Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Meditations On Ashtavakra Gita - PART 2

Meditations On Ashtavakra Gita - PART 1

         When Janaka sought liberation from "Bondage", Ashtavakra dismissed the very "I" which feels bound. In the first few verses, Ashtavakra clearly proves that there is no "I" who feels hurt, worried, sorry etc. All this is already discussed in the PART 1. Having understood this much, one has to live it in the day to day life. This living out this truth requires certain clarity of this vision which is what Ashtavakra is building through the next few verses. 

Suppose I am playing the role of Ravana in a drama and while playing this role, I forget my true nature and take myself to be Ravana. Now I suffer all the emotions of Ravana, I feel guilty for what I have done and also sad for all the war thats taking place, say. Now, at this juncture, if I learn that I am not Ravana... should I now stop playing the role of Ravana ? Please see this. The role of Ravana can continue and yet I am liberated. I know there is no Ravana here and that this Ravana and all his emotions are "unreal" and yet I play the role with great confidence, donning the emotions and feelings. I intentionally bring out the emotions of Ravana because I know those emotions and having brought them out, I enact them ... but no where am I really troubled. 

The same thing within. The understanding that there is really no "I" , is very significant. Its like the understanding that I am not Ravana. And yet, there is an appearance. From my memories this appearance takes shape. To my mother I am a son and when I interact with her, there is a mental appearance ... an "I" thats formed out of my memories, which is only an appearance and yet knowing fully well that its not me, I enact the role. 

One may ask "Who is the one who keeps changing roles ?" , My answer is simple : "Another Role". So these are all mental and "out there"! I know I am not any of these and yet I play all these roles with great comfort. When Ashtavakra says "You are not a householder etc", its not that I can no more play the role of a householder. I play the role very well, knowing completely that I am not it. The role of householder is in memory and when situation arises, it pops out of the memory in the form of a series of thoughts creating a fictitious "I" who is a householder. If this "I" is not formed, I cannot function as a householder. Formation of this "I" is not the problem. Identification with this "I" is definitely a problem. The "I" is formed , yet I know that this "I" is only a shadow and not real ! I clearly see that the TRUE I is not this "I" , but it lends existence to this "I". This is understanding. Its purely intellectual ... understanding is always intellectual. There is nothing like non-intellectual understanding. Understanding means intellectual.

Now someone may ask : is not Self beyond intellect ? Yes , ofcourse it is. But I do not need to Know the Self through intellect. Self is self effulgent! So all that I need is to dismiss the wrong ideas about "I"  or rather negate all the ideas about "I". These ideas are all certain limitations applied on the "I" - certain qualifiers applied to the "I" and when these limitations are negated [they need not be removed, they are present and yet seen as unreal], then I is self evident. Nothing needs to be done to "Know Self". Self is self effulgent. 


धर्माधर्मौ सुखं दुखं मानसानि न ते विभो ।
न कर्तासि न भोक्तासि मुक्त एवासि सर्वदा ॥१-६॥ 

Dharma, Adharma , Comfort and discomfort belong to the Mind and not to you, oh King! You are neither the doer nor the experienc-er, you are Ever Free  , Always.

This is the understanding and its so beautiful. Even when a person has completely understood his true nature, he cannot avoid comforts and discomforts. Whether its janaka or ashtavakra ... on a hot day, having a glass of water gives comfort and standing in sun gives discomfort. Once a friend told me "The day I eat neem leaves and ice cream with the same feeling, thats when I consider myself liberated". If one has such an idea, one can never live a liberated life. Setting up an unreachable and unnatural expectation is one way of distancing ourselves from liberated living. Right now, we are all liberated and we need to own it up. This owning up means living a desireless and free life here and now. This is possible only when we do not set such unnatural goals born out of exotic ideas. 

Someone once said "Ramana did not feel pain when suffering from cancer" ! These kind of ideas are all wrong. Discomfort cannot be avoided. Otherwise, take any saint and do not allow him to sleep for 5 or 6 days and he will accept that discomfort cannot be avoided. This is not the idea of liberated living. This is really not possible and natural to live such a life. 

There are comfortable situations and uncomfortable situations in life. One cannot help but face all these situations. But when one faces these situations, if one does not allow these situations to distort one's Self Image, thats liberated living. Lets take a simple example. Suppose I failed in an examination. And lets observe a particular kind of self talk:  
"I Failed ".
 "I can no more reap the benefits of  success"
"I am incomplete without reaping the benefits of success"
"I feel really unfulfilled because of this"

Please see. 
The first two statements are merely statements of fact. The next statement is where we are "Projecting" this situation onto ourselves and doing a "Self Evaluation" based on  them. The moment I do this, I feel "incomplete" and "unfulfilled" and as a result ? I suffer.  The external situation cannot be avoided. The external situation has comfort and discomfort clearly defined ! The "I Sense" has its likes and dislikes. 
But even when seeing all this, I should make sure I do not drag these situations of mind onto myself and see myself as "unfulfilled and incomplete within".

