Chapter 17: Fleeting Experiences


1. "O Bhargava! I shall now tell you what further conversation took place between Janaka and Ashtavakra.

2-3. Ashtavakra asked, "King! please tell me in greater detail what you call fleeting Samadhi in the wakeful state, so that I may follow it up in order to achieve enduring Samadhi."

Thus requested, Janaka replied:

4-11. "Listen, O Brahmin! the following are instances of that state: when a man remains unaware of 'in and out' for a short interval and is not overpowered by the ignorance of sleep; the infinitesimal time when one is beside one-self with joy; when embraced by one's beloved in all purity; when a thing is gained which was intensely longed for but given up in despair; when a lonely traveller moving with the utmost confidence is suddenly confronted with the utmost danger; when one hears of the sudden death of one's only son, who was in the best of health, in the prime of life, and at the apex of his glory.

Note. - They are examples of Samadhi in raptures of happiness or of pleasure and in spasms of fear or of sorrow.

12-14. "There are also intervals of Samadhi, namely the interim period between the waking, dream and sleep states; at the time of sighting a distant object, the mind holding the body at one end projects itself into space until it holds the object at the other end, just as a worm prolongs itself at the time of leaving one hold to catch another hold. Carefully watch the state of mind in the interval.

15-18. "Why dilate on these intervals? All happening will be brought to a standstill if intelligence be homogeneous. They are made possible when a certain harmony reigns in intelligence which ordinarily is repeatedly broken.

"Therefore the great founders of different systems of philosophy have said that the difference between the Self (i.e., abstract intelligence) and intellect (individualistic) lies only in their continuity.

Note. - Sugata (i.e., Buddha) considers the Self to be the stream of Intelligence broken up, of course, at short intervals; Kanada says that it is intellect which is characteristic of the Self.

"Anyway when once interruptions in the stream of Intelligence are admitted, it follows that these intervals between the various modifications of the intellect into objects, would represent its unmodified, original state. O son of Kahoela, know that if one can become aware of these broken Samadhis no other Samadhi need attract one.'

19-23. The Brahmin youth asked further, "O King, why are not all liberated if their lives are so iridescent with momentary Samadhi, if it be the enlightener of the unmanifest void in sleep? Liberation is the direct result of unqualified Samadhi. The Self being pure intelligence, why does it not recognise itself and remain always liberated?

"Ignorance is dispelled by pure intelligence, which is Samadhi, and this is the immediate cause of salvation.

"Please tell me, so that all my doubts may be set at rest."

The King replied as follows:

24-26. "I will tell you the secret. The cycle of births and deaths is from time immemorial caused by ignorance which displays itself as pleasure and pain and yet is only a dream and unreal. Being so, the wise say that it can be ended by knowledge. By what kind of knowledge? Wisdom born of realisation: viz., "I am That".

Commentary. - An aspirant for wisdom first turns away from the pleasures of life and absorbs himself in the search for knowledge, which he learns from a master. This is hearsay knowledge. In order to experience it, he ponders over it and clears his doubts. Then he applies the knowledge to himself and tries to feel his immortal being transcending the body, mind, etc., he succeeds in feeling his Self within. Later he remembers the Vedic teaching imparted by his Guru that the Self being unqualified, cannot be differentiated from God and experiences his unity with the Universal Self. This is in short the course of wisdom and liberation.

27-29. "Ignorance cannot be expelled by the mere experience of an unqualified expanse of intelligence as in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. For such expanse is in harmony with everything (including ignorance). It is like the canvas used in painting; the canvas remains the same whatever picture may be painted on it. Unqualified knowledge is simple light; the objects are manifest by and in it.

Commentary. - The mirror is clear and uniform when there are no objects to reflect; the same appears variegated by images reflected in it. So also the Self is pure intelligence and clear when not contaminated by thoughts; this state is called nirvikalpa. When soiled by thoughts, it is savikalpa.

30. "But ignorance or delusion should not be confounded with the savikalpa state - for ignorance is only the original contamination (i.e., cause) continuing as effect.

