11/10/2014 § Leave a comment
Translated by JOHN RICHARDS
The Ashtavakra Gita, or the Ashtavakra Samhita as it is sometimes called, is a very ancient Sanskrit text. Nothing seems to be known about the author, though tradition ascribes it to the sage Ashtavakra; hence the name.
There is little doubt though that it is very old, probably dating back to the days of the classic Vedanta period. The Sanskrit style and the doctrine expressed would seem to warrant this assessment.
The work was known, appreciated, and quoted by Ramakrishna and his disciple Vivekananda,as well as by Ramana Maharshi, while Radhakrishnan always refers to it with great respect. Apart from that the work speaks for itself.
It presents the traditional teachings of Advaita Vedanta with a clarity and power very rarely matched.
The translation here is by John Richards, and is presented to the public domain with his affection. The work has been a constant inspiration in his life for many years. May it be so for many others.
Stackpole Elidor, UK
11/10/2014 § Leave a comment
Anugîtâ, an exposé on sâmkhya and yoga doctrines in the Mahâbhârata
by Guy Vincent
(Hatha Yoga Conference, Bitche, Thuesday, 25th July 2006 )
Translated into English by Gilles Schaufelberger
Everybody here knows that the Mahâbhârata is the epic par excellence of the Indian
world: it relates the conflict between two branches of the same family, conflict that will
end in a total war marking the end of an era, the transition from Dvâpara to Kali age, the
worst. But it would reduce the importance of this epic to confine it to a warlike genre, for
it provides endless minor stories, reflections in order to postpone the conclusion, all kind
of speculations. These developments, parallel to the main stream, constitute in fact
another stream just as much essential, like a reflexive thought on what is going on.
Among the developments or the bends taken by the narration, 34 speculative
chapters are found in book XIV, whose general heading is Anugîtâ, « continuation of the
Gîtâ ». Anugîtâ is actually meant to be a follow up to the well known Bhagavadgîtâ, an
other speculative passage, also included in the Mahâbhârata. But as much the Bhagavadgîtâ
received a general audience, as much the Anugîtâ remained confidential, not to say
unknown, in India as well as in Europe. I would like to reveal it to the audience.
Since 25 years, with my friend Gilles Schaufelberger, we set about, twice a week,
translating in French precisely all these additional and parallel stories to revive the
integrative and creative power of the Mahâbhârata, where the few French translators
privileged rather the main story. Three volumes of our translations just came out from
the Presses de l’Université Laval (Quebec), and our translation of the Anugîtâ is in Vol. III,
pp. 477 to 640. We are grateful to the Hatha Yoga center to have invited us, which allows
us to inform you about our long-maintained work.
Further, it has to be known that the Mahâbhârata is a very huge work (between
160,000 and 200,000 lines) and that the critical edition of the text took thirty years for a
whole team of scholars, sorting out the variants between more than a hundred
manuscripts. We have worked on this critical edition, which is important to specify, as
there are so many manuscript’s variants that the very sense of a passage may be different
from an edition to the other, with no way to know which version is preferable. The epic is
a living work which grows, changes, becomes richer during the centuries, and nothing can
let us think that the original text could be reconstructed. So it is, and we have to accept it.
I. PRESENTATION OF THE ANUGÎTÂ
a) Synopsis :
The Anugîtâ is a speculative text of 34 chapters written in shloka (the epic verse, two
lines of 16 foot each), divided in three parts: first a discussion between a Perfect (Siddha)
and a Kashyapa’s descendant, then a discussion between a Brahman and his wife, finally a
discussion between a Master and his disciple. These three discussions are reported by the
god Krishna himself to Arjuna, his comrade-in-arms and friend. Krishna relates what he
has heard previously.
The first discussion (XIV, 16-19) is about rebirth and the way to final emancipation.
The Perfect points out that the sacrifices offered to the gods bring only a perishable
happiness hereafter: « The celestial abodes are never eternal. Repeatedly we come down
from a high position acquired with difficulty, repeatedly we die, repeatedly we are born
again, we take many meals, we drink from many breasts, we know many successive
– 2 –
fathers and mothers, we are subjects alternatively to hapiness and misfortune » (XIV, 16,
29-32). Thus we have to escape this law, in order not to be born again. But Kashyapa’s
descendant wants to know, how the soul leaves the body and how it grows heavy with
the weight of the acts.
The Perfect then describes the erratic attitude of the man: « He makes use of the
positive effects of the acts accomplished in a previous incarnation to build here below his
health and his fame, but his merits become completely exhausted. He uses then the
negative effects of his previous actions and destroys his health … He eats sometimes to
excess, sometimes nothing. He eats highly spiced meals and sleeps all day. He catches
lethal diseases … A heat shakes his organism, kindled by an heavy breathing, it overruns
the whole body and blocks all the vital breaths. This burning heat breaks the places where
resides the life, and straight away, in the middle of sharp pains, the soul leaves the body …
His body being no more irrigated, he understands that he is sent back to the five
elements » (XIV, 17, 6-20). The individual soul is likened to a wind which takes avay the
weight of the acts, and the Brahmans discern if one has done either good or evil: « With
the eyes of the knowledge, they see it as one sees with one’s own eyes a glowworm
piercing here and there the darkness » (XIV, 17, 30).
