The Ashtavakra Gita or the Song of Ashtavakra, also known
as The Song of the Eightfold Cripple, the Ashtavakra Gita or
the Ashtavakra Samhita scripture which documents a dialogue
between the Perfect Master Ashtavakra and Janaka, the King
There are 298 stanzas of the Gita dwelling on various
aspects of liberation, have no reference to God.
Ashtavakra’s discourse is divided into 20 chapters, which
deal with detachment, quietude, wisdom, happiness,
tranquillity, self-knowledge, peace, self-repose and
The Ashtavakra Gita teaches that one is already free once
one realises one is free. It paints a picture of The Master
as someone who continues to keep up their responsibilities
in the world, not because they believe they have to or due
to any worldy attachments, but simply that it is in their
nature to do so. To avoid misinterpretation in this regard
teachers traditionally recommend that Ashtavakra Gita be
pursued by only those who have already advanced on the
Part I – Part
II – Part
Once upon a time there was a student of the scriptures
who could not support his family. He would work hard all day
every day and then read aloud the holy language of sacred
verses late into the night. His wife, round of belly with
their coming child, would sit besides him in the dim room,
listening as her weary beloved chanted the ancient words.
One late night in her eighth month a voice from inside her
belly said to the father: “Sir, please be attentive – you
are mispronouncing that verse.” Tired and short-tempered,
without thinking why he would feel so enraged at being
corrected by an unborn child, the father cursed the voice-
and because the father had built up merit, his curse took
hold: the child was born deformed, with eight crooks in his
body. That child was called Ashtavakra, a name which means
`eight bends’. Everyone who saw him laughed in derision.
That crippled child was an enlightened master who took birth
in this family to reveal in simple words the essence of
mystical experience. Janaka, king of the known world, father
of the bride of God, Sita, daughter of the earth, that very
King Janaka became this crippled boy’s disciple.
The book based on that event is called The Song of the
Eightfold Cripple, or Ashtavakra Gita. Ashtavakra was not
keen on accepting students, and so had few. When King Janaka
came to hear of the wisdom of the crippled child he
approached the boy as a humble student, not a commanding
king. The boy accepted the king instantly as his disciple.
This caused some talk in the sangha.
Ah, Ashtavakra does have favourites after all, he
accepted the king without any of the trials he had all of us
face !~ This grumbling became a quiet force, and Ashtavakra
knew of it. One day the King was late and so the boy delayed
his discourse. The moment the king arrived, Ashtavakra
spoke: `This day I have had a vision, the capitol city will
erupt in terrible fires and earthquakes- all there will die.
Those who have loved ones or valuables there must hurry now
if they wish to save anything!’ All the monks left. As the
dust settled, only the boy and the king were sitting. The
boy said softly, `Great king, is there nothing you would
save?` Janaka replied, My lord and my friend, you are my
only treasure. The cripple nodded and softly said, Well then
if I am indeed your treasure, mount your horse now and go
and gather my students back to me, tell them I have been
mistaken, the capitol city is in no danger.
Take your horse, and go. Rising to do as bidden, the King
put his foot into the stirrup, and as he swung up over the
saddle, realisation dawned in his mind. He swallowed, looked
about him at this new earth, heard new birds singing for the
first time, and then looked at the cripple at his feet. The
two looked at one another, and then the king left to find
the other students. Once back, the other students grumbled
at being sent about here and there on foolish errands. One
or two however did soon understand why the master had chosen
the king as a student in his own way. This is what was said
that day, as all sat about and heard these words of
THE VERSES OF ASHTAVAKRA GITA Janaka said:
How is knowledge to be acquired? How is liberation to be
attained? And how is dispassion to be reached?
Tell me this, sir.
1.1 Ashtavakra said: If you are seeking liberation, my
dearest one, shun the objects of the senses like poison.
Draught the nectar of tolerance, sincerity, compassion,
contentment and truthfulness.
1.2 You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even
ether. For liberation know yourself as consisting of
consciousness, the witness of these five.
1.3 If only you will remain resting in consciousness,
seeing yourself as distinct from the body, then even now you
will become happy, peaceful and free from bonds.
