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Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Ashtavakra Gita-translated by Thomas Byrom

1 The Self

O Master,
Tell me how to find
Detachment, wisdom, and freedom!

If you wish to be free,
Shun the poison of the senses.

Seek the nectar of truth,
Of love and forgiveness,
Simplicity and happiness.

Earth, fire and water,
The wind and the sky -
You are none of these.

If you wish to be free,
Know you are the Self,
The witness of all these,
The heart of awareness.

Set your body aside.
Sit in your own awareness.

You will at once be happy,
Forever still,
Forever free.

You have no caste.
No duties bind you.

Formless and free,
Beyond the reach of the senses,
The witness of all things.

So be happy!

Right or wrong,
Joy and sorrow,
These are of the mind only.
They are not yours.

It is not really you

Who acts or enjoys.

You are everywhere,
Forever free.

Forever and truly free,
The single witness of all things.

But if you see yourself as separate,
Then you are bound.

"I do this. I do that."
The big black snake of selfishness
Has bitten you!

"I do nothing."
This is the nectar of faith,
So drink and be happy!

Know you are one,
Pure awareness.

With the fire of this conviction,
Burn down the forest of ignorance.

Free yourself from sorrow,
And be happy.

Be happy!
For you are joy, unbounded joy.

You are awareness itself.

Just as a coil of rope
Is mistaken for a snake,
So you are mistaken for the world.

If you think you are free,
You are free.

If you think you are bound,
You are bound.

For the saying is true:

You are what you think.

The Self looks like the world.
But this is just an illusion.

The Self is everywhere.


The witness of all things,
Without action, clinging or desire.

Meditate on the Self.
One without two,
Exalted awareness.

Give up the illusion
Of the separate self.

Give up the feeling,
Within or without,
That you are this or that.

My child,
Because you think you are the body,
For a long time you have been bound.

Know you are pure awareness.

With this knowledge as your sword
Cut through your chains.

And be happy!

For you are already free,
Without action or flaw,
Luminous and bright.

You are bound

Only by the habit of meditation.

Your nature is pure awareness.

You are flowing in all things,
And all things are flowing in you.

But beware
The narrowness of the mind!

You are always the same,
Unfathomable awareness,
Limitless and free,
Serene and unperturbed.

Desire only your own awareness.

Whatever takes form is false.
Only the formless endures.

When you understand
The truth of this teaching,
You will not be born again.

For God is infinite,
Within the body and without,
Like a mirror,
And the image in a mirror.

As the air is everywhere,
Flowing around a pot
And filling it,
So God is everywhere,
Filling all things
And flowing through them forever.

2 Awareness

I lived bewildered,
In illusion.

But now I am awake,
Flawless and serene,
Beyond the world.

From my light
The body and the world arise.

So all things are mine,
Or nothing is.

Now I have given up
The body and the world,
I have a special gift.

I see the infinite Self.

As a wave,
Seething and foaming,
Is only water

So all creation,
Streaming out of the Self,
Is only the Self.

Consider a piece of cloth.
It is only threads!

So all creation,
When you look closely,
Is only the Self.

Like the sugar
In the juice of the sugarcane,
I am the sweetness
In everything I have made.

When the Self is unknown
The world arises,
Not when it is known.

But you mistake

The rope for the snake.

When you see the rope,
The snake vanishes.

My nature is light,
Nothing but light.

When the world arises
I alone am shining.

When the world arises in me,
It is just an illusion:
Water shimmering in the sun,
A vein of silver in mother-of-pearl,
A serpent in a strand of rope.

From me the world streams out
And in me it dissolves,
As a bracelet melts into gold,
A pot crumbles into clay,
A wave subsides into water.

I adore myself.
How wonderful I am!

I can never die.

The whole world may perish,
From Brahma to a blade of grass,
But I am still here.

Indeed how wonderful!
I adore myself.

For I have taken form
But I am still one.

Neither coming or going,
Yet I am still everywhere.

