Steady Wisdom: Day 33

Steady Wisdom: 108 Verses On Changing My Thinking

DAY 33

I am not an object of the five senses nor do they belong to me.  I am the ultimate reality so there is no reason to grieve.
-Avadhuta Gita 1:16

As the Kena Upanishad says, “I am the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, the speech of speech, the breath of breath, the eye of the eye.”  For how can there be hearing, thinking, speech, breath or sight without me, pure consciousness?  As consciousness, I am not an object of the senses because the senses are objects known to me.  And as the ultimate reality, pure existence, the senses depend on me and not the other way around (for how can the senses exist without me, existence itself?).  Therefore, I am not afflicted by the suffering caused by the senses and I do not need the senses to be the limitless self I already am.  There is no reason to grieve. 

Read Series Introduction

Steady Wisdom: Day 30

Steady Wisdom: 108 Verses On Changing My Thinking

DAY 30

I witness my body acting as if it were someone else’s.  There is no reason to be disturbed by praise or blame. 
– Ashtavakra Samhita 3:10

How strange is it that while I am absolutely clear that I am not another person’s body, I identify with this body that looks and feels closest to me, call it “myself” and claim its actions as my own.  But how can this be?  I witness the bodies of others the same as I witness this one—they are all thoughts known to me. As such, this body cannot be me.  I merely witness it acting, the same as I witness the actions of other’s bodies.  Just as I cannot be praised or blamed for the actions of other’s bodies that I witness, I cannot be praised or blamed for the actions of this body that I witness.  I am the action-less, blameless self.  OM. 

Read Series Introduction


A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt. 16

Read Part 15  /  Ask a Question  /  Support End of Knowledge

Ashtavakra said:
9:1 – What is done and what is not done, as well as the pairs of opposites—when do they cease and for whom? Knowing thus, be indifferent to everything, even renunciation.

Action is defined according to the opposites of good and bad.  And resolving to avoid bad actions is renunciation.  Renouncing bad actions is essential for purifying the mind in order to prepare it for self-knowledge but upon gaining self-knowledge, renunciation loses its meaning.  Why?  Because you see that duality—such as good and evil—is not real.  And furthermore, you understand that as consciousness-existence you’re not the doer.  So you can’t perform any action, good or bad, let alone renounce any action. 

When you know you’re consciousness-existence, does that mean the body-mind you formerly identified with can abandon all notions of decent behavior and start robbing, killing or just being a self-centered jerk?  No.  Because as the verse astutely points out, doership and the pairs of opposites never cease.  They still totally apply to the body-mind, assuming it wants to avoid being an inmate or an outcast from society. 

If you contend that doership and duality cease for you, consciousness-existence, you’d be wrong.  Why?  Because they never applied to you in the first place.            

9:2 – One is fortunate whose desire for life, enjoyment, and learning have been extinguished by observing the ways of the world.

When you observe the world and truly see that everything in it is impermanent, it’s to your benefit to become dispassionate, meaning objective.  Because if everything is impermanent attachment is illogical and unnecessary, assuming you enjoy peace of mind.  But dispassion isn’t cold-hearted stoicism, it’s simply appreciating things while they last and for what they’re worth, never expecting them to give something they can never give e.g. permanent happiness.        

9:3 – Everything is indeed impermanent, spoiled by the threefold affliction of being worthless, contemptible and fit for rejection.  Understand this clearly and you come to peace. 

This verse reinforces the last and it employs a bit of hyperbole.  Are friends and family really “worthless, contemptible and for rejection”?  Well, maybe some people’s family and friends are but really, the meaning here is the same as before: Be clear that nothing in the world lasts; accept that fact and be at peace.  

9:4 – At what time or at what age do the pairs of opposites not exist?  Disregard them and you will attain perfection.

Duality is a problem for people of every age.  But the good news is that anyone at any time can disregard it by seeing that it’s an illusion.  Then you ‘attain’ perfection by seeing that you’re the ever-perfect, undivided self.  Technically, you can’t attain this status because you are, and always have been, the self.   

9:5 – After observing the diverse beliefs of the great seers, saints and yogis, attain equanimity by becoming completely indifferent to them. 

