I have been in search of a higher truth as far as I remember, like a stargazer looking for the brighter one and dropping the dimmer. I started from Christianity or generally from the Abrahamic religions just because it was close at home, then progressed on to the early Greek philosophy when I found out that the theology of these religions is just a makeshift of Plato's Philosophy.

The Greek thought kept me for a while, especially the Stoics which I still respect the most, but then I discovered the wisdom of the East mainly because of the proximity of the Taoist with the Cynics. I explored the Eastern thought and religions for many years Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, and Buddhism. I read, inquired and tried to practice some for longer and some for shorter years. There is an apparent similarity between these religions and it can be said that a common theme is repeated again and again

That said, Ashtavakra Gita is very distinct and truly a higher teaching. I know it is a Hindu scripture, but it’s just by name, the Gita presents almost all Hinduism as a bluff of vanity. By my understanding none of the philosophy or religion of the world that i encountered, except perhaps the higher teaching of Buddhism, Laozi Tao and some few thoughts in the west, will stand its truth.

So, I'm looking for a comparative study between Buddhism and this specific scripture Ashtavakra Gita.


5 Answers 5


We don't usually compare Buddhism with other non-Buddhist teachings here, both because few of our users seem to know other teachings deeply enough to give them justice, but also because we prefer to stay away from qualitative judgements and arguments, so you're unlikely to get many in-depth answers on this. I can make a few general comments though:

A.G. seems to be mostly in-line with the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. This is not surprising, considering that Advaita Vedanta is thought (by Buddhists) to be a derivation and adaptation of Mahayana Buddhism for Brahmin audience.

Unlike A.G., in Buddhism we do not identify ourselves with the mind / the witness / pure consciousness etc. We say that the mind is just an emergent property of nature, whereas "I" is only a concept. Nor do we identify with the All. So the many statements in A.G. of the kind "I am pure consciousness; I am in everything and everything in me" etc. - would sound odd to a Buddhist who would find it misleading.

Then, A.G. seems to describe the target state in considerable detail, but hardly if at all explains the practical path from a typical Samsaric condition to the freedom of realization. In contrast to that, Buddhism declares, and spends a great deal of effort expounding the practical implementation of a gradual step-by-step method for reaching that state, which can be followed by someone starting from complete scratch, all the way to Liberation.

Finally, A.G. does not seem to concern itself with the social morals, while Buddhism defines a comprehensive set of guidelines for regular society which is in complete sync with the Buddhist path and vice versa.

Still, from a quick read of A.G. it seems like it comes from tradition that could be completely at home within the higher yanas of Tibetan Buddhism, especially what's known as Dzogchen. It almost reads like a Dzogchen Tantra and I suspect back when religious traditions were more pliable than they are today, there was likely some cross-pollination between the two.

This similarity is seen in many cases on the Dzogchen side as well, with texts talking about rigpa (ground awareness), making proclamations like "I am the eternal Buddha" and so on. And certainly the spirit of "nothing requires fixing" that A.G. is permeated with, plays the key role in Dzogchen as well.

Since you appreciate A.G. as the higher teaching, I suppose you may enjoy reading about Dzogchen, for example as presented by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu whom I found clear and to the point.

  • Thanks for your response and for pointing similarity with the Dzogchen Tantra. I agree there is some similarity, but reading some of the Tantra one can only say that they are thick with analogies which at a time seems to miss the mark and again to align back.. back and forth until you wonder why it's written in such a way unless it's to keep it like a secret, which is not unusual in these traditions. It may also be the translators, but it is so confusing to read let alone to drag someone out of thick ignorance.
    – Epic
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 14:33
  • Some of the ancient tantras, yes - but I'm talking about "pith instructions" not root texts, which are available as part of the oral tradition, published as lecture-transcripts these days.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 14:41

I don't know of such a study.

I looked at Wikipedia to learn the first thing about that Gita:

Ashtavakra Gita is a dialogue between Ashtavakra and Janaka on the nature of soul, reality and bondage.