Ashtavakra Gita – Chapter 16

Ashtavakra Gita

Vishnu Bapat

Write something worth reading

Or do something worth writing

-Benjamin Franklin

Ch. 16 Sh.1

अष्टावक्र उवाच
आचक्ष्व शृणु वा तात नानाशास्त्राण्यनेकशः ।
तथापि न तव स्वास्थ्यं सर्वविस्मरणाद् ऋते ॥ १६-१॥
ācakṣva śr̥ṇu vā tāta nānāśāstrāṇyanēkaśaḥ |
tathāpi na tava svāsthyaṁ sarvavismaraṇād r̥tē || 16-1||

आचक्ष्व शृणु वा तात नाना शास्त्राणि अनेकशः तथापि न तव स्वास्थ्यम् सर्वविस्मरणात् ऋते ॥ १६-१॥
आचक्ष्व-please expound, describe शृणु-hear वा-or तात-O child नाना शास्त्राणि-(diverse शास्त्राणि-scriptures)-Different scriptures अनेकशः-many times, often तथापि-even then न- not तव-your सर्वविस्मरणात्- (सर्व-all विस्मरणात्-through forgetting) by forgetting everything ऋते- except तव-your स्वास्थ्यम्-self- abidance अस्ति- is

You can recite and discuss all the scripture you want, but until you drop everything you will never know Truth.

आचक्ष्व शृणु वा तात नाना शास्त्राणि अनेकशः तथापि न तव स्वास्थ्यम् अस्ति सर्वविस्मरणात् ऋते –
You can study, memorize or give eloquent discourse on the scriptures many times over. You have only understood the verbatim meaning of scriptures but not experienced the truth. Only academic intelligence will not qualify you to gain self-knowledge. Until you drop everything (सर्वविस्मरणात्) you will never experience self-abidence.
सर्वविस्मरण means forgetting everything. Forget the experiences of the body, mind and intellect; objects, emotion and thoughts. The key-note of advaita Vedanta is that self alone exists and that all else is unreal and false. The memories of the illusionary objects constantly crowd and occupy our mind. This makes us to cloud our real nature. This is a state of bondage. To attain the state of freedom, one has to control and delete all the memories of objective experience. This is what the author means by the world सर्वविस्मरण.
The same idea is also emphasised in two identical verse in Kathopanishad 2:23 and Mundakopanishad 3:2 and 3 Here are the verse:
नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो न मेधया न बहुना श्रुतेन।यमेवैष वृणुते तेन लभ्यस्तस्यैष आत्मा विवृणुते तनूं स्वाम्‌ ॥

अयम् आत्मा – ayam ātmā – this Self | प्रवचनेन -pravacanena – by eloquent teaching | न लभ्यः – na labhyaḥ – not to be won | न मेधया – na medhayāa – nor by brain power | न बहुना श्रुतेन – na bahunā śrutena – nor by much learning | एषः – eṣaḥ – this being | यम् – yam -whom | वॄणुते – vṝṇute – chooses | तेन एव -tena eva – by him alone | लभ्यः – labhyaḥ – can be won | तस्य -tasya -to him | एषः आत्मा – eṣaḥ ātmā – this Self | स्वाम् तनूम् -svām tanūm – His own body | विवृणुते – vivṛṇute – bares |

The Self is not to be won by eloquent teaching, nor by brain power, nor by much learning: but only by the one who chooses this being; for, him only this Self bares His body.

Kaivalyopanishad Verse says:
न कर्मणा न प्रजया धनेन त्यागेनैके अमृतत्वमानशुः। परेण नाकं निहितं गुहायां विभ्राजते यद्यतयो विशन्ति ॥
Not by action, not by progeny, nor by wealth, immortality is attained. It is attained only by tyaga or dispassion.

