Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 5, Verse 02

Dheera, the Stable Minded Seer

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V

Chapter-Index | Verse Index

Verse 02

udeti bhavato vishvam vaaridheriva budhbudah
iti jnaathvaikamaathmaanam evameva layam vraja


Translation

All this manifest just as the bubbles happen to arise from the ocean. Thus, knowing that the Self is verily one, in this way also you can attain the final dissolution.


Meaning

The Second Way to Liberation: Dissolution By Overcoming Delusion

In the previous verse, Ashtavakra suggested the first method to achieve liberation or the state of dissolution (laya). He stated that one should strive for liberation by overcoming attachments to worldly objects, having realized that one was an eternal soul who was free from all associations and relationships and had nothing to renounce. The practice of detachment is the first requirement in any spiritual practice. Ashtavakra followed the traditional approach, and rightly placed it as the first method.

By the practice of detachment through dissociation with worldly objects, one becomes free from passions and emotions. You cannot be truly free, unless you are mentally detached from the things that bind you or hold you in control. You can cultivate detachment by practicing dispassion (vairagyam) and indifference to worldly objects, keeping your mind free from both passion (raga) and loathing (dvesha).

However, to practice detachment you need a certain stoical attitude, discernment and right knowledge. You need to know that you are associating with the right things and becoming detachment from the wrong ones. This verse leads in that direction. It gives you a justification from practicing detachment or why you need to become detached from worldly things. This knowledge is important since it will help develop conviction in the methods you follow.

In this verse, he suggested the second method, which would also eventually lead to the same result namely dissociation from worldly objects, but with certain awareness and stoicism. If you take these words seriously and follow them, it will bring a radical transformation in your thinking and approach towards the world itself, so that you will not only become detached from it and develop a distaste for it but also stop performing desire-ridden actions and withdraw from the world with forbearance.

In the previous method the initiates will cultivate soul-centric awareness and realize their true nature as eternal, independent and transcendental entities, unbound by birth or death or any desire or belief. In this method, they will overcome delusion about the world by knowing that it is a projection of the Self and unreal. Knowing that the Self is verily one and only truth and the rest is unreal, they withdraw from the world and attain the final dissolution.

If you hold on to a belief for a long time and if one day you realize that it was an illusion, imagine what will happen? Most likely, it shall shatter your faith in your discretion and judgment. It shall also radically alter your thinking and attitude toward the thing in which you believe. Such experiences often happen to people who fall for fake gurus. They feel shocked and dismayed and withdraw into themselves, feeling guilt and shame or anger and disappointment. Some may never recover from it. Most people experience a wakeup call, when they realize that certain truths about their relationships, beliefs and perceptions are proven wrong.

Imagine for example you had a childhood friend. You blindly trusted him and accepted his word for true, without ever doubting that he would betray you or deceive you. You were fully convinced that your friend was transparent and sincere and you could trust him and rely upon him. Then, one day you realized that you were wrong, and your friend was pretentious and not what he appeared to be. After that eye-opening experience, would you still trust him and cherish the relationship? If you do, which is the case with many, what will happen? You will keep suffering and learning new lessons, until you can no more take it.

Logically, the same should happen when you realize someday that the world is not what it appears to be, and it is just an illusion or a projection or like a bubble which arises from the surface of an ocean. That one realization can transform your thinking and attitude towards the world, and make you reconsider your relationship with it and all the things that belong to it. You will also begin to question your thoughts and perceptions of it and regard it with certain caution and skepticism, as you realize how it may create suffering and develop a distaste for all worldly things.

How can this conviction grow in you and become natural to you? Do not expect miracles. It does not happen overnight. You have to strive for it by replacing your old beliefs about the world with the new ones, by constantly remembering that the world, or whatever you perceive or experience in your mind or through senses, is a temporary formation. You have to keep doing it when you are engaged with the world or worldly things, or whenever you feel that you are becoming excessively involved with them.

If you persist in this practice, you will cultivate detachment and gradually dissolve your attachments and entanglements. As the world loses its appeal for you, you will withdraw from it and stabilize your mind in the contemplation of the Self. The transformation will also help you cultivate indifference or sameness towards the dualities and happenings of the world and remain peaceful and contended. You need patience and perseverance because you cannot rush it.

We become attached to the things of the world and form a relationship with them when we accept them to be true and material. Logically and perceptually, it is difficult to believe that the world is an illusion. At least, it does not appear to be so to our minds and senses. Its physical existence cannot be denied, nor can we ignore our perceptual experience of it. Conceptually, it may make sense from certain perspectives, but perceptually it does not. One may have different notions of what that world may mean. but everyone perceptually knows that the world exists and has materiality.