Commentary. - Pure intelligence (God) in His insentient aspect functions as Maya or the self-contained entity projecting ignorance as creation.

31-34. "The original cause lies in the knowledge of perfection in the Self.

Note. - One expects the contrary. The apparent contradiction is explained further on.

"The idea of perfection is due to absence of parts. Parts can appear only with time, space and form. However, the sense of completeness appears without these agencies, implying a yearning for them - thus giving rise to the sense of want. Then and there limitations come into being, and the fundamental cause of ignorance manifests as 'I am'. That is the embryonic seed from which shoots forth the sprout of the body as the individualised self (growing up to the gigantic tree of the cycle of births and deaths). The cycle of births and deaths does not end unless ignorance is put an end to. This can happen only with a perfect knowledge of the self, not otherwise.

35-38. "Such wisdom as can destroy ignorance is clearly of two sorts: indirect and direct. Knowledge is first acquired from a Master and through him from the scriptures. Such indirect knowledge cannot fulfil the object in view. Because theoretical knowledge alone does not bear fruit; practical knowledge is necessary which comes through Samadhi alone. Knowledge born of Nirvikalpa Samadhi generates wisdom by the eradication of ignorance and objective knowledge.

39-47. "Similarly, experience of casual Samadhi in the absence of theoretical knowledge does not serve the purpose either. Just as a man, ignorant of the qualities of an emerald, cannot recognise it by the mere sight of it in the treasury, nor can another recognise it if he has not seen it before, although he is full of theoretical knowledge on the subject, in the same way must theory be supplemented with practice in order that a man might become an expert. Ignorance cannot be eradicated by mere theory or by the casual Samadhi of an ignorant man.

"Again want of attention is a serious obstacle; for a man looking up to the sky cannot identify the individual constellations. Even a learned scholar is no better than a fool, if he does not pay attention when a thing is explained to him. On the other hand, a man though not a scholar but yet attentive having heard all about the planet Venus, goes out in confidence to look for it, knowing how to identify it, and finally discovers it, and so is able to recognise the same whenever he sees it again. Inattentive people are simply fools who cannot understand the ever-recurring Samadhis in their lives. They are like a man ignorant of the treasure under the floor of his house who begs for his daily food.

48. "So you see that Samadhi is useless to such people. The intellect of babes is always unmodified and yet they do not realise the self.

49. "Nirvikalpa Samadhi clearly will never eradicate ignorance. Therefore in order to destroy it Savikalpa Samadhi must be sought.

50-52. "This alone can do it. God inherent as the self is pleased by meritorious actions which are continued through several births after which the desire for liberation dawns and not otherwise, even though millions of births may be experienced. Of all things in creation, to be born a sentient being requires good luck; even so to acquire a human body requires considerable merit; while it is out of the ordinary for human beings to be endowed with both virtuous tendencies and sharp intellect.

53-60. "Observe, O Brahmin, that the mobile creation is a very small fraction of the immobile and that human beings form but a small fraction of the mobile, while most human beings are little more than animals, being ignorant of good and bad, and of right and wrong. Of sensible people, the best part runs after the pleasures of life seeking to fulfil their desire. A few learned people are stained with the longing for heaven after death. Of the remaining few, most of them have their intellects bedimmed by Maya and cannot comprehend the oneness of all (the Creator and creation). How can these poor folk, held in the grip of Maya, extend their weak sight to the sublime Truth of Oneness? People blinded by Maya cannot see this truth. Even when some people rise so high in the scale as to understand the theory, misfortune prevents their being convinced of it (for their desires sway them to and fro with force greater than the acquired, puny, theoretical knowledge, which if strictly followed should put an end to such desires, which nourish on the denial of oneness.) They try to justify their practical actions by fallacious arguments which are simply a waste of time.

"Inscrutable are the ways of Maya which denies the highest Realisation to them, it is as if they threw away the live gem in their hands thinking it to be a mere pebble.