How wonderful,
And how great my powers!

For I am without form,
Yet till the end of time
I uphold the universe.


For nothing is mine,
Yet it is all mine,
Whatever is thought or spoken.

I am not the knower,
Nor the known,
Nor the knowing.

These three are not real.
They only seem to be
When I am not known.

For I am flawless.

Two from one!
This is the root of suffering.

Only perceive
That I am one without two,
Pure awareness, pure joy,
And all the world is false.

There is no other remedy!

Through ignorance
I once imagined I was bound.

But I am pure awareness.

I live beyond all distinctions,
In unbroken meditation.

I am neither bound nor free.

An end to illusion!

It is all groundless.

For the whole of creation,
Though it rests in me,
Is without foundation.

The body is nothing.
The world is nothing.

When you understand this fully,
How can they be invented?

For the Self is pure awareness,
Nothing less.

The body is false,
And so are its fears,
Heaven and hell, freedom and bondage.

It is all invention.

What can they matter to me?

I am awareness itself.

I see only one.

Many men,
One wilderness.

Then to what may I cling?

I am not the body.
Nor is the body mine.

I am not separate.

I am awareness itself,
Bound only by my thirst for life.

I am the infinite ocean.

When thoughts spring up,

The wind freshens, and like waves
A thousand worlds arise.

But when the wind falls,
The trader sinks with his ship.

On the boundless ocean of my being
He founders,
And all the worlds with him.

But O how wonderful!

I am the unbounded deep
In whom all living things
Naturally arise,
Rush against each other playfully,
And then subside.

3 Wisdom

You know the Self,
By nature one
Without end.

You know the Self,
And you are serene.

How can you still desire riches?

When from ignorance
You see silver in mother-of-pearl,
Greed arises.

From ignorance of the Self
Desire arises
For the world where the senses whirl.

Knowing yourself as That
In which the worlds rise and fall
Like waves in the ocean,
Why do you run about so wretchedly?

For have you not heard?

You are pure awareness,
And your beauty is infinite!

So why let lust mislead you?

The man who is wise
Knows himself in all things
And all things in himself.

Yet how strange!
He still says, "This is mine."

Determined to be free,
He abides in the oneness
Beyond all things.

Yet how strange!
Indulging in passion, he weakens,
And lust overwhelms him.

Feeble with age,
Still he is filled with desire,
When without doubt he knows
That lust is the enemy of awareness.

Indeed how strange!

He longs to be free. . .

He has no care for this world
Or the next,
And he knows what is passing
Or forever.

And yet how strange!
He is still afraid of freedom.

But he who is truly wise
Always sees the absolute Self.

Celebrated, he is not delighted.
Spurned, he is not angry.

Pure of heart,
He watches his own actions
As if they were another's.

How can praise or blame disturb him?

With clear and steady insight
He sees this world is a mirage,
And he no longer wonders about it.

How can he fear the approach of death?

Pure of heart,
He desires nothing,
Even in despair.

He is content
In the knowledge of the Self.

With whom may I compare him?

With clear and steady insight
He knows that whatever he sees
Is by its very nature nothing.

How can he prefer one thing to another?

He is beyond all duality.

Free from desire,
He has driven from his mind
All longing for the world.

Come what may,
Joy or sorrow,
Nothing moves him.

4 The True Seeker

The wise man knows the Self,
And he plays the game of life.

But the fool lives in the world
Like a beast of burden.

The true seeker feels no elation
Even in that exalted state
Which Indra and all the gods
Unhappily long for.

He understands the nature of things.

His heart is not smudged
By right or wrong,
As the sky is not smudged by smoke.

He is pure of heart,
He knows the whole world is only the Self.

So who can stop him
From doing as he wishes?

Of the four kinds of being,
From Brahma to a blade of grass,
Only the wise man is strong enough
To give up desire and aversion.

How rare he is!

Knowing he is the Self,
He acts accordingly
And is never fearful.

For he knows he is the Self,
One without two,
The Lord of all creation.

