Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 1, Verse 11

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 11

mukthābhimani mukto hi baddho baddhabhimānyapi
kim vandantiha satheyam yā mathih sā gathirbhavet


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."


As you think so you become

The verse emphasizes that your thoughts have the power to manifest, and you will become what you think, desire, expect, or value. The idea that your thoughts have the power to manifest your reality entered the western consciousness only a few hundred years ago and for all the wrong reasons. Indian seers were aware of it thousands of years ago and used it mainly for spiritual purposes. Western scholars stretched the idea to use it for worldly ends.

Hundreds of books have been written since them to suggest that you can change your life and manifest peace and happiness by changing your thoughts and your focus. The same happened to Yoga also. It became a means to achieve physical Wellbeing rather than spiritual liberation. We have therefore yoga shops rather than enlightened yoga masters. This approach exemplifies the second part of the verse, “He who values bondage will remain bound only.” It is not wrong to use them for worldly ends, but one should not lose sight of the larger picture and the importance of balance and spiritual wellbeing.

Some people cannot overcome their feelings of ill will and hatred. As a result, they find hatred and illwill everywhere. The world is chaotic and filled with so many problems because people cannot think good thoughts. Most of us are driven by fear, anger, greed, enmity, envy, and selfishness, and you can see how they are so nicely reflected in every aspect of our lives. If you want to know how your life is going to be in the next ten years or so, focus upon which thoughts and emotions prevail in your mind. You will know to where you are headed. If you have troubled relationships in your life, examine from where that reality is manifesting, and why you chose to have those relationships in your life.

Although your mind is a projection, it has the power to manifest according its desires. Desires create attachment, duality, delusion, and ignorance. In time, they become part of your reality and bind you to the world. As long as you keep desiring things, you cannot stop the mind from creating your karma and your continuation in this world. If want to liberation, you have to stop producing desire-ridden thoughts and make your mind either silent or filled with the thoughts of the Self. Only then you can manifest freedom.

Mukthi means freedom, liberation or emancipation. Baddha means bondage. Abhiman means having pride, respect or opinion for something. It is commonly used to denote pride, conceit or arrogance. All these ideas are important to overcome ignorance and delusion and achieve liberation. Ashtavakra used them in this verse to denote the truth pertaining to the life of a worldly person.

A worldly person is not free from pride or ego. His choices are usually influenced by his ego. Hence, the use of the word pride is appropriate in this context. Worldly people who value freedom and those who value bondage will have different fates. They will be led on their chosen paths by their thoughts and desires. Those who see freedom have a better chance to achieve liberation since their thoughts will lead them towards it, while worldly people may become increasingly worldly. The direction their lives and destinies (gathi) and the course of their future lives will be according to their predominant thoughts.

Gathi means movement, direction, fate, course, life condition, state, or result. It is often used to denote the transmigration of the souls. Your thought precedes reality. They determine the course and the direction of your life. Your fate (gathi) is a product of your thoughts and desires. Good thoughts lead to good circumstances (sugathi), and bad thoughts to downfall (durgathi). This is a popular belief of karma.

If you want to know where you are going or how your future will be, you should pay attention to your thoughts and see what they convey? If you want to change any aspect of your life, fill your mind with related thoughts. Liberation (mukthi) proceeds from positive thoughts about liberation. Thoughts about liberation arise when your consciousness is filled with the purity of sattva. Controlling your thoughts and working for your self-purification are therefore important.

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