Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 3, Verse 03


Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V

Chapter-Index | Verse Index

Verse 3

vishvam sphurati yatredam tara~ngaa iva saagare  
so.ahamasmeethi vij~naaya kim deena iva dhaavasi.


Knowing “I am That” ocean in which the universe shiningly swells like a wave, why do you have to run around like a needy and miserable person?


Cultivating the unified vision

This verse conveys the same teaching as one of the verses (2.43) in the Bhagavadgita, which is as follows, “As much purpose the water in a well serves when there is a deluge, so much do all the Vedas for a Brahmana who has knowledge (of the Self).” When you already have everything, why do you seek anything at all? When you identify yourself with the Universal Self in whom everything exists like a wave in an ocean, you become complete, and will not intentionally seek anything. It is not necessary that you have to physically possess everything to overcome desires or reach that state of completeness of fulfillment. If you can firmly integrate that idea into your consciousness and abide in it, you will develop contentment and remain happy within yourself.

You and the universe

The verse also refers to the transience of material creation. The universe appears like a wave in the ocean of existence. A wave is a temporary phenomenon. It rises and falls, with a beginning and an end and appears for the duration of its existence. When it is gone, it is gone forever. Another wave may appear in its place or several waves, but they are all not the same. Creation itself arises in the oceans of the Self as a temporary wave. So are all the beings. The bodies in which we live and things that we seek to fulfill our desires or satisfy our ego are also temporary.

The verse also presents the idea that the universe exists in us, which is contrary to our normal experience of living inside the universe.  It is because we perceive ourselves as physical entities and see the universe from the perspective of the mind and the ego. We also do not feel any emotional, physical or spiritual connection with the universe, other than that it is a physical entity which supports our existence and provides the things that we seek and need for our survival. We perceive the universe as a separate entity because of the duality and the limited self-image which we entertain in our minds.

Duality and individuality

We know how self-image plays an important role in our lives. It influences our thinking and attitude towards ourselves and others. If you think that you are a weak person, you become a weak person. If you think that you lack confidence, that idea expresses itself in numerous ways in your life and actions. When you view the universe with duality as separate and distinct from you, you establish a subject-object relationship with it according to your self-image, thinking and knowledge. Having become involved with the world and its objects, you experience attraction and aversion towards them and develop desires and attachments.

The subject-object relationship is a trap and a source of our misery, want and suffering.  It thrives on the notion of duality and the idea of separation and distinction. The duality that you are distinct from the universe and the belief that you are a limited being reduce you into state of wanting, seeking, striving and suffering. Caught in the web or relationships and attachments, you become the suffering person (deen) whose desire for things cannot easily be fulfilled. The truth is that you are neither the body nor the mind nor the universe. You are not the being, who is subject to flitting thoughts, emotions and feelings, and who is perpetually subject to desires and passions. You experience them because of the limited self-image which you cultivate in your mind.

Cultivating the universal vision of Advaita

Our scriptures say that on the path of liberation you must overcome this duality and the desire for things. Instead of seeing yourself as a limited being who is vulnerable to desires and needs, you must identify yourself with the universal Self and cultivate contentment. Transcending the numerous limited identifies which you cultivate in your life, such as your individual identity, family identity, gender identity, caste identity, etc., you must recognize yourself as the limitless pure consciousness, the ocean itself, in which everything appears and disappears like a temporary wave.

You are the source, the provider, the nourisher, the giver and the supporter of all. Therefore, there is no need for you to live like a person who is in perpetual need of things to fulfill yourself or complement yourself. Advaita has two important components. One is the philosophical teaching that the reality is One and all that arises in it or appears in it is an illusion. That second part is the practice of abiding in that notion or idea until it becomes an inseparable, indivisible, indestructible and eternal reality.

Monism or Nonduality is not a mere intellectual or philosophical idea but a livable reality for a person who cultivates discernment and sees the world as a play of God. With practice and conviction, you can visualize of yourself as an infinite ocean of consciousness and abide in that thought, accepting your thoughts and perceptions as modifications on its surface. Try to see whether you can engage your mind constantly in that thought and identify yourself with the universal consciousness, rather than with your mind and body or your limited personality. If you persist in that practice, you will dissolve your limited self in the oceanic consciousness of Brahman and experience oneness.

Even if you cannot sustain that idea for long in your mind due to any problems or limitations, you can still cultivate an expansive and all-inclusive vision and take refuge in it whenever you face problems or feel distressed. You do not have to feel oppressed or limited by the labels the world gives you or you give to yourself. If you do, it is a choice, not a compulsion. You can broaden your vision so that you will not become trapped in the trivial and selfish mentality of the ego and in the vicious cycle of sin and retribution.  Contemplate upon the idea that you are an infinite Self who is the source of all, including your own life and destiny, possessing the power and the potential to transform yourself according to your thoughts and vision. As the Bhagavadgita declares, you can be a friend of the Self or an enemy of the Self according to your choices and thinking.

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