Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 8, Verse 01


Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V

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

Verse 01

ashtaavakra uvaacha
tadaa bandho yadaa chittam kinchid vaamchati shochati
kinchin munchati grhinhaati kinchidh hrishyati kupyati


Ashtavakra said, “When the mind desires even a little, grieves even a little, rejects even a little, accepts even a little, feels joy or anger even a little, then it is bondage.”


The Nature of Bondage

If you are bound to the world, where is freedom? You are bound means you are limited and restricted in your freedom and ability to exercise your free will or act independently, without external help. If you depend upon anything, be it your senses, your mind, food, water, air or any external source, it means you are bound and subject to karma and the cycle of births and deaths. The very fact that you live inside a body and depend upon it for your survival and identity is a proof of your servitude to the forces of Nature and her manifestations. Freedom from the body and its modifications is true liberation. However, it does not arise from death since it does not liberate you from karma and rebirth.

True freedom arises when you cut the roots that bind you to the cycle of births and deaths and from your attachment and dependence upon your name and form, your mind and senses, family, home, children, relations, community and the world itself. You may have faith in God and devotion to him, but you should not depend upon him or any deity. Your devotion to God must be free from desires and expectations. It must be selfless and pure. Otherwise, it denotes duality and dependence, which are hindrances to liberation. Every relationship or attachment is a hindrance. They have to fall off at some stage, including your relationship with God or a guru. You have to dissolve all labels which you create for yourself or which the world gives to you.

True freedom means, to be free from desires, expectations, preferences, priorities, likes and dislikes and any desire or action which tends to promote self-preservation. If you are hurt or angry or dissatisfied or afraid or defensive for any reason, it means you are not free from desires and attachments. If you try to impress someone or intimidate someone, it means you are bound to certain desires, values, compulsions, expectations and beliefs.

A liberated yogi is unafraid, unassuming and undisturbed by any external or internal factors. He may be indifferent to the world, but it does not mean that his vitality is suppressed or he is incapable of living a normal life. He remains in control of his emotions, but is not incapable of expressing them. Simply, he does not let his desires guide his emotions. Although he renounced the world and worldly enjoyment, he is not averse to experience life. While he accepts what comes to him naturally or spontaneously by the work of gods, he does not actively seek any pleasure or enjoyment.

At the same time, he is not disturbed if they are absent, or he has to deal with adversity and suffering. A self-realized yogi remains satisfied within himself. He neither accepts nor rejects any situation or circumstance, but embraces life without conditions and qualifications. Since, his consciousness is illumined with the light of the self, he finds himself in everyone and everything, playing different roles and going through numerous experiences. He realizes that he is the pure-self who plays diverse roles in innumerable bodies, untouched by the modifications which arise and subside within him as a part of his own play of which he is the creator, preserver and destroyer.

We are bound to the world through desires and attachments. In a very practical sense, bondage means, becoming bound to the world or to the body through attachments. Liberation, means freedom from all obligations, compulsions, dependence, and limitations. It is common knowledge that desire is the root cause of bondage and suffering. If you have desires, if means you have to work on yourself to achieve liberation.

When you repeatedly interact with the same objects, people and situations, you develop attraction and aversion (raga and dvesha), which manifest in you as likes and dislikes which in turn create certain rigid ways of thinking and behavior. They shape your life, personality and worldview, as you exercise your limited freedom and abilities to engage in actions and pursue your interests and desires. As they become deeply ingrained in you, you become a creature of habit, a worldly-wise person, who prefers to align with the world and pursue selfish goals and desires rather than go against it, and who knows how to win the approval and acceptance of others rather than incurring their disapproval and displeasure.

The world shapes and chisels you as learn to abide in its value system and navigate through its huge labyrinth of illusions, distractions and deceptions. In search of meaning and purpose and to be a part of the world, you ingratiate yourself with others so much that you forget who you truly are. As your true identity is suppressed beneath layers of compromise and conditioning, you may not even feel your true feelings or know what matters to you or which goals you should pursue. This is the state of the conditioning which is common to almost everyone and which the scripture described as egoism, ignorance and delusion. Even if we know that it is wrong and we are putting our best interests behind, we persist because we know that the world will not forgive us, if we dare to defy its values or norms or standards.

You cannot help it because your mind is shaped by the world. It reflects the world, is filled with the knowledge of the world and made up of the world. It becomes so much a part of your life and consciousness that you cannot remain indifferent to what happens there. You cannot resist the urge to speak your mind or express your feelings and opinions before others to let the world know how strongly you feel about yourself, the world or situations and circumstances which attract your attention. From a worldly perspective, it is acceptable behavior since it promotes belongingness and group identity. You indulge in it as a part of your self-expression and survival. But at what cost?

Four criterial or situations are mentioned here to distinguish the state of bondage from that of liberation. Of them the first one is desire. It is the most important one because it is the root cause of all the other three. For example, suffering or grieving arises when one is separated from what one likes or desires or when one is brought into contact with what one dislikes or detests. Pain and suffering may also arise because of karma or desire-ridden actions. The decision to accept or reject anything arises from the ego due to desires, attachments and attraction and aversion. Lastly, feelings of joy or anger arise when we cannot fulfill our desires or something stands in the way. Thus, desires and attachments are at the root of our bondage and suffering.

In this regard, the word “kinchith” is also important. Kinchit means even a little. It is used here to denote there should be a complete absence of desire or attachment or attraction or aversion for liberation to happen. Having even a little trace of desire or expectation is an indication that one is not truly free. Even a little trace of ego can upset one’s progress. In other words, a yogi cannot take liberties. He should remain steadfast and do not allow any vulnerability or weakness to derail his progress. True liberation means complete freedom from all desires and attachments. It is possible only when one is firmly established in the consciousness of the pure-self without any duality and division.

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