This composition of Shankaracharya was translated into Tamil by Sri Bhagavan. Bhagavan also composed the following introductory verse and introduction.
Oh thou divine Shankara, Thou art the Subject That has knowledge Of subject and object. Let the subject in me be destroyed As subject and object. For thus in my mind arises The light as the single Siva.
`Brahman [?] is only one and non-dual' declare the Srutis.
Since Brahman [?] is the sole reality, according to advaita [?], how is it that Brahman [?] is not apparent to us, whereas the prapancha (world, i.e., non-Brahman [?]) is so vivid? Thus questions the advanced sadhaka.
In one's own Self, which is no other than Brahman [?], there is a mysterious power known as avidya [?] (ignorance) which is beginningless and not separate from the Self. Its characteristics are veiling and presentation of diversity. Just as the pictures in a cinema, though not visible either in sunlight or in darkness, become visible in a spot of light in the midst of darkness, so in the darkness of ignorance there appears the reflected light of the Self, illusory and scattered, taking the form of thought.
This is the primal thought known as the ego, jiva [?] or karta (doer), having the mind as the medium of its perceptions. The mind has a store of latent tendencies which it projects as the object of a shadow-show in the waking and dream states. This show, however, is mistaken for real by the jiva. The veiling aspect of the mind first hides the real nature of the Self and then presents the objective world to view. Just as the waters of the ocean do not seem different from the waves, so also for the duration of objective phenomena, the Self, though itself the sole being, is made to appear not different from them. Turn away from the delusion caused by latent tendencies and false notions of interior and exterior. By such constant practice of sahaja samadhi, the veiling power vanishes and the non-dual Self is left over to shine forth as Brahman [?]itself. This is the whole secret of the advaita [?]doctrine as taught by the master to the advanced sadhaka. Here the same teaching is contained, which Sri Shankaracharya has expounded concisely without any elaboration, in the following text.
All our perception pertains to the non-Self. The immutable Seer is indeed the Self. All the countless scriptures proclaim only discrimination between Self and non-Self.
The world we see, being seen by the eye, is drisya [?](object);
the eye which sees it is drik [?](subject). But the eye, being perceived by the mind is drisya [?](object) and the mind which sees it is drik [?](subject). The mind, with its thoughts perceived by the Self, is drisya [?](object) and the Self is drik [?](subject). The Self cannot be drisya [?](object), not being perceived by anything else. The forms perceived are various, blue and yellow, gross and subtle, tall and short, and so on; but the eye that sees them remains one and the same. Similarly, the varying qualities of the eye, such as blindness, dullness and keenness and of the ears and other organs, are perceived by the mind singly. So, too, the various characteristics of the mind, such as desire, determination, doubt, faith, want of faith, courage, want of courage, fear, shyness, discrimination, good and bad, are all perceived by the Self singly. This Self neither rises nor sets, neither increases nor decays. It shines of its own luminosity. It illumines everything else without the need for aid from other sources.
Buddhi, as the sum total of the inner organs, in contact with the reflected consciousness has two aspects. One is called egoity and the other mind. This contact of the buddhi [?]with the reflected consciousness is like the identity of a red-hot iron ball with fire. Hence the gross body passes for a conscious entity. The contact establishing identity between the ego and the reflected Consciousness, is of three kinds.
1. The identification of the ego with the reflected Consciousness is natural or innate.
2. The identification of the ego with the body is due to past karma.
3. The identification of the ego with the witness is due to ignorance.
The natural or innate contact continues as long as the buddhi, but on realization of the Self it proves to be false. The third mentioned contact is broken when it is discovered by experience that there is no sort of contact of anything at all with the Self, which is Being. The second mentioned contact, that born of past karma, ceases to exist on the destruction of innate tendencies (vasanas [?]). In the deep sleep state, when the body is inert, the ego is fully merged (in the causal ignorance). The ego is half manifest in the dream state, and its being fully manifest is the waking state. It is the mode or modification of thought (with its latent tendencies) that creates the inner world of dreams in the dream state and the outer world in the waking state. The subtle body, which is the material cause of mind and ego, experiences the three states and also birth and death.
Maya [?] of the causal body has its powers of projecting (rajas) and veiling (tamas). It is the projecting power that creates everything from the subtle body to the gross universe of names and forms. These are produced in the Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss) like foam in the ocean. The veiling power operates in such a way that internally the distinction between subject and object cannot be perceived, and externally that between Brahman [?]and the phenomenal world. This indeed is the cause of samsara. The individual with his reflected light of Consciousness is the subtle body existing in close proximity with the Self that is the vyavaharika (the empirical Self). This individual character of the empirical Self appears in the witness or sakshi [?]also through false superimposition. But on the extinction of the veiling power (tamas [?]), the distinction between witness and the empirical Self becomes clear; and the superimposition also drops away. Similarly, Brahman [?]shines as the phenomenal world of names and forms only through the effect of the veiling power which conceals the distinction between them. When the veiling ends, the distinction between the two is perceived, for none of the activities of the phenomenal world exist in Brahman.
