Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 1, Verse 4

Ashtavakra and King Janaka

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V


Index, Verse 1, Verse 2, Verse 3, Verse 4, Verse 5, Verse 6, Verse 7, Verse 8, Verse 9, Verse 10, Verse 11, Verse 12, Verse 13, Verse 14, Verse 15, Verse 16, Verse 17, Verse 18, Verse 19, Verse 20

Verse 4

yadi deham prthkrtya chiti visvasya tishtasi
adhunaiva sukhi shanti bandhamukto bhavishyasi


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


Detaching yourself from your body

Duality is the natural state of mind. What is duality? Duality is dvandvatvam or seeing things as this and that, or in pairs of opposites. It is accepting otherness as the reality, which is also the natural state of the mind. Only in deep sleep ordinary people are able to transcend it. Otherwise, they are always in a state of duality. This duality helps us all conduct our lives, perform our duties, relate to others and make sense of the world. Indeed, no one can do away with duality, even the sages, as long as they are alive and live in the world.

Duality manifests in us in different ways to create the experience of relatable existence. Outwardly when you see the world, you accept that it is separate from you. This is because of the duality created by your mind and senses. Since you deal with it from your point of view, with you at the center, when you deal with the world, you think that you are the subject and the world is the object and you are able to connect to it through your senses. This is the delusion which the Hindu seers acknowledge as Maya, or mistaking the unreal for real and vice versa.

However, when it comes to you, the delusion takes a different from. While you think that the world is separate from you and external to you, you do not think the same way about your body, which in reality is a part of the world. You think that you are the body your persona represents. As you identify yourself with your body and form an attachment to it, you come to accept that your body is you and your self-image depends upon it.

The identification also makes you believe that you have a relationship with the world outside and you can possess parts of it. This is where desires begin to shape your life and actions resulting in your attachments and bondage.

However, the truth is your body is also a part of the field (kshetra) or the world. It is a creation of Nature and belongs to the world. It is a world in itself made up of the same elements, modes and realities that make up the objective world. Therefore, true renunciation is not just renouncing the external world, but renouncing the body also which is part of that world. Your bondage to the cycle of births and deaths arises from your bondage to your body. Hence, renouncing the body and becoming detached from it is the first and the most important step in renouncing the world and cultivating detachment.

There is another reason why you have to move away from your body-centric identity and awareness. It is to free  yourself from the afflictions (klesas) of your body. When you identify  yourself with your body, you become vulnerable to many problems which produce pain and suffering and to which your body is vulnerable. You will also experience the heaviness of the body, and the fear and anxiety that arise from the problems of aging, sickness, etc., to which it is subject.

In a right frame of mind, with detachment, your body becomes a vehicle, but with attachment and identification it becomes a burden. In other words you should respect your body and treat it well, but avoid emotional or physical attachment to it so that your pride, happiness or self-image do not depend upon how well, attractive, young or fit you look.

The verse affirms that you are consciousness, not the consciousness created by your desires and duality but that which is beyond them. In the early stages of  spiritual practice you will not see the distinction. Therefore, you should accept whatever consciousness you have as your identity and start from there. When you become centered in it and identify yourself with it, you will experience lightness, expansiveness, and limitlessness. Since your consciousness has no shape or form, you will also easily feel oneness with the space around you and begin to extend your identity beyond your body. They are the immediate signs of progress and withdrawal from the physical identity created by your mind and senses.

As your practice deepens, and as you enter the deeper aspects of your consciousness you will experience even more peace and happiness since your deeper consciousness is relatively more stable and free from the modifications of your mind or the desire-ridden consciousness. You will also realize that there is a point of stability in you that cannot be easily touched or disturbed by the ordinary concerns and physical afflictions. From that vantage point you will come to terms with your aging, looks, impermanence of things, and the certainty of death at some point in future. You will develop the exceptional quality of stable consciosness (sthita prajna) of a seer, the seeing one.

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