The State Beyond…..

Sharmila Virkar
8 min readApr 27, 2020


“BEYOND PURUSHARTHAS”- through Ashtavakragita

[i]In the world, we come across two kinds of people-Those who are desirous of worldly enjoyment and those desirous of liberation; but rear indeed is the great soul who is not desirous of either enjoyment or liberation. This is the state of what I call the state of “Beyond Purusharthas” or the State Beyond. It is further stated that Rare is the broad-minded person who has neither attraction for nor aversion to Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha ( Virtue, Wealth, Pleasure and Liberation respectively - the Supreme Ends of Human Life) as well as life and death.

[ii]In the next place, we are told that[iii] we are supposed to disrespect Kama, Artha and even Dharma because Dharma is the cause of Kama and Artha.

Usual understanding of Indian Philosophy is that it prescribes the four supreme ends of life. What I contend is that Indian Ethics does elaborate on the State beyond these four ends or goals which is not ordinarily spoken of. I have stated, here, two stanzas appearing in Ashtavakragita which is also known as Ashtavakrasamhita. Actually, there are many Texts which have emphasized Detachment(Vairagya), Renunciation(Nivrutti) or Sanyasa. Ashtavakragita is one of them. (Patanjala)Yoga is known for its emphasis on Abhyasa and Vairagya.

But I have, here, focussed on nothing but the Ashtavakragita for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it explicitly refers to Purusharthas and asserts the need to go beyond Purusharthas. Its message is direct, positive, unambiguous and categorical. It is stated unhesitantly. Mere advice of this singular message is said to have liberating effect ruling out the possibility of rebirth.[iv] Secondly, it is not much explored in Philosophical Studies.

Ordinarily, by the Gita, what we understand is Bhagavadgita. Incidentally, there are many Gitas such as Pingalagita, Shamparkagita, Mankigita, Bodhyagita, Vichravyugita, Haritagita, Vrutragita, Parasharagita, Hansagita, Brahmanagita, Avadhutagita, Ishwaragita, Uttaragita, Kapilagita, Ganeshagita, Devigita, Pandavagita, Brahmagita, Bhikshugita, Yamagita, Ramagita, Vyasagita, Shivagita, Suryagita, Sutagita but these are hardly known to us. Hence, let us concentrate on the Ashtavakragita and its view on Values. My plan is to elaborate, here, the gist of Ashtavakragita which explicitly delineates the stage Beyond Purusharthas and to compare it with Bhagavadgita.

Many questions can be raised such as when was Ashtavakragita written, who is Ashtavakra, is it similar with Bhagavadgita, which one is chronologically preceding, what is its grammatical structure. Such types of questions are included in what is called, in the External Examination of the Ashtavakragita. On the other hand, I would like to concentrate on its Internal Examination . Here, the contention of the Text is taken into consideration. The gist is considered critically and is shown to be either tenable or not.

Let me clarify what Ashtavakragita, philosophically, is. It is the reply given by the sage Ashtavakra to the King Janaka who asks-

i) How to attain Knowledge (Jnana)?

ii) How to attain Liberation (Mukti)?

iii) How to attain Detachment (Vairagya)?

Twenty chapters of the Gita having 299 stanzas elaborate the nature of Knowledge, Detachment and the idea of going beyond not only Dharma, Artha and Kama but also Moksha or Mukti. As we know, Adi Samkaracharya regards ardent desire for Moksa as one of the criteria of eligibility for taking up the path of knowledge. However, here, it is clearly stated that the desire even for Moksa is to be transcended.[v]He is neither an aspirant of Moksha nor is he subject to bondage. This may appear to be queer but it is extra-ordinary state of mind called “Shantamaanasah” ( The Peaceful Mind)and is described where not even the desire for liberation persists. One is free, here, not only from all odds but also from distinctions based on classes and stages.[vi]There are no Purusharthas for one who is absolute good.[vii]

At the very outset, it is clarified that objects are to be regarded as poison and virtues like forgiveness, sincerity, kindness, contentment, truthfulness are to be regarded as nectar. It is maintained that the nature of Self is to be realised. The Self is not the Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. It is the Witnessing Consciousness. It is beyond Merit and Demerit; Happiness and Unhappiness. It is Invisible, Detached and Formless. It is neither the doer nor the enjoyer. It is the Seer who is ever-free. Bondage is nothing but its failure to see itself as the Seer. Freedom from bondage means to realise one’s own nature as Immutable (Kutastha) and to regard the world as illusory and non-different from the Self. It is described as foam, bubble or ripple. It is said to be like a dream. Different analogies like cloth and thread, jar of clay and lump of clay, bracelet and gold, ocean and water, are given to bring out the relationship between the Self and the world which are not different from each other.

Moreover, what is unusual is the use of the word “sukha” (rather than Ananda) / “sukhi” because we are told that “Praudhavairagyam Ashreetya Veetatrushnah Sukhee Bhava”[viii]. So. here, sukha does not mean pleasure or happiness but a state beyond bliss. It is also stated that kingdoms, sons, wives, bodies and pleasures have been lost birth after birth even if you were attached to them. On the contrary, if actions are performed without attachment, then nothing accrues to me by staying, going or sleeping.[ix]The mind of such a soul is said to be child-like.[x]

As stated above,to believe in bodily identity is erroneous. It is only on being superimposed on the Self, the body and the senses appear to be real. Just as the mirror is unaffected by images reflected, so also the Supreme Self(Parameshewara)[xii] is unaffected by body and senses. Just as the same all-pervading Space is inside and outside jar, so also the Eternal Self resides in all, Unattached, Desireless and Quiet.