Of the five characteristics, Being, Consciousness, Bliss, name and form, the first three pertain to Brahman [?]and name and form to the world. The three aspects of Being, Consciousness and Bliss exist equally in the five elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth and in devas (gods), animals, men, etc., whereas the names and forms are different.
Therefore, be indifferent to names and forms, concentrate on Being-Consciousness-Bliss and constantly practise samadhi (identity with Brahman) within the Heart or outside.
This practice of samadhi (identity with Brahman [?]) is of two kinds: savikalpa (in which the distinction between knower, knowledge and known is not lost) and nirvikalpa (in which the above distinction is lost). Savikalpa samadhi [?]again is of two kinds: that which is associated with words (sound), and meditation on one's own consciousness as the witness of thought forms such as desire, which is savikalpa samadhi (internal), associated with (cognizable) objects. Realizing one's Self as `I am Being-Consciousness-Bliss without duality, unattached, self-effulgent', is savikalpa samadhi [?](internal) associated with words (sound). Giving up both objects and sound forms of the aforesaid two modes of samadhi and being completely absorbed in the Bliss experienced by the realization of the Self is nirvikalpa samadhi [?](internal). In this state steady abidance is obtained, like the unflickering flame of a light kept in a place free from wind. So also, in the Heart, becoming indifferent to external objects of name and form and perceiving only Being of (or as) Sat, is savikalpa samadhi [?](external) associated with objects; and being aware continually of that Sat [?](true existence) as the unbroken single essence of Brahman is savikalpa samadhi [?](external) associated with words (sound). After these two experiences, Being, which is uninterrupted like the waveless ocean, is nirvikalpa samadhi [?](external). One who meditates should spend his time perpetually in these six kinds of samadhi. By these, the attachment to the body is destroyed and the mind that perpetually abides in the Supreme Self (paramatman [?]) wherever it may wander, is everywhere spontaneously in samadhi. By this constant practice of samadhi, the supreme Self, who is both highest and lowliest, who encompasses Paramatman [?]as well as jivatman is directly experienced, and then the knot of the Heart is loosened; all doubts are destroyed and all karmas (activities) cease too.
Of the three modes of individual being, the limited self (as in deep sleep), the empirical self (as in the waking state) and the dreaming self, only the individual limited by the deep sleep state is the true Self (paramarthika). Even he is but an idea. The Absolute alone is the true Self. In reality and by nature he is Brahman [?]itself, only superimposition creates the limitations of individuality in the Absolute. It is to the paramarthika jiva that the identity of Tat-tvam-asi [?](That thou art) and other great texts of the Upanishads [?] applies, and not to any other. The great maya [?](the superimposition without beginning) with her veiling and projecting power (tamas and rajas) veils the single indivisible Brahman [?]and, in that Brahman, creates the world and individuals. The individual (jiva), a concept of the empirical self in the buddhi, is indeed the actor and enjoyer and the entire phenomenal world is its object of enjoyment. From time without beginning, till the attainment of liberation, individual and world have an empirical existence. They are both empirical. The empirical individual appears to have the power of sleep in the shape of the veiling and projecting powers. It is associated with Consciousness. The power covers first the individual empirical self and the cognized universe, and then these are imagined in dream. These dream perceptions and the individual who perceives them are illusory, because they exist only during the period of dream experience. We affirm their illusory nature, because on waking up from dream no one sees the dream, no one sees the dream objects. The dreaming self experiences the dream world as real, while the empirical self experiences the empirical world as real but, when the paramarthika jiva is realized, knows it to be unreal. The paramarthika jiva, as distinguished from those of the waking and dream experiences, is identical with Brahman. He has no `other'. If he does see any `other', he knows it to be illusory.
The sweetness, liquidity, and coldness of water are characteristics present equally in waves and foam. So, too, the Being-Consciousness-Bliss character of the Self (the paramarthika) is present in the empirical self and through him in the dream self also, because of their being only illusory creations in the Self. The foam with its qualities, such as coldness, subsides in the waves, the waves with their characteristics, such as liquidity, subside in the water, and the ocean alone exists as at first. Similarly, the dream self and its objects are absorbed in the empirical self; then the empirical world with its characteristics is absorbed in the paramarthika and, as at first, Being-Consciousness-Bliss which is Brahman shines alone.