A commentary on Ashtavakra's Gita


Ashtavakra's dialogue with the emperor Janak are known as the Ashtavakra's Gita .

Not much is known about Ashtavakra and very little historical records exist.

Only few incidents are known which signify the flavour of the being whom society had labelled Ashtavakra.

One such is when Ashtavakra was born.
His father who was a well know Vedic scholar would recite the Vedas everyday while Ashtavakra was still in the womb.

One day came a voice from the womb "This is all nonsense. Mere collection of words, no wisdom.

Is wisdom found in scriptures? Is truth found in words?
Wisdom and Truth are only in oneself."

Enraged at being challenged, he being the great erudite scholar, the father cursed that the boy will be born deformed in eight places.

Ashtavakra was born deformed, body bent in 8 places (hence the name Ashtavakra).

The second incident was as a 12 year old boy, Ashtavakra goes to call his father from a debate which was going on for very long at the court of the emperor Janak.
His father being a profound Vedic scholar was debating with other scholars on the meaning of Truth in the presence of emperor Janak.
Entering the court to look for his father, the scholars looking at the hunchback, bent in 8 directions, many burst out laughing.

Looking at them Ashtavakra in turn burst out laughing.
Such was the force of Ashtavakra's laugh that the court is rendered silent.

Emperor Janak asks why is he Ashtavakra laughing?

Answers Ashtavakra "I am laughing because Truth is being decided in this conference of "chamars" (cobblers).
Now "chamars" are the lowest caste in the India caste system and to call Vedic scholars and Pundits "chamars" is to invite the death penalty, those days.

In that shocked silence in the court, Emperor Janak asks Ashtavakra to explain what he means.

Says Ashtavakra " Like cobblers who only know the skin, this gathering only sees my deformed body, not me.
Your majesty in the curve of the temple is the sky curved?
When a pot is smashed, is the sky smashed?
My body is twisted, not me but these cobblers cannot see that.
What Truth can they see."

Just these two incidents are known about this mystic Ashtavakra.

A statement from Ashtavakra which is the essence of Ashtavakra's Gita.

Answering Janak's question on bondage Ashtavakra replies

You are alone, void, self illuminated and innocent.
Your real bondage is this: that you practice Samadhi (Enlightenment, Freedom)

The Truth is that you permeate this whole cosmos and you lay claim on trivialities?

Samadhi (Enlightenment) cannot be practiced, cannot be prepared for, because samadhi is your very nature.

You can practice what is not your nature but to know your nature you have to drop all practices.

All religions lays down spiritual practices.
They have nothing to do with knowing one's nature.

"You are innocent"

This is a revolutionary statement.

All priests of all religions whether it be Christianity, Hinduism, Islam preach that you are a sinner, to cleanse yourself of all sin, repent for your bad karmas, become released from them and then and only then you can attain.

If karmas of your millions of lifetimes , each had to be accounted for, then forget Liberation, it will be impossible because it would take another million lifetimes to account.

And secondly as you account for your past karmas, you pile up fresh ones.

Ashtavakra says you are innocent.

Elsewhere Ashtavakra talks to Janak of the six life waves.

-Hunger and thirst
-Sadness and Happiness
-Birth and Death

Hunger and Thirst are the waves of the body, needs of the body.
If there is no body, there is no hunger or thirst.

Sadness and Happiness are of the mind, these are plays, games of the mind, the play of affection and disgust, attraction and repulsion.

Inside one in whom the mind has ceased there is no sadness, no happiness.

These are but waves of the mind.

Birth and Death are waves of the Life-Energy associated with the breath.

And Birth and Death are not events separated by 60-70 years.

It is happening every second.
Every incoming breath is Life.
Every outgoing breath is Death.

Life and Death happening every moment are just waves of Life-Energy.

These are the six waves and Ashtavakra says you are beyond these six waves,

You are the observer of these six waves.

You are alone.
You are not your body
You are not your thoughts
You are not your breath.
You are alone , void of action

Out of hunger the body may have done something, not You.

Out of it's needs, the mind may have done something, not You

Out of it's necessities Life-Energy births or dies, not You.

You are innocent of all doings, just the observer of all these doings.

Know this in totality and You discover that you are free this moment and all karmas are games you played in a dream while asleep.

Know this in totality and You discover that you were never "not-free" ever and all your experiences, profound ones and mundane ones were acts in a dream drama.

With the awakening is the apperception of the fact that the entire dream drama, is just that- a perfect dramatization.

And then You can laugh the Primal Laugh at all the guilt you assumed on yourself and carried.

"You permeate this whole cosmos and you lay claim on trivialities?"

Look at your claims.
When you can claim the whole, you are bent on chasing crumbs, a vision of God, an experience.

Know the whole and find that you and the whole are not two.

Because in knowing is the disappearing of the "you".

In knowing, is the disappearnace of the "knower" of the knowing.

Leaving only knowing.