Ch. 16 Sh.2

भोगं कर्म समाधिं वा कुरु विज्ञ तथापि ते ।
चित्तं निरस्तसर्वाशमत्यर्थं रोचयिष्यति ॥ १६-२॥
bhōgaṁ karma samādhiṁ vā kuru vijña tathāpi tē |
cittaṁ nirastasarvāśamatyarthaṁ rōcayiṣyati || 16-2||

भोगम् कर्म समाधिम् वा कुरु विज्ञ तथापि ते चित्तम् निरस्तसर्वाशम् अत्यर्थम् रोचयिष्यति ॥ १६-२॥
भोगम्-enjoyment कर्म-action समाधिम्-mental concentration वा-or कुरु- do विज्ञ-O wise man तथापि-even then ते-your चित्तम्-mind निरस्तसर्वाशम्-(निरस्त-extinguished सर्व-all आशम्-desires)-with all desires extinquished अत्यर्थम्-that which is beyond objective aims रोचयिष्यति-will like
O wise man, you may find yourself engaged in the enjoyments of life, or in such work which you may accomplish, or in practice samadhi; still your mind will long to reach beyond the above goals where all desire and hope dissolve.
विज्ञ भोगम् कर्म समाधिम् वा कुरु –O wise one, you may engage yourself in mundane enjoyments, or in accomplishing your endeavours, or even in contemplation to quiten the mind.
तथापि ते चित्तम् निरस्तसर्वाशम् अत्यर्थम् रोचयिष्यति- still your mind will indulge in the quest of your true nature that which is beyond objects, in which all desires are extinguished.
Three occupations are described here. One, work at the level of the body, enjoyment at the level of the mind and contemplation at the level of the intellect. Even if one is totally successful in these three areas, his mind still desires to have more. Ashtavakra says that unless all desires are destroyed self-knowledge is not possible.

Ch. 16 Sh.3
आयासात्सकलो दुःखी नैनं जानाति कश्चन ।
अनेनैवोपदेशेन धन्यः प्राप्नोति निर्वृतिम् ॥ १६-३॥
āyāsātsakalō duḥkhī nainaṁ jānāti kaścana |
anēnaivōpadēśēna dhanyaḥ prāpnōti nirvr̥tim || 16-3||

आयासात् सकलः दुःखी न एनम् जानाति कश्चन अनेन एव उपदेशेन धन्यः प्राप्नोति निर्वृतिम् ॥ १६-३॥

आयासात्-by effort, exertion सकलः-all, everyone दुःखी-miserable न-not एनम्-this जानाति-knows कश्चन-anyone अनेन-by this एव-alone उपदेशेन-by teaching, instruction, advice धन्यः-the blessed one प्राप्नोति-attains निर्वृतिम्- freedom, liberation, felicity

Each one of us is miserable because of exertion in persuit of objects of desire. But none appreciates this. Through this instruction alone, the blessed one attaines liberation.

आयासात् सकलः दुःखी न एनम् जानाति कश्चन-All are unhappy because they exert to obtain the object of their desire. But none knows this. Swami Nitya swarupanand says, “Why do the people exert in an action? Because they feel, they are deficient in something; they feel lacking some aspect. So, all exertion presupposes an unfulfilled desire to attain things not possessed at present. Desire, both satisfied and unsatisfied is the cause of misery. Satisfied desire brings at first some satiety and afterwards brings in more desires and the chain continue at length”.
अनेन एव उपदेशेन धन्यः प्राप्नोति निर्वृतिम्- just by following this instruction, the blessed one attains liberation. Just this instruction is enough to lead a jnyani to emancipation. If one becomes inactive inwardly, abandoning all desires in the mind, one attains self-knowledge. Outwardly however, he may or may not be active. He does not engage himself in any work promted by desire.