The Perfect continues his lesson on the future of the soul, either going up to heaven
or down to hell, until it has to become an embryo: « Just as melting iron takes the shape of
the mould, know that the soul slips into the embryo. Just as a lit lamp lights a room, the
conscience lights the body » (XIV, 18, 9-10). We have to break this chain by a mental
discipline based on renouncing : to remain the same, to envy nobody, to be without
enemies, without parents, without children, to own nothing. « To imagine oneself without
sense of smell, without sense of touch, wthout sense of hearing, without prehension,
without shape, without means of knowledge » (XIV, 19, 10), such is the way to the
spiritual training named « yoga ». The soul is then able to contemplate the Spiritual
Principle (Mahant), which has « thousand feet, thousand hands, countless eyes, heads and
mouths » (XIV, 19, 45). Here will be recognized Krishna’s image as depicted in
Bhagavadgîtâ (VI, 33, 23). And here ends this first secret teaching.
The second discussion. (XIV, 20-34).takes its origin in a Brahman’s wife worrying
about her lot hereafter. What kind of salvation is waiting for her ? The Brahman then
reminds that the Absolute is inside everybody: « I have understood that the temple was
inside me: this temple can not be smelled by the nose, nor tasted by the tongue, nor felt
by the touch. Its access is through the mind » (XIV, 20, 9; 12). From there come the five
breaths. Following that, a description is given of the action of the five breaths in the body,
of the seven perception’s organs (nose, tongue, ears, eye, skin, mind and intelligence), of
an internal sacrifice where seven sacrificers pour seven offerings into seven fires (it means
that he who smells, tastes, hears. and so on, pours into his organs of perception the
perceived informations). The sacrifice becomes internal.
But conflicts shake the body, as the conflict between the mind and the organs of the
senses (the senses point out that without their help the mind couldn’t apprehend
anything); the five breaths argue also between themselves (among the five, which one is
the most important ?); the discussion concerns the life to be lead and the difficulty to
understand within the forest of the knowledge (for example, the syllabe « om » isn’t
understood the same way by all: the snakes think that it means « to bite », the demons
« to deceive », the gods « to give », the sages « to have self-control »), the necessity for the
nonviolence (the warriors are condemned because they use brute force: the king Alarka
discovers the power of the mind that none of his arrows are able to reach or to kill;
another king, Janaka, discovers as for him the futility of any territory’s possession.
The discussion ends on the fact that there isn’t an single way to final emancipation,
but a myriad of them. « Then, the Brahman’s wife opted for the destruction of her bodily
soul. From her former soul another soul rose up » (XIV, 34, 10). Krishna then reveals to
– 3 –
Arjuna that his mind (manas) is the Brahman and his intelligence (buddhi) the Brahman’s
wife. All the truths are not understandable by the intelligence only.
The third discussion (chapters 35 to 50) takes its origin in a very brief question a
disciple asks his Master: « The best, what is it ? ». The answer get organized on the theme
of the components of the human being, the three tendencies (guna), which act inside
ourselves: Virtue (sattva), Desire (rajas) and Instinct (tamas). In changing proportions,
depending on each and on the the kind of life he leads, these three tendencies constitute
the whole universe : « the light of the sun, it is the Virtue, its heat the Desire, its eclipses
the Instinct : in such a way, the three tendencies spread in all the stars» (XIV, 39, 15-16).
The discussion then continues, taking up typical notions of sâmkhya, explaining how
the world is built from the Unmanifested (avyakta) to the Great Soul (mahat), then to the
self-awareness (ahamkara), then to the material and subtle elements. The Sâmkhya is a
dualistic system, separating the mind from the matter : the matter spreads in order that, at
the end, the mind does no more need it, and discovers its profond independence. That is
illustrated by the image of a dancer or bayadere bewitching her spectator until the latter
discovers the illusion represented by this dance. Besides, the discussion puts the emphasis
on the impermanence of this world, on the necessity to end his own life as an hermit
« who brings from all sides his senses back into himself as a tortoise its limbs» (XIV, 46, 42)
to obtain the Sacred (brahman): « He who, at the time of his death, withdraws into
himself, not becoming confused if only the time of a sigh, he who masters his breathing
by means of respiratory exercises, repeated ten or twelve times, even twenty four times,
obtains immortality » XIV, 48, 2; 4).
Finally the discusion ends by an invitation to meditate.
This summary shows how the Anugîtâ is rich in topics and is meant to be a witness of
the main philosophical and mystical concerns of the then Indian world. It isn’t the least of
its difficulties: within this combination of conventional subjects, which part of its
originality is hidden or shown ?
That’s why we have to specify the context into which appears this triple teaching,
deliberately secret, reserved to Arjuna alone. To which extent is it esoteric, given the
seemingly conventional aspect of its toughts ?
b) Narrrative situation
The book XIV is named « Horse’s Sacrifice Book (Ashwamedha Parva) »; war is over,
and the victorious king Yudhishthira, elder brother of Arjuna, has to perform a horse’s
sacrifice in order to be proclaimed king of earth1. It is an old Indo-European ritual, very
complex; a horse is set free to roam during one year over the earth, accompanied by
young people; it is then suffocated; the royal queen feigns a mating with the dead animal.
