A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt.38

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18:57 – The sense of duty, indeed, is the world of relativity. It is transcended by the wise who knows, “I am all-pervasive, formless, immutable, and untainted.”

The sense of duty is based on the idea of doership, the belief that, “I am the body-mind and I must do such and such.”  The wise one (the one with self-knowledge) has no sense of duty—even while attending to their duties—because their identification with the body-mind has been negated by the knowledge, “I am the all-pervasive, formless, changeless and untainted self.”   

18:58 – One of dull intellect remains restless and agitated, even without doing anything; but the skillful one is not disturbed, even while doing their duties.   

This verse reinforces my previous point: the skillful one (the self-realized person) is not disturbed by action because they have no sense of doership—they know they’re not acting even when the body-mind is acting.  But one of dull intellect (a self-ignorant person who identifies with the body-mind) is restless owing to their false sense of doership—even when they’re not doing anything, they’re agitated because they’re still thinking about what needs to be done in the future or what they should or shouldn’t have done in the past.    

18:59 – With perfect equanimity, even in practical life, the wise one sits happily, sleeps happily, moves happily, speaks happily, and eats happily.

Whether the wise one sits, sleeps, moves, speak or eats happily depends on the individual person and their particular circumstances.  It’s quite possible they may be unhappy, indifferent or something in-between while doing those things but regardless, they always have perfect equanimity as the self, unchanging consciousness-existence. 

18:60 – Whoever, by virtue of the realization of his own self, does not feel distressed even in practical life like ordinary people, and remains unagitated, like a vast lake, with all his sorrows gone—he shines.

Having a mind that’s completely at peace is not enlightenment. Why?  Because enlightenment is the crystal clear understanding, “I am the self.  I am never the mind.” 

However, when you know this, it radically changes your perspective for the better because you understand that as the self, you’re always completely perfect and changeless.  When, over time, you get used to thinking of yourself in that way, it brings a greater sense of peace to the mind because you know that you’re always okay no matter what’s going in your everyday life. 

With that distinction in mind, this verse is the gold standard description of someone who not only has self-knowledge but who’s also assimilated the knowledge to such a degree that they move through life without distress. But for the record, whether this happens or not is of no consequence—the self-realized person accepts their mind as it is.            

 18:61 – With the deluded, even inaction becomes action, and with the wise, even action results in the fruit of inaction.

By “the deluded” the author is referring to those without self-knowledge.  So when he says that “even inaction becomes action” for such people, he means that even when they refrain from action, they’re still identified with the doer of action, the body-mind. 

The wise (those with self-knowledge) have no such identification so they know that they’re completely actionless even when the body-mind acts or refrains from acting.

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