Ch. 16 Sh.4
व्यापारे खिद्यते यस्तु निमेषोन्मेषयोरपि ।
तस्यालस्य धुरीणस्य सुखं नन्यस्य कस्यचित् ॥ १६-४॥
vyāpārē khidyatē yastu nimēṣōnmēṣayōrapi |
tasyālasya dhurīṇasya sukhaṁ nanyasya kasyacit || 16-4||

व्यापारे खिद्यते यः तु निमेषोन्मेषयोः अपि तस्य आलस्य धुरीणस्य सुखम् भवति न अन्यस्य कस्यचित् ॥ १६-४॥
यः- who तु-indeed निमेषोन्मेषयोः (निमेषयोः–closing of eyes and उन्मेषयोः-opening of eyes)-winking, blinking अपि-even व्यापारे-in such activity खिद्यते-feels pain तस्य-of that आलस्य-idling धुरीणस्य-master सुखम्-happiness, comfort भवति-happens न-not अन्यस्य- of other कस्यचित्- not of any one other.

The master idler, to whom even blinking is a bothersome action is happy indeed. The happiness belongs to none else.

यः तु निमेषोन्मेषयोः व्यापारे खिद्यते अपि-The one who detests the minimum activity of the body such as blinking of the eyes. This is an involuntary activity. It is not in control of the brain or the eyes. But still it is in the sphere of action or function. So, it presupposes body consciousness. Such a bodily action is also a limitation and therefore external to God consciousness. So, it is painful for a saadhak. He is quite indifferent and unattached even to such trifle acts.
तस्य आलस्य धुरीणस्य सुखम् भवति- Such a master idler indeed becomes happy. For a man of world such a person appears like a born-idler. Swami Chinmayananda says, “Alas! One will never understand that this mystic meditator is a genius. He ever abides in the aloneness of the devine self”
न अन्यस्य कस्यचित्- not any other person becomes happy. Only the person who is unconnected with the body consciousness becomes happy, not any other person

Ch. 16 Sh.5

इदं कृतमिदं नेति द्वंद्वैर्मुक्तं यदा मनः ।
धर्मार्थकाममोक्षेषु निरपेक्षं तदा भवेत् ॥ १६-५॥
idaṁ kr̥tamidaṁ nēti dvaṁdvairmuktaṁ yadā manaḥ |
dharmārthakāmamōkṣēṣu nirapēkṣaṁ tadā bhavēt || 16-5||

इदम् कृतम् इदम् न इति द्वन्द्वैः र्मुक्तम् यदा मनः धर्मार्थकाममोक्षेषु निरपेक्षम् तदा भवेत् ॥ १६-५॥

इदम्-this कृतम्-done इदम्-this न-not इति-thus द्वन्द्वैः-from the pairs of opposites र्मुक्तम्-freed यदा-when मनः-the mind धर्मार्थकाममोक्षेषु- (धर्म-virtue अर्थ-riches काम- desire in wealth or sensual enjoyment and मोक्षेषु- in spiritual emancipation)- in righteounness, in wealth and in in spiritual liberation निरपेक्षम्- indifferent तदा-then भवेत्- becomes

When the mind is free of opposites like “This is done,” and “This is yet undone,” one becomes indifferent to merit, wealth, pleasure and liberation.

इदम् कृतम् इदम् न इति द्वन्द्वैः र्मुक्तम् यदा मनः भवति- The mind is free of opposites like “This is done,” and “This is yet undone,” A man of the world feels the relative fields of experiences like good and bad, happiness and sorrow, right and wrong. He recognizes the work completed and left incomeplete by him. Joy without sorrow and sorrow without joy has no meaning. You cannot perceive a white dot on a white background. A black dot on a white sheet or a white dot on a black sheet appears clearly. Swami Chinmahyanda says, “You cannot ever have a magnet without a south and north pole”. In the case of a jyani also he encounters the vagaries of natural phenomena, but he just becomes indifferent to them. He has transcended the mind and has no connection with the conditioning or उपाधि of the mind.
तदा धर्मार्थकाममोक्षेषु निरपेक्षम् भवेत् -The mind seeks no pleasure in righteousness (धर्म), riches (अर्थ), dersire (काम) and liberation (मोक्ष). These are the four goals of man. A yogi becomes indifferent to the goals of religious merit, worldly prosperity, sensual enjoyment and liberation.

