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The Ashtavakra Gita or the Song of Ashtavakra, also known
as Ashtavakra Samhita is an Advaita Vedanta scripture which
documents a dialogue between the Perfect Master Ashtavakra
and Janaka, the King of Mithila.

 

INTRODUCTION

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

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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 ~

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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 nectarine wisdom.

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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 always free. 1.6

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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 dearest. 1.14

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You are really unbound and actionless,
selfilluminating

and spotless already. The cause of your

bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling
the

mind. 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 be small-minded. 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

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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

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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 pearl. 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

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attributes. By continually reflecting like this, my

dwelling place is the Unimagined. 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 me. 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 a wilderness? 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

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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 wealth? 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 continue. 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

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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 nor disappointed. 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 self-knowledge? 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 rejected? 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 nor pleasurable. 3.14

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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 burden. 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 truth. 4.6

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Adi Da, Ramana Maharshi, Nityananda, Shridi Sai Baba, Upasani Baba,  Seshadri Swamigal , Meher Baba, Sivananda, Ramsuratkumar
“The perfect
among the sages is identical with Me. There is absolutely no
difference between us”
Tripura
Rahasya
,
Chap XX,
128-133


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