What is the core of the Ashtavakra Gita

Ashtavakra Gita

The Ashtavakra Gita is a dialogue between teacher and student

The Ashtavakra Gita, (Sanskrit Devanagari: अष्टावक्रगीता; IAST: aṣṭāvakragītā), is a sacred book of Vedanta or Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge. The Ashtavakra Gita is a dialogue between the sage Ashtavakra and King Janaka. The Ashtavakra Gita is a fairly thorough advaita text. The Ashtavakra Gita is similar in many ways to the Avadhuta Gita. The Ashtavakra Gita is not an intellectual but an intuitively inspired treatise. Indologists assume that the Ashtavakra Gita was written shortly after the Bhagavad Gita, i.e. around 500-400 BC.

Meaning of the Ashtavakra Gita

The Ashtavakra Gita is one of the most important texts of the Advaita Vedanta. The Ashtavakra Gita is also often quoted by modern Vedanta masters such as Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Radhakrishnan.

Swami Sivananda on the essence of the Ashtavakra Gita

SwamiSivananda writes in his book Sarva Gita Sara [1] about the essence of the Ashtavakra Gita: The goal of life is the realization of the Truth or Brahman. Only the Jivanmukta alone is the truly blessed person. Binding arises from ignorance - through the eradication of this ignorance comes liberation from earthly bondage. Absolute freedom is the very essence of self. It is the emergence of a second entity next to the self that becomes the cause of all sorrow and worry. Complete detachment from all attachments is the only panacea against this samsara, the cycle of birth and death. The goal of all efforts is the complete sinking into and the complete dissolution of the personal self in pure being. This is the peak of perfection and bliss. This is the core of the Ashtavakra Gita. [2]

Characters in the Ashtavakra Gita

The Ashtavakra Gita is written as a dialogue between the guru and yoga master Ashtavakra and the disciple Janaka:

  • Ashtavakra, literally "eightfold curved", is a self-realized saint and sage who is also described in the Mahabharata. Apparently Ashtavakra was physically disfigured or severely disabled. That such a person has reached the highest realization and is accepted by a king as a guru should symbolize that the highest realization does not depend on health / illness of the body and does not necessarily have to lead to a transformation of the body. The body is the temple - but the deity can be perceptible in the temple regardless of the shape of the temple. The body may have its ailments - the self, the atman, is free from them.
  • Janaka is the king of Mithila or Videha. He is considered the father of Sita. Janaka had two Gurus: Ashtavakra and Yajnavalkya. Janaka is described in the Mahabharata, in the Ramayana and in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Janaka is seen as an example of an aspirant who remains arrested in the luxury of a successful life and realizes the highest self.

The twenty chapters of the Ashtavakra Gita

The Ashtavakra Gita has twenty chapters:

  1. Sakshi - The Self as the Observer
  2. Ashcharyam - The miracle of the self as infinite and beyond nature
  3. Atmadvaita - the self in all and the all in the self
  4. Sarvamatma - The knower and the ignorant of the self
  5. Laya - stages of dissolution of consciousness
  6. Prakriteh Parah - The irrelevance of the dissolution of consciousness
  7. Shanta - The stillness of the ocean of consciousness, the Supreme Self
  8. Moksha - bondage and liberation
  9. Nirveda - equanimity
  10. Vairagya - renunciation, arrestlessness
  11. Chidrupa - The Self as pure, infinite consciousness
  12. Svabhava - experience of true nature through meditation
  13. Yathasukham - Transcendent Bliss
  14. Ishvara - The Natural Dissolution of the Mind; God
  15. Tattvam - The essential: The unborn self, Brahman
  16. Svasthya - Resting in oneself through detachment from the apparent world
  17. Kaivalya - liberation through the realization of the solitude of the self
  18. Jivanmukti - The Liberated One - Samadhi
  19. Svamahima - The greatness of the Self
  20. Akinchanabhava - The Transcendence of the Self

The main verses of the Ashtavakra Gita

Swami Sivananda considered the following verses to be the most important of the Ashtavakra Gita and therefore included them in his work Sarvagita Sara.

I-2 If you are looking for liberation, dear child, then avoid all objects like poison. Take refuge in forgiveness, sincerity, compassion, contentment, and truthfulness, just as you would seek nectar for refreshment.

I-3 You are neither earth nor water, neither fire, air nor space. For the purpose of your liberation, recognize the Self, which is pure consciousness, as the witness of all of this.

I-4 When you give up identification with the body and rest in the mind, this is the moment when you can be happy, peaceful, and free from attachment.

