A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt. 19

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Janaka said:
12:1 – First I became averse to physical action, then to extensive speech, then to thought.  In this way I abide in my own nature.

Self-inquiry is a contemplative journey, one that requires you to progressively withdraw your attention from external things in order to look inward and investigate your true nature.  This withdrawal is the natural consequence of seeing that physical action, speech and thought, being transient in nature, can’t bring about a permanent solution to existential angst.  Once you come to this understanding, it’s not as if you completely stop acting, speaking or thinking.  That’s impossible, unless the body-mind is dead.  Rather, you’re able to prioritize your actions, words and thoughts, focusing on the ones that work towards your goal of self-knowledge to the exclusion of those that don’t.  In this way you ‘abide’ in your own nature.

12:2 – Having no attachment for sound and other sense objects, and by virtue of the fact that I am not an object of perception, my mind is freed from distraction and is one pointed. In this way I abide in my own nature.

Seeing the impermanence of sense objects allows you to reduce your attachment to them.  After all, what’s the point of attachment to sense objects if none of them last?  When this is known, distraction caused by sense objects decreases, freeing up attention to inquire into what is permanent:  consciousness-existence, your true self. But this isn’t an inquiry into yet another object because your self is never an object.  Instead, it’s the essence of all objects without being an object itself, the way water is the essence of all waves without itself being a wave.

12:3 – An effort has to be made for concentration when there is distraction of mind owing to superimposition (self-ignorance).  Seeing this to be the rule, I abide in my true nature.

During self-inquiry the mind has to be continually brought back to the contemplation of consciousness-existence when it gets distracted by sense objects and thoughts contrary to the inquiry itself.  But when self-inquiry bears fruit you clearly understand that you’re consciousness-existence regardless of whether your mind is distracted, concentrated or otherwise.  You see that you’re always ‘abiding’ in your true nature—consciousness-existence—because you always are consciousness-existence.

12:4 – Having nothing to accept and nothing to reject, and having neither joy nor sorrow, I abide in my true nature.

You’re consciousness-existence and consciousness-existence is non-dual.  This means there’s only you, so there’s nothing outside of yourself that’s available for acceptance or rejection.  This doesn’t mean you’ll stop preferring one flavor of ice cream over another or that you’ll just sit back and let an unhealthy situation in your personal life slide.  It just means that you gain perspective on life through the knowledge that everything, good or bad, is in reality just yourself.  So when that irritating co-worker comes up to your desk yet again to talk to tell you their asinine views on politics it’s not as if you won’t tell them that you’re not interested.  But you can do it with the empathy, informed by the understanding that both of your body-mind’s are but appearances of the exact same self, consciousness-existence.

12:5 – A stage of life or no stage of life, meditation, control of mental functions—finding that these cause distractions to me, I abide in my true nature.

Observing your duty, renouncing your duty, meditating and controlling your mind—when properly applied—can be invaluable practices on the path to self-knowledge.  But once self-inquiry negates the idea that you’re the doer of said practices, they become distractions to simply ‘abiding’ in the knowledge that you’re consciousness-existence regardless of the actions of the body-mind.  But caution must be exercised here.  To dismiss spiritual practice as a distraction before gaining self-knowledge is a mistake that will likely hinder self-knowledge because a mind undisciplined by spiritual practice is usually unable to muster up the concentration necessary for sustained inquiry.

12:6 – Refraining from action is as much the outcome of ignorance as the performance action. Knowing this truth fully well, I abide in my true nature.

Thinking both, “I will do this” or “I will not do this” stems from the same erroneous belief:  that you’re the doer of action, the body-mind.  When you know that you’re consciousness-existence, you realize that you’re not involved with the body-mind, regardless of what it does or doesn’t do.

12:7 – Thinking of the unthinkable (consciousness-existence) is not possible without thought itself.  Therefore giving up that thought, I abide in my true nature.

Conceptualizing the self as this or that is a necessity in the process of self-inquiry because you can’t inquire into something that you can’t think about.  But in the end inquiry shows you 1) That you, the self, aren’t and object and 2) That you’re not the thinker, the mind.  At that point you can stop trying to think of yourself as one thing or the other and you can simply rest easy in the knowledge that you are the self.

12:8 – Blessed is the one who has accomplished this. Blessed is he who is such by nature.

Om. Amen. Word.

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