Ch. 16 Sh.6
विरक्तो विषयद्वेष्टा रागी विषयलोलुपः ।
ग्रहमोक्षविहीनस्तु न विरक्तो न रागवान् ॥ १६-६॥
viraktō viṣayadvēṣṭā rāgī viṣayalōlupaḥ |
grahamōkṣavihīnastu na viraktō na rāgavān || 16-6||

विरक्तः विषयद्वेष्टा रागी विषयलोलुपः ग्रहमोक्षविहीनः तु न विरक्तः न रागवान् ॥ १६-६॥
विरक्तः-dispassionate, unattached विषयद्वेष्टा-(विषय-objects द्वेष्टा- one who hates)- one who has aversion for sense objects रागी- attached विषयलोलुपः- (विषय-object लोलुपः- coveting, greedy, lust)- one who is passionate of sense objects ग्रहमोक्षविहीनः-( ग्रह-taking मोक्षः-letting go विहीनः-one who is free of) -one who does not accept or reject तु-but न-not विरक्तः-unattached न-not रागवान्-attached, sensual, having passion

One who has aversion to sense objects is considered “non-attached”. One who covets them is said to be “sensual”. One who neither abhors nor desires is neither detached nor attached.
विरक्तः विषयद्वेष्टा –When the mind has aversion to sense objects, the person does not react to the objects of senses. He just does not take note of them. The sense objects per se are not bad. It is the attitude of the mind which creates desire or thirst (तृष्णा) in them.
रागी विषयलोलुपः-One who covets the sense objects becomes attached to them and in extreme cases he has a morbid passion to obtain the sense objects at any cost. Such a desire is always on the top of his mind. Such a person still has an idea of duality in him.
ग्रहमोक्षविहीनः तु न विरक्तः न रागवान् –One who is neither interested in objects of desire nor hankers after them is called “non-sensuous”. For a person of perfection does not see any other objects, or perceiving mind, other than Brahman. So, there is no question of attraction or repulsion to him. He always abides in the self.

Ch. 16 Sh 7

हेयोपादेयता तावत्संसारविटपांकुरः ।
स्पृहा जीवति यावद् वै निर्विचारदशास्पदम् ॥ १६-७॥
hēyōpādēyatā tāvatsaṁsāraviṭapāṁkuraḥ |
spr̥hā jīvati yāvad vai nirvicāradaśāspadam || 16-7||

हेय उपादेयता तावत् संसारविटपांकुरः स्पृहा जीवति यावत् वै निर्विचारदशास्पदम् ॥ १६-७॥
हेय-the idea to be accepted उपादेयता-to be rejected तावत्-so long संसार-world विटपांकुरः-(विटप- branch, अंकुरः-sprout)-the branch and sprout of samsara स्पृहा-desire जीवति-lives, exists यावत्-as long as वै- indeed निर्विचारदशास्पदम्- (निर्विचार+ दशा+आस्पदम्, निर्विचार-lack of descrimination दशा -condition, state आस्पदम् – abode, standing place)-the seat of state of non-descrimination.

As long desire, which is the abode of indiscrimination exists, there will surely be a sense attachment and aversion. These are the branches and sprouts of samsara and therefore the cause of the world.

हेय उपादेयता तावत् संसारविटपांकुरः स्पृहा जीवति यावत् वै निर्विचारदशास्पदम्
यावत् स्पृहा जीवति –As long as the desire exists the mind is crowded with thoughts which makes the discrimination and decision making process obscured.
तावत् संसारविटपांकुरः, हेय उपादेयता – So long is present the branches and sprouts of samsara. Desire causes interest or aversion in objects favourable to unfavourable to us. These are the branches and sprouts of samsara which will push us into roller coaster of death and birth.
निर्विचारदशास्पदम् – the seat of state of non-discrimination.
निर्विचार+ दशा+आस्पदम् = निर्विचारदशास्पदम् The mind which is stormed by desire looses its ability to judge right and wrong.