I-6 Justice and injustice, joy and pain are part of the intellect but not you. Oh you all-pervading one! You are neither the doer nor the enjoyer - you are forever in a state of liberation.

I-7 You are the one seer of everything, you are always free. Your only bond is that you see the seer as a separate being.

I-8 You were bitten by the big black snake of selfish feeling, of "I am the doer" - take an antidote by drinking the ambrosia of trust "I am not the doer" and be happy.

I-9 Burn the forest of ignorance with the fire of conviction: "I am the one, pure consciousness". So get rid of grief and be happy.

I-10 However this universe appears, like a rope that is mistaken for a snake, you are always only this consciousness bliss, the highest bliss! Live happy!

I-11 Whoever thinks he is free is indeed free. Whoever thinks he is bound is in fact bound! “You become what you think” is actually a true saying.

I-12 The Atman is the witness, omnipresent, the abundance, the one, free, consciousness, non-acting, (arrestless), desireless and peaceful - but through deception it appears as of this world.

I-13 Realize that the self is immobile. It is consciousness and nondual in that you give up the wrong view of an inside and outside and the delusion "I am a reflection" (i.e. an individual, a separate being).

I-14 Oh dear child! For so long you have been tied with the rope of the conviction “I am the body”. Cut it with the sword of wisdom: "I am consciousness" and be happy.

I-15 You are detached, non-acting, self-radiating, and immaculate - your attachment is to practice samadhi.

I-16 You permeate the universe and, in fact, it is within you. You yourself are the form of purity and consciousness - don't be so small-minded!

I-17 You are desireless, unchangeable, without duties, free from passions, unfathomable awareness, untouched - therefore strive for awareness and nothing else.

I-18 Know that what has form is unreal, and that what is formless is immutable. After teaching the truth, there is no return to samsara.

I-20 The one, omnipresent space is outside as inside the jar - in the same way the eternal, indivisible Brahman exists in the multitude of beings.

II-4 Just as waves, foam, and bubbles are no different from water, so the universe expressed by self is no different from them.

II-5 Just as a careful examination reveals that a cloth is made up of nothing but threads, so this universe, when thoroughly explored, is recognized as nothing other than the being of the Atman.

II-7 This world appears due to ignorance of the self - it does not appear when there is self-knowledge. The snake appears instead of the rope because of ignorance - if the rope is recognized, the snake disappears.

II-8 Shine is my true form - I am nothing else than that. When the universe manifests itself, it is only I who shines as this.

II-10 The universe that emerged from myself will dissolve again in me alone - just like a pot will dissolve again in earth, waves in water and a piece of jewelry in gold.

II-11 How wonderful I am! I adore myself; - I can never be destroyed. Even if the universe of Brahman were destroyed to the last blade of grass - I exist.

II-12 How wonderful I am! I adore myself; - although there is a body, I am only the one. I'm still coming, I'm going to a place. I exist by pervading the entire universe.

II-13 How wonderful I am! I adore myself; - Nobody equals me. Without touching the body, I will forever carry the universe.

II-16 Oh, verily all sorrow is rooted in duality. There is no other cure for this other than realizing that this visible universe is unreal and that I alone am the pure essence of consciousness.

II-20 Body, heaven and hell, bondage and liberation, fear - all of these are mere imaginations. What do I, who am pure consciousness, have to do with it?

II-21 Oh, I don't see duality in the crowd either. All of this is just like an illusion - who am I that I should be attached to something?

II-23 Oh, in Me the great, infinite ocean, these wonderful waves of all universes appear as soon as the wind of the spirit blows.

II-25 Oh miracles! In Me, the infinite, great ocean, the waves of the Jivas appear, crash over one another; play in it (for a short time) and, according to their nature, perish in it again.

III-2 Ah! Because of ignorance of the self, love for the objects of deceived perception arises, just as ignorance of the nature of mother-of-pearl creates greed for the illusory silver.

III-3 Know yourself as being that where worlds hit each other like waves in the ocean - why are you walking around like a miserable being?

III-4 How can one who has heard that the Self is pure consciousness and of extraordinary glory be still defiled by lust for women?

III-7 Knowing that passion is wisdom's worst enemy, it is astonishing that even those who have grown weak and who see the end of their days approaching still pursue the pleasures of lust.

III-9 The hero, on the other hand, whether one always gives festivities for him or whether he is always tormented, neither shouts nor is he angry, because he always sees only the one, absolute self.

III-11 What could frighten the bold thinker who regards this universe as a mere illusion and has lost all curiosity - even if death should approach him?

III-12 To whom is this great soul the same, which remains desireless even in disappointment and is satisfied through self-knowledge?

