The Song of Ashtavakra

Photo by Nick Kenrick.. on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I’m sharing here the Ashtavakra Gita, in the translation of John Richards. This is a famous song and landmark of non-duality in India. It has been composed in Sanskrit as a dialogue between the eminent sage Ashtavakra and his brilliant disciple Janaka, also king of Mithila. It was allegedly written around the third Century BC although some scholars dated it in the eighth Century AD, at the period of Shankara. The author is unknown and the characters are borrowed from the ancient epics of India. ‘Ashtavakra’ means ‘eight bends’, for he has a deformed body. This is a short work of 300 verses, and was one of the favourites of Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi. In this dialogue, the process of enlightenment is easily dealt with, for Janaka is, in Ramesh Balsekar’s words, “a superbly ‘ripe’ disciple, one who is just waiting for that one quick spark of initiation into Truth that brings about sudden enlightenment.” The dialogue quickly moves to be an exposition of truth by two equally enlightened beings. Yet, a process is here at work, between the guru and his disciple, between truth and the slow movement towards full understanding, between the one reality and the many roads and aspects that lead to a total and definitive grasp of it…

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अष्टावक्रगीता

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Chapter I

Instruction on Self-Realisation

King Janaka asks the question that provoked Ashtavakra’s plain and direct exposition of truth…

Your real nature is as the one perfect, free, 
and actionless consciousness, the all-pervading witness 
– unattached to anything, desireless and at peace. 
It is from illusion that you seem to be involved in samsara
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Janaka asked:

How is knowledge to be acquired? How is liberation to be attained? And how is dispassion to be reached? Tell me this, sir.

Ashtavakra replied:

If you are seeking liberation, my son, shun the objects of the senses like poison. Practise tolerance, sincerity, compassion, contentment and truthfulness like nectar.

You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether. For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness, the witness of these.

If only you will remain resting in consciousness, seeing yourself as distinct from the body, then even now you will become happy, peaceful and free from bonds.

You do not belong to the brahmin or any other caste, you are not at any stage, nor are you anything that the eye can see. You are unattached and formless, the witness of everything – so be happy.

Righteousness and unrighteousness, pleasure and pain are purely of the mind and are no concern of yours. You are neither the doer nor the reaper of the consequences, so you are always free.

You are the one witness of everything, and are always totally free. The cause of your bondage is that you see the witness as something other than this.

[…]

Continue reading the beautiful teaching of Ashtavakra… (READ MORE…)

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The Paradox

“You run into this amazingly beautiful paradox 
that there is no ‘I’ at all and ‘I’ is everywhere, 
and both of those are true simultaneously. 
It’s about as much fun as you could possibly have. 
There isn’t an ‘I’, and 
the only thing that exists is one big ‘I’
shining out of everything.”

~ Adyashanti 

 

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Photograph by Jerry Katz

Quote by Adyashanti

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Read ‘Jerry Katz: Let the Scene See You’ on Paula Marvelly’s blog ‘The Culturium’.

F73D470C-C4EC-42C3-A2BB-BBAC3CBF363CJERRY KATZ has been interested in human consciousness since childhood, and has investigated many spiritual teachings. He is also a landscape photographer. For him, “photography is a journey toward honesty, beauty and self-discovery.” Jerry is the creator of the website ‘Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression’. He also founded ‘Nonduality Salon’, a forum that recognizes and welcomes both the ‘impossible’ and the ‘worthwhile’ expressions of nonduality. Since 1998, Jerry has published a free daily email letter, ‘The Nondual Highlights’. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Bibliography:
– ‘One: Essential Writings on Nonduality’ – by Jerry Katz – (1st Sentient Publications Ed)
– ‘Emptiness Dancing’ – by Adyashanti – (Sounds True Inc.)

Websites:
Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression (Jerry Katz’s website)
Nonduality Salon (Jerry’s group on Facebook)
Adyashanti

 

Be Still and Know

This was our last retreat there. In the old mansion that we so dearly loved. Amongst the rolling hills of Wales. Here we have listened and felt. Here we have known what needs to be known. We have felt our heart sing and thrive beyond measure. 

Here we sang together for the last time. A small improvised choir. A last song that is like a hymn for future days. Its lovely tune I cannot convey to you. But the words. Oh the words… Only listen and feel the heart of it. It goes:

Be still and know that I am God
And there is none besides me

The first injonction is ‘be still’. It’s a call. There is a wild world out there. Don’t run after every seducing thought. Don’t follow every glitter of experience. Be disinterested for once. Turn your head away. Say: I don’t want you! Try it.

Don’t let the world eat you. If anything, swallow it yourself! But do it softly. Let it go and disappear of its own accord. Be gentle. We don’t want to upset it. It needs to tell you more. Wait a little longer. You will be surprised.

