Chapter One

Janaka asks:

How can knowledge be acquired?  How can liberation be attained?  How can renunciation come about?  (1)

Ashtavakra answers:

My child, if you are seeking liberation, shun the objects of the senses like poison; and seek forgiveness, sincerity, kindness, contentment and truth like you would seek nectar. (2)

You are neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air, nor space.  You are the witness of those five elements as Consciousness.  Understanding this is liberation.  (3)

If you detach yourself from the identification with the body, and remain relaxed in, and as Consciousness, you will, this very moment, be happy, at peace, free from bondage.  (4)

You do not belong to any caste like Brahmana, nor do you belong to any station in life.  You are not the object of any sense.  Unattached and formless, you are the witness of the entire universe.  Know this, and be happy.  (5)

Right and wrong, happiness and sorrow, are all attributes of the mind, not of You, O all-pervading One.  You are neither the doer nor the enjoyer, You who have ever and always been free of all such attachments  (6)

You are the one observer and, as such, you have, indeed, always been free.  Your only bondage has been that you see someone else as the observer.  (7)

You have been bitten by the deadly black serpent of the ego, and you therefore consider yourself as the doer.  Drink the nectar of the faith that you are not the doer, and be happy.  (8)

Having burnt down the forest of ignorance with the fire of the conviction ‘I am One, Pure Consciousness’, discard all grief and be happy.  (9)

You are that Consciousness – Supreme Bliss – upon which appears this phenomenal manifestation, like the illusion of a snake on a rope.  Live happily. (10)

The one who considers himself free is, indeed, free, while the one who considers himself bound remains in bondage.  The saying ‘As one thinks so one becomes’ is certainly a true one.  (11)

The Atman is the sole witness, all pervading, perfect, free Consciousness – actionless, unattached, desireless, at peace with itself.  It is only through an illusion that it appears to be involved with the samsara.  (12)

Give up the illusion that you are the individual self, together with all external and internal self-modifications, and meditate on the Atman, the immutable, non-dual Consciousness.  (13)

Dear child, long have you been caught in the bonds of identification with the body.  Sever it with the sword of Knowledge, and be happy.  (14)

You are unattached, actionless, self-effulgent, without blemish.  This, indeed, is your bondage, that you practice meditation.  (15)

It is you who pervade this universe, and this universe exists in you.  You are truly pure Consciousness by nature.  Be not petty-minded.  (16)

Know that which has form to be unreal, and the formless to be real.  Having understood this principle, there will be no possibility of rebirth.  (18)

Just as the surface of a mirror exists within and without the image reflected in the mirror, so also the supreme Self exists both within and without the physical body.  (19)

Just as the all-pervading space is both inside and outside the pot, so also the eternal and all-pervading Consciousness is immanent in all beings and objects.  (20)

Chapter Two

Janaka responds:

I really am the taintless, serene, pure Consciousness, quite apart from the phenomenal universe.  How long have I been unnecessarily bewildered by illusion!  (21)

As I Myself illumine this body, so also do I reveal this whole universe.  Therefore, the entire universe is Mine alone, or else nothing is mine.  (22)

On renouncing the body along with the rest of the manifestation, there has been, as if by magic, a perception of the supreme Self.  (23)

Just as waves, foam and bubbles, are not different from the water, so also the phenomenal universe appearing in Consciousness, is not different from it.  (24)

Just as cloth, after an analysis, is found to be nothing other than thread, similarly, the phenomenal manifestation of the universe is found, on intelligent perception, to be nothing other than Consciousness.  (25)

Just as sugar made from sugar cane juice is wholly pervaded by the sugar-cane juice, so also the phenomenal universe, which is produced within Me, is wholly pervaded by Me.  (26)

It is through ignorance of the Atman that the phenomenal universe appears to be real, and this illusion disappears with the realization of one’s true nature, just as the illusion of the snake appears through the ignorance of the object being a rope, and disappears after the recognition of the rope as a rope.  (27)

Light is my very nature.  Indeed, I am Light, and none other.  It is, indeed, ‘I’ that shine when the universe manifests itself.  (28)

