Shatashloki can be roughly divided into eight parts. First five parts prove atman to be different from the five sheaths. Sixth part deals with the Karma theory of the
Vedantins, the unreality of the universe is established in the seventh, and finally the Jivanmukti is detailed in the eighth. All these topics are dealt with great
sublimity and ease, and are proved logically with sufficient illustrations, vedic quotations, and experience.
We are obliged to the authorites of the Saraswati Bhavan who allowed us to copy the manuscript of the tika from the manuscripts under their custody.
‘Shatashloki’ with Shri Anandagiri’s commentary forms a part of the Vol. I of Advaita Grantharatna Manjusha series begun by H.H. Swami Shri Maheshanda Giriji Maharaj
Maha Mandaleshwar and Pontiff of Sri Dakshinamurti Peetha of Varanasi.
“Shatashloki” of Shri Shankara Bhagvatpada is printed for the first time with the commentary of Shri Anandagiri. Unlike the brief word-to-word commentary published by
the Mysore Govt. Oriental MSS Library in the early years of this century, the present commentary is vivid, analytical and precise. It quotes all the relevant vedic
texts which form the basis of Shatashloki and interprets them according to Byashyas of Sayana and others. The Upanishadic texts quoted here are from the Brihadaranyaka
and Isha vasya of Madhyandina recension, and are not interpreted according to Shri Shankara Acharya’s Bhashyas which are on the Kanva recension. The comments are based
on yet unidentified source. They are faithful to the Advaitic tradition, though differing in interpretation. In only one place the author quotes from Shankara and
Sureswara. The colophon at the end of the commentary reads “by Anandagiri the pupil of Shuddhananda Pujypada”. Now the question arises whether Shri Anandagiri, the
celebrated commentator of almost all the works of Shri Shankara and Sureshwara, wrote this work? If so why did he ignore Shri Shankara’s interpretations of these Sruti
texts in preference to some other interpretation. The only plausible explanation can be that of Shakhabheda. But since the difference is nominal and Shri Sureshwara
has practically considered all the Madhyandina variations, the commentator will be expected to refer to them rather than an unknown source. Moreover, the date of Shri
Anandagiri is held to be the first quarter of the 14th century, and that of Sayana Madhava, the author of Vedabhashyas, as the last quarter of the 14th century. Hence
Shri Anandagiri who lived earlier could not have quoted from the Bhashyas of a later author. But since these dates are approximate and there is not too large a gap
between, the matter can not be clinched.
Under these circumstances we are led to doubt whether Shri Anandagiri and annotator of Shatashloki, may not be different from the famous Anandagiri who annotated
Bhashya and Vartikas. The doubt is further confirmed because the commentary on Shatashloki gives equivalents even to ordinary Sanskrit words (eg)
Such synonymnal approach is quite unlike the great tikas of Shri Anandagiri. However the commentary is quite valuable and seems to be an authoritative work from the
pen of a great master of Vedanta, hence no apology is needed for its publication.
Satasloki is an important work of the greatmaster Sri Sankara in which he handles the Vedas in general. It gives us a clue to the penetrative outlook one must develop
to understand the vision of the Rsis. Fortunately a very thorough and detailed annotation, supposedly by Anand Giri-the commentator of Sankara’s almost complete works,
has become available but for which most of this work would have remained unconnected to the intended context for lack of our mastery over the Vaidika lore. References
to sections scattered all over the Veda indicate the prodigious memory of the annotator, as well as make us assume that a tradition must have existed connecting the
verses to the relevant portions. That Sankara had drunk deeply the Samhita divisions of the Veda also becomes very conspicuous in this relatively small treatise. It
also gives the needed kick to those claiming that in their earlier parts the Vedas do not contain Vedanta! And so the upanisads are not the essence but in
contradiction to the earlier parts!!
The work starts with eulogizing a Guru as greater than even a touchstone, for its changes iron into gold but not into a touchstone while a Guru changes the disciple
into his own form. The disciple spreads the knowledge, cooling the parched souls. The division of wisdom in ‘I am Brahman’ and ‘all is Brahman’ is made clear.
