Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 1, Verse 16

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 16

tvayaa vyaapthamidam vishvam thvayi protham yathaarthathah
shuddha buddha svaruupasthvam maa gamah kshudra chittha thaam


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.


The nature of Self and how it is attained

You have multiple identities. On the surface, you are an individual, a living being, with a name and form. Deep inside you are an eternal soul. In relationship to others you are perceived numerously by numerous people. In this medley of forms, how can you be sure who you are or what your true identity is? When you are involved with the world, and not think much about the spiritual aspects of your existence, these questions do not bother you much. You remain on the surface, accept your surface identity and live with hit.

However, as you turn inward and withdraw your mind and senses into yourself, you become aware of these distinctions and feel the need to resolve them. Scriptures such as this help you largely to clear your doubts. However, you need to remember that each scripture comes with its ground plan and represents a particular school of thought. You must either believe in it or use your discretion to take what in your worldview is acceptable to you.

The verse uses the second person, “you,” to describe the Self. It is directly addressed to you so that you have no confusion knowing who you are. It firmly declares that you are the all-pervading Self, even if you are not aware of it. By knowing or not knowing, your status as the Self does not change. Whether you know it or not, you are an eternal soul.

It is difficult to convey the idea that you are the Self, since you look at it with duality. When someone tells you that you are the Self, you may develop the mistaken or the deluded notion that your physical Self is the real Self. Hence, the sage suggested it by describing the nature of the Self, thereby leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind about the essential state of the eternal Self.

The Self is all pervading. You cannot pinpoint its exact location. You cannot do it even in your own body. Just close your eyes and try to locate where you are. You cannot find it in any particular location. It is because you are the witness Self. You are the subject. In duality you can perceive only the object. Hence, you are always elusive to yourself. Although the Upanishads state that the Self is located in between the eyebrows or in the heart, in reality the it is wherever you think it is. It can present itself everywhere and be an integral part of everything.

The verse further declares that the Self is pure intelligence. It is without impurities, duality, destruction, qualities and division. It is also absolutely free because it is not bound to existence. However, it participates in creation as a passive witness. You cannot discern the Self with your senses, although it is part of you and all around you, because it hidden in all and pervades all as the invisible, transcendental Self.

There can be no existence without the Self because it is the support for Nature, which manifests in the beings as the mind and the body. The Self is interwoven in the fabric of life as the binding element. It is by the Self that the whole universe is sewn and fixed. Since you are part of that existence, the Self is part of your existence also. It is pure intelligence, without blemish, which is responsible for your ability to know, discern, observe, and experience.

Since it is pure, you can reach it by a pure mind only, or a mind which is filled with the purity of Sattva, but not by an impure and vile mind (kshudra chitta), which is filled with the darkness of tamas. Hence, the suggestion that one should not allow the mind to become impure with the darkness and worldliness. Sattva can truly reflect the light of things without distortions. Therefore, purity is important. A pure mind works like a perfect mirror. Since it is free from modifications, it will allow the light of the Self to shine brightly and reflect itself without the intervention of the ego, the mind, and other obstacles.

<<Previous   Next>>

Suggestions for Further Reading

Translate the Page