Every religion and philosophy has different views about your true nature.  And since those views often conflict with one another, they can’t all be right.  So at some point you have to investigate the ones that appeal to you and with luck, you’ll find out who you really are.  Once you’ve seen that for yourself, the so-called spiritual quest is over and you can rest easy.  And then the innumerable beliefs of various teachings which formerly seemed bewildering become completely immaterial.  Because what does someone’s opinion matter in the face of firsthand experience and understanding?          

9:6 – A teacher is one who has gained clear knowledge that they are consciousness.  Through indifference, equanimity and reasoning, they help others escape self-ignorance (samsara).

Knowing that you’re consciousness-existence is the most important prerequisite for being a teacher (because how can you teach what you don’t know?).  Your personal behavior, even though it can be an inspiring example to students, is secondary.  So don’t be concerned if your mind isn’t perfectly indifferent and equanimous—after all, self-knowledge is knowing you aren’t the mind in any way.  But if your mind lacks the ability to reason, meaning the ability to employ reason based on the logic of Vedanta, you’re dead in the water (at least as a teacher).  In that case, shut down your website, disband your satsang and quietly enjoy your enlightenment—otherwise you’ll just confuse people.          

9:7 – Look upon all objects as modifications of the elements and abide in your true nature (consciousness-existence) and you will at once be free from bondage.

Anything that changes is unreal.  If all objects—both mental and physical—are simply modifications of the elements (matter), they’re unreal and can’t be you.  Furthermore, as matter they’re non-conscious—another reason they can’t be you.  Once you see that you’re not an unreal, non-conscious object (specifically the body-mind) you’re free from bondage because you know that as consciousness-existence, you were never bound.   

9:8 – Your vasanas alone are samsara. Knowing this, renounce them all. The renunciation of your vasanas is the renunciation of samsara.  Be established [in your true nature] regardless of external circumstances. 

Your vasanas are your personal collection of desires and mental inclinations.  Samsara, in a general sense, is the world.  But more specifically it means the everyday cycle of identifying with objects (specifically the body-mind) and the suffering caused by trying to gain or keep desired objects while avoiding or getting rid of undesired objects.  If you think about it, what’s your personal world comprised of other than what you want, what you don’t want and how you’re inclined to go about getting what you want or avoiding what you don’t want?  In that way, your vasanas are samsara. 

Knowing this, it seems reasonable to try and escape samsara by renouncing or destroying the vasanas.   But this method won’t work.  Because even though you can achieve a significant reduction in desire and a drastic change in your personal inclinations, unless the body-mind is dead, there’s no end to your wants and mental conditioning.  So there’s no end to your samsara.  A different approach is needed. 

Enter Vedanta, which says that to escape the samsara of your vasanas, you simply need to realize that they aren’t your vasanas in the first placeThe mind, the container of all desires and inclinations, is an unreal, transient object.  And it’s not you, consciousness-existence, which is ever-free of the mind and all its vasanas.  So to end samsara, stop identifying with the mind. 

To be clear, working on the mind to rid it of excessive desire and negative inclinations is a very constructive endeavor, one that is an essential preparatory step on the spiritual path.  But it doesn’t equate to self-knowledge which is dis-identification with the mind in general.    

Read Part 15  /  Ask a Question  /  Support End of Knowledge


A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt. 15

Read Part 14  /  Ask a Question  /  Make a Donation


In Vedanta, the definition of bondage is self-ignorance i.e. believing that you’re the body-mind when you’re actually consciousness-existence.  Liberation, therefore, is 1) The clear understanding that you’re consciousness-existence and 2) The subsequent dis-identification with the body-mind and its various states.  This means from the absolute viewpoint that liberation has absolutely nothing to do with the state of your mind.  Whether it’s angry, desirous, attached and full of egoism or happy, unattached and free of desire and egoism is inconsequential because as consciousness-existence you’re always untouched by the mind.

But on a relative level, a mind burdened with excessive desire, attachment, egoism and negative emotions can be conditionally defined as ‘bondage’ insofar as it’s uncomfortable and generally detrimental to conducting your day-to-day affairs.  In that regard, it’s sensible to be aware of those states of mind in order to manage them for maximum efficiency and mental peace. 

