This six-versed hymn, also known as the nirvāṇaṣaṭkam, was composed by Ādi Śaṅkarācārya when he was eight years old. The story goes that the young Śaṅkara was seeking his sadguru, the spiritual master that would guide his spiritual life. He encountered a great sage called Govinda Bhagavatpāda who asked the boy, “Who are you?”. Śaṅkara replied with these six verses, which perfectly and succinctly summarize the teachings of advaita vedānta, the non-dualist philosophy of the principal Upaniṣads, the Brahmasūtras, and the Bhagavad Gītā.

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मनोबुद्ध्यहंकारचित्तानि नाहं
न च श्रोत्रजिह्वे न च घ्राणनेत्रे ।
न च व्योमभूमिः न तेजो न वायुः
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम् ॥ १ ॥

manobuddhyahaṃkāracittāni nāhaṃ
na ca śrotrajihve na ca ghrāṇanetre ।
na ca vyomabhūmiḥ na tejo na vāyuḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’haṃ śivo’ham ॥ 1 ॥

I am not my mind, nor my intellect, nor my sense of self1, nor my consciousness. Nor am I my organs of perception (jñānendriya): ears for hearing, tongue for tasting, nose for smelling, eyes for seeing, and skin for touching2. Nor am I the five elements (mahābhuta): ether, earth, fire, air, and water3. My essential nature is pure conscious bliss. I am the Supreme Spirit! The Supreme Spirit is me!4

न च प्राणसंज्ञो न वै पंचवायुः
न वा सप्तधातुर्न वा पंचकोशः ।
न वाक् पाणिपादौ न चोपस्थपायू
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम् ॥ २ ॥

na ca prāṇasaṃjño na vai pañcavāyuḥ
na vā saptadhāturna vā pañcakośaḥ ।
na vāk pāṇipādau na copasthapāyū
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’haṃ śivo’ham ॥ 2 ॥

Nor am I the subtle life force, nor its five constituent “winds”5. Nor am I the seven tissues of the body6, nor the five sheaths surrounding the soul7. Nor am I any of my organs of action (karmendriya): larynx for speaking, hands for doing, feet for moving, genitals for procreating, and anus for eliminating. My essential nature is pure conscious bliss. I am the Supreme Spirit! The Supreme Spirit is me!

न मे द्वेषरागौ न मे लोभमोहौ
मदो नैव मे नैव मात्सर्यभावः ।
न धर्मो न चार्थो न कामो न मोक्षः
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम् ॥ ३ ॥

na me dveṣarāgau na me lobhamohau
mado naiva me naiva mātsaryabhāvaḥ ।
na dharmo na cārtho na kāmo na mokṣaḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’haṃ śivo’ham ॥ 3 ॥

I have no hatred nor love, no cupidity nor delusion. I have no personal pride nor jealousy towards others. I am not concerned with the four aims of human existence (puruṣārtha): dharma (fulfillment of one’s duty), artha (procurement of wealth), kāma (satisfaction of desires), and mokṣa (final liberation from rebirth). My essential nature is pure conscious bliss. I am the Supreme Spirit! The Supreme Spirit is me!

न पुण्यं न पापं न सौख्यं न दुःखं
न मन्त्रो न तीर्थं न वेदा न यज्ञाः ।
अहं भोजनं नैव भोज्यं न भोक्ता
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम् ॥ ४ ॥

na puṇyaṃ na pāpaṃ na saukhyaṃ na duḥkhaṃ
na mantro na tīrthaṃ na vedā na yajñāḥ ।
ahaṃ bhojanaṃ naiva bhojyaṃ na bhoktā
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’haṃ śivo’ham ॥ 4 ॥

I am neither propitious nor wicked, I have neither health and happiness nor pain and sorrow. I need no mantras, no holy places, nor any veda or rituals. I am not the one who eats, nor the act of eating, nor the food being eaten. My essential nature is pure conscious bliss. I am the Supreme Spirit! The Supreme Spirit is me!

न मे मृत्युशङ्का न मे जातिभेदः
पिता नैव मे नैव माता न जन्म ।
न बंधुर्न मित्रं गुरुर्नैव शिष्यः
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम् ॥ ५ ॥

na me mṛtyuśaṅkā na me jātibhedaḥ
pitā naiva me naiva mātā na janma ।
na baṃdhurna mitraṃ gururnaiva śiṣyaḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’haṃ śivo’ham ॥ 5 ॥

I have no fear of death nor of endless reincarnations8. I have no father or mother, as I was never born. I have no family nor friends, no guru nor disciples. My essential nature is pure conscious bliss. I am the Supreme Spirit! The Supreme Spirit is me!

अहं निर्विकल्पो निराकाररूपो
विभुर्व्याप्य सर्वत्र सर्वेन्द्रियाणाम् ।
सदा मे समत्वं न मुक्तिर्न बन्धः
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम् ॥ ६ ॥

ahaṃ nirvikalpo nirākārarūpo
vibhurvyāpya sarvatra sarvendriyāṇām ।
sadā me samatvaṃ na muktirna bandhaḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’haṃ śivo’ham ॥ 6 ॥

I am eternally unchanging, my true form is formlessness. I permeate everything, and everything perceived by the senses is me. I am eternity in equilibrium, neither liberated nor in bondage. My essential nature is pure conscious bliss. I am the Supreme Spirit! The Supreme Spirit is me!

