Ashtavakra Gita – all is illusion, I am the Self

Janaka ashtavakra

The following verses are read on this video here (a couple of the verses are in a slightly different order):

Sage Ashtavakra, the young boy with contorted limbs, teaches King Janaka, and the result is the Song of Ashtavakra, or Ashtavakra Gita. Here are some selected verses, enjoy:

2.1. Oh, I am spotless, tranquil, Pure Consciousness, and beyond Nature. All this time I have been mocked by illusion.

Tom – Now the triad of knower/knowing/known are said not to exist. Note that this triad essentially encompasses all arising or objective phenomena:

2.15. Knowledge, knower and the known – these three do not exist in reality. I am that stainless Self in which this triad appears through ignorance.

Tom – here the remedy is prescribed:

2.16. Oh, the root of misery is duality. There is no other remedy for it except the realisation of the unreality of all objects of experience and that I am One, Pure Consciousness, and Bliss.

2.18. I am neither bound nor free. My illusion has ended. The world, though appearing to exist in me, has in reality no existence.

2.19. My conviction is that the Universe and the body have no reality. The Self is Consciousness alone. How can the world be imagined in it?

2.20. I am the Self, and my nature is pure Consciousness. The body, heaven, hell, bondage, freedom, and fear are merely imagined, and I have no relationship with them.

3.13. Knowing the object of perception to be naught by nature, that steady-minded one neither accepts this nor rejects that.

5.3. Though the Universe is perceptible by the senses, it has no factual existence, like the snake in the rope. Therefore, enter into Laya, the state of dissolution.

Tom – Again the essential teaching is dispensed:

11.8. He who is convinced that this manifold and wonderful Universe has no real existence, becomes free from desire, is pure Consiousness, and finds peace in the Knowledge that nothing is real.

15.16. The world is the result of ignorance of your own nature. In reality, you alone exist. There is neither jiva (the individual person) nor Ishvara (God), nothing other than thyself.

15.17. He who has fully realised that the Universe is a pure illusion, becomes desireless and Consciousness Itself – such a one abides in peace.

16.11. Even though Shiva, Vishnu, or Brahma instruct you, unless you regard the world as unreal, and dismiss all sense of egotism, you will not become established in your own nature (the Self).

17.19. Devoid of the feeling of ‘This is mine’ and ‘This I am’ and knowing for certain that nothing objective exists in reality, the knower of Truth is at peace within himself, his desires have subsided. Though appearing to act, in fact he does not engage in action.

18.14. Where is delusion, where is the universe, where is renunciation, moreover where is liberation for the great-souled one who rests beyond the world of desires?

Tom – the implication in verse 18.14 above is that all the items listed – namely ignorance, the universe, renunciation and liberation – all of these are illusion.

18.28. That man of peace, beyond distraction and contemplation, is neither an aspirant for liberation, nor is he bound. Knowing the Universe to be an illusion, though perceiving it, he remains in the absolute state.

18.70. The pure one knows for certain that this universe is nothing but the product of illusion and that nothing exists. The Imperceptible Self is revealed to him, and he naturally enjoys peace.

Tom – As if the above verses were not enough, here, in the last chapter, chapter 20, the point is driven home again. Everything in the phenomenal world is negated as being mere dream-like illusion, a product of imagination, from the scriptures, to the seeker, from the teacher to the teaching. Even notions of liberation, bondage, knowledge, ignorance, time and space and lastly even duality and non-duality – all these are said to be mere illusion.

20.1. In my Perfect Self (Atman), neither the elements, nor the body, nor the sense-organs, nor the mind, nor the void, nor despair, exist.

20.2. Where are the scriptures, where is Self-Knowledge, where is the mind not attached to sense-objects, where is contentment, and where is desirelessness for me who am ever devoid of the sense of duality?

Tom – ie. scriptures, self-knowledge, the unattached mind, happiness and desirelessness are all illusory

20.3. Where is knowledge and where is ignorance; where is ‘I’, where is ‘this’, and where is ‘mine’; where is bondage and where is liberation? Where is an attribute to the nature of my self?

Tom – ie. knowledge, ignorance, bondage, liberation, subject and object are all illusory. And so the verses continue in the same fashion:

20.6. Where is the world and where is the seeker of liberation; where is the Yogi and where is the Jnani; where is bondage and where is liberation for me who am non-dual by nature?

20.7. Where are creation and destruction; where is the end and where the means; where is the seeker and success for me abiding in my non-dual nature?

20.8. Where is the knower, the means to knowledge, the object of knowledge or knowledge itself; where is anything, and where is nothing for me who am ever pure?

20.9. Where is distraction, where is concentration; where is knowledge, where is delusion; where is joy and where is sorrow for me who am ever actionless?

20.13. Where are instruction and scriptural injunction, where is the disciple and where is the guru; where, indeed, is the object of life for me who am absolute good and free from limitation?

20.14. Where is existence, where is non-existence; where is unity, where is duality? What need is there to say more? Nothing emanates from me.

Swami Chinmayananda on the Ashtavakra Gita


Swami Chinmayananda writes in the introduction to his commentary upon the Ashtavakra Gita of how in a way it is superior to the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita (these are the Prasthana Traya or ‘Holy Trinity’ of scriptures in Advaita Vedanta) in communicating the nature of the Supreme Reality.

Note the final paragraph in which all concepts, including that of ‘Supreme Reality’ or ‘Brahman’ are also dissolved:

In communicating to the seekers the unsurpassing beauty and indefinable perfections of the Absolute, the Upanisads stammer; the Brahma sutras exhaust itself and the Bhagavat Gita hesitates with an excusable shyness. A theme, in dealing with which, even these mighty books of Hinduism are thus, at best, unsatisfactory; we must, in sheer gratitude, admire Astavakra Samhita for the brilliant success it has achieved in communicating, through words, perhaps, more clearly the nature and glory of the Supreme Reality, than by the Prasthana Traya.

The student of this Samhita is himself giving the autobio-data of the liberated in life. We have here in this book a revealing autobiography of the Saint, the Liberated-in-life in King Janaka.

Beyond all assertions and denial, beyond the concepts of bondage and liberation, lies this Realm of the Self, wherein there is neither the individual-ego(jiva), nor is there even the Supreme-Reality (Brahman)!

The above was written by Swami Chinmayananda, taken from his introduction to the Ashtavakra Gita

All praise to me!

Janaka ashtavakra
King Janaka receiving teachings from Sage Ashtavakra

From Chapter 2 of the Ashtavakra Gita, spoken by King Janaka after he has realised the Self:
11. Wonderful am I! Adoration to myself who know no decay and survive even
the destruction of the world, from Brahma down to a clump of grass.
12. Wonderful am I! Adoration to myself who, though with a body, am One,
who neither go anywhere nor come from anywhere but abide pervading the
13. Wonderful am I! Adoration to myself! There is none so capable as I, who am
bearing the universe for all eternity without touching it with the body.
14. Wonderful am I! Adoration to myself who have nothing or have all that is
thought and spoken of.