Steady Wisdom: Day 10

Steady Wisdom: 108 Days of Changing My Thinking

DAY 10

I need no support but I am the support of all; I have no desires to be fulfilled; I am the immortal, changeless self.
– Brahma Jnanavali V.15

The universe depends on me but I do not depend on it. For how can anything exist without me, existence itself? Therefore, I do not have to rely on the body, mind or world for security. Because they are ever-changing and unreal objects, they have nothing to offer me, the immortal, changeless self. So I watch the objects come and go, all the while remaining satisfied in myself. OM.

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A Conversation with Ashtavakra: Conclusion

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This is the final chapter of the Ashtavakra Samhita.  It’s the conclusion of Janaka’s statement of self-knowledge from Chapter 19, one last declaration of what he’s realized about his true nature.  Like Chapter 19, I’ve edited the verses of Chapter 20 for the purpose of nididhyasana, converting Janaka’s statements from question form to first person statements that can be used for recitation, contemplation and meditation. 

Some of these statements may appear confusing for someone still on the path to self-knowledge, seeing as they appear to contradict or negate the scripture and the path of inquiry itself.  It may make one wonder, “If scripture and the process of self-inquiry are eventually negated, are they even needed in the first place?”  The answer is a resounding and unequivocal “Yes.”  Only when, like Janaka, you’ve done self-inquiry and seen the truth of the scriptures for yourself do they become redundant. 

Like I said in the last post, scripture and self-inquiry are like a boat used to cross a raging river.  Once you arrive safely on the opposite bank, you no longer need the boat.  But that doesn’t mean you didn’t need the boat in the first place!  Without it you would have lost your way and drowned.  Similarly, if you disregard scripture and self-inquiry before you see for yourself that you’re the self, you’ll be lost, left to drown in the turbulent river of samsara. 

You can contemplate these statements even if you’re still doing self-inquiry.  Why?  Because they’re nonetheless true, even if you haven’t realized their truth for yourself.  Until that time, meditating on the meaning of these statements will provide positive reinforcement for your inquiry.  And further, they’ll protect you from clinging to the teaching as if it were a religion or dogma, rather than a relative—albeit indispensable—tool for understanding your true nature.   

Janaka said:
20:1 – Where are the elements, where is the body, where are the organs, and where is the mind? Where is the void? Where, too, is despair for me who am taintless by nature?

There are no elements, there is no body, there are no organs and there is no mind.  There is not even nothingness.  There is no despair for me—I am ever-pure. 

20:2 – Where are the scriptures, where is knowledge of the self?  Where is the mind not attached to sense-objects, where is contentment, and where is desirelessness for me who am ever devoid of the sense of duality?

There are no scriptures and no self-knowledge.  There is no mind unattached to sense objects, no contentment and no desirelessness—I am devoid of the sense of duality. 

20:3 – Where is knowledge and where is ignorance?  Where is “I,” where is “this,” and where is “mine”? Where is bondage and where is liberation? Where is an attribute to the nature of my self?

There is no knowledge and no ignorance.  There is no “I,” no “this” and no “mine.”  There is no bondage and no liberation.  My true nature has no form. 

20:4 – Where are prarabdha karmas, where is liberation-in-life (jivanmukta), and where is even liberation-at-death for me, the ever undifferentiated?

There is no prarabdha karma, no liberation-in-life or liberation-in-death—I am changeless. 

20:5 – Where is the doer or enjoyer, where is cessation of thought or the rising of thought, where is direct knowledge or it’s result for me who am ever impersonal?

There is no doer or enjoyer, no thought or absence of thought.  There is no direct knowledge or its result—I am not a person. 

20:6 – Where is the world and where is the aspirant for liberation?  Where is the contemplative person or the person with self-knowledge?  Where is the liberated one or the one in bondage when in my true nature, I am non-dual?

There is no world or seeker of liberation.  There is no yogi or person with self-knowledge.  There is no liberation or bondage—my true nature is non-dual.   

20:7 – Where are creation and destruction, where are the end and the means, where are seeker and success when in my true nature, I am non-dual? 

There is no creation or destruction, there is no end or means.  There is no seeker or finder—my true nature is non-dual. 

20:8 – Where is the knower, the means to knowledge, the object of knowledge or knowledge itself?  Where is anything or nothing for me who am ever pure?

There is no knower or means of knowledge, no object of knowledge or knowledge itself.  There is not anything and there is not nothing—I am ever pure. 

20:9 – Where is distraction, where is concentration?  Where is knowledge, where is delusion?  Where is joy and where is sorrow for me who am ever actionless?

There is no distraction or concentration.  There is no knowledge or delusion.  There is no joy or sorrow—I am ever free of action. 

20:10 – Where is the relative world, where is absolute reality?  Where is happiness or misery for me who am ever beyond thought?

There is no relative world or absolute reality.  There is no happiness or misery—I am beyond all thought. 