5 Dissolving

You are pure.

Nothing touches you.
What is there to renounce?

Let it all go,
The body and the mind.

Let yourself dissolve.

Like bubbles in the sea,
All the worlds arise in you.

Know you are the Self.
Know you are one.

Let yourself dissolve.

You see the world.
But like the snake in the rope,
It is not really there.

You are pure.

Let yourself dissolve.

You are one and the same
In joy and sorrow,
Hope and despair,
Life and death.

You are already fulfilled.

Let yourself dissolve.

6 Knowledge

I am boundless space.
The world is a clay pot.

This is the truth.

There is nothing to accept,
Nothing to reject,
Nothing to dissolve.

I am the ocean.
All the worlds are like waves.

This is the truth.

Nothing to hold on to,
Nothing to let go of,
Nothing to dissolve.

I am the mother-of-pearl.
The world is a vein of silver,
An illusion!

This is the truth.

Nothing to grasp,
Nothing to spurn,
Nothing to dissolve.

I am in all beings.
All beings are in me.

This is the whole truth.

Nothing to embrace,
Nothing to relinquish,
Nothing to dissolve.

7 The Boundless Ocean

I am the boundless ocean.

This way and that,
The wind, blowing where it will,
Drives the ship of the world.

But I am not shaken.

I am the unbounded deep
In whom the waves of all the worlds
Naturally rise and fall.

But I do not rise or fall.

I am the infinite deep
In whom all the worlds
Appear to rise.

Beyond all form,
Forever still.

Even so am I.

I am not in the world.
The world is not in me.

I am pure.
I am unbounded.

Free from attachment,
Free from desire,

Even so am I.

O how wonderful!

I am awareness itself,
No less.

The world is a magic show!

But in me
There is nothing to embrace,
And nothing to turn away.

8 The Mind

The mind desires this,
And grieves for that.
It embraces one thing,
And spurns another.

Now it feels anger,
Now happiness.

In this way you are bound.

But when the mind desires nothing
And grieves for nothing,
When it is without joy or anger
And, grasping nothing,
Turns nothing away. . .

Then you are free.

When the mind is attracted
To anything it senses,
You are bound.

When there is no attraction,
You are free.

Where there is no I,
You are free.

Where there is I,
You are bound.

Consider this.

It is easy.

Embrace nothing,
Turn nothing away.

9 Dispassion

Seeing to this,
Neglecting that,
Setting one thing against another. . .

Who is free of such cares?
When will they ever end?


Without passion,
With dispassion,
Let go.

My child,
Rare is he, and blessed,
Who observes the ways of men
And gives up the desire
For pleasure and knowledge,
For life itself.

Nothing lasts.
Nothing is real.

It is all suffering,
Threefold affliction!
It is all beneath contempt.

Know this.
Give it up.
Be still.

When will men ever stop
Setting one thing against another?

Let go of all contraries.
Whatever comes, be happy
And so fulfill yourself.

Masters, saints, seekers:
They all say different things.

Whoever knows this,
With dispassion becomes quiet.

The true master considers well.
With dispassion
He sees all things are the same.

He comes to understand
The nature of things,
The essence of awareness.

He will not be born again.

In the shifting elements
See only their pure form.

Rest in your own nature.
Set yourself free.

The world is just a set of false impressions.
Give them up.

Give up the illusion.
Give up the world.

And live freely.

10 Desire

Striving and craving,
For pleasure or prosperity,
These are your enemies,
Springing up to destroy you
From the presumptions of virtue.

Let them all go.
Hold on to nothing.

Every good fortune,
Wives, friends, houses, lands,
All these gifts and riches. . .

They are a dream,
A juggling act,
A traveling show!

A few days, and they are gone.


Wherever there is desire,
There is the world.

With resolute dispassion
Free yourself from desire,
And find happiness.

Desire binds you,
Nothing else.
Destroy it, and you are free.

