Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 7, Verse 02
udethu vaasthamaayaathu na me vriddhirna cha kshathih
In the boundless ocean in me, the world may appear and disappear like a wave because of its own nature, but it neither increases me nor decrease me.
The immutable Self
The subjective and objective realities are distinct. They never meet. The former is represented by the eternal Self and the latter by all material things in the world. In each person it is represented by the mind and body or the physical self. It arises as a construction or formation around the subjective Self. Because of your identification with it, you cannot easily distinguish it or become detached from it.
Jagat in a very general sense means the world. "Ja" means born from, produced by or arising from, and "gati" means motion or course. Jagat means that which is born from the motion or movement of God or a divine source. The motion or the course may be a reference to the movements of the sun, the heaven, transmigration, fate, karma, dharma, time, samsara or the cycle of births and deaths, etc. The world means both external and internal worlds which may be gross or subtle. All are formations or projections. The Self is their ultimate support. However, their existence or nonexistence does not make any difference to him, because he is independent and self-existing.
The verse suggests the immutability of Brahman or the Self. It is immutable because it is complete and perfect. Since the Self is immutable, it follows that one should abide in it to overcome the turbulence of the mind and experience tranquility. If you are fully established in the Self, you will not experience any loss or gain or increase and decrease. You will be undisturbed by what happens in the world. Death, decay and destruction are common to the world and to the body. If you identify yourself with them, you will be affected by their afflictions and impermanence. Just as you are not affected by the ebb and flow of the ocean if you watch it standing on the shore rather than jumping into it, you should observe life as a witness rather than becoming involved with it and sink and swim with it.
The world affects us in numerous ways. Depending upon what happens, we are happy, unhappy, proud, guilty, angry, peaceful, and so on. The same is true with your mind. It also suffers from the loss or gain of knowledge, memory, formations, emotions, feelings, latent impression, energy, and mental states. When that happens, you also experience different feelings and emotions or the turbulence of suffering.
In contrast, the eternal Self is immutable and imperishable. It is free from modifications and afflictions because it is not associated with Nature or any of its modes and tattvas. It is complete and perfect in all respects. Therefore, there is nothing that can be taken away from it or added to it. As the Upanishads declare, it is independent and satisfied in itself. It gains nothing by any addition, or loses anything by any deletion, since everything exists in it only. It remains the same, whether you add something to it or take away something from it. Although we may use this reasoning to explain the immutable nature of the Self, in truth nothing can be added or removed from the Self. It is always the same.
This is the Advaita view, which perceives Brahman or the Supreme Self as the only reality, and everything else as his projection or illusion. The school refuses to acknowledge the existence of individual souls or anything other than Brahman, the only reality. For the followers of it such as Ashtavakra, everything is Brahman only. The same Brahman or the universal Self appears in all beings as their very soul. The individual Self (Atman) is a temporary illusion, which arises due to the presence of the same Self in all. Just as the same space pervades the whole universe and exists in all, the same Brahman pervades all and exists in all. When a yogi attains liberation, the individual Self ceases to exist.
Followers of Advaita or nondualism do not see any distinction between themselves and the eternal, immutable and indestructible reality. Seeing otherwise would negate their very doctrine. To identify oneself with Brahman and become absorbed in it, this the way of the nondualist to liberation. They aim to bring that identification to its complete fruition so that in the end no distinction remains and one lives upon earth as if God has incarnated.
However, their view of reality is not universally accepted. For example, Jainism holds a different view, according to which there is no universal Self. The individual souls represent the eternal reality. They appear in different sizes and shapes. They may also increase or decrease in size in proportion to the body they occupy or the karma they accumulate. For example, large bodied animals have larger souls and small microorganisms have minutest ones.
The verse compares the world to a wave (veechi) because of its essential nature (svabhava). Since it is impermanent, it is subject to the triple states of creation (srishti), preservation (sthithi) and destruction (laya). Further just as a wave, it is also in a constant motion and appears and disappears as it rises and falls.
It is the identification which is responsible for our fluctuating states of mind and our suffering. By stabilizing the mind in the thought that you are an eternal Self who is always complete and perfect in all respects and nothing can change that, you will gradually become immune to the events which normally affect most people.
Suggestions for Further Reading
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- Essays On Dharma
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- Essays on The Upanishads
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