The Ashtavakra Gita is an instruction for achieving the self-realization. It was composed before the common era, most likely between BC. Though some claim it was written later, either in the eighth century by a follower of Shankara, or as late as the fourteenth century during a resurgence of Shankara's teaching. The Ashtavakra Gita elucidates the meaning of the Supreme Reality, Brahman, the self and Atman Self, soul and Maya "an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem". Very little is definitely known about Ashtavakra. His name literally means " eight bends ", indicating the eight physical handicaps he was born with.
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This book is the transcription of the said series of talks. The Ashtavakra Gita examines the mind, ego, and the self with the unparalleled insight and depth that only a Master can offer.
His Holiness skillfully weaves together ancient knowledge, classic stories and practical wisdom, making the Ashtavakra Gita an Invaluable tool and companion for the earnest seeker of truth. How can I gain knowledge? How can I attain freedom? How can I cultivate dispassion? He was often found deep in meditation as a child. At the age of four, he astonished his teachers by reciting the Bhagavad Gita. To globalise the knowledge of leading a happy, stress-free life, H.
Today, with a presence in over countries, the Art of Living is one of the largest voluntary organizations in the world. Thousands of years ago, there reigned a king called Janaka, who had attained the highest knowledge. However, he was curious and wanted to know more despite being fully engaged in the regular duties of a king.
One evening he was holding court where his subjects were talking about their problems. Reports were being read from different parts of his kingdom so it must have been a little boring. While listening to the reports, Janaka dozed off.
In his sleep he saw a dream. He dreamt that his whole kingdom was flooded. There was a famine and loss of grains, fields and cattle. Everything was lost! He became a pauper and found himself roaming from street to street as hungry as ever! He wanted a piece of bread to eat. He asked everybody but nobody had it. Finally, somebody gave him a piece of dry bread. There was a law or rule [ dharma ] for householders in those days. If someone else was present, they could not have food by themselves.
First, they had to feed the person and then eat themselves. Since he had only one piece of bread, he was worried that he would have to share it if he met someone.
So he hid it under his robe. He found a place where there was nobody and, as he was about to eat it, an eagle flew down and snatched it out of his hand. At that moment he could not tolerate it and shouted, Haaaah! When he shouted, he woke up and realized that he was In the court which was full of people! He could still feel the hunger.
Maybe it was dinner time. But then he got confused. Which was real? He wondered if he was dreaming. Was the dream real or was the court real? What is reality? He was one who could never let go of questions very easily. So he assembled all the scholars of the kingdom and asked them for a solution to his problem. Their solution did not satisfy him, and he was troubled by it for several days.
Then someone told him that there was a man called Ashtavakra who could be approached for a resolution of his problem. His legs were uneven - one was long and the other was short. There were eight knots in his body. That was why he was named Ashtavakra. Ashtavakra was a brhama jnani knower of the Brhama.
He was invited to the court of King Janaka. A conversation took place between Janaka and Ashtavakra. This is the most unique conversation that has ever taken place on this planet. This discussion between then is a unique phenomenon! On one side was King Janaka, enjoying the peak of life, wanting to know about the self and reality, and on the other side was Ashtavakra who had risen to the pinnacle of existence, telling what reality is.
This is called the Ashtavakra Gita. Gita means a song and Ashtavakra Gita is the song of Ashtavakra. Krishna gave the Gita to Arjuna in the battlefield amidst all the chaos. King Janaka was given the knowledge in his royal residence in a very peaceful environment. Ashtavakra was brought to the palace with all honours. Many people were skeptical about him and his appearance. They wondered how he was going to reveal the highest knowledge to the king.
But Janaka was a perceptive person. He could recognize the glow in Ashtavakra; the light. It is very difficult for people to recognize truth and reality. They recognize pomp and splendour because they can just see the outer shine. They are unable to see the light or life which is beyond; which is beneath; which is deep inside. So, the Ashtavakra Gita is not for someone who has not yet started on the spiritual path. It is for those who have already started on the path and it opens up many avenues for them.
In order to receive anything1 you need to qualify for it. If you receive a dress, the dress should fit you. Otherwise, it is of no use having such a dress. If you receive food, the food should be edible. Otherwise what is the use of having such food? Similarly, with something to drink; you should be able to drink it and hold it in your system.
Otherwise, however wonderful it is, it will be of no use to you. Knowledge and relevance. An event or instance has reference. And wherever there is life, there is reverence. So also with Ashtavakra Gita. Certain qualifications are required to acquire this knowledge. If you go to medical school, you should at least know the alphabets. Imagine if you had never gone to school and learnt the alphabets and then had to go to medical school. What could you do there? It is the same with Brhama Jnan, the biggest and the Ultimate Knowledge.
We require certain things. To begin with, only a disciplined person can be given this knowledge - someone who has reverence for life, and a discipline of the body. Usually, when we hear of discipline we think only of the body- e. This is what we think. Discipline is listening to our body and not listening to our fantasies. After eating, your stomach is full but if something delicious is given — a sweet treat or a mango milkshake!
Now you have a bit of that. Then a little more. And the next day you are unwell. This is because you did not listen to your body. You were carried away by your tongue. The body has its own discipline. It is enough if you just listen to your body. Some of us are so obsessed with our eating habits that we are at either of the extremes. You are spoiling your system. Your system has much adaptability. But if you train your system by giving it a specific food all the time, later it will not accept any other food.
A gentleman said he had been eating only raw vegetables for many, many months.
Without mincing matters it comes out with the advaitic truth, the whole truth and nothing but advaita which is the Truth. However, as can be seen from the following quote, Bhagavan Ramana said that there is no time involved at all in Self-Knowledge. When I entered the hall the story of how the Ashtavakra Gita came to be taught was being recounted in English for the benefit of the above Raja and other visitors. It is always with you. Devaraja Mudaliar in Day by Day with Bhagavan, dated Has not Bhagavan said that surrender and Self-enquiry are the only two ways to Self-Realisation? The present upload of this Gita is in Sanskrit, English and Tamil in sound and script.
The language is spare and concentrated; the message is experiential Advaita Vedanta. Man has many scriptures, but none are comparable to the Gita of Ashtavakra. Before it the Vedas pale, the Upanishads speak with a weak voice. Even the Bhagavad Gita does not have the majesty found in the Ashtavakra Samhita — it is simply unparalleled. How old is the Ashtavakra Gita?