As it is a very expansive ceremony, with the many riches that have to be given to the
Brahmans, it would be necessary to fetch them. During the preparations, Arjuna and the
god Krishna return to the capital, Indraprastha. Their friendship is strong, bound up by
hours of fighting. They take advantage of this interlude to talk to each other, to have a
more general conversation. One thing is sure: the teaching given by Krishna isn’t fit for a
warrior, a kshatriya, but for a hermit or a Brahman: Arjuna isn’t cut out to practise
asceticism or to renounce, while his elder brother, the king Yudhishthira, is much more
attracted to such a way of life and would easily give up his royal duty. This inadequate
choice surprises us: why did Krishna chose this interlocutor ? But that isn’t the only
The first translator of the Anugîtâ into an European language, that is to say into
English, is Kâshinâth Trimbak Telang, in 1882, (Sacred Books of the East, vol. 8, Oxford). He
points out other areas of obscurity: are the three parts of the Anugîtâ sign of three
different texts as some manuscripts think ? Is their autor the same ? Is their author
another than the author of the Mahâbhârata ? At which time could the Anugîtâ have been
– 4 –
written ? How long before the Bhagavadgîtâ or how long after ? He tries, by some
comparisons with the Upanishads, by noting down some societal facts present in the text,
by words that could be borrowed from Buddhism or Jainism, to work out the text better,
but no answer seems satisfactory to him. The very fact that two Indian commentators
allude to it, Samkara the one, in a treatise named Sârîrakabhâshya, Vijnânabhiksu the other,
in Sâmkhyasâra, hardly brings new information. The Anugîtâ remains enigmatic, without
possibility to define its date. It is impossible to say either if it precedes sâmkhya’s and
yoga’s doctrines in their building stage, or if it is only a versified echo of them. Unlike the
Bhagavadgîtâ, whose message is conveyed by a god, the Anugîtâ follows the outline of the
oldest Upanishads, where eminent men were keen enough to bring transcendent
It looks thus like a sacred text that has not found its audience during centuries, or has
not aroused any interest for its wording. And yet, this speculative text doesn’t lack assets,
and we would like to redeem it through our translation into French. Our translation
doesn’t rely on Trimbak Telang’s one, which we have not consulted to be free of any
influence. Trimbak Telang’s translation is an accurate one, with many footnotes referring
to other related texts; it retains Sanskrit words to express the notions. Reprinted in 1986, it
is available on the site http://theology101.org/index.html, or, more precisely, on its page
« hinduism » at http://theology101.org/hin/sbe08/index.htm.
Our translation solves in another way the text’s difficulties. But we wish that other
translators embark on this work, as for the Bhagavadgîtâ: Concerning Sanskrit, plenty of
translations doesn’t harm.
c) Comparison with the Bhagavadgîtâ.
The Anugîtâ has suffered from the Bhagavadgîtâ’s presence, whose fortunes are
considerable. Admittedly, these two texts are meant to be sacred, esoteric ones, where
reasoning is combined with pure revelation. But in the Bhagavadgîtâ, there is a beauty, a
force of images, that doesn’t exist in the Anugîtâ. Moreover, the narrative context itself
inclines toward the Bhagavasgîtâ: in the VIth book of the Mahâbhârata (Bhîshma Parva), on
the first day of the battle, the two armies are facing each other. Arjuna is standing on his
chariot driven by Krishna; he stops it in the middle of the armies, seized by an extreme
despondency because, in front of him, he recognizes friends, relatives, people he thinks
highly of, people he will have to fight with; Krishna then reveals to him his true nature
and the yoga of moral sufferings’ release. The Anugîtâ doesn’t take place in the same
setting: Arjuna has a rest in his palace, and confesses he has forgotten what Krishna has
taught him. Krishna tells him how much he is disappointed and declares: « I can not trust
you, ô Pându’s son, you are narrow-minded » (XIV, 16, 10). Finally, it will be noted that
the Anugîtâ does not lead to some devotion to a god, to Krishna, to his power of
salvation, but remains centred on the human means of salvation, while the Bhagavadgîtâ
ends with a demonstration of divine omnipotence in which everything will be reduced.
The fact that these three elements (images, context, devotion) were not so well
represented, that the dramatization was not so great, must have played a role against the
Anugîtâ. Nevertheless, it contains valuable aspects, if only for the choice to pass on
speculative notions in various and illustrated forms. The text isn’t an arduous exposé on
categories and concepts, it knows how to use pleasant images, anecdotes, and a great
expressiveness of the vocabulary. We will come back on this aspect.
Let us enter more inside the text ‘s spirit by looking on some notions that structure
– 5 –
II. TAPAS AND YOGA
a) To practise austerity
Many times the epic mentions the asceticism of men or women who embark
themselves in firm penances in order to obtain a son, magical weapons, merits to go up to
heaven in the abodes of the gods, or supernatural powers. It is a technique of want that
forces the gods to give a boon. One deprives himself of food, one takes refuge alone in a
forest or a mountain, one remains motionless for years if needed, and so on. Without
judging too severely this kind of piety, we will note its self-interested nature, even if the
expressed need is often legitimate and shows one’s willingness to redress an injustice. But
even demons (asura) are seen practising such austerities, with the intention of dominating
the world and enslaving the gods. The Sanskrit world corresponding to this is the word
« tapas », meaning « intense heat », as if this exercise, based on immobility, was producing
an energy, was an activity. The ascetic is called « tapasvin, the one who possesses heat ».
Sacrifice (yajna) is of another nature: it doesn’t aim for obtaining a power, it
regulates instead the order of the world and the social order, it protects the world from
the risk of being destroyed by demons or broken by death, but it isn’t free either from
certain interests: well celebrated, it brings to the sacrificer consideration, fame and vital
energy, it brings to the social group rain and crops for example.
Yoga differs from asceticism and from sacrifice as well. From the first chapter of the
Anugîtâ, the Perfect (Siddha) warns: « By different sacrifices and by a relentless discipline,
mortals obtain success here below and even a stay in the abode of the gods. But their
happiness doesn’t last, the celestial abodes are never eternal » (XIV, 16, 28-29). There is
better to be done, the spiritual training, or yoga, which is the way. Its use is described in
XIV, 19, 14 sq:
« I will teach you the wonders of yoga:
He who goes through its doors perceives the universal soul that resides inside
Disciplined, always concentrated, keeping himself and his senses as well under
control, he who reaches perfect meditation, sees by himself the universal soul…
Mastering meditation, he bends the very divinity of the gods to his will…
Let him think of the region he knows from a long time, then let his mind turn to
the inside of the town he lives in, forgetting the outside.