The arising of the phenomenal universe which appears in Me gives the impression of being real because of ignorance, just as the mother-of-pearl gives the impression of silver, the rope that of the snake, and the rays of the sun that of water in a mirage.  (29)

Just as a pot dissolves into clay, a wave into water, or a bracelet into gold, so also the phenomenal universe which has arisen in Me will also dissolve into Me.  (30)

O, the wonder that I am!  I salute Myself who knows no decay, and survives even the destruction of the entire universe from the creator Brahma to a blade of grass.  (31)

O, the wonder that I am!  I salute Myself who through a body, am one who neither goes anywhere, nor comes from anywhere, but ever abides pervading the universe.  (32)

O, the wonder that I am!  I salute Myself, none more capable, who is bearing the burden of the entire universe without even touching it with my body.  (33)

O, the wonder that I am!  I salute Myself who has nothing, or everything, that is accessible to thought and word.  (34)

Knowledge, the knower and that which is to be known, as the triad, do not really exist in reality.  I am that stainless Consciousness in which this triad appears through ignorance.  (35)

O, the root of misery is, indeed, in dualism.  There is no remedy for it other than the realization that all objects of experience are unreal, and that I am the one pure Consciousness.  (36)

I am the pure Consciousness, but I have, through ignorance, imposed limitations upon myself.  With this constant conviction, I abide in the Consciousness without any conceptualizing.  (37)

The illusion of bondage and liberation, having lost its basic support (of ignorance), remains no longer.  O, the universe has emanated from me, but it is not within me.  (38)

I am now convinced that the whole universe, including this body, is without substance, and that what I am is pure Consciousness.  So what basis can conceptualization now have?  (39)

Body, heaven and hell, bondage and freedom, as also fear, all these are mere concepts.  What have I to do with all these, I who am pure Consciousness?  (40)

O, there is absolutely no dualism for me.  Even in the midst of people I feel as if I am alone.  To what should I attach myself?  (41)

I am not this body, nor do I have any body, because I am not a separate individual, but pure Consciousness.  My only bondage was that I had a zest for life.  (42)

O, in Me, the limitless ocean, the movement in the mind has produced the many worlds like the wind produces diverse waves on the ocean.  (43)

In Me, the limitless ocean, when the wind subsides and the mind becomes quiet, unfortunately for the trader in the form of the individual person, the ship of the conceptualized universe sinks.  (44)

How remarkable!  In Me, the limitless ocean, the waves of individual selves arise according to their inherent nature, meet and play with one another for a while, and then disappear.  (45)

Chapter Three

Ashtavakra responds:

How is it that having understood your true nature as the serene, indestructible One, you continue to be attached to the acquisition of wealth?  (46)

Attachment to the illusory objects of senses arises out of ignorance of the Self, just as greed for silver arises from the illusion created by the mother-of-pearl.  (47)

Having known that you are That in which arises the phenomenal universe like waves on the ocean, why do you run about like a wretched being?  (48)

Having heard one’s identity as the incomparably beautiful Noumenon, how is it possible for one to continue to be attracted to sensual objects, and thus debase oneself?  (49)

It is, indeed, strange that the sense of ‘mine-ness’ should continue to prevail in a sage who has realized the Self in all beings, and all beings in the Self.  (50)

It is, indeed, strange that one abiding in the supreme, transcendent non-duality, and intent on liberation, should be subject to lust, and weakened by amorous activities.  (51)

It is a strange fact of this world that a man physically weak, and obviously at the end of his life, should lust for sensual pleasure even after being aware that lust is an enemy of knowledge.  (52)

It is strange that one who is supposed to have developed dispassion towards this world, and the next, who is supposed to be able to discriminate between the intransient and the transient, and is in search of emancipation, should yet fear the dissolution of the body.  (53)

Whether he is feted and feasted, or pestered and annoyed, the serene one, with the perception of the Self, is neither gratified or upset.  (54)

The wise one witnesses the actions of his own body as if he is witnessing those of another body.  How then can he be affected by praise or blame?  (55)