We have already seen that there is really no "I" ... there is only this body which is jada and lifeless and the Awareness within which is totally Still Presence. Where is the "I" ? Only a series of thoughts coming from memory create a sense of I , a sense of doer or experiencer. This is not real, its like a mirage. Unreal and purely imaginary. And yet, it "Seems" to exist. So that "Seeming" existence can be used for purely functional purpose and yet I understand that I am not that. So thus, I do not drag that situation onto myself and feel suffocated and incomplete within. This is liberated living.

[To be Continued ...]   

Friday, 26 April 2013

Meditations On Ashtavakra Gita - PART 1


Without exception, everyone seeks fulfillment in life. Every seeker is essentially searching for a way out of some or the other sense of lacking. A poor person is unhappy and thinks he will be happy if he gets a little money. The rich person also is unhappy and he thinks he would be happy if he gets some leisure. A rich person with lot of leisure feels bored and tries to escape the boredom by going to parties etc. In all these examples one thing that’s common is a fundamental sense of “lacking something”. The poor man feels he lacks money. The rich person feels he lacks leisure. And the rich person with leisure thinks he lacks mental excitement.

Though, apparently, there are different people seeking different objects, fundamentally there is only one kind of “seeking”, an escape from this sense of being an unfulfilled person.
Seeking essentially means “I have not yet reached”. In-fact if someone is crying, that is his way of unloading himself of the emotional burden which is troubling him. That's an attempt to get rid of the feeling that I am lacking something. So even if a person says "I want to cry", it really means that he or she wants to get rid of the sense of emptiness within. When the poor person thinks he would get happy by getting some riches, the point to observe is that there is already another person who has those riches and still feels incomplete within! What ever we seek, there is already someone else who has it!

Ashtavakra Gita presents us with a teaching. A teaching , in the vedantic context is a way of looking at ourselves. A vision about ourselves, is what is being presented. As we look at ourselves in the light of this vision, we discover our own total inner fulfillment. The very notion that "I am unfulfilled and I need to find fulfillment", is totally negated. Thereafter life becomes a joy ride. Every moment is a moment of satisfaction, completeness. As such this discovery does not make one give up one's job or occupation in one's life. On the contrary it enriches everything that one does, because , now the mind is no more agitated.  Mind is totally "Here and Now" and so its where we apply it. Its a natural outcome of one's understanding. As we study this text, if one is open enough to see what is being taught, one shall discover this freedom in one's own life and in this sense it is at once practical and "real" , here and now. As we shall also see, this teaching is not at all life denying, the entire teaching enables us only to discover our fulfillment so that we are not just alive but really "Living" :).

How should I approach this text ? Should I approach it like a "believer" whose job is to say "Yes" to everything that is being presented ? Or should I approach it as a skeptic who doubts what is being presented ? Please see ... this entire teaching is about "You" , "us". So as the teaching is presented, we should be able to see it for ourselves. We have to "see" what is being shown ... that is all we have to do. We do not need to "believe" or be "skeptic" about it. This is explained using the story of a teacher showing a moon. Once a student asked the teacher "Sir, show me the moon".  The teacher said "Ok, do you see those two branches of the tree ? And do you see the white circular object that is there inbetween ? That is the moon". There was a "Believer" there who immediately noted it down in his book : "Moon is a circular object that can be seen between the two branches of a neem tree" . Then there was another person who said "I do not believe this" !  The one who has "Seen" it, knows it and can convey the vision in many other ways as well. But the one who has not seen will continue to either repeat the notes or reject it ! There is yet another modern case of a person who looks at the finger that is pointing to the moon and not the moon itself :)! This person is, in terms of his level of understanding, not different from the one who prepared the notes ... but then, i choose to make a special mention because such people have a tendency to "Extend the Examples" :). This is a very interesting style. Suppose you say "life is like a drop of water on a lotus leaf" ... through which you are trying to say that life is ephemeral, they might say "so ? you mean life is oval in shape ? or that life is maintained by surface tension". Logically, this approach of extending examples is inappropriate because the example is used to point to some idea, it is the idea that is to be discussed not the example. The example itself will obviously have a million other implications. When we say "her face is like moon", we do not mean that it has large holes and mountains on it ! In order to get the vision of the teaching, one has to "see" what is being presented , that is the only way to discover our own true nature.


Janaka starts by asking about liberation. Liberation is freedom - as we have already discussed in the introduction, means freedom from any sense of insufficiency.  Janaka's question is: 


जनक उवाच - कथं ज्ञानमवाप्नोति, कथं मुक्तिर्भविष्यति।
वैराग्य च कथं प्राप्तमेतद ब्रूहि मम प्रभो ॥१-१॥

Janaka Said:
How does Self Knowledge arise? How will Liberation happen? How does one obtain dispassion. Please tell me these things, my Lord!

