Essence of Self-Knowledge

The Hastamalaka Stotra, believed to have been composed by one of Adi Sankara’s disciples, captures the irony and

contradiction in the attempt to pinpoint the essence of Self-Knowledge, pointed out Swami Gautamananda in a

discourse. It is held that Adi Sankara met a fifteen-year-old

boy in a village in South India who had never spoken since

birth. When the boy saw Adi Sankara, he prostrated in front

of him. Adi Sankara instantly recognised the boy’s spiritual

awareness. He asked the boy why he didn’t speak. The boy

asked in return what he should talk about. Is it not a truth

that the ultimate truth cannot be grasped through words?

Wishing to make the greatness of the boy known to all, Adi

Sankara then pursued with another question: ‘Tell me who

you are. Whose son are you? What is your name? From

where have you come?’ The boy replied: ‘I am not man, not

deva, or yaksha, not a brahmin, kshatriya, etc, not a student, nor a householder, nor a forest dweller, nor a mendicant nor a sanyasi. I am of the nature of self-knowledge.’ In twelve stanzas this work captures the essence of the Self and the teachings of Vedanta. The boy became his disciple and later was the head of the Dwaraka Mutt. The Bhagavad Gita supports the views of the Upanishads on the Supreme Self’s unmanifest and unchanging nature. The Isavasya Upanishad states that “The Supreme, tad ekam, is without qualities and attributes, neither existent nor non-existent.”

The Brihadharanyaka says, “Where everything indeed has

become the self itself, whom and by what should one think?

By what can we know the universal knower?” While

instructing the Kshetra Kshetrajna jnana, Krishna airms

that Prakriti, Nature, and Purusha, the Self, are the two sides of the Supreme Being.