Kicking start this series with the famous concept of Ashtavakra Samhita and also because it is my favorite story to start off the topic and to provide the listener with the mere idea of what comprises Upanishads and what it is all about.
Upanishads is one of the oldest text available to us and it as a metaphysical philosophy that every reader will find very interesting, because, it deals with the concept that engages them the most. It deals with : ‘you’. Yes ! Upanishads is about who ‘you’ really are. It is focused on discovering the ultimate nature of reality by a series of questions and illustrations. It keeps pointing out to you again again the truth that is hidden under the veil of maya. I will try to keep this series as short and precise as possible to avoid repeating and boredom.
Though, I don’t seem to recall a huge part of it, I have spent a good amount of time verifying its validity with science because as I had stated before, my 17 year old mind was not developed enough to absorb this high-intensity philosophy. The fact was, it left me in awe, the claims made were quite hard to believe and it made me want to verify it so that my rational-programmed brain could understand it. So if anyone was confused like me, then they don’t need to. This is ancient wisdom and nobody has impugned it yet. If anything, people, including physicists have only confirmed its validity.
Before I start, I would request everyone, specially those who are getting into Upanishads for the first time, to keep an open mind. Let your conditions and rationality not cloud your understanding. In my personal opinion, these lines are best understood when we are listening or reading them without any pre-assumptions, conditioning or expectations because it is going to challenge everything you’ve ever known to be true. So, sit tight and enjoy 🙂
Jagatguru Adi Shankaracharya ji and BrhmaRishi Ashtavakra ji, I bow at your divine feet.
KING JANAK AND SAINT ASHTAVAKRA
“Maharaj Maharaj , wake up, waakkee uppp Maaharaaj” A trembling voice intruded the peaceful sleep of the great King Janak. He sat up on his bed, his brain waking up and getting into the receptive mood. “What?!” He growled. But before his senapati (Leader of the army) Could answer, he saw the pointed shapes of fire approaching from his bed chambers which stood on the highest towers and knew that his kingdom was being attacked. At once, he got off and asked to put the army on alert. But eventually the war could not be avoided and our poor Raja Janak lost the battle!
After being defeated King Janak was dragged before the enemy king. “I cannot kill you, for you are a king afterall and it’s against my honor to kill a king” Announced the usurper, now sitting at the throne chair “But I sentence you to exile. You are not to be seen anywhere near this Kingdom” He announced further and Janak was thrown out of his palace in ragged clothes and untidy face.
He kept wandering the whole day without food or water. The feeling of misery, shame and despair was now overcome with that of starvation. His stomach was crying loudly,begging for a tiny grain of rice when he spotted a Langar (Mass food distribution) . He was the last man in the queue and by the time his turn came up, all food was finished except the starch water of rice which remained at the bottom of the big vessel. “Give me that, I don’t mind” Said the king who was dying of hunger “please give me the leftovers” he begged and extended his bowl to be filled. As soon as Janak was about to take a sip, a large crow flew over his head knocking down the bowl and spilling all its contents to the ground. The king stared at the ground which was covered in starch and water filled up his eyes when a hand touched his shoulders and started shaking. Suddenly he sat up and wiped the droplets of sweat and tears from his face when he realized that it was his wife -the queen who shook him out of the terrifying dream. “What happened Maharaj?” She asked. But the king was so confused. All the feeling of despair and disappointment felt so real that he couldn’t stop thinking about it. It all felt real when he didn’t know that he was in a dream. So If dream was an illusion, then who was to say that this waking state was not?
“Ye sach ya vo sach?” (Is this reality true, or was that dream true?) He asked. But his Queen didn’t understand. The following day, during the court session the king was unable to attend to any state matters and kept asking the same question again and again “Ye sach ya vo sach?” . When his ministers were finally frustrated they called the sage Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra : Bent or disproportionate in eight different parts of the body) This sage was barely a kid and walked into the court room with great difficulty but with serene expression on his bright face.
“Ye sach ya vo sach?” King repeated. The sage simply smiled and replied “were you present in the dream?” Janak nodded. The sage asked again “are you present in this waking moment?” . The king nodded again. The sage smiled and spoke “Then there you go, my dear king! Here’s your answer. Na ye sach na vo sach, bas tum hi sach. (Neither the dream was a reality nor this state is a reality) only you the non changing permanence, you are the reality. The dream state was an illusion, and hence not permanent. This waking state is also an illusion and temporary. But you,the nirguna bhraman (formless conciousness) you are the only non changing truth”.
To be contd….
I am only using the vedantic terms because we are discussing Upanishads. I will always provide translations in the brackets. Please give these lines a little thought and contemplation until the next one. 😁
One of my motives behind this series is to increase my own knowledge and we have many Learned and brilliant members here, so comments are open for discussion. 😁
In case you missed the introduction read it here.