Janaka's question clearly shows us that he seems to have understood that everyone seeks freedom from the sense of being an unfulfilled and incomplete individual. We can see that Janaka asked Ashtavakra how one can get liberated 
[from the sense of being unfulfilled ie, the ideas such as:  I have not yet reached :). I need various things to become fulfilled]. That means he is feeling bound [he sees himself as a lacking individual].

Only a person who feels he is bound can seek liberation. So, this is a prerequisite. Self Knowledge is not for someone who is already liberated. Its not even for the one who does not feel bound. In other words, this knowledge is for a "spiritual seeker". The most generic definition of a  seeker is a person who feels empty for some reason and wants to get rid of that sense of emptiness. However, there can be a person who feels that his sense of insufficiency can be removed by some or the other possessions. Such a person is not a spiritual seeker as yet. He is a seeker, but not a spiritual seeker. Here Janaka has understood that no material possessions can make him fulfilled. In fact he feels that its his attachment [Ragam] to those objects that creates troubles for him. That's why he asks as to how he can gain Vairagyam, detachment. These are, therefore, the qualifications. Only a person who has understood this is eligible for this knowledge. 

Ok, so how is it that "Attachment" to objects is causing bondage or a sense of being unfulfilled? Lets first delve into this. When I say "an object makes me fulfilled"  or "a relationship makes me fulfilled"  ... Is it really that particular object that is making us fulfilled ? Suppose someone thinks that he will be happy by becoming rich. Its an innocent and simple idea , nothing wrong about it. But now, suppose he remains poor but dreams that he is rich... in that moment , he is very happy. But suppose he becomes rich, but dreams that he is poor, now his sense of being an unfulfilled person has returned to haunt him! So really, is it the "object" or the "Thought of the object" that is granting him a sense of fulfillment ? The actual object itself, what ever it be, does not really seem to matter. His sense of achievement or fulfillment is brought about by his thoughts and not the object itself. So, where is this sense of fulfillment or Purnatvam, Completeness ? It has to be within and I am somehow drawing it from within with the help of the external object. The external object is triggering a series of thoughts ... and somehow I am able to transform myself into a state where I can tap my own inner satisfaction. So I am really using the external object as a means to self hypnotize myself into a state of satisfaction. So when I have the object , I am able to use it to hypnotize myself into a state of "a Pleased Me" ! We will see the exact way in which this is happening a little later. Our whole attempt , however, is to do away with this dependence on the object. Because the objects is really not what is giving me this satisfaction. My dependence on the object means that  I will some times be satisfied and some times not. When the case is that its not the object but the thought of the object that is helping me discover a pleased self, it just means that I need not depend on the object itself. Infact I do not even need to depend on the thought, we will see this.  This is why janaka says , how do I get rid of my dependence on the objects to discover this happiness  -  a pleased self ? This is really excellent thinking ! 

We have digressed a little bit to see the need for vairagyam ... lets get back to the verse itself:

These, therefore,  are the qualifications of a proper student. They exclude the following types of people:

1. People who are not seeking

2. People who do not see any bondage.

3. People who attribute their bondage to external objects

This knowledge is not useful for such people. That is the level of maturity expected of the student. Suppose someone thinks the cause for his bondage is lack of money. Let him earn money. This knowledge is for someone who has understood that money or any external object cannot solve his or her problems. It is to be understood that this scripture too is external, so it too cannot solve their problem, but it can point to that which is never in problem, as we shall see.

This is a very practical teaching. at once available for someone who seeks liberation and knows that external objects cannot make him complete. As we study this text we will be able to appreciate how this teaching can transform our lives once and for all.

As we have seen Janaka has posed his question really well - the question itself shows how he is qualified to get this knowledge. Now Ashtavakra starts out by stating the attitude a seeker should have towards the objects of the world:


अष्टावक्र उवाच -मुक्तिमिच्छसि चेत्तात्, विषयान विषवत्त्यज ।
क्षमार्जवदयातोष, सत्यं पीयूषवद्भज ॥१-२॥ 

Ashtavakra Replied: 
If you desire Liberation , my child, leave the objects (of senses) as poison and  Practice forgiveness, simplicity, compassion, contentment and truth as nectar.

