Vivekachudamani: The Crest-Jewel of Discrimination | Śankara-ācārya
The Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, literally "The Crest-Jewel of Discrimination," is perhaps the most famous non-commentarial work of Śankara that expounds Vedanta philosophy.
Viveka means “discrimination”, Cūḍā is crest and Mani – jewel. Hence the title means “Crest jewel of discrimination”. Just as the jewel on the crest of a diadem is the most conspicuous ornament on the person’s body, so the present treatise is a masterpiece among works treating of discrimination between the Real and the Unreal.
Having written pioneering and monumental commentaries on triple cannon comprising the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gītā and Brahma Sūtras,
Śankara also composed several sub-texts in simple Sanskrit, called Prakaraṇa granthas (philosophical treatises), to propagate the message of Vedanta to common people. The Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, as its name signifies, is the crown jewel of such Prakaraṇa texts.
On grounds of style and terminology, some modern scholars have disputed the authorship of Vivekacūḍāmaṇi as ascribed to Śankara.
Nevertheless, the work is consistent with and does not deviate from Śankara’s fundamental Vedāntic stance:
That the Brahman (Absolute) is One only, without a second; that it is absolutely one with the Ātman (Self); that the many-fold world of appearance is non-real (mithyā); that the Brahman (Ultimate Reality) is of the nature of satyam-jñānaṃ-anantam—Existence, Knowledge, Infinite; that self-less actions play preparatory role in purifying the mind to receive the wisdom of Self-Knowledge; that ignorance (avidya) alone is the cause of human bondage; Self-Knowledge (ātma-jñāna) alone is the means to liberation; and that liberation (mukti or moksha) is not possible until one realizes or attains the knowledge of oneness of the Ātman and the Brahman.
However that may be, Vivekacūḍāmaṇi remains a substantial fundament of quintessential Vedanta theory and practice.
Strictly speaking, Śankara’s philosophy is called Kevalādvaita or absolute monism or non-dualism which can be summed up as follows:
The Absolute or the Brahman alone is real and the individual self is the Absolute.
Brahman is undifferentiated Pure Consciousness, devoid of parts, attributes, form, changes or limitations whatsoever. It is self-luminous and all -pervading and one only, without a second.
The Ātman (Self) is ever-free, pure consciousness. The empirical world is non-real, an appearance born out of Maya (illusion) or avidya (ignorance). The be-all and end-all of Advaita is the absolute non-difference of Ātman and Brahman.