1.4 You do not belong to the brahmin or warrior or any
other caste, you are not at any stage, nor are you anything
that the eye can see. You are unattached and formless, the
witness of everything – now be happy.
1.5 Righteousness and unrighteousness, pleasure and pain
are purely of the mind and are no concern of yours. You are
neither the doer nor the reaper of the consequences; you are
1.6 You are the one witness of everything, and are always
totally free. The cause of bondage is that one sees the
witness as something other than this.
1.7 Since you have been bitten by that black snake of
self-opinion- thinking foolishly that `I am the doer,’, now
drink the nectar in the fact that “I am not the doer”, and
now be happy.
1.8 Burn down the forest of ignorance with the fire of
understanding. Know `I am the one pure awareness.’ With such
ashes now be happy, free from distress.
1.9 That in which all this appears is but imagined like
the snake in a rope; that joy, supreme knowledge and
awareness is what you are; now be happy.
1.10 If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and
if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound. Here this
saying `Thinking makes it so’ is true .
1.11 Your real nature is one perfect, free, and
actionless consciousness, the all-pervading witness –
unattached to anything, desireless, at peace. It is illusion
that you seem to be involved in any other matter.
1.12 Meditate on yourself as motionless awareness, free
from any dualism, giving up the mistaken idea that you are
just a derivative consciousness; anything external or
internal is false.
1.13 You have long been trapped in the snare of
identification with the body. Sever it with the knife of
knowledge that “I am awareness”, and be happy, my
1.14 You are really unbound and actionless,
selfilluminating and spotless already. The cause of your
bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling the
1.15 All of this is really filled by you and strung out
in you, for what you consist of is pure awareness – so don’t
1.16 You are unconditioned and changeless, formless and
immovable, unfathomable awareness, imperturbable- such
consciousness is unclinging.
1.17 Recognise that the apparent is unreal, while the
unmanifest is abiding. Through this initiation into truth
you will escape falling into unreality again.
1.18 Just as a mirror exists as part and apart from its
reflected images, so the Supreme Lord exists as part and
apart from this body.
1.19 Just as one and the same all-pervading space exists
within and without a jar, so the eternal, everlasting Being
exists in the totality of things.
1.20 Janaka said Truly I am spotless and at peace, the
awareness beyond natural causality. All this time I have
been afflicted by delusion.
2.1 As I alone give light to this body, so do I enlighten
the world. As a result the whole world is mine, and,
alternatively, nothing is.
2.2 So now abandoning the body and everything else,
suddenly somehow my true self becomes apparent.
2.3 Just as waves, foam and bubbles are not different
from water, so all this which has emanated from oneself, is
no other than oneself.
2.4 Just as cloth when examined is found to be just
thread, so when all this is analysed it is found to be no
other than oneself.
2.5 Just as the sugar produced from the juice of the
sugarcane is permeated with the same taste, so all this,
produced out of me, is completely permeated with me.
2.6 From ignorance of oneself, the world appears, and by
knowledge of oneself it appears no longer. From ignorance of
the rope a snake appears, and by knowledge of the rope the
snake appears no longer. Shining is my essential nature, and
I am nothing over and beyond that. When the world shines
forth, it is simply me that is shining forth.
2.8 All this appears in me, imagined, due to ignorance,
just as a snake appears in the rope, just as the mirage of
water in the sunlight, and just as silver in mother of
2.9 All this, which has originated out of me, is resolved
back into me too, like a gourd back into soil, a wave into
water, and a bracelet into gold.
2.10 How wonderful I am! Glory to me, for whom there is
no destruction, remaining even beyond the destruction of the
world from Brahma down to the last blade of grass.
2.11 How wonderful I am! Glory to me, solitary! Even
though with a body, I am neither going or coming anywhere; I
abide forever, filling all that is.
2.12 How wonderful I am! Glory to me! There is no one so
clever as me! I have borne all that is, forever, without
even touching it with my body!
2.13 How wonderful I am! Glory to me! I possess nothing
at all, and alternatively possess everything to which speech
and mind can refer.
2.14 Knowledge, what is to be known, and the knower –
these three do not exist in reality. I am the spotless
reality in which they appear, spotted by ignorance.
