I have found very important views of some great people like His Holiness Adi Shankaracharyaji, Raman Maharshi, Nisargadatt Maharaj on the subject “Who Am I?”.
Here I am explaining “Nirvana Shatakam” by His Holiness Adi Shankaracharyaji. There are six shlokas in this stotra.
Verse (Shloka) No. 1
Mano Buddhi Ahankara Chitta Ninaham
Nacha Shrotra Jihve Na Cha Ghrana Netre
Nacha Vyoma Bhoomir Na Tejo Na Vayu
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham
Neither am I mind, nor intelligence , Nor ego, nor thought, Nor am I ears or the tongue or the nose or the eyes, Nor am I earth (bhumi) or sky (space) or air (vayu) or the light(tej) or the water (aap). I am Shiva, I am Shiva, of nature knowledge and bliss
What is Mind?
- In the first verse, the term I stand for our soul. Because here his holiness Shankaracharyaji has clearly mentioned I am not the body, I am not the senses, I am not the thing made up of panch mahabhutas. If we notice he is using the words manas (Mind), Buddhi (Intelect) , Ahankara (Ego), Chitta (subconscious or Memory Storage) separately. He could have use a single word “MIND”.
- The body which exists in the astral form is called antakaran (inner instrument). Manas, Buddhi, Ahankara and Chitta are its divisions. When our mind thinks deeply and carefully about something then it is the Manas. When our mind takes decision it is the buddhi. When our mind stores memories, it is the chitta. When Mind identifies itself with each of these functions it is known as ahankara (ego).
- Let us take a simple example of mine to understand the concept of working of mind. I go to my daughter‘s school to take her back to home. Many children rush out through the main door of the school. I use my manas and thinks deeply and carefully to locate my daughter from that crowd of children. Actually there is a conflict in my mind when I am locating my daughter. I see face of every child and want to take decision. Now, here buddhi comes into play. It matches the face of my daughter, which is in my memory storage (Chitta) and takes the decision. Thus by doing this simple function I am using manas, buddhi and chitta. Then what about the fourth “ego”. Who is performer of this function? I, and that is the ego. With ego my statement will be “I am able to locate my child even in a huge crowd”.
- The chitta is a composite of three energies of creation. These three energies of nature are called gunas. There are three gunas. Sattva (quality of truth, purity, light), rajas (quality of passion, energy and desire), tamas (quality of ignorance, inertia, darkness). When a mind is of satvik nature, it performs good action. It is virtuous, calm, peaceful, joyful, selfless and compassionate. When mind is of rajasik nature it is egostical, absorbed in wordly and selfish interest, restless with desire. When the mind is of tamasic nature it is careless, ignorant, lethargic, negative, depressive, dull and selfish. These gunas pulsate in the mind. One more vibrant or dormant than the other at a given time. Their interaction creates different emotions.
- The chitta is very much like a lake on which waves rise and fall. These innumerable waves in form thought waves (vritis) give existence to the mind. Without thought waves mind can not exists. Mind clings to that thought from which security comes. Mind thinks, feels, identifies and then direct the senses to act accordingly. The ahamkara (ego) gives the motive power to the instincts in the mind Now mind generates desires through outward projection. Again it is stored in chitta for future reference then it is called sanskara.
- There are five causes of suffering in the life due to state of mind, those are avidya (ignorance), asmita (I am ness), raga (attraction), dvesha (aversion), fear of death (abhinivesha). Avidya is a cause of other sufferings. Here ignorance means ignorance of our spiritual identity. This ignorance covers the knowledge of a self and we find ourselves in the sea of maya. This ignorance separates us from each other and from the god the supreme Brahman. Asmita is the ego that identifies ourselves with body, senses and actions. This vriti make us to forget our true divine nature. In this forgetfulness we experience ourselves limited, finite and temporal. Raga means restless pursuit of pleasure, attraction to the object of senses. It also confuses us between wants and needs. Dvesha is a dislike or avoidance of that which brings us unhappiness and sufferings. Abhivinesha is nothing but tenacious cling to the life. Due to this the person has fear of change and he resists the change. Actually it is due to clinging to the ego. Fear of death is because of that we assume we will lose our body , identity and we will cease to exist.
- Maharishi Patanjali says we can overcome these vritis by meditation and substituting these vritis by opposite vritis. Avidya with vidya or dnyan, asmita with omnipresence, raga with acceptance, dvesha with compassion and abhinivesha by accepting eternal presence of soul.
- In Nirvanashtakam his holiness Adya Shankaracharya says I am not the mind. Then we have to understand what is mind. The feelings like desire, fear, resolve, doubt, shyness, intelligence, love, jealousy, faith, lack of faith, steadiness, unsteadiness, anger are expressed by mind. These are not expressed by the soul. Thus we can say that mind is something which expresses itself in the form of emotions. When I say “I am angry”, actually it is not soul but my mind is angry. You can check this with any emotions. Thus it is wrong on our part to assume ourselves as a mind. Then how mind works, through emotions? Then I am not emotions. I am the soul, which is action less and a mere witness of the activities of the mind. And as we are witness there is no effect of these feeling on me. My mind may be full of emotions but my soul is free from all emotions and will not get affected by joy or sorrow. Actions are performed by the body, mind and senses, but due to ego, one thinks, he is the doer.
- In second and third lines he is saying, Nor am I ears or the tongue or the nose or the eyes. Nor am I earth (bhumi) or sky (space) or air (vayu) or the light (tej) or the water (aap). Mostly a person identifies himself with his body and his sense organs. He says “I am fat, I am thin, I am fair, I hear, I taste, I smell, I see, etc”. Here Shankaracharyaji says it is delusion. Hence He is saying I am not the sense organs nor I am a body made up of panchamahabhutas.
- I have read in some book that the word shiva used here is not associated with the lord Shiva. Here it means auspiciousness i.e. Supreme Brahman. This theory is called “Advaita” According to this theory the soul and god (supreme Brahman) are not separate identities, but they are one and the same. Thus the last line say I am the auspicious supreme Brahman. When we come out of the maya created by our mind, we are nothing but supreme Brahman. Thus non duality of the soul and the supreme brahma is expressed in this verse.