How to be happy? - Ashtavakra Gita and Advaita
London, UK - 20 August 2006 - When we have met
friends on various world tours of The Great Spiritual Masters, the eternal
question "How to be happy?" has often come up. The Ashtavakra Gita
has been universally cited as a step in the right direction because it presents
the traditional teachings of Advaita (Non-Dualism) Vedanta with a clarity
and power very rarely matched.
The Ashtavakra Gita, or the Ashtavakra Samhita (Ashtavakra's Collection)
as it is sometimes called, is a very ancient Sanskrit text. There is little
doubt amongst scholars in the East and West that it dates back to the days
of the classic Vedanta period. The Sanskrit style and the doctrine expressed
warrant this assessment. The text sees duality as the root of evil, asserts
the importance of belief in sharing one's world view as unlimited or unbounded,
and confidently proclaims the radical unity of "Universal Consciousness"
and Its Creative Connections including humankind.
The obscure Ashtavakra Gita "Ashtavakra's Song" -- as distinct
from the famous Bhagavad Gita "Divine Song" of Lord Krishna's within
the Mahabharata -- is a divine discourse between the Perfect Master Ashtavakra
(Eight times Knotted or Gnarled Guru) and Raja Janak (King Janaka), who later
in his life became a Perfect Master. Raja Janak was the only one to have been
born a Royal and to remain one throughout his life whilst dispensing the duties
of King and Perfect Saint simultaneously. The Great Perfect Masters have all
stressed the importance of this inspirational and true piece of work in their
talks by way of a treatise on the true path -- a manual towards continuous
Since many have found the synopsis of the Ashtavakra Gita useful over the
years, John Richards translation of the Introductory Chapter I follows, post
the salutations and signature. If there is appetite for further chapters they
will be posted later.
With love in His Name
DK with family
The Philanthropia, ATCA, mi2g.net
Chapter I - Introduction
Raja Janak said:
1. How is one to acquire knowledge? How is one to attain liberation? And
how is one to reach dispassion? Tell me this, sir.
Master Ashtavakra replied:
2. If you are seeking liberation, my son, avoid the objects of the senses
like poison and cultivate tolerance, sincerity, compassion, contentment, and
truthfulness as the antidote.
3. You do not consist of any of the elements -- earth, water, fire, air,
or even ether. To be liberated, know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
4. If only you will remain resting in consciousness, seeing yourself as distinct
from the body, then even now you will become happy, peaceful and free from
5. You do not belong to the Brahmin or any other caste, you are not at any
stage, nor are you anything that the eye can see. You are unattached and formless,
the witness of everything -- so be happy.
6. Righteousness and unrighteousness, pleasure and pain are purely of the
mind and are no concern of yours. You are neither the doer nor the reaper
of the consequences, so you are always free.
7. You are the one witness of everything and are always completely free.
The cause of your bondage is that you see the witness as something other than
8. Since you have been bitten by the black snake, the opinion about yourself
that "I am the doer," drink the antidote of faith in the fact that
"I am not the doer," and be happy.
9. Burn down the forest of ignorance with the fire of the understanding that
"I am the one pure awareness," and be happy and free from distress.
10. That in which all this appears is imagined like the snake in a rope;
that joy, supreme joy, and awareness is what you are, so be happy.
11. If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and if one thinks of oneself
as bound, one is bound. Here this saying is true, "Thinking makes it
12. Your real nature is as the one perfect, free, and actionless consciousness,
the all-pervading witness -- unattached to anything, desireless and at peace.
It is from illusion that you seem to be involved in samsara (the world and
13. Meditate on yourself as motionless awareness, free from any dualism,
giving up the mistaken idea that you are just a derivative consciousness or
anything external or internal.
14. You have long been trapped in the snare of identification with the body.
Sever it with the knife of knowledge that "I am awareness," and
be happy, my son.
15. You are really unbound and actionless, self-illuminating and spotless
already. The cause of your bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling
16. All of this is really filled by you and strung out in you, for what you
consist of is pure awareness -- so don't be small-minded.
17. You are unconditioned and changeless, formless and immovable, unfathomable
awareness, unperturbable: so hold to nothing but consciousness.
18. Recognise that the apparent is unreal, while the unmanifest is abiding.
Through this initiation into truth you will escape falling into unreality
19. Just as a mirror exists everywhere both within and apart from its reflected
images, so the Supreme Lord exists everywhere within and apart from this body.
20. Just as one and the same all-pervading space exists within and without
a jar, so the eternal, everlasting God exists in the totality of all things.
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