Ashtavakra Gita

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The Ashtavakra Gita (Sanskrit in Devanagari: अष्टावक्रगीता; IAST: aṣṭāvakragītā)[1] or the Song of Ashtavakra is a classical Advaita Vedanta scripture. It is written as a dialogue between the sage Ashtavakra and Janaka, king of Mithila.[2]

Dating[edit]

Radhakamal Mukerjee, an Indian social scientist, dated the book to the period immediately after the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita (c. 500–400 BCE).[3][note 1] J. L. Brockington, emeritus Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Edinburgh, places the Ashtavakra Gita much later, supposing it to have been written either in the eighth century CE by a follower of Shankara, or in the fourteenth century during a resurgence of Shankara's teaching.[5][6]

Identification of Ashtavakra[edit]

Ashtavakra is probably identical to the holy sage with the same name who appears in Mahabharata, though the connection is not clearly stated in any of the texts.[7] Mukherjee identifies Janaka as the father of Sita and disciple of the sage Yajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.[7][note 2] Janaka is also depicted as a king who has attained perfection in the Bhagavad Gita (III,20,25).

Contents[edit]

Overview[edit]

Janaka debating with Ashtavakra. Art from the epic Ashtavakra (2010).

Ashtavakra Gita is a dialogue between Ashtavakra and Janaka on the nature of soul, reality and bondage.[9] It offers a radical version of non-dualistic philosophy. The Gita insists on complete unreality of external world and absolute oneness of existence. It does not mention any morality or duties, and therefore is seen by commentators as 'godless'. It also dismisses names and forms as unreal and a sign of ignorance.[10]

In a conversation between Janaka and Ashtavakra, pertaining to the deformity of his crooked body, Ashtavakra explains that the size of a Temple is not affected by how it is shaped, and the shape of his own body does not affect himself (or Atman). The ignorant man's vision is shrouded by names and forms but a wise man sees only himself:[11][12]

You are really unbound and action-less, self-illuminating and spotless already. The cause of your bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling the mind. (I.15)

You are unconditioned and changeless, formless and immovable, unfathomable awareness, imperturbable- such consciousness is un-clinging. (I.17)
You are not bound by anything. What does a pure person like you need to renounce? Putting the complex organism to rest, you can go to your rest. (V.1) [13]

Structure[edit]

The book comprises 20 chapters:[14]

  • I Saksi - Vision of the Self as the All-pervading Witness
  • II Ascaryam - Marvel of the Infinite Self Beyond Nature
  • III Atmadvaita - Self in All and All in the Self
  • IV Sarvamatma - Knower and the Non-knower of the Self
  • V Laya - Stages of Dissolution of Consciousness
  • VI Prakrteh Parah - Irrelevance of Dissolution of Consciousness
  • VII Santa - Tranquil and Boundless Ocean of the Self
  • VIII Moksa - Bondage and Freedom
  • IX Nirveda - Indifference
  • X Vairagya - Dispassion
  • XI Cidrupa - Self as Pure and Radiant Intelligence
  • XII Svabhava - Ascent of Contemplation
  • XIII Yathasukham - Transcendent Bliss
  • XIV Isvara - Natural Dissolution of the Mind
  • XV Tattvam - Unborn Self or Brahman
  • XVI Svasthya - Self-Abidance through Obliteration of the World
  • XVII Kaivalya - Absolute Aloneness of the Self
  • XVIII Jivanmukti - Way and Goal of Natural Samadhi
  • XIX Svamahima - Majesty of the Self
  • XX Akincanabhava - Transcendence of the Self

Appreciation[edit]

The work was known, appreciated and quoted by Ramakrishna and his disciple Vivekananda, as well as Ramana Maharshi. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan refers to it with great respect.[15]

Translations and commentaries[edit]

Nath (1907) opened the discourse of this Gita into the English language.[16] Mukerjee (1889–1968) continued the discourse into English with his posthumous work published in 1971.[17] Stroud (2004) wrote on the Astavakra Gita as a work of multivalent narrative.[18]

Swami Chinmayananda[citation needed] wrote a commentary on the Ashtavakra Gita, which has references to the Upanishads to help convey the meaning of the text.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has given commentary on Ashtavakra Gita in Hindi and English Language.[19][20]

Commentaries on this work, have been also been provided by Osho [21]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sri Swami Shantananda Puri suggests that since the book contains the seed of the theory of non-creation Ajata Vada developed later by Gaudapada in Mandookya Karika, this book comes from a period prior to that of Gaudapada and hence prior to Adi Shankara.[4]
  2. ^ Janaka receives the teaching of the supreme Self from Yajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mukherjee 1971, p. i.
  2. ^ s:Ashtavakra Gita#Translator's Notes
  3. ^ Mukherjee 1971, p. 4.
  4. ^ Puri, Sri Swami Shantananda (2001). The Quantum leap into the Absolute (Essence of ASHTAVAKRA GITA)] (PDF). Bangalore: Parvathamma C.P. Subbaraju Setty Charitable Trust. 
  5. ^ Byrom, Thomas (1990). The Heart of Awareness: A Translation of the Ashtavakra Gita. Shambhala Publications. Page xxiii.
  6. ^ Brockington, J. L. (1990). Foreword to The Heart of Awareness: A Translation of the Ashtavakra Gita, trans. Thomas Byrom. Shambhala Publications. Page xi.
  7. ^ a b Mukherjee 1971, p. 1.
  8. ^ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Chapter Four
  9. ^ Manuel Schoch (1 July 2007). Bitten by the Black Snake: The Ancient Wisdom of Ashtavakra. Sentient Publications. ISBN 978-1-59181-060-5. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Ruth Vanita (2005). Gandhi's Tiger and Sita's Smile: Essays on Gender, Sexuality, and Culture. Yoda Press. pp. 239–. ISBN 978-81-902272-5-4. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 
  11. ^ Chinmayananda 1997:n.p.
  12. ^ Vanita, Ruth. "Full of God:Ashtavakra and ideas of Justice in Hindu Text". Equinox Publishing Ltd. 
  13. ^ Astavakra Gita, Translation by John Richards. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  14. ^ Mukherjee 1971, p. iii.
  15. ^ s:Ashtavakra Gita#Translator's Notes
  16. ^ Baij Nath (Lala.) (1907). The Ashtavakra Gita: being a dialogue between King Janaka and Rishi Ashtavakra on Vedanta. Office of the Vaishya Hitkari.
  17. ^ Radhakamal Mukerjee (1971). The song of the self supreme (Aṣṭāvakragītā): the classical text of Ātmādvaita by Aṣṭāvakra. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 81-208-1367-7, ISBN 978-81-208-1367-0. Source: [1] (accessed: Friday March 19, 2010)
  18. ^ Stroud, Scott R. (2004). "Narrative as Argument in Indian Philosophy: The Astavakra Gita as Multivalent Narrative." Philosophy and Rhetoric - Volume 37, Number 1, 2004, E-ISSN: 1527-2079 Print ISSN: 0031-8213, pp. 42-71
  19. ^ https://store.artofliving.org/in/product.aspx?id=1828
  20. ^ Shankar, Sri Sri Ravi (2010). Ashtavakra Gita. Bangalore: Sri Sri Publications Trust. ISBN 9789380592831. 
  21. ^ Osho, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1997). Enlightenment: The Only Revolution. Pune, India: The Rebel Publishing House Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 81-7261-070-X. 

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Original text[edit]

Translations[edit]