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Published by: TAOSHOBUDDHA and

Taoshobuddha Meditation

Cover and Graphics: Swami Anand Neelamber

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The word ‘Taoshobuddha’ comes from three words,

‘tao,’ ‘sho,’ and ‘Buddha’. The word Tao was coined by
the Chinese master, Lau Tzu. It means that which is
and cannot be put into words. It is unknown and
unknowable. It can only be experienced and not
expressed in words. Its magnanimity cannot be
condensed into finiteness. The word Sho implies, that
which is vast like the sky and deep like an ocean and
carries within its womb a treasure. It also means one
on whom the existence showers its blessings. And
lastly the word Buddha implies the Enlightened One;
one who has arrived home.

Thus, TAOSHOBUDDHA implies one who is

existential, on whom the existence showers its
blessings and one who has arrived home. THE

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Nirvana Shatkam

invaR[ ;qkm!



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Adi Shankar

Adi Shankara was the first philosopher who
consolidated Advaita, one of the sub-schools of
Vedanta. He believed in the greatness of Vedas
and was a major proponent of the same. Not
only did he infuse new life into the Vedas, but
also advocated against the Vedic religious
practices and rituals. He founded four
Shankaracharya Peethas or Mathas or
monasteries in the four corners of India. These
continue to promote his philosophy and
teachings. Sankara’s life reveals that he was
also the founder of Dashanami Monastic Order
and the Shanmata Tradition of Worship. He

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consolidated the doctrine of Advaita, the most

influential sub-school of Vedanta. His teachings
are based on the unity of the soul and Brahman,
in which Brahman is viewed as without
attributes – the formless.

The Four Adi Shankaracharya Peethas or Mathas


1. Vedanta Jnana Peetha, Sringeri (South


2. Govardhana Peetha in Jagannath Puri

(East India)

3. Kalika Peetha, Dwaraka (West India)

4. Jyotih Peetha, Badarikashrama (North


Childhood of Adi Shankar

Adi Shankaracharya was born as Shankar in

around 788 AD in a Brahmin family in Kaladi
village of Kerala. He was born to Sivaguru and
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Aryamba a number of years after their

marriage also known as Śaṅkara
Bhagavatpādācārya. He is it is said that
Aryamba had a vision of Lord Shiva, in which he
promised her that He would incarnate Himself in
the form of her first-born child. The life history
of Adi Shankracharya tells us that he showed
great intelligence right from his childhood. He
mastered all the Vedas and the Vedanta in
gurukul itself and could recite the epics and
Puranas by heart.

Shankar travelled across India and other parts

of South Asia to propagate his philosophy
through discourses and debates with other
thinkers. He founded four mathas
(‘monasteries’), which helped in the historical
development, revival and spread of Advaita
Vedanta. Adi Shankar is believed to be the
organizer of the Dashanami monastic order
and the founder of the Shanmata tradition of

His works in Sanskrit, all of which are present

and available even today, concern them with
establishing the doctrine of Advaita (Non-

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dualism). He also established the importance of

monastic life as sanctioned in the Upanishads
and Brahma Sutra, at a time when the
Mimamsa School established strict ritualism
and ridiculed monasticism. Shankar relied
entirely on the Upanishads for reference
concerning Brahman and wrote copious
commentaries on the Vedic Canon (Brahma
Sutra, Principal Upanishads and Bhagavad
Gita) in support of his thesis. The main
opponent in his work is the Mimamsa school of
thought, though he also offers some arguments
against the views of some other schools like
Sankhya and certain schools of Buddhism that
he was partially familiar with.