Put yourself together. Find the place of togetherness in you. Stay there. See how good it feels. Be reunited with your own self. Make it happy. Make yours its sweet presence. Hear its heartfelt cry resonating. You’re here. At last! […]

Continue unraveling these verses from a song… (READ MORE…)

 

The Unattainable One

Parvathy Baul – Wikimedia

If you want to attain 
the unattainable One,
Free yourself from all that is
Fragile and temporary.
Know yourself
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~ Rasika Dasa

 

In the deepest villages of Bengal, there remains today a community of vagrant singers, both mystical bards and wandering minstrels, the Bauls. For centuries they have been treading the dust of the roads, with a firm and aerial step, at the rhythm of their daily needs and highest aspirations. The term ‘baul’, derived from the Sanskrit ‘vatulā’, means ’he who is affected, or carried away by the wind’. It might also refer to the term ‘vyakula’, meaning ‘impatient eagerness for god’, or ’auliyā’, a word of Arabic origin meaning ‘holy’, ‘ascetic’. But the asceticism of the Bauls is not lost in penances and meditations, is not only about achieving the set goal. It is rather a kind of refinement in the expression of the moment, a healthy ‘madness’ expressing through dance, music, and songs, the love of the divine and the spontaneity of living. Coming from both Hindu and Muslim religions, the Bauls retain nevertheless a fierce freedom of spirit and are rebellious to any ideology, following no ritual, referring to no scriptures. They are ’outside’, offbeat, refreshing and unique. […]

Continue reading about the Bauls of Bengal… (READ MORE…)

 

Benares my Love

One day long ago, I was stopped on my way, redirected as it were. It was one morning, the time of a glorious encounter with the subtle ethers of a city. Nothing would ever be the same. But what did I know at the time?

In Benares I met the Ganges. But it wasn’t a river. It was something calm, placid, yet charged with a force and power that I had never met before. At night, the river was still not a river. It was an absence, an emptiness. It was dark. And the boats that were aligned on it were like suspended, resting, immobile, placed here by something I could never comprehend. And the waters met here secretly with silence, in the crystalline air where a bell breathed an occasional, happy tone.

In Benares I saw the sun rising. But it wasn’t a sun. It was a bath of golden light spread above the waters. It was giving and fresh like all illumination must be. It was a pointer reminding us tirelessly to turn our attention on ourselves. It was not taken for granted but received. You were being exposed, as all beliefs and limitations ought to be. And in the evening, its setting amongst the heartfelt notes of a devotional song would send shivers down your spine. Then you knew. You would come again tomorrow to be clothed by its golden light. And you couldn’t wait.

A secret meeting with the city of Varanasi or Benares… (READ MORE…)

 

The Deepest Acceptance

It is truth that liberates, 
not your effort to be free
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~ J. Krishnamurti

The question of ‘surrender’ is one that is often misunderstood. Surrender implies, in everyday language, something that the mind does, even remotely, in order to give itself to a reality that seems inescapable. It often comes down to a form of resignation, a giving up, something passive at its core, which brings more delusion and suffering. So what is true ‘surrender’, in a non-dual context? I have gathered here many quotes and pointers on this subject, from various spiritual teachers and poets of the eternal and the infinite. I hope that this will bring some clarity into that which Jeff Foster calls the deepest acceptance…

 

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People often think that surrender means to renounce wealth, sexuality, or objects. Such a renunciation might be useful but it could also be a hindrance. Real surrender takes place when we cease to take ourself for a separate entity, an object. This renunciation seems, at first sight, limited in scope and too simple, but it is, in fact, the ultimate surrender. Such a giving up has no purpose, it comes from the deep understanding that our true nature, consciousness, is free from all limitations. From this perspective, surrender means to see the limitations for what they are: mere concepts superimposed onto our real being, which is limitless.”
~ Francis Lucille (‘Eternity Now’)

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You may discover that when there is no resistance to totally being in hell, that heaven opens up and samsara reveals its true nature as nirvana. But the catch is, if you are embracing hell as a strategy to get you to heaven, that doesn’t work. Only the complete absence of wanting what is to be different in any way pops the imaginary bubble of separation. No one can do this. It is like dying or falling asleep. It is the absence of any doing, the absence of control, the absence of effort, the absence of any concern about what happens. It is a letting go, a dissolving, a relaxing. This letting go begins with letting go even of the need to let go, for the need to fall asleep keeps us awake, just as the imperative to surrender is a form of holding on and seeking control. True surrender is the absence of resistance even to holding on if that is how life is showing up in this moment. Surrender is the absence of trying to surrender.”
~ Joan Tollifson

Continue the exploration on the question of ‘surrender’ (READ MORE…)

 

Bhakti, the Song of Love

Don’t forget love;
it will bring all the madness you need 
to unfurl yourself across the universe
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~ Meera Bai (1498-1546)

 

I intend here to continue exploring the three different pathways towards realising our true nature. I have some time ago given my attention to Jñāna, which in the Indian tradition is the name given to the means of attaining truth through the investigative qualities of the mind, which are mostly thinking and the power of discrimination. The two other paths towards realisation are the tantric path, which involves the senses, and the path of love, which involves feeling, and is the subject of this essay.

The path of knowledge requires a certain steadiness, orderliness, being thorough, constant. But even somebody set on this logical path of knowledge will be exposed to ineffable, timeless moments of pure love. Some people are best suited to a more loving, encompassing pathway, that would allow them to be just as they are, with all their confusion and overwhelming feelings. I can be the me that I am, as long as I am too this loving, embracing presence to which I can offer myself. In love there is no theory, no guidelines to follow. And it is not a surprise to find this expression of truth as one of the means to the realisation of our true self. This pathway of love has been called ‘Bhakti’ in the tradition of India. All the Indian faith, at least in its more popular expression, is of a devotional nature, and has elevated this simple love for god or truth to the rank of art. That seemed to me a good starting point to embark on this path of devotion, which the Śivānanda Laharī (verse 61) describes as: “The way needle seeks magnet, the way creeper seeks tree, the way river unites with ocean and the way the mind seeks the lotus feet of Śiva.”

An exploration into Bhakti, the path of love and devotion (READ MORE…)