Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 2, Verse 13

Ashtavakra and King Janaka

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V


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Verse 13

aho aham namo maham daksho naastheeha mathsam
asprushyashya shareerena yena vishvam chiram dhrutham


Oh my Self! Salutations to my Self. There is no one as skillful as I, who am steadily holding the universe without touching it with the body.


The Self as the Support of All

One of the important lessons to learn in life is to respect and acknowledge your divinity. If you do not do it, you will not qualify for liberation. It is a question of faith. If you do not believe that you are an eternal, divine Self, how are you going to experience oneness with it? Having the conviction is important. Do not expect that it will come to you later when you have made progress because your progress depends upon it.

You must begin with faith in yourself. It is the essential prerequisite. You cannot enter the realm of freedom with your mind in chains or with your faith clouded by doubt and disbelief. It is not that you should have pride in being a divine person, but the awareness that you are a creator, sustainer and nourisher in your own right and you are worthy of your own respect and acceptance. By offering salutations to himself, Ashtavakra is conveying this deep message.

You are responsible for your life, and all that happens to you. You create it, you sustain it, and you let life happen to you. What good is the world to you if you do not exist? What good is life if you do not experience it at all? Because you are aware and because you are here, you are able to witness all this. Therefore, do not deprecate yourself. Acknowledge your importance in the existence of things and your divine nature.

In each of these verses you will find that the main theme of nondualism (Advaita) is being repeatedly emphasized, which is the singularity of all existence. There is nothing other than the Self. The Self alone is real. He is one and only, and there is no other reality that you can consider real or eternal. You deserve respect for this also. You are one with the universe. You are the universe.

In your ultimate essence, you are not a human being, not a species, not a Hindu, not an Indian nor American nor African. You are not young or old, male or female. They are the titles you wear upon your name and form to protect yourself, or to secure your place and position in society. They are empty in themselves, and drop away as soon as you leave the world.

You are the eternal Supreme Self. Everything else is a projection or an illusion of the Self. In your highest aspect, you may have aspects, powers, projections, roles, duties, obligations, emanations and manifestations, but they appear like ripples in the ocean of existence, or as the light that spreads from the Sun. You cannot equate them with the source which is hidden in you.

So is the case with the material universe in which we live. It is a projection or a super imposition of the Supreme Self and cannot exist on its own without him or his support. It is superimposed on him, just as a dream is superimposed upon your consciousness when you are asleep. Your dreams are similar to creation in many respects. They arise and subside spontaneously without any apparent purpose. You remain a witness to what goes on, just as the Self is said to be the witness of its own creation. You are that Self. For the purpose of discussion, they may be presented as different, because there is a "being" part in us which envelops the Self, but in truth you are the eternal Self. For your freedom and enlightenment, you must strengthen that conviction and settle in that identity.

Asprusya - without touching

Your dreams may seem real when you are dreaming, but you know that they are mere projections. You cannot physically touch them although you are their support. You are part of your dream but you are not truly in it. You create it watch it, pervade it, hold it in yourself and envelop it. Yet you are never in physical contact with it.

The same is true with regard to the worlds that arise in the dream of the Supreme Being. He creates them, pervades them, watches them and envelops them, but there is no physical contact between them. It is the same with space. Space supports the whole universe. All the objects, worlds, planets, stars and galaxies float in it. All movements, formations and projections happen in it. Yet, there is no physical connection. Space bears them all without any physical contact.

Daksha - dexterity

The Self is the epitome of perfection and skill in action. As the scriptures affirm, the Self is the real doer. Hence, all actions should be offered to him. There is nothing higher than the Self. There is no knowing for the Self. As beings (jivas), we develop skill and dexterity by learning, training, perfecting, and improving. However, the Self does not have to go through that learning curve.

The Purusha (Self) is eternally perfect, complete, and immutable. All the knowledge and intelligence are inherent to him. Hence, he knows without the need to know and performs the duties of creation, preservation and destruction without any exertion or the use of physical force. His will is spontaneously translated as action in the field of Nature.

Daksha has several meanings. Literally, it represents the best of the qualities of a true Brahmana, namely dexterity, skill, knowledge, ability, diligence, and expertise. In the Puranas it is the name of a deity, Daksha, who was said to be a ruler of people (Prajapati), and a son of Brahma. According to them, he was skillful in the knowledge of the Vedas and sacrificial rituals and was the father of several goddesses, including Sati and Parvathi. The Shiva Puranas narrate how an intense feud developed between Lord Shiva and Daksha, which eventually resulted in his beheading. Daksha, dexterity, is the father of Nature, the Mother Goddess. Her skill in action arises from the dexterity of the Self, who is the source of all.

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