Photography by Navneet Shanu, Pexels

I share here excerpts from an ancient text of India called ‘Song of the Avadhut’, which has been translated by Swami Abhayananda. Although it has been attributed to Dattatreya – most probably a legendary figure – the author is unknown, but it is agreed that it was written around the 9th or 10th centuries. ‘Avadhut’ means ‘liberated being’. The song describes what it means to be spiritually liberated. Swami Abhayananda gives here a short answer: “Man suffers under the mistaken illusion that he is a limited and finite being, separate and distinct from other beings. … But, say the mystics, this superficial play of thoughts, memories, sense impressions, upon the screen of awareness is but a mirage. It is the screen, the awareness itself, that is our true identity. It is that unchanging consciousness, the eternal witness of all movements of thought and appearance, which is who we really are. It is That which is our real, our only, Self.”



अहमेवाव्ययोऽनन्तः शुध्दविज्ञानविग्रहः ।
सुखं दुःखं न जानामि कथा कस्यापि वर्तने ॥ ७ ॥




What, then, is the heart of the highest truth, 
The core of knowledge, the wisdom supreme? 
It is, “I am the Self, the formless One;
By my very nature, I am pervading all.”

That one God who shines within everything, 
Who is formless like the cloudless sky,
Is the pure, stainless, Self of all. 
Without any doubt, that is who I am.

You are That which is both inside and out; 
You’re Shiva; you’re everything everywhere. 
Why, then, are you so deluded?
Why do you run about like a frightened ghost?

When a jar is broken, the space that was inside 
Merges into the space outside.
In the same way, my mind has merged in God; 
To me, there appears no duality.

Truly, there’s no jar, no space within;
There’s no body and no soul encased. 
Please understand; everything is Brahman. 
There’s no subject, no object, no separate parts.

Everywhere, always, and in everything,
Know this: the Self alone exists. 
Everything, both the Void and the manifested world, 
Is nothing but my Self; of this I am certain.

The subject and object are unseparated and inseparable
That undivided One is you.
When this is so, when no “other” exists,
How could the Self be objectively perceived?

To some, the Self appears as other;
To me, the Self is I.
Like undivided space, One alone exists.
How, then, could the subject and object of meditation be two?

You are the ultimate Reality; have no doubt. 
The Self is not something known by the mind; 
The Self is the very one who knows! 
How, then, could you think to know the Self?

Maya? Maya? How could that be?
A shadow? A shadow? It doesn’t exist. 
The Reality is One; it’s everything. 
It’s all-pervasive; nothing else exists.

I have no beginning, middle, or end;
I have never been, nor will ever be, bound. 
My nature is stainless; I’m Purity itself. 
This I know as a certainty.

The practice of yoga will not lead you to purity; 
Silencing the mind will not lead you to purity;
The Guru’s instructions will not lead you to purity;
That purity is your Essence. It’s your very own Consciousness!

If ice and water are mixed together,
There is no difference between one and the other. 
It is the same with matter and spirit; 
This is very clear to me.

If I’ve never been bound,
I can never be liberated.
How could you think that the Self — 
With form or without — could be bound?

I know the nature of the one supreme Being; 
Like space, It extends everywhere.
And all the forms that appear within It 
Are like the (illusory) water of a desert mirage.

Why do you weep, O mind? Why do you cry? 
Take the attitude: “I am the Self!”
O dear one, go beyond the many! 
Drink the supreme nectar of Unity!

You do not possess intelligence, nor do you possess ignorance; 
Nor do you possess a mixture of these two.
You are, yourself, Intelligence —
An Intelligence that never ceases, never strays.

There is no action,
Either present, future, or past,
Which has been performed or enjoyed by me. 
This I know, without any doubt.





Neither doubt nor ignorance
Can cause the slightest ripple in me.
Let the modifications of the mind continue to occur; 
They’re merely bubbles rising to the surface of a pond.

The qualities of clearness, coldness, and softness 
Are but qualities of water.
Likewise, matter and spirit 
Are but qualities of the one Existence.

If the universal Self becomes known, 
How could “I” continue to be?
How could “you”
Or the sentient and insentient world still be?

All infinite space is pervaded by the Self, 
But nothing else pervades the Self.
It is simultaneously within and without; 
It cannot be limited or divided in parts.

Against the dreadful poison of worldly lust, 
Which deludes men’s minds,
There is only one antidote:
The nectarean awareness of the independent Self.

The subtle images are seen within, 
And the manifold forms are seen without; 
But the independent Experiencer of both
Is known by all seers as the inner Self.

Experienced without, It’s the universe; 
Experienced within, It’s the power of life. 
And deep within that inner life
The real milk-of-the-coconut resides.

The outer knowledge is of the coconut’s husk; 
The subtler knowledge is of the meat within. 
And concealed within that subtle core
Is the coconut-milk of Consciousness — the Self.





I’m neither beginningless nor with beginning; I’m a Sun that never sets. 
I’m neither concealed nor unconcealed; I’m a Sun that never sets. 
I’m neither illumined nor unillumined; I’m a Sun that never sets. 
I’m nectarean knowledge, unchanging bliss; I’m everywhere, like space.

Why do you weep and moan, my friend? There’s no old age or death for you. 
Why do you weep and moan, my friend? There’s no pain of birth for you. 
Why do you weep and moan, my friend? You can’t be touched at all.
I’m nectarean knowledge, unchanging bliss; I’m everywhere, like space.

Renounce, renounce the world of appearance; 
Then renounce renunciation as well.
But, whether you renounce or do not renounce, 
Enjoy the nectar of your natural state.


Where is the need to make offerings or prostrations? 
Or to practice worship with flowers and leaves? 
Why practice meditation and the repetition of mantras? 
The worshipper and Shiva are one and the same.



This [Self] is the underlying Essence of every substance; 
So how can you find distinctions in the one Existence? 
There is no object of perception outside of Itself; 
Why lament, then, O mind? I’m the same Self in all.



For him, where is the question of being embodied or bodiless? 
Where is the question of attachment or non-attachment? 
Pure and unpartitioned as the infinite sky,
He is, Himself, the Reality in Its natural form.

As a yogi, he is beyond union and separation;
As a bhogi (enjoyer), he is beyond enjoyment and non-enjoyment. 
Thus, he wanders leisurely, leisurely,
While in his mind arises the natural bliss of the Self.





Author unknown, approx. 9th or 10th Centuries

Excerpted from the book ‘Dattatreya’s song of the Avadhut
Translated  by Swami Abhayananda



– ‘Dattatreya’s Song of the Avadhut’ – Translated by Swami Abhayananda

Avadhut Gita (Wikipedia)
The Mystic’s Vision (Swami Abhayananda’s website)


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