These five quotes of Astavakra have powerful pointers; For more quotes of Ashtavakra, visit Gems Of Wisdom From Ashtavakra Gita
These five quotes of Astavakra have powerful pointers; For more quotes of Ashtavakra, visit Gems Of Wisdom From Ashtavakra Gita
(This post has also been posted as an answer on Quora)
The word God is being used in two different meanings.
1. The word ‘God’, as it is possibly used by a random guy in the world of over 7 billion people, means the creator, ruler and the moral authority of the universe.
A random guy usually understands God as an invisible person who has a mind, emotions, intentions and a personality that is strict, altruistic, intelligent, loving, judgemental and sometimes even cruel.
He is someone who is worshiped with or without form and who is also feared. As for as utility is concerned, such a random man uses this God to be hopeful of his wishes and even curses as well. Sometimes he also uses God even to justify his cruel actions.. That has caused a lot of violence in the name of religion over the last two or three millennia.
The tendency to judge others usually occurs to a person because of the unconscious intention to show himself in a positive light, in terms of what is good and bad. By making a judgment about others either mentally or physically and by trying to see how bad they are, he unconsciously convinces himself on how good he is.
This tendency can be observed more in people who are brought up in religious families. Don’t think about spirituality here. I am talking about an orthodox Hindu, Muslim or Christian who believes that there is a personal superhuman God who is the moral authority of the world and who punishes the evil doers. He is conditioned more to think in terms of what is good and bad, what is evil and sin etc.
When he believes that his neighbor is selfish, arrogant, rude and probably even bad, he convinces himself on how bad that neighbor is; he also gets relieved in thinking that God will teach his neighbor a lesson one day.
The neighbor is always a problem. It is not only the case with your next door neighbor, it could be someone who is sitting next to you in school or work, the people in neighboring town, state, country etc. Everyone wants to see himself better than other in some way. The worst problems happen when he wants to see himself better than others in how good he is, how pure his heart is, how devotional and dear to God he is etc. So, this is really not about God at all. God is just an excuse to bring some solace on his wishes and curses.
If for any reason he is not able to kill someone who he thinks as bad, rude or displeasing, he can find some temporary relief by thinking how much God would want to punish him. And as soon as he notices such a thought in his mind, he would probably pray to God saying “oh my God, what have I done!.. I have thought of killing that guy. It is such a bad thought and I have sinned now!. But you know how bad he is anyway (*this is the special part!). But I admit that I have sinned in my mind. Please forgive me.. I honestly ask for your forgiveness. Let everything happen according to thy will, Amen or Om Shanthi or Insha Allah or whatever”…. That’s it! He no longer has to worry about it anymore because God has forgiven him! But God is still not going to forgive that bad neighbor guy!
And this typical religious person that we are talking about is not going to forgive that bad guy either. Also, God will only forgive this typical religious person because he believes that he is the dearest child of God. As far as he is concerned, God loves him but would want to punish everybody else that he doesn’t like for whatever reason he has. And his mind can easily find biased reasons for such an aversion. Any person can easily find thousands of reason to justify his hatred towards another person, there is no question. It is love which doesn’t require any reasons.
If you think for a moment, the main teachings of many religions have been love. It is even said that Love is God. Every religious tradition probably has love as the central theme. Most of the religions portray God as Love.
I think Jesus was a wise man. When someone asked him what greatest commandments were, he did not talk about Ten Commandments.
All he said was this:
”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second commandment is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
But love is not a bargain or deal. Unfortunately, this is what we see in many people who claim to love God or human beings. Their prayers are like ‘God, please give me this, please give me that’. This is not Love. This is a business.
It is pretty much like telling your God what to do and doesn’t sound like ‘Thy will be done!”
2. But the word ‘God’ is also used in the context of spiritual enlightenment.
In this context, the word is just a synonym of Absolute reality from which people feel separated.