Turn from the world.
Fulfill yourself,
And find lasting happiness.

You are one.
You are pure awareness.

The world is not real.
It is cold and lifeless.

Nor is ignorance real.
So what can you wish to know?

Life after life you indulged
In different forms,
Different pleasures,
Sons and kingdoms and wives.

Only to lose them all. . .

Enough of the pursuit of pleasure,
Enough of wealth and righteous deeds!

In the dark forest of the world
What peace of mind can they bring you?

How you have toiled,
Life after life,
Pressing into painful labor
Your body and your mind and your words.

It is time to stop.


11 Stillness

All things arise,
Suffer change,
And pass away.

This is their nature.

When you know this,
Nothing perturbs you,
Nothing hurts you.

You become still.

It is easy.

God made all things.
There is only God.

When you know this,
Desire melts away.

Clinging to nothing,
You become still.

Sooner or later,
Fortune or misfortune
May befall you.

When you know this,
You desire nothing,
You grieve for nothing.

Subduing the senses,
You are happy.

Whatever you do
Brings joy or sorrow,
Life or death.

When you know this,
You may act freely,
Without attachment.

For what is there to accomplish?

All sorrow comes from fear.
From nothing else.

When you know this,
You become free of it,
And desire melts away.

You become happy
And still.

"I am not the body,
Nor is the body mine.
I am awareness itself"

When you know this,
You have no thought
For what you have done
Or left undone.

You become one,
Perfect and indivisible.

"I am in all things,
From Brahma to a blade of grass."

When you know this,
You have no thought
For success or failure
Or the mind's inconstancy.

You are pure.
You are still.

The world with all its wonders
Is nothing.

When you know this,
Desire melts away.

For you are awareness itself.

When you know in your heart
That there is nothing,
You are still.

12 Fulfillment

First I gave up action,
Then idle words,
And lastly thought itself.

Now I am here.

Ridding my mind of distraction,
I shut out sound and all the senses,
And I am here.

Meditation is needed
Only when the mind is distracted
By false imagining.

Knowing this,
I am here.

Without joy or sorrow,
Grasping nothing, spurning nothing,
O Master, I am here.

What do I care
If I observe or neglect
The four stages of life?

Controlling the mind,
These are mere distractions!

Now I am here.

Doing, or not doing,
Both come from not knowing.

Knowing this fully,
I am here.

Of what is beyond thinking
Is still thinking.

I gave up thinking,
And I am here.

Whoever fulfills this
Fulfills his own nature
And is indeed fulfilled.

13 Happiness

Even if you have nothing,
It is hard to find that contentment
Which comes from renunciation.

I accept nothing.
I reject nothing.

And I am happy.

The body trembles,
The tongue falters,
The mind is weary.

Forsaking them all,
I pursue my purpose happily.

Knowing I do nothing,
I do whatever comes my way,
And I am happy.

Bound to his body,
The seeker insists on striving
Or on sitting still.

But I no longer suppose
The body is mine,
Or is not mine.

And I am happy.

Sleeping, sitting, walking,
Nothing good or bad befalls me.

I sleep, I sit, I walk,
And I am happy.

Struggling or at rest,
Nothing is won or lost.

I have forsaken the joy of winning
And the sorrow of losing.

And I am happy.

For pleasures come and go.
How often I have watched their inconstancy!

But I have forsaken good and bad,
And now I am happy.

14 The Fool

By nature my mind is empty.
Even in sleep, I am awake.
I think of things without thinking.

All my impressions of the world
Have dissolved.

My desires have melted away.

So what do I care for money
Or the thieving senses,
For friends or knowledge or holy books?

What are they to me?

What do I care for freedom?

For I have known God,
The infinite Self,
The witness of all things.

Without, a fool.
Within, free of thought.

I do as I please,
And only those like me
Understand my ways.

15 The Clear Space of Awareness

The man who is pure of heart
Is bound to fulfill himself
In whatever way he is taught.

A worldly man seeks all his life,
But is still bewildered.