Experience and rationality are equally emphasized. Then the body, its relations etc. are described. The connection between the soul and the body is explained by the
example of a silk-worm which is the cause of its own death.
The Witness remains unattached even while in the body, just as an actor remains unidentified with his role. The Vedas lay down, like a mother, various paths to
realization of the pure self, the real object of love. The path of pleasure and the path of bliss is distinguished. Renounciation is discussed both for a householder
and a monk. Passion, anger and lust are proclaimed to be the main gateways to hell. Charity, forgiveness, faith and truth are described as the four pillars of wisdom.
Charity is defined as all that is done with an attitude of dedication; forgiveness, as never getting angry; faith, as the belief in the ultimate reality; and truth, as
the identity of God with It. The commentators refers to the Samaveda Setugana as the authority for this verse.
Attending to guests, and making an offering to God is emphasized before taking meals. A clear reference to fire worship with the vital airs as the symbol is made. In
this context the Rigveda is refered to by Giri. Offering of food brings fullness to the offerer and creates non-enmity. Friends must also be entertained. If friends
are not fed in a house, it is not to be considered a home, but a forest. Thus Sankara lays a great emphasis on food-distribution to all, and sharing of our things with
others as a fundamental doctrine of values.
Wisdom is compared to a sacrifice. In the fire of the non-dual experience the whole world is sacrificed. It is annihilated by the fire of Brahman, just as a snake by
the rope-perception. The Nasadiya of Rgveda is taken up next, and it is surprising that Giri does not comment on it as such.
The concept of the world as neither different, nor non-different from the truth, is discussed in this verse as a prelude to creation. Bondage and liberation are non-
existent from Brahman’s viewpoint, just as day and night do not exist for the Sun. Desire or will is pointed to as the first cause of the Universe. Again in the
twenty-sixth verse a reference to Rgveda is mysteriously missed by Giri, where ignorance is described as a beautiful damsel. In the next verse Sankara identifies the
existence, with the identity of God and soul. It is a beautiful amalgamation of philosophy and religion. The story of Subandhu in Rgveda is cited as the proof for the
self as surviving, while it is the mind that transits. After describing the nature of self and movements of the soul in the din of desires, the convering power of
ignorance is described, by illustrating it with the cloud and the sun, an analogy often used by Sankara. The loss of a dreamt kingdom by awakening is not and
disturbance. Sankara points out that a similar attitude towards the waking world, which is equally real, should be cultured. The dream illustration is carried on
further to clarify the untruth of the non-self. One important point is noted that at times an act in a dream, results in an event of the waking state, like the loss of
semen. The fact that the dream will not have repercussions in the waking state, is disproved by this experience. Similarly, even for a liberated one, the effect of
ignorance continues, until the body is exhausted.
Detachment is discussed as the next topic. Just as fire burns wood which is dry, and not that which is soaked in water, the knowledge dawns in a detached mind, and not
in the mind attached to rituals, wealth etc. the snake covers the rope due to ignorance, similarly the apparent world covers Mahesvara. However, if we cover the world
with Mahesvara, the world ceases to be a bondage. The removal of the appearance makes reality, which is bliss, shine forth making us blissful. Further on the
liberation in life, as well as that after it, is laid down. The attainment is by practice, reflection, and grace of the teacher. Practice is both mental and physical:
worship, posture, etc. are the physical practices and absorption in Mahesvara is the mental practice. By destroying the desires, acquired in innumerable lives, and
renouncing the ego in the body one leaves off frivolity and attains continual rememberance of the Self. Then one reaches the head-centre, which is of various hues, and
from which flows the nectar that gives the bliss of the self. In the next stage one sees the self always everywhere, and goes beyond all the attachments and sorrows.
All the eight supernatural powers become manifest and the aspirant loses his own will. Forgetting all that is gross and subtle, transcending virtue and vice, one
attains liberation while alive. Thus, in a nutshell, all the disciplines are laid out for the aspirant. A famous Rgveda verse, often used to offer apparel to Siva, is
utilized for explaining this state.