There is this story of a dog chewing a dry bone. As it chews it, the blood oozing from its own bleeding gums makes it feel that the bone is giving its food. The more it chews the more wounded it gets. The entire problem lies in the misapprehension of the source of its happiness. Even so, we seem to get pleasure in various objects of senses because we somehow use those objects to lull ourselves into a hypnotic altered state. Just as an alcoholic uses alcohol to lull himself into a state of joy, or just as a drug addict uses drugs to reach an altered state of mind, we are using the objects of the world to do just the same. Only difference is we do not usually call worldly addicts as "addicts" and there is no rehabilitation center for such people. Someone is obsessed about money and he makes his own life miserable in his search or money but there is no rehabilitation center to cure his addiction for money. Someone else is obsessed with power and he is arrogant, harsh etc. Somehow all these are seen as normal behavior. The person who is mad after power suffers no less than an alcoholic. The problem is not in seeking riches or power, the problem is that the joy we derive is from within while we mistake it from the objects -- just like the dog chewing a dry bone. In this process we hurt ourselves and cause a lot of turmoil to ourselves and others as well. In order for me to be able to look at myself as the source of all bliss, I need to stop using these objects as drugs. We should stop depending on them to really this happiness from within. For me to start looking at myself as "Ever fulfilled", its very important that I stop looking at the objects of the world as things that can make me fulfilled. 

What does this mean in practical terms ? Lets try to understand by taking these two words: discomfort and unhappiness. Whats the difference between these two ? Does money buy comfort or happiness ? Do we see the difference ? Comfort is what comes from the external situations in life while happiness is our own sense of contentment or satisfaction with ourselves in that situation. Someone may be very rich and yet discontented while someone else may be poor yet satisfied with his situation. 

Its important to understand that sense objects are not the problem. The problem is in my thinking that I am empty without those sense objects. The problem is when I remain dissatisfied with myself when I do not possess something. Do we see this difference ? On a hot summer afternoon, I might want to have a cool drink to quench my thirst. Its a preference and its fine as it is but if I cannot "accept" the situation where what I prefer is not given to me, I would be miserable. A saint is not someone who sees no difference between a glass of cold water and a glass of hot water  for quenching his thirst on a hot summer afternoon. Its just normal to prefer cold water in such a situation. The difference between a saint and a non-saint is simply this : A saint can accept the situation as it is. When there is discomfort, its non-acceptance that makes it into unhappiness. Acceptance is very important. Its the ability to accept discomfort and not to convert that discomfort into dissatisfaction that makes a person a saint. There is no denying that the situation is uncomfortable and given a choice one would like to avert it, however, when the situation cannot be avoided a saint is someone who can accept it.

Before proceeding further, lets also observe another point. If I see myself as fulfilled [when I am satisfied with myself and my state] I can accept discomfort better. To illustrate this, I use the following example: 
"On a hot summer afternoon, I come home and switch on the A/C only to learn that its not working. "

Lets consider this situation and my ability to accept this situation under two different backgrounds :). 

Background 1: I have just succeeded in some endeavor.
Background 2: I have failed miserably in some endeavor.

In the first case I am high on self satisfaction and in the second case I am really low on it. When would I be able to handle the situation better ? Its obvious that "How I feel about Myself" or "How satisfied I am with my self"  would have a very significant effect on how well I can accept "Discomfort". Discomfort cannot be avoided in life. This body being transient, will slowly start to disintegrate. We cannot avoid discomfort. But we can develop the ability to accept discomfort and not drag it onto ourselves. 

So in what sense are sense objects poisonous ? The moment I start to derive my sense of fulfillment or satisfaction from the sense objects , they become poisonous.  The sense objects can provide comforts not happiness. This understanding is important. Further if I have to discover that I can remain satisfied with myself whether or not the external situation is comfortable, then I have to stop altering my states of mind with the sense objects. I should stop being like the dog which keeps chewing the bone !

But what we have discussed about sense indulgence so far, is not sufficient in itself because we have not really discovered the "how" of it. The question is what should be the attitude of a student who wants to find moksha? If I feel that certain sense objects or riches etc make me fulfilled, then that attitude has to be rejected. How do I work on my mind and undo all such notions ? This mind is an instrument, and we have been feeding it with various ideas since our childhood. Not only we , but our relatives, friends etc have all been feeding various ideas in the mind. And so, the mind functions in a certain way. If a person has been brought up with the ideas that "Money makes us fulfilled and without it we are nothing " and he has various experiences of the past which he interpreted to support this statement ... then the mind needs to be corrected. So how can that be done? At the most basic level, one has to clearly understand why money does not make me fulfilled. Money buys comforts, not happiness. this has to be clearly appreciated.  And one has to understand this without any doubt. And then using that understanding one has to undo the mental patterns which have been created by this wrong notion. This is called Sadhana.

In a way, Ashtavakra has put the cart before the horse when he gave the sadhana without explaining how the Self is ever Fulfilled.  The next few verses do speak about the Self. The suggestion is : the conviction "Objects of Senses cannot make me complete" has to be mentally given importance and the wrong notion "Objects make me complete" has to be renounced at the level of the mind.

