The 100 Principle Concepts
Here is the Astavakra Gita stripped of all unnecessary literary style and form, and reduced to the 100 most meaningful concepts and ideas that it contains. John Richard's translation from the Sanskrit original has been used, although in the future there is an intention to make a new careful literal translation that preserves all the subtle advaitic essence of the text. Whether you are established in your own glory or not... this condensation of ideas in the Astavakra Gita makes for a remarkable study.
Astavakra Gita – an ideas-only-version
1. Seek liberation by shunning the objects of the senses.
2. Practice tolerance, sincerity, compassion, contentment and truthfulness.
3. You are not earth, water, fire, air or ether.
4. You are consciousness, the witness of earth, water, fire, air and ether.
5. Rest in consciousness and you will be happy, peaceful and free from bonds.
6. You are not any caste, you are not at any stage of life, nor are you anything that the eye can see. You are unattached and formless, the witness of everything.
7. Righteousness and unrighteousness, pleasure and pain are purely of the mind and are no concern of yours.
8. You are not the doer, nor the reaper of the consequences of action. You are always free.
9. The cause of bondage is that one considers the witness as something other than being free from action and instead as someone who reaps the consequences of action.
10. Self opinion is the bite of a black snake.
11. Knowledge is the fire that burns away ignorance.
12. That world in which all this appears is imagined.
13. You are joy, supreme knowledge and awareness.
14. Your real nature is one perfect, free, and actionless consciousness, the all-pervading witness - unattached to anything, desireless, at peace.
15. Meditate on yourself as motionless awareness.
16. You are free from all dualism.
17 You are not anything external or internal.
18. You are self-illuminating, unconditioned and changeless, formless and immovable, unfathomable awareness and imperturbable.
19. The apparent is unreal, while the unmanifest is abiding.
20. The eternal, everlasting Being exists in the totality of things, just as one and the same all-pervading space exists within and without a jar.
21. You have been afflicted by delusion. All this, everything, has emanated from yourself, and is no other than yourself. Everything has been produced out of yourself and is completely permeated with yourself.
22. The whole world is yours and, alternatively, nothing is yours. You possess nothing at all, and alternatively possess everything to which speech and mind can refer.
23. From ignorance of oneself, the world appears, and by knowledge of oneself it appears no longer.
24. Shining is your essential nature. When the world shines forth, it is simply yourself that is shining forth.
25. From Brahma down to the last blade of grass everything in the world is destroyed. But for yourself there is no destruction.
26. You are solitary! Even though with a body, you neither go anywhere nor come from anywhere. You abide forever, filling all that is.
27. Knowledge, and that which is known, and the knower - these three do not exist in reality. You are the pure reality in which they appear. Knowledge, and that which is known, and the knower, are contaminated by ignorance.
28. Dualism is the root of suffering.
29. The only remedy for dualism and suffering is the realisation that all this, all that one sees, is unreal, and that you are the one stainless reality, consisting of consciousness.
30. There is neither bondage nor liberation. When the illusion has lost its basis and ceased, then there is the realization that truly all this exists in me, though ultimately it does not even exist in me.
31. The physical body, heaven and hell, bondage and liberation, and fear too, all this is active imagination.
32. There is nothing left to do for one whose very nature is consciousness.
33. You are not a living being. You are consciousness. It is your thirst for living that is your bondage.
34. You are one and indestructible.
35. You are the limitless ocean. Living beings are waves. In the limitless ocean of yourself the waves of living beings arise, collide, play and disappear, according to their natures.
36. When one is oneself in all beings, and all beings are in oneself, then the sense of individuality is no longer able to continue.
37. See even one’s own body in action as if it were someone else’s.
38. When you see this world as pure illusion, and are devoid of any interest in it, then you will no longer feel fear, even at the approach of death.
39. If you manage always to be aware of the supreme self-nature you will discover that you are neither expectant nor disappointed and are completely undisturbed by praise or blame.
40. When all attachment has been eliminated, and there is no longer any dualism, then there is freedom from both desire and repulsion. Then any object that comes of itself is neither painful nor pleasurable.
41. The wise person of self-knowledge plays the game of worldly life.
42. You are infinite like space. To know this is knowledge, then there is neither renunciation, nor acceptance, nor cessation of it.
43. The world is a wave of its own nature which rises and vanishes in the infinite ocean of myself. There is no increase or diminution to me from it.
44. It is in the infinite ocean of myself that the imagination called the world takes place.
45. Truly I am but pure consciousness, and the world is like a conjurer’s show.
46. Bondage is when the mind longs for something, grieves about something, rejects something, holds on to something, is pleased about something, or displeased about something.