Having described the first type of liberation, the bodiless state is taken up. Desirelessness, except the desire of the Self, fulfils the purpose of life. such a soul,
not having any propulsion does not migrate but is absorbed here itself, as the brine is dissolved in water. His mind is absorbed in the moon, speech in the fire, eyes
in the sun, and every other organ in its cause.
The inner-controller is described by the illustration of butter and milk. The body, being inert, is moved by the self. The mind also being inert, knows by the light of
the Self. Just as cloth is nothing but weaved thread, so the world is unknown Brahman. All the different designs are really only the threads. Similarly the mountains,
the cities, the animals etc., are all really Brahman. The soul is a reflection of the Self in the mind. By His own power of illusion, it is enunciated by the Vedas,
Indra takes many forms.
The three types of Self are postulated. Brahman is both inside and outside the intellect. The Self is covered by the intellect. The soul is its image in the intellect.
An apt illustration is space which is both inside and outside water, is also covered by water and reflected in it. By realizing the Brahman the reflection ceases to
be. Next Sankara takes up the illustration of a puppet show. Made of wood, hence unconscious, they dance, sing, play instruments etc., controlled by threads. Similarly
all the three worlds dance, controlled by the Sutratman. Giri refers to a similar Rgveda verse.
Brahman is described as the Truth of truths, and as the abode of all the gods and elements. It is eternal, having neither a beginning nor an end. Since all that is
untrue shines as true, it is clear that the world has truth as its base. The pure water poured by a cloud, becomes sour in lemon, sweet in grapes, bitter in gourds and
so on. Similarly due to difference in adjuncts, Brahman shines differently. The pot and space are discussed in the same vein. Eventually, it is emphasized, that even
during the experience of objects, it is the consciousness, that shines for a wise one. An example is taken from music also. The sound of the beating of a drum, and its
resounding sound are mutually different but the ear cannot perceive the difference, while the musician knows that they are not identical. Similarly Brahman and
nescience appear simultaneously, yet by concentrating on the Inner Self one realizes their difference. Once Siva is thus realized as the ground of all experiences, as
the Supreme as well as the inner controller, all the things start shining as appearances, on the real substrate of knowledge of one’s identity with the absolute. The
wise remains in that stage bereft of any desire for ever.
Giri explains the coupling of Indra with his wife in an extremely metaphorical way, as the ego in the right eye, and vision in the left one. Both enter in the heart
during dream, and at the end of coupling enter the state of singular bliss. The idea is, that each sense has two aspects while knowing the internal and the external.
The mind brings the preconceived view-point to bear on the object, which is called the subjective side of the experience while the senses report objective side. In
dream the subjective and objective become one as in coupling. After that they enter the causal state, bereft of both the aspects of the couple. As students of Rgveda
will recall, there are many passages of dialogue between Indra and his wife. Some of the Western savants have interpreted them in a vulgar manner. Here Sankara gives
the authoritative version, and thus shows the path for interpreting the Vedas in a spiritual way. For the next verse Giri not only quotes Rgveda verse, but also from
the famous commentary on it by Ravana. He further asserts that this spiritual meaning of Veda is accepted by Sankara. The Sayana Bhasya following the ritualistic
interpretation is mentioned separately. Thus at a comparatively earlier age, it was clearly held that Sankara stood for a spiritual interpretation of Vedas. Ravana
Bhasya is available only in parts at present. According to this view happiness necessarily refers to the self-happiness, and the so called sense pleasure is only a
type of pain! Yaska records tht Paramahanmsas stood for the spiritual interpretation of the whole Veda. After trying for all the sense pleasures a person is tired, and
craves for the happiness of the self in sleep. Thus desires lead to exhaustion even when fulfilled, more so, if unfulfilled. Giri quotes from Agnirahasya to show that
this is the reason why the Vedas prohibit waking anybody from sleep. The union of lovers after a long separation also illustrates the state of sleep.
Liberation and sleep annihilate the objective consciousness and senses; along with it there is attainment of joy. Though this is their common feature, yet after sleep
they are rejuvenated, while in liberation there is complete destruction of them, and their impressions, in liberation. This distinguishes the two. The same Rgveda
verse is referred to in the seventy second verse, giving Indra as a synonym of the moon, referring to it as the controller of senses. A number of verses in this
chapter almost seem to be written after the famous Amaru. It is a matter of research to conclusively establish the identity of the authorship of these two works.
