Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 2, Verse 1

Ashtavakra and King Janaka

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V


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Verse 1

aho niranjanah shaantho bodho aham prakruthe parah
ethaavanthamaham kaalam mohenaiva vidambithah


Janaka said, Oh I have become aware that I am without blemish, peaceful, and beyond Nature. Until this time, I was troubled by delusion.


The state of self-realization

This chapter is about self-realization and self-knowledge as expressed by Janaka in his awakened state. Bodha means to know, to realize, to awaken, or to come to a realization or understanding. In the present context it refers to self-realization or inner awakening. Janaka responded to the instruction he received from Ashtavakra stating that his delusion or misunderstanding had gone as he realized that he was pure and perfect, peaceful, beyond Nature, and free from delusion.

Janaka began his observation about himself or his transformation with the statement that he had become pure, without faults. Liberation is the state of perfection as well purity. Perfection does not mean you are only good. It is completeness and the totality of all knowns and unknowns, with limitless freedom. He used the world “niranjana,” meaning without blemish or impurity, or having no impurities.

What were the impurities from which he became free? They are the duality of the knower and the known, egoism of I am and mine, the desire to have, to be, and to become, attachment to worldly things, and the delusion that the body was real. The triple modes (gunas) namely sattva, rajas and tamas are primarily responsible for them. They are responsible for both divine and demonic qualities that manifest in us according to our karmas.

A human being is a mass of impurities and imperfections. He has many limitations, which keep him bound to the mortal world. Liberation becomes necessary because the Self is caught in those impurities and does not find an escape. Death does not remove those impurities, since karma remains unresolved. Therefore, liberation through purification is the only way to become free from them.

How did he know that he had become pure? He knew that self-realization would not be possible until he was completely pure. Even if there is a little impurity, one cannot attain liberation. If you have entered the highest state of Samadhi and become absorbed in the Self that in itself is a proof that you cleansed yourself. Even if you had some impurities and somehow you managed to attain self-realization because of the grace of your guru or God that very experience burns away all your impurities and latent impressions.

Self-realization, self-transformation and self-purification are very much interrelated. Self-purification is essentially self-transformation. When you remove the impurities of egoism, attachments and delusion and suppress the gunas, you are ready for the stateless self-absorption. Therefore, as he realized his Self, Janaka knew that he had reached the state of purity, and no further purification or transformation was necessary.

Peace (shanthum) is another important outcome of self-realization. When you are pure, you will have the predominance of Sattva and sattva leads to peace. In the predominance of sattva, your intelligence shines brightly, and your mind will be free from modifications. With desires suppressed, and mind stabilized, you will experience sameness to the pairs of opposites. You will not react to either pleasure or pain, or to the ups and downs of your life. As your mind calms down and the feeling of renunciation becomes stronger, you will take everything in your stride and become a pure observer, without prejudice, preference, or judgment. Once you stop reacting, defending and offending others, and become indifferent, peace becomes your natural state. Janaka had attained peace, as he had undergone an inner transformation, practiced indifference and overcome his impurities.

The next thing Janaka stated was that he transcended Nature. For a human being his mind and the body represent Nature or the field (kshetra). They are made up of the 23 tattvas, namely the five elements, the five organs of action, the five organs of perception, the five subtle senses, the mind, the ego, and the intelligence. In a living being they act according to the predominance of the triple gunas, namely, sattva, rajas, and tamas. Janaka said that he transcended them, which meant he was not any more troubled by natural modifications such as aging, sickness, hunger, etc. For a sell-realized yogi, his mind and body become mere shadows, as he is detached from them and as he recognizes them as the mere formations of the Self.

The last thing he mentioned in the verse was delusion, or moha. He said that he was freed from delusion which until then troubled him. Moha means delusion, distortion, or deception. Vidamba means being troubled or duped. What is the delusion? It is essentially lack of discretion or mistaking one for another or mistaking the unreal for the real and vice versa. You are subject to different types of delusion, and you may not be even aware that you are under its influence.

For example, there is the delusion of the mind and body, delusion of ownership and doership, delusion of relationships, delusion of desires, delusion of death and rebirth, delusion of pain and pleasure, delusion of impermanence, and so on. The Self does not assert itself. It remains in the background as a passive witness, whereas the ego plays a central role in the life of an individual, taking responsibility for all actions and decisions and thereby giving the impression that it is the real Self. You will not notice it as long as your attention is turned outside.

Only when you withdraw from the world and contemplate upon your inner Self, you become aware of the passive, witnessing Self and realize that it is your essential nature and your natural state. To know that you are the eternal, indestructible, and infinite Self is the first step to overcome delusion. To the extent the idea becomes firmly implanted in your mind, you will become free from delusion and ignorance.

Delusion is the natural state of the mind. Purity, tranquility, freedom from bondage to Nature, and freedom from delusion, they constitute the state of the Self. A bound soul is subject to the modifications and modes of Nature. A liberated soul is free from everything. From the Advaita philosophy you learn that your current existence is false. It is a temporary interlude in the eternal existence of Self. The instant you achieve true self-awareness and become established in your true identity as the eternal Self, which Janaka described here, your ego will disappear. It is as if you wake up from a long dream, which you until then considered to be true. It is a sudden awakening into a different reality or a kind of return from deep sleep.

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