47. Liberation is when the mind does not long for anything, grieve about anything, reject anything, or hold on to anything, and is not pleased about anything, or displeased about anything.
48. When there is no 'me', that is liberation, and when there is 'me' there is bondage.
49. Rare indeed is the person whose observation of the world’s behaviour has led to the extinction of the thirst for living, for pleasure and for knowledge.
50. Abandoning desire, practice indifference to everything.
51. Being, non-being and transformation are of the very nature of things, but when you realize that nothing exists here but Isvara, the Creator of all things, you will no longer be attached to anything.
52. When you realize that misfortune and fortune come in their turn from fate, you will place your senses under control, and no longer like or dislike anything. You will be unconcerned about what has been attained or not.
53. When you realize that pleasure and pain, birth and death, are from fate, and that desires cannot be achieved, you will remain inactive, and even when acting no longer be attached.
54. Realizing that all this varied and wonderful world is nothing, one finds peace.
55. A sage said: "First of all I was averse to physical activity, then to lengthy speech, and finally to thinking itself. Trying to think the unthinkable is unnatural to thought."
56. Just as the performance of actions is due to ignorance, so their abandonment is also due to ignorance.
57. The inner freedom of having nothing is hard to achieve, because it requires living as one pleases, abandoning both renunciation and acquisition.
58. Recognising that in reality no action is ever committed, the sage lives as he pleases, just attending to what presents itself to be done.
59. No benefit or loss ever comes to you, consequently live as you please, abandoning the pleasant and unpleasant.
60. One person of pure intelligence may achieve the goal by the most casual of instructions, while another may seek knowledge all his life and still remain bewildered.
61. Liberation is indifference to the objects of the senses. Bondage is love of the senses.
62. You are eternally pure consciousness, the witness, and you are in need of nothing.
63. Desire and anger are objects of the mind, but the mind is not yours, nor ever has been.
64. You are beyond natural causation.
65. You consist of pure consciousness, and the world is not separate from you. So who is to accept or reject it, and how, and why?
66. It is through your ignorance that all this exists. In reality you alone exist. Apart from you there is no one within or beyond samsara.
67. Knowing that all this is an illusion, you become free, as if nothing existed.
68. When the mind is freed from such pairs of opposites as ‘I have done this,’ and ‘I have not done that,’ it becomes indifferent to merit, wealth, sensuality and liberation.
69. So long as desire, which is the state of lacking discrimination, remains, the sense of attraction and revulsion will remain; that is the root and branch of samsara. The wise person is free from the pairs of opposites like a child.
70. Those who desire pleasure and those who desire liberation are both bound in samsara.
71. Someone established in the absolute state with an empty mind does not know the alternatives of inner stillness and lack of inner stillness, nor of good and evil.
72. The liberated person is not averse to the senses nor is he attached to them. He enjoys himself continually with an unattached mind in both achievement and non-achievement.
73. One may get all sorts of pleasure by the acquisition of various objects of enjoyment, but one cannot be happy except by the renunciation of everything.
74. This existence is just imagination. It is nothing in reality.
75. The realm of one’s self is not far away, nor can it be achieved by the addition of limitations to its nature. It is unimaginable, effortless, unchanging and pure.
76. When you know yourself to be God, and being and non-being are just imagination, what should you, free from desire, learn, say or do?
77. The worlds of heaven or beggary, gain or loss, life in society or in the forest, these make no difference to a mystic whose nature is free from distinctions.
78. There is nothing needing to be done for the mystic who is liberated while still alive. There is no delusion, no world, no meditation on That, nor liberation for the great soul. All these things are just the realm of imagination.
79. Nothing is done by one who is free from being and non-being. He is contented and desireless. He encounters no difficulty in either activity or inactivity.
80. One who is desireless, self-reliant, independent and free of bonds functions like a dead leaf blown about by the wind of causality.
81. There is neither joy nor sorrow for one who has transcended samsara. With a peaceful mind one lives as if without a body. One whose joy is in oneself, and who is peaceful and pure within has no desire for renunciation or sense of loss in anything.
82. The pure person realizes that this action was done by the body but not by me. He is not acting even when acting. He acts without being able to say why.
83. One who is beyond mental stillness and distraction does not desire either liberation or its opposite nor their compliments. Recognizing that things are just constructions of the imagination, that great soul lives as God here and now.
84. There are no rules, dispassion, renunciation or meditation for one who is pure receptivity by nature, and who admits no knowable form of being.
85. Pure illusion reigns in Samsara which continues until self realisation.
86. The enlightened person lives in the beauty of freedom from me and mine, from the sense of responsibility and from any attachment.
87. There is neither dissolute behaviour nor virtue, nor even discrimination of the truth for the sage who has reached the goal and is the very embodiment of guileless sincerity.