After establishing the joyful nature of sleep, the text describes the unreal nature of the world. The famous illustration of dream is utilized to convey this. The
false appearance of nacre-silver is also considered. The conclusion is that objective world, being a perceptible one, has to be false. Objectivity in nacre-silver, in
dreamt objects and objects in the waking is the same making the inference of unreality rational.
The author takes up the concept of action in the next chapter. In the world, the cause of joy and sorrow is only one’s own action. Fools unnecessarily regard friends
or enemies as the cause. But action and its result, being inanimate, need a conscious cause to connect them which is Mahesvara. Other fools make a mistake in taking
inanimate action itself as an independent cause. Just as a tree is cut by an axe only if a woodcutter wields it; food causes satiation only if a conscious person eats
it, not if filled in a corpse; similarly Mahesvara, the witness of action, induces nescience to fructify the actions performed by a living body identified with mind
and consciousness. Even though many divisions of duty are laid down for separate castes and stations of life, yet the Vedas lay down that they are all for pleasing
Mahesavara. Just as by satisfying the nose, eyes, feet, etc. the soul is satisfied; or by pouring water in the roots, the whole tree becomes fresh; so by pleasing
other deities; Mahesvara is also pleased, for they are His limbs. One who does not know the Self as Mahesvara, exhausts his actions in the end, and is reborn again in
this miserable world. But if one knows the Self as Mahesvara he does not exhaust them, attains higher enjoyments and the eight forms of supernatural powers.
The self-illuminating power of the self is the real light, even behind the light of the luminaries, like the sun. The tika quotes a famous Samaveda verse to
authenticate it. The sun can not illuminate the sun, but the self illuminates it. This clearly shows that the self alone is self-illuminated. The vital activities are
discussed next. The famous Gayatri Mantra is analysed in the Tika to illustrate this, though a link between the mantra and this verse is not clarified.
Any one who realizes the identity of the soul with Mahesvara is liberated in life. By the text ‘any one’, Giri points out, that Sankara implies that caste, age, high
or low birth, male or female sex are no criteria for wisdom. By “person” it is meant that one’s effort manifested through the service to the Guru and hearing etc. of
Vedanta are the only direct causes of wisdom. The wisdom dawns only due to the grace of the teacher. Realisation is attained when all the adjuncts are negated and the
self, as the substrate, is understood as Siva. The same strain is continued in other verses with different examples. Once this state is attained, the body lasts as
long as the results of the fructified actions last. This is because they are the causes of the body. But the wise remains unattached, beyond dualities, bereft of ego,
its associations, ever satisfied, steady in mind, transcending nescience and in Brahmananda. Having been once destroyed, nescience is incapable of covering Siva, even
while projecting the universe. Just as a man drinks coconut milk, and throws away the shell, the wise rejects the world-forms, after taking in the nectar of Siva. All
his actions are burnt away, doubts are removed, and the knot of animate and inanimate cut asunder for ever.
The book ends with a description of the world, as a tree and refers to the self as the Acyuta Vasudeva whose memory destroys all evils. This tree has birth and death
as its fruits, action its roots, misconception, pride, joy and sorrow etc., its various leaves, passion, anger, etc., its branches; sons, wives, animals, daughters,
its nestling birds. It is to be cut by the sword of detachment. The self is always to be remembered as the cause of the world.
These in nutshell are the teaching of Satasloki, concise synthesis of poetry, exegesis and philosophy from the indubitable pen of the great Master. The work with the
commentary was just published by the Institute in 1978 based on a manuscript of the commentary. Later a previously printed edition of the commentary came to our notice
and the learned editor, the late S. Subrahmanya Shastr made all necessary corrections for a reprint. Shastri’s disciple Mani Sharma, a young and laborious scholar, is
presently editing the Institute’s publications. He has revised this work and we are pleased that Mani has shown his capability to bring out a fairly correct edition.
May all study the Satasloki to grasp the Beatific Truth.
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