Ashtavakra Gita Chapter 6 & 8 – Part 1 of 7


There is a Character of sage and Scholar Ashtavakra in Ramayana as well in Mahabharata.

The Dialogue between King Janaka and Ashtavakra known as Ashtavakra Gita or Ashtavakra Samhita a treatise on Brahman, Atman and Advaita Vedanta having 285 verses in 20 Chapters.

It is not known whether the King Janaka referred here is the same as the one who is the father of Sita in Ramayana.

OSHO refers to Ashtavakra as a messenger, a messenger of consciousness, of witnessing. Pure witnessing, just watching. If there is unhappiness, observe it. If there is happiness, observe it. In unhappiness don’t become identified with unhappiness. In happiness don’t become identified with happiness. Let both come, let both go. Night has come, observe it. Day has come, observe it. At night, don’t think you have become night. In the day, don’t think you have become the day.

The reaction of Bhagavan Sri Ramana after listening to Ashtavakra Gita is:-

“Because Brahma Jnana is not something external, which is somewhere faraway where you can go and get it, you cannot say that it will take so long or so short a time to attain it. It is always with you. . . . All that is necessary is to surrender yourself completely to the Guru, to surrender your notion of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ ….”

It is also said that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has advised Narendra, ( Swami Vivekananda) to read Ashtavakra Gita to understand better Brahman. Atman and Advaita.

My humble effort here is to understand 8 verses in Chapter 6 and 8 of Ashtavakra Gita about knowledge, ignorance and Meditation on inner self.

Many learned scholars, enlightened masters, sages of the present & yester years have spoken & written volumes on Ashtavakra Gita. My understanding may not even match with the understanding of these great souls.

Then, why did I choose this topic for posting in blog and as well on youtube? I find nothing better than this to remember 52nd year of my wedding anniversary.

Let me first chant all the four verses of 6 th Chapter.

आकाशवदनन्तोऽहं घटवत् प्राकृतं जगत् ।
इति ज्ञानं तथैतस्य न त्यागो न ग्रहो लयः ॥ ६-१॥

महोदधिरिवाहं स प्रपञ्चो वीचिसऽन्निभः ।
इति ज्ञानं तथैतस्य न त्यागो न ग्रहो लयः ॥ ६-२॥

अहं स शुक्तिसङ्काशो रूप्यवद् विश्वकल्पना ।
इति ज्ञानं तथैतस्य न त्यागो न ग्रहो लयः ॥ ६-३॥

अहं वा सर्वभूतेषु सर्वभूतान्यथो मयि ।
इति ज्ञानं तथैतस्य न त्यागो न ग्रहो लयः ॥ ६-४॥

I am infinite like space, and the natural world is like a jar. To know this is knowledge, and then there is neither renunciation, acceptance, or cessation of it.
(Knowledge is knowing this. Once we have this knowledge, then there is neither renunciation, acceptance, or cessation of it.)

The second part “iti jnaanam” is repeated in all the four verses.

in this verse, Ashtavakra explained Janaka, the finite and infinite space. the Self as limitless space. We need to dissolve our ego and achieve oneness with the unlimited Self in our inner space. The eternal Self, the empty, immaterial space around us, is formless, invisible, ungraspable, untouchable and all pervading. (it is not the Einstein version of material space)

All modifications of the world and the material universe arise and subside in space, but it is free from them. We cannot contain space, because it is not only in all things, upholds all things, but also envelops them from outside. Just as the eternal Self, it does not participate in what we do or what happens to us or what happens in the world. At the same time, it allows everything to be itself or become something else according to its own nature, state or choice.

Space is the silent witness. It does not come in our way or try to control us or exert any pressure upon us or cause us any stress. It is the silent, support and witness to all that happens within its confines. By entering it in deep meditative state we can dissolve our ego and experience expansive state of awareness beyond the confines of our mind and body.

Can we find or say, where the boundaries of space end and where those of our limited consciousness begin or vice versa? Definitely the answer is a big NO.

We are so united with the space and so close to it, yet we are also so distant and separated from it. In the same manner, the eternal Self resides in all of us. Yet we cannot perceive it or communicate with it. It is as if there are two dimensions within us  and we are confined to only one. This separation arises because of the limited consciousness of the mind and body.

The Jar that is mentioned in this verse, reminds me of the Chandala asking Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada, though it is in a different context, whether the brightness of the Sun that shines in the earthen pot and the other one that shines in the Golden pot are different or the same?

The limited self or the objective reality is a container, a jar. The body is the container of all the organs and tattvas of Nature, and of the Self also. The mind is also a container. It contains all our thoughts, memories, feelings, emotions, etc. They are responsible for diversity, name and form, delusion, bondage and all the consequential and existential problems.

The eternal Self is also a container, but it is not limited like the jar. It is without form or materiality and it is subtler than subtle. However, it contains within itself everything, from the smallest of the atom to the whole universe, worlds and all living beings. The eternal Self is truly the universal container of all. Nothing can independently coexist in it, with it or outside of it. In the microcosm of the body, as in the macrocosm of the universe, the eternal Self is the infinite container.

Laya or dissolution means the ending, disappearance, absence or the cessation of something. It also means a pause or silence. Hence, it is used to denote a pause or a restful moment in a musical beat. The combination of shruti and laya creates the musical melody. In spiritual practice, laya refers to the state of mental absorption or the tranquil state of mind in which it is fully silent or absorbed in the Self or a deeper meditative state.

The destruction of the world at the end of the time-cycle is also known as laya. The world is subject to dissolution. We know that everything in the objective world will come to an end someday. However, Brahman or Self is eternal and indestructible. The world of Brahman is free from dissolution. Hence, it is known as alaya or devalaya. There is no destruction for those who enter the abode of God. Only those who overcome their impurities and exhaust their casual karma can manage to reach it by the path of gods (devayana) upon their departure from here.

The transformation and dissolution are necessary for the limited Self because it is subject to modifications, imperfections and impurities. It is represented by the mind-body complex.

Now we understand,  that what we own or hold as an ego-driven individual is an obstacle to our peace and happiness or our liberation, whereas what we hold as an infinite and eternal Self does not in any way contribute to our bondage or suffering. What need to be renounced, disowned or dissolved is the limited Self, because it is the one which keeps us bound to the mortal world.

The eternal Self has everything, exists in everything and contain in itself everything. Yet it is completely free, pure and perfect.

As the Shanti Mantra of the Vedas affirm, even if we take away something out of the absolute reality of Brahman, it still remains complete, purnam.
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते ।
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
By making this distinction, Ashtavakra suggested to Janaka that it was the identification and attachment to the objective-self which needs to be renounced, dispossessed and dissolved, not the eternal Self, which is eternally free from them.


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