Traditional accounts of Adi Shankara's life can
be found in the Shankara Vijayams, which are
poetic works that contain a mix of biographical
and legendary material, written in the epic
style. The most important among these
biographies are the Mādhavīya Śaṅkara
Vijayaṃ (of Mādhava, c. 14th century), the
Cidvilāsīya Śaṅkara Vijayaṃ (of Cidvilāsa, c.
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between 15th century and 17th century), and the

Keraļīya Śaṅkara Vijayaṃ (of the Kerala region,
extant from c. 17th century

Birth and childhood

Shankara was born to Kaippilly Sivaguru
Nambudiri and Aryambya Antharjanam in
the region of Kalady, in central Kerala.
According to lore, it was after his parents, who
had been childless for many years, prayed at
the Vadakkunnathan temple, that Bhagwan
Shankara was born under the star

His father died while Shankar was very young.

Shankara’s Upanayana, the initiation into
student-life, was performed at the age of five.
As a child, Shankar showed remarkable
scholarship, mastering the four Vedas by the
age of eight.

Adi Shankaracharya was attracted towards
Sanyas right from his childhood. One day, while

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bathing in the Purna River, Shankaracharya

was attacked by a crocodile. Seeing his
mother’s incapability to rescue him, he asked
her to give him the permission to renounce the
world. Left with no other option, she agreed to
it. Shankaracharya recited the mantras of
renunciation and immediately, the crocodile left
him. Thus began the life of Shankar as an
ascetic. He left Kerala and moved towards South
India in search of a Guru.

From a young age, Shankar was inclined

towards Sanyas, but it was only after much
persuasion that his mother finally gave her
consent. Shankar then left Kerala and travelled
towards North India in search of a guru. On the
banks of the Narmada River, he met Govinda
Bhagavatpada, the disciple of Gaudapada.
When Govinda Bhagavatpada asked
Shankar’s identity, he replied with an
extempore verse that brought out the Advaita
Vedanta philosophy. Govinda
Bhagavatapada was impressed and took
Shankar as his disciple.

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The guru instructed Shankar to write a

commentary on the Brahma Sutras and
propagate the Advaita philosophy. Shankar
travelled to Kashi, where a young man named
Sanandana, from Choladesha in South India,
became his first disciple. According to legend,
while on his way to the Vishwanath Temple,
Shankar came upon an untouchable
accompanied by four dogs. When asked to move
aside by Shankar’s disciples, the untouchable
replied: ‘Do you wish that I move my
everlasting Ātman (‘the Self’), or this body
made of flesh?’ Realizing that the untouchable
was none other than god Shiva himself, and his
dogs the four Vedas, Shankar prostrated himself
before him, composing five shlokas known as
Manisha Panchakam.

Meeting Govinda Bhagavatpada

and Enlightenment
On the banks of Narmada River, Shankar met
Govinda Bhagavatpada. Impressed by his
knowledge of the Vedas and the Vedanta, he
took Shankaracharya under his tutelage. Under

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the guidance of his Guru, Shankar mastered

Hatha, Raja and Jnana Yoga. Thereafter he
received initiation in the knowledge of Brahma.
Thus was born Adi Shankaracharya, whose aim
in life was to spread the Vedic teachings of the
Brahma Sutras throughout the world.

At Badari he wrote his famous Bhashyas

(‘commentaries’) and Prakarana granthas
(‘philosophical treatises’). Of all the works
Bhaja Govindam is most beautiful poetic
expression. Through the verses of Bhaja
Govindam the soul of Shankar overflows. These
verses overflowed as compassion when Shankar
was passing through the lanes in Kashi along
with his disciples. There he saw an old man
weak, lean and thing, with no teeth in his mouth
remembering Panini’s Grammar. His compassion
overflowed as Bhaja Govindam.

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Introduction to Nirvana

As a young boy of eight, while wandering in the

Himalayas, seeking to find his guru, Shankar
encountered a sage who asked him, ‘Who are
you?’ The boy answered with these Sutras,
which are known as ‘Nirvana Shatakam’ or
‘Atma Shatakam.’