How can the serene one, knowing that the phenomenal universe is mere illusion, and being without any curiosity regarding it, be affected by any fear, even with the approach of death?  (56)

With whom can we compare the most superior being, abiding in Consciousness, perfectly content, and not desirous of anything, even liberation?  (57)

Why should the serene one, who is aware of the emptiness of all phenomenal objects, have any preference for things as being acceptable or unacceptable?  (58)

He who has ceased to conceptualize, and is, therefore, free from attachment to sense objects, beyond the interrelated pairs of opposites, and free from volition, accepts with equanimity whatever comes his way in the normal course.  (59)

Says Janaka:

O, Hunta, the man of understanding, knowing his true nature, who takes part in the game of living, can never be compared with the beasts who carry burdens in life.  (60)

Abiding in that state which Indra and the other gods hanker after pitifully, the yogi is not particularly elated.  (61)

The heart of the jnani is not touched by virtue and vice, just as the sky is not affected by smoke, even though it might appear so.  (62)

Who can prevent the Self-realized one, who has known the unicity of the unmanifest noumenon and the phenomenal manifestation, from acting as he wishes?  (63)

Of the four kinds of created beings, from Brahma to a blade of grass, it is only the wise one who is capable of renouncing both desire and aversion.  (64)

Rare is the man who knows the noumenon as one without a second, the lord of the universe.  He does what he considers worth doing, and has no fear from any quarter.  (65)

Ashtavakra responds:

Since you are pure, unattached beingness, where is the question of your renouncing anything?  All that is necessary is the disidentification with the psychosomatic apparatus, and the dissolution of the illusion of the ‘me’ into the noumenal ‘I’.  (66)

In the knowledge that the universe arises in yourself as the Consciousness, like bubbles in the ocean, enter into the state of dissolution.  (67)

In the knowledge that the appearance of the phenomenal universe is an illusion, like that of the snake in the rope, and that, although it seems real to the senses, you as the pure noumenon completely transcend it, enter into the state of dissolution.  (68)

In the knowledge that you are perfection itself, the potential fullness of plenum, the unchanged in misery and happiness, hope and despair, life and death, enter into the state of dissolution.  (69)

Janaka says:

I am limitless as the space, whereas the phenomenal world is like a pot.  This is knowledge.  There is no question, therefore, of any renouncement, or any acceptance, or any dissolution.  (70)

I am like the ocean, and the phenomenal universe is like a wave.  This is knowledge.  There is, therefore, no question of any renouncement, or any acceptance, or any dissolution.  (71)

I am like the mother-of-pearl, and the illusion of the universe is like that of the silver.  This is knowledge.  There is, therefore, no question of any renouncement, or any acceptance, or any dissolution.  (72)

I am, indeed, present in all beings, and all beings in Me.  This is knowledge.  There is, therefore, no question of any renouncement, or any acceptance, or any dissolution.  (73)

In Me, the boundless ocean, the bark of the universe gets tossed about by the winds of its own inherent nature.  I am not affected.  (74)

In Me, the limitless ocean, let the waves of the universe arise, and then disappear according to their inherent nature.  I experience neither any expansion, nor any contraction.  (75)

In Me, the limitless ocean, exists the illusion of the universe.  Being formless, I am supremely tranquil.  In this do I abide.  (76)

The subjective Self is not in the object, nor is the object in the Subjective Self, which is infinite, and without any taint of any kind.  It is free from attachment and desire, and thus, tranquil.  In this do I abide.  (77)

Indeed, What-I-Am is pure Consciousness, and the world is like a magician’s show.  How can there be any question of rejection or acceptance for Me.  (78)

Chapter Four

Ashtavakra says:

It means bondage when the mind desires something, or grieves at something, rejects or accepts anything, feels happy or angry with anything.  (79)

It means liberation when the mind does not desire or grieve, or reject or accept, or feel happy or angry.  (80)

It is bondage when the mind is attached to any sense experience.  It is liberation when the mind is detached from all sense experiences.  (81)

