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The Lesson of Astavakra

  • Date Submitted: 09/21/2012 09:40 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 45.3 
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Astavakra, in his mother's womb, endured listening to his father's mispronunciation of the Sanskrit words as he recited the Vedas.   No longer able to endure his father's mispronunciations, Astavakra corrects his father, still in the womb, which angers his father, who took offense to the correction, curses his son, "causing his body to bend in eight places" (Kaivalya and Kooij 129).   After Astavakra is born, he grows into a wise and knowledgeable sage, who hears about King Janaka's assemblage of all the learned scholars to his court.   Astavakra arrives days late for the event, bent and deeply hurting from his grueling travel to the court. Upon arrival, all the scholars begin to laugh at him for his tardiness and his apparent bent and crooked body.   Astavakra, however, laughs all the more loudly, piercingly so, leading King Janaka to ask him why he laughs.   Astavakra explains that he is indeed not laughing, but crying because he had journeyed so long, so arduously and so painfully so, to arrive to this great court assembly of philosophers only to find "shoemakers", "shoemakers" who only saw "skin" (leather of the shoe) and not soul (or sole), judging Astavakra on the appearance of his "skin".   So, he cried instead of rejoicing upon his arrival to bring voice to his pain and misfortune and wasted journey.   King Janaka, realizing his error, bowed to Astavakra, feeling deeply humliated and apologetic.   From then on, King Janaka became pupil of Astavakra, who "gave him lessons in the science of the soul, which were recorded as the Astavakra Gita" (Kaivalya and Kooij 130).

The old adage, "You can't judge a book by its cover" is made apparent by the life and teachings of Astavakra, and the asana from which this myth ensues, told by way of the life of this great sage and wise elder, and its achievement,   is a testament to the challenges that life gives us and the humility with which we must embrace and learn from it.


Direct quotes taken from Myths of...


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