Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 6, Verse 03

Mother of Pearl

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V

Index, Verse Index, Verse 1, Verse 2, Verse 3, Verse 4,

Verse 03

aham sa shuktisankaasho ruupyavad vishvakalpanaa
iti jnaanam tathaitasya na thyaago na graho layah


I am like the mother of pearl; the illusory world is like the shining silver. Therefore, for this (Self) there is neither renunciation nor possession nor destruction.


The Self as the source of all

God is the source of all. He is the cause, and the world is the effect. From the eternal and absolute reality of Brahman arises as waves the world of phenomena, which is the rather impermanent and illusory objective reality. Now, we do not have any proof that God created this world. For that our only validation is the authority of the scriptures or the words of enlightened masters such as Ashtavakra.

Seers such as Ashtavakra are pure beings. They practise truthfulness in all its aspects. Hence, they do not vouch for falsehoods or what they do not know. In our search for truth, they are reliable and dependable because they are honest to the core and speak only truth. Since their minds and intelligence are pure, they also perceive truth without any obstructions and impurities. Being selfless and free from desires and attachments, they do not have any hidden agenda or ulterior motive. We can therefore safely accept their statements as true and reliable.

Ashtavakra belonged to the school of nondualism (Advaita). He recognized only one eternal reality, Brahman. The materiality of Brahman which we perceive with our senses is either a projection or reflection of him in the field of his own nature. It arises from him, rests in him, is enveloped by him and used by him only. It is his inseparable dynamic force.

There is an endless speculation in Hinduism regarding whether Brahman and his materiality (also known as force or energy) constitute two distinct realities (tattvas) or the same reality. Perhaps, the matter will never be settled because we cannot fully grasp the truth of Brahman. We cannot fully grasp the truth of ourselves. Then how can we grasp the truth of Brahman, the universal reality?

We do not necessarily have to know every truth in the universe. It is sufficient if we know the essential truths which are useful to experience peace and stability in our lives or achieve liberation. Ignorance is a problem, but there is a lot of knowledge which is neither relevant nor useful for our existence or continuity. When we do not have tight knowledge, we should surrender to the higher knowledge as contained in our scriptures or as validated by our spiritual masters.

For example, we do not clearly know to what extent we can guide and control our lives and destinies, and to what extent it is purely in the hands of God, circumstances and other forces. We do not know whether the world manifested by accident or due to design. Logically, it appears that the truth is somewhere in the middle. However, the scriptures affirm that God is the source of everything. Everything happens according to his will.

Should we doubt it? That choice rests with us. If you choose the path of intelligence (buddhi), you may arrive at your own intellectual conclusions, but if you choose the path of devotion, you have to rest your intellectual curiosity and repose faith in the knowledge of the scriptures or the words of a seer or teacher. When Ashtavakra says that Brahman is the source of everything, we have to acknowledge it as the universal truth.

From the perspective of nondualism, Brahman is the immutable, absolute and independent reality, and all that which is associated with him or arises from him as his dependent and secondary reality is illusory or ephemeral, subject to change and decay. His materiality is represented by Nature or Prakriti. She is his dynamic force and a dependent realty. Although she is the material cause of all creation, it is Brahman who is the efficient and ultimate cause. We may refer to them as he and she for our convenience, but in their ultimate essence, they are inseparable.

In this verse Brahman is comparable to the oyster shell, Nature to the mother of pearl, and all the manifestation, which flows as silver from her, to her creation, under his will. In the microcosm of your beingness, you are the oyster shell, your mind and body represent Nature or the mother of pearl, and all the physical and mental activity, karma, possessions, desires, attachments, egoism, etc., constitute the silver or the sum of your life and accumulations. We should not become lost in the glitter and illumination of the world not should we be troubled by its darkness and chaos. We have to surrender to that power which is the source of all such dualities and rest our faith in it.

Whatever happens to you or whatever you experience, because of desires, thoughts and intentions, is the formation which accumulates in you and around you like a cloud. Unless you renounce it, disown it and dissolve it, you cannot be free from the consequences of your own actions. To stop producing karma and to stop creating your suffering and bondage, you have to silence your mind, give up all attachments and desires and stabilize it in the contemplation of the Self.

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