Of course, it could be argued that the mind doesn’t need to be managed because it doesn’t affect you, consciousness-existence.  And that would be completely true.  But if you extend that logic, it could also be argued that if you fall down the stairs and break your leg there’s no need to seek treatment because the body doesn’t affect you either.  Or that there’s no need to go to work or tend to the welfare of your family and friends because it doesn’t matter to you, consciousness-existence.  And that would also be completely true. 

But in the same way that you’d prefer to have a healthy body, keep your job and maintain good relationships with your family and friends, it’s preferable to take care of your mind to ensure that it too remains healthy and happy.  You just do it because it makes sense to do it.  And you do it knowing that you’re always okay, whether or not your efforts bear fruit. 

If, however, you’re satisfied with your mind being miserable, then so be it—it’s your choice.  It doesn’t affect the fact that you’re unchanging consciousness-existence one single bit. 

In this chapter, Ashtavakra discusses what bondage and liberation are from the relative level.  Those interested in mental well-being take note.  For all of you hardcore enlightened beings out there who don’t care, feel free to skip to the next chapter 🙂        

Ashtavakra said:
8:1 – Bondage is when the mind desires anything or grieves at anything, rejects or accepts anything, feels happy or angry at anything.
8:2 – Liberation is when the mind does not desire or grieve or reject or feel happy or angry.
8:3 – It is bondage when the mind is attached to any sense experience. It is liberation when the mind is unattached to all sense experiences.
8:4 – When there is “I,” there is bondage.  But when there is no “I,” there is liberation.  Knowing this, easily refrain from accepting or rejecting anything.

The gist of what he’s saying is that it pays to be objective and dispassionate about your everyday life.  Desire never solved anyone’s problems because it always leads to more desire.  Grief over loss, at least excessive grief, isn’t warranted because it’s the nature of things to be impermanent—losing them is inevitable.  Acceptance and happiness or anger and rejection aren’t necessary because the value assigned to objects to determine whether they should be accepted, rejected etc. is completely relative.  What one person deems worthy of rejection might just as soon be accepted by someone else.  Furthermore, all objects are unreal, and nothing unreal deserves to be the source of real desire, grief, acceptance, rejection, happiness or anger.     

Read Part 14  /  Ask a Question  /  Make a Donation

A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt. 14

Read Part 13

Ask a Question

Help support End of Knowledge: Make a Donation

Note: This will be the last installment of the commentary until the New Year. 


Ashtavakra said:
6:1 – I am like limitless space and the universe is like a pot.  Knowing this, there is nothing to grasp, renounce or destroy. 

In the same way that space remains unaffected even when a pot seems to limit or divide it, existence-consciousness remains unaffected even when objects seem to limit or divide it.  So when you know you are existence-consciousness, there’s no reason to grasp, renounce or destroy objects because gaining an object, giving up an object or destroying (changing) an object has no effect on you whatsoever.     

6:2 – I am like the ocean and the universe is like a wave.  Knowing this, there is nothing to grasp, renounce or destroy. 

A wave and the ocean are non-different as water, just as the universe and the multitude of objects comprising it are non-different as existence-consciousness.  If everything in the universe is you, existence-consciousness, then there is nothing to grasp, renounce or destroy because you can’t grasp, renounce or destroy yourself.      

6:3 – I am like mother of pearl and the illusion of the universe is like silver.  Knowing this, there is nothing to grasp, renounce or destroy.

Just as there is never any silver in mother of pearl, even though there appears to be, there is never a universe in existence-consciousness, even though there appears to be.  Since the universe, like the silver, is only an illusion, it can’t be grasped, renounced or destroyed because you can’t grasp, renounce or destroy something that isn’t real in the first place. 

6:4 – I am in all beings and all beings are in me. Knowing this, there is nothing to grasp, renounce or destroy. 