Inside the town, let him concentrate his mind on the house he lives in, its outside
and its inside.
Having mastered his house in his mind, let him meditate on the body he lives in,
neglecting the outside.
Having mastered all his senses in this silent and lonely retreat, let him meditate on
the inside of his body, dealing only with that.
Let him focus his mind on his teeth, his palate, his tongue, his throat, his neck, his
heart, and even on his heart’s veins … »
Thus, yoga is beyond asceticism and sacrifice, because it tries to extract itself from the
world rather than to change it or to take advantage of it. Yet, it doesn’t exclude them, it
includes them, for it tries to be ascetic and sacrificial. Besides, the yogin is called « yati », i.e.
« he who endures, he who supports »; he starts from asceticism that aims at mastering
body and mind and offers in sacrifice the elements and the organs of perception that
make his being up before reaching perfection or final emancipation. Let us take the story
of the king Alarka (XIV, 30) who gives up the kingdom he has conquered and tries to
conquer his body and his mind, imagining he could shoot arrows at them to make them
obedient « When I hear many sounds, I covet them ! So, at my ears, I will shoot arrows …
When I see many objects, I covet them ! So, at my eyes, I will shoot my sharpened arrows
… ». Every organ answers him he will just die. Then, weary of pursuing a loosing battle,
– 6 –
he takes to yoga, killing his senses with only one arrow and reaching the universal soul.
That shows up yoga not only diverts asceticism and sacrifice toward richer aims, farther
horizons, giving an increase of spirituality, but also brings them together in the same
effort of transcendence. The Anugîtâ, based on the sacrifice’s rules, is more qualified for
giving a practical method of progression (decribing stages) than the Bhagavadgîtâ that
develops asceticism and divine revelation in what they have of ecstatic.
b) The warrior and the yoga
As a result, it could be believed that yoga came out after the techniques of asceticism
and the practices of sacrifice. And yet, before becoming such a notion, questioning the
value of sacrifice and the interest of asceticism, the yoga existed as a test proposed to a
warrior to prove his merit or to obtain magical weapons. Thanks to the Mahâbhârata, a
kind of yoga’s archaeology is thinkable. Yoga’s was probably practised prior to sacrificial
rites and to asceticism. Between this very ancient stage and Anugîtâ’s one, an evolution of
yoga can be observed. Admittedly, yoga’s origins are still discussed, but in a paper dated
1998, « The Indo-European Prehistory of Yoga », N.J. Allen, Institute of Social and Cultural
Anthropology, University of Oxford, points out a very strange similarity between the
ordeals to which Arjuna is submitted for obtaining divine weapons in the blessed abode of
Indra, and those to which the Greek hero Odysseus is submitted during his journey back
from Calypso’s island to Pheacians’ country. In that case, Arjua is definitely a yogin, and
that would explain that Krishna completes or confirms his training. But if yoga helps to
obtain divine gifts useful for a warrior, in what is it different from tapas, this asceticism
practised to obtain merits and powers ? The episode analysed by N.J. Allen could give us
an answer: the tapasvin obeys to a personal choice, the yogin is entrusted with a mission.
Shall we find again this dimension of a call and a qualifying ordeal in the Anugîtâ ? It is not
Let us recall the episode of Arjuna going to Himâlaya. The five Mahâbhârata’s heroes
are in exile in the forest (III, 37-45) and suffer from the situation, when Vyâsa appears: he
orders Arjuna to go on a trip in order to receive magical weapons from various divinities
including Indra the last. Arjuna leaves, and after days and nights of uninterrupted walk,
he reaches Himâlaya, where during four months, he practises tapas in honour of the god
Shiva. First, he eats only fruits and roots, then only drinks water, finally fasts completely
and remains standing on the toes, arms upward. Then Shiva becomes incarnate in a
hunter and fights a duel with a thin Arjuna: the fight proceeds with arrows first, then with
one’s bare hands Arjuna is reduced by Shiva to a shapeless mass, a ball of flesh (pinda,
name of the pellet which is offered to the dead ancestors), all his limbs are broken. He
faints, regains conciousness and asks the god to forgive him. Shiva touches him and gives
him again shape and strength. He gives him also a magical weapon. Arjuna then meets
the four cardinal points’ guardians (lokapâla), three of them give him other weapons, the
fourth is Indra himself in a disguise, who sends him his celestial chariot to fly him to the
heaven, in the divinely beautiful city of Amarâvatî. A nymph, Urvashî, tries and seduces
Arjuna. The latter shares the throne with the king of the gods, Indra, who offers him a
magical weapon. All these obtained weapons will be used in the future war.
This episode is rich in lessons to be learned:
1) First of all, it is similar to the Odysseus’ return, leaving Calypsô who keeps him for
many years on a desert island (the island is equivalent to the forest) sailing seventeen
days without sleeping, running into a tempest that wipes him out and breaks his
boat, facing the wrath of Poseidon (equivalent of Shiva) and the combined violence of
the four winds (the cardinal points’ guardians), rejected nude and grazed on the
shore (let us think to the flesh ball), begging the god to be favourable, fainting, falling
asleep to recover his strength, entering on a chariot driven by mules the Pheacians’
city where a endless spring prevails, meeting Nausicaa, the king’s daughter who
thinks she has found a husband in him (like Urvashî). If the comparison is valid, that
– 7 –
means that the yoga dates back to a time situated before the separation of the Indo-
European peoples, i.e; 3000 B.C. at least, since the same story happens to be in India
and in Greece.
