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What is meant by ‘I am awareness alone’? || Acharya Prashant, on Ashtavakra Gita (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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कूटस्थं बोधमद्वैतमात्मानं परिभावय । आभासोऽहं भ्रमं मुक्त्वा भावं बाह्यमथान्तरम् ॥ १-१३॥

kūṭasthaṃ bodhamadvaitamātmānaṃ paribhāvaya । ābhāso’haṃ bhramaṃ muktvā bhāvaṃ bāhyamathāntaram ॥ 1-13॥

Meditate on this: ‘I am Awareness alone, Unity itself.’ Give up the idea that you are separate, a person, that there is within and without.

~ Ashtavakra Gita (Chapter 1, Verse 13) Question: Pranaam Acharya Ji. Ashtavakra says, “I am Awareness alone, Unity itself.” Ashtavakra repeats this verse many times in the whole chapter. This seems like reminding myself of my ‘Awareness’ nature all the time. It can help me attain Liberation.

Please help me understand this.

Acharya Prashant (AP): Ashtavakra says, “I am Awareness alone, Unity itself.” You probably took that the emphasis was on the word ‘Awareness’. The emphasis is actually on ‘alone’. “I am awareness alone.” *(Emphasizing the word ‘alone’). “*I am Awareness alone.” (Again e mphasizing the word ‘alone’)

Whenever we usually say that we are something, we don’t merely say what we are; we also concurrently say what we are not. So we have established a partial nature for ourself, whenever we have declared an identity for ourself.

When you say that you are a man, or a father, or someone of X age, or someone belonging to a particular locality, or having a particular identity, you have given yourself many identities actually. And each of these identities are not only partial, but also put together, they cannot give you the Total.

First of all, they are all partial identities. Secondly, even if you take all those identities and put them together, you still do not get to the Total. So, what Ashtavakra is saying is, “You are Awareness alone.” Alone. Nothing else. The word ‘alone’ has to be read in negativa. The word ‘alone’ is a big ‘No’.

The word ‘alone’ is a negation – denial, a rejection.

You are rejecting everything.

You are saying, “I am rejecting all those identities that come as a bunch, that come as a cluster. I am rejecting all the identities that come to me as a crowd.” If you are somebody’s father, is it possible that you are not somebody’s son? Is it? If you are somebody’s father, is it possible that you are not somebody’s husband? Is it?

So all the identities that we usually assume, come to us in a cluster. They are not identities; they are groups of identities. You may want to choose any one particular identity, but the moment you touch even one identity, what you have actually allowed into yourself is, hundreds of identities.

Do you get this?

Ashtavakra is saying, “Choose that identity that comes alone. That identity which is a firm denial of all nonsense, all clutter.” Ashtavakra says, “I am Awareness alone.” This much he says in words. You must also read what he does not say.

He says, “I am Awareness alone, nothing else .” And that is the meaning of saying, “I am Awareness alone.” Otherwise, he could have simply said, “I am Awareness.” (Repeating) He could have simply said, “I am Awareness.” But he ensures that he is highlighting something, that he is emphasizing something. You must notice that the stress is on ‘alone’. He says, “I am Awareness alone,” and thereby he is saying, “I am Awareness alone, and nothing else.”

“I reject the crowd. I am not prepared to don hundreds of robes, I feel suffocated. It is not my nature to wear and carry so much.” So in the usual run of life, ask yourself, “When I admit an identity, what else am I admitting?” Admit that identity that comes ‘alone’ to you, that does not come with an entire crowd. You do not admit that; instead, you admit something that has a long tail.

The identities that we take upon ourselves are a bit like the HIV virus. Once you have admitted that particular virus, scores of other diseases are sure to arrive in its wake. You cannot just admit HIV alone. (Repeating) You cannot just admit HIV alone. HIV is a bunch of diseases that will follow the first virus.

And that’s how it happens to us.

We are duped. We think we are admitting only one identity upon ourselves. By the time we realize that it is not just one strand, it is an entire net that we are now entangled in, it is usually too late.