The human mind itself is an extension of the world. It derives its nourishment from the world and is made up of the perceptions and thoughts of the world. Further, the world outlasts us all until the end of creation. We also depend upon it. Our lives and destinies are shaped by it. We cannot also fathom its cause or why it is an illusion or a projection. Therefore, we cannot physically perceive the world other than what it appears to be. We cannot perceptually ignore its overwhelming presence or our dependence upon it for our survival and self-preservation. We cannot see it with the vision or the awareness of a seer, or convince ourselves that we live in an unreal world.

The change in your thinking will happen only through spiritual practice, when you center yourself in the Self rather than the mind and body and see the world from the depths of your consciousness, with peace, detachment and equanimity firmly established. Through the study of the scriptures and other means you must cultivate a new awareness about the world as an illusion, even if logically it may not make sense, knowing that appearances can be deceptive. You must surrender your intelligence and erudition to the wisdom of the scriptures and their affirmation that the world is unreal and illusory.

For example, perceptually the sun and the moon appear as bright discs in the sky and the stars as mere shining dots. Hence, due to ignorance for millenniums people entertained many wrong notions and myths about them. Today, after numerous scientific discoveries we know the truth. We know that they are not what they seem to be but worlds in themselves. The learning changed our understanding of them although visually we continue to see them just as our ancestors did. The moral is that we cannot always rely upon our perceptions to know truths or establish right knowledge.

Three powers bind you to the world namely the ego (anava), attachments (pasa) and delusion (moha). They also influence your thinking, perception and behavior. When you suppress the ego and cut the bonds to cultivate discernment, you will overcome delusion and see the world differently, from the perspective of the Self as pure consciousness rather than from that of your ego. One of the well-known ways by which it is accomplished is through repeated affirmations and constant remembrance that you are an eternal soul, not a mortal being with a mind and body.

You have to continue the practice and engage your mind in the contemplation of the Self, until the idea is firmly implanted in your mind, and your identification with the Self is complete. All our spiritual practices, including the eight limbs of the classical yoga are meant to bring this inner transformation or reorientation in our perception, thinking, habits, attitude and behavior. You have to accept the word of your scriptures or your teacher, with unwavering faith (shraddha), suspending your skepticism and intellectual notions.

By firmly implanting the idea that you are an eternal soul, and the world is a mere projection or an illusion, you will gradually draw your mind and senses into yourself, developing a distaste for the world and worldly things, and enter the deeper states of mental absorption or dissolution. As a spiritual person, it is what we are expected to do rather than speculating upon the nature of life or the world. As a spiritual person your focus should primarily be upon the Self.

It means you do not have to concern yourself whether the world is an illusion or not. It is not necessary for your liberation or your mental peace. It is sufficient if you believe in the idea that it is an illusion and unreliable. You do not have to prove that to yourself or to others. In the pursuit of liberation, it does not even matter whether the world is real or unreal. As the seeker of liberation, you have to engage the mind in the contemplation of the Self rather than the world. You may speculate upon the nature of existence, but it is not going to help you much. It may rather distract you and unsettle you rather than help you to experience peace and equanimity.

In spiritual practice, you do not have to rely always upon proof. Faith, rather than proof, should be your support. You may rely upon your experiences, but they are not strictly necessary. When direct experience (pratyaksha) or circumstantial evidence (anumana) are not helpful, you can go by faith or the authority of the scriptures (shabda pramana). Belief in a scripture or the words of a teacher is a powerful force which can accelerate your progress. It is especially so with regard to metaphysical truths, which cannot be validated with the help of senses or the mind. Scriptural validation (shabda pramana) is a universally accepted measure of truth in Hinduism, and its use is perfectly justified in spiritual transformation.

Therefore, you can conveniently ignore any speculation about the concept of Maya or the nature of the world, and just go with what our scriptures have to say about them, accepting the world as an illusion, a temporary formation or a projection of God. By that knowledge which is induced by faith or the scriptures, you can suspend your intellectual skepticism and look at the world as a play of God or the field of Nature. Consider it to be a little sacrifice you need to make to open your mind to other possibilities. Sometimes you have to bend reason to look beyond and realize the transcendental reality.

As the new awareness becomes established in your mind, you will look at the external world with stoical indifference, and stop depending upon it for your selfish desires and needs. Withdrawing your mind and senses into yourself, with your mind firmly fixed upon the Self, you will gradually become detached from worldly life. Perfecting your contemplative practices such as concentration and meditation like an adept (dheera), you will enter higher states of meditative self-absorption (samadhi).

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