Nirvana Shatakam with Meaning and Pronunciation


Point No. 1 : It is pronounced shatakam, not shatakam:

ShaT is 6, whereas shath is a 100.

Unfortunately, this work, has only 6 stanzas, so this is a shatakam.

Point No. 2 : This is not merely a poem, it is a mantra, in itself, and has been created

to not just have a deep sense of meaning, but also, the arrangement of sounds themselves

are very potent.

Point No. 3: the pronunciation, and meaning, are just the first step of learning this work.

The real essence of it, is extremely experiential.

With these points in mind, let's start understanding Nirvana Shatakam, with the right pronunciation.

In this video, we'll have an overall look at this work, and understand the situations

and the poetic meter, in which this work is composed, and how this understanding adds

value, while we do the chant.


The word vANa in Sanskrit, means both a sound, or a form.

We always understood that these two are not, two separate entities.

Everything in this existence, is just varying complexities of reverberation.

NirvANa, means no reverberation, or no form.

This formlessness, also known by the word Shiva, is seen as the cradle, in which existence is manifest.

This same formlessness, is also the true identity of each one of us.

What is called, as maya, or illusion, is this boundless identity, getting identified, with the physical manifestations.

When i say, physical manifestations, it covers not just the body, and it's senses.

Even emotions and thoughts, are physical, and are not the true identity of the self.

The aim of Yoga, known by words like mukti, moksha, or nirvana, is to dissociate ourself, from this false identity with physciality and realize that the nature of what we consider, as I, is truly formless, and boundless.

Ofcourse, there are so many different ways to reach this same realization.

One of which, is japa, or chanting.

Chanting Nirvana Shatakam, acts as a mental reminder of this true nature of one's self.

And as i mentioned before, the arrangement of sounds in it, also work at deeper level of consciousness, to shake our false identities.

Long ago, Adi Shankaracharya, was roaming in the forests, in search of a guru.

One day, he finds a sage, meditating in the forest, and asks him if he can join him as a disciple.

"Who are you",the Sage asks shankaracharya, and shankara, right there, comes up with these 6 stazas, demonstrating his understanding of the true nature of the self.

The sage, pleased, then offers monkhood to adi shankaracharya, and shows him the way forward.

These 6 stanzas, are set in a poetic meter, called balaaka - balaaka, in sanskrit ,means a crane.

This meter is name balaaka, because it's movement is like that of a flying crane.

It has repeating phrases, of one short syllable and followed by two long styllables.

humming it out, would be something like this : na naa naa, na naa naa, na naa naa, na naa naa this series, of 12 syllables, divided into 4 groups, with 3 syllables each, can be rendered, in different tunes, but for our exploration we will take the rendition, by sounds of Isha, which is melodious, but also simple for everyone to learn.

interestingly enough, one more work of adishankaracharya, called guru ashtakam, is also in the exact same meter.

Sounds of Isha, rendered the same poetic style, in a different tune, which goes like na naa naa, na naa naa, na naa naa, na naa naa shareeram suroopam yathaa vaa kalatram..



Nirvana Shatakam
Nirvana Shatakam


FIRST SHLOKA

Mano budhya ahankara chithaa ninaham, Na cha srothra jihwe na cha graana nethrer, 
Na cha vyoma bhoomir na thejo na vayu, Chidananada Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham

This shloka, talks about the false idendification of the self with the faculties of the mind, and the sense organs.

The first line talks about the four kinds of mental faculties, which are manas, buddhi,ahankaara, and chitta.

The english equivalents for these, are memory, intellect, ego, and intelligence.

aham, means I am, na is Not.

the next line, Na cha srothra jihwe na cha graana nethre talks about the sense organs in the head.

na cha, is also, not shrotra jihvE = ears and the tongue ghrAna nEtre = nose, and eyes

Here, shankaracharya is dissociating one's idetity with the senses, of hearing, tasting, smelling, and seeing.

the third line, Na cha vyoma bhoomir na thejo na vayu talks about the elements, that make up this existence, also known by the word pancha bhutas.

these are the sky, the earth, fire and wind.

If you notice closely, you will see that skin, is not explicitly mentioned, among the five sense organs, and likewise, the corresponding water element is not explicitly mentioned among the five elements.

This is not just for the convenience of fitting the lines in the balaaka chandas, which is the poetic meter, but infact, their meaning, is implicit.

This means, when the identification with the other 4 are eliminated, identification with water, and touch are also gone.

finally the fourth line, chidAnanda rupah shivOham shivOham, sets the true identity of the self, as the boundless and the eternally blissful form of shiva.

After having eliminated various false identifications, in the first 3 lines, shankara emphasises the truth, repeatedly in the fourth line of every stanza.


