Ashtavakra Muni can be said to be one of the most rational sages we ever had in India. We often think that spirituality is very thinly related to rationality. The root of this misconception lies in the fact that we, our relationships and our society primarily works through a false structure. The structure itself is irrational and hence, we often find spirituality irrational. In very simple words, if my ruler itself is bent, I will find every straight line skewed. Some of the fundamental truths which Ashtavakra Muni explains in a very straight-forward language, might appear to be absolutely illogical to us. Yet, I am going to talk about a few of them.
Throughout his Mahageeta, Ashtavakra talks about Sakshibhava (साक्षीभाव) which simply means to be a witness. He calls this witness Drashta (द्रष्टा). Who is witness? A witness is that part of us, or rather that state of being where we just observe things and events without getting affected by them or their outcomes. A witness is concerned about witnessing what is happening and has zero attachment to what happens. Generally, whenever we look at something, we look at it with some sort of attachment. We are concerned more with the outcome as it might either be favourable to us or might also be detrimental to us. When we truly become a witness, Ashtavakra highlights, we move in a state where nothing can affect us; there is nothing favourable and nothing harmful or detrimental.
Osho, in his volumes of Ashtavakra Mahageeta has explained the concept of ‘Drashta’ or witness in a very unique way. With little help from him, I would be trying my best to simplify what Ashtavakra is hinting at when he says be a Sakshi or Drashta.
We normally exist in three states. The first mode of being is a Drishya (दृश्य) which means ‘object of someone’s attention’. In this state of being, we strive to be an object of someone’s attention. Most of us are in this state most of the times. We want to get noticed, we want to be talked about. All of us in some way or the other, keep trying to be an object of people’s attention. Our interactions and updates on social media are a testimony to this thirst of almost all of us. The root of our desire to be a ‘Drishya’ is the hollowness that we find within ourselves. We want people to look at us so that we can portray we have some ‘substance’ and we are not hollow.
The next state of being is Darshak (दर्शक) or the viewer. For someone to be a Drishya, there have to be at least a few Darshaks. While some people try becoming Drishya to fill up their hollowness, some try doing that by being a Darshak. Being a Darshak is far easier than being a Drishya and that’s why, whenever people find a Drishya, they gather around him or her. A Darshak looks at things out of his or her boredom and out of inability of looking within oneself. When a child is bored with one toy, it chases the other; in same way, a Darshak keeps moving from one Drishya to the other.
When a child is bored with one toy, it chases the other; in same way, a Darshak keeps moving from one Drishya to the other.
The third state of being is a Drashta (द्रष्टा), the Sakshi or the Witness. A witness is not an ordinary viewer like Darshak. For Drashta, Darshak is Drishya. Which means, a true witness is no more interested in looking at others. He is no more concerned with what happens outside. He observes how the Darshak in him/her is eluded by the Drishya/s outside.
What Ashtavakra says about being a Drashta, the same thing has been said by Sant Kabir, in a very different language:
बुरा जो देखन मैं चला, बुरा न मिलिया कोई।
जो मन खोजा अपना, तो मुझसे बुरा न कोई।।
(I started searching for the devil but could not find anyone. When I searched inside me, realised, the devil is inside me!)
This is the whole gist of being a witness. Looking at oneself; closely observing how we get dragged away and get attached to what we see around us. Once we start understanding how we attach our personal interests to each and everything happening around us, we start realising how being detached from these things leads us to acceptance.
The outcome of being a Sakshi is to arrive at the magic key to happiness : acceptance.
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