‘Nirvana’ is the state of total equanimity, peace,

tranquility, freedom and joy. ‘Atma’ is the True
Self. The sage the boy was talking to was
Swami Govindapada Acharya, who was,
indeed, the teacher he was looking for.

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Sri Sankara has done invaluable compositions.

The great Adi Shankara (first Shankaracharya)
of the eighth century summarized the entirety
of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualistic philosophy) in
six stanzas.

These can be grouped under three broad


1. The first category is meant for the

intellectually most advanced, ones. These
comprise his commentaries (Bhashya) on
the Upanishads, Brahmasutra and the
Bhagavad Gita.

2. The second category consists of

independent works, known as Prakarana
Granthas, which expound the essence of
the Upanishads in simple language. These
vary in length from half a verse to one
thousand verses.

3. The third category includes devotional


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The Nirvana Shatkam


mnae budXyh<kar icÄain nahm!

n c ïaeÇ ijþe n c ºa[ neÇe

n c Vyaem n tejae n vayu>

icdanNd êp> izvaeh/ऽm izvaeh/ऽm .1.

n c àa[ s<}ae n vE pÁcvayu>

n va sPtxatur n va pÁckaez>

n vaKpai[padaE n caepSwpayU

icdanNd êp> izvaeh/ऽm izvaeh/ऽm .2.

n me Öe; ragaE n me lae- maehaE

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mdae nEv me nEv maTsyR -av>

n xmaeR n cawaeR n kamae na mae]

icdanNd êp> izvaeh/ऽm izvaeh/ऽm .3.

n pu{y< n pap< n saEOy< n du>om!

n mNÇae n tIwR< n veda> n y}a>

Ah< -aejn< nEv -aeJy< n -ae-a

icdanNd êp> izvaeh/ऽm izvaeh/ऽm .4.

n m&Tyur n z<ka n me jait-ed>

ipta nEv me nEv mata n jNm

n bNxur n imÇ< guénERv iz:y>

icdanNd êp> izvaeh/ऽm izvaeh/ऽm .5.

Ah< inivRkLpae inrakar épae

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iv-uTvaCc svRÇ sveRiNÔya[am!

n cas<gt< nEv mui-r! n mey>

icdanNd êp> izvaeh/ऽm izvaeh/ऽm .6.

Mano Budhyahankaar Chitani Naaham,

Na Cha Shrotra Jihve Na Cha Ghraana netre
Na Cha Vyoma Bhumir Na Tejo Na Vayuh,
Chidananda Rupah Shivoham Shivoham

Na Cha Praana Sanjno Na Vai Pancha

Vaayuhu, Na Vaa Sapta Dhaatur Na Va
Pancha Koshah
Na Vaak Paani Paadau Na
Chopasthapaayuh, Chidaananda Rupah
Shivoham Shivoham

Na Me Dvesha Raagau Na Me Lobha Mohau,

Mado Naiva Me Naiva Maatsarya Bhaavah
Na Dharmo Na Chaartho Na Kaamo Na
Moksha, Chidaananda Rupah Shivoham

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Na Punyan Na Paapan Na Saukhyan Na

Dukham, Na Mantro Na Tirthan Na Vedaah
Na Yajnaah
Aham Bhojanan Naiv Bhojyan Na Bhoktaa,
Chidaananda Rupah Shivoham Shivoham

Na Mrityur Na Shanka Na Me Jaati Bhedah,

Pitaa Naiva Me Naiva Maataa Na Janma
Na Bandhur Na Mitram Guru Naiva
Shishyah, Chidaananda Rupah Shivoham

Aham Nirvikalpo Niraakaara Rupo,

Vibhutvaaccha Sarvatra Sarvendriyaanaam
Na Chaa Sangatan Naiva Muktir Na meyah
Chidananda Rupah Shivoham Shivoham

Nirvanashatkam is a Prakarana Grantham.

It consists of six verses. Prakarana has been
defined in the Vishnu Dharmottara Purana

“Prakarana is a text which explains particular

aspects of the Shastra and deals with certain
secondary questions arising out of the
explanations given therein”.