“I am in all beings” doesn’t mean that existence-consciousness is contained in living beings like some kind of soul.  Existence-consciousness is only “in all beings” insofar as it is the essence of all beings, the same way that water is the essence of all waves.  “All beings are in me” means that all beings appear in the field of existence-consciousness and are nothing but existence-consciousness, the same way that all waves appear in the ocean and are nothing but water.  The meaning of this verse is similar to the meaning of Verse 2—that everything is you, existence-consciousness, and you can’t grasp, renounce or destroy yourself. 

But there is a subtle difference.  Verse 2 only mentions that the universe is existence-consciousness.  For some this could lead to the idea that only inanimate objects (the material world) are part of existence-consciousness and that living, conscious beings are something else.  But to dispel that doubt, this verse explicitly states that existence-consciousness is the essence of all living beings and that all living beings are “in” existence-consciousness, just the same as the inanimate, material universe.  Reality is non-dual: absolutely everything is existence-consciousness.     


All five verses of Chapter Seven are ideal for contemplation.  Saying them to yourself and thinking about their implications is an excellent practice for gaining confidence in your identity as existence-consciousness.  In a nutshell, each of these verses is saying, “No matter what happens, I am just fine.”  So even if you don’t yet understand how you can be existence-consciousness, repeating these verses to yourself can help you start to take the stance of being existence-consciousness.     

Janaka said:
7:1 – In me, the limitless ocean, the ship of the universe moves about by its own inner wind (nature)—I remain unaffected. 

Like a ship adrift at sea, the world goes about its business, impelled by forces that no one truly understands.  And for many people, that uncertainty can be unnerving.  But if you are existence-consciousness (which you are), then there is no reason to have fear about what happens in the world because it never affects you.  

7:2 – In me, the limitless ocean, the wave of the world—according to its inherent nature—arises and comes to an end.  I gain nothing by its presence nor do I lose anything by its absence. 

In this verse the metaphor is a wave instead of a ship but the meaning is basically the same as in Verse One.  But it does elaborate on what it means for you (as existence-consciousness) to remain unaffected in spite of the appearance of the universe.  Most people want to get rid of what they don’t want and gain what they do want.  But this verse clearly states that in either case you remain unchanged.  So there is no reason to be obsessed about gaining things or overly concerned about losing them.    

7:3 – The universe is merely name [and form], an imaginary concept that appears in me, the limitless ocean.  Despite its appearance I remain formless and at peace.  In this (knowledge) alone do I abide. 

There’s no need to be concerned about the world because it’s just an illusion that appears in you, existence-consciousness.  An illusion can never disturb you or limit you by superimposing its form on you.  For instance, even if you dream that you’re being beaten, your body remains untouched.  In the same way, no matter what happens to you (the body-mind) in the world—either good or bad—as existence-consciousness you remain completely untouched.     

7:4 – I am not an object nor am I within an object.  I am infinite, free from attachment and desire and ever at peace.  In this (knowledge) alone do I abide. 

The only object to really be concerned about in the world is the body-mind because it’s the one that you feels like it’s you.  No one—at least no one sane—worries about being a tree or a refrigerator.  So the question is, “Am I the body-mind?”  Verse Four answers that question by saying you aren’t the body-mind nor are you contained within it.  It never limits you in any way.  And because attachment and desire are purely products of the mind, you are never subject to desire and attachment. 

This means the presence of desire or attachment in the mind doesn’t change the fact that you are existence-consciousness.  The implication here is that you don’t need to completely eliminate desire and attachment to be enlightened.  Being enlightened is knowing that you’re existence-consciousness.  And if you know that you’re existence-consciousness, you know you’re existence-consciousness no matter what’s going on in the mind.     

7:5 – I am consciousness alone—the world is merely a net of illusion.  How and where can there be any thought of rejection or acceptance?

It’s completely normal to reject one thing as bad and accept another as good.  This happens all the time, especially in spiritual life when you determine what parts of your life are good or bad, meaning whether they promote or inhibit spiritual growth.  While those definitions do serve a purpose, at some point they have to be given up, at least on the mental level, the level of understanding.  Why?  Because how can you truly call something good and accept it, or deem something bad and reject it if it isn’t real in the first place?  It would be like saying, “Wow, that soup I dreamed about last night was really good.”  It was never there so it can’t really be good.