Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 1, Nature of Witness Self

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Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 1, Nature of Witness Self

The First Chapter contains 20 verses and deals with Sakshi, the Witness Self. Ashtavakra explains how the Self is different from the mind and body and how one should become established in it through renunciation and contemplation. In this chapter, you are also introduced to some important concepts of Advaita, the school of nonduality.


Verse 1: Janaka said, how people acquire knowledge, how liberation happens, how renunciation is attained, please explain to me O great lord!


Verse 2: Ashtavakra said, “O child if liberation is what you intend, give up the sense-objects as if they are poison and take recourse to forgiveness, straightforwardness, kindness, contentment, and truth as if they are nectar.”



Verse 3: He who values freedom, will indeed become free. He who values bondage will remain bound only. In this world, this saying is true, “As one thinks so is one’s fate.”


Verse 4: If you separate yourself from your body and rest in your consciousness, quickly there will be happiness, peace, and freedom from bondage.


Verse 5: You are not of Brahmana or any other caste, nor of any ashrama, nor you are visible to the eyes. Unattached, without form, and as the universal witness, you are blissful.


Verse 6: Dharma, adharma pleasure and pain belong to the mind not to you, oh lord. You are neither the doer nor the enjoyer but one who is forever free.


Verse 7: You are the one seer among all and you truly are always free. Seeing the seer as another this alone is your bondage


Verse 8: You who is bitten by the great black serpent of egoism think, “I am the doer.” Drink the nectar of faith that “I am not the doer,” and be happy.


Verse 9: Burn down the forest of ignorance with the fire of this conviction, “I am one pure intelligence.” Become free from sorrow and be happy.


Verse 10: This universe is an illusion like a rope that appears as a snake. When you realize that you are blissful supreme intelligence, you will live happily.


Verse 11: He who values freedom, will indeed become free. He who values bondage will remain bound only. In this world, this saying is true, “As one thinks so is one’s fate.”


Verse 12: The Self is the witness, all-pervading, complete, one, free, consciousness, inactive, unattached, without desires, peaceful, even when it revolves or wanders in the cycle of births and deaths.


Verse 13: Meditate upon the immutable, non-dual, intelligent Self, having become free from the non-shining ego, delusion, feeling, and the distinction of external and internal.



Verse 14: You have been caught for long in the bonds of body love, son. Knowing the Self by cutting that (the attachment) with the sword of knowledge, you will be happy.


Verse 15: You are unattached, inactive, self-luminous, and without blemish. This only is your bondage that (to know your Self) you have to become established in Samadhi (self-absorption).


Verse 16: By you, this whole universe is pervaded. By you, it is sewn and bound as it is. You are pure intelligence by nature. Do not cultivate an impure and narrow mind.


Verse 17: Without expectation (or dependence), without form, without weight or measure, a reservoir of coolness, unfathomable intelligence, undisturbed is the dweller of the subtle space.


Verse 18: Know that the form is unreal, but the formless is permanently stable. By the instruction of this fact, rebirth becomes impossible.


Verse 19: Just as the image that appears in a mirror seems to take hold of it, so does the Supreme Lord appears in this body as if he has taken hold of it.



Verse 20: Just as the space inside and outside a jar is the same everywhere so does the eternal, continuous Brahman exist in all beings.


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