2) Then, the episode follows the stages Patañjali, the oldest theoritician of yoga,
describes pointing to the difficulties encountered by the yogin; he names them
« anga » (limbs); five external (yama or self-control by abstinence; niyama or
restraint; âsana or posture; prânayama or breathing’s control; pratyâhâra or
withdrawal of the senses) and three internal (dhârana or mind’s focusing; dhyâna or
meditation; samadhi or ecstasy); let us notice that Arjuna practises asceticism during
four month and then meets with Shiva in a duel in which he is deprived of form (the
five external limbs), is visited by three guardians (the three internal limbs) and finally
reaches Indra (found unity); Patañjali himself refers even to « high-ranking persons’
offers » (3, 51), modest wording to refer to carnal temptation (willing nymphs). N.J.
Allen notices also similarities in Shvetâshvatara Upanishad, which proves that Arjuna’s
journey describes on the narrative mode the stages of the yogin toward the wished
This paper is thus invaluable to make us understand yoga’s nature at its origin and
how the Anugîtâ is an expression of its evolution. The aim of Arjuna’s asceticism was
to equip the hero with weapons that would save his side from the demonic hold of its
enemies, an altruistic aim; in the Anugîtâ, the yoga arises out of a questioning of
asceticism’s and sacrifice’s effectiveness, it tries to be transcendent. In a sense, the
yogin offers others the way he has opened.
3) The three guna, or tendencies. A group of three notions enjoys also a special handling
in the Anugîtâ: there is sattva, « the very fact of being », associated with the values of
Virtue, kindness, light, purity, happiness. That proves that existing is not
contemptible or regrettable ! Then there is rajas, « the dust », associated with Desire,
impurity, passion, feelings, activity, misfortune. Finally there is tamas « the
darkness » i.e. Instinct, ignorance, apathy, error. These three tendencies are the three
constituents of all the beings. Each being has a more or less great amount of these
constituents, « guna » in Sanskrit, But here we have a problem of translation, as the
word guna refers also to the qualities of the objects (the flavours, bitter, sharp, mild
for example, are guna). Here, it is question of the fundamental qualities that weave
the fabric of the world. We have chosen « tendencies » in the sense that the beings are
taken away by these lines of direction, follow their plans of organization and express
them in every possible way. Doesn’t the text say for instance: « Three currents arrive
permanently in the mind, three vessels get into it » (XIV, 36, 3) ? Moreover, to take
into account this notion of tendencies, we have translated sattva by Virtue, rajas by
Desire and tamas by Instinct to avoid a too hierarchical system. Actually, we think
traditionally that only Virtue deserves to be honoured, and that everything must be
done to let it dominate inside us and control the two others. This moralizing point of
view is not the one adopted by the Anugîtâ, which takes a more neutral eye: the three
tendencies are in us and weave our life. To remove one of them is impossible and
insane. Here is what is written (XIV, 39, 1 sq.):
« Anyway, it is impossible to speak separately of the tendancies: Instinct, Desire
and Virtue are inseparable.
They are tied the ones to the others, they depends the ones on the others, they
obey the ones to the others…
They go together, they are united and they work together…
They live together, they are inversely proportional. The shortcoming of one of
them leads in every case to the excess of the others…
Also they are imagined very distant, they work together…
All that exist here under has these three tendencies, although they act in an
invisible way »
– 8 –
Admittedly, Virtue is privileged, but it can’t erase the two other which are always
present, if only in the three castes: « Istinct for the people, Desire for the noblemen,
Virtue for the Brahmans » (XIV, 39, 11) – old rest of trifunctionality – or in the
divisions of the reality: « The nature of the day is triple, triple the one of the night …
The nature of the giving is triple, triple the one of the sacrifice, triple the worlds, triple
the gods, triple the sciences and the ways to emencipation. The past, the present, the
future, … the ascending, descending and upward breaths, all are provided with the
three tendencies » (XIV, 39, 18-20).
The Anugîtâ offers thus a holistic much more than moral view of the existence, of
which it notes carefully the components. If it goes in this way about things, it is to act
with a full knowledge of the facts, in order to strive for perfection. By which means ?
It adopts the divisions of the sâmkhya (subtle and rough elements, organs of the
senses, organs of action, mind and intelligence) but keeps not to cataloguing what
exists: it tries to take it as it is in order to get out of it a lever, or, as the text says: « to
reach the opposite bank » (XIV, 49, 28).
It is not possible to summarize all the original aspects of the Anugîtâ, but we would
like to mention its way of teaching and its wording.
III. ANALOGIES AND EMBEDDING
The Anugîtâ is an account of the way the world builds itself, from the point « alpha »
(let us call it this way) to our thinking, feeling and acting body. A complete succession of
levels is given, as well as a division of the living. The human being is broken down in
series of levels (soul, 3 tendencies, 5 subtle elements, 5 breathings, 11 organs of the senses,
5 rough elements) and there is nothing to indicate that plants or animals are different
(they are rather absent). The succession of levels is not one-way: it is not only a
degradation (from the purest to the most perishable), it could be a graduation (a climb up
toward the purest). The only knowledge of these levels is already an opportunity to make
progress. Truly, the Anugîtâ attempts a certain representation of the world, very close to
sâmkhya as we have said before. But also, like the Upanishads, it makes use of a
metaphorical system or device that consists in establishing identities (this is that: for
example the eye is the sacrificer, the seen object is the sacrificial victim or the oblation, the
eyesight is the fire that burns the offering), according to a principle of analogy puzzling
but fruitful: to report, to compare, to find an internal unity, that manifests the work of the
mind. But not everything can be compared nor matched up. Very far from it, thinks also
the Hindu sage. And the questioning will be about the drawing up and the preparing of
the fields fit for such an analogy. The experiment prepares for a system making
analysable the scene of the future analogy. It is not rough matter which is juxtaposed, but
two states, better two futures, rather than two sections or two fragments of the matter.
