an immediate acquirement of knowledge.


The original text consists of sixty-eight verses and describes the way to the attainment of the knowledge of the Atman. As the Vivekachudamani, the Atma Bodha teaches that the Ultimate Reality or Brahman, the foundation of all, is beyond name and form, is of the nature of Pure Consciousness, but who can be realized by pursuing the Path of Knowledge, not by worship.

For the Wisdom of Self is the one way to Freedom,
leading beyond all other paths,
As cooking cannot be accomplished without fire,
so Freedom cannot be attained without wisdom.

— Ātma-bōdha 2, [4]

Atmabodha text reiterates that the Path of Knowledge consists in shravana (hearing the instructions of a teacher), manana (reflecting on what is heard) and nididhyasana (meditating on Truth with single-minded devotion); viveka (philosophical discrimination) and vairagya (renunciation of all that which is unreal) are the basic disciplines required to be followed and that it is not possible for religious actions (Karma, fasting, vows, pilgrimage)[5] to destroy ignorance (avidya) and cause liberation (moksha) –

अविरोधितया कर्म नाविद्यां विनिवर्तयेत् |
विद्याविद्या निहन्त्येव तेजस्तिमिरसङ्ववत् ||

"Religious works cannot destroy ignorance, for it is not in conflict with ignorance. Knowledge alone destroys ignorance, as light destroys dense darkness."

— Ātma-bodha 3, [6]

Atma Bodha describes the world and the individual soul are in true essence Brahman, the Absolute Reality, with the nature of Sat-chit-anand, or truth-consciousness-bliss. Brahman is the substratum on which is projected by imagination all the manifested things of the world; the all-pervading Atman illumining the mind and the senses shines in the intellect (Buddhi) just as the reflection in a mirror.[citation needed]

The yogi endowed with complete enlightenment sees,
through the eye of Knowledge,
the entire universe in his own Self,
regards everything as the Self and nothing else.

—  Ātma-bōdha, 47, [7]

The self-abiding Jivanmukta, states verses 49-51 of Atmabodha, is satisfied with his state of bliss derived from Atman (soul, self), is free from hate for anyone, seeks unity, is perfected in peace, grows radiant, rejoices with what he has, is the one who "shines inwardly, like a lamp placed inside a vase".[7][8]

Through study, reflection and meditation,
You exhaust your vasanas, desires and discover your real Self.
It is through your self-effort you gain the knowledge of Self.
And by discovering your inner Self you experience the infinite, all pervading Brahman.

— Ātma-bōdha, 66-68, [9]

Commentaries and translationsEdit

Nikhilananda states that Shankara's Vedic non-dualistic (Advaita) philosophy is based on the divinity of the soul, the unity of existence, the Oneness of the Godhead.[10]

The first translation of Ātma-bodha into English language from Sanskrit by J. Taylor was published in 1812 titled - The Knowledge of Spirit,[11] later another translation rendered by Rev. J.F.Kearns, along with English commentary and titled - Atma Bodha Prakashika, was published in the May, 1876 issue of The Indian Antiquary (pages 125-133).[12] An English translation and commentary of 1944 by Swami Nikhilananda was published in India in June, 1947 by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. Ramana translated Ātma-bodha into Tamil in verse-form.[13] Chinmayananda Saraswati has also written a translation of the same.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Roshan Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 48. ISBN 9780143414216.
  2. ^ a b N.V.Isaeva (January 1993). Shankara and Indian Philosophy. SUNY Press. pp. 78, 98. ISBN 9780791412817.
  3. ^ Atmabodha Sanskrit English Dictionary, Koeln University, Germany
  4. ^ Adi Śaṅkarācārya (Translated by C Johnston), The Atma-Bodha (self-wisdom) of Shankara-Acharya at Google Books, Divine Life Press Chicago, page 1
  5. ^ PN Menon (1964), Atma Bodha of Sri Śaṅkarācharya, Munshi Ram Manohar Lal, OCLC 614375221, pages 6-7
  6. ^ PN Menon (1964), Atma Bodha of Sri Śaṅkarācharya, Munshi Ram Manohar Lal, OCLC 614375221, pages 5-7
  7. ^ a b William M Indich (2000), Consciousness in Advaita Vedanta, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120812512, page 111
  8. ^ Adi Śaṅkarācārya (Translated by C Johnston), The Atma-Bodha (self-wisdom) of Shankara-Acharya at Google Books, Divine Life Press Chicago, page 8
  9. ^ A Parthasarathy (1971), Atmabodha: Knowledge of Self, Vidya Bhavan, OCLC 700539, page 18
  10. ^ Sankaracarya. Atma-bodha with translation and commentary by Nikhilananda (PDF). pp. xiii, xiv, xiv, xviii. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 September 2013.
  11. ^ Marsden, William (1827). Bibliotheca marsdeniana philological et orientalis. p. 220.
  12. ^ Indian Antiquary Vol.5. 1876.
  13. ^ Ramana, Shankara and Forty Verses. Motilal Banarsidass Publications. 2005. p. 82. ISBN 9788120819887.
  14. ^ Swami Chinmayananda (1987). Atma Bodh. Chinmaya Mission. ISBN 978-81-7597-063-2.