Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Recommended Reading
Books attributed to Shankara

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There are a number of books attributed to Shankara (with varying degrees of agreement amongst academics). In fact, the only consistent agreement seems to be regarding his commentaries (bhAsya-s) on the major Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutra. Nevertheless, the following are very significant works of Advaita which embody the principles established by Shankara, whether they were written by the man himself or by his later disciples.

Atmabodha (Knowledge of Self)

Highly recommended, though only available from the Author's organisation 'Vedanta Life Institute', Sri Parthasarathy provides original Sanskrit with word for word translation. The book is also liberally sprinkled with excellent metaphors and stories. The nature of the Real Self is dealt with at length.


Another version of Atmabodha, 'Self Knowledge' is that translated by Swami Nikhilananda. It has copious notes and a very long introduction on Hindu Cosmology, Asramas and Realisation. Very Useful. This recommendation courtesy of Michael Reidy. 10 sample pages to read at this link.
(Buy US or UK)

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The version by Raphael is short, with a good, clear, modern translation and commentary. It lacks Devanagari but has Romanized Sanskrit and uses Sanskrit terms throughout. There is an extensive glossary. (Buy US or UK)


Vivekachudamani (Crest-jewel of discrimination) -
This is probably the most famous of the books attributed to Shankara.


A simple but useful book that is not exactly a commentary, since no actual verses are presented, is that by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. It is eminently readable and presents the material with great clarity. Suitable for those new to Advaita. (Buy US or UK)

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Swami Dayananda Saraswati - Vivekacudamani: Talks on 108 Selected Verses. This is the book that I would recommend to all those who think that they already understand Advaita. I have learned more from this book than any other that I have read. The explanations are crystal clear, often entertaining and presented with the deep wisdom of probably the greatest living sage. There is only one possible problem in that there is a lot of Sanskrit and no glossary, so you have to note carefully as each new word is introduced. The book is available now from Arsha Vidya Gurukulam price $10 + postage.

"...for mokSha there is no choice because the problem is that of ignorance and nothing else resolves ignorance except knowledge. And knowledge is born of a means of knowledge."

Vivekachudamani (The Crest Jewel of Discernment) - This is the only complete version of those mentioned here. The Romanised Sanskrit text is presented in an Appendix and key words are given in brackets as part of the translation of each verse. The translation is accomplished and the commentary benefits from Raphael's vast knowledge of related philosophers such as Parmenides and modern science, as well as being supplemented by relevant quotations from the Upanishads. Combining this with Swami Dayananda's talks on 108 selected verses would provide an excellent overview of advaita, since Raphael covers a number of key topics in his commentary.

56. Liberation (mokSha) is not obtained through Yoga, through sAMkhya, through rite, or through scholarly knowledge (na yogena na sAMkhyeNA no na vidyAyA), but through recognition of the identity of Atman with brahman. There is no other way.

Here the word yoga refers to that kind of union that presupposes a duality: haThayoga, bhaktiyoga, and so on. Only the advaita vedAnta gives the realization of the One-without-a-second.
   The followers of the darshana sAMkhya are dualists: they conceive two principles, puruSha and prakRRiti as real and mutually opposed. Their "vision" is contingent and related to the manifest; they have no interest in the "beyond" or in reconciling this duality within a monistic view.

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Upadesha Sahasri (upadeshasAhasrI) (A thousand teachings)

This is one of the few books that all scholars seem to agree was definitely written by Shankara. It requires some effort on the part of the reader but covers the subject of knowledge of the Self with thoroughness and obvious authority.


The version from Sri Ramakrishna Math, translated by Swami Jagadananda, presents the Devanagari and English translation. One very useful extra is that footnotes are provided listing the Upanishads from which each of the very many references in the text derives. (Buy US or UK)


dRRigdRRishyaviveka (Seer-Seen Discrimination)

A somewhat more obscure book,this is also worth looking out for. It is very small, easily carried around in one's pocket, yet merits re-reading and study. Its title cannot even be written satisfactorily in the Roman alphabet; it is translated as "an inquiry into the nature of the 'seer' and the 'seen'". It addresses the topics of the illusory self, the universe, mAyA and samAdhi.


This pocket version has been translated and annotated by Swami Nikhilananda and is published by Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama. It contains Devanagari, with word by word translation with a little commentary and footnotes. Only 61 pages of text, it can be highly recommend. It is available from the Vedanta Society of Northern California for a mere $1.75.

Raphael cover

dRRigdRRishya viveka is a classic work of advaitin metaphysics attributed to Shankara (though probably not). The title refers to the method of ‘discriminating between seer and seen’, between the witness ‘I’ and the apparent objects of the external world. If I can see them, I cannot be them. Raphael performs a valuable service to the seeker with this new translation and commentary. As well as providing supporting verses from the scriptures, there is a wealth of material from Western sources, especially from the neo-Platonic philosopher Plotinus, to help give additional insight into this profound work.

The transliterated Sanskrit is provided in an Appendix as well as a very extensive glossary of terms. Also, especially worthy of mention, is the huge Bibliographical Appendix covering key texts on Vedanta, translations of the prasthAna traya and other studies, essays and treatises. ISBN 978-1-931406-09-3. (Buy US or UK)

Read an extract from this book.

Brahman is the substratum of all possible phenomena and therefore of the whole of life, life which we erroneously call objective and subjective, visible and invisible, inferior and superior, one and manifold.

Shankara - General

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Most of Shankara's writing is scattered through his various commentaries on the prasthana traya, the only major authenticated work being the Upadesha Sahasri (see above). These writings are available in a number of translations with commentaries by others but the translations are often difficult to follow and rarely what might be called 'readable'.

A. J. Alston (died 2004) was the brilliant translator of 'The Method of the Vedanta'. His ability to render the often abstruse philosophical arguments of Shankara into comprehensible and readable English is without parallel in my experience. Accordingly, this set of books - 'A Shankara Source Book Vols. 1 - 6' - is invaluable to serious students of Advaita. I have only read one of these - Vol. 2 Shankara on the Creation - but am prepared unreservedly to recommend them all on the basis of this.

Each book is divided into clear sections and sub-sections. Each topic is introduced and explained by the author, who then selects relevant passages from Shankara's text which address the topics. It took Alston 37 years to complete this task and Advaitins everywhere can now reap the rewards.

These books are available direct from the publishers Shanti Sadan.

"Chapter VII, section 1, below, will show how he regarded the creation-texts of the Upanishads not so much as statements of historical fact as a device (upAya) to prepare the spiritually ignorant mind to receive the doctrine that behind all apparent plurality there lay real identity."


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Page last updated: 09-Jul-2012