When the ‘me’ is present, it is bondage; when the ‘me’ is not present, it is liberation.  Having understood this, it should be easy for you to refrain from accepting or rejecting anything.  (82)

Who is it that is concerned with the interrelated pairs of opposites, such as duties to be performed, and acts to be avoided?  When do they end, and for whom do they end?  Enquiring thus – through indifference to the world – proceed to remain without desire and volition.  (83)

Rare, indeed, my child, is that blessed person whose desire for life, enjoyment and learning, have been extinguished by merely observing the ways of the world.  (84)

The man of wisdom becomes serene through the realization that this world is transient and tainted by the triple misery, and is, therefore, without substance, contemptible, and to be discarded.  (85)

Is there any stage, or age, when the interrelated pairs of opposites do not affect people?  The one who disidentifies himself from them, and is content with whatever comes to him spontaneously, in the ordinary course, attains perfection.  (86)

Who will not attain tranquility, who, seeing the diversity of opinions among the many seers, saints and yogis, becomes totally indifferent?  (87)

Is he not the true guru, who, having apperceived his true nature as pure Consciousness, through indifference, equanimity, and through dialectical reasoning, has saved himself from the metempsychosis of samsara?  (88)

The moment you perceive the different phenomena in the universe as they truly are, that is to say, different patterns and combinations of the same five basic elements, you will at once be free from bondage, and you will be able to abide in your true Self.  (89)

Intentions are the root of samsara.  Therefore, the abandoning of intention and volition means dispassion with the world, and then you can live anywhere.  (90)

Forsake desire, which is the enemy; material prosperity, which leads to much mischief; and also the performance of good deeds with the aim of achieving something, which is the cause of these two.  Cultivate indifference to everything.  (91)

Regard friends, lands, wealth, houses, wives, gifts, and other such items of good fortune, as a dream or juggler’s show lasting but a short time.  (92)

Know that wherever there is desire, there is samsara.  With sincere, intense dispassion, go beyond desire, and thus be happy.  (93)

It is in desire that bondage exists, and liberation is considered to be in the destruction of desire.  Only through non-attachment to the phenomenal world does one attain the perennial joy of the realization of Self.  (94)

You are the pure Consciousness.  The phenomenal universe is inert and illusory.  Ignorance as such, too, does not exist.  Why, therefore, your quest for knowledge?  (95)

Kingdoms, sons, wives, bodies, and sensual pleasures have been lost to you birth after birth, even though you were attached to them.  (96)

Enough, therefore, of prosperity, desires and good deeds.  The mind does not find any repose in the dreary wilderness of samsara.  (97)

For how many lives have you not done hard, painful labors of body, mind and speech?  At least now, desist.  (98)

In the conviction that continuous change and ultimate destruction, after a certain duration, is the very nature of all phenomenon, the man of wisdom remains unperturbed, free from misery, and relaxed in his attitude.  (99)

In the conviction that the phenomenal manifestation has no nature other than the noumenon, which is immanent in all phenomena, the man of wisdom remains contented and relaxed with all desires, completely pacified and unattached to anything whatever.  (100)

In the conviction that adversity and prosperity come in their turn as effects of past actions, as causality, the man of wisdom, contented, with his senses in passive restraint, wants nothing and grieves for nothing.  (101)

In the conviction that happiness and misery, birth and death, are parts of the natural process of causality, the man of wisdom, without any need to accomplish anything, is free from anxiety, and does not identify himself with anything he happens to be doing.  (102)

In the conviction that it is anxiety, and nothing else, that is the root cause of misery in this world, the man of wisdom, with his desire annihilated, remains free from anxiety, happy and contented.  (103)

In the conviction ‘I am not the body, nor is the body mine – I am pure Consciousness’, the man of wisdom is indifferent to what has been achieved, and what remains to be achieved, and lives in a natural state of non-volition, which is akin to the noumenal state.  (104)

In the conviction ‘I am immanent in all phenomena, from Brahma to a blade of grass’, the man of wisdom is free from any conceptualizing or objectivizing, indifferent to what has been attained or not attained, and remains contented and at peace.  (105)

