Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 1, Nature of Witness Self

Ashtavakra and King Janaka

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V

The First Chapter contains 20 verses and deals with Sakshi, the Witness Self. Ashtavakra explains how the Self is different from the mind and body and how one should become established in it through renunciation and contemplation. In this chapter you are also introduced to some important concepts of Advaita, the school of nonduality.


Verse 1: Janaka said, how people acquire knowledge, how liberation happens, how renunciation is attained, please explain to me O great lord! Commentary

Verse 2: Ashtavakra said, "O child, if liberation is what you intend, give up the sense objects as if they are poison and take recourse to forgiveness, straightforwardness, kindness, contentment and truth as if they are nectar." Commentary

Verse 3: He who values freedom, will indeed become free. He who values bondage will remain bound only. In this world this saying is true, "As one thinks so is one's fate." Commentary

Verse 4 : If you separate yourself from your body and rest in your consciousness, quickly there will be happiness, peace, and freedom from bondage. Commentary

Verse 5 : You are not of Brahmana or any other caste, nor of any ashrama, nor you are visible to the eyes. Unattached, without form, and as the universal witness, you are blissful. Commentary

Verse 6: Dharma, adharma pleasure and pain belong to the mind not to you, oh lord. You are neither the doer nor the enjoyer but one who is forever free. Commentary

Verse 7: You are the one seer among all and you truly are always free. Seeing the seer as another this alone is your bondage Commentary

Verse 8: You who is bitten by the great black serpent of egoism think, "I am the doer." Drink the nectar of faith that "I am not the doer," and be happy. Commentary

Verse 9: Burn down the forest of ignorance with the fire of this conviction, "I am one pure intelligence." Become free from sorrow and be happy. Commentary

Verse 10: This universe is an illusion like a rope that appears as a snake. When you realize that you are blissful supreme intelligence, you will live happily. Commentary

Verse 11: He who values freedom, will indeed become free. He who values bondage will remain bound only. In this world this saying is true, "As one thinks so is one's fate." Commentary

Verse 12: The Self is the witness, all pervading, complete, one, free, consciousness, inactive, unattached, without desires, peaceful, even when it revolves or wanders in the cycle of births and deaths. Commentary

Verse 13: Meditate upon the immutable, non-dual, intelligent Self, having become free from the non-shining ego, delusion, feeling, and the distinction of external and internal. Commentary

Verse 14: You have been caught for long in the bonds of body love, son. Knowing the Self by cutting that (the attachment) with the sword of knowledge, you will be happy. Commentary

Verse 15: You are unattached, inactive, self-luminous, and without blemish. This only is your bondage that (to know your Self) you have to become established in Samadhi (self-absorption). Commentary

Verse 16: By you this whole universe is pervaded. By you it is sewn and bound as it is. You are pure intelligence by nature. Do not cultivate an impure and narrow mind. Commentary

Verse 17: Without expectation (or dependence), without form, without weight or measure, a reservoir of coolness, unfathomable intelligence, undisturbed is the dweller of the subtle space. Commentary

Verse 18 : Know that the form is unreal, but the formless is permanently stable. By the instruction of this fact, rebirth becomes impossible. Commentary

Verse 19 : Just as the image that appears in a mirror seems to take hold of it, so does the supreme Lord appears in this body as if he has taken hold of it. Commentary

Verse 20: Just as the space inside and outside a jar is the same everywhere so does the eternal, continuous Brahman exist in all beings. Commentary

Bhagavadgita Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V Avaialbe in USA/UK/DE/FR/ES/IT/NL/PL/SC/JP/CA/AU

Suggestions for Further Reading

Translate the Page