Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 9, Verse 04

Ashtavakra and Janaka

Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V

Index, Verse Index, Verse 1, Verse 2, Verse 3, Verse 4, Verse 5, Verse 6, Verse 7, Verse 8,

Verse 04

ko.asau kaalo vayah kim vaa yatra dvandvaani no nrunaam
taanyupekshya yathaapraaptavartee siddhimavaapnuyaat


Where and at what time or age do the dualities not exist for humans? Disregarding them and being content with whatever happens, one attains perfection.


The Dualities Never Cease to Exist

Whether you are young or old, weak or strong, and whether you live in a city or village or in the Himalayas or in a forest in seclusion, the dualities of life do not cease to exist or cease to trouble you. Even if you become a siddha and attained control over the elements and supernatural forces, you cannot make them disappear from your life. This is a universal fact. The dualities will continue until the end of creation itself. There is no way by which anyone can permanently escape from them or their influence.

In the mortal world it is not possible to experience continuously the most positive emotions or permanently escape from hardships. The best and the worst aspects of life come in pairs and subject you to conflicting physical and mental states. When life gives you a gift, it also attaches a thorn to it. When it gives you a punishment, it also hides a reward in it. From a worldly perspective, in many ways it is good that we have dualities because when life is difficult and things go south, you can always live in the hope that circumstances will improve and your difficulties will disappear.

The dualities do not cease to exist even for those who are on the path of liberation or those who have attained self-realization or oneness with the self. Their minds and bodies remain exposed to dualities and conflicting situations. Their continued practice of renunciation and detachment may help them respond differently to the dualities. Unlike the ordinary people, they may either ignore them or respond to them differently, but they cannot make them permanently disappear from their lives.

Even the gods and celestial beings in the higher planes are subject to dualities and routinely influenced by them. The gods are light beings. They may have no darkness in them, but they are not free from conflicting emotions or the pairs of opposites. They are constantly assailed by the asuras who want to overshadow them and occupy their worlds. The puranas amply illustrate the fact that creation is a mixture of opposites where both light and dark forces are forever engaged in a conflict for control and lordship.

Therefore, it is futile to even think that you can conquer the dualities or make them disappear. No one can secure permanent happiness in this world by eliminating the dualities or silencing them. In the field of perceptual and cognitive experience both positive and negative forces exert their influence upon you and keep you in a state of restlessness. You cannot change the world, because you do not have control over it.

The answer to the problem of dualities is within you, not outside. You cannot control the world or the external (adhibhautika) and divine (adhidaivika) causes and forces which precipitate your reality and the conditions to which you are subject. You have but a limited power over them. However, you can control your internal (adhyatmika) causes and conditions and change your responses and reactions to the events unleashed by the other two. Through your adhyatmika will-power you can gain control over your thoughts and responses and experience tranquility.

Hence, yogis cultivate detachment and indifference to free themselves from attraction and aversion and accept the dualities of life as they are. It helps them deal with the hardships of renunciatory practices and remain content with whatever happens. Seeing the dualities as the play of maya, knowing that attraction and aversion to them are the source of suffering, desires and attachments, they gain control over their minds and bodies and remain satisfied within themselves, amidst the rather painful austere living and a life of difficulties and self-denial. It is the best possible solution in any spiritual tradition to gain control over the dualities and strengthen the will to persevere.

The dualities are limited to the not-self reality. It is where all the activity of the mind and body happens. The not-self is in itself a duality, representing the opposite reality or truth of the real self. It is the mirror self of the true self. The Vedas proclaim it as the person (purusha) with name and form who manifests as a reflection of the formless Brahman in the modes (gunas) of Nature. Without the not-self, there is no experience or experiencer, and no awareness of the world or of oneself. Only when the not-self reality subsides or is fully withdrawn from the consciousness, one can see the truth of oneself as the all-pervading and all-knowing pure self.

The true self does not belong to the domain of duality or materiality. It was never created, nor will it ever cease to exist. It does not perceive the duality or accommodate it because it does not depend upon the mind or the sense to know. One and indivisible, it is all pervading, self-existing and self-knowing reality, in which there no otherness, duality or objectivity.

The self is passive and nonintrusive. It does not participate in our actions or in any aspect of our lives or in creation, other than as an inactive witness. It is satisfied within itself because there is nothing that it needs to gain or lose to be the all-inclusive, supreme reality. It is complete and perfect in itself and exists by itself. When it is the subjective self of everything and present in everything, what else it needs to achieve or where else it needs to go to be anything other than what it already is?

When a yogi who realizes that his physical self or apparent self or not-self is a mere outer formation of himself and renounces it to settle in the contemplation of the true and resplendent self, many things automatically begin to disappear or dissipate in his consciousness. As the otherness or the objective reality begins to fade, he sees the whole existence as an extension of himself and filled with himself. For him, the world becomes a projection of his universal pure consciousness or a ripple upon his oceanic self.

Accepting the dualities and distractions as they are without choice, resistance, reaction and response, one can gradually withdraw from them and enter the unified state of pure consciousness. Siddhi or perfection is the natural state of the Self. It is the state of the all-pervading universal Self in which divisions, impurities, desires, karmic fruit, grossness, materiality, separation, etc., are absent.

Truly speaking, in self-realization nothing is gained or lost. The self never undergoes any transformation. It is eternally perfect, pure and complete in all respects. Therefore, self-realization is what it is, a realization or a sudden remembrance of who you truly are. It is the original state of every being, which remains overshadowed by the not-self. It is forever present deep within each being hidden behind the illusion of name, form and movement. When the not-self disappears or is dissolved, one instantly rediscovers it and returns to it.

We all are siddhas in the making. We are works in progress and Shivas who are asleep. We are enveloped by ignorance and have fallen into deluded ways due to the impurities and forces of maya. When the clouds of ignorance and delusion are removed, we open our eyes to the truth of the all-pervading pure consciousness. We realize that it is the same shining self which pervades all existence as the brightest and purest of all states, without being touched by whatever it pervades and supports.

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