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The instruction emphatically contained in the six

verses of Nirvana Shatkam is that
identification with the body, mind, and senses is
the root cause of all sorrow and that it should
be given up and one should realize one’s real
nature as none other than the supreme
Brahman. This realization is what is known as

I am not the mind, nor the intellect, nor the

ego-sense, nor the accumulation of memories. I
am not the ear, nor the tongue, nor the nose,
nor the eyes. Nor am I the sky (space), or the
earth, or fire, or air. I am the Supreme
Auspiciousness in the form of
consciousness - Bliss. I am the

The last line is very significant. It says that

we are none other than the supreme
Brahman which is Existence-
Consciousness-Bliss or Sat-Chit-Anand.
This is our essential nature.

Verily the word Siva should not be mistaken to

mean Lord Shiva. Those who criticize Advaita
interpret this word to conclude that Advaita
asks the individual to arrogate to himself the

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status of God Himself. This is erroneous. The

word ‘Siva’ is used here in the same sense as in
the Mandukya Upanishad, Sutra 7, where it
implies ‘auspiciousness’ and denotes the
Supreme Brahman and not LORD SHIVA.

In all these verses the word ‘I’ refers to the pure

atma. The mind is defined thus in
Brihadaranyaka upanishad, 1.5.3 – as:-

“Desire, resolve, doubt, faith, lack of faith,

steadiness, unsteadiness, shyness, intelligence,
fear—all these are nothing but the mind”.

The essence signifies that all emotions belong to

the mind and not to the atma. A person verily
identifies himself with his mind when he says, “I
desire this”, “I have resolved to do this”, etc.
This verse signifies that such identification is
wrong and is due to ignorance of the fact that
everyone is in reality the atma or self. And
Atma or the self is identical with the Supreme

The question arises, why have the intellect, ego-

sense and the chittam been mentioned
separately, when they are the part of the mind

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Although the mind is only one, it is given four

different names in Vedanta according to the
different functions performed by it. This has
been explained by Sri Shankar in
Vivekachudamani in Sutras 95 and 96 as:

“The one antahkarana or inner organ is known

by four different names, manas, buddhi,
ahankara and chittam according to the
different functions.

When the mind thinks or reflects it is called


When it comes to a decision it is called buddhi.

When it stores memories it is called chittam.

When it identifies itself with each of these

functions it is known as ahankara.

The manner in which these functions take place

can be explained by taking an example.

You are walking along the road and see at a

distance a person whose gait seems to resemble
that of a certain friend, named Anand. You
begin to debate whether the person you see at
a distance is Anand or not. This function of

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debating is what is called ‘manas’. When he

comes nearer and you are able to see his face
clearly, you compare it with the memory of the
face of Anand stored in your mind. This
memory is ‘chittam’. If you find that the two
match one another, you decide that he is Anand
indeed then you greet him. This function of
deciding is called ‘buddhi’. The performer of all
these three functions is ‘I’, which is known as
‘ahankara’ according to Vedanta.

The word ‘manas’ is also generally used to

denote all these four collectively, when these
distinctions are not intended.

By the statement ‘I am not the mind, etc.’, we

are asked not to identify ourselves with these
activities of the mind and to look upon ourselves
as the pure atma which is action-less and is a
mere WITNESS of the activities of the mind.

Thus we will not be affected by the dualities of

joys and sorrows that arise in the mind. In the
Bhagavad Gita, 3:27:-

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The Lord says that all actions are performed by

the body, mind and senses, but because of
illusion everyone thinks that he is the doer.