Ch. 16 Sh.8
प्रवृत्तौ जायते रागो निर्वृत्तौ द्वेष एव हि ।
निर्द्वन्द्वो बालवद् धीमान् एवमेव व्यवस्थितः ॥ १६-८॥
pravr̥ttau jāyatē rāgō nirvr̥ttau dvēṣa ēva hi |
nirdvandvō bālavad dhīmān ēvamēva vyavasthitaḥ || 16-8||

प्रवृत्तौ जायते रागः निर्वृत्तौ द्वेष एव हि निर्द्वन्द्वः बालवदत् धीमान् एवम् एव व्यवस्थितः ॥ १६-८॥

प्रवृत्तौ- in activity, action जायते-is born रागः-attachment निर्वृत्तौ-in abstention, not acting द्वेष-aversion, disliking एव-surely हि-indeed निर्द्वन्द्वः-one who is free from pairs of opposites बालवत्- like a child धीमान्-the wise man एवम्-thus एव-indeed व्यवस्थितः-is established

Activity begets attachment and abstention from it generates aversion. The wise man is free from the pairs of opposits, like a child and indeed, is well-established in the self.

प्रवृत्तौ जायते रागः निर्वृत्तौ द्वेष एव हि- One gets attached to work and its results if it is done with self-motive. Actions done without self interest does not beget attachment and karmic results. Abstention from activity results in hatred.
निर्द्वन्द्वः बालवदत् धीमान् एवम् एव व्यवस्थितः – An intelligent man of discrimination, just like a child, remains free from the pairs of opposites namely, the notion of activity and inactivity. By the same attitude of indifference towards activity and inactivity he remains centred in the self.

Ch. 16 Sh.9
हातुमिच्छति संसारं रागी दुःखजिहासया ।
वीतरागो हि निर्दुःखस्तस्मिन्नपि न खिद्यति ॥ १६-९॥
hātumicchati saṁsāraṁ rāgī duḥkhajihāsayā |
vītarāgō hi nirduḥkhastasminnapi na khidyati || 16-9||

हातुम् इच्छति संसारम् रागी दुःखजिहासया वीतरागः हि निर्दुःखः तस्मिन् अपि न खिद्यति ॥ १६-९॥

हातुम्-to renounce इच्छति-wishes संसारम्-world रागी- one who is attached दुःखजिहासया-(दुःख-sorrow जिहासया-by wishing to avoid)-by wishing to avoid misery वीतरागः-(वीत-departed रागः-attachment)-one who is free from attachment हि-indeed निर्दुःखः-free from sorrow भवति-becomes तस्मिन्-there in, in that अपि-even न-not खिद्यति- feels miserable.

A man who is attached to the world wants to renounce it in order to avoid sorrow. But the one who is free from all attachments being always free from worries, does not feel miserable even while living in the world.

हातुम् इच्छति संसारम् रागी दुःखजिहासया- One who is attached to the world wants to give up all the attachments in order to be free from miseries. He thinks that attachment is the cause of sorrow and misery.
वीतरागः हि निर्दुःखः तस्मिन् अपि न खिद्यति – But the one who is free from all attachments is free from worries and misery. He does not feel miserable even while living in the world of objects which seduce the mind.
In this verse two equations are given. One who is attached to objects and is battered by the temptations, inducement and attraction of the sense objects. He becomes a victim and realizes the sense objects are the cause of his persecution. So, he wants to renounce the world to escape the sorrows and tragedies inflicted by the objective world.
The second equation is the case of a yogi who lives amidst the world of objects yet is free from misery.
It is not he world but the attraction and attachment are the root of all miseries. Swami Chinmayanada says, “To a smoker cigarette is a joy. But to a non-smoker the same cigarette is a source of sorrow.” one can live happily, free from miseries if he is not attached to the objects.
Ch. 16 Sh.10
यस्याभिमानो मोक्षेऽपि देहेऽपि ममता तथा ।
न च ज्ञानी न वा योगी केवलं दुःखभागसौ ॥ १६-१०॥
yasyābhimānō mōkṣē:’pi dēhē:’pi mamatā tathā |
na ca jñānī na vā yōgī kēvalaṁ duḥkhabhāgasau || 16-10||