In the conviction that this manifested universe, wondrous though it be in the variety and diversity of its phenomena, is truly illusory, the man of wisdom, without any desires, identified with the pure Consciousness, remains in noumenal peace.  (106)

Chapter Five

Janaka says:

I became indifferent to and detached from first physical action, then small talk, and finally conceptualizing itself, and so I abide in my natural state.   (107)

Without any attachment to words and sense objects, and as the Self is not an object of perception, my mind has been freed from distraction, and become one-pointed.  And so do I abide in my natural state.  (108)

Having realized that efforts such as meditation are prescribed only for those whose mind is distracted, I abide in my natural state.  (109)

O Brahman, I have seen through the unreality of the interrelated opposites like pleasure and pain, the acceptable and the unacceptable, and so I abide in my natural state.  (110)

Having found that limiting myself to the duties of the particular life stage, and observing the prescribed self-disciplines, et cetera, are distractions, I abide in my natural state.  (111)

Having fully realized that deliberately abstaining from action is as much the outcome of ignorance as the volitional action, I abide.  (112)

Thinking on the Unthinkable means another aspect of conceptualizing and objectivizing.  Having realized this, I abide in my natural state.  (113)

Blessed is the man who has accomplished this.  Blessed is he, indeed, whose very nature is this.  (114)

The tranquility that is the result of the conviction that the entire manifestation is a phenomenal illusion, is rare even for one who possess only a loin-cloth.  Therefore, giving up the very concept of renunciation and acceptance, I remain contented in my natural state.  (115)

There is weariness of the body here, the fatigue of the tongue there, and distress of the mind elsewhere.  Therefore, detached from all action and effort, I remain happily in my natural state.  (116)

Clearly understanding that nothing is actually ‘done’ in Reality, I remain established in my natural state, witnessing whatever happens to be done.  (117)

The spiritual seekers are involved in action or inaction because they are still identified with the body.  Not being concerned with either identity or non-identity, I live happily in my natural state.  (118)

No consequences – good or evil – concern me whether in movement or rest.  Therefore, I am content in my natural state whether the body-mind apparatus is stationary, in movement, or asleep.  (119)

I do not lose anything by relaxing, nor do I gain anything by striving.  Therefore, transcending all concepts of loss or gain, I remain happily in my natural state.  (120)

Having repeatedly observed the inconstancy of the various aspects of pleasure in varying circumstances, I am indifferent to all experience, and remain happily in my natural state.  (121)

He whose worldly recollections have been extinguished, who is in reality, naturally vacant-minded, whose senses respond to their objects without any apparent volition, goes through life as if he were asleep.  (122)

When once my desires have melted away, where is the question of any riches, or friends, or thieves, in the form of sense-objects?  Where, indeed, is the question of scriptures, and even knowledge?  (123)

As I have realized my identity with the supreme absolute, the witness, there is complete indifference both to bondage and liberation, and I feel no concern even for enlightenment.  (124)

The extraordinary condition of one who is devoid of all possible doubts, and goes about as if unaware of his surroundings, uninhibitedly, can be understood only by those who are like him.  (125)

Chapter Six

Ashtavakra said:

The person with a keen intellect becomes enlightened even when the instruction is imparted casually, whereas without it, the immature seeker continues to remain confused even after a lifetime of seeking.  (126)

Absence of attachment to sense-objects is liberation; passion for sense-objects is bondage.  Understand is this fact, and then do as you please.  (127)

Apperception of this Truth seems to render an eloquent, wise and active person mute, dull and inactive.  Knowledge of Truth does not therefore appear attractive to those who still want to enjoy the pleasures of this world.  (128)

You are not the body, nor does the body belong to you.  You are neither the doer nor the experiencer.  You are Consciousness itself, the eternal, impersonal witness.  Live happily.  (129)

Passion and aversion are attributes of the mind, and you are not the mind.  You are Consciousness itself, free of all conflict, changeless.  Live happily.  (130)