A person identifies himself with his body and his

sense organs when he says, “I am this or that, I
am fair-complexioned, I hear, I taste, I smell, I
see, etc.” The second line points out that this
identification is also wrong and is the outcome
of illusion. The body is made up of the five
elements, space, air, fire, water, and earth. By
denying identification with these in the third
line, identification with the physical body is

The last line says that we are none other

than the supreme Brahman which is
Existence-Consciousness-Bliss or Sat-Chit-

Verily the word Siva should not be mistaken to

mean Lord Shiva. Those who criticize Advaita
interpret this word to conclude that Advaita
asks the individual to arrogate to himself the
status of God Himself. This is erroneous. The
word ‘Siva’ is used here in the same sense as in
the Mandukya Upanishad, Sutra 7, where it

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implies ‘auspiciousness’ and denotes the

Supreme Brahman.

The identity declared by Advaita is not between

the individual or Jiva as such and God. What
Advaita says is that the Jiva as well as God
are in reality none but the Pure Brahman.
However, when looked with envelop of the
body, mind and senses in the case of the Jiva
and Maya in the case of God these appear to
be different. These vestures are not real. When
these unreal envelops are negated, what
remains in both cases is only the Pure

The body and mind have only empirical reality,

i.e. they appear to be real only until the dawn of
self-knowledge. Atma, which is identical with
Brahman, is alone the absolute reality which is
eternal and changeless. Thus the very essence
of Advaita Vedanta, namely, the identity of
the Jivatma and Paramatma is brought out in
this verse and in all the subsequent verses.

I am not what is known as the Life-Breath, nor

am I the Five Vital Airs. I am not the Seven
‘Dhatus’ or constituents of the body. I am not
the Five Sheaths.

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I am not speech, nor the hands, nor the feet.

I am not the genitals, nor the organ of
excretion. I am the Supreme
Auspiciousness of the form of
consciousness-bliss. I am the

The Prana or Life Breath is given five names

in Vedanta according to the five functions
performed by it. These are what are spoken of
as the Five Vital Airs in this Sutra. The five
vital airs are Praana, Vyaana, Apaana,
Samaana, and Udaana.

These are described in Sri Sankara’s Bhashya

on Prasnopanishad. 3.5, thus:-

He (praana) places apaana, a division of

himself, in the two lower apertures, as engaged
in the work of ejecting the excreta.

Praana himself, who occupies the position of

the sovereign, resides in the eyes and the
ears and issues out through the mouth and

In the navel is Samaana, which is so called

because it assimilates all that is eaten or drunk,

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distributes them equally in all parts of the body

and effects digestion.

Udaana, another division of Praana, moves

throughout the body and functions upwards. It
leads the soul out of the body at the time of
death and takes it to other worlds according to
one’s punya and paapa.

Vyaana regulates Praana and Apaana and is

the cause of actions that require strength. All
these are only air and are therefore insentient.
Kathopanishad, 2.2.5 says:-

“Mortals do not live by Praana or Apaana, but

by something else on which these two depend”.
They depend on the atma which is what gives
them sentiency. Therefore Shankar says do not
identify yourselves with the Life-Breath.

The Seven Dhatus are the constituents of the

body such as marrow, fat, flesh, blood, lymph,
skin, and the cuticle.

The five sheaths are described in the

Taittiriya Upanishad.

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The Physical Body is the outermost sheath. It

is called the Annamayakosha or Food Sheath
because it is nourished by food.

Within this is the Praanamayakosha or Vital

Air Sheath, which is made up of the vital air
with its five divisions and the organs of action,
namely, speech, hands, feet, the genitals and
the organ of excretion.

The next inner sheath is the manomayakosha

or Mental Sheath, which is made up of the
mind and the five organs of perception, namely,
ear, eye, and the senses of smell, taste, and

The next sheath is Vijnaanamayakosha or the

Sheath of the Intellect. This consists of the
intellect or buddhi and the five organs of

The innermost sheath is the

Anandamayakosha or Bliss Sheath. This is
the primal ignorance or avidya which is the
cause of Trans-migratory Existence.

