True nature is internal & free from action

Adi Shankaracharya

To be free from bondage the wise man must practice discrimination between self and non-self. By that alone he will become full of joy, recognizing himself as Being, Consciousness and Bliss.

Just as one separates a blade of grass from its sheaths, so by discriminating one’s true nature as internal, unattached and free from action, and abandoning all else, one is free and identified only with one’s true self.
This body is the product of food, and constitutes the material sheath. It depends on food and dies without it. It is a mass of skin, flesh, blood, bones and uncleanness. It is not fit to see as oneself, who is ever pure.
The body did not exist before birth, nor will it exist after death. It is born for a moment, its qualities are momentary, and it is inherently changing. It is not a single thing, but inert, and should be viewed like an earthen pot. How could it be one’s true self, which is the observer of changing phenomena?
Made up of arms and legs and so on, the body cannot be one’s true self as it can live on without various limbs, and other faculties persist without them. What is controlled cannot be the controller.
While the body of the observer is of a specific nature, behavior and situation, it is clear that the nature of one’s true self is devoid of characteristics.
How could the body, which is a heap of bones, covered with flesh, full of filth and highly impure, be oneself, the featureless observer?
The deluded man makes the assumption that he is the mass of skin, flesh, fat bones and filth, while the man who is strong in discrimination knows himself as devoid of characteristics, the innate supreme Reality.
‘I am the body’ is the opinion of the fool. ‘I am body and soul’ is the view of the scholar, while for the great-souled, discriminating man, his inner knowledge is ‘I am God’.
Get rid of the opinion of yourself as this mass of skin, flesh, fat, bones and filth, foolish one, and make yourself instead the self of everything, the God beyond all thought, and enjoy supreme peace.
While the scholar does not overcome his sense of ‘I am this’ in the body and its faculties, there is no liberation for him, however much he may be learned in religion and philosophy.
Just as you have no self identification with your shadow-body, reflection-body, dream-body or imagination-body, so you should not have with the living body either.
Identification of oneself with the body is the seed of the pain of birth etc. in people attached to the unreal, so get rid of it with care. When this thought is eliminated, there is no more desire for rebirth.
The vital energy joined to the five activities forms the vitality sheath, by which the material sheath is filled, and engages in all these activities.
The Breath, being a product of the vital energy, is not one’s true nature either. Like the air, it enters and leaves the body, and knows neither its own or other people’s good or bad, dependent as it is on something else.
The faculty of knowledge and the mind itself constitute the mind-made sheath, the cause of such distinctions as ‘me’ and ‘mine’. It is strong and has the faculty of creating distinctions of perception etc., and works itself through the vitality sheath.
The mind-made fire burns the multiplicity of experience in the fuel of numerous desires of the senses presented as oblations in the form of sense objects by the five senses like five priests.
There is no such thing as ignorance beyond the thinking mind. Thought is itself ignorance, the cause of the bondage of becoming. When thought is eliminated, everything else is eliminated. When thought increases everything else increases.

Excerpted from Crest Jewel of Wisdom (Viveka-Chudamani)
Adi Shankaracharya

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