Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 2, Verse 24


Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V


Chapter-Index | Verse Index

Verse 24

mayyanantha mahahmbhodhau chitthavaathe prashaamyathi
abhaagyajjeeva vanijo jagathpotho vinashvarah


In the limitless great ocean of myself as the winds of consciousness subside, the moving boat of the miserable jiva, the trader, perishes.


Jiva, the unfortunate being in the ocean of existence.

The Self is the ocean, the support. The body is the boat. The mind is the source of the modifications, which act as the impelling force or the winds that move the boat in the ocean of existence. The jiva is the trader who uses his body as a boat and trades with the world. Sailing in it, he barters his freedom in exchange for sense objects and worldly pleasures, and in the process, accumulates sinful karma. He is an abhagi or unfortunate being, because he always incurs losses from that trade since there is no real gain from desire-ridden actions or worldly possessions.

Your mind is responsible for your individuality or individualized consciousness. It keeps your ego awake and active and sustains your duality and feelings of separation. As the individualized person or the ego Self, you are a creation of your mind and your physical and mental actions (karma). More specifically, it is the modifications of your mind, which sustain and nourish your individuality.

As long as your mind and senses are active, you remain bound to your identity as a being (jiva). When the mind subsides into stillness, your individuality becomes dissolved in the silence of the mind.

The jiva who is a formation of his past and present and who is subject to duality and delusion experiences meditative self-absorption when all the modifications of the mind are suppressed. It is why the Yoga tradition put great emphasis upon suppressing the modifications or stilling the mind.

The jiva is a limited formation in the ocean of God’s creation. Creation itself is a formation in the oceans of the Supreme Self. Both exist due to the dynamism of Nature, which produces the winds of change. When those changes are arrested, all the formations that appear in the ocean of Self disappear. Stilling the mind is important to arrest the modifications in it. With that arise peace and equanimity, and the possibility of transcendence.

The jiva is abhagi, a miserable being, caught in the web of Maya and impermanence. Pursuit of worldly pleasures and sense objects keep him chained to the cycle of transmigration. Since the world itself is a transient phenomenon, there is no lasting gain from worldly possessions. One may derive some satisfaction from worldly success, but it does not last for long. Besides, involvement with the world demands its own price, as one engages in desire-ridden actions and incurs sinful karma.

It is important to note that the Self is one. The truth of it is covered by the mind and its modifications. As the jiva, you experience the modifications of your mind and become lost in them, temporarily losing touch with your essential nature. You do not usually experience it, unless you have perfected your yoga practice and freed your mind from the conditioning to which it has been subject. Until you disengage your mind and senses from the world and its influence and withdraw it into the stillness of your soul, you will not experience equanimity and self-absorption or oneness with the Self.

Scholars usually translate the word jagat as the world. Jagat also means movable or moving. The jiva’s body is the boat. It moves by the winds of consciousness, or more specifically speaking, by desires, thoughts, intentions and emotions. When the modifications of the mind cease, the boat is no more impelled by them but by the power of the Self from within.

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