Ashtavakr is one of the greatest sages of India. Just like the Bhagvat Geeta is full of immortal wisdom, there is yet another philosophical work full of extreme wisdom. It is called the Ashtavakr Geeta. The story of Ashtavakr goes like this. In the olden times there once lived a great teacher of Vedant called Udalak, He had many intelligent and hard working students. One of them named Kagol was not that sharp, but was a youngster of great virtue. Udalak appreciated his virtues, and married his daughter Sujata to him. With time Sujata became the mother of a son who had taken after his grandfather, who as I already said was a great vadantic scholar. Kagol often read the Vedant to his pregnant wife. The legend has it that Kagol and Sujata’s child twisted and turned his body in his mom’s womb, as he heard his dad making mistakes while reading the vedas. This happened eight times in the 9 months that the child stayed in his mom’s womb and thus the child was born with eight crooks in his body. earning him the name of ‘Ashtavakr’. ‘Ashta’, standing for eight and ‘Vakr’ for bend or crook.
Ashtavakr became a renowned Vedantic scholar by the time he was twelve. Mean while ashtavakr’s father Kagol drowned him self as he lost a debate on Vedant with king Janak’s court scholar Vandi. This hurt Ashtavakr deeply and he wanted to have his revenge. One day Janak, organized a debate on the Vedas. Ashtavakr made up his mind to go and participate in that debate. On his way to Mithila, Janak’s capital city, he came across the king and his retinue, and when he heard the kings soldiers telling people to move out of the way of the kings retinue, Ashtavakr seized the moment and stood in the middle of the road and shouted loud enough for the king to hear that a righteous king is one who makes way for the handicapped, deformed, the fairer sex, learned and the weak, rather then asking every one to clear the way for him. This is what scriptures say.” The King was impressed and asked his servants to let the young man go.

After this as this young scholar was entering the gates of the debating hall he was stopped by the gatekeeper and told that young boys are not allowed in side the hall as it was a debate for the seasoned minds, to which Ashtavakr replied,” Grey hair are no proof of a persons maturity, not even how well you have memorized Vedas and the Vedanta’s. Maturity lies in how well a person has captured the essence of all learning.” I am here to meet the court pandit Vandi and I want you to inform your king of my desire.” Now the king co-incidently came that way and recognized Ashtavakr as the courageous young scholar who had confronted him on the broadway of the city. On being told of the young lad’s desire to debate with Vandi, the court scholar the king said. “Do you know that Vandi has defeated great scholars in the past? I hope you know about the precondition to debating with Vandi, that any one who looses to Vandi , has to drown himself or will be drowned in the ocean of shame by stepping down from the title of being called a vedanti or a brahmin.. Are you not scared?
“ Respected and worthy king Janak, Your court scholar Vandi, has become proud and arrogant because he has not come across some one like me, and in any case I accept the challenge so as to find peace for my father’s soul who was defeated by this man and made to drown himself, I assure you that your great scholar shall be humbled by me, once and for all,”
This is how Ashtavakr met Vandi and debated hard and long over issues related to deep philosophy, and in the end the assembly unanimously declared Ashtavakr victorious. The court scholar had to drown himself as per a tradition set by him and thus paid for his sin of being arrogant and proud of his learning. Such was the man who wrote Ashtavakr Geeta, a classic dealing systematically with the mystical experiences of the Self on its way to transcendent this world, and attain peace and bliss and then transcend these as well. It’s very clear explanation of self as the ultimate reality. After Ashtavakr defeated Vandi, king Janak accepted him as his Guru. This great work is written in the tradition of a dialogue betwen a Guru and a student, betwen Ashtavakr and Janak. ‘Ashtavakr Geeta is exclusively related to matters regarding the nature and means of realizing the Self. It insists on detachment from worldly objects as essential to Self-realization.

Ashtavakr Geeta opens up the secrets of self realization by laying down the ground rule that one who considers himself free becomes free and one who considers him self bound remains bound. This goes to establish the proverbial saying, “As one thinketh, so one shall be.” Here I present for you the essence of this great work in most easy to comprehend language.
For true liberation avoid the objects of the senses and cultivate tolerance, sincerity, compassion, contentment, and truthfulness as the antidote to the poison of sensual desires. There is no being or non-being, no unity or dualism. There is nothing outside of you. You do not consist of any of the elements of matter alone. To be liberated, know yourself as consciousness and be a witness to the play of elements. Seeing yourself as distinct from the body, as pure consciousness is the key to being peaceful. You are not a Brahmin nor a Shudra. You don’t belong to any caste. Your real self is beyond 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 the game played by the mind and should be of no concern to you. You as a witness of everything including your physical self can be completely free of the samsara inspite of being in it. The cause of your bondage is that being a witness or an audience, you by mistake become an actor in the play. Burn down the forest of ignorance with the fire of the understanding and be free from distress. Your real nature is free, an action less consciousness, the all-pervading witness -- unattached to anything, desire less and at peace. It is from illusion that you seem to be involved in ‘Samsara’. Meditate on yourself as awareness is the key to establish perfect equilibrium, which isfree from all duality. You have long been trapped in the snare of identification with the body. Cut this snare with the knife of knowledge. Recognize that the apparent is unreal, while the un manifest is permanent. Just as one and the same all-pervading space exists within and without an utencil, so the eternal, everlasting God exists in the totality of things. i am a follower of 'Advaita' and admire Maharishi Ashtavakr for all the blessings he left for us, the comimg generations, in form of his immortal work, The Ashtavakr Geeta.
Balwant Gurunay

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