The apparent union that destroys the apparent separation of absolute reality is what is called by different names: Some people call it as the mystical union and some people call it as Yoga, which literally means union. Here, the God is often personified and loved but never believed or seen as a person. In other words, union with God is the same shit as spiritual enlightenment! It is the end of duality which gives complete fulfillment and peace.
But the word ‘God’ in the context of spiritual enlightenment is totally unnecessary anyway. I would rather talk about spiritual enlightenment without using the word ‘God’. You can read this answer for a detailed description of what it is: What is Spiritual Enlightenment?
(This is a repost of the answer that I wrote in Quora for the same question)
Both point to the same truth!
I have noticed that many people don’t agree when it is said both are the same, because they are only looking at both of them in philosophical level. When it comes to ultimate reality, no matter what words we use, they can be always misleading.
I am talking from my own experience. Oneness with the rest of the existence is a living reality for me. But I will back up my statements by quoting both Vedantic and Buddhist scriptures.
The main source of suffering in our lives is caused by identification. We get identified with our mind, our body, our thoughts, our emotions etc. This identification of mistaking something that is not Self as Self is termed as Avidya or ignorance. Ignorance causes us to think that there is a separate individual self which needs to be protected and enhanced.
In other words, we feel experientially that we are separate from the rest of the world. This separation causes us to crave for fulfillment. That is why Buddha said craving is the root cause of suffering. It is Avidya, the ignorance which causes craving. Buddha is talking about the immediate cause and Vedanta is talking about the original cause.
Some people will object to this by saying that Buddhism doesn’t say that there is something eternal. First of all, when you realize that time itself is an illusion, you will also realize that eternity is only an idea. Buddha was more specific and straight forward, while Vedanta is little compassionate and gives you something that your mind can grasp.
When anyone asked Buddha any metaphysical questions such as ‘Is there anything eternal’, Buddha was silent. It is called Noble Silence .He talked about the impermanence of aggregates, but what we call in Vedanta as absolute reality is not one of the aggregates. It is not anything that is objective. It cannot be put into words. But both Vedanta and Buddhism has actually hinted about this absolute reality with striking similarity.
See the below examples:
“It is this Akshara (the Imperishable), O Gargi, so the knowers of Brahman say. It is neither gross nor subtle, neither short nor long, not red, not viscid, not shadowy, not dark, not the air, not the ether, not adhesive, tasteless, odourless, without the sense of sight, without the sense of hearing, without the vital principle, mouthless, without measure, neither interior nor exterior,. It eats nothing, nobody eats it.”
– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3-8-8.
“There is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished, unevolving, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress.”
– Buddha (in Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (1))
Buddha directly talks about something that is eternal too, but he uses the word ‘unborn’:
There is, monks, an unborn— unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned
– Buddha (in Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3))
So, why did Buddha reject Vedas when Vedanta says that Vedas are the only authority?
We need to take Buddha’s time into account. Buddha lived sometime around 800 BC- 600 BC. It was during those times when many rishis were able to realize that there is something beyond the benefits that was got from mere rituals..Vedic rituals only focused on materialistic benefits that people could enjoy in three worlds. They were never about ultimate reality. That is when two great upanishads, Brihadaranyaka upanishad and Chandgoya upanishads were compiled. It must have taken a century or two; Buddha started talking to people at the same time period. So, we can safely conclude that when Buddha was alive, upanishads were not a part of Vedas.
This will raise many objections. Because, many people believe that Vedas are eternal and infallible. Even Shankara believed so. But, consider the following verses from Brihadaranyaka upanishad and the commentary from Shankara:
From chapter 6, section 4:
Verse 6: If man sees his reflection in water, he
should recite the following Mantra : ‘ (May the
gods grant) me lustre, manhood, reputation,
wealth and merits.’ She (his wife) is indeed the
goddess of beauty among women. Therefore he
should approach this handsome woman and
speak to her.