88. The wise person who is contented in all circumstances is not asleep even in deep sleep, not sleeping in a dream, nor waking when he is awake.
89. The seer is without thoughts even when thinking, without senses among the senses, without understanding even in understanding and without a sense of responsibility even in the ego.
90. Neither happy nor unhappy, neither detached nor attached, neither seeking liberation nor liberated, one is neither something nor nothing.
91. For one established in his own glory, there is no past, future or present. There is no space or even eternity, there is no self or non-self, no good or evil, no thought nor even absence of thought, there is no dreaming or deep sleep, no waking nor other state beyond them, and certainly no fear.
92. For one established in his own glory, there is nothing far away and nothing near, nothing within or without, nothing large and nothing small, there is no life or death, no worlds or things of this world, no distraction and no stillness of mind, there is no need for talk of the three goals of life, no need of union nor of knowledge.
93. In the one who is forever actionless, there are no elements, no body, no faculties, no mind. There is no void and no despair.
94. For the one in his unblemished nature, there are no scriptures, no self-knowledge, no mind free from an object, no satisfaction and no freedom from desire. There is no knowledge or ignorance, no me, this, or mine, no bondage, no liberation, and no property of self-nature.
95. For the one who is always free from individual characteristics there is no antecedent causal action, no liberation during life, and no fulfilment at death.
96. For the one who is free from individuality, there is no doer and no reaper of the fruits of action, no consequences, no cessation of action, no arising of thought, no immediate object, and no idea of results.
97. For the one who is free from dualism there is no world, no seeker for liberation, no mystic, no seer, no-one bound and no-one liberated. There is no emanation or return, no goal, no means, no seeker nor achievement. He remains in his own non-dual nature.
98. For the one who is pure and always free from deliberations there is neither conventional truth nor absolute truth, no happiness and no suffering, there is no illusion, no samsara, no attachment or detachment, no living being and no God.
99 For the one who is forever unmovable and indivisible, established in himself, there is no activity or inactivity, no liberation and no bondage.
100. For the one who is blessed and without limitation, there is no initiation or scripture, no disciple or teacher, and no goal of human life. There is no being or non-being, no unity or dualism. What more is there to say? Nothing emanates from him.
Main source of information: Wikipedia article on The Astavakra Gita.
The Astavakra Gita, also known as The Ashtavakra Samhita, is said to be a dialogue between the perfected advaitic rishi Ashtavakra and Janaka who was the King of Mithila in ancient India. The name Ashtavakra means eight bends or eight deformities. Details of Ashtavakra's life are found in the epic poem the Ramayana in which it is related that Sujata, the mother of Astavakra, while pregnant, exposed the unborn infant to Vedic teachings and the chanting of mantras at the ashram of the sage Uddalaka, who was also her own father. It was believed in ancient India that an unborn child was able to hear and listen to the Vedas, when chanted by a rishi, thus advancing the understanding of them when they would be encountered when a student. Kahoda (sometimes named Khagodara), Sujata's husband and thus unborn Ashtavakra's father, being the chief disciple in Uddalaka's ashram, also had the responsibility of chanting the mantras, but whenever he made a mistake Ashtavakra would move in distress in the womb in indication of the error. Eventually this evoked rage in the humiliated Kahoda and, believing himself to be insulted, he cursed his unborn infant son, wishing upon him eight deformities. Ashtavakra was in fact born with eight deformities.
At the time of Ashtavakra's birth his father Kahoda was invited to debate with the great philosopher Bandi in the presence of King Janaka. Bandi, unknown to everyone, was the son of Varuna, the god of all water bodies, and had been sent to Earth in order to perform a special ritual on behalf of the god. One of the rules of the debating contest was that the loser had to submerge himself and 'drown' in the nearby river Ganges. During the debate Bandi easily defeated Kahoda, who consequently had to peform the ritual of submerging, leading to his own drowning. The fatherless child Ashtavakra was consequently brought up by Uddalaka and his disciples at the ashram where he soon mastered his Vedic studies. Ashtavakra grew up believing Uddalaka was his father. Ashtavakra was never told of the fate of his real father until one day his uncle Svetaketu inadvertently blurted out that Uddalaka was not his true father. Ashtavakra then questioned his mother Sujata who told him the truth and the story of his father's fated debate with Bandi. Ashtavakra then decided to confront Bandi and debate with him.
Ashtavakra, then twelve years old, went to the palace of King Janaka and presented himself for debate with Bandi. King Janaka fearing that the young Ashtavakra would lose the debate, and meet the same fate as many Brahmanas had before, attempted to dissuade Ashtavakra, but Ashtavakra was quite resolute. King Janaka then tested Ashtavakra's knowledge and understanding by a series of questions... which Ashtavakra answered surprisingly profoundly. The very questions testingly posed by King Janaka to Ashtavakra together with the answers given by the precocious twelve year old sage form the text of the Astavakra Gita.