How to do that? The thoughts like "If I am rich, i would be better" arise in mind. This is natural. We have no control over what thought should arise and what should not. But when this thought arises, to give it attention or not give it attention is what we can do. When this thought arises, hold onto the conviction that no object can make me fulfilled and renounce it. Give it no attention. Remain indifferent to that thought. That is the way to treat it as poisonous. one need not run away from it. We do not run away from poison. We do not wet our hands with it.

To not associate one's sense of fulfillment with any external object is the first lesson Ashtavakra taught. The entire teaching makes this real. As we shall see, Ashtavakra goes on to teach Self Knowledge which makes this easier to live. When one knows one's true nature... one will be able to see oneself as Complete and Fulfilled. Then it shall easier to see why no sense object can make us fulfilled or complete.

Its very important to appreciate that there is no way to be totally non-indulgent in any sense object unless one appreciates oneself as not the experiencer [Bhokta]. This is why Self Knowledge alone can enable this totally.

As viveka [Discrimination] develops, eventually the raga-dveshas drop off by themselve as even a ripe leaf gets detached from the tree. It should be so natural. So one cannot do it "by force". One has to develop the understanding that "I AM of the nature of pure Bliss" and simultaneously maintain an attitude of detachment towards the sense objects. Slowly the detachment becomes stronger and the Knowledge gets firm.

Lets note a simple fact... no external object can "touch me" or "reach me" without becoming a part of my mind. That's why even if my hand is cut, unless this reaches the mind, i remain unaware. The body does not know. 

Suppose I am attached to an person. In the presence of the person I am happy and in the absence of the person I miss the person. Simple as it seems, but lets explore it more carefully ... suppose I am not in the presence of the person but am dreaming that I am in the presence of the person : I enjoy the company of the person. And if I am in the presence of the person but dreaming that I am missing the person: I miss the person!! so its really the mental object that pulls me or pushes me away from it. So the whole thing being at the mental level, we need to directly work with the mind and not at the external level.

If my mind can remain calm all the time, no matter what happens ... then I am a free person. Its the quality of the mind that determines how happy my life is. so how to transform my mind so that it remains happy all the time ?

Ashtavakra has given some clues...
a) Maintain the attitude of detachment towards the objects
b) Develop certain qualities like contentment, straightforwardness, empathy etc.

How to do these ? At the level of the mind, we develop any attitude by constanly doing that. Repeating any thing would convert it into a habit. We have to live it. And long befo
re I show these qualities in an interaction with someone else, I have to live it with myself.
--When I am faced with various situations in life, I act in a straight forward way and denounce all crookedness and manipulative tendencies - this is how straightforwardness is developed.
---Similarly unless it involves hurting someone, I will always tell the truth ... I will be truthful to others as well as to myself.
--- I excuse myself for the mistakes in my life and excuse others for any hurt they may have given me. This can be developed by understanding that the other person is in the control of his or her nature and also understanding that I am suffering not coz of the other person but because of my own prarabdha karma. This way one develops Kshama or forgiveness.
--- by seeing myself in the other person's shoes empathy can be developed.
---Contentment is a direct result of Self Knowledge - When I know myself as I am, naturally I am a contented person. 
 These qualties of mind settle it and make it more available for assimilating the Truth. When we lead a life with these guidelines, we will observe that we become more peaceful and less manipulative. Such a pure mind is very much ready to absorb the teaching of Ashtavakra.

Janaka has already asked how he can gain "Vairagyam". To a person who seeks to know how he may gain vairagyam, to say "Have attitude of poison towards the worldly objects" is definitely not the answer. Because that's what he is asking: "how can I have such an attitude" :). That attitude is what is called Vairagya. So Ashtavakra has , in a way just rephrased Janaka's question and instructed him :).So, having stated this, in the next few verses he is going to provide Janaka with the knowledge to be able to really look at oneself as ever fulfilled so that he may be able to discover true Vairagya in his life. Its like saying, "son, objects cannot make you fulfilled, now let me explain why ...", the next few verses explain the why of it. :) So lets see...


न पृथ्वी न जलं नाग्निर्न वायुर्द्यौर्न वा भवान् ।
एषां साक्षिणमात्मानं चिद्रूपं विद्धि मुक्तये ॥१-३॥

You are neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air or space. To liberate, know the witness of all these as conscious self. ॥3॥

Ashtavakra Starts his teaching from this verse. This verse reveals our true nature straight away...

These are called pancha maha bhutas, the 5 great elements that make everything. The Vedantic model is very systematic in analyzing the world. Anything we perceive, can be made up of only these 5 elements, because we have 5 senses. What is not seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelt etc ... cannot be perceived. Because we have only 5 senses. Even when we say "Magnetic Field", we are really talking from the point of view of an "observed phenomenon". I see that iron filings move in certain ways when in the presence of a magnet -- this is an observable phenomenon and therefore I "infer" a magnetic field. So the whole objective world has to be made up of these elements.

