The Ashtavakra Gita is a dialogue between King Janaka and his guru, Astavakra.
Who is Ashtavakra?
Ashta means eight; vakra means bend; gita means song. The Ashtavakra Gita then, “is the song of one with eight bends,” or eight deformities.
Ashtavakra’s instruction to Janaka about the Self is the Ashtavakra Gita, the “song of Ashtavakra.” Ancient texts were usually oral teachings before they were texts. They were remembered with accuracy due to their having been sung, often in shloka (two-beat) or trishtub (three-beat) meter. Hence the word gita, song.
Who is King Janaka?
King Janaka was known to be an enlightened king, Self-realized, and free from attachments even while living as a householder and ruler of an entire kingdom.
1 Janaka said:
How is knowledge to be acquired? How is liberation to be attained? And how is dispassion to be reached? Please tell me this.
2 Ashtavakra said:
If you seek liberation, avoid objects of the senses as if they were poison. Practice tolerance, sincerity, compassion, contentment and honesty as if they were nectar.
3 You are not earth, water, fire (energy), air or ether (space). For the attainment of true freedom, realize that, as a divine, non-physical entity with the ability to be conscious, you are only the witness of these.
4 If you remain in this awareness, knowing yourself as other than the body, then even while living you will become happy, peaceful and free from bondage.
5 Consider that you do not belong to any class or caste, are not at any stage, nor are you anything that can be perceived with the senses. Unattached and formless, you are the witness of everything. So be happy!
6 Doing the right thing and not doing the right thing, as well as experiencing pleasure and pain, are determined by mind, which has nothing to do with who or what you really are. You are neither the cause, the effect, nor the experiencer. You are always free.
7 You are the witness of everything, and are eternally free. The cause of your bondage is that you believe yourself to be something other than this.
8 Since you have been deluded by the sense of yourself as the doer of actions, drink the nectar of Truth, the awareness that what you truly are is not the doer of anything, and be happy.