61. "Only those transcend Maya with whose devotion the Goddess of the Self is pleased; such can discern well and happily.

62. "Being by the grace of God endowed with proper discernment and right-earnestness, they become established in transcendental Oneness and become absorbed.

"I shall now tell you the scheme of liberation.

63. "One learns true devotion to God after a meritorious life continued in several births, and then worships Him for a long time with intense devotion.

64. "Dispassion for the pleasures of life arises in a devotee who gradually begins to long for knowledge of the truth and becomes absorbed in the search for it.

65. "He then finds his gracious Master and learns from him all about the transcendental state. He has now gained theoretical knowledge.

Note. - This is Sravana.

66. "After this he is impelled to revolve the whole matter in his mind until he is satisfied from his own practical knowledge with the harmony of the scriptural injunctions and the teachings of his Master. He is able to ascertain the highest truth with clearness and certitude.


Note. - This is Manana.

67. "The ascertained knowledge of the Oneness of the Self must afterwards be brought into practice, even forcibly, if necessary, until the experience of the truth occurs to him.

Note. - This is Nidhidhyasana.

68. "After experiencing the Inner Self, he will be able to identify the Self with the Supreme and thus destroy the root of ignorance. There is no doubt of it.

69. "The inner Self is realised in advanced contemptation and that state of realisation is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

"Memory of that realisation enables one to identify the Inner Self with the Universal Self (as "I am That").

Note. - This is Pratyabhina Jnana.


Commentary. - Contemplation is designated in its progressive stages, as Savikalpa Samadhi (qualified Samadhi) and Nirvikalpa Samadhi (unqualified Samadhi). Dhyana (contemplation) leads to the repose consequent on the resolve that the mind in its absolute purity is only the Self. There are interruptions by thought obtruding in the earlier stages. Then the practice goes by the name of Dhyana. When the repose remains smooth and uninterrupted for some appreciable time, it is called Savikalpa Samadhi. If by its constant practice, the repose ensues without any previous resolve (i.e., effortlessly) and continues uninterrupted for some time, it is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi. The Inner Self glows in all its purity, in the last stage.


After rising from it, the memory of the uncommon experience of the Self remains; it enables him to identify the transcendence of the one with that same One which is in all. (This is the Sahaja State, as is often said by Sri Ramana. Tr.)

70. "That is the Oneness of the Self, the same as the identification of the transcendence of the one with that same one in all the diversities of the world apparent to each individual. This destroys the root of ignorance, instantly and completely.

71. "Dhyana has been said to develop into Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Whereas modifications signify the manysidedness of consciousness, Nirvikalpa signifies its unitary nature.

72. "When the mind does not create pictures due to thoughts it is the unmodified state which is its primal and pure condition.

73. "When the pictures on a wall are erased, the original wall remains. No other work is necessary to restore its original condition.

74. "Similarly, the mind remains pure when thoughts are eliminated. Therefore the unqualified state is restored if the present disturbance is ended.

75. "There is indeed nothing more to be done for the most holy condition to be maintained. Nevertheless, even pandits are deluded in this matter, owing to the bane of Maya.

76. "The acutely intelligent can accomplish the purpose in a trice. Aspirants may be divided into three groups: (1) the best, (2) the middle class, and (3) the lowest.

77. "Of these, the best class realise at the very moment of hearing the truth. Their ascertainment of truth and contemplation thereon are simultaneous with their learning.

78-92. "Realisation of truth requires no effort on their part. Take my case for instance. On a moonlit summer night, I was lying drunkenly on a downy bed in my pleasure garden in the loving embrace of my beloved. I suddenly heard the sweet nectar-like songs of invisible aerial beings who taught me the oneness of the Self of which I was unaware till that moment. I instantly thought over it, meditated on it, and realised it in less than an hour. For about an hour and a half I remained in Samadhi - the state of supreme bliss.

"I regained consciousness and began to muse over my experience 'Oh wonderful! How full of bliss I was!' It was extraordinary. Let me return to it. The happiness of the king of the Gods cannot equal even to a fraction of my bliss.