यस्य अभिमानः मोक्षे अपि देहे अपि ममता तथा न च ज्ञानी न वा योगी केवलम् दुःखभाक् असौ ॥ १६-१०॥
यस्य-whose अभिमानः-egoism, self-conceit मोक्षे-in liberation अपि-even देहे-in the body अपि-also ममता-mine-ness, sense of possessiveness तथा-so too न-not च-and ज्ञानी-sage न-not वा-or योगी-yogi केवलम्-only दुःखभाक्-partaker of misery असौ-he भवति- becomes

One who has ego pride in liberation and has a sense of mine-nesss towards the body, is neither a jnyani nor a yogi. He only suffers misery.

यस्य अभिमानः मोक्षे अपि देहे अपि ममता- as long as one entertains an arrogant feeling that he is liberated and arrogates for himself all the actions and their result, he is not liberated. Swami Swarupananda says, “The word abhimana could mean two things. First, it has a reference to egoism, and pride. Second, it means self-conceit. The difference is only in grade of egoism. If one thinks that he has adequate knowledge of the self to qualify himself as a liberated man. Such an idea is also upadhi and ignorance. So long as one thinks “I am free”, one becomes proud of his spiritual achievement. Such a pride is the antitheseis of jnyana. So, he cannot be a jnyani.
तथा न च ज्ञानी न वा योगी केवलम् दुःखभाक् असौ-
Such a person is neither a yogi nor a jnyani. He is in a state of sad delusion and only begets misery. Jnyani means wise, endowed with spiritual knowledge and intelligence. He must necessarily be fotally free from any trace of ego. If he thinks that he is free, or endwowed with spiritual knowledge, he only exhibits s ego. So, he cannot be a jnyani. Yogi is one who is totally bereft of body8 consciusness and lives centred in the self. If one has ‘mamata’ or my-ness, ownership, possession, he cannot be a yogi. असौ दुःखभाक् एव – he is only a prey to misery.

Ch. 16 Sh.11
हरो यद्युपदेष्टा ते हरिः कमलजोऽपि वा ।
तथापि न तव स्वाथ्यं सर्वविस्मरणादृते ॥ १६-११॥
harō yadyupadēṣṭā tē hariḥ kamalajō:’pi vā |
tathāpi na tava svāthyaṁ sarvavismaraṇādr̥tē || 16-11||

हरः यदि उपदेष्टा ते हरिः कमलजः अपि वा तथापि न तव स्वाथ्यम् सर्वविस्मरणात् ऋते ॥ १६-११॥
हरः-shiva यदि-even if उपदेष्टा-instructor, teacher ते-your हरिः-Vishnu कमलजः-lotus-born Brahma अपि-even वा-or तथापि- yet न-not तव-your स्वाथ्यम्-abidence in the self भवति- becomes सर्वविस्मरणात्-forgetting all ऋते- without, except

Let even Hara, Hari or the Lotus-born Brahma be your instructor, but unless you forget all, you cannot be established in the self

हरः यदि उपदेष्टा ते हरिः कमलजः अपि वा- Let Hara, Hari or the lotus born Brahma be your Guru. Even if you get direct instructions from the trinity themselves
तथापि न भवति तव स्वाथ्यम् सर्वविस्मरणात् ऋते – even then you will not be able to become centred in the self (you will not be liberated) unless you drop all your past memories. One must be aware of the self only. To be aware of anything else is to create a division in one’s consciousness.