20:11 – Where is maya, where is samsara?  Where is attachment or detachment?  Where is jiva or brahman for me, who am ever pure?

There is no maya and no samsara.  There is no attachment or detachment.  There is no jiva and no brahman*—I am ever pure. 

*To say there’s no brahman is not to say that there’s no self.  This verse is merely pointing out that the idea that there’s a jiva as opposed to brahman is a false, dualistic notion.  Further, reality transcends all names and positive descriptions—it’s not a jiva, a brahman or anything else for that matter.  As the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says in verse 2:3:6, reality can only be accurately described as “neti, neti” (“not this, not this”), meaning it can only be described negatively, in terms of what it isn’t. 

20:12 – Where is activity, where is inactivity? Where is liberation or bondage for me who am ever established in my immutable and indivisible self?

There is no action or inaction.  There is no liberation or bondage—I abide in my immutable and changeless self. 

20:13 – Where is instruction and where is scripture? Where is the teacher and where is the student? Where, indeed, is the goal of life for me who am absolute good and free from limitation?

There is no teaching and no scripture.  There is no teacher or student.  There is no goal of life for me—I am the limitless reality. 

20:14 – Where is existence, where is non-existence? Where is unity, where is duality? What need is there to say more? Nothing arises from me.

There is no existence or non-existence.  There is no duality or non-duality.  There is nothing more to say, nothing more to do, nothing more to learn—there is nothing other than myself. 

Thus ends the dialogue on self-knowledge between Ashtavakra and Janaka.

It’s hard to believe that this series has been going on for over a year.  Many thanks to the readers of this site for your continued support.  May the words of Ashtavakra and Janaka inspire you on the path to self-knowledge or help you become established in self-knowledge through nididhyasana. 

For those interested in nididhyasana, stay tuned for the upcoming Steady Wisdom series.  For the first 108 days of the New Year, I’ll be posting a statement of self-knowledge from the scriptures each day and commenting on it. I challenge you to read and contemplate these statements daily, in order to get your thinking aligned with the truth of who you are.   

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A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt. 43

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Ashtavakra said: 
18:82 – The desireless one neither praises the peaceful nor blames the wicked.  Contented and same in happiness and misery, they find nothing to be done.

On the relative level of everyday life, peacefulness is certainly worthy of praise and wickedness is deserving of blame.  But the “desireless one” (one with self-knowledge) knows that ultimately peace and wickedness belong to the illusory body-mind alone.  As such, who is there to really praise or blame for such things?  Only the self exists and seeing as its actionless and free of all qualities, it can’t be praised or blamed for anything

18:83 – This wise one neither abhors birth and death nor wishes to perceive the self.  Free from joy and sorrow, they are neither dead nor alive.

The wise one doesn’t abhor birth and death because birth and death only apply to the body-mind, not the self.  Because the wise one is the self, not the body-mind, they’re neither dead nor alive.  They’re free from joy and sorrow because joy and sorrow pertain to the mind alone.  And they don’t wish to perceive the self for two reasons: 1) they know the self isn’t an object of experience available for perception and 2) they know they can’t perceive the self because they are the self.       

18:84 – Free from expectation and attachment to family, free from the desire for objects and free from concern for body, the wise one shines. 

Taken literally, this verse is potentially problematic.  How so?  Because it could give the impression that the standard of enlightenment is to have a mind completely free of expectation, attachment to family, desire for objects and bodily concern.  It isn’t.  Rather, it’s to know you’re the self.  And as the self, you have no expectation, attachment to family, desire for objects or concern for the body—even if the mind does. 

To put it differently, it makes no sense to say, “I’m not the body-mind, I’m the self…and the proof that I’m the self is the behavior of the body-mind.”  Because how can the condition of the body-mind validate or invalidate your status as the self if 1) You’re always the self no matter what and 2) If the illusory body-mind has no association with the self or effect on the self whatsoever? 

So figure out that you’re the self.  Then let the body-mind do what it’s going to do, whether that be taking care of a family or looking after its own health because ignoring family or health is no sign of enlightenment.  On the issue of health, I’ve often wondered if great teachers like Ramana Maharshi and Swami Chinmayananda (whose bodies succumbed to cancer and heart disease, respectively) could have continued their work longer if they’d paid more attention to the condition of their bodies. 

Of course, this shouldn’t be viewed as criticism of either teacher, especially not coming from someone who, at times, has shown great neglect for his own health.  But I think it bears mentioning in order to illustrate the point that matters of the illusory world don’t disappear at the dawn of self-knowledge.  Relative matters continue to apply on the level of the relative world even though they don’t apply to the self at all.      

18:85 – Contentment ever dwells in the heart of the wise one who lives on whatever happens to come to him, and who wanders about at pleasure, resting wherever he is when the sun sets.

This verse describes a very extreme lifestyle that isn’t necessary or suitable for everyone.  After all, numerous verses in the text clearly state that the one with self-knowledge can live however they please, seeing as they understand they aren’t the body-mind. 