If perchance he sees his reflection in water, he
should recite the following Mantra : ‘(May the gods
grant) me lustre,’ etc. She is indeed the goddess of
beauty among women. Therefore he should approach
this handsome woman and speak to her, when she has
taken a bath after three ‘nights.
Verse 7 : If she is not willing, he should buy her
over; and if she is still unyielding, he should
strike her with a stick or with the hand and
proceed, uttering the following Mantra, ‘I take
away your reputation,’ etc. She is then actually
If she is not willing, he should buy her over,
press his wishes through ornaments etc.; and if she is
still unyielding, he should strike her with a stick or
with the hand, and announcing that he was going to
curse her and make her unfortunate, he should ·proceed,
uttering the following Mantra : ‘I take away your
reputation: etc. As a result of that curse, she comes
to be known as barren and unfortunate, and is then
The above verses show how totally male dominative the society was those days.. Even though this doesn’t have anything to do with enlightenment, this example shows how one should not take everything just because it comes from a scripture or a person who is regarded as an authority.
And I don’t think that such infallible and eternal upanishads can advice someone to beat his wife if she doesn’t agree for sex.
You may say that these were later interpolations. But if that is the case, how could we trust Vedas in the first place?
But I know that Vedic verses such as Nasadiya Suktha and almost all upanishads have immense wisdom. We have to see them as collection of various poems composed by different people, instead of seeing them as infallible and eternal scriptures. I know that it is very difficult for many Indians to accept, because we are deeply blinded by pride and confirmation bias.
So, Why did Vedanta say that Vedas are only pramana (means of knowledge)?
Let us talk about three different methods of acquiring knowledge in general. (Vedanta uses six, but let us talk about three important ones here)
In our daily life, we can get to know about many things through direct experience and inference. But we would never know the path to end the suffering unless someone tells us, simple!
So our ancient Indians selected the Upanishads as the only reliable authority to teach us the path towards liberation. It is just a standardization made by humans to avoid any conflict. And according to the social structure that prevailed those days, instead of relying any random person’s words as authority, it was reasonable to accept Upanishads as authority.
But we live in 21st century now. We are aware of things like confirmation bias and we are more keen towards human rights. While we do appreciate and show immense reverence to our ancient scriptures, it is nothing wrong in changing certain things to suit our modern society.
Also, Vedanta uses a certain teaching method called Adyaropa Apavada while Buddhism teaches directly and precisely. Vedanta is poetic where as Buddhism is empirical. Buddhism gives you the raw truth but Vedanta offers to you with added sweets and flavors. The only problem in Vedanta is that people may get stuck with the words and concepts.
You can find more details in my post here where I have included some additional points: Buddhism and Vedanta are the Same – A Detailed Comparison
If you are looking for a great spiritual authority to confirm the validity of Buddha’s message, then I will quote some of the words from Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi:
Disciple: Research on God has been going on from time immemorial. Has the final word been said?
Maharshi: (Keeps silence for some time.)
Disciple: (Puzzled) Should I consider Sri Bhagavan’s silence as the reply to my question?
Maharshi: Yes. Mouna is Isvara-svarupa.Hence the text: “The Truth of Supreme Brahman proclaimed through Silent Eloquence.”
Disciple: Buddha is said to have ignored such inquiries about God.
Maharshi: And for this reason was called a sunyavadin (nihilist). In fact Buddha concerned himself more with directing the seeker to realize Bliss here and now that with academic discussion about God, etc.
Upanishads are the basis for Indian schools of thought. Of this, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Chandogya upanishad are the oldest. These are the earliest available literature in India which teach non-duality. I have been reading these texts for the past few days and I came across this wonderful section, which is the 6th prapathaka of Chandogya Upanishad. I found it very impressive and it brought tears in my eyes as I read it. So, I am sure you will enjoy this as well.
