Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 9, Verse 07

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 07

pashya bhootavikaaraanstvam bhootamaatraan yathaarthatah
tatkshanaad bandhanirmuktah svaroopastho bhavishyasi


The moment you realize that the modification of the elements in truth is happening within the elements only, you are at once liberated from bondage and abide in your true self.


Modifications in the Not-self

Whatever happens in the mind and body or in your life happens in them and to them, not to you or not in you. You do not see it that way, because you tend to identify yourself with your mind and body or your name and form and think otherwise. You are not just a living being. You are an eternal self. The beingness is just a formation. It is temporary and will end sometime or the other. Death will someday destroy the form and the beingness, but you will remain and move on to another body or another world or another life.

Birth and death do not happen to you. They happened to the body. Suffering does not happen to you. It happens to your mind and body. Loss and gain do not happen to you. They happen around you and in the life, which you create through your thoughts and actions. They all arise and subside in your karma.

The not-self is a distinct reality which you create and sustain by your own actions, desires, like and dislikes and attachments. When you see the not-self as not-self and not as yourself, you open your eyes to the truth of your existence. It is what we call enlightenment. With that, you gain freedom and you are released from its bonds.

In reality, the not-self has no power or influence over you because you do not depend upon it, but it depends upon you. You are the support for your mind and body. Without you, it does not exist. As the eternal self, you are self-existent and independent. You do not require a body or mind for your existence. They happened because you are caught in the play of Nature. You were there before your name and form came into existence and you will be there after they cease to exist. As the Bhagavadgita declares, there was no time when you did not exist, and there will be no time when you cease to exist. Death and destruction are for the mind and body, not to you.

Unless you become involved with them and identify with them, you will not be subject to their modifications and afflictions. If you are suffering, it is because you are letting yourself suffer through identification, delusion and degradation of your freedom and intelligence. All the emotions, feelings, thoughts, sensations, perceptions, afflictions, sickness, suffering, aging, death, etc., pertain to the not-self domain. If you see them as they are detachment, renunciation and indifference, you will become a witness to them and remain untouched by them. You will remain undisturbed, pure and resplendent even in the embodied state and amidst a turbulent life.

If you are suffering and tossed up and down by the waves of emotional turmoil, it is because you have allowed that to happen by your attachment to the things of the world and your identification with name and form. You decided to become a pure living being (not-self) rather than a pure self and allowed it to hold its sway upon you and keep you in its control.

Your pain and suffering and your bondage are self-inflicted. Your freedom and stability are in your hands. If you want to be free and cultivate peace and equanimity, you have to severe your identification and attachment to your mind and body (not-self) and abide in your true self. Knowing that the modifications and afflictions arise due to desires and the gunas, you have to take refuge in yourself and dissolve all that which separates you from your core.

Thus, the first step to achieve liberation is to know clearly who you are and what your relationship is with the other-self or the not-self, and see clearly that the latter is the source of your problems and suffering. Whether you are happy or unhappy, angry or peaceful, disturbed or calm, fearful or courageous, envious or appreciative, and anxious or worried, if you remember that they are the ripples in the consciousness of you other-self, and they arise and subside in it only you become equal to the happenings in the world.

Modern research supports this idea. Recent studies show that thoughts, emotions and feelings arise due to physiochemical changes in the body. When certain chemicals and hormones are released into the bloodstream, we experience emotions and mental states. Even thoughts and memories arise and subside due to electrochemical reactions in the brain when the electric signals produced in the nerve cells produced due to some causes travel across the nerve connections called synapses.

The body is a biological system, which operates according to several natural laws of physics and chemistry. Most of its processes and mechanisms are predictable, changeable and reproducible. Our breathing, digestion, health and wellbeing are shaped by the changes in our minds and bodies at the molecular and subcellular levels. Our dream states, sleeping habits, desires, thinking, likes and dislikes, actions and intentions have a chemical, physical, biological and neurological basis.

When you see the world as the world and yourself as yourself, you will not be upset by what happens in your perceptual field. You will not allow it to disturb you or influence you or let the thoughts of it invade your consciousness and create ripples. You become world-proof and people-proof. If you love someone, it will be solely because of your discernment not because of any external influence or consideration. You will be free from all external (adhibhautika) influences and remain centered in your internal (adhyatmika) thoughts. In Hinduism, abiding in your own thoughts (adhyatmika) and living with self-awareness are central to spiritual living.

Knowing and understanding the causes which lead to our suffering is important. Seeing them as external to you is even more. Due to desires and attachments we become mixed up with the things of the world and lose that distinction and assume the not-self as the self. We react and respond not only to what happens to us but also what happens to those to whom we are related or attached. Even matters with which we have remote connection or which have no direct bearing upon us seem to trouble us as we identify with them such as caste, religion, politics, race, country, language, etc. It is as if they have a certain influence and bearing upon our lives and destinies, and they are more important to us than peace and happiness or salvation or spiritual solace.

It is the nature of the world and mortal life to be unstable, impermanent, chaotic and uncertain. We have little control over them. A yogi knows that they are forever caught between the dualities, and oscillate from one extreme to the other, depending upon circumstances. Thereby, he develops a distaste for everything and remains indifferent.

Such a paradigm shift in your thinking and awareness arises as soon as you realize the distinction between the self and the not-self. You will be instantly be released from attraction and aversion. Attachment to the objective world is bondage in itself. When you are bound to things you are but beholden to them since you trade your freedom for the things you desire. When you become detached, knowing that your name and form do not constitute your true self, you are automatically freed from their sway.

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