Now all these elements and their combinations are Jada by nature ... they are lifeless. Prithvi or Earth does not have a sense of "me". Water, fire, air, space ... none of them have a sense of "me". And this body is only a combination of such elements --- it too does not have a sense of "me". This the feeling called "I" cannot be the "voice" of any of these elements.

There is a beautiful example ... suppose there is an empty room and someone goes on knocking it... there will not be any response from inside, because there is really no one to "respond" ! The room itself does not say "Hey Look here! Stop tapping me like this... i dont like it". The room and its doors and windows are jada. They have no reactions of their own.

And the space in the room also does not respond. It does not say "dont disturb me". Because it is just the accommodating entity in whose presence the "room" can "be". So space has no response.

So who can respond ? If there is some "Person" inside , he responds. So every response is of a "person" inside.

Lets extend this to our body... the body is jada, made of the 5 elements and has no response of its own. the eyes, ears etc are like the doors and windoes of the room and the body is like that room. In the presence of "Awareness" any event is perceived ... though the mechanism is not "exactly" like the example above ... the Awareness has no reaction of its own. Awareness like the space in mind is simply the "Presence" which enables a reaction. Ashtavakra says its the witness. Its witness with respect to the objects of mind.

so who says "I" ? Who is the one who reacts and performs various actions ? Who is the "doer" or "Experiencer". Neither the body nor the Awareness are !!

We  discussed the example of a room with no one inside. And compared it to the body with only awareness [resembling space] inside. The body does not have a "like/dislike" , Awareness does not have "Like/Dislike" ... so whence is like / dislike coming up ?

Well ... even as I say this, its atonce available for everyone to see whether its true or not. There is no need to believe anything here. This is really what inquiry is all about! Let further see where it leads. And as we see lets not get bogged down by "who all say this same stuff". Because, the value of what is said is really in the truth value of the statement and not in the one who is saying !

Ok, so we examined the body, which is like the room ... jada and has no likes or dislikes.
And we have examined the Awareness, which like the space accommodates all the thoughts etc, but has no reaction of itself.

So we are obviously left with only thoughts. Lets examine them now. All thoughts are momentary... they come and pass away that very moment. The sorrow, worry, hurt etc which are really thought-formations ... are not momentary. They seem to have a sense of "Continuity" and in-fact they thrive on that "Continuity" ! how come this is possible ? Lets try to see... Suppose there is a dish I hate to eat. And I am in a situation where I have to eat it. :) I am intentionally taking a simple example. A complex situation is formed by a combination of simple situations.

so I am before this dish ... I have to take it. The first thought is "Pure Perception"... Eyes see the dish and true to their report we perceive the dish. That's the first perception. and as its the job of mind, it recollects all the memories and ideas that i have stored about the dish. And then from the memory arises a thought
T1: "I do not like this dish" , then the next thought...
T2: "But I have to eat it"
T3: "I cannot bear it"
T4: "This is terrible, even the smell is horrible"
T5: "This cannot be consumed! I wonder how people ever eat this"

Now plz see. T1 arose and vanished that very moment and then T2 came up. Between T1 and T2 there is a gap. So whats the "Common" entity between T1 and T2 ? Who is this "I" who is common between T1 and T2 ? It cannot be the Body... body is jada. It cannot be memory also, memory is jada! It cannot be awareness, Awareness has no "Reactions of its own. its just a witness"!!!
so who is this "I" that feels terrible ?

Its like a movie that's projected on a static white screen ...
P1: First the photo of a man is projected.
P2: P1, with hand slightly raised is projected
P3: P2 with hand slightly higher than that is projected

and what do we see ? We see a "motion". We see as if there is someone raising the hand. We do not see static pictures. How is this possible ? We have not recognized the "gap" and so ... the screen being "Static", we have attributed the continuity of the screen to the pictures and there appears to be a movie.

In vedanta this is explained with the example of a rolling ball of fire: Fire does not have shape and the shape of the ball is attributed to the fire. Ball does not glow, the glow of the fire is attributed to the ball! This is exactly the situation within! The Awareness does not have any like/ dislike ... the like/dislike of the thoughts is projected on it. Thoughts do not have continuity and the continuity of Awareness is attributed to the "I" which is common in the thoughts.

Really there is no "I" ... only a series of static thoughts that give the impression of a "continuous" entity!!! There is no "I" within ... only Awareness and the body ... with momentary thoughts. And yet ... an "I" seems to be "Formed". And that "I" , lets call it a "Role". Its all in memory in potential form... when the object is perceived, all related memories arise in a stream and a continuous entity called "I" appears to have been formed. And its this "I" that feels hurt, worried, troubled etc! A fictitious entity from the very beginning.

Where is this "I" really ? 

So in the very first verse Ashtavakra has hit it straight ... "Where is this "I" ?" ! So that leaves us with the presence inside and mute body outside with no one inbetween.