It narrates the story, which is a conversation between sage Aruni and his son Svetaketu. It contains the famous mahavakya ‘Tat tvam asi’. It has some great pointers which are useful for the spiritual seekers. I am posting the entire 6th prapathaka here… (Translated by Swami Nikhilananda). You can find the entire text here: http://www.swamij.com/upanishad-chandogya.htm
Khanda I — The Non—Duality of the Self
2—3. Svetaketu went to his teacher’s house when he was twelve years old and studied the Vedas till he was twenty—four. Then he returned to his father, serious, considering himself well read and arrogant. His father said to him: “Svetaketu, since you are now so serious, think yourself well read and are so arrogant, have you, my dear, ever asked for that instruction by which one hears what cannot be heard, by which one perceives what cannot be perceived, by which one knows what cannot be known?” Svetaketu asked: “What is that instruction, venerable Sir?”
4—6. “Just as, my dear, by one clod of clay all that is made of clay is known, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the truth is that all is clay; “Just as, my dear, by one nugget of gold all that is made of gold is known, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the truth is that all is gold; “And just as, my dear, by one pair of nail—scissors all that is made of iron is known, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the truth is that all is iron—even so, my dear, is that instruction.”
Khanda II — Brahman: the Cause of the Universe
Khanda III — The Threefold Development
Khanda IV — The Threefold Development further explained
6—7. “Whatever, appeared red they knew to be the colour of fire; whatever appeared white they knew to be the colour of water; whatever appeared black they knew to be the colour of earth. “Whatever appeared to be unknown they knew to be the combination of these three deities (i.e. colours). Now learn from me, my dear, how these three deities, when they reach man, become each of them tripartite.
Khanda V — The Threefold Nature of Food
Khanda VI — The Physical Nature of the Mind, the Prana and Speech
Khanda VII — How the Mind consists of Food
5—6. Then his father said to him: “Just as, my dear, of a great lighted fire a single coal the size of a firefly, if left, may be made to blaze up again by adding grass to it and will thus burn much more, “Even so, my dear; of your sixteen parts only one part was left and that, when strengthened by food, blazed up. With it you now remember the Vedas. Therefore, my dear, the mind consists of food, the prana consists of water and speech consists of fire.” After that he understood what his father said, yea, he understood it.
Khanda VIII — Concerning Sleep, Hunger, Thirst and Death
Khanda IX — The Absence of Individuality in Deep Sleep
1—2. “As bees, my dear, make honey by collecting the juices of trees located at different places and reduce them to one form, “And as these juices have no discrimination so as to be able to say: ‘I am the juice of this tree,’ or ‘I am the juice of that tree’—even so, indeed, my dear, all these creatures, though they reach Pure Being, do not know that they have reached Pure Being.
Khanda X — The Absence of Particularized Consciousness in Deep Sleep
1—2. “These rivers, my dear, flow—the eastern toward the east and the western toward the west. They arise from the sea and flow into the sea. Just as these rivers, while they are in the sea, do not know: ‘I am this river’ or ‘I am that river,’ “Even so, my dear, all these creatures, even though they have come from Pure Being, do not know that they have come from Pure Being. Whatever these creatures are, here in this world—a tiger, a lion, a wolf a boar, a worm, a fly, a gnat, or a mosquito, that they become again.
Khanda XI — The Indestructibility of the Jiva
Khanda XII — The Birth of the Gross from the Subtle
Khanda XIII — The Invisibility of an Existent Object
Khanda XIV — The Means of Self—Knowledge
Khanda XV — Ultimate Liberation
Khanda XVI — Liberation for the Knower of Brahman
Ashtavakra Gita is a famous scripture of Advaita Vedanta which was written as a conversation between sage Ashtavakra and king Janaka. Ashtavakra was the grandson of vedic sage Aruni. ( Aruni was the guru of vedic sage Yajnavalkya and Yajnavalkya was believed to be the teacher of Janaka.). Sage Ashtavakra has been mentioned in both Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Exact date of composition of Ashtavakra Gita is not known. While the text is traditionally attributed to Ashtavakra himself, some scholars believe that the text was composed a little before Gaudapada’s period or after Shankara’s time.
