On Shiva Sutra: Common consciousness is a burden

Acharya Prashant
30 min readDec 14, 2021

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Acharya Prashant (AP): Shiva Sutras are the basic, canonical aphorisms of Advait. They come from a ninth-century sage called Vasugupt from Kashmir. Very brief, very secant, they contain everything that there is to the understanding of non-duality. The first sutra says:

Chaitanyam aatma

Consciousness is the Self.

If we go carefully into this one, this Sutra alone, the first one alone would open up everything that deserves to be known about self enquiry. It will open up the beginning, the end, and also the method of Self Enquiry. What does it say?

Consciousness is the Self.

You will have to keep coming along with me. If I am an active speaker, you will have to be an active listener. Yes? I like it when we all move together.

Listeners (L): Where do these verses come from?

AP: They come from a ninth-century sage from Kashmir, Vasugupt. But even he did not say that they come from him. He said he does not know where they come from.

L: Do they have a name?

AP: Shiv Sutras. That’s it.

Now that surprises us because we do not expect an important, serious work to be of two pages. Yes? If it is important, if it is serious and if it is all-encompassing — as I mentioned — then we expect that it must have a certain volume, a certain gravity. Not only the Shiv Sutras, Upanishads like Kena and Isha or Aatm Puja Upanishads, they are all so concise.

Yes! So we are talking about the first sutra, and it says:

Consciousness is the Self.

It must be remembered that when a sage, a seer uses words he does so just out of necessity of communication. He is trying to use words to express That which words cannot usually express. So, he is emptying the words of their usual meaning and trusting it with a transcendental meaning. Hence, it would be an obvious mistake to take the words of a sage and attribute to them, the dictionary meaning.