"Not even the Creator, Brahma, could have that bliss; my life had been wasted in other pursuits. Just as a man ignores the fact that he holds Chintamani (the celestial gem capable of fulfilling one's desires) in his hands, and goes begging food, so also people ignorant of the fount of bliss within themselves, waste their lives seeking external pleasures! For me such hankerings are done with! Let me always abide in the eternal, infinite source of bliss within me! Enough of such foolish activities! They are shades of darkness and vain repetitions of useless labour. Be they delicious dishes, perfumed garlands, downy beds, rich ornaments or vivacious damsels - they are mere repetitions, with no novelty or originality in them. Disgust for them had no arisen in me before because I had been foolishly treading the way of the world.

"As soon as I had decided on and attempted to turn my mind inward, another bright idea struck me:

93-95. "What confusion I am in! Although I am always in the perfection of Bliss, what is it I want to do? What more can I acquire? What do I lack? When and whence can I get anything? Even if there were anything new to be gained, would it endure? How can I who am Infinite Consciousness-Bliss know effort?

96-98. "Individual bodies, their senses, minds, etc., are similar to visions in a dream; they are projected from me. Control of one mind leaves all other minds as they are. So what is the use of controlling my mind? Minds, controlled or uncontrolled, appear only to my mental eye.

99. "Again, even if all minds are controlled, mine remains free. For my mind is like infinite space, the receptacle of all things. Who is to control it and how?

100. "How can Samadhi be brought about when I am already in the perfection of bliss, for the Self is Bliss-Consciousness, even more perfect than infinite space?

101. "My own light manifests diverse activities all about the world which is again my own manifestation.

102. "What matters it if one should manifest as action or inaction? Where is the gain or loss in such manifestation?

103. "Similarly what matters it for the perfect blissful Self if it fall into Nirvikalpa Samadhi? Samadhi or no Samadhi, I am the same Perfection and eternal Peace.

104-105. "Let the body do what it likes. Thinking thus I always abide in my own Self as the Perfect fountain-head of Bliss and pure uninterrupted consciousness. I am therefore in the state of perfection and remain unblemished.

"My experience is typical of the best aspirants.

106-107. "Wisdom is achieved in the course of many births by the lowest aspirants. As for the middle class, wisdom is gained in the same birth - but slowly and gradually according to the aforesaid scheme of (1) learning the truth, (2) conviction of the same, (3) meditation - qualified Samadhi and unqualified Samadhi, and (4) finally Sahaja Samadhi (to be unattached even while engaged in the activities of the world). This last state is very rarely found.

108. "Why fall into Nirvikalpa Samadhi, without gaining the fruit of its wisdom! Even if he should experience it a hundred times it will not liberate the individual. Therefore I tell you that momentary Samadhis in the waking state are fruitless.

109. "Unless a man live the ordinary life and check every incident as the projection of the Self, not swerving from the Self in any circumstances, he cannot be said to be free from the handicap of ignorance.

110. "Nirvikalpa Samadhi is characterised by the experience of the true Self alone, namely, Pure Intelligence. Though eternal and resplendent even ordinarily, this Abstract Intelligence is as if it did not exist.

111-112. "Abstract Intelligence is the background on which the phenomena are displayed, and it must certainly manifest itself in all its purity, in they absence, although its appearance may look new at first. It remains unrecognised because it is not distinguished from the phenomena displayed by it. On their being eliminated it becomes apparent.

"This in short is the method of Self-Realisation.

113. "O Brahmin! Think over what you have now learnt, and you will realise. With the wisdom born of your realisation, you will inhere as the Self and be eternally free."

Dattatreya said:

114-15. "After giving these instructions to Ashtavakra, Janaka sent him away. Ashtavakra reached his own place and put the lessons into practice. Very soon he too became a Jivanmukta (liberated while yet alive)."

Thus ends the seventeenth chapter in Tripura Rahasya.