Chapter 1: The Pure Truth
Janak asked: Oh lord, how does one attain to wisdom? How does liberation happen? And how is nonattachment attained? Please tell me this.
Ashtavakra replied: Oh beloved, if you want liberation then renounce the passions as poison, and take forgiveness, innocence, compassion, contentment and truth as nectar. You are neither earth, nor air, nor fire, nor water, nor ether. To attain liberation, know yourself as the witnessing consciousness of all these.
If you can separate yourself from the physical body and rest in consciousness, then this very moment you will be happy, at peace, and free of bondage.
You are not a brahmin or other caste, you are not in any of the four stages of life, you are not perceived by the eyes or other senses. Unattached and without form, you are the witness of the whole universe. Know this and be happy.
Oh expansive one, religion and atheism, happiness and misery - all are of the mind, they are not for you. You are not the doer nor the enjoyer. You have always been liberated.
We are embarking on a rare journey. Man has many scriptures, but none are comparable to the Gita of Ashtavakra. Before it the Vedas pale, the Upanishads are a mere whisper. Even the Bhagavadgita does not have the majesty found in the Ashtavakra Samhita - it is simply unparalleled.
The most important thing is that neither society, nor politics, nor any other institution of human life had any influence on the statements of Ashtavakra. There are no other statements anywhere that are so pure, transcendental, and beyond time and space. Perhaps that is why Ashtavakra’s Gita, the Ashtavakra Samhita, has not had much impact.
Krishna’s Bhagavadgita has been very influential. The first reason is that Krishna’s Gita is a synthesis. He is more concerned with synthesis than with truth. The desire for synthesis is so strong, that if necessary Krishna doesn’t mind sacrificing the truth a little.
Krishna’s Gita is a hodgepodge containing everything; hence it appeals to everyone, because there is something in it for everyone. It is difficult to find any tradition whose voice is not found in the Gita. It is difficult to find anyone who does not take solace from the Gita. But for such people Ashtavakra’s Gita will prove very difficult.
People love Krishna’s Gita because it is very easy to extract one’s own meaning from it. Krishna’s Gita is poetic: in it two plus two can equal five, two plus two can also equal three. No such tricks are possible with Ashtavakra. With him two plus two are exactly four. Ashtavakra’s statements are statements of pure mathematics. There isn’t the least possibility for poetic license here. He says things as they are, without any sort of compromise.
Reading Krishna’s Gita, a devotee extracts something of which he can make a belief, because Krishna spoke on bhakti, devotion. The karma yogi extracts his belief because Krishna has spoken on karma yoga, the yoga of action. The believer in knowledge finds what he wants because Krishna has spoken on knowledge as well. Somewhere Krishna calls devotion the ultimate, somewhere else he calls knowledge the ultimate, again elsewhere he calls karma yoga the ultimate.
Krishna’s statements are very political. He was a politician, a perfect politician. Just to say he was a politician is not right; he was a shrewd politician, a real diplomat. In his statements he considered and included many things. This is why the Gita suits everyone, why there are thousands of commentaries on the Gita.