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Ashtavakra Gita Chalisa: 40 verses from Ashtavakra Gita

 Part 1 of 2


Asshtavakra Gita (also known as Ashtavakra Samhita) is a conversation between King Janaka and sage Ashtavakra. Vakra means crooked. Ashtavakra’s body was crooked since birth because of a curse from his father. The Gita has 298 verses in twenty chapters. Chapter 18 has a maximum number of 100 verses. As Janaka is a jnAni student (he is known as Janakavideha) the conversation is of the highest order and most of the verses are declarations of bare non-dual truths from the Absolute standpoint. There is no recourse to reason and explanation. It is tailor-made for a seeker who has got reasonable success in shravan (listening) and manan (contemplation) and has crossed the intellectual threshold and his heart is ready to throb. The verses can be used for nidhidhyAsana (vedantic meditation). With this view, 40 verses are selected with meaning and presented here. One can as well make another set of different verses.

Note: 1.2 means verse 2 in chapter 1            


जनक उवाच –
कथं ज्ञानमवाप्नोति, कथं मुक्तिर्भविष्यति।
वैराग्य च कथं प्राप्तमेतद ब्रूहि मम प्रभो॥1.1॥

Janaka uvāca
kathaṃ jñānamavāpnoti kathaṃ muktirbhaviṣyati;
vairāgyaṃ ca kathaṃ prāptametadbrūhi mama prabho.

Janaka asks the sage Ashtavakra. How is knowledge acquired, how is liberation attained and how is renunciation possible? Please tell me all this; O great one. Continue reading

Karma Yoga and Karma SanyAs

Part 3 of 3

Renunciation and its benefits

The knowledge that the Self is akartA is Karma SanyAs.  Renunciation of work refers to giving up the sense of doer-ship. There is a simple and effective method to get over the notion of doer-ship. Krishna advises Arjuna to dedicate all works to the Him while abiding in the Self. It enables one to get rid of the sense of doer-ship and to remain detached, i.e., no expectations and no desires.  Selfish action creates mental disturbances called vritties which again propels rAjasik action. Action dedicated to the Lord is ego-free. Ego-free action arrests creation of vritties. Continue reading

Karma Yoga and Karma SanyAs

Part 2 of 3

Benefits of Detached Action

Krishna instructs Arjuna to perform action, i.e., engage in war and fulfill the obligatory duty. By performing work without attachment, one realizes the Supreme. He gives His example. There is nothing in the world for Him to achieve, yet He engages Himself in action.  For, otherwise all other people would follow Him and the creation will be destroyed.

A person who is content with whatever comes by itself (without desiring for it), who is free from delusion and jealousy, who is equipoise in both success and failure, is not bound by action even by performing actions. The mind is focused on the work. It is a working mind as distinct from thinking and wavering mind. As a result the work becomes skilled.  Attachment to the fruit of action creates impressions on the mind called samskArs which is the cause of cycle of birth and death.  Attachment smacks of selfishness and egoism. Conversely, detachment creates no samskArs and one becomes free from the cycle of birth and death. Detached, karma yogis perform works for purifying the mind, e.g., sacrifice, charity and penance. Continue reading

Karma Yoga and Karma SanyAs

                                          Karma Yoga and Karma SanyAs

 Part 1


An ordinary educated Hindu or a religious minded Hindu, even though he has not read Bhagwad Gita, is asked about Gita. In all likelihood he would say that it teaches mankind to work without attachment. He may or may not be very familiar with the term Karma Yoga, yet if he is pressed further, he may add that work without attachment means work without attachment to the fruit of work. Indeed, he is not off the target. The point is that karma yoga is the essence of Gita for most of the Hindus.  Even so, if a person reads it, then he comes across another term, i.e., Karma SanyAs. Though the term karma yoga is etched in the Hindu psyche, karma sanyAs is a relatively unfamiliar term for most of them. This article is an attempt to delve into karma yoga and karma sanyAs and also appreciate inter se similarities and dissimilarities.

   Karma Yoga


One essential ingredient of Karma Yoga is that our right is not over the results of action.  A common sense explanation of no-right- over- result is that we do not have complete control over the result. There are five causes responsible for any action to happen. They are right place of work, doer of work, various tools of work, different efforts and lastly the destiny. The five factors are invariably behind any work, physical, verbal, psychological, just or unjust. Even if a single component is missing then the work is not accomplished. In such a situation, one who thinks only oneself as the doer and has right over the result is ignorant and foolish.  We think we are doers but we are just one of the five factors necessary for any work to fructify. If other four are not available then work is unaccomplished. It is worthless if one shoulders the burden of doer-ship, let alone responsibility of result of action, whether success or failure. Continue reading

Consciousness, Ego and Self-knowledge

Verse 3.42 of the Bhagavad Gita says that the sense organs are superior to the gross body, the mind is superior to the sense organs, the intellect is superior to the mind and the Atma is superior to the intellect. Superiority also refers to subtlety.  Our interest is in the mind, the intellect and finally in the Atma.  There are five fundamental elements called panchabhutas.  They are space, air, earth, water and fire.  The subtle body is made of panchbhutas in their primary or nascent forms.  When the panchabhutas undergo a process of compounding among themselves, the gross or physical body emerges. The mind and the intellect belong to the category of subtle body, i.e., made of the five elements in primary form.  The Atma is beyond the panchabhutas because It is not a thing or physical entity.

We all know that we are a conscious entity. We also feel so.  We are also certain that consciousness is different from the gross body. However we are not so sure whether the consciousness is different from the mind because consciousness ordinarily gets mixed up with the mind.  Vedanta says that the consciousness is different from the mind. It is based on the axiom that the subject (observer) is different from the object (observed). This is Seer-Seen discrimination (Drg Drisya Viveka). Continue reading

Meditation- Vedantic Way

Advaita seeking is in three gradual stages: ShravaNa( Hearing), Manan (Contemplation) and NididhyAsanA (Meditation).  In  Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad  sage Yagnavalkya says to his wife Maitreya:  Self should be realized by ShravaNa, Manan and NididhyAsanaA; upon realization of the Self, all this is known.

ShravaNa means listening to vedantic teaching by a guru. It would also include reading vedantic literature and in the age of technological advancement, accessing the teaching offered by other sources. Contemplation means analyzing the teaching and grasping intellectually. All doubts should stand cleared at this stage.  Next stage is meditation which enables internalization of the teaching and making it a living practice. No doubt, there is a wide gap between intellectual understanding and living practice, like two shores of a river. Having understood the enormity of task, the sages of yesteryear, out of compassion for the mankind, laid down the technique of vedantic meditation so as to swim across the river.  Drg Drsya Vivek describes vedantic meditation. It is progressive and in conformity with vedantic teaching.

There are two broad categories of meditation, namely, internal and external. Each category is further divided in three stages, namely, savikalpa meditation with thought, savikalpa meditation with word and nirvikalpa meditation.  It is noteworthy that the three stages follow in the same order.  Thus it is six- fold method. Vikalpa means division. In savikalpa meditation, subject-object division and duality exist. In nirvikalpa meditation there is no such division and is non-dual. Continue reading