Alternate Sixth Stanza

Some versions of this text have a slightly different final stanza. The meaning is almost identical, but I have provided the translation below.

अहं निर्विकल्पो निराकाररूपो
विभुत्वाच्च सर्वत्र सर्वेन्द्रियाणाम् ।
न चासङ्गतम् नैव मुक्तिर्न मेयः
चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम् ॥ ६ ॥

ahaṃ nirvikalpo nirākārarūpo
vibhutvācca sarvatra sarvendriyāṇām ।
na cāsaṅgatam naiva muktirna meyaḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’haṃ śivo’ham ॥ 6 ॥

I am eternally unchanging, my true form is formlessness. Everything everywhere comes from me9, and everything perceived by the senses is me, yet I have no attachment to anything. I am neither liberated nor subject to limitation (literally “able to be measured”). My essential nature is pure conscious bliss. I am the Supreme Spirit! The Supreme Spirit is me!

॥ इति श्रीमच्छङ्कराचार्यविरचितं आत्मषट्कं सम्पूर्णम् ॥

॥ iti śrīmacchaṅkarācāryaviracitaṃ ātmaṣaṭkaṃ sampūrṇam ॥

The ātmaṣaṭkam composed by Śrī Śaṅkarācārya is now completed.

  1. Ahaṃkāra is usually translated as “ego”, as that is the best single-word analogue available in English. But it is different from Freud’s ego, which is a mediator between id, our instinctual impulses, and superego, our moral conscience. According to advaita vedānta philosophy, ahaṃkāra — literally “the I maker” — is the sense of separation of the ātman — the individualized soul — from brahman — the Supreme Spirit. Followers of advaita vedānta believe that brahman is eternal, unborn, and unchanging, and that ātman and brahman are in fact the same. Paramahaṃsa Yogānanda used the metaphor of the ocean and the tiny bubble to demonstrate this concept. The ātman is the bubble, seemingly separate for a short time — and due to ahaṃkāra, believing itself to be separate — but eventually merging back into brahman, the ocean.

    Ahaṃkāra (sense of individuation), manas (subjective mind), and buddhi (objective intellect) comprise citta, consciousness.

  2. The verse does not explicitly mention the skin. It was likely left out for poetic / syllabic reasons, but its inclusion is implied.

  3. As with the skin before, water is not explicitly mentioned here, likely to maintain the meter, but its inclusion is implied.

  4. Śaṅkarācārya, being the foremost proponent of advaita vedānta, or non-dualism (meaning there is only one Supreme Spirit, and everything comes from and is comprised of that Spirit), when he composed the phrase “śivo’ham” (literally “I am Śiva”) he was not referring to the particular deity called Śiva, but was using the name Śiva to refer to the Absolute Reality, brahman.

  5. The five vital “winds” comprising the life-force are:

    • prāṇa — governs respiratory functions.
    • apāna — governs elimination of waste.
    • udāna — governs vocal functions.
    • samāna — governs digestive functions.
    • vyāna — governs circulatory functions.

    Each of these “winds” has a subordinate vāyu responsible for smaller aspects of their respective bailiwicks. For example, ancillary to prāṇa and the respiratory system is nāga, which governs belching and hiccups.

  6. The seven tissues of the body are:

    • rasa — plasma, lymph, and extracellular fluid
    • rakta — blood
    • māṃsa — muscle
    • meda — adipose and fat
    • asthi — bone
    • majjan — marrow
    • śukra — ovum and spermatozoa

  7. Kośa means “vessel”, “covering”, or “sheath”, and in this context refers to five layers of separation between ātman, the individual soul, and brahman, the Supreme Spirit. These pañcakośa, or “five sheaths”, are:

    • annamayakośa — “the sheath comprised of food” — the physical body.
    • prāṇamayakośa — “the sheath comprised of life force” — the subtle body that vitalizes the physical body.
    • manomayakośa — “the sheath comprised of mind” — the subjective mind and the five senses that perceive the world reside here.
    • vijñānamayakośa — “the sheath comprised of intellect” — kartṛtva (“the doer”, the performer of actions) and bhoktṛtva (“the enjoyer” of the fruits of actions) reside here.
    • ānandamayakośa — “the sheath comprised of bliss” — this final sheath, also referred to as the “causal body”, is the ignorance that first surrounds the ātman, clouding its true nature as Supreme Spirit. It is said to be a perfect reflection of the ātman, but not ātman itself.

  8. The term jātibheda can be interpreted in a couple different ways. Jāti literally means “birth” and bheda means “separation” or “division”. I interpret jātibheda to mean “separate births”, i.e. “reincarnation”.

    Another common translation of jāti is “position assigned by birth”, i.e caste, thus making jātibheda “separation into castes”, and many translations of this stanza take this meaning. But in the context of the full sentence, it does not make much sense. The sentence begins with “I have no fear of death”, and it feels somewhat disjointed to follow that with “nor separation into caste”.

  9. Vibhutva means “omnipresence”, but in this line it is in the ablative case and becomes vibhutvāt (which combines with ca (“and”) to become vibhutvācca). The ablative case in saṃskṛta indicates motion away from a noun, i.e. “out of” or “from which”. I interpret an ablative case reading of omnipresence to mean “everything everywhere comes from me.”