A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt.36

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Ashtavakra said:
18:47 – He who is free from doubts and has his mind identified with the self does not resort to practices of control as a means to liberation. Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and eating, he lives happily.

The self-realized person knows there’s no practice of control that leads to liberation because no action can make them more or less the self they already are.  Therefore, they let the body-mind do what it’s going to do, all the while remaining identified—and satisfied—with the actionless self. 

18:48 – Those of pure mind attain peace by hearing of the truth alone.  They do not see anything to do or avoid or a reason to feel indifferent towards either. 

You’re ready for self-knowledge when your mind is “pure,” meaning when it’s is clear, focused and receptive.  At that point, you can gain self-knowledge simply by hearing the teaching.  When you understand you’re the self, you don’t see anything to do or not do because you know that you’re not the doer (the ego that claims the actions of the body-mind as its own).   

18:49 – The wise one does freely whatever comes to be done, whether pleasant or unpleasant, for their actions are like those of a child.

Really speaking, the wise one doesn’t do anything because the wise one is the actionless self.  Because of that, their body-mind can do whatever needs to be done, pleasant or unpleasant.  For that reason, I’m not sure why the actions of an enlightened person are described as child-like in this verse because children are acutely aware of what’s pleasant and what’s not.  And they almost always gravitate toward the pleasant while avoiding the unpleasant.  That’s part of being child, isn’t it?    

Perhaps the author is trying to say that the actions of the self-realized person are childlike in the sense that they’re spontaneous.  But the actions of children (like many of their adult counterparts) aren’t spontaneous because they’re generally motivated by desire—the desire to get what they want while avoiding what they don’t want.    

But is it possible that the actions of an enlightened person—unlike a child—are spontaneous?  No.  If you refer back to the commentary on 18:13, you’ll see that the actions of an enlightened person are supposedly the effects of their past karma (prarabdha).  If that’s the case, their actions can’t be spontaneous because they’re completely pre-determined. 

At this point you may know what I’m going to say:  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the actions of an enlightened person are done freely or not because the enlightened person knows they’re not really a person—therefore the issue of action doesn’t apply to them.  It actually doesn’t apply to the unenlightened either, they just haven’t realized it yet.         

18:50 – Through freedom one attains happiness. Through freedom one obtains the highest.  Through freedom one reaches tranquility.  Freedom is the ultimate standpoint.    

In this verse, freedom means self-knowledge.  Why is self-knowledge freedom?  Because it shows you that you’re the ever-free self. 

Does self-knowledge lead to permanent happiness?  No, because happiness is a state of mind and the mind—enlightened or not—is always subject to change.  But self-knowledge does give the mind a permanent source of happiness to rely on—the self.  Unlike objects in the world, the self is always present, so when an enlightened person’s circumstances are painful or frustrating, they can always find happiness in the knowledge, “I’m the self.  I’m not limited by the circumstances of my body-mind.  No matter what happens, I’m always just fine.”

Does one obtain the highest through self-knowledge?  Technically, no, because the self is the “highest”—seeing as it’s the ultimate reality—and you can’t obtain the self because you already are the self.  So through self-knowledge one obtains the highest in a metaphorical sense by understanding, “I am the highest.”

Self-knowledge doesn’t lead to permanent tranquility for the same reason it doesn’t grant permanent happiness: both tranquility and happiness are temporary states of mind.  But in the same way that self-knowledge gives the mind a permanent source of happiness to rely on, it also gives the mind a permanent source of tranquility (peace) to dwell in, inasmuch as the self is changeless and eternal.  When an enlightened person finds their mind agitated by a difficult situation, they can always fall back on the knowledge, “I am not my agitated mind.  I am peace itself.” 

Self-knowledge may not be a permanent mental state of happiness and peace but it is the ultimate standpoint. How so? Because it cuts through false beliefs you have about yourself and shows you the truth: that you’re the self, consciousness-existence, the highest reality.         

18:51 – All the modifications of the mind are destroyed when one realizes they are neither the doer nor the enjoyer. 

When the modifications of the mind are seen to be an insubstantial illusion, they’re metaphorically destroyed insofar as their reality is negated.  All the same, it’s more accurate to say that identifying with the modifications of the mind ceases when you realize that you’re not the ego, the doer and enjoyer that claims the modifications of the mind as its own. 

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