Satisfied with Ashtavakra's responses to his questions, King Janak arranged the debate, with Ashtavakra insisting one condition that Bandi, if he lost, would grant any wish whatsoever to his conqueror. Ashtavakra defeated Bandi in the debate and for his wish asked Bandi to restore to life all the sages and Brahmanas who had been forced to submerge and drown in the water of the Ganges. The defeated Bandi then revealed his true identity as the son of the god Varuna and explained the reason for the ritual which was now completed. Bandi communicated the request to his father Varuna who bade farewell to the sages and Brahmanas who were merged in his water world and sent them to the surface. The released Kahoda, upon learning what had happened, humbly acknowledged his son's superior intelligence and knowledge.
According to Swami Chinmaynanda there are two versions of the legend as to how Astavakra reached the court of the King Janaka. The other traditional version creates the scene with Astavakra in search of his father and the meeting with King Janaka was relatively a matter of chance. Janaka was regarded as a benevolent king and ,in order to have direct knowledge of his subjects, frequently made tours of their villages. He was making one such tour when he saw the young sage Astavakra limping along. Janaka dismounted from his horse and he prostrated himself before the teenage sage, who was then only twelve years of age. The deformities of the young Astavakra became more noticeable when he moved, and viewing the young sage from close-up the king felt a strong aversion to the deformaties of his anatomy. Young Astavakra being expert in Yoga-vidya as well as established in self knowledge read the kings mind and spoke to him:
"O King, just as the shape of a temple does not affect
the akasa (sky), the crookedness of the physical body
has no effect on Atma (Soul). A wise man has Atmadrsti
i.e. he looks at the Reality behind this
manifested world, whereas an ignorant one has
Carma-drsti i.e. he gets lost in names and forms."
The king was taken aback by such an incise wisdom of the young sage and requested him to grace his palace, an invitatioo which Astavakra accepted. When he arrived Astavakra was given a place of honour in king's palace. During conversations with the king he was able to remove all doubts from Janaka's mind. By defeating Bandi, the royal scholar, he got his father released from his watery captivity.
According to Swami Chinmayananda, the story of the meeting and the dialogue between Astavakra and King Janaka is described in Chapter 132 to 134 in the Vana Parva portion of the epic, Mahabharata, where Maharshi Limasa narrates it to Dharmaputra Yudhisthira, the eldest of Pandava princes. In the Mahabharata, there is yet another slightly different version. Astavakra was in search of his father, and was accompanied by Svetaketu, his maternal uncle, who was of his own age. They reached Janaka's kingdom to observe Mahayajan being conducted there. The king was proceeding to Yajnasala and attendants accompanying him were diverting traffic to clear passage for the king. By his precise knowledge of Sastras, Astavakra pointed out that a brahmana had priority in the right of passage over even the king. On hearing, the king was impressed with the knowledge of the young mendicant, and acceded the point and requested him to proceed ahead of him. Although the Mahayajna was open only to established scholars, the king took him along to the Mahayajna. On learning about his motive of defeating Bandi-the royal scholar, the king tested his knowledge of the Sastras by questioning. With appropriate and precise answers he impressed the king who invited Bandi to engage the young sage in arguments. Astavakra defeated Bandi and thus got his father released.
Astavakra's conversations with King Janaka form the content of the Astavakra Gita.
The date of the Astavakra Gita is not known. It appears to be older than the Mahabharata and its famous philosophical interlude, the Bhagavad Gita, because the text of the Mahabharata refers to material derived from the Astavakra Gita. Mainly because the text resembles the Upanisadic teaching style, incorporating a dialogue between a questioning disciple and his teacher, it is provisionally dated to the late Upanisadic period, circa 1000-200 BC.
Astavakra Gita The 100 Principle Concepts
based upon a translation from the Sanskrit by John Richards
the public domain full text of which is available at...
or alternatively at...
the sanskrit text is available at...
Other translators and commentators
Swami Chinmaya has made a word for word translation of the Astavakra Gita. His book, titled: The Astavakra Gita, contains the Sanskrit text, a transliteration, the word-to-word meaning, a translation, and a detailed commentary. In paperback form, published in 2006 by The Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, ISBN 8175970626, 450 pages, size 8.3” x 5.3”, price about £12 (about 15 euros or $19).
Thomas Byrom has made a more poetic translation of the Astavakra Gita, titled: The Heart of Awareness ~ a translation of The Ashtavakra Gita