Let us take a first example showing that not everything is comparable (XIV, 21, 7 to
« I will tell you the argument between mind and speech: both of them went to
Brahmâ and asked him: « Take a doubt away from us: Which one of us is the
best ? »
You have to understand « the best » as « the first ». The Lord answers that the mind
is the first, but they are surprised:
« When speech was not yet existing, how could the goddess of speech, Sarasvatî,
express herself ? »
– 9 –
Then, the Lord mentions that speech is born into the body and is mobile, while mind
is immobile. Thus, both, mind and speech, aren’t comparable.
It is only from a shifting on two different levels that an analogy can appear. That is
the fundamental key in the logic of the connections appearing in this text. The whole
operation of preparation is a start-up, a development
« The wheel of the time has for hub the intelligence, for axle tree the mind and for
spokes the senses. It has for metallic rim the five elements, and for hoop the
It rolls with old age and sorrows, and makes its way through adversity and illness.
It goes all over time and space, and has for squeaking tiredness and grief…
It has for axle the words with their stress, it turns at mind’s speed »
In this passage, the metaphor compares the movement of time to the movement of
a chariot, as it compares the movement of life, made of misfortunes, feelings and words to
the movement of the same chariot. As a result, both circular movements (time/life) are
comparable, and teach us, for example that matter is a driven sheath (vishkambha,
« metallic rim, bolt, pole, diameter »).
The Anugîtâ, for who cares to pay attention (and this aspect is often ignored),
resounds with such paths to be taken upwards or inwards to mind, with such verbs of
movement or conduction, with such images of chariot or journey, because two objects are
comparable only according to an intellectual search, to a material evolution. As Rada
Ivekovic (« Dynamisme ou staticité dans la pensée indienne » in Les Cahiers de la
Philosophie, n° 14, pp. 215 to 225), puts it, the journey is always physical and mental, since
« the movement of the thought is in a way natural as the effort to think the movement ».
The stages of life, the levels of knowledge, the classifications, are possible divisions only
for lines of speed. Dharma is here at issue: this concept with many meanings (justice, duty,
cosmic or personal order, norm, law, sacred custom, honour, code of ethics, line of
conduct) doesn’t find its explanation, as one could believe, in the idea that everything in
the universe strives for a « line of conduct », a speed that puts it in accord with other
speeds with which it has to compromise. If the beings and the things do not compromise,
nothing conceivable is left. Now, every one of them has its own dharma, with which they
can be conveyed, which makes them accessible, analogical therefore. Adharma or disorder
comes from Desire (rajas), profit, ownership, withholding (of donations, of sacrifices), it is
the fact of moving away from the meant way (demeaning), of getting bogged down and
of losing the right speed, and the fact of no more knowing that various speeds exist
according to age, caste, rank. If speeds weren’t codified, the mind wouldn’t be able to
establish its connections, it would be chaos.
To determine these speeds, to codify their variability, becomes thus an urgent task. It
is not conducted according to a metric, as in Europe; India chooses another point of view:
the notion of brahman is called for as absolute speed. According to our level of knowledge,
we accelerate our speed until making it identical with Absolute’s. Samsâra, or the cycle of
reincarnation, is only a series of speeds, whose slowing down measures our distance from
brahman. To free oneself from it, means to concentrate oneself and to unify oneself in such
a degree nothing can resist by its friction to absolute speed. Let the organs of the senses
retract themselves as the tortoise’s limbs: if the slow-moving tortoise is given as example,
that is to inform us of our mediocre speed, of our weight, while its back is a curve to
enable us to conform ourselves to the including approach of the Being. What is present in
the heart of the reed, says the Anugîtâ, it is also the arrow. « The arrows represents
brahman » (XIV, 19, 21-22)..It is normal to consider the latter as transcending the opposites,
since absolute speed, following the example of a top, appears with both these aspects in
the same time: mobility and immobility, diversity and unity, movement and point.
Thus, according to this perspective, beings and things are coexistential, without
necessary anteriority. They appear to us according to evolving directions of which the
sage knows the perfect culmination that makes them comparable. Each being and each
– 10 –
thing are determined in comparison with a central point, identical to the absolute speed
that is brahman. That is why the Anugîtâ, like other Upanishads, dares this connection
(XIV, 42, 27 to 39) :
« The ear is adhyâtman (the supreme Being, he who knows himself) … The skin is
adhyâtman … », until « … The anus is adhyâtman »
This kind of sentence is nonsense, unless referring to the idea of an absolute
anchorage point, repeating for the perceptions and the places where they occur the
general configuration of the central brahman. They are not the organs of the senses that
are mentioned, but their ability to be a point of reference for all that moves around them:
a place (space for the ear), a perception (a sound), and a divinity (here, the cardinal points),
these three elements move, their movement takes its meaning being compared with an
absolute movement. They are not themselves the supreme Being .
How then can we measure them and compare one to the other ?
1. First, drawing up « chains ». One chain is about the five subtle elements (sound,
contact, form, smell; flavour) that are to be understood as qualities by which the
objets are accessible, the five rough elements (water, earth, air, fire, ether) – to those
ten the self-awareness is added, to make eleven. The same for the chain concerning
the five organs of senses and the five organs of action, to which mind is added to
make also eleven.