IV-4 Who could keep him from living the way he wants; - who is this great soul who has recognized that this whole world is nothing but the self?

IV-6 He who knows that the non-dual self is the source of the whole universe, who acts as he thinks, does not feel any fear.

V-1 Dissolve yourself knowing that you are unattached; that you, the pure, do not have to renounce anything by dissolving the entire embodiment (body and spirit).

V-2 Dissolve yourself knowing that the universe rises in you like air bubbles in the ocean and only the Atman exists alone.

V-3 Dissolve yourself knowing that the universe, although visible, does not exist in you, the pure one, since it is a non-entity and just like the rope appears as a serpent.

V-4 Dissolve yourself knowing that you are the same in joy and sorrow, hope and disappointment, life and death, and will remain the same forever.

VI-1 I am infinite like space, this world, like the clay jug, is just a phenomenon - that is wisdom. This does not have to be rejected, accepted or destroyed.

VI-4 I am in all beings, all beings are in me - this does not have to be rejected, accepted or destroyed.

VII-2 Let the waves of the universe in Me, the infinite great ocean, rise or fall - thereby I will neither become smaller nor larger.

VII-5 Oh, I truly am nothing but pure consciousness - this world is just a sleight of hand! How and where could there therefore be a rejection, an acceptance or even such an idea in me?

VIII-1 Attachment arises as soon as the mind longs for something, mourns something, rejects something, accepts something, becomes pleased about something, and becomes angry about something.

VIII-2 Liberation is when the mind neither demands, mourns, rejects, accepts, rejoices, nor becomes angry.

VIII-4 Liberation is when there is no "I". Bonding is there when there is an “I”. Know this and accept nothing and reject nothing.

IX-2 Rare is this blessed person, oh dear child, who has extinguished his desires for life, for pleasure and knowledge by looking at the foolish world.

IX-3 A wise person becomes silent as soon as he realizes that all of this is ephemeral, threatened with infirmity (physical, worldly and heavenly), insignificant, insignificant and of no value.

IX-8 Desires are synonymous with samsara - so give up all desires. The eradication of samsara is done through renunciation of desires - then live as you please.

X-2 Look at friends, possessions, wealth, houses, wives, loved ones, and possessions of all kinds as mere dreams or sleight of hand tricks that last only a short time.

X-5 You are the one, pure consciousness, the universe is lifeless and unreal, there is also no ignorance - how can there still be a desire for knowledge in you?

X-6 You were attached to kingdoms, sons, wives, bodies and pleasures, and yet you lost all of these again and again after each birth.

X-7 Away with all the wealth, the desires and the virtuous deeds - in the wasteland of samsara the mind cannot find peace in all these things.

X-8 In how many births have you done such hard and arduous work with body, mind and speech! Now at least refrain from actions.

XII-6 The practice of action is ignorance - renunciation of all action is also ignorance. Since I have completely internalized this truth, I remain true to it.

XIII-1 The constant peace that comes from renunciation cannot be won by giving up everything but a single kaupeena (loincloth). Hence, by giving up both renunciation and acquisition, I live happily.

XIII-2 The body keeps causing difficulties, the tongue keeps causing inconvenience, the mind keeps thinking up problems. In renouncing all of this, I have anchored myself in the highest goal of spiritual pursuit.

XIII-4 The yogis, attached to the body, insist on action and inactivity. Since I know neither union nor separation, I live happily.

XIV-4 The various behaviors of the one who is free from thought inside, but who appears to the outside as a confused person as he pleases, can only be understood by those who are like him.

XV-1 A person of pure intellect achieves his goal even without explicit instruction (from others), while others are still confused even after lifelong study.

XV-2 Being dispassionate towards objects means freedom - passion for things means attachment. That is the knowledge. Now do what you like.

XV-3 This knowledge of the truth makes an eloquent, intelligent, and extremely active person dumb, limited, and inactive. Hence it (knowledge) is rejected by those who seek worldly pleasures.

XV-4 You are not the body and the body is not yours; you are neither the enjoyer nor the doer; you are the form of pure consciousness; you are forever the witness and desireless. Live happy!

XV-5 Attachment and hatred are part of the Dharma (nature) of the mind. The mind is never yourself; you are free of thought and unchangeable; you are the essence of pure consciousness. Live happy!

XV-7 Oh you form of consciousness! You are indeed where this universe appears like waves in the ocean - there is no doubt about it. May you be free from a fever!

XV-8 Have confidence, oh dear child, have confidence! Do not fall into this delusion. You are the Lord, you are the form of knowledge, you are the Atman, you are beyond the Prakriti.

XV-14 Whatever you perceive, you never perceive anything other than yourself in it.Are pieces of jewelry, bracelets and anklets different from gold?

