Sages have spoken of four means of attainment, which alone being present, the devotion to Brahman succeeds, and in the absence of which, it fails.
First is enumerated discrimination between the Real and the unreal; next comes aversion to the enjoyment of fruits (of one’s actions) here and hereafter; (next is) the group of six attributes, viz. calmness and the rest; and (last) is clearly the yearning for Liberation.
A firm conviction of the mind to the effect that Brahman is real and the universe unreal, is designated as discrimination (Viveka) between the Real and the unreal. Vairagya or renunciation is the desire to give up all transitory enjoyments (ranging) from those of an (animate) body to those of Brahmahood from observation, instruction and so forth.
The resting of the mind steadfastly on its Goal (viz. Brahman) after having detached itself from manifold sense-objects by continually observing their defects, is called Shama or calmness. Turning both kinds of sense-organs away from sense-objects and placing them in their respective centers, is called Dama or self-control.
The best Uparati or self-withdrawal consists in the mind-function ceasing to be affected by external objects. The bearing of all afflictions without caring to redress them, being free (at the same time) from anxiety or lament on their score, is called Titiksha or forbearance.
Acceptance by firm judgment as true of what the Scriptures and the Guru instruct, is called by sages Shraddha or faith, by means of which the Reality is perceived. Not the mere indulgence of thought (in curiosity) but the constant concentration of the intellect (or the affirming faculty) on the ever-pure Brahman, is what is called Samadhana or self-settledness.
Mumukshuta or yearning for Freedom is the desire to free oneself, by realizing one’s true nature, from all bondages from that of egoism to that of the body – bondages superimposed by Ignorance. Even though torpid or mediocre, this yearning for Freedom, through the grace of the Guru, may bear fruit (being developed) by means of Vairagya (renunciation), Shama (calmness), and so on.
In his case, verily, whose renunciation and yearning for Freedom are intense, calmness and the other practices have (really) their meaning and bear fruit. Where (however) this renunciation and yearning for Freedom are torpid, there calmness and the other practices are as mere appearances, like water in a desert.
Among things conducive to Liberation, devotion (Bhakti) holds the supreme place. The seeking after one’s real nature is designated as devotion. Others maintain that the inquiry into the truth of one’s own self is devotion. The inquirer about the truth of the Atman who is possessed of the above-mentioned means of attainment should approach a wise preceptor, who confers emancipation from bondage.
Who is versed in the Vedas, sinless, unsmitten by desire and a knower of Brahman par excellence, who has withdrawn himself into Brahman; who is calm, like fire that has consumed its fuel, who is a boundless reservoir of mercy that knows no reason, and a friend of all good people who prostrate themselves before him.
Worshipping that Guru with devotion, and approaching him, when he is pleased with prostration, humility and service, (he) should ask him what he has got to know: O Master, O friend of those that bow to thee, thou ocean of mercy, I bow to thee; save me, fallen as I am into this sea of birth and death, with a straightforward glance of thine eye, which sheds nectar-like grace supreme.
Excerpted from Vivekachudamani. The 1232nd birth anniversary of Adi Shankaracharya was observed on April 20