Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 2, Verse 11

Ashtavakra and King Janaka

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V

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Verse 11

aho aham namo mahyam vinaasho yasya naasthi me
brahmaadisthambaparyantham jagannasho’api thishthatah

Translation

Oh, my Self! Salutations to my Self, who is indestructible and remains firmly established even when the whole world, from Brahma and the life down to a clod of grass, is destroyed.

Meaning

The state of Self-realization

Imagine you are walking on a steep path. You are very tired, but you keep walking. You manage to climb a steep incline, and lo behold you see a beautiful lake with a resting place under a canopy of large trees. What happens? You will be filled with wonder, elation and gratitude at the same time. Whenever you stumble upon an unexpected realization, you will be filled with wonder.

The same happens to a seer who is in search of his true identity. In his arduous journey he meets with many difficulties and overcomes many barriers. He will hardly find any support in his quest for truth. Everywhere he finds people seeking worldly things and preoccupying themselves with trite and mundane aspects of life.

As he is shunned or ignored by the world at large, he will suffer from self-doubt and conflicting thoughts. At that point of time, when he reaches the goal, you can imagine the sense of relief and blissful happiness. In this particular case, the Seer had found his true Self. He was filled with wonder and feelings of reverence, as he realized his own sacredness. Therefore, he offered salutations to himself.

You are a sacred being. Your value does not depend upon how much wealth you have or to which family or social status you belong. You carry in you the light of God. Consciousness in itself is an invaluable thing. Would you trade your self-awareness and intelligence for the life of a semi-conscious animal? What riches can be equal to the consciousness you carry in yourself?

A self-realized yogi embodies his true spirit having transcended all barriers that keep him separate from himself. He houses the true deity within himself and remains satisfied with himself. He who merges his identity in it has no need to visit any temple or offer salutations to any deity because the same deity which people worship in temples and sacred places lives and breathes inside him.

The temples and images that you worship are reminders that you are a living and breathing abode of God in which he resides as your very Self. Self-realization means realizing your divine nature, and knowing who you truly are. The process is similar to an illumination or remembering something that you forgot for a longtime.

“Aham” generally means ego, pride, arrogance, individuality, or the sense of I am. Aham also means Self. The difference between them is mainly with regard to their relative states. The ego is the Self in duality. The Self is one and only without that duality. The ego arises in the Self from the perception of the world as an object and from the desires and attachments that arise from it.

In the perceptual world, you are the subject, who experiences the otherness of perceived things. In a self-realized state that otherness disappears and with it also vanish the sense of ownership, desires, attractions and aversion, and attachments. It is what the seer expressed here. Upon seeing the Self, for him the distinctions of Brahma, this and that vanished. He realized that even if they all disappeared in reality, he would still be there because they were his projections. Your world exists because you exist. It is a reflection of yourself and does not necessarily correspond with the world of another person.

It is important to ​always remember that you are an eternal Self. That very thought can lead you to liberation. Do not be under the false impression that self-realization is the privilege or prerogative of a few spiritual masters. You have to remember this. Since you possess an eternal soul you are Isvara, the king of kings, a supremely divine being. You do not have to take pride in that, but you should remember who you truly are and live up to it. Through your thoughts and actions, and with persistence, you should make that happen into a reality. If you can consistently sustain that thought, you will not have to depend upon any guru, rites and rituals, methods of worship, or the study of scriptures. All these are mere aides to sustain that thought in your consciousness. You can hold that idea or thought by any number of means, but what is important is to hold it and nurture it until it becomes an inseparable part of your consciousness.

The ego is the awareness that I am this and that, or I have this and that. The Self is simply the awareness of I am, without any of it. In the self-realized state, you will still see the world and experience it, but it will cease to enthrall you or cause any ripples in your consciousness. You will sever your connection with it and your attachments, whereby you will become immune to the modifications that appear and disappear in the world around you. You will become equal to the vagaries of life and let life happen, rather than trying to control it or manipulate it. This is the state of equanimity or samatvam, which a yogi strives to achieve before experiencing the serene state of self-absorption. Mere self-realization does not lead to it. You have to practice transformative practices to purify your mind and body to enter it.

The ego is not an undesirable tattva when it is pure and free from modifications. The state of duality is in itself the state of ego. Indivi(sible)duality arises from the experience or awareness of duality only. The problem of ego arises only when you infuse it with the impurities of desires and attachments. The universal Self, or the Saguna Brahman, also has an ego, or individuality, which we call Purusha or Ishvara. You are able to know his existence because of it only. Otherwise, he will be Nirguna Brahman, without qualities and distinctions. Without duality, there is no knowing. It is important to remember this distinction.

In this verse the seer expressed the joy of self-realization. He realized his essential nature and the world as an impermanent projection of his own Self. He understood that in the end what remains is the eternal Self, and the rest cease to matter anymore.

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