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What is the state of the liberated one? || Acharya Prashant, on Ashatavakra Gita (2014)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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शून्या दृष्टिर्वृथा चेष्टा विकलानीन्द्रियाणि च ।

न स्पृहा न विरक्तिर्वा क्षीणसंसारसागरे ॥ 17.९ ॥

śūnyā dṛṣṭirvṛthā ceṣṭā vikalānīndriyāṇi ca

na spṛhā na viraktirvā kṣīṇasaṃsārasāgare || 17.9 ||

In him for whom the ocean of samsara (world) has dried up, there is neither attachment nor aversion. His gaze is vacant, his behavior purposeless, and his senses inactive.

~ Ashatavakra Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 9

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न जागर्ति न निद्राति नोन्मीलति न मीलति ।

अहो परदशा काऽपि वर्तते मुक्तचेतसः ॥ 17.१० ॥

na jāgarti na nidrāti nonmīlati na mīlati

aho paradaśā kā'pi vartate muktacetasaḥ || 17.10 ||

Surely the supreme state is everywhere for the liberated mind. He is neither awake nor asleep, and neither opens nor closes his eyes.

~ Ashatavakra Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 10

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Acharya Prashant (AP): The whole language is of negation. The language is symbolic; the language is of negation, and in negating it will carry us to a point beyond negation. "In him for whom the ocean of samsara has dried up, there is neither attachment nor aversion." Where do attachments and aversions arise?

Questioner (Q): In the mind.

AP: Right, in the mind. In what kind of mind?

Q: Conditioned mind.

AP: This realized one lives at a point where attachments and aversions do not reach. His home is at a point that is untouched by both of these. By denying that he lives in attachment, by denying that he lives in aversion, we're coming to see where he lives.

So, we said, "In negation we are being taken to a point beyond negation." Obviously, he does not live in attachment, he does not live in aversion because what you're attached to and what you feel averse to—both have no validity except your limited conditioning, limited life experiences, limited influences that have acted upon you. He does not live there. He has gained a vastness that is just too much for the limitations of the conditioned mind. It won't fit in there. He lives somewhere else.

"His gaze is vacant, his behavior is purposeless." When we look at somebody, there is something in our gaze. What is it? How do we look?

Q: Depending upon our conditioning.

AP: Right. So, what is there in the eyes when we look at something or somebody? We very well know how our eyes are full of something when we look around. I could as well say that we only look at objects as objects. When you look at something as an object, then you are the subject. The subject is nothing but his assumption about himself—that assumption is called 'the ego'. So, there is nothing but ego in your eyes. So, when you look at something, you only look at the thing, or the person, or the world through the eyes of the ego. Ashtavakra says, "No. The eyes of the realized man are vacant; his gaze is vacant."

Do you see what it is pointing at? His gaze is vacant, which means that the ego is not the seer, he is not looking at the world through his narrow subjectivity; he is just looking. There is nothing in the eyes. There are no filters, no dirt, no assumptions, beliefs, no load of the past through which he looks at the world. "His gaze is vacant, his behavior is purposeless." In his purposelessness, do you see what he has already attained? Why do we have purposes? We feel a particular incompletion. He is purposeless, goal-less. Why is he goal-less? Nothing to be gained, nothing to be lost. Whatever is there, is already there. Obviously, nothing is to be lost, nothing is to be gained as well—because what can you gain when there is nothing to be lost?

There is this beautiful couplet:

पाया कहे सो बावरा, खोया कहे सो कूर।

पाया खोया कुछ नहीं, ज्यों का त्यों भरपूर।।

pāya kahe so bāvara, khoya kahe so kūr

pāya khoya kuch nahin, jyon ka tyon bharapūr।।

The one who says that he received something is stupid, and the one who says that he lost is a fool. Neither he gained nor did he lose. He is still the same what he was.

~ Saint Kabir

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There is nothing to be lost and nothing to be gained. What purpose can be there?

There are two kinds of people and two kinds of purposes: One, who are hellbent that we need to drop something; the others, who are hellbent that we must gain something. This fellow has neither anything to gain nor anything to drop. Chill. No ego to drop, no realization to gain. Nothing. No purpose at all.

"His gaze is vacant, his behavior is purposeless, and his senses inactive." What does that mean? His ears have been blocked, his eyes have been gauged out, his tongue has been cut—what does that mean? What is meant by this that his senses are inactive? What do we mean when we say that our senses are active?

Q: Whatever we sense, that gets matched up with some predetermined image.

AP: What do we mean when we say that the senses are active? This is a good way to put it: Whenever the senses will be active, there would always be 'this' and 'that'. That 'this' and 'that' is there only because the subject is there—the sense that there is a difference. Wherever there will be difference, there will be choices. Wherever you would perceive a difference, there would always be priorities, and hence something for the mind to be busy with. "Get this; do not get that!"

"Be here; do not be here!"

"Nice word; ugly word."

"Beautiful dish; abhorrent dish."

"My friend; my foe."

"Light; darkness."

"Rough; smooth."

"Likeable; dislikeable."

Distinctions have ceased. How do distinction cease? Not because the eyes have developed some problem, but because you can see the One in all diversity. That One is shining in everything, be it this or be it that. The presence of that One is so complete, so dominating over everything else that you do not even remember whether it is rough or smooth, whether you saw black or white or red or green. Who remembers that?

It's like you meet your loved one, and you're so completely in love that you do not pay any importance to what he or she is wearing, whether it is costly or not, whether it carries a brand or not. The presence of love is so utterly overwhelming that the differences become insignificant.

