On Ashtavakra: The self uses the words of the Guru to defend itself from the Guru || Acharya Prashant (2015)


Even if Shiva,
Vishnu or Brahma be your instructor yet,
unless you forget everything
you cannot achieve abidance in the Self.

~ Ashtavakra Gita Chapter 16, 11th verse ~

Acharya Prashant: You are spoken to, not so that you can know more. The instructor may be the highest and wisest that you can get, yet he will use words and actions which are all going to be perceived by you through mental activity.

The whole effort of the Guru is to rid you of your unnecessary self.

Your effort is to use the words of the Guru to protect and extend the same self that the Guru is trying to annihilate. 

So in that sense, you are always at the war with the Guru. 

Guru is administering you a medicine and you are trying to use the same medicine to extend your disease. And you can do that, you are very much capable of doing that. You are prescribed a certain pill and you are told to take it once per day. And now the set of pill is there with you and you can take seven pills in one day and exacerbate your suffering. The same pill that was meant to relieve you has become an agent to continue your suffering.

Or you cannot take the pill in the required doses. The prescribed dose could be one per day and you might take one in seven days or having heard something, you might want to choose your own pill. ‘Now, this much I have learned from the Teacher, using that knowledge, I can now decide the course of further treatment.’ Ultimately you decide whether you are going to get any real benefit or not.

Ashtavakra puts it very simply:  Even if Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva are your teachers, yet if you cannot get rid of yourself, you will not benefit. Even the lords cannot help you if you are not prepared to get rid of your smartness and your self-belief. So if you do not benefit, do not blame it upon the Teacher. Even Shiva will fail in front of you. Your stubbornness and reluctance and insecurity will defeat even Shiva. Let there be no doubt about it.

Only somebody who has seen the total failure of his ways is so determined to get rid of suffering that he can sacrifice anything, anybody.

Only such a person, such a mind can be helped by the Guru.

In fact, Krishna goes one step further.

Yesterday, I was reading, in fact, just a few hours back, Krishna telling Arjuna that, “Arjuna these precious words of mine contained in Gita, you should never mention it to somebody who has not put in the right effort yet and you should also never mention to somebody who does not have devotion.” He says, “Taparahit (not putting the right effort), shraddarahit (faithless, devotionless)”. These words are useless for those people, you should not even mention these words in front of them.

And then he says, “And especially don’t mention these words in front of somebody who finds fault with me. How can Krishna’s words be useful to somebody who finds faults in Krishna. He says, “Doshdrishti (eye that sees fault)’, somebody who sees fault in me, how can he benefit using my words?”

If you see problems in the Guru, if you see imperfections and lapses, will you ever really take his medicine? Will you really have confidence in his prescription, let alone faith?  But when you are smart and stubborn then you have confidence only in yourself. No Krishna, no Shiva, no Brahma, no Vishnu can save you; you are your own teacher!

Remember what Ashtavakra is saying, remember what Krishna is saying. These words are not for somebody who lacks in penance, who has not put himself through the fire of self-purification. These words are not for somebody who is not totally devoted to the Truth.

Guru’s words are not at all for somebody who has the slightest of doubt in the Guru.


Sometimes people ask me, ‘That it has been years now, why am I still stuck? Why do the same old ghosts haunt me?’ Ashtavakra has given you one answer, Krishna has given you three answers, and you can see which of these four is applicable to you.

If you have not been benefitting from the Guru, either you are too full of yourself and you have no intention of getting rid of what you have been or you are Taprahit — you do not put in the right efforts, right austerities. Or you are Shraddarahit — you are not really devoted, you have multiple distractions, multiple masters, multiple attractions or you find fault with the Teacher, in some way you want to justify Teacher is only conditionally right, or sometimes right or has shades of grey.

Tick your boxes. Of these four, one two three or four, any number is surely applicable to you. The day you have unticked all your boxes, you also unchained yourself.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant on Ashtavakra: The self uses the words of the Guru to defend itself from the Guru The transcription has been edited for clarity.

Further Reading:

Commentaries on Ashtavakra Gita


Commentaries on Ashtavakra Gita is a collection of 8 Questions asked by a seekers when they were not able to relate the verses of Ashtavakra Gita in their daily living.

Even the greatest texts in the world can be just a mental load if they don’t bring you to peace. This text on Ashtavakra Gita is essence of Ashtavakra bringing one to his/her essential nature and simplicity of life.

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