2.15 Truly dualism is the root of suffering. There is no
other remedy for it than the realisation that all this that
one sees is unreal, and that I am the one stainless reality,
consisting of consciousness.
2.16 I am pure awareness although through ignorance I
have imagined myself to have additional 9 attributes.
By continually reflecting like this, my dwelling place is
2.17 For me, here is neither bondage nor liberation. The
illusion has lost its basis and ceased. Truly all this
exists in me, though ultimately it does not even exist in
2.18 I have recognised that all this and my body are
nothing, while my true self is nothing but pure
consciousness- so what can the imagination work on now?
2.19 The body, heaven and hell, bondage and liberation,
and fear too, all this is active imagination. What is there
left to do for one whose very nature is consciousness?
2.20 Truly I do not see dualism even in a crowd of
people. What pleasure should I have when it has turned into
2.21 I am not the body, nor is the body mine. I am not a
living being. I am consciousness. It was my thirst for
living that was my bondage.
2.22 Truly it is in the limitless ocean of myself,
stimulated by the colourful waves of the worlds, that
everything suddenly arises in the wind of consciousness.
2.23 It is in the limitless ocean of myself, that the
wind of thought subsides; the trader-like living creatures’
world ark is now dry-docked by lack of goods.
2.24 How wonderful it is that in the limitless ocean of
myself the waves of living beings arise, collide, play and
disappear, according to their natures.
2.25 Ashtavakra said Knowing yourself as truly one and
indestructible, how could a wise man like you – one
possessing self-knowledge- feel any pleasure in acquiring
3.1 Truly, when one does not know oneself, one takes
pleasure in the objects of mistaken perception, just as
greed for its seeming silver arises in one who does not know
mother-of-pearl for what it is.
3.2 All this wells up like waves in the sea. Recognising,
I am That, why run around like someone in need?
3.3 After hearing of oneself as pure consciousness and
the supremely beautiful, is one to go on lusting after
sordid sensual objects?
3.4 When the sage has realised that one is oneself is in
all beings, and all beings are in oneself, it is astonishing
that the sense of individuality should be able to
3.5 It is astonishing that a person who has reached the
supreme non-dual state and is intent on the benefits of
liberation should still be subject to lust and be held back
by the desire to copulate.
3.6 It is astonishing that one already very debilitated,
and knowing very well that sensual arousal is the enemy of
knowledge should still eagerly hanker after concupiscence,
even when approaching one’s last days.
3.7 It is astonishing that one who is unattached to the
things of this world or the next, who discriminates between
the permanent and the impermanent, and who longs for
liberation, should still feel fear for liberation.
3.8 Whether feted or tormented, the wise person is always
aware of the supreme self-nature and is neither expectant
3.9 The great souled person sees even one’s own body in
action as if it were someone else’s, so how then be
disturbed by praise or blame?
3.10 Seeing this world as pure illusion, and devoid of
any interest in it, how should the strong-minded person feel
fear, even at the approach of death?
3.11 Who is to be compared to the great-souled person
whose mind is free of desire, free of expectation and
disappointment, and who has found satisfaction in
3.12 How should a strong-minded person who knows that
whatever is seen is by its very nature nothing, how then
consider one thing to be grasped and another to be
3.13 For someone who has eliminated attachment, and who
is free from dualism and from desire and from repulsion, for
such a one an object that comes of itself is neither painful
3.14 Ashtavakra said Certainly the wise person of
self-knowledge, playing the game of worldly life, bears no
resemblance whatever to the world’s bewildered beasts of
4.1 Truly the one centered in mystic union feels no
excitement even at being established in that state which all
the gods from Indra down yearn for disconsolately.
4.2 He who has known That is untouched within by good
deeds or bad, just as the sky is not touched by smoke,
however much it may appear to be.
4.3 Who can prevent the great-souled person who has known
this whole world as oneself from living as one pleases?
4.4 Of all the four categories of beings, from Brahma
down to the driest clump of grass, only the person of
knowledge is capable of eliminating desire and aversion.
4.5 Rare is the person who knows oneself as the undivided
Lord of the world; no fear occurs to one who lives the
Part I – Part
II – Part