Realizing the Self in all, and all in the Self, free from the sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, be happy.  (131)

O, you, pure Consciousness, you are, indeed, That in which the phenomenal universe arises like waves on the ocean.  Be free from the affliction of the mind.  (132)

Have faith, my son, have faith.  Let there be no confusion or delusion about this.  You are Knowledge itself, you are the Lord, you are Consciousness, prior to all manifestation.  (133)

The body is composed of the five elements; it comes into existence, stays for a while, and then departs.  The Self neither comes nor goes.  Where is the sense in mourning the loss of the body?  (134)

Whether the body lasts till the end of an eon, or it goes this moment, what difference could it make to you who are pure Consciousness?  (135)

In you, who are the infinite ocean, let the awareness of phenomena appear and disappear according to their nature.  It can mean no gain or loss to you.  (136)

O, my son!  You are the very Consciousness within which arises this phenomenal universe that is not separate from what you are.  How can there be a question of anything being acceptable or unacceptable?  (137)

For you who are the one immutable, serene, taintless, pure Consciousness, how can there be any question of birth or action, or even the concept of the ego?  (138)

Chapter Seven

Ashtavakra said:

Whatever you perceive is your own reflection.  Can the different ornaments like bangles, amulets or anklets exist otherwise than as gold?  (139)

Give up all distinctions such as ‘I am this’ and ‘I am not this’.  Have the conviction that all there is, is Consciousness.  Free from all concepts, be happy.  (140)

It is only through ignorance that the universe appears to exist.  Other than you as Consciousness, or Reality, nothing exists.  Other than you, there is neither any individual self, nor any transcendental self.  (141)

One who understands with conviction that the universe is nothing but an illusion, becomes free from desire.  With the conviction that nothing exists other than Consciousness, there arises peace and serenity.  (142)

Be convinced that this apparent ocean of the manifested universe is in reality nothing but Consciousness.  You are truly not concerned either with bondage, or with liberation.  Live freely and happily.  (143)

O, pure Consciousness that you are!  Do not concern yourself with concepts of affirmations and negations.  Abide in the silence of the eternal bliss that you are, and live happily.  (144)

Give up conceptualizing altogether.  Have no beliefs or concepts of any kind.  You are the ever-free Consciousness.  How can any thinking help you in any way?  (145)

You may listen to diverse scriptures, or even give learned discourses on them, but abidance in the Self cannot happen unless all that is forgotten.  (146)

You may keep yourself occupied in work, or enjoy the pleasures of the world, or indulge in meditation, and yet you will find that there is an inner urge towards that primal state which is prior to all phenomenality, in which all desire for phenomenal objects is extinguished.  (147)

All keep exerting themselves, and yet find themselves unhappy.  They do not realize that it is this very volitional effort that brings about unhappiness.  It is only through this understanding that the blessed one reaches awakening.  (148)

Happiness belongs to none but that master-idler, to whom even the natural act of opening and closing of the eyes seems an affliction.  (149)

When the mind is free from pairs of opposites like ‘this is done but that is not yet done’, it acquires an indifference alike to righteousness, wealth, desire for sensual pleasure, as well as liberation.  (150)

One who has an aversion for sense objects is considered a renunciate, and one who covets them is considered sensual.  But one who neither rejects nor covets is unconcerned with them.  (151)

Desire is at the root of ignorance, and so long as desire persists, the sense of the acceptable and the unacceptable, which is the branch and the sprout of the tree of samsara, must necessarily continue.  (152)

Activity begets attachment, abstention from activity generates aversion.  Rid of the bondage of opposites, the wise man established in the Self, lives like a child.  (153)

One who is attached to samsara wants to renounce it in order to free himself from misery.  But one who is not attached continues to remain in samsara, and yet live happily.  (154)

He who seeks enlightenment as an individual seeker, and still is identified with the body, is neither a jnani nor a yogi, and suffers misery.  (155)

Unless everything is totally forgotten, you cannot be established in the Self, even if Shiva, Vishnu or Brahma be your preceptor.  (156)