The Ashtavakra Gita

The Ashtavakra Gita
Before you start this powerful scripture:
How to understand Ashtavakra’s Gita:
Of all the scriptures, this is one of the most, if not the single most, radical and direct
scripture as it comes as close to inducing immediate truth and enlightenment as one
could possibly get to with words. It is old; yet it remains controversial in that it
defies all practices, religions, spiritual dogmas, scriptures and traditions as being
useless and blinding, and if you read carefully, even condemns the very cause of our
bondage to be those practices and paths.
The Ashtavakra Gita is simple, yet bound to be misunderstood: It is allcomprehensive,
yet it explains to you no structure to follow and no path to go by.
This is utterly naked truth expressed in words as good as you’ll probably ever get it
and as immediate as it is available in any of the scriptures; this Samhita cuts
through all illusion and systems of belief, whether believed to be material, sacred, or
spiritual. Ready to drop all your concepts? Ready to stop clinging to whatever
spiritual teachers have taught you? Are you ready to drop whatever has ever been
taught to you?
Try to read with an open mind: Don’t try to collect knowledge out of this
scripture. You may do that with all other scriptures if you like; you may spoil them to
whatever degree your mind wants you to. But let this scripture be as it is as you
read it with an openness of awareness. Don’t collect knowledge, instead, just listen
and let wisdom understanding dawn on its own. Just listen with an intensely relaxed
consciousness as you read each line carefully and attentively. You can also choose to
say it out loud to yourself slowly as you read it.
Just be open. Don’t try, leave all effort to understand behind and just go with the
flow of the words. Enlightenment or any form of ‘enlightening’ realizations are a
result of letting be, not of strive and effort. So let it be as it is while your eyes, ears
and attention reads through the text; Don’t actually read this scripture, instead; let
it be read.
Introduction: A little background information:
The Ashtavakra Gita, also known as the Ashtavakra Samhita, is a teaching between
the fully realized 12-year old master Ashtavakra and the King of Mithila, known as
Janak who comes to Ashtavakra to beg for his wisdom after having recognized in him
the presence and wisdom of an enlightened one. This scripture comes from Advaita
Ashtavakra means one who is deformed in eight places. This is what his body was
like: deformed in eight places. Said to be so due to a curse uttered by his father
when Ashtavakra was still in the uterus of his mother. Much more is not known about
him, only that this conversation/teaching took place when he was of the age of 12.
The first part of this text comes from Ashtavakra, teaching to Janak. Note
that Janak is one of the most open-minded students Ashtavakra could wish for. He
has fully ripened to understanding the words of Ashtavakra. So while Ashtavakra is
expressing the Ultimate Truth in his words, the spark hits its target and Janak, for
the first time in his live, can fully see, and realizes the same as all the sages of all
times have realized; simply by listening with a completely open attitude. His entire
being was as open and ready to receive as the mouth of whomsoever has not eaten
anything in months.
So then the second part of this scripture comes from Janak, expressing his newfound
enlightenment in similar words as Ashtavakra did. This part basically consists
of some powerful statements about the ultimate reality, which Janak is referring to
as “I”. Note that in fact it is the same truth speaking through both. At first it is
Ashtavakra expressing his wisdom, then Janak expresses his; but both are one and
the same, beyond body and mind. You could say both are Janak, or both are
Ashtavakra his words.
The Ashtavakra Gita:
Chapter #1:
Janak Asked: “Oh Lord, how does one attain to wisdom? How does liberation
happen? And how is non-attachment attained? Please tell me this.”
Ashtavakra replied: “Oh beloved, if you want liberation then renounce the passions
as poison, and take forgiveness, innocence, compassion, contentment and truth as
nectar. To attain liberation, know yourself as the witnessing consciousness of all
If you can separate yourself from your physical body and rest in consciousness, then
this very moment you will be happy, at peace and free of bondage.
You are not a Brahmin or any other caste, you are not in any of the four stages of
life, you are not perceived by the eyes or other senses. Unattached and without
form, You are the witness of the whole universe. Know this and be happy.