SECOND SHLOKA

This shloka, talks about the false idendification of the self with 5 aspects of the air we breathe, 7 Different elements, 5 layers , and 5 external organs, in the human body.


na cha prANa sanjnO na vai pancha vAyuh na vA sapta dhatur na vA pancha koshAh
na vAk pANi pAdam na chOpastha payU chidAnanda rUpah shivOham shivOham

The first line talks about the air that sustains the life force within us.

The air that we inhale, has five different aspects to it.

The first one, is Prana Vaayu, this air, causes respiration, and is closely related with the thought process.

Apana Vaayu is that aspect of air, which causes excretion.

This is both through the urinary and the anal outlets, through the sweat glands, and also excretion, that happens at a cellular level.

Vyana Vaayu causes circulation, this makes sure that there is co-ordination and unity, among all the body organs.

Udana Vaayu, causes lightness, and buouyancy.

It is the force that, at death carries the Subtle body out of Physical body.

Finally, Samana vaayu causes digestion and assimilation and regulates body heat.

This line is therefore saying, that the self, is different from these Pancha-Vayus, or the five winds and their corresponding actions in the human body.

the next few words, na vaa sapta dhatu, talk about the 7 elements that are the building blocks of human body, as mentioned in ayurveda.

These 7 elements are Rasa or plasma, Rakta or blood, Mamsa or flesh, Meda or fat, Asthi or Bone, Majja which is Marrow and Sukra or The Genital Fluid.

These seven Dhatus make up the Gross body or the Sthula Sharira.

next comes pancha koshAh , or the five layers.

Human Body, exists at multiple layers of subtlety.

These five layers, are known by the names - Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vigyanamaya Kosha and Anandamaya Kosha.

The grossest physicality, which is formed from the food we consume, is called as annamaya kosha, which in english literally means, a bag off food.

This is the level at which physical wounds, and infections afflict the body.

Pranamaya Kosha constitutes, the Pancha Vayus we discussed before, working together as a unit.

This can be thought of, as the energy circuit that powers the body.

This is also the layer, which constitues the left and the right energy channels, called ida, and pingala.

The 7 energy junctions, called chakras.

Disturbances in this level of the body, result in more subtle, but long term illnesses.

The Manomaya Kosha is made up of Manas, which is the memory, of various impressions the body has gathered, along with the sensory organs.

Pranamaya Kosha, and Manomaya Kosha together, are known as the sUkshma sharIra, or the subtle body.

Manomaya Kosha is subjected to afflictions like fear, sorrow, depression and other mental disturbances.

Beyond the sUkshma sharIra, or the subtle body, The Vigyanamaya Kosha is made up of the intellect and the sense organs.

When one is conscious at the level of Vigyanamaya Kosha, one is free from limitations and dualities of both gross and subtle existences like hot and cold, pleasure and pain, light and dark and so on.

But he is still limited by his attachment to his subtle existence in the sense that he cannot transcend it.

Finally, Anandamaya Kosha represents the causal body or the Karana Sharira, the store house of all Karmas or actions.

Even here, an Individual, is limited by the impressions of his actions.

The third line, na vAk pANi pAdam, na chOpastha pAyu, talks about the 5 karmendriyas, or 5 organs of action.

These are vAk, which is speech, pANi, hands, pAdam, feet.

upastha, the genital organ, and pAyu the excretory organ.

Shankara says, despite the complexity of the human body, and immense capability and mastery with which one can employ these 5 sense organs and 5 action organs, one should not get stuck with being identified with them.

After having eliminated various false identifications, in the first 3 lines, shankara emphasises the truth, repeatedly in the fourth line of every stanza.

He says, chidananda roopah shivOham shivOham, which means, my true identity, is the eternally blissful form of shiva.

I hope you enjoyed learning this stanza.

In the next video, let's look at the third stanza of Nirvana shatakam, which talks about identification with various emotions that we experience.

THIRD SHLOKA

na mE dvEsha rAgau na mE lObha mOhau na mE vai madO naiva mAtsarya bhAvaH
na dharmO na chArthO na kAmO na mOkshaH chidAnanda rUpaH shivOham shivOham

This shloka, talks about the false idendification of the self with various emotions and attainments, that we experience, as human beings.

The first line talks about rAga, which is liking, and dvEsha,which is aversion.

lObha means greed, and mOha, which is illusion.

The second line mentions, mada which is pride , and mAtsarya bhAvah, which is a feeling of envy or jealousy.

the words na mE, mean not in me.

Shankara says, what we call as the true self, is none of these above mentioned emotions.

The third line talks about the four attainments that a human being seeks.

Called by the word purusharthas, these sanskrit words dharma, artha, kaama, and moksha, have various english translations.

The meanings that i would like to go by, are derived from the etymology of these words.

Here, dharma means sustainability, the word comes from dhAraNa which means sustaining, artha is wealth, kaama is desire, and mOksha is liberation.

These four are considered to be the purpose of any human life.

Shankara says one's true self doesn't also need any of these four attainments, not even moksha, because it is already boundless and free.

