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Ashtavakra Gita

November 9, 2012 in Transforming Life


There is nevertheless a story line set up in the Ashtavakra Gita, and for me it goes something like this:

  • Chapter 1: It all starts when King Janaka asks the sage Ashtavakra how he can attain Knowledge, detachment, liberation. Ashtavakra tells him.
  • Chapter 2: It works! Upon hearing Ashtavakra’s words Janaka realizes his True Nature. Enraptured, he describes the joy and wonder of his new state.
  • Chapter 3: Ashtavakra is delighted for Janaka but sees inconsistencies. He fires off a series of confrontational verses about attachment to worldly pleasure.
  • Chapter 4: Janaka asserts that the Lord of the Universe can do as he pleases.
  • Chapter 5: Ashtavakra does not disagree, but in a terse four verses points to the next step—dissolution.
  • Chapter 6: Janaka says “I know that already,” matching him in style and number of verses.
  • Chapter 7: Unable to leave it at that, however, Janaka goes on to further describe his enlightened state.
  • Chapter 8: Still hearing too much “I” in Janaka’s language, Ashtavakra instructs him in the subtleties of attachment and bondage.
  • Chapter 9: Ashtavakra continues to describe the way of true detachment.
  • Chapter 10: Ashtavakra hammers away at the folly of desire—no matter how elevated or subtle.
  • Chapter 11: Ashtavakra further describes the state of desirelessness to which he points.
  • Chapter 12: Janaka replies by describing the state of timeless stillness in which he now finds himself.
  • Chapter 13: Janaka, having been instructed by Ashtavakra in Chapter One to “be happy,” reports that he indeed is.
  • Chapter 14: Janaka then summarizes his exalted state with calm indifference.
  • Chapter 15: Impressed but not through teaching, Ashtavakra relentlessly points to the vast emptiness of Self.
  • Chapter 16: Ashtavakra attacks the futility of effort and knowing.
  • Chapter 17: Ashtavakra describes the nature of one who is truly free.
  • Chapter 18: Finally, Ashtavakra hits him with everything he’s got—100 verses of pure non-duality. If this doesn’t do it, nothing will.
  • Chapter 19: It works! Janaka no longer describes his enlightened state, but can speak only in questions revealing absence.
  • Chapter 20: In a final flurry of questions pointing only at their own meaninglessness, Janaka burns off the last vestiges of personhood and enters dissolution. He ends with: “No more can be said.” Ashtavakra smiles, nods approvingly, and says no more.

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