“Ïn Me, the shoreless ocean, the waves of individual selves, in accordance with their nature, rise, strike each other, and disappear. The Self is to be realised as Pure and Enlightened, One, Free. It perceives everyone with an equal eye[xiii] and realises non-duality. Duality is the root of all suffering. Realisation of Oneness takes one beyond miseries and satisfaction; contentment and anger, desires and grief, rejection and acceptance, joy and anger, gain and loss, enhancement and reduction, criticism and praise.

Worldly life, being exhausted, there is neither compassion nor any desire to harm, neither humility nor insolence, neither wonder nor mental disturbance.[xiv] The liberated one neither abhors the objects of senses nor craves for them. With detachment, he experiences them as they come. His vacant mind knows no conflict of contemplation and non-contemplation, good and evil[xv]. Such a mind is said to be indifferent to Purusharthas.[xvi]

Therefore, to talk about three ends of life is needless[xviii].The conduct of such souls is described as follows:[xix]

What is most important is since there is no I-ness and Mine-ness. All inner desires set at rest. The man of Knowledge does not act though he may appear be acting. What is remarkable is the conversational style employed to bring home the position maintained by Ashtavakra who criticises the King Janaka for being attached despite the alleged non-attachment. Subsequently, it is replied by the King that he may appear to be entangled into the world but he has not. Like Bhagavadgita[xx], it is maintained that it is not attachment even if engaged in action.

What is additionally stated about such a state is that the knowledge of the Truth makes eloquent, wise and active person mute, inert and inactive. Therefore, it is shunned by those who want to enjoy the world.[xxii]

Again, we may be reminded of Bhagavad-gita which describes the behaviour of Sthitaprajna at length and maintains that whatever is the day for ordinary ones is the night for the liberated soul and whatever is the day for him is the night for all others. The point has been made in Ashtavakragita as well when sense-objects are said to be poisonous for such a soul. But, if we go literally, in the Ashtavakragita, we are told that he is the one who neither keeps awake, nor sleeps, he neither opens nor closes his eyes.[xxiii] Incidentally, we are told that an individual who attains Bliss is one for whom even blinking is difficult, if not impossible. Just like Bhagavadgita, Ashtavakragita holds that such a man of Knowledge, though living like an ordinary man, is different from him. He sees neither concentration nor distraction; is wise, satisfied, free from desire, does nothing even if he may be acting in the eyes of the world[xxiv]. His behaviour is described as follows:[xxv]

Needless to say, the mind of such individual is neither troubled nor pleased; it is actionless, motionless, desireless and free from doubts.[xxvi] What is worth-noting is that such mind described as the placid mind exerting itself in neither meditation nor action but it becomes meditative and active without any motive.

It may be argued that the Ideal State described in the Ashtavakragita is nothing but Liberation. As stated above, such a soul is beyond all odds. But if it is conceived as Liberation, it is open for criticism, as different systems have different concepts of Liberation. Nevertheless, if it is understood as a state beyond Purusharthas, it may be acceptable to all, irrespective of religion, culture, philosophy. Asthavakragita has specifically elaborated on the same. But our familiarity with Bhagavadgita may make us dissatisfied without comparison of the two in conclusion. So, A word again.

While Ashtavakragita speaks of Sukha, Bhagavadgita speaks of Prasada. The difference is merely verbal. Basically[xxvii], the state refered to is one and the same.Moreover, even the simile used of the ocean and waves is just the same, with the same message, though again the words are different(‘Samudra’ in Bhagavadgita and ‘Anantamahambhodhau’ in the Ashtavakragita). Ashtavakragita does not have the background of war as Bhagavadgita. To put it differently, Arjuna’s problem has not only ethico-spiritual dimension but also social one whereas Janaka’s problems with which Ashtavakragita begins are purely spiritual. No doubt, it will have social repercussions but these are not of primary significance in the Ashtavakragita. The Values and Ideals preached in both the Texts are the same, if Bhagavadgita is understood beyond war-setting. Let me conclude in the words of Ashtavakra.[xxviii]

i.e. without having any will or resolution, such a liberated soul is free outwardly.[xxix]

As I have realised the Supreme Self, who is the Witness and the Lord, and have become indifferent to both bondage and liberation, I feel no anxiety for emancipation.[xxx]

i.e. where is dharma, where is artha, where is kama and where is discrimination for the yogin who has transcended such dual notions as ‘This is to be done’ and ‘This is not to be done’. The state of mind of the liberated one which is neither troubled nor pleased; it is actionless, motionless, desireless and free from doubts.[xxxi]

Hence, “Beyond Purusharthas-through Ashtavakragita.”


[i] Nityaswarupananda swami- Ashtavakrasamhita-Kolkatta, Advaita Ashrama- 2013, xvii-5

[ii] Ibid,xvii-6

[iii] X-i

[iv] I-18

[v] xviii-28

[vi] I-5

[vii] xx-13

[viii] X-3

[ix] xiii-5

[x] xvi-8, xviii-64

[xi] xvi-10

[xii] I-16

[xiii] xvii-15

[xiv] xvii-16

[xv] xvii-18

[xvi] xvi-5

[xvii] xviii-34,36

[xviii] xix-8

[xix] xviii-99,100

[xx] Like Bhagavadgita, even the immanence of God is maintained; God is nothing but the Supreme Self. (xv-6)

[xxi] xvii-19, xviii-25,29, xviii-77

[xxii] xv-3

[xxiii] xvii-10

[xxiv] xviii-18

[xxv] xviii-21

[xxvi] xviii-31

[xxvii] Bhagavadgita-II-55–58,

[xxviii] xiv-4

[xxix] xiv-3

[xxx] xviii-12, xx-2

[xxxi] xviii-30



Sharmila Virkar

Dept of Philosophy @ University of Mumbai