The Ashtavakra Gita


The Ashtavakra Gita is a classical Sanskrit scripture written as the dialogue between Ashtavakra (a revered Hindu Vedic sage) and Janak (the King of Mithila).

The Ashtavakra Gita examines through dialogue the meaning of existence and freedom, of our souls and bondage to the reality.

In the Gita, it is presented there to be one reality, and that the Universe is manifestation of this reality, connecting everything and everyone as being one part of this innate Supreme Reality.

The interpretation described below is translated by Bart Marshall [source]. 

Chapter 1 – Instructions on Self-Realisation

Janaka Said:

1.1 – Master, how is knowledge to be achieved, detachment acquired, liberation attained?

Ashtavakra said:

1.2 – To be free, shun the experiences of the senses like poison. Turn your attention to forgiveness, sincerity, kindness, simplicity, truth.

1.3 – You are not Earth, Water, Fire or Air. Nor are you empty space. Liberation is to know yourself as Awareness alone – the witness of these.

1.4  – Abide in Awareness with no illusion of person, you will be instantly free and at peace.

1.5 – You have no Caste or duties. You are invisible, unattached, formless. You are the witness of all things. Be happy.

1.6 – Right and wrong, pleasure and pain, exist in mind only. They are not your concern. You neither do nor enjoy. You are free.

1.7 – You are the solitary witness of all that is, forever free. Your only bondage is not seeing this.

1.8 – The thought “I am the doer” is the bite of a poisonous snake. To know, “I do nothing is the wisdom of faith”. Be happy.

1.9 – A single understanding, “I am the One Awareness “consumes of suffering in the fire of an instant. Be happy.

1.10 – You are unbounded Awareness – Bliss, Supreme Bliss – in which the Universe appears like the mirage of a snake in a rope. Be happy.

1.11 – It is true what they say: “you are what you think”. If you think you are bound, you are bound. If you think you are free you are free.

1.12 – You are Self-the solitary witness, you are perfect, all – pervading, one you are free, desireless, forever still. The Universe is but a seeming in you.

1.13 – Meditate on this: “I am Awareness alone – Unity itself”. Give up the idea that you are separate, a person, that there is within and without.

1.14 – You have long been bound thinking: “I am a person”. Let the knowledge: “I am Awareness alone” be the sword that frees you.

1.15 – You are now and forever free luminous, transparent, still. The practice of meditation keeps one in bondage.

1.16 – You are pure Consciousness – the substance of the Universe. The Universe exists within you. Don’t be small minded.

1.17 – You are unconditioned, changeless, formless. You are solid, unfathomable cool. Desire nothing. You are consciousness.

1.18 – That which has a form is not real, only the formless is permanent. Once this is known you will not return to the illusion.

1.19 – Just as a mirror exists both within and without the image reflected, the supreme Self exists both within and without the body.

1.20 – Just as the same space exists both within and without a jar, the timeless, all pervasive One exists in Totality.

Chapter 2: Joy of self-realization

Janaka said:

2.1 – I am now spotless and at peace. Awareness beyond consciousness. All this time I had been duped by illusion.

2.2 – By this light alone the body and the universe appears. I am Everything and Nothing.

2.3 – Seeing there is no Universe or body, by grace the self is revealed.

2.4 – As waves, foam and bubbles are not different from water, so, the Universe emanating from Self is not different from Self.

2.5 – Look closely at cloth, you see only thread, Look closely at creation, you see only Self.

2.6 – As sweetness pervades sugarcane juice, I am the essence of creation.

2.7 – Not seeing Self, the world is materialized, Seeing Self, the world is vanished, A rope is not a snake, but can appear to be.

2.8 – I am not other than light, The Universe manifests at my glance.

2.9 – The mirage of Universe appears in me as silver appears in mother-of-pearl, as a snake appears in a rope, as water appears on a desert horizon.

2.10 – As a pot returns to clay, a wave to water, a bracelet to gold, so will the Universe return to me.

2.11 – I am wonderful indeed – beyond adoration. I cannot decay nor ever die, though God and all the Universe should perish to the last blade of grass.

2.12 – I am wonderful indeed – beyond adoration. Even with a body I am One, I neither come nor go. I am everywhere at once.

2.13 – I am wonderful indeed – beyond adoration. I am astounded at my powers. The Universe appears within me but I do not touch it.

2.14 – I am wonderful indeed – beyond adoration. I am everything thought or spoken and have nothing.

2.15 – In reality, knowledge, the knower and the knowable, do not exist. I am the transparent Self in which through ignorance they appear.

2.16 – Looking at One and seeing many in the cause of all misery, the only cure is to realize what is seen is not there, I am One – aware, blissful, immaculate.

2.17 – I am unbounded Awareness, only in imagination do I have limits. Reflecting on this, I abide in the absolute.

2.18 – I am neither free nor bound, the illusion of such things, has fallen into disbelief. though I contain creation, it has no substance. 

2.19 – Having seen for certain that this Universe and the body is without form or substance, I am revealed as Awareness alone. Imagination has no place here.

2.20 – The body exists only in imagination, as do heaven and hell, bondage, freedom, fear.   Are these my concern? I, who am pure Awareness?

2.21 – I see no difference or separation. Even the multitude appear as a single formless desert. To what should I cling?

2.22 – I am not the body. I do not have a body. I am Awareness, not a person. My thirst for life bound me to a seeming of life.

2.23 – In the limitless ocean of Myself the winds of the mind roil the myriad waves of the world.

2.24 – But when the wind subsides in the limitless ocean the ark of personhood is swallowed up, along with the Universe it carries.

2.25 – And how wonderful it is! In the limitless ocean of myself, waves of beings arise, collide, play for a time, then disappear – as is their nature.