These five sheaths constitute the body-mind

realm. Never identify yourselves with these
which are all ephemeral and always undergoing

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The third line says that we are not the Five

Organs of Action. The last line is the same as
in the first Sutra.

I do not have any aversion or attachment, nor

do I have greed, delusion, pride, or jealousy. I
do not hanker after Dharma, wealth, pleasures,
or liberation (the four Purushaarthas). I am
the supreme auspiciousness of the form of
consciousness-bliss. I am the auspiciousness.

All the emotions such as likes, dislikes, greed,

etc., belong to the mind and so the atma has
no connection with them. The rules of Dharma
apply only when there is identification with the
body-mind complex. The atma has no desire for
wealth or pleasures. The atma is ever liberated.
It is only when the atma is identified with the
body-mind complex that there is the notion of
bondage and it is only then that liberation has
to be sought. The pure atma is ever free. A
person who has become totally free from
identification with his body and mind is already
liberated. As far as the atma itself is concerned,
it has neither bondage nor liberation, just as
there is neither day nor night in the sun itself.

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There is no such thing as merit or sin for me nor

is there any joy or sorrow. I have no need for
mantras, or pilgrimage, or Vedas, or sacrifices. I
am neither the enjoyed nor the enjoyer, nor
enjoyment. I am the supreme auspiciousness of
the form of consciousness-bliss. I am the

All these are only for the Jiva who identifies

himself with his body and mind. The atma is
pure, untainted, eternal and action-less. Once a
person has realized that he is the pure atma,
he has no need of mantras, pilgrimage, etc.,
because there is nothing more to be attained.
The seed has attained fruition. Nothing more is

The duality of joy and sorrow is referred to in

this Sutra. This duality indeed arises due to
external circumstances. These have a beginning
and an end and these pertain only to the mind
and not the atma. The atma is eternal. And its
very nature is of supreme eternal bliss.

I am neither the enjoyed nor the enjoyer, nor

enjoyment. What is enjoyed indeed is an
object. So this implies that the atma is not an
object. The enjoyer is one who performs an
action. It is a doer. So this also implies that the

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atma is not a doer. Enjoyment is an act.

However the atma is not an act.

I have no possibility of death, nor distinction of

caste. I have no father, nor mother. I have no
birth. I have no relations, no friend, no guru,
and no disciple. I am the Supreme
Auspiciousness of the form of consciousness-
bliss. I am the auspiciousness.

All the relationships exist only as long as a

person looks upon himself as the body-mind
realm. Or, identifies with the ephemeral body-
mind realm! The atma is eternal and therefore
it is never born and never dies.

I am unconditioned and therefore free from all

attributes. I am formless. I am all-pervading. I
am beyond the organs. I am ever the same.
There is neither bondage nor liberation for me. I
am the Supreme Auspiciousness of the form
of consciousness-bliss. I am the auspiciousness.

The atma is not conditioned or limited by the

body and mind. The atma, being identical with
Brahman, is all-pervading eternal and
changeless. Bondage is nothing but
identification with the body and mind. This
arises due to ignorance of our real nature. When

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this ignorance vanishes with the awareness of

our real nature it will be realized that there
never was any bondage at all. It simply appears
to be. It is not as if everyone is in bondage and
becomes liberated on attaining to awareness.

Everyone is in reality none other than the

supreme Brahman even before the dawn of
awakening. Liberation is not the outcome of a
new state never existed earlier. Instead
liberation is only the realization that one has
always been Brahman but has been wrongly
identifying himself as a limited being.

This can be understood by taking the classic

example of the rope being mistaken for a snake.
When a light is brought and it is found that
there is only a rope, no one will say that there
was previously a snake, but now there is only a
rope. Similarly it is erroneous to say that there
was previously bondage and after the dawn of
knowledge there is liberation. This freedom is
our essential nature. In reality there is neither
bondage nor liberation, but both are attributed
to the Jiva due to ignorance.

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