The Ashtavakra Gita consists of about 300 verses. It states the non-dual teachings with extreme brevity and directness. It is based on the understanding that only the Absolute is absolutely real, everything else exists phenomenally. It does not reason this out further, but expresses the implications straightforwardly. Here are the first four verses:
1. Pupil to the Teacher: O Lord, tell me this. How does one acquire knowledge of Truth, and how liberation, and how the practice of renunciation?
2. Teacher to pupil: O Friend! If thy aim in life is liberation then shun sense objects as poison, and pursue as nectar, forgiveness, simplicity of life, compassion, contentment and truth.
Note: ‘Sense objects’ are passing, and the good in them is a characteristic of the all-pervading Truth; devotion to them impoverishes the resources of the soul and becomes a binding factor.
3. Thou art neither earth, water, fire, air, nor ether. Know thy Self (Atman) as Witness of all these, and different from them, if thou would’st attain liberation.
Note: This verse provides a text for meditation. If done with feeling, bondage which is illusory like self-induced hypnosis, can be terminated.
4. If, detaching thyself from thy sense of identity with the body, thou remain at rest in Intelligence, thine will be spontaneous bliss, eternal peace and liberation from the imagined bondage.
In its brevity and directness, the Ashtavakra Gita has similarities with the Avadhut Gita.
The presentation in these Gitas is in a sense simple. They can help us to grasp essential points in the non-dual teachings, although the full meaning cannot be completely fathomed intellectually. These are not to be studied like text-books, their verses may be taken as texts for meditation and reflection.
If we are practising meditation regularly and making sincere efforts to apply the principle that all is ultimately one in Truth, we may find insight and support (and beauty) in these texts.
‘Ashtavakra’ is the name of the sage to whom authorship of the text is attributed. This is all that is known about him.