2. These two chains are comparable. There is still to weave the links of identity, of
generation, of association. And to build analogies. To do that, we will use the ternary
structure of the sacrifice that needs a sacrificer, a sacrificial victim that is offered
(oblation) and a way to kill it and to transport it to the gods (the fire, called hutâsha,
« he who eats the oblation »).
3. The implementation follows on this way: elements are taken in the two chains: fire
corresponds to the five subtle elements (first list, where sound, form, contact, and so
on, are likened to perceptible qualities): it has to be understood that these elements,
in a way, transport the objects to us, because they endow the objects with qualities by
which we can grab them, just as the fire transports the victim to heaven; the
sacrificer will be the organ of the senses (second list, where the fact of hearing is seen
as a knowledge); the oblation will be the perceptions taken in the diversity of the
world, all that is grasped by the senses thanks to the qualities the objects rceive from
the subtle elements (objects are also called « gunin », i.e. « what is provided with
The oblation belongs neither to the first list, nor to the second one, it has a
intermediate status. The multiplicity and the variety of the world are reduced to the
status of offerings. That refers to the conception of sâmkhya: Nature arrays itself to
please mind until mind loses interest in this sight.
5 subtle elements
5 rough elements
5 organs of senses
5 organs of action
fire subtle elements or
qualities making the
organs of the senses
or operators of
– 11 –
or perceived data
These connections (this one is only an example: others are possible, where the organs
of senses and action could be the ten sacrificers, the rough elements the fires, the
perceived objects, the oblations) delimit in a way segments of similarity and
revelation, that have the effect to create a feeling of dizziness or of amazing relativity.
The origin escapes from us, the hierarchies fade, the classes are mobile and their
elements substitutable in a preferential order, nose before smelll or the contrary, the
ear is a womb in which space spreads, but space is anterior to this operation for it has
the quality of sound. If there was a doubt about the unrealty of the world, or its
diversity, such reasonings would remind us of that. It is maybe about a didactic
intention peculiar to Hindu wisdom. Nobody comes unharmed out of it.
On a probably new way, we say that there is a point alpha, and identify it with the
absolute speed. Let us observe what the Anugîtâ says about.
The ultimate point to clear is the Unmanifested (avyakta), in other places brahman. To
have recourse to brahman, this neutral principle, is to say that the divinity is a potential for
possibilities promised not an annihilation, but the achievement of the most absolute they
contain. All beings, moved by their âtman, or eternal vital principle, build trajectories next
to it, according to their various degrees of proximity. The best of them move close to it,
more in the way of asymptote or differential calculus than of fusion, or union, or
annihilation: âtman and brahman are connected (samprayoga), and the texts specifies
(XIV, 48, 12): « In the same way, a fish is different from water, but there is a connection ».
That explains the meaning one has to give to the word nirdvandva: not to be double,
not to be dual. is indeed to be reduced to one dimension, but also so many ways to be a
volume, to occupy a spacetime, to make work partial symmetry and oppositions between
the two parts. nirdvandva, translated by « to transcend the opposites », defines actually a
dynamic point and also its absorption. One should come nearer the curve, be this point
with thousand of other points. That requires of course lapses, the permission to get lost, a
freely agreed effort within the reality. The Anugîtâ declares (XIV, 48, 14):
« When one looks for the Absolute, he makes progress thanks to the lamp of
Contrary to the monistic position of the Vedânta, the real is far from being
contemptible or illusory: even if it is transient, it goes with a quest the divinity all in all has
wanted to be successful. It is not itself it saves and frees (it would be the case if brahman
and âtman were the same reality) but really an « other »
What is the nature of this « other » ? That is the last question we have to mention because
it haunts Hindu mind, taking the form of: « who is he the one who transmigrates ? » If
âtman is the immutable part of the human being, and if perfection consists in reaching it,
freed from the deposits of previous lives and from the weight of acts, and to discover it is
brahman, then, as G. Bugnault points so clearly out, in a discussion with F. Alquié (L’Inde
pense-t-elle ? P.U.F., Paris 1994, pp. 70 to 73), « breaks the paradox: only he who is already
free has the ability to free himself ». Sub specie æternitatis, the Absolute, God, The One –
whatever the chosen term – lives in every one of us: our final emancipation sanctions only
an emancipation already into effect. What is the point of freeing a « non-prisoner » ? The
answer to this paradox is different for Hindus and Buddhists, the first set out to say that
even this contradiction must be solved to be perfect, the others put the emphasis on the
– 12 –
emptiness of he who thinks he is an « I » with an âtman. But the Anugîtâ seems to suggest
a simpler solution: the « other » is a process whose evolution is unfinished, and it is the
process that must be saved. « We must be able to give up our chariot in a mountain, to
abandon our boat on shore, in order to go further on foot » (XIV, 49, 21 to 30). Other
sensations are waiting for us beyond, they are other possibilities of opening to the
Absolute, but for that, conditions for spiritual life must be invented, an internal space of
anticipation and knowledge, an intense place (the order of a point, remember ?) where
the Unmanifested will inhabit. To create these conditions is a didactic project. Is it not true
that the Anugîtâ is an educational book ?
« The grace of a spiritual state is recognizable by that: it is similar to the dream »
(XIV, 50, 35).
Dreams inhabit it, of a higher truth, for sure …
The Anugîtâ is an intelligent part of the Mahâbhârata, and we hope sincerely this text
will finally find its audience. This continuation of the Bhagavadgîtâ has good reason for
being. Other fights are waiting for Arjuna of a more internal and personal nature.