So Ashtavakra is telling you, “Reject everything that is available to be rejected, because there is nothing in this world that will come alone to you.” Everything, as we said, will have a long tail. Everything will be subject to cause-and-effect relationships. You admit something, and its family is waiting outside to enter and occupy your space; like a young girl, who in the ecstasy of hormonal love forgets what she is getting into.

She has fallen for a man, and she says, “Let’s get married.” She thinks she is just going to become a wife. Soon she realizes she is not merely a wife, she is a daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and what not! And it doesn’t take much longer to realize that she has become a mother as well. She had probably never bargained for these additional identities, but they all just followed like the tail; a small beast with a very long tail.

The beast shows its cute face, and you say, “Fine chap, come over, come in!” And it comes in, and keeps coming in, and keeps coming in, and keeps coming in. And the tail is so long, it never gets exhausted. The beast is still coming in, it keeps coming in. It fills up your entire life. You had never bargained to give so much space to it.

But that’s the thing with every worldly identity – you admit one thing, and it would never be just one thing. It would never be just one thing – alone.

How would you feel if you send out an invitation card and the invitation card says, ‘Mr. Chaudhary and family’, and Mr. Chaudhary turns up with 500 people, and says, “All these are my family”? That’s how our identities are, you invite Mr. Chaudhary and you get 500 and one people.

Invite the one who comes alone. Invite the one who doesn’t have a family.

And there is only one such One, all others have humongous families.

Invite happiness, and very soon you will discover that happiness has a very long tail – hope, expectations, memories, sadness, despair. Invite hope, and you will discover that hope has a very long tail. They all come together. It’s impossible to be available to one disease, and resistant to another. When you would be attacked, you would be attacked totally; you won’t be spared. Maya knows no half measures.

The one who is prone to fear, would also be prone to jealousy, comparison and what not. If you have been able to see one flaw in yourself, one chink in your armour, then rest assured that your entire armour is about to crack into a thousand pieces, and fall down. One chink won’t remain limited to one chink.

If you are lustful, you will have to be greedy and afraid, and a liar as well. Lust will make you do everything possible.

All the diseases will come.

Be That which you can be alone.

When you can say, “I am That alone and nothing else,” then you are safe. That is why Truth has to be non-dual. That which is dualistic, can never be alone. If it is dualistic, how can it be alone? It would always be accompanied by its dual counterpart.

The Truth has to be non-dual.

If you say, “I am ‘this’,” then you are simultaneously declaring, “I am not ‘not this’.” You are caught. And those who have known, have told you that ‘two’ means an infinity; just ‘two’ are needed to create an infinity. And ‘one’ is not possible, because ‘one’ cannot exist in absence of ‘two’.

‘One’ cannot come without there being ‘two’. To say that there is ‘one’, is to say that there are ‘two’. ‘Two’ means infinity, ‘one’ is not possible, so it is best to be Nothing. And that is what Ashtavakra is telling you. When he says, “Be That alone,” he means – ‘don’t be ‘two’.’ And being ‘one’ is not possible, so be nothing that your mind can think of.

Getting it?

You have asked about meditating the entire day – on being Awareness alone, Unity itself. No, you don’t need to meditate on Awareness. Awareness is not an object, how would you meditate on it? You should rather meditate on the multiple identities that you have covered yourself with. Meditate on them rather.

No point meditating on ‘Awareness’ or ‘Unity’, they cannot be valid objects of contemplation. Meditate on what you take yourself as. Go deep into it. Ask yourself, “How did I get to become what I consider myself as? How exactly did it happen? What is happening right now? Who is listening? Who is talking? Is it the identity at work? Have I been trained to behave and think and act in certain ways?” Don’t meditate on Unity, meditate rather on diversity.

And we are full of diversities and fragments, cracks and parts, fragments and fissures of all kinds; meditate on them. See how life is unfolding in front of you, see what is happening daily, moment-by-moment. Meditate on all that.

Something happens and you react. Immediately then, right there, meditate.

And things are happening all the time, and one is surrounded by stuff all the time. So every moment is a great time to meditate.

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