Notable Books

Notable Books 9

Edited by Bib Leo Phyle – Planet Earth

Viveka Chudamani (The Crest Jewel of Discriminative Wisdom)

The Viveka Chudamani is one of the great spiritual guidebooks of humanity. It was written by Shankaracharya in the Vedanta tradition of Hindu philosophy. It has often been translated; especially recommended are the following:

Viveka Chudamani or Crest Jewel of Wisdom of Sri Sankaracharya. Trans. Mohini M. Chatterji. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1932.


Shankara's Crest Jewel of Discrimination (Viveka-chudamani), with A Garland of Questions and Answers (Prasnottara Malika). Trans. Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. Hollywood, CA: Vedanta Press, 1947, 1975.

The Pinnacle of Indian Thought; Being a New, Independent Translation of the Viveka Chudamani (Crest Jewel of Discrimination) with Commentaries. Trans. Ernest Wood. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1967.

Ernest Wood

The Viveka Chudamani is the principal work of the renowned Hindu philosopher Shankara (acharya means “teacher”). It is also notable as the work that provided the basis for Krishnamurti’s At the Feet of the Master, whose four qualifications for entering the Path were drawn from the Viveka Chudamani and adapted to the understanding of a young boy.

The original 580 Sanskrit verses are a dialog in which the master teacher explains to a disciple what Atman or Brahman (ultimate reality and truth) is and how to reach it, thereby achieving self-realization and liberation from the illusions of life. HPB calls Shankara (510-478 BC) "the greatest of the esoteric masters of India," and "one of the greatest minds that appeared on earth" (Secret Doctrine 1:86, 522).

Shankara teaches that all of our suffering is due to the fact that we have failed to realize that our ultimate self is identical with the supreme spirit of the cosmos: we are one with the divine. Only in the human state can we attain that realization: “For beings a human birth is hard to win, then humanity and holiness, then excellence in the path of wise law; hardest of all to win is wisdom” (verse 2). The quality of humanity involves kindness, unselfishness, helpfulness, and good will toward all others.

The defining quality of a human being is the possession of manas or mind. But manas is of two kinds: lower and higher. Lower manas is entangled with kama or passion, whereas higher manas is aligned with buddhi (the wisdom that underlies discrimination or viveka): “Therefore mind is the cause of man's bondage, and in turn of his liberation; when darkened by the powers of passion it is the cause of bondage, and when pure of passion and darkness it is the cause of liberation” (verse 175).

Liberation is not achieved by book-learning, but by action leading to realization: “Disease is never cured by saying the name of medicine without taking it; liberation is not achieved by the word Brahman without direct perception of the reality: (verse 64). The result of liberation is that the liberated soul becomes the savior of others: “The great and peaceful ones live regenerating the world like the coming of spring, and after having themselves crossed the ocean of embodied existence, help those who try to do the same thing, without personal motives. This desire is spontaneous, since the natural tendency of great souls [mahatmas] is to remove the suffering of others” (verses 39-40).

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