Dharma Series 1: When an 8 year old summed up the ultimate truth in 6 verses

Updated: Feb 28


Around 700 CE, by the banks of river Narmada at Omkareshwar, Govinda Bhagavatpada met an eight year old wandering boy, and asked him who he was. 

The boy replied with a six verse extempore of what we know as “Atmashatakam” or “Nirvana Shatakam”. Govinda Bhagavatapada then initiated this boy as his disciple. This boy was Aadi Shankaracharya.


Atmashatakam forms the foundation of Advait Vedanta philosophy, and also relates to Kashmiri Shaivism to a large extent(With a few very clear distinctions). 

The essential message of atmashatakam is non duality. Non duality - The ultimate realization that there is no division between I and everyone else, you are one with the existence. Quantum physicist have been talking about everything being just being energy at different wavelengths. 


This is one topic which may seem beyond logic to some. But as you tread the path of spirituality, you’ll realise that this is a possibility. More on this topic soon.

I’ll leave you with what the six verses of atmashatakam or Nirvana Shatakam translate to in English. It speaks about everything that we identify ourselves with, which causes the illusion of duality. 


mano buddhi ahankara chittani naaham

na cha shrotravjihve na cha ghraana netre

na cha vyoma bhumir na tejo na vaayuhu

chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham


I am not the mind, the intellect, the ego or the memory,

I am not the ears, the skin, the nose or the eyes,

I am not space, not earth, not fire, water or wind,

I am the form of consciousness and bliss,

I am the eternal Shiva...


na cha prana sangyo na vai pancha vayuhu

na va sapta dhatur na va pancha koshah

na vak pani-padam na chopastha payu

chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham


I am not the breath, nor the five elements,

I am not matter, nor the 5 sheaths of consciousness

Nor am I the speech, the hands, or the feet,

I am the form of consciousness and bliss,

I am the eternal Shiva...


na me dvesha ragau na me lobha mohau

na me vai mado naiva matsarya bhavaha

na dharmo na chartho na kamo na mokshaha

chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham


There is no like or dislike in me, no greed or delusion,

I know not pride or jealousy,

I have no duty, no desire for wealth, lust or liberation,

I am the form of consciousness and bliss,

I am the eternal Shiva...


na punyam na papam na saukhyam na duhkham

na mantro na tirtham na veda na yajnah

aham bhojanam naiva bhojyam na bhokta

chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham


No virtue or vice, no pleasure or pain,

I need no mantras, no pilgrimage, no scriptures or rituals,

I am not the experienced, nor the experience itself,

I am the form of consciousness and bliss,

I am the eternal Shiva...


na me mrtyu shanka na mejati bhedaha

pita naiva me naiva mataa na janmaha

na bandhur na mitram gurur naiva shishyaha

chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham


I have no fear of death, no caste or creed,

I have no father, no mother, for I was never born,

I am not a relative, nor a friend, nor a teacher nor a student,

I am the form of consciousness and bliss,

I am the eternal Shiva...


aham nirvikalpo nirakara rupo

vibhut vatcha sarvatra sarvendriyanam

na cha sangatham naiva muktir na meyaha

chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham


I am devoid of duality, my form is formlessness,

I exist everywhere, pervading all senses,

I am neither attached, neither free nor captive,

I am the form of consciousness and bliss,

I am the eternal Shiva...


Note: The story about the meeting between Govinda Bhagavatpada and Adi Shankaracharya has different versions. Some mention Shankaracharya was between 12-16 years old at the time of meeting. Some also say that Aadi Shankaracharya stopped the flooding of the cave where Govinda Bhagavatpada was meditating, and that’s when they met for the first time.