Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 1, Verse 6

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 6

dharma dharmau sukham dukham manasani n te vibho
na kartasi n bhoktasi mukt evasi sarvada


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.


Knowing the projections of your mind

This verse says that the dualities of life such as dharma and adharma or pleasure and pain belong to the mind but not to your soul. Hence, one should not be overly concerned about them or drawn to them. It is true because they do not arise from your Self. They are the projections of your mind. Hence all our dharma shastras are considered smriti, or memorial products of human intellect. They keep changing as society changes and as the boundaries of knowledge keeps expanding. What was held as righteous a thousand years ago may look like outdated and barbarian to the present day world.

This is the problem with all the derivatives of the mind. They keep changing. They are also justifiable only from a particular perspective or in a specific context. Your mind creates many judgements and standards of truth based upon your knowledge, observation, beliefs and values. Since you mind and body are influenced by the presence of gunas, they influence your thinking and thereby your perceptions and judgments. They are not universal. What is dharma for you may be adharma for another. What you consider sinful may be viewed as a virtue by another. Because our values, judgments, and morality are relative, we never know with certainty whether our actions are right or wrong.

Your individuality comes from your mind. It creates you and your persona, and makes you feel that you are an entity and an individual. You take the movements and modifications of your mind as your own and live with them. Where and when does this process begin? It begins in your mind with your senses from the day you are born, and as days go by you become so involved with your mind and body that you do not think that they are separate or distinct from you.

You cannot see your mind, which is the reason for this problem. You can objectively look at your hands and feet or any other organ in your body as if it is an entity in itself, but you cannot do it naturally with your mind unless you train yourself to become a passive witness. Through meditation you can bring the mind to rest and see that you are different from your mind and body. You can see their actions and movements as if you are watching an internal drama. Your mind and body function even when you are asleep. Many functions such as your heart beat or the respiration are not under your direct control. They suggest that your mind and body are products of Nature and tend to act in predictable ways according to their essential nature.

In the last few years you might have heard or read that the number of people suffering from stress and anxiety has steadily been on the increase. You might have also noticed that interpersonal relationships at individual and social level have greatly deteriorated and become unstable in the past few decades. You may also be familiar with the problem of growing aggression and violence in society and increasing crime rate as people are losing patience and responding violently to situations to express their disapproval or establish their control. The social networks and message forums amply reflect the various emotions people express in response to the events that may not even effect them. Few days ago a film star was aggressively ridiculed and insulted on a social network by thousands of people for posting a message about a subject that was considered stale.

Why do we see problems such as these? It is because people have become too involved with the world around them and in the process turned too self-centered and internally violent. You can see it in the trends on the Internet where videos and news go viral when they show people expressing their anger and violence by hurting and physically assaulting others, marching in the streets, or attacking innocent animals in the farms or in the wild. Not many people know that the violence they unleash in their minds does not end there but sets in motion a number of chain reactions and leaves its print in the outside world.

You have a very intimate relationship with the world as you interact with it frequently and assume ownership of its parts. That world of yours does not begin with the things and objects that exist outside you. It begins right in your mind as impressions and images as you are connected to it by your senses. The senses establish your relationship with the world, and as you become increasingly involved with it you develop attachments and suffer from the modifications such as pain and pleasure. Your mind and body not only connect you to the world but also represent it to you. For all practical purposes, they represent your immediate world. Even though you may identify yourself with them, they are part of the larger field (Kshetra) or the phenomenal world created by Nature and subject to its modifications.

Your involvement with your mind and body also makes you believe that you are making things possible, and you are responsible for the actions you perform. However, if you can take one step back and look at the same events with detachment, you will realize that the world can exist without you, and you can exist without identifying yourself with your mind and body, treating them with objectivity and detachment as the field of your actions and perceptions.

Ashtavakra is suggesting the same here. He wants you, the lord of the body, to know that you are neither the emotions nor the menial states but a free person. The use of Vibhu in the verse is aptly contextual. Vibhu means the lord or the controller. As the lord of your mind and body you should be in control of them rather than swayed by them. You can do it when you stop identifying with them and their actions and remain detached. Without it, you cannot be free from the modifications of your mind.

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