Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 4, Verse 04

Dheera, the Stable Minded Seer

Dheera, the Stable Minded Seer

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V

Chapter-Index | Verse Index

Verse 04

yaatmaivedam jagatsarvam jnaatam yena mahaatmanaa
yadrichchayaa vartamaanam tam nisheddhum kshameta kah


Who can prevent the great-souled one who has known this whole world as the Self from living by chance?


Living by chance

The self-realized yogi, the mahatma, sees everything as himself and everything in himself. He does it with complete conviction, without any inner conflicts or delusion. The thought never leaves his mind. For him, it is an integral part of his awareness or consciousness, as he removes all traces of egoism and individuality and remain centered in his pure Self.

In that awareness he considers the Self is all and hidden in all. He may physically see the world and objects in a state of duality, but he will not feel the separation or the distinction, which we experience in our consciousness. As he dissolves his ego, he feels the same essence, with which he identifies in himself and in others.

The idea is difficult to explain to those who are too involved with the world and centered in their egos. They believe the Self to be an ethereal phenomenon, something not of this world, and other than themselves. The truth is that in your deepest core you are the Self. It is what remains or shines when you remove all the identities, labels, memories, knowledge and consciousness which you acquire in your interaction with the world. When they are shed, you become the pure Self. In meditation or in the state of equanimity, you have a better chance of finding it.

Once you are centered in it, you perceive the same Self as hidden in all, behind the masks they wear, the words they speak, the impressions they create and the actions they take. Hence, a self-realized yogi is always in love with himself as well as with the whole world. It is not the love of this world. It has no purpose and no specific target, nor any direction. His love for the Self becomes extended to the Self that exists in all. He not only extends that universal love to others but also attracts it. True gurus, who are enlightened are able to attract considerable following for this reason only.

You will experience a little of that affinity or oneness, when you are in the presence of those whom you deeply love. As you identify yourself with them, you will feel their pain as well as their love. Thus, to experience the Self you must become the Self, erasing all traces of egoism, attachments and desires.

The wise ones attain that state of oneness through arduous practice. In that sacred state, they experience neither fear nor desire. They may wish the welfare of the world or feel compassion for others or think of helping them, but they do not bind others through that, nor do they impose any obligations. The universal and unimposing love which arises from their oneness with the Self is spontaneous, and without attachments and expectations. It is like a pure fragrance that spreads from a flower in all directions.

TA wise yogi accepts people and things as they are, without judgment, reservation, criticism or likes and dislikes. For him all are the same or aspects of the same Self who participate in the mortal world as a part of a divine play, in which the same Self manifests in numerous forms and guises and becomes deeply engrossed in it.

The self-realized one also lives with complete trust he perceives all as himself and fears none. As he becomes one with the Self, his individual-will becomes one with the divine-will. Therefore, he remains in harmony with it and lives by chance, letting things happen on their own rather than egoistically taking control of them or responding to them.

Living by chance is the main hallmark of inner freedom. The freedom that we enjoy upon earth is limited in many respects. It is a freedom which is bound to a set of choices rather than to chance. To enjoy that freedom you are bound to duty, responsibility, agreement, convention, precedence, law and so on. In other words, the freedom of choice is a limited freedom. It does not set you free from within.

Our freedom is also limited by the conditioning to which we are subject and the by limitations of our minds. The yogi is free from conditioning, as he is not bound to anything. He may respect our laws and honor our conventions out of respect or to set an example, but inwardly he is not touched by them. For him, they are a part of the illusion that keeps the world revolving and the beings bound.

Since the yogi is not bound to any social conventions or the conventional morality, and since he transcends all desires, attachments and conditioning, it is very difficult to predict his behavior or responses. As he lives spontaneously, moment by moment, he may often contradict himself or break social and moral conventions as he deems fit.

For example, our ancient seers occasionally engaged in sexual intercourse for the good of the world or to help some women. They did it when they were approached for help, or when they were prompted by providence or circumstances. In today’s world, they would have been severely condemned by people who have acquired a different set of sexual mores due to the influence of other cultures and religions.

Nowadays, we expect our spiritual gurus to be pristine and sexually celibate. We expect them to set high standards of moral and sexual behavior. This was not the case in the epic or puranic age. From a broader perspective, our tradition still considers the Mahatmas to be liberated souls who are not bound to anything. They do not choose between the dualities of life, but accept what befalls them by chance. If someone offers them food, they enjoy it as divine providence. If no one offers them food, they remain hungry.

We venerate them because their words and actions are not driven by desire but by the will of God. We seek their guidance because we know that their words have power, and what they say may come to fruition. For this very reason, truly enlightened seers remain silent for most of the time. They avoid making frivolous comments or criticizing others because their words carry power and affect others.

Although yogis live by chance, they are also obligated to protect their bodies and not subject themselves to willful self-destruction. Mainstream Hinduism permits the practice of equanimity, sameness, detachment and dispassion. However, willful self-torture or injury is not permitted because it is deemed violence in itself. Nonviolence is our highest ideal. It is central to the practice of yoga. The practice of nonviolence includes nonviolence towards one’s own mind and body.

A self-realized yogi is nonviolent by nature. Therefore, he would not willfully subject himself to unnecessary torture or pain. For example, if a yogi has an option to protect his body from extreme cold, he may readily accept it as divine providence. However, if no option is available, he may endure the cold and let chance find him a solution.

Thus, a yogi spontaneously lives, without choice, enjoying whatever happiness, comfort or solution that befalls him, enduring any suffering or pain that may arise by chance. Ordinary people are subject to duality and desire. They are conditioned to react and respond, and if necessary to take control of situations. The ego cannot mutely witness the events of the world and let go of its fear and anxiety. Hence, those who have not subdued their egos cannot live that way.

In today’s world you will not find anyone even remotely who lives with that sense of freedom, detachment and renunciation. There may still be some pure yogis who have abandoned all notions of egoism and individuality and merged into the Self, but they do not willfully come into public or seek attention or engage in worldly activities. They may do so only as a spontaneous response.

It is difficult for common people to live by chance or accept whatever fate that befalls them. However, one can learn to accept or endure what cannot be changed or controlled. With practice, you can cultivate patience and endurance and keep your cool in difficult circumstances. You can make peace with things and situations, which you cannot change or avoid, and enjoy the good things that life offers to you. You can go out of your comfort zone and learn to gain control over your fears and anxieties. Instead of trying to change the circumstances which cannot be changed or avoided, you can change your thinking and behavior and minimize your suffering and negativity.

Life is such. We do not always get what we want. However, we can adapt to situations and adjust our thinking and behavior to the challenges that life throws at us. Those who can do it are better qualified to deal with problems of life. The ability to face life on its terms rather yours is a gift. You can acquire it by cultivating the stoical nature of the adepts. It will help you through the ups and downs of life.

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