After having eliminated various false identifications, in the first 3 lines, shankara emphasises the truth, repeatedly in the fourth line of every stanza.

He says, chidananda roopah shivOham shivOham, which means, my true identity, is the eternally blissful form of shiva.

FOURTH SHLOKA

na puNyam na pApam na saukhyam na duhkham na mantrO na tIrtham na vEdA na yajnaH
aham bhOjanam naiva bhOjyam na bhOktA chidAnanda rUpah shivOham shivOham

न पुण्यं न पापं न सौख्यं न दुःखं
न मन्त्रो न तीर्थं न वेदा न यज्ञाः ।
अहं भोजनं नैव भोज्यं न भोक्ता
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहं

This shloka, talks about the false idendification of the self with various experiences that we go through within ourselves.

The first line talks about puNyam and paapam, these can be thought of as virtue, and vice.

the results of appropriate and inappropriate action.

saukhyam, is happiness, and dukham, is unhappiness.

Shankara says, one's true self, is unaffected by any of these experiences.

The second line mentions, mantra which is the purest sound used for chant, teertha a holy place to visit, vEda the ultimate knowledge to gain, and yajnah the highest of actions to perform.

These four are seen as tools, that help one transcend one's limitations.

Shankara says, one's true self, is not bothered with any of these means either.

The third line has three words , bhOjyam, bhOjanam, bhOkta.

The literal meaning for these words, are what is being consumed, the act of consumption, and the consumer.

Shankara says, the true sense of I, is neither the subject, nor the object, and not even the verb.

In the fourth line, he sums it all up, saying chidananda roopah shivOham shivOham, which means, my true identity, is the eternally blissful form of shiva.

FIFTH SHLOKA

na mE mrtyu shankA na mE jAti bhEdaH pitA naiva mE naiva mAtA na janmaH
na bandhur na mitram gurur naiva shishyaH chidAnanda rUpah shivOham shivOham

This shloka, talks about the false idendification of the self with various relationships we have from birth to death.

na mE, means, not in me mrutyu shankA, is any doubt regarding death.

Here shankarA says, "I do not have any doubts regarding the nature of death" and therefore, I do not make any discriminations, based on birth either, this is the meaning of na mE jAti bhEdah

In order to understand the next few words, we need to set the context in which the word

"I", is being mentioned by shankaracharya.

Some of you had doubts in the last videos, with the line, na dharmo na chartho na kamo

na mokshah, as in , "how can we not strive towards moksha also, is it true that we are

already free !"

In my understanding, the right way to look at it, would be "What is it, that we mean,

when say "I"

If it is the thought process, the body, emotions, or experiences, then no, we are not free.

But once the identity shifts to the true nature of the self, mentioned by chidAnanda roopah

shivOham shivOham, then that boundless, and formless nature, ofcourse has no need for

moksha.

I hope this distinction is clear.

In the next few words shankara also says, pitaa naiva me naiva maata na janmah, which

means this "I" does not have a father, or a mother.

Infact it does not even have birth or death.

na bandhur na mitram gurur naiva shishyaH.

This "I", does not have a relative, or a friend, or a guru, or a disciple.

The underlying consciousness which is the true nature of the self, since it is boundless,

and infinite, is beyong these dualities.

In the fourth line, he sums it all up, saying chidananda roopah shivOham shivOham, which

means, my true identity, is the eternally blissful form of shiva.

SIXTH SHLOKA

aham nirvikalpO nirAkAra rUpO vibhUtvAccha sarvatra sarvEndriyANAm
na chAsangatam naiva muktir na mEyaH chidAnanda rupaH shivOham shivOham

So far, in the previous videos, i have been talking about overall meaning of each line.

 word by word meaning.


In the first line, aham, is I, and nirvikalpah, is without deformation.

The word vikalpa, literally means change, or transformation.

AkAra, means form, and nIrAkAra, is formless.

In the second line, sarvatra, means everywhere, sarva indriyANAm, means in all the sense organs.

tvach, is skin, and vibhu, is existing.

So, the overall meaning of the second line, is I exist everywhere, pervading all the senses.

In the third line, sanga, means attachments, asanga, is detachment.

na chaasanga, is not even detachment, which is a double negation.

mEyah, is measurable, and mukti is liberation.

The meaning of this line, is I am not not attached, neither am i liberated nor am i

even defined.

In the fourth line, he sums it all up, saying chidananda roopah shivOham shivOham, which

means, my true identity, is the eternally blissful form of shiva.

That enigmatic line, brings us to the end of this playlist on Nirvana shatakam.

As i mentioned in the very beginning, understanding the words and meaning is just a beginning

to this journey towards understanding the true nature of one's self.

The purpose of this chant, is not just to intellectually understand it, but to go towards

a deeper state of experience.


*****

I hope these blog help you in that direction.

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See you in the next blog, namaskaram🙏



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