However, habitually, thoughts to take place and the fictitious "I" sense  is "seen". Even when its seen its not there. When I interact with the world, this "I" sense is needed because all interactions are with respect to this "I" sense alone and yet, even as I interact and function, there is no "I" really. So the entire vedantic sadhana is to really see that the room [this body with space like awareness within] is empty in Truth , even when interacting with the world and functioning in it. And this is the state of affairs as it is ... not something to be "Gained". Even when a person thinks that there is a "I" , a "doer" or an "Enjoy-er" ... the reality is its only an appearance. Like a shadow ghost.. whether its seen or not, its not real. And even when a person takes it to be a ghost, the reality is that its not a ghost at all. This "I" is really like that shadow ghost and nothing more as we have already seen above.  

There is a zen story of a student who goes to his teacher and says "Sir now I have understood the truth, there is no I (ego)" , and the teacher simply looked at him and hit him with his stick.[ :) These Zen monks are pretty dangerous ... they may some times hit or even cut a finger ]. So the guru hit his disciple with a stick , and immediately the disciple's face turned red. Probably with a smile, the guru asked "If there is no "I", whence has this anger arisen ?" 

Now , lets study this carefully. Our mind is an instrument. We have been feeding it with various values and ideas since childhood. So mind is conditioned to behave in certain ways in certain situations. :) I would not say that we have to make the mind free of all conditioning.  When I first started learning to balance my bicycle, I was very uncomfortable. By trying it a few times, the mind has somehow grasped the "how" of balancing a bicycle. Now I can do it with ease, because the mind is conditioned to handle it. So conditioning is important and mind is supposed to be conditioned. That's not wrong. The only problem is when I do not know how to undo an unwanted conditioning or when I cannot create a particular kind of conditioning. When this is the case I cannot function comfortably in life.  Mind is supposed to be conditioned and that's how it remains. Only thing is I should see myself as "Awareness" which is not conditioned by the mental states and conditioning. 

Lets get back to the example of the Zen disciple. He has indeed understood that there is no real "I", as even we have understood now. But when he was hit, the mind popped up the conditioned response from his subconscious mind. This happens and there is nothing one can do about it :) because its from the subconscious mind and its a quick response. The areas of brain related to such response are much faster than our neo-cortex where "Reasoning" works. So the anger has to arise. So what have we to do now ? Its as if, all our understanding has come to a naught , isn't it ? No! Its indeed true that the subconscious pops up in the form of anger and so now ... we have this understanding as an instrument to "Tackle" the anger that arises. When this anger arises, we should "Practice"... make use of our new understanding to tackle it effectively. How ? There are broadly two methods to tackling it ... 
1. A Practise
2. An Attitude.

A practice is what we do when this anger or an emotional turbulence arises. Its also what we do to be able to handle it better next time its arises. Its a skill we hone carefully. I would call it the art of mind management. This is about a practice.

An attitude is a certain way of looking at ourselves based upon the intellectual understanding we have arrived at. This aids us to ensure that the inner conditioning is rendered support-less and does not arise at all. We need both. A practice and an attitude. These aid each other "Like the two wings of a bird" as one leads a liberated life. So one can never say "Sadhana is not required", because sadhana is the practice part of it. And one cannot likewise say Sravana or listening to a guru or shastra is not required because these aid is developing the right attitude - the right way of looking at ourselves. 

In Verse 2, Ashtavakra spoke about maintaining the attitude of vairagya, which amounts to looking at ourselves as fulfilled. Its an attitude I maintain. These objects do not make me fulfilled. This is an attitude I maintain.

In Verse 3, Ashtavakra again gave us an understanding that aids us see the total unreality of ego ! That understanding also gives us with an attitude. 

Now, in the next verse Ashtavakra gives us a practice. This aids us manage our mind and ensure that we do not habitually get identified with the "I" sense. The "I" sense is unreal and its not there in reality , but it still continues to arise habitually. When it arises from memory we still have a tendency to identify with it. so whenever I identify with it, what should I do ? This is explained in the next verse: 


यदि देहं पृथक् कृत्य चिति विश्राम्य तिष्ठसि ।
अधुनैव सुखी शान्तो बन्धमुक्तो भविष्यसि ॥१-४॥  

If you detach yourself from the body and remain relaxed as Awareness, Immediately you experience happiness, calmness and freedom from bondage. 

Ashtavakra here tells us about a meditation. He has already explained that this "I" which seems to suffer and feel empty within is really not there at all. Its only a ghost imagined in a shadow.  But if we still have this tendency to see a ghost in a shadow and run ... then what to do ? How do I find liberation from the ghost ? Well, its simple, you have to relax with the understanding that its only a shadow and stop running. The moment one does this, that shadow is exposed as shadow !!

similarly, if you keep the body where it is, like the room , its jada and motionless. And if you yourself remain as the Awareness , relaxed and not identified with the body and the mind ... seeing the body and the mind as a "Shadow" ... an "External Object" that cannot touch us, there and then , we you experience the release from bondage. Because there is no bondage in reality. The one who "Feels" bound is a mirage like mental built-up and nothing more. 