Oh expansive one, religion and atheism, happiness and misery – all are of the mind,
they are not for you. You are not the doer nor the enjoyer. You have always been
The Ashtavakra Gita:
Chapter #2:
Ashtavakra said: “You are the one observer of all, and in reality always free. Your
bondage is this: You see the other – not yourself – as the observer.
“I am the doer,” thus has the black serpent of ego bitten you. “I am not the doer,”
drink this divine nectar of trust and be happy.
“I am the one pure awareness,” thus having burned the forest of your ignorance with
this fire of certainty and being beyond sorrow, be happy.
You are that bliss, that ultimate bliss, Within which this imaginary world is projected
like a snake on a rope.* Knowing this, thus wander happily. He who considers
himself free is free, and he who considers himself bound is bound; because in this
world the proverb is true: “As you think, so you are.”
The soul is the witness, all-pervading, perfect, one, free, conscious, free from doing,
absolutely alone, non-attached, desire less, peaceful. Because of illusion, it looks like
the world.
“I am an individually projected life,” drop this illusion and also the feeling of inner
and outer, and awaken in the feeling that you are the unchanging, conscious,
nondual soul.”
The Ashtavakra Gita:
Chapter #3:
Ashtavakra said: “Oh son, long have you been caught in the bondage of perceiving
yourself as the body. Cut this bondage with the sword of knowing: “I am awareness”
and be happy.
You are alone, void of action, self-illuminated and innocent. Your bondage is this:
that you practice samadhi.
You are permeating this universe, you are the thread within it. You are pure
consciousness by nature, do not become small-minded. You are without
expectations, unchanging, self-sufficient, the abode of serenity, of boundless
intelligence, and unperturbed. Hence have faith only in consciousness.
Know that which has form is false, and know the formless as unchangeable and
everlasting. From this true understanding one is not born in the world again. Just as
a mirror exists in the image reflected in it, and also exists apart from the reflection;
God is within and outside this body. Just as the one all-pervading sky is the same
within and outside a pot; the eternal everlasting Brahman is the same in all.”
The Ashtavakra Gita:
Chapter #4:
(Note: From now on, Janak is speaking, as he just realized the infinite just by
listening to Ashtavakra)
Janak said: “Amazing! I am pure, flawless, I am peace, I am awareness, I am
beyond nature. Alas, I have been fooled by illusion all this time!
Just as I all one illumine this body, do I illumine the universe too. Either this whole
universe is mine, or nothing at all.
Amazing! Having renounced the body and the world, now through the skill of your
teaching I see only the divine.
Just as waves, foam and bubbles are not other than water, so this individual soul is
not other than the universal soul.
Just as cloth when analyzed is nothing but thread, this universe when analyzed is
nothing but the soul.
Just as sugar produced from sugarcane juice is wholly pervaded by it, the universe
produced from me is permeated by me through and through.
From the ignorance of the soul this world then appears; from knowing the soul it
does not appear. From the ignorance of the rope a snake appears; from knowing the
rope it does not appear.”
The Ashtavakra Gita:
Chapter #5:
Janak Said: “Light is my self-nature. I am not other than that. When the universe is
illuminated, it is illuminated by my light.
Amazing that through ignorance the imaginary world appears in me, just as silver
appears in mother of pearl, a snake in a rope, or a mirage in the rays of the sun.
The universe which has emanated from me will dissolve into me, just as a pot
dissolves into clay, a wave into water, or a bracelet into gold.
Amazing am I, I bow down to myself. When the whole world shall perish from
Brahma down to the very blade of grass I shall not perish. I am eternal.
Amazing am I, I bow down to myself. Although embodied, I am the nondual. I
neither go anywhere nor come from anywhere; I just exist, I pervade the universe.
Amazing am I, I bow down to myself. None here is as capable as I, who have been
maintaining this universe for an eternity without even touching it with the body.
Amazing am I, I bow down to myself. I have nothing at all, or I have all that can be
encompassed by speech or thought.”