It was about an year ago, that I came to know about this Hindu text, Ashtavakra Gita or the song of Ashtavakra. It is the dialogue between an ancient Indian sage Ashtavakra and King Janaka, father of Goddess Sita, wife of Lord Ram. Now King Janaka is a learned man, but every now and then he is bothered by questions beyond mundane life. One day, the sage Ashtavakra comes to his court and imparts his teachings to him. The original text Ashtavakra Gita is the dialogue between these great minds.
There are many, many ancient Hindu scriptures including the Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and Brahma Sutras. Each text enlightens us. And Ashtavakra Gita is no different. It’s light is blinding, bright as sunshine. It speaks the direct and only truth. You will be utterly amazed.
And I do not think that one or two readings are enough to grasp the whole content of this book. I still read this book several times and go through and entirely eye-opening experience.
The version of Ashtavakra Gita that I read is actually a commentary on the original text by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji. I have extracted some of the most meaningful lines from this text and put them as answers to the questions and worries we constantly have.
I hope that you would find this useful, just as I did. And this is only the first part. I will try to put together more such ideas in the next blog post.
Some of the text, from Sanskrit is italicized.
“I hate my daily routine, but I fear the unknown. I fear what I do not know. Why this happens?”
The coffee does not give you any joy or ecstasy. But if you don’t drink it, you get a headache and don’t feel good. And the whole day is topsy-turvy. This is bondage.
You cannot be without coffee, but it does not give you any great joy or ecstasy. This is a habit. This is a pattern. Patterns do not bestow any blessings or joy on you. They don’t bring heaven to you. But the lack thereof creates an aching sensation, like something is itching and so one scratches it.
The more one scratches, the greater is the itch. And then the itching gives some sort of joy, some sort of relief. You can’t call it joy, but a relief. That relief makes it even worse.
“I am not able to accept my flaws. I think I will never become better.”
Accepting that you have been insincere is sincerity, not judging, not giving any explanation, not justifying oneself; but acknowledging it. Then you have become sincere. At that very moment you have sincerity.
Wereyou compassionate towards yourself and others? Were you contented with what is and what was happening around you? Did you remember the truth that all things are changing? What is truth? This will all go.
“Who Am I?”
If you could just see that all the states of the mind are temporary. Chidrūpam viddhi muktayē. You are just the pure consciousness.
“When will I become happy?”
Bandhamuktō bhavishyasi. You are free right this very moment. You can be happy right now. What are you looking for to be happy?
Do you think that one day enlightenment is going to dawn on you and God’s grace is going to pour on your head like rain. God’s grace is not going to come to you through the ceiling one day, and take you by surprise. Be peaceful, right this moment. Walk feeling you are free right this moment, move like a cloud.
“I was always a failure. I can never be happy?”
When you have a problem, you feel that you always have a problem. You seem to extend it to infinity. You may feel that you are always unsuccessful. How can you always be unsuccessful? If you were always unsuccessful, you would never feel it.
In fact, you couldn’t ‘be’ without being unsuccessful, because unsuccessful would
become part of your nature. You would not even know it! You know you are unhappy because you were happy at other times. There are some moments you were happy, some moments you were free. Now, recollect and remember those moments you were free. In fact, they are much more than the moments of your unhappiness.
“I am worried about my health. It makes me anxious.”
What else are you unhappy about – the health of your body? How long you can hold onto your body even if it is very healthy? Can you hold on to it, forever? One day it is going to drop. If a body gets sick, attend to it, that is all. Getting mentally agitated makes it even worse. It is the nature of the body to be sick and healthy.
“I have so limited time. How do I learn everything to become a true Yogi, attain eternal happiness?”
You can only remove ignorance with knowledge. All these practices, the sādhanā is there to remove ignorance and not to ‘grow’. We use the word ‘grow’ because language is so limited – we are growing or we are improving. But in reality, it is like removing the husk from the paddy.
When you remove the husk, the rice is already present inside. When Buddha was asked what he gained when he became enlightened, he said that he gained nothing but that he lost everything. It’s a game of losing. Here, one who loses really wins. He said, ‘Come on, lose, otherwise I’ll strip you of everything.’ He took a very tough step.
“I feel powerless. I have failed to help people around me, or make them happy.”
You are bothered about what you think are little imperfections in you and brood over them. Can’t you see the biggest sun deep inside you? It’s like a glass window that has dust on it. Your sight is captured by those dust particles. The sun is shining so brightly – even through the dust particles – but we are unable to see the sun, because we are stuck with a little dust in the corners of the glass window. Take your sight off the imperfections,
and look at the bright sunshine.
When will my miseries get over, when will I have happier times?
By its very nature, the individual mind has arisen. But it settles down after playing for a while; settles deep down inside. So when a storm arises, just be with it. Do not try to get rid of the storm. Be with it; go into it. And, of course, you have the practices (Kriyā, meditation, singing and prānāyāma) to help purify your whole system.
It’s such a blessing. You would have noticed that when you are restless, and you start singing, there is a settling effect. Something settles down. Something really pulls you down, cools you down and brings you back to your true nature, your real Self. Your craving for perfection creates imperfection inside you. What happens when you want perfection? You become imperfect.
“Are people good or bad?”
Pleasant things cause pain and unpleasant things also cause pain. Not only do the people whom you hate bother you, but even the people you love bother you! So botheration is there, anyway. Don’t try to hate the person you love, or love the person whom you hate.
“I have tried meditation, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.”
If you are not having good meditation, the reason is you have not been putting enough physical effort into doing your work. Some physical activity is needed in order to balance your silence inside. Moderate food, moderate activity and moderate rest – these three things will bring peace and union with existence. That is meditation.
“My past was turbulent. I can never recover from it.”
You look down with every question ‘why’. You hook yourself to the past. Have you noticed when you get very tense, you immediately want to ask a question? It doesn’t matter what the time is. You want to ask why something is happening. ‘Why? Why? Why?’
Ashtavakra says, ‘Ēvam jnātvēha nirvēdādbhava tyāgaparō’vratī.’
Take the vow of dropping the past. Whatever happens, remain in ‘now’, ‘now’,
‘now’…. Cultivate the habit of dropping the past! Then you can smile all the time. All these different desires – for experiences, for living, for knowing – arise, get fulfilled and move on. Is there anybody who has not fulfilled any desire? Or is there anybody who has fulfilled every desire? Is there any end to it?
Ashtāvakra asks not to anchor yourself to this; not to think that this is ‘the thing’ for your life. Be light.
Smile. Drop. Learn the tendency to drop, smile and move on.