Its indeed strange that a thought can trouble us, because a thought is momentary !! 
and between two thoughts there is no connection!
So how is it able to even trouble us ? Where is it deriving its continuity from ?
That sense of continuity attributed to thoughts is only ignorance and nothing more!
The thought is "out there" and not "me".
when the thought "i am sad" arises, one should notice that its the thought say its sad :).
That can be done only when one remains relaxed as Awareness fully convinced that the "Drishya" [seen] jagat [world] is only a mirage like appearance!! 

The moment I take myself to be a "mental built up", I get caught in the mental world and get hit by thoughts and tossed all around by the events  and the moment I take myself to be the space like awareness which is not hit by any thoughts, I remain untouched by the thoughts. Having given us a practice for "Self Abidance" , which is very much like "Self Enquiry of Ramana Maharshi", Ashtavakra continues to negate the various built-ups that we have. These built-ups are  purely mental formations. A series of "I" thoughts arising from memory take a particular shape and this shape can be hit and this mental form alone functions in the world. This mental built up or form which is basically a formation due to a series of thoughts with imagined continuity ... is required for us to function in the world. Relatively it has a meaning, and yet one has to know that its not "ME", but only a functional dress I take up. As even , in a drama, we might be playing a role of Ravana. That dress of Ravana is actually picked up for the play ... for the functioning in the drama. If I forget that its only a dress and this is only a r ole, then I become Ravana and its a problem. If this ignorance that "I" am Ravana is eliminated, playing that role is not a problem. So I can continue to take on the shirt and play the role ... but never identified with the role... because I know I am the one playing the role and not the role itself. 

similarly the mental "I" sense thats just a built up of a series of thoughts allows me to function in the world, its like a dress I don to function in the world and yet  thats not me, this knowledge is something that liberates. Even while functioning in the role, I remain detached as the Awareness which is the Simple Presence ! This is knowledge. I know its not there in reality and that its only a built up ... and yet, I continue to function in the world with it ... because though its not there, it appears! Its appearance now is no more a problem, because ignorance that "I am this I" is no more there. This is knowledge. Now Ashtavakra continues to destroy the various ideas or notions that are all "built ups" or   "roles" in life and says "I am not that" , and knowing it one may still continue to use these relative identities for the functional purpose. 


न त्वं विप्रादिको वर्ण: नाश्रमी नाक्षगोचर: ।
असङगोऽसि निराकारो विश्वसाक्षी सुखी भव ॥१-५॥

You are not the Brahmin or other castes , neither do you belong to any ashramas! You are not anything thats "Seen". You are without any association with anything and formless ... This Being the witness of the world remain blissful.

Lets take this one idea: "I am a married man" -- that is I belong to a particular stage of life [Grahasta - Ashrama].Before marriage, I was there and yet not as a "married man". And this notion that I am a married man allows me to function in a particular way in the world. If all the thoughts of my married life are removed from my memory, I can no more function as a grahasta or a householder. I cannot function as a husband with my wife. And if the thoughts related to my parents etc are erased from my memory, I cannot function as a son. 

Now, when the thoughts are present, they give me a chance to function as a husband, son, brother etc. How do they make it possible ? As already seen, a series of these thoughts come out and form a sense of "I" , and its that "I" that functions in the world. Knowing that I am not this "I" but the changeless Awareness which is a witness of this whole formation and in whose presence its formed ... this knowledge ... does not mean that I can no more function in the world. I function in the world the same way and perhaps play the roles in life as I should ... but then I am never confused that I am that "Seen" sense of "I" which is only a memory based built up and nothing more. This knowledge allows me to see myself as "association less" [not associated with this formation] , even when that formation is there ... it allows me to see myself as formless even when this body is there. I see myself as formless and yet if my doctor tells me "you are putting on weight", I know what he means ! Because he is talking from the "seen" object's perspective ... from the perspective of the dress or the role I am playing. So I know and I say "yes, I have to exercise". I do not reply "Oh Doctor I am not the seen"!! That would be stupid. 
so this knowledge is freedom coz I know I am not the "Seen" ... and yet I can chose to function at the relative level via all those roles and the limited definitions. Thus , even while involved in the various activities I am very well aware that all this is only at the mithya level and remain "Aloof" as the Self ... Even when I take up the various roles in life and live my life, I am very well aware that this "I" which is "Seen" is only a built up and has no real existence. This , even when this "I" is seen, I am completely clear that there is no "I" !! Hence I am "Empty" within even in the presence of thoughts ! This is freedom.

 [To Be Continued ...]