Let us come back to this passage where the king Alarka is disturbed by the fact he
has conquered everything but his mind. This confusion is echoed in R. Calasso’s Ka
(Gallimard 2000, p. 209): the author imagines a discussion between the seven rishis, these
seven sages who govern the populating of the world; he puts these words in the mouth of
Vishvâmitra (« the friend of all »): « The way it happened has been strange. Because of this
thought, we have lost history. As if, at the time when it draws itself, a sword fallen from
the heaven had cut our hands. We stayed paralized in the gesture we were making The
often violent gestures of conquerors coming from high plateau and burned mountains to
the plain too vast, too bushy and torrid we were invading – and that was to invade us. …
It was this thought that stopped us, nothing else. We didn’t move beyond, but
sporadically, to discover other rivers and other forests. As a result, it was the impulse that
failed us. Something had destroyed us, forever. Something that had emptied us of
everything else… » Another sage, Atri, expresses this strange discovery (p. 207): « When
we wake up, the Awakening: that is the only physiological phenomenon having to do
with that. Try to think of a second awakening: of an awakening occuring whithin
wakefulness, that will not add itself to the waking, but would multiply it by an « n » we
will never be able to specify. For us, that has been thought. That is thought
There are, in the Anugîtâ, perspectives that rich.
1 Yudhishthira is told also that, by offering this sacrifice, he could purify himself from his sins
(XIV, 03, 03; 11).
– 12 – phenomenons
11/10/2014 § Leave a comment
08/22/2014 § Leave a comment
the state of being close to another person or other people.
“the sense of family togetherness was strong and excluded neighbors”
synonyms: cohesion, cohesiveness, harmony, fellowship, camaraderie,close bond(s)
“the camp inspired togetherness”
“Alone, our individual light may give off only a soft glow. But togetherness inspires hope — hope that we can all come together in friendship and understanding.” — Her Holiness Shinso Ito
12/24/2013 § Leave a comment
The Hug of Love will embrace the whole planet as a wave ~ with all green Life, all fish, nekton, birds, insects and – of course – all humans.
11/25/2011 § Leave a comment
~~~Hazrat Inayat Khan~~~
A pure life and a clean conscience are as two wings attached to the soul.
Bowl of Saki, August 29, by Hazrat Inayat Khan
Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan:
A pure life and a clean conscience are as bread and wine for the soul.
A pure life is the term used to express the effort of man to keep his spiritual being untainted by the false values of the worldly life.
It is the constant search for the original self, the desire to reach it, and the means employed to recover it, which alone can truly be called purity of life.
… When this purity is reached man lives in virtue.
Virtue is not a thing which he expresses or experiences from time to time; his life itself is virtue.
Every moment that God is absent from the consciousness is considered by the sage to be a sin; for at that moment the purity of the heart is poisoned.
It is lack of life which is sin, and it is purity of life which is virtue.
It is of this purity that Jesus Christ spoke when he said:
‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.’
10/06/2011 Comments Off on There is a story of a slave called Ayaz
There is a story of a slave called Ayaz, who was brought before a king with nine others, and the king had to select one to be his personal attendant, The wise king gave into the hands of each of the ten a wineglass and commanded him to throw it down. Each one obeyed the command. Then the king asked each one of them, ‘Why did you do such a thing?’ The first nine answered ‘Because your Majesty gave me the order’; the plain truth cut and dried.
And then came the tenth slave, Ayaz. He said, ‘Pardon, sire, I am sorry,’ for he realized that the king already knew it was his command; by replying, ‘Because you told me,’ nothing new was said to the king. This beauty of expression enchanted the king so much that he selected him to be his attendant.
It was not long before Ayaz won the trust and confidence of the king, who gave him the charge of his treasury, the treasury in which precious jewels were kept. This made many jealous, this sudden rise from a slave to a treasurer of the king, a position which many envied. No sooner did people know that Ayaz had become a favorite of the king than they began to tell numerous stories about him in order to bring him into disfavor with the king.
One of the stories was that Ayaz went every day into the room where the jewels were locked in the safe, and that he was stealing them every day, little by little. The king answered, ‘No, I cannot believe such a thing; you have to show me.’
So they brought the king as Ayaz entered this room, and made him stand in a place where there was a hole, looking into the room. And the king saw what was going on there. Ayaz entered the room and opened the door of the safe. And what did he take out from it? His old ragged clothes which he had worn as a slave. He kissed them and pressed them to his eyes, and put them the table. There, incense was burning, and this that he was doing was something sacred to him. He then put on these clothes and looked at himself in the mirror, and said, as one might be saying a prayer, ‘Listen, O Ayaz, see what you used to be before. It is the king who has made you, who has given you the charge of this treasure. So regard this duty as your most sacred trust, and this honor as your privilege and as a token of the love and kindness of the king. Know that it is not your worthiness that has brought you to this position. Know that it is his greatness, his goodness, his generosity which has overlooked your faults, and which has bestowed that rank and position upon you by which you are now being honored. Never forget, therefore, your first day, the day when you came to this town; for it is the remembering of that day which will keep you in your proper place.’
He then took off the clothes and put them in the same place of safety, and came out. As he stepped out, what did he see? He saw that the king before whom he bowed was waiting eagerly to embrace him; and the king said to him, ‘What a lesson you have given me Ayaz! It is this lesson which we must all learn, whatever be our position. Because before that King in whose presence we all are but slaves, nothing should make us forget that helplessness through which we were reared and raised, and brought to life, to understand and to live a life of joy. People told me that you had stolen jewels from our treasure-house, but on coming here I have found that you have stolen my heart.’
Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan: from http://wahiduddin.net/mv2/III/III_III_2.htm