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Nondual Highlights Issue #2433, Wednesday, March 29, 2006, Editor: Mark

Ashtavakra Samhita

These sutras from Ashtavakra are amongst the most potent spiritual words ever uttered; they point to the nondual truth that all enlightened ones experience. When taken as an invitation to penetrate to the source of consciousness, these sutras are an invaluable help for your growth. When they are believed without experiential verification, they can be a beautiful and seductive trap for your spiritual ego. Ashtavakra, the deformed sage, is giving instruction to King Janak.

Janak asked: Lord, how does one attain to wisdom? How does liberation happen? And how is non-attachment attained? Please tell me this.

Ashtavakra replied: You are neither earth, nor air, nor fire, nor water, nor ether. To attain liberation know yourself as the witnessing consciousness of all these. If you can separate yourself from the physical body and rest in consciousness, then this very moment you will be happy and at peace and free of bondage. Unattached and without form you are the witness of the whole universe. Know this and be happy. You are not the doer nor the enjoyer, you have always been liberated.

Janaka's question is authentic, and his sincerity provokes Ashtavakra's eloquent response. To know yourself as the witnessing consciousness of all and everything is real freedom. The key word here is "know". Real spiritual knowledge is experiential, not intellectual. To know oneself as the transcendental witness is the purpose of meditation; to rest in silent consciousness is the ultimate human endeavour. If consciousness separates from the body, you are free in that moment. The key word here is "if". This liberation of consciousness is most likely to occur in deep meditation.

The next statement: You have always been liberated, is open to misinterpretation and unverified belief. It is true only in the sense that ultimately you are God-the-beyond. But all you can know empirically is what you can witness and experience. You exist as embodied consciousness. No one has any memory of being God-the-beyond. No buddha can remember how to create a universe. Believing that you have always been liberated is a very common advaita misunderstanding. It seduces seekers into thinking that freedom is a change of perception. This belief applies only to the Absolute realm of God; it lacks empirical support and fails when it is applied to the human reality of body-mind-soul-witness.

Absolute beliefs are a common trap for advaita people; avoid them by being authentic and by sticking to direct experience. This point requires repetition as it is the foundation for many advaita proponents who are reluctant to give up their absolute beliefs because ultimately these beliefs are true. But the truth believed without empirical verification is just a dream; it does not transform you.

When the witness is experienced through a human, it is limited by the nervous system. No awakened one can ever know the full power of the witness; it is many times stronger than any enlightened nervous system can accommodate. Buddhas have a good taste of the witness, but a drop of the ocean is not the ocean. When a soul is created, it retains no memory of its source. Every soul is made of divine consciousness. This consciousness does pervade and animate all existence. But experientially you exist as a body-mind-energy, and the witness of all you observe.

Ashtavakra said: You are the one observer of all and in reality always free. Your bondage is this: you see the other - not yourself - as the observer.

This is a great insight. When the gestalt shifts and you are centred as the observer of everything, you are free.

"I am the doer" - thus has the black serpent of ego bitten you. "I am not the doer" - drink this divine nectar of trust and be happy.

This is Ashtavakra's keenest insight; it is the essence of transformative spiritual understanding. It is vital to realize that God is the only power, and that your belief in free will is a divine hypnosis. Drink this divine nectar of trust and be happy and free.

The soul is the witness, all-pervading, perfect, one, free from doing, absolutely alone, non-attached, conscious, free, desireless, peaceful. Because of illusion, it looks like the world.

The witness is transcendental to the soul. Your soul is an individual creation that lives for up to 10,000 years; it is destined to dissolve finally in its source. Clarity helps to gird you for the journey of evolution of your soul.

Awaken in the thought that you are the unchanging, conscious, nondual soul.

No one has ever awakened by thinking, and never will. Only immersion in consciousness can awaken you. The soul evolves as it grows in consciousness. This is the meaning of spiritual growth. If your soul were already perfect you would not be suffering. Understanding needs to be grounded in meditation, to prepare your soul for merger with higher consciousness. Just changing to nondual beliefs does not help that much.

You are alone, void of action, innocent, self-illuminated. Your bondage is this: that you practise samadhi.

When the values of the Absolute are grafted onto the human reality of embodied consciousness the result is a split. Stay with your direct experience. Your bondage is your separation from Source through the body-mind. This is not a mistake; it is God's creation to allow His play of division and reunion to have true meaning and depth. Samadhi cannot be practised; it is beyond technique - a gift from Source that is provoked by your immersion in silent awareness. This sutra has fuelled an anti-meditation sentiment in some advaita teachers. They have missed the point that meditation is meeting, merging and dissolving with each moment of life in the divine sacrament of Now - not a goal-oriented concentration exercise.

Janak said: I alone illumine this body, and I illumine the universe too. Either this whole universe is mine or nothing at all. Amazingly, having renounced the body and the world, now through the skill of your teaching I see only the divine.

Janak has had a satori. His mind has opened and he is in ecstasy. To see God everywhere is freedom.

Janak said: Light is my self nature. I am not other than that. When the universe is illuminated, it is illuminated by my light. The universe that has emanated from me will dissolve in me. Amazing I am, I bow down to myself. Although embodied, I am the nondual. I just exist, I pervade the universe.

Now Janak is projecting beyond the experience of his satori. Logically he is right, but experientially he has lost authenticity. Enlightened ones are illuminated by divine consciousness. The beauty of this nondual divine light is truly awesome, but no human has full access to the power and intelligence whence the universe emanates.

Avoid unverified beliefs and remain true to experience. Take these sutras and all concepts as a hypothesis to be verified in the laboratory of your inner world. Resist any temptation to parrot the absolute truth and to deny the human reality of being embodied consciousness. The absolute truth is not your experiential truth; it is a sweet dream that lures unaware seekers into believing they are already free. Once you have decorated your ego with absolute concepts, it is challenging to admit that you do not know who you are. Take the challenge and discover your true nature by dissolving in silent awareness. Authentic enlightenment requires total transformation; your individual body-mind-soul must be impregnated with universal consciousness. Unverified belief in absolute concepts does not help you to engage in the essential work of spiritual transformation. Enlightened teachers face the challenge of translating their direct non-conceptual knowing of absolute truth into concepts that will be helpful to seekers. Seekers need to be reminded to avoid the trap of believing in the poetic words of awakened ones without experiential verification. Remain true to experience; bring your total energy and awareness to a peak. Only then can these potent sutras of Ashtavakra help you to grow into a jnani - one who knows truth directly, from the silent power of no-mind.

- excerpt from UNITY -The Dawn of Conscious Civilization by Maitreya Ishwara, posted to ConsciousOneness

What I Have Learned So Far

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don't think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of -- indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

- Mary Oliver, posted to AdvaitaToZen

The mind turned inwards is the Self; turned outwards,
it becomes the ego and all the world.
Cotton made into various clothes we call by various names.
Gold made into various ornaments,
we call by various names.
But all the clothes are cotton and all the ornaments gold.
The one is real, the many are mere names and forms.

- Sri Ramana Maharshi, posted to MillionPaths

When you plant a tree
every leaf that grows will tell you,
what you sow will bear fruit.
So if you have any sense, my friend
don't plant anything but love,
you show your worth by what you seek.
Water flows to those who want purity
wash your hands of all desires and
come to the table of Love.

Do you want me to tell you a secret?
The flowers attract the most beautiful lover
with their sweet smile and scent.
If you let God weave the verse in your poem
people will read it forever.

- from: 'Rumi - Hidden Music' Translated by Maryam Mafi

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