The Ashtavakra Gita, (likely composed after the Bhagavad Gita but before the start of the common era) or The Ashtavakra Samhita as it’s sometimes called, is a short treatise on Advaita Vedanta, ascribed to the great sage Ashtavakra. A text most Monistic in temperament. It is written in dialogue form between King Janaka, the father of Sita, and his guru, Ashtavakra. Some scholars assert that this dialogue format is just a literary device; be that as it may, most works of this genre utilize such an approach as it’s clearly a meeting between master and disciple, with the emphasis here on the singular device of Ashtavakra’s wonderful mystical expressions.
The sage Ashtavakra was so called because he had eight curvatures or deformities in his body:
There are differing accounts concerning the deformities. One legend has it that when Ashtavakra was in his mother’s womb, his father used to recite the Vedas every day, and Ashtavakra used to hear them so recited. The father, though a devout and pious man, was not a very scholarly man and thus used to commit a number of mistakes in reciting the Vedas; and Ashtavakra, already highly mature spiritually, could not bear to hear the Vedas so badly recited with the result that he could not help squirming in his mother’s womb and thereby becoming deformed in eight places.
There is another legend in the Mahabharata that Ashtavakra’s father named, Kahor, used to recite the Vedas to his wife Sujata when their child was in Sujata’s womb. The child, one day, suddenly cried out “Through your grace, my dear father, I have learnt all the Vedas, but it is a pity that you commit several mistakes in your pronunciation.” Kahor, a great scholar (according to this version) and renowned for his learning, could not bear this insult from his unborn child, and cursed him that he would be born with eight curves in his body, and thus was born Ashtavakra, “eight-curved”. (Ramesh S. Balsekar, The Essence of The Ashtavakra Gita)
Some scholars assert that these “eight deformities” are in reference to the eightfold path of Yoga, but it does appear that some type of deformity was present in Ashtavakra’s case—mostly due to the sense and realization that no abnormality of mind or spirit is strong enough to detract one from awakening to Self-realization, the very heart of Enlightenment itself. Others claim that the Real Enlightened Master was an anonymous one, who only used the person of Ashtavakra as a representation of a number of tales in classical Indian Literature. Once again, the emphasis here is not on devices but that the Real and True Master who speaks behind all these forms of reverent texts is the Unborn Spirit—yea, something that is so Self-evident throughout our many blog series. We are merely the vehicles that are inspired to transpose the transmission of the Primordial Ones—the Tathagatas of our souls.
The very core behind this present teaching is the following from Ashtavakra:
“If you detach yourself from the identification with the [skandhic] body and remain relaxed in and as [Primordial] Consciousness, you will, this very moment, be happy, at peace, free from bondage.”
This is so similar to a Ch’an master delivering the blow of satori. One’s True Nature is Pure Awareness, devoid of adventitious defilements. The Self alone is to be realized:
The Self alone is real and all not-Self is appearance. The false identification of the Self with the not-Self is the cause of bondage. Bondage is thus due to ignorance of the real nature of the Self and freedom is attained as soon as the ignorance disappears on the dawn of self-realization. The disappearance of ignorance automatically entails the disappearance of the not-self, which is its product. The existence of an other is the cause of all our worry and unhappiness (emphasis mine). When the Self is realized as the only reality, difference and distinction vanish like the mist before the sun and freedom is attained…So long as the mind sees another self, there is bondage. (Swami Nityaswarupananda, Ashtavakra Samhita)
As is often the case here at Unborn Mind Zen, this rendition of the teachings will be written in Light of the Unborn. Ours is a singular spiritual convention, dating back to the earliest adepts of the Lanka, auspiciously rendered and inspired by the unparalleled aid of the Tathagatas, or the Primordial Mentors.
Protinus te videre!