Who am I?

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“Who am I” has been the greatest philosophical question of mankind for thousands of years. Millions of books, theories, and philosophies have been written discussing this question and attempting to answer this.
The answer in this article is not one I have come up with but is written by one of the greatest minds of India, Shree Adi Shankaracharya.
The answer is in the form of a beautiful Sanskrit mantra which can be sung a song, and which both bhakti and Gyan ras.

The answer is called Nirvana Shatakam.

The word vana means sound or form. And hence nirvana means one without form.
Nirvana is the same as Mukti or moksha, you can read more about it from here –

This word means both formlessness and the formless upon which the universe rests – Shiva.

The essence of Nirvana Shatakam cannot be understood merely by knowing the meaning, realizing, and experiencing it is crucial to its understanding, which can be done by using it as a tool for meditation. Like in Yoga Nidra a person practicing it concentrates and sets loose, every body part for a complete sense of weightlessness, similarly, a meditator on Nirvana shatakam should dissociate himself from every identity which is being mentioned in the Shatakam as fake identities or Maya. Losing the sense of attachment from these fake identities helps a person to realize his true identity, which is formless, infinite, indestructible, and pure, that is his soul. Getting Atma Gyan (realizing and understanding the soul) is considered as Mukti/nirvana in advait Vedanta which was followed by Shree Adi Shankaracharya.

This mantra was composed in a very unique and spontaneous manner.
Shree Adi Shankaracharya was searching for a guru in dense forests in his youth. He came across a sadhu in a cave who appeared devine and requested him to accept him as his disciple. When the sadhu asked Adi Shankaracharya “who are you”. The answer which Shree Adi Shankaracharya gave is not just his introduction and identity but the identity of every living being in the universe.
The sadhu impressed and satisfied with the answer accepted him as his disciple.

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…

Paragraph 2 –
(This part consists of not just philosophical but biological knowledge, some known to western science and some unknown)

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 panch vayu,
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…

The first line talks about the five kind of vayu (air) which are essential for human life.

Na me pancha vayuh – I am not the 5 types of vayu (air)

Prana vayu – air involved in respiration
Udana vayu – responsible for lightness or buyancy
Vyama vayu – air responsible for circulation
Samana vayu – air responsible for digestion
Udana vayu – air responsible for excretion

Udana vayu is believed to be what carries the subtle body (the soul) out of the body.

Na va saptadhatu – I am not the seven main elements which make the sthool shareer (physical body)

Saptadhatu – Rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mansa (flesh), meda (fat), asthi (bone) meja (marrow), shukra (genital fluids).

Na va pancha koshah – This part is unknown to western science, the five layers of consiousness. The 5 koshah.

Anamata kosha – external body

Pranamaya kosha – nadi and chakra are at this level, also consists of prana vayuh.

Manomay koshah – mind, memory. This layer of consiousness is subject to feelings.

Vigyana maya koshah – intellect and sense organs are at this koshah. A person consious at this level is free from limitations of both physical and mental issues – heat, cold, pain, pleasure does not affect the person. The sadhus meditating at negative temperatures without clothes or food belong to this level of consiousness

Anandamaya koshah – karma shareer. Storehouse of all karma.

Even at these subtle level of consiousness, the identity is not the true identity.
True identity is just the limitless devine shiva which is the soul of every living being.

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…

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