Both Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Ramana Maharshi have quoted and appreciated Ashtavakra Gita for its deep wisdom.
Image credit – Wiki
Osho identified the similarity between Ashtavakra’s teachings and the teachings of Lao Tzu:
“Just a few days ago I was talking about Ashtavakra. Yes, he is exactly like Lao Tzu; he also praises the quality of sublime laziness. He calls it ALASI SHIROMANI. the emperor of laziness, a great king of laziness, the highest peak of laziness. But remember, inactivity plus energy, plus vitality. And not a single effort has to be made, because in the effort so much energy will be wasted that you will be less radiant. And God comes to you only when you are so vital — optimumly vital, optimum… at the peak — that you cannot be any more vital. At that peak you meet the divine. Your highest energy comes closest to God’s feet; God’s lowest energy is closest to man’s highest energy, and there is the communion.”
– Tao: The Pathless Path, Vol 1, Chapter #2
The English translation of the book is available for free here:
Here are some of the verses that I found to be very useful for seekers and deep in meaning:
1.8 The thought: “I am the doer” is the bite of a poisonous snake. To know: “I do nothing” is the wisdom of faith. Be happy.
1.13 Meditate on this: “I am Awareness alone–Unity itself.” Give up the idea that you are separate, a person, that there is within and without.
1.19 Just as a mirror exists both within and without the image reflected, the Supreme Self exists both within and without the body.
1.20 Just as the same space exists both within and without a jar, the timeless, all-pervasive One exists as Totality.
2.5 Look closely at cloth, you see only threads. Look closely at creation, you see only Self.
3.10 A great soul witnesses his body’s actions as if they were another’s. How can praise or blame disturb him?
15.6 Realize Self in All and All in Self. Be free of personal identity and the sense of “mine.” Be happy
15.11 Let the waves of the universe rise and fall as they will. You have nothing to gain or lose. You are the ocean.
16.1 You can recite and discuss scripture all you want, but until you drop everything you will never know Truth.
16.8 Indulgence creates attachment. Aversion creates abstinence. Like a child, the sage is free of both and thus lives on as a child.
16.9 One who is attached to the world thinks renouncing it will relieve his misery. One who is attached to nothing is free and does not feel miserable even in the world.
16.10 He who claims liberation as his own, as an attainment of a person, is neither enlightened nor a seeker. He suffers his own misery.
17.4 Rare in the world is one who does not relish past enjoyments, nor yearn for enjoyments to come.
17.5 Those who desire pleasure and those who desire liberation are both common in the world. Rare is the great soul who desires neither enjoyment nor liberation.
17.17 The liberated one neither avoids experience nor craves it. He enjoys what comes and what does not.
18.9 Knowing for certain that all is Self, the sage has no trace of thoughts such as “I am this” or “I am not that.”
18.37 Because he desires to know God, the ignorant man can never become That. The wise man is God because he is free of desire and knows nothing.
18.40 For he who thinks knowledge is things and ideas how can there be Self-knowledge? The wise do not see separate things– only the timeless Self.
18.42 Some believe in existence; others believe nothing exists. Rare is the one who believes nothing and is never confused.
18.43 Weak intellectuals may believe the Self is One without other. But being mired in illusion they do not actually know Self, so live out their lives in misery.
18.49 The sage does whatever appears to be done without thinking of good or bad. His actions are those of a child.
18.55 Though his servants, sons, wives, daughters, grandchildren and all his relatives ridicule and despise him, the yogi is undismayed.
18.56 Though pleased he is not pleasured; though pained he does not suffer. This wonderful state is understood only by those like him.
18.58 Even doing nothing the dull one is anxious and distracted. Even amidst great action the wise one remains still.