Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 2, Verse 21


Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V


Chapter-Index | Verse Index

Verse 21

aho janasamuuhe’api na dvaitham pashyatho mama
aranyamiva samvrittham kva rathim karavaanyaham


Oh, I do not see any duality in the midst of people. Then, what do I have to do with attachments that grow (or become) like a forest??


The correlation between duality and attachments

For the seer who has awakened, everything is the Self. He does not see any distinction between himself and the rest of the world. For him, all is either the Self or its projection. Therefore, in the midst of people, he remains immersed in that unity and accepts duality as an appearance. Ashtavakra expressed that vision of nonduality to Janaka in the first part of the verse and explained the basis of it in the next part.

The seers experience nonduality and remain free from attachments. It is not so with common people. When they engage with the world, they see people as "others" and experience desires, likes and dislikes, opinions, feelings and prejudices about them. As their minds and senses remain in the outward mode and wander in the world, they focus upon worldly phenomena, names and forms and experience different emotions which may be positive or negative. Such reactions and responses arise due to duality or the notion that the world and its beings are separate and distinct from the one who perceives.

Due to ignorance worldly people become preoccupied with the diversity of the world and remain outwardly drawn to things and people. Awakened yogis perceive unity in the diversity and remain absorbed within themselves. This is the fundamental difference. In ignorant people, the attention is outward, but in the awakened people it is inward. One focuses upon things and the other upon the Self. In awakened people, perceptions remain outward and do not disturb the mind. In ignorant people, they cause the modifications of the mind and create suffering and disturbance.

The awakening arises only when one looks beyond the duality of things and becomes firmly established in the nonduality of the Self. In that person, the world ceases to create lasting impressions. His mind may still record events and perceptions, but they cease to cause desires and attachments. Just as the waves do not affect the deeper ocean, deep within his mind he remains calm despite the commotion in his surface mind.

Why does not the seer experience duality when he is amidst people? The answer is provided in the second part of the verse. It is because he is free from attachments. There is a direct correlation between duality and attachment. Both are interconnected, and reinforce each other. Duality exists as long as there are attachments and vice versa.

A person experiences attachments because of duality, and duality persists as long as he or she has attachments. Both become dissolved when the experience of nonduality or oneness with the infinite Self arises. In the absence of otherness, everything becomes the same Self ,and there will be no cause or reason for any relationship or attachment. In that state of unified awareness, all attachments cease and the Self only remains.

In other words, when you perceive things as different or distinct from you or other than you, you experience attraction and aversion and form relationships and attachments. When you become everything, you see everything as yourself and become satisfied within yourself. You will not seek anything, because as the universal Self you have everything.

Duality is a state of mind. It does not arise from mere perception, but from ignorance and delusion. Due to ignorance, one experiences egoism, attachments and delusion, which are considered the triple impurities. In that deluded state, people do not perceive the unity or the oneness hidden in the diversity of creation.

In a self-realized yogi, discrimination arises in the place of delusion. Having suppressed all the modifications, he remains stabilized in the thought of the Self and that all is Self. Modifications of the mind cease to influence him. It does not mean that he does not see people or recognize them. His perceptual awareness remains but he sees things as they are, while deep within he remains consciousness of his spiritual Self and its universality.

Your relationship with people and the world is external and physical. A seer’s relationship with them is internal and subtle. He does not go by what they appear to be or what they do, but what they are in their essence. Having seen the Self everywhere and in all, he accepts them as his very Self and treats alike the dualities and pairs of opposites with sameness and equanimity. Free from attraction and aversion, he remains absorbed in the contemplation of the Self, seeing others as his very Self.

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