XV-15 Give up these distinctions between “this I am, this I am not”, see everything as the Self (Atman), be free from thought and be happy!

XV-16 This universe exists entirely because of your ignorance. In fact, you alone are the only one that exists. Except for you, there is really no one here who is bound or not bound by samsara.

XV-20 Also give up meditation completely, don't think about anything anymore - you are already the free self. What do you hope to achieve by thinking?

XVI-1 Oh dear child! You may discuss or listen to various scriptures in various ways, but you cannot attain self-realization except by forgetting about everything.

XVI-2 Oh wise man! You may enjoy, practice, or practice samadhi, but your mind will still crave that which is beyond all desire.

XVI-3 Everyone is unhappy only because they take action - no one knows this secret. This one instruction is enough for the happy person to attain liberation.

XVI-4 Happiness belongs to the master of idleness, for whom the simple act of opening and closing the eyelids is a nuisance, to no one else.

XVI-11 Even let Shiva, Vishnu or Brahma be your teachers. However, you will not achieve self-realization without forgetting everything.

XVII-2 Oh verily, the knower of truth does not mourn for anything in this world, for this whole universe is filled with him alone.

XVII-14 For those for whom the ocean of samsara has completely dried up, there is neither attachment nor renunciation. His gaze is blank; his actions are unintentional and his senses ineffective.

XVII-14 The great personality rests in itself and remains untouched, whether it sees a lovely woman to look at or the approaching of the terrifying death - it is truly free.

XVII-18 The wise man with the emptied mind knows nothing of the contradicting ideas of concentration and non-concentration, of pleasure and dissatisfaction - he rests in the absolute.

XVIII-8 Knowing that the Atman is Brahman itself, that existence and non-existence are mere imaginations, what else should the desireless know, say, or do?

XVIII-16 Whoever has recognized the highest Brahman meditates as follows: “I am Brahman.” What should the thoughtless thinker who does not see a second being next to himself?

XVIII-21 Desireless, independent, living at his own discretion, he who is free from attachment moves like a dry leaf blown around by the wind of samskaras.

XVIII-27 The wise man, weary of tiring debates, gains silence and no longer thinks, knows, hears or sees.

XVIII-32 The dull person becomes even more confused by listening to the clear truth, while the intelligent person withdraws inside and thereby appears dull to himself to others.

XVIII-34 The ignorant person does not return to the self either by action or inaction, while the wise one rests in the self only by knowing the truth.

XVIII-39 The fool wants peace and does not get it - the wise one knows the truth and is always at peace.

XVIII-40 How could there be the vision of the self for one whose knowledge is based on objectivity? The wise man does not see this (objectivity) but sees the immortal self.

XVIII-46 On seeing the Lion of Desirelessness, the elephants of the sense objects run away quietly, and when they are incapacitated, they become flatterers. (The idea here is that sensual pleasure becomes just a mere game for one who is anchored in desirelessness.)

XVIII-49 The man of truth fulfills his duties as they come to him; without any sense of good or bad (from a relative standpoint), for all his actions are like those of a child.

XVIII-53 These great souls, free, freed from the imaginations and functions of the mind, sometimes seem to enjoy great pleasures and sometimes meditate in mountain caves.

XVIII-54 In the heart of the wise there are no desires, whether he sees and worships a wise scholar or a god, a holy place, a lady, a king or someone close to him.

XVIII-55 The yogi is not in the least troubled, even if he is despised or ridiculed by servants, sons, wives, grandchildren, or other relatives.

XVIII-56 If he is pleased, then in truth he is not delighted; if he is sad, then in truth he is not mourning. Only those who are like him can understand his wonderful state of consciousness.

XVIII-58 Even when he does nothing, the fool is always excited and distracted. The experienced, however, although he is active, always remains undistracted and concentrated.

XVIII-59 Even in everyday life the sage is peaceful. He sits happily, sleeps happily, comes happy, goes happy, speaks happy, eats happily.

XVIII-72 How should attachment, liberation, joy and pain be for someone who shines like infinite reality itself and does not perceive an objective universe?

XVIII-80 Heaven and Hell do not exist; neither is Jivanmukti. In short, in the yogic view, nothing exists at all.

XVIII-83 In this way there is no fear of samsara, nor does it require samsara to see the self. He is without joy and pain. He is neither dead nor alive.

XVIII-99 When he is praised, he is not pleased; if he is insulted, he is not angry. He neither fears death nor desires life.

XVIII-100 The peaceful man longs neither for busy places nor for lonely forests. He remains in the same state wherever he may be.

See also


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