The Spiritual Dialogue between Janaka and Astavakra: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Seekers

Astavakra Rishi, also known as Astavakra or Ashtavakra, was a sage and philosopher in ancient India who is believed to have lived during the Vedic period. He is famous for his teachings on spirituality, which are found in the ancient Hindu scripture, the Ashtavakra Gita.

According to legend, Astavakra was born with eight physical deformities, hence his name “Ashtavakra,” which means “having eight bends.” Despite his physical limitations, he was highly intelligent and became a learned sage at a young age. He is said to have engaged in philosophical debates with other sages, including his own father, and emerged victorious in all of them.

Astavakra is best known for his teachings on Advaita Vedanta, which is a school of Hindu philosophy that emphasizes non-dualism. According to Advaita Vedanta, the ultimate reality is Brahman, which is the infinite, eternal, and all-pervading consciousness. The individual self, or atman, is identical to Brahman and is not separate from it.

The Ashtavakra Gita, which is attributed to Astavakra, is a dialogue between Astavakra and King Janaka, and it explores the nature of reality, the true self, and the path to liberation. The text is highly revered in Hinduism and is considered one of the most profound and direct explanations of Advaita Vedanta.

The arrival of Astavakra in the Janaka assembly

According to the Ashtavakra Gita, when Astavakra arrived at King Janaka’s assembly, he was initially ridiculed and dismissed by the assembled scholars and sages. They mocked his physical appearance and the fact that he was young and inexperienced.

However, King Janaka, who was a sincere seeker of truth, recognized Astavakra’s wisdom and invited him to speak. Astavakra then proceeded to deliver a series of profound and insightful teachings on the nature of reality, the true self, and the path to liberation.

The other scholars and sages who had initially ridiculed Astavakra were also impressed by his wisdom and were humbled by their own lack of understanding.

Janaka questions to Astavakra

In the Ashtavakra Gita, King Janaka, who was also a spiritual seeker, asks Astavakra several questions about the nature of reality, the true self, and the path to liberation. Here are some examples of Janaka’s questions:

  • What is the nature of the self? How can I realize my true self?
  • What is the cause of bondage and suffering, and how can I be liberated from them?
  • How can I attain inner peace and detachment, even while living in the world?
  • What is the relationship between the individual self and the ultimate reality (Brahman)?
  • How can I overcome the obstacles to spiritual realization, such as desire, attachment, and ego?
  • What is the role of knowledge, action, and devotion in spiritual practice?
  • How can I recognize the true nature of reality, beyond the limitations of my senses and mind?
  • What is the path to enlightenment, and how can I follow it?

Astavakra answers to Janaka’s questions

Astavakra responds to these and other questions with profound insights and teachings that are still relevant and inspiring today.

Here are some brief summaries of Astavakra’s answers to some of the questions that King Janaka asked him:

Astavakra explains that the true self is not the body, mind, or ego, but rather the pure consciousness that underlies all of these. He suggests that to realize the true self, one must cultivate self-knowledge, discrimination, and detachment.

Astavakra explains that the cause of bondage and suffering is ignorance, which leads to attachment and desire. He suggests that liberation can be attained through the realization of the true self, which is beyond the limitations of the body, mind, and world.

Astavakra suggests that inner peace and detachment can be attained through the practice of self-knowledge, discrimination, and detachment. He explains that one can be in the world without being attached to it, by recognizing the impermanence and unreality of all phenomena.

Astavakra explains that the individual self and the ultimate reality (Brahman) are not separate, but rather identical. He suggests that the apparent differences between them are due to ignorance and illusion.

Astavakra suggests that the obstacles to spiritual realization can be overcome through the practice of self-knowledge, discrimination, and detachment. He explains that one must recognize the true nature of reality and cultivate detachment from all that is impermanent and illusory.

Astavakra suggests that knowledge, action, and devotion are all important in spiritual practice, but that self-knowledge is the most important of all. He explains that true knowledge leads to liberation, whereas ignorance leads to bondage.

Astavakra suggests that the true nature of reality is beyond the limitations of the senses and mind, and can only be realized through self-knowledge and inner experience. He explains that the world is an illusion, and that only the pure consciousness that underlies it is real.

Astavakra suggests that the path to enlightenment is through self-knowledge and detachment and that it requires courage, determination, and persistence. He explains that the goal of spiritual practice is to realize the true self and be free from all limitations and bondage.

Janaka satisfaction with the answers

King Janaka is portrayed as being highly satisfied with Astavakra’s answers to his questions. In fact, Janaka is said to have been so impressed with Astavakra’s wisdom that he declared him to be his guru and asked him to continue teaching him.

Janaka’s satisfaction with Astavakra’s answers is likely due to the fact that Astavakra’s teachings are deeply insightful, direct, and profound. Astavakra’s emphasis on self-knowledge, discrimination, and detachment resonates with Janaka’s own spiritual aspirations, and his explanations of the nature of the true self and the path to liberation are clear and practical.

Final remarks

Overall, the Ashtavakra Gita presents a dialogue between two spiritual seekers who are deeply committed to realizing the truth of their own being. The wisdom and insights that Astavakra shares with Janaka are timeless and universal, and continue to inspire and guide spiritual seekers to this day.

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