It’s been five years since I started documenting this journey. Still on the path! Our group has moved from the kind, gentle guidance of the Bhagavad Gita through a series of increasingly vedantic texts, arriving egos bruised and bewildered at the blunt pronouncements of the Ashtavakra Gita. Even now, as we do a second reading, I’m pretty certain I’m not ready for what Ashtavakra has to say.
This week we talked about how little real control we have over our lives, something that’s become painfully apparent in 2020. Covid, the wildfires, evacuations, hospitalizations, death, destruction, injustice, social unrest, divisive politics. While I rail against my predicament, how much actual power do I have to change it?
Ashtavakra says I have none.
Does that mean I remain a passive victim? I’ve been told my whole life to strive, to fight, to conquer. To overcome. One of our group members reminded me that even Lord Krishna urged his favorite disciple Arjuna to fight. So why should I surrender to the whims of destiny?
Ashtavakra says I need to live like the dry leaf that is separated from the tree, tossed about from place to place, experience to experience, accepting what comes my way, heat or cold, pain or pleasure, insult or honor, with absolute equanimity.
This seems impossible. Ashtavakra is describing a state of bliss that I have yet to achieve. The bliss he describes is only gained by removing my sense of ego, the I, me and mine that informs my every action. My identity is much too dear to me. I can do without a lot of things but if I surrender my sense of self then what do I have left? Ashtavakra says EVERYTHING! Such an interesting concept, that my desires and my ego actually create limits and imprison me rather than expand my reach.
I’ve always thought of surrender as sacrificing something. Giving up desire, suppressing my ego, abandoning my will. But Ashtavakra presents it as a shedding of bondage, a release from entanglement, an inheritance of omniscience.
If I can distance myself from the strictures of body, mind and intellect and feel kinship with my higher Self, then yes I can roam about the world like a dry leaf, accepting the results of previous karma during this lifetime while being free from attachment. If I take what comes, accept it without hesitation, do my duty without desire for a specific outcome, then Ashtavakra says, I can achieve freedom here and now.
As for Arjuna? The battle he was urged to fight was not a physical battle destroying external enemies. The battle he fought and won, the only battle any of us are supposed to engage in, is the battle against our limited view of the world, against the ego which separates us from our fellow man and keeps us trapped in the delusion that we can or should somehow control the journey of a leaf blowing in the wind.
Like I said, I’m not quite ready. But it’s good to know.
Leaves in the wind. Jans Canon. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/