All the same, this verse correctly points out that living simply and accepting what comes to you in life generally leads to contentment—relatively speaking. 

18:86 – Reposing on the foundation of their own being, and completely transcending birth and rebirth, the great-souled person does not care whether their body dies or is born.

“Reposing on the knowledge of their own being” means to dwell in the knowledge, “I am the self.”  Because the self is eternal and unchanging, it’s of no consequence whether the body dies or is reborn again. 

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A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt.42

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Ashtavakra said:
18:77 – One whose work has ceased with the dawn of knowledge does not find any opportunity to do or say anything, even though in ordinary people’s eyes they are performing action. 

With the dawn of the knowledge, “I am the self” the belief, “I am the doer of action (the body-mind)” is negated.  A person with this knowledge knows, “Even when the body-mind acts, I, the self, do not act.” 

18:78 – For the wise one who is ever immutable and fearless, where is there darkness, where light? Where, moreover, is there any loss? There is nothing whatsoever.

The wise one no longer believes in the reality of duality, such as the duality between darkness and light.  They know—superficial appearances aside—that all is the immutable and fearless self.  For that reason, there’s nothing to lose (or gain).  “There is nothing whatsoever” insofar as the universe is just an illusion.  But that doesn’t mean there’s no self.  It just points out the fact that, unlike the world, the self is “no thing” to be experienced as an object.  

18:79 – Where is patience, where is discrimination, and where, even, is fearlessness for the yogi who is impersonal and of indescribable nature?

The “yogi who is impersonal and of indescribable nature” isn’t actually a person but the self, because no person can be impersonal and indescribable.  For the self there’s no patience, discrimination or fearlessness because those are merely states of mind that never affect the self. 

18:80 – There is no heaven, and there is no hell; there is not even liberation-in-life. In short, nothing exists in light of self-knowledge. 

Heaven, hell and the person liberated in this very life are merely figments of the illusory world of duality.  Their reality is negated in the light of self-knowledge. 

18:81 – The wise one neither longs for gain nor grieves at non-attainment. Their cool mind is verily filled with nectar.

A “cool mind verily filled with nectar” is the mind of one who’s fully assimilated the implications of being the self.  They know that in everyday life, there’s nothing that can be truly gained or lost.  Does this mean they don’t try to acquire anything or accomplish anything?  No.  An enlightened person needs food, clothes and medicine and goals just like anyone else.  But they go about taking care of their needs—and the needs of those around them—knowing it ultimately doesn’t matter one way or another.    

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A Conversation with Ashtavakra Pt.39

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Ashtavakra said: 
18:62 – The deluded one often shows aversion for his possessions. But there is neither attraction nor aversion for one whom attachment to the body has vanished.

The “one whom attachment to the body has vanished” is the wise one with self-knowledge who no longer identifies with the body (and by extension, the mind).  They only identify with the self and as such, attraction and aversion—which only pertain to the body-mind—no longer apply to them. 

Calling the unenlightened “deluded”—while true—is a bit uncharitable insofar as no one causes their own self-ignorance.  Everyone is simply born into it through no fault of their own. 

18:63 – The mind of the deluded one is always attached to thinking and not thinking.  But the one who abides in the self does not think even when thinking of the thinkable. 

“The one abides in the self” doesn’t think, even when the mind is thinking because they know they’re not the mind—they’re the self, ever-free of thought.  But the “deluded one” (one without self-knowledge) is always attached to thinking and not-thinking because they’re still identified with the mind.    

18:64 – The wise one who has no motive in all his actions, who moves like a child and is pure, has no attachment even to the work that is being done by him.

The wise one, as the self, has no motives although their mind most likely does.  Whether they move like a child or not is irrelevant because they aren’t the body-mind. As the self they have no attachment to work (action) because the self is free of both action and attachment. 

18:65 – Blessed indeed is that knower of self, who has transcended the mind, and who, even though seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, or eating, is the same under all conditions.

You “transcend” the mind by knowing that as the self, you’re never affected by the mind.  Then you understand that you’re always the changeless self regardless of what’s appearing in the mind, be it seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating or anything else. 

18:66 – Where is samsara, where is appearance (of the world)?  Where is achievement or the striving to achieve for one with steadfast knowledge who is unchanging and all-pervasive like space? 

Only the self exists.  When this known, the reality of the world and the suffering it causes (samsara) are negated.  Achievement and the striving to achieve are also negated, seeing as they’re part and parcel of the unreal world.      

“The one with steadfast knowledge” is “unchanging and all-pervasive like space” because they know directly and without a doubt, “I am the changeless, all-pervasive self.”

Space is a great metaphor for the self because it’s everywhere, indivisible and unaffected by the objects that appear in it. But really speaking, it’s more accurate to say that space is unchanging and all-pervasive like the self, and not the other way around because space is an illusion that depends on the self for its seeming existence.   

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