Detached from the senses,
You are free.

Attached, you are bound.

When this is understood,
You may live as you please.

When this is understood,
The man who is bright and busy
And full of fine words
Falls silent.

He does nothing.
He is still.

No wonder
Those who wish to enjoy the world
Shun this understanding!

You are not your body.
Your body is not you.

You are not the doer.
You are not the enjoyer.

You are pure awareness,
The witness of all things.

You are without expectation,

Wherever you go,
Be happy!

Desire and aversion are of the mind.
The mind is never yours.
You are free of its turmoil.

You are awareness itself,
Never changing.

Wherever you go,
Be happy.

For see!
The Self is in all beings,
And all beings are in the Self.

Know you are free,
Free of "I,"
Free of "mine."

Be happy.

In you the worlds arise
Like waves in the sea.

It is true!
You are awareness itself.

So free yourself
From the fever of the world.

Have faith, my Child, have faith.

Do not be bewildered.

For you are beyond all things,
The heart of all knowing.

You are the Self.
You are God.

The body is confined
By its natural properties.

It comes,
It lingers awhile,
It goes.

But the Self neither comes nor goes.
So why grieve for the body?

If the body lasted till the end of time,
Or vanished today,
What would you win or lose?

You are pure awareness.

You are the endless sea
In whom all the worlds like waves
Naturally rise and fall.

You have nothing to win,
Nothing to lose.

You are pure awareness,
Nothing less.

You and the world are one.

So who are you to think
You can hold on to it,
Or let it go?

How could you!

You are the clear space of awareness,
Pure and still,
In whom there is no birth,
No activity,
No "I."

You are one and the same.
You cannot change or die.

You are in whatever you see.
You alone.

Just as bracelets and bangles
And dancing anklets
Are all of the same gold.

"I am not this."
"I am He."
Give up such distinctions.

Know that everything is the Self.
Rid yourself of all purpose.

And be happy.

The world only arises from ignorance.
You alone are real.

There is no one,
Not even God,
Separate from yourself.

You are pure awareness.

The world is an illusion,
Nothing more.

When you understand this fully,
Desire falls away.

You find peace.

For indeed!
There is nothing.

In the ocean of being
There is only one.

There was and there will be
Only one.

You are already fulfilled.
How can you be bound or free?

Wherever you go,
Be happy.

Never upset your mind
With yes and no.

Be quiet.
You are awareness itself.

Live in the happiness
Of your own nature,
Which is happiness itself.

What is the use of thinking?

Once and for all,
Give up meditation.
Hold nothing in your mind.

You are the Self,
And you are free.

16 Forget Everything

My child,
You may read or discuss scripture
As much as you like.

But until you forget everything,
You will never live in your heart.
You are wise.
You play and work and meditate.

But still your mind desires
That which is beyond everything,
Where all desires vanish.

Striving is the root of sorrow.

But who understands this?

Only when you are blessed
With the understanding of this teaching
Will you find freedom.

Who is lazier than the master?
He has trouble even blinking!

But only he is happy.
No one else!

Seeing to this,
Neglecting that. . .

But when the mind stops setting
One thing against another,
It no longer craves pleasure.

It no longer cares for wealth
Or religious duties or salvation.

Craving the pleasures of the senses,
You suffer attachment.

Disdaining them,
You learn detachment.

But if you desire nothing,
And disdain nothing,
Neither attachment nor detachment bind you.

When you live without discrimination,
Desire arises.

When desire persists,
Feelings of preference arise,
Of liking and disliking.

They are the root and branches of the world.

From activity, desire.
From renunciation, aversion.

But the man of wisdom is a child.
He never sets one thing against another.

It is true!
He is a child.

If you desire the world,
You may try to renounce it
In order to escape sorrow.

Instead, renounce desire!
Then you will be free of sorrow,
And the world will not trouble you.

If you desire liberation,
But you still say "mine,"
If you feel you are the body,
You are not a wise man or seeker.