You came today to meet me; you came yesterday to meet me. How do I remember these two days? By the difference in your clothing? Is that what will characterize our two meetings? Tell me. Petty things. It does not matter to me whether I'm looking at wood or stone, at young or old. I'm seeing That. Not that I cannot figure out whether the fellow is young or old—I can figure that out but it is so insignificant like the clothes of the loved one. I can figure out, "Yes, he is young, you are old," but it is so petty an issue—who wants to pay attention to it?

"I love you so much, I don't want to pay attention to what you are wearing; and if I pay too much attention to what you are wearing, probably I don't love you."

Are you getting what is meant by the senses being inactive? "Surely the supreme state is everywhere for the liberated mind." Only that is everywhere. Who needs the help of the senses?

There is a story by Khalil Gibran. They were searching for the wisest man in the town. They said, "He should be able to look the farthest—the sun, the moon, everything." So, ultimately, there is this old fellow who comes to them and says, "I'm the one who can look the farthest." They said, "Alright. Show us how." And then they realized that the fellow is blind—he doesn't have any eyes; he does not have these senses. They ask him, "You are completely blind, how do you look at the world around—the moons and the stars?" The story ends here. He says, “They are all here (pointing at the heart) . I look at them here.”

Short story, very-very short story, and simple. That's why somebody has said, "Don't be too bothered with what your eyes are showing, they can only show you limitations."

Eyes can show you only that which is limited, that which has a boundary.

Boundaries are essential. If boundaries are not there, eyes will fail. If a particular sound never ceases to come, your ears won't detect it. Your ears detect words only because words are distinct. If there is just one word, which has an utter continuous, never-ending, ceaseless presence, you'll not be able to hear it—such limitation.

I can hear that which is coming to me in bits and pieces, but I can't hear that which is all the time coming to me—that’s the pettiness of senses.

"You give me this much (a little) , and I can take it. You give me this much (the Total) , and I can't take it"—that’s the pettiness of senses. Go into it. In fact, using the imagination may be alright right now. Imagine that a particular sound has been constantly coming to you ceaselessly since the day you were born, you will be totally ignorant of that sound. That's the pettiness of ears.

Have you ever touched space? You can only touch that which is finite. A limited cup I can touch, but my skin, my sense of touch fails when it comes to touching that which is omnipresent. I can't touch that. You can touch air—alright—but you can't touch space. That's the futility of senses. That's why Ashtavakra is saying that his senses have become inactive.

"He's neither awake nor asleep, and neither opens nor closes his eyes." What you call 'awake' is a particular state of mind—the waking state. What you call 'asleep' is just another state of mind called 'the dreaming' or 'the sleeping' state. The one who is in the waking state is so deeply attached to the waking state that he'll say, "Reality is when I am awake. Reality is in the waking state, and when I go and sleep and I dream, then what I see is imagination, fiction, dream." The one who is dreaming would say, "What I'm seeing right now is the absolute Truth; nothing but this is the Truth."

It is a great mistake to think that the waking state has anything to do with the Truth. It is just as fickle a state of mind as dreaming.

That's why the realized ones have made no distinction between the waking state and the dreaming state—both are one; both are transient states of the mind. It does not matter whether you are in this or that. There is no way you can give preference or priority to one over the other—not at all.

But yes, if you're too identified with the world, then you will give preference to the waking state because in the waking state the senses become active. That is the reason why mankind has been giving so much preference to waking. Even realization has been connoted with waking up. That only indicates that we are very-very identified with the senses and with the world. In the sleeping state, the senses are not really active. The mind is active with matter that has been already accumulated, with all the stuff of the past. The mind is active, but the senses are not really active.

So, if you are somebody who pays great importance to senses, then you will say, “No, the waking state is better than the dreaming state.” But in the Yogi's world, there is no distinction between these two—between these two, and between the third one also what you call 'dreamless sleep', sushupti. He knows all these are one—mere states of mind—and one keeps crossing over from one state to the other. "How can I prefer one over the other?"

He lives somewhere else, beyond these three— beyond jagrat (waking state), sushupti (dreamless state), svapna (dreaming state). He lives somewhere else. So, that's why Ashtavakra says that he is neither awake nor asleep. He is not in this state of mind, he is not in that state of mind.

We said, that through negation, Ashtavakra is taking us to a point beyond negation. By telling us that he lives not in jagrat, not in svapna, he is taking us to the place where the Yogi lives. Where does he live? That place has been classically called turiya (pure consciousness). But it doesn't matter what you call it; It is sufficient that you know that, "I'm not deeply attached to all this that appears, and I'm not attached to all that which is already there in the mind."

What is dreaming? Attachment to that which is accumulated in the mind. That is classically called 'chit', that which is already there, content of the mind, mind-stuff. In dreaming, the chit becomes active. In waking, 'indriya' (the senses) become active.

The Yogi is attached neither to the senses nor to the mind-stuff. He lives somewhere else.

"He neither opens nor closes his eyes."

Opening of the eyes or closing of the eyes both cannot take you beyond the eyes.

Whether you open your eyes or whether you close your eyes, you are still operating with the eyes. "Eyes are good, wonderful. In the waking state they help maintain a particular sense of balance, so it's alright. But eyes are eyes, they can't be too much for me. That which they show, the world which shines through them, cannot in itself be significant for me. Eyes are open, I see That; eyes are closed, I see That. So, how does it matter whether it’s open or closed? Eyes are open, You are all I see; eyes are closed, You are all I see. Now, how does it matter whether the eyes are open or closed?"

So, the Yogi neither opens nor closes his eyes. It becomes insignificant for him. Open—it's alright; closed—alright. If there is a movement, it's alright. “Opening to closing; closing to opening—I'm not bothered. You are all I see.”

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