A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt. 37

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Ashtavakra said: 
18:52 – The steadfast one shines—their state is genuinely unrestrained.  But the peace of the ignorant one with attachment in their mind is a façade.     

The point here is that someone can outwardly appear to be peaceful but still be inwardly perturbed by attachment.  So real peace comes from within.  The steadfast one is one who not only has self-knowledge but who’s also applied it to their thinking to the point that it purifies attachment from their mind.  This is the kind of inner peace—the so-called “genuinely unrestrained state”—that the verse is describing.  To be clear, the mind of a self-realized person may or may not reach this state.  But that’s of no real consequence considering that self-knowledge first and foremost shows you that you’re neither the mind nor are you restrained by any of its states.          

18:53 – The wise one with an unbound mind, free from fictitious ideas, sometimes sports in the midst of great enjoyments and sometimes retires into mountain caves.

The wise one’s mind is unbound by the fictitious beliefs caused by self-ignorance, the most common one being, “I am the body-mind.”  Since they know they’re not the body-mind, it doesn’t matter to them whether their body-mind does something ‘normal’ like having fun with others or something ‘spiritual’ like contemplating in solitude.      

18:54 – There is no inclination the heart of the wise one, whether seeing or honoring a person versed in sacred learning, a god, a holy place, a woman, a king or a loved one.

The wise one has non-dual vision: they see everything as their own self, despite any seeming differences such as god, woman, king etc.  That does not mean that their mind won’t be inclined to react differently towards different people.  Yes, the inclinations of the mind can be greatly reduced, but they can’t be fully removed.  Regardless, in the presence or absence of mental inclination, the wise one (as the self) is always free of the mind.       

18:55 – The yogi is not at all perturbed even when ridiculed and despised by his servants, sons, wives, grandchildren or other relatives. 

A yogi is not necessarily a jnani (one with self-knowledge) because yoga is an action-based spiritual discipline that aims to control the mind whereas self-knowledge is based on understanding, specifically the understanding that you, the self, are never associated with the mind or affected by its various states.  This means it’s entirely possible that a yogi who’s trained their mind to be indifferent to the opinions of others may have absolutely no idea that they’re the self. 

All the same, since this is a Vedanta text, it can be assumed that by “yogi” the author means a self-realized person.  While it’s true that a self-realized person may become totally indifferent to the opinions of others, indifference isn’t the point of self-knowledge because indifference is a state of mind.  The self-realized person isn’t chasing a particular state of mind because they know they’re not the mind or affected by it—they’re the changeless, limitless, unassociated self no matter what state the mind happens to be in.            

18:56 – Though pleased they are not pleased, though pained they do not suffer any pain.  Only those like them understand this wonderful condition. 

This verse illustrates my previous point perfectly.  It’s saying that no matter what’s happening in the self-realized person’s mind, they’re never affected.  Their mind may be affected by pleasure, pain etc.  But as the self, they’re never affected.  And only those that know they’re the self can understand what this is like.      

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