Some scholars date these Sanskrit verses as having been composed around four thousand years ago by the last of the great Gurus of ancient Bharat. I have attempted to translate from the Sanskrit, but I don’t think anyone can capture in translation the complete essence of these three quartets which encapsulate the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. Whenever I try to comprehend the meaning of these lines in stillness, I feel my seeker’s quest is whole and complete. There is nothing more to be read, sought, or known when all material existence and experience merge into the primordial truth of the infinite self.
I dearly want to sing these lines on the banks of the Ganga at dawn, but there are practical issues. There is a ten-minute walk in the dark to the nearest bank, and the steps leading to the river are too steep. Besides, even when I visit the ghats on quiet afternoons or evenings to read or just sit soaking in the silence watching the ancient river flow, the monkeys and stray dogs around the place make me wary and leave the place earlier than I would have liked.
R had an immediate solution. The water we get from the taps too comes from the Ganga, she said briskly, so why not just take some in your hands at dawn, open the window, look at the river and sing?
Cheeky, nevertheless it makes sense when one looks at it from the point of view of Advaita Vedanta. Adi Shankaracharya would have approved.
प्रातः स्मरामि हृदि संस्फुरदात्मतत्त्वं
सच्चित्सुखं परमहंसगतिं तुरीयम् ।
तद्ब्रह्म निष्कलमहं न च भूतसङ्घः ॥१॥
At dawn, I meditate on the Infinite Self which illuminates my heart
Which is the ultimate state beyond being, consciousness and bliss
Which is an eternal witness to the states of dreaming, waking and sleeping
Which is the Supreme Soul that I AM, not this body formed of the five elements
प्रातर्भजामि मनसा वचसामगम्यं
वाचो विभान्ति निखिला यदनुग्रहेण ।
स्तं देवदेवमजमच्युतमाहुरग्र्यम् ॥२॥
At dawn, I worship the Infinite Self which is incomprehensible through words or thoughts
Whose grace illuminates all words from within
Whom the scriptures describe as indescribable, saying ‘Not this, Not this’
Who is the Divinity of the Divine, Unborn, Unchanging, Primordial.
प्रातर्नमामि तमसः परमर्कवर्णं
पूर्णं सनातनपदं पुरुषोत्तमाख्यम् ।
रज्ज्वां भुजङ्गम इव प्रतिभासितं वै ॥३॥
At dawn, I bow to the Infinite Self which is the Supreme Light beyond all Darkness
Which is forever infinite, the eternal abode and all-encompassing perfection
On which the material world appears superimposed across space and time,
like an illusion of a snake over what is but a rope.
Morning Meditation, by Adi Shankaracharya