Advaita Vedanta in a Nutshell (Aparokshanubhuti by Adi Sankara)

Our ancient teachers have left behind a treasury of useful and convenient means of understanding Vedānta, the science of life, contained in the prasthana traya. Mainly in the Bhagavad Gīṭa, the Upaniṣads and the Brahma Sutras.

One such stream of teaching is through their works called prakiriya granthas.

Prakarana Grantha is a User’s Manual or a Guide Book which explains in simple terms without much of discussions and elaborations, the great philosophical truths developed in a Sastra Grantha which bears the stamp of authority. Some of the famous prakarana granthas are:

Viveka Chudamani, Pancha Dasi, Atma Bodha, Tatva Bodha, Drik-Drisya Viveka, Sadhana Panchakam, Vedanta Sara and so on.

Aparokshanubhuti is the one of such important prakriya granthas on Advaita Vedanta written by Adi Sankara. It contains 144 verses or slokas. The central theme of the book is the identity of the individual self with the Universal Self.

 This identity is realized through the removal of the ignorance that hides the truth , by the light of vichara or enquiry alone.


To those who have neither the time nor the opportunity to go through the great commentaries on the Upanishads or the classical works of Sankara, this book will be an incomparable assistant in their search for the spiritual truth and to understand the entire Advaita Philosophy within a short and simple compass.

The meaning of the word ‘Aparokshanubhuti’ is as follows.

Aks means eyes.

para-aksa means somebody’s eyes.

Hence Paroksa means through the eyes of someone else – or a secondhand or a re-user in the modern terminology.

Aparoksa means ‘not secondhand’ i.e. first hand or original or direct.

Anubhuti means experience.

Thus the very name of the text indicates the experience of some thing directly by us and not through something else (indirect). That experience is the knowledge of the Self (Ātman, BrahmanPurusha).

Sankara’s thesis: 

  1. Till we develop the capacity to distinguish between Brahman and the things that we see around us in this world, we will continue to remain under the illusion that our body is the Ātman.
  2. The phenomenal world is an illusion and what is beyond all such phenomena is Brahman, the Absolute Truth.
  3. Examine the reason for this illusion. Find out for yourself that ignorance or Avidyā or Maya is the cause of such illusion.
  4. Realize the identity of the individual self, Ātman with the Universal Self, Brahman.

Then he prescribes 15 steps to attain this Truth and cautions against eight impediments that will come in the way of achieving this goal.

Download the PDF of Aparokṣānubhūti text.

 (NOTE: Text is only for reference. It's not mean to be studied alone. It's taught teacher-student style.  Find a competent teacher. Yes Vedanta also teaches it. Contact us to see if can arrange a weekly webinar style training.)

– Credit: T.N.Sethumadhavan


  1. Maybe you can help me to solve this conundrum. Perhaps the greatest logical problem of Advaita Vedanta:

    1. If we are God,
    2. If we are in maya,
    3. Then, God is in illusion (maya).
    4. Therefore, illusion is more
    powerful than God.

    No follower of Advaita has been able to solve this problem ever, as far as I can see. There is no way around this. If you claim that we are God, but we have forgotten that we are God and our goal is to remember that we are God, there is still this problem: how did we forget? How is it possible that something can overpower God?

    1. Humble devotions to the Almighty!

      Hi Mark,

      Self-realization is a unique journey/research, which operates at various levels of identity. It begins at the level of the body-mind and then finally ends with the Self – the Pure Consciousness.

      All your questions at the level of body-mind, where Maya is as real as we individual beings. But once you intensely and sincerely follow the first step of Advaita Vedanta of separating apparent self from the body-mind, you will reach to a position of witnessing self. After this is the crucial second step and final step of understanding of merging body-mind and the entire world into the witnessing self and realize as one and only Self, where Maya ceases to exist. You would have read in the Aprokshanubhuti text once the realization dawns then all the karma are dissolved, which only means that there is no Maya for the Brahman, and there is only That – The Pure Consciousness, that is You.

      The best example given in this respect is the dream. In the dream our mind projects the entire dream world, dream objects and dream characters, and us. In the dream everything appears real and even the experience of any kind is also felt real. Exactly in the same way when you snap out of a dream and feel that it was a dream, on self-realization, you feel that this world, Maya and the individual self was a mere projection of me – The Pure Consciousness – You.

      I hope, I was able to at least intrigue your quest in a positive direction so that you can progress with your Spiritual Journey with genuine earnest and reach what all of us are wanting for.

    2. There is one consciousness. some being are under illusion some are freed we are not god , but pure consciousness is. we are still beings untill we realize everything is one . And one is everything untill that realization you are just a jiva ( being) . Trapped in matter . God is just pure consciousness .

      1. Thank you Addy.

        Ignorant chair says “I am chair”.

        Ignorant table says “I am table”.

        Wise chair says “I am a chair no doubt, but actually I am wood”.

        Wise table says “I am table no doubt, but actually I am wood”.

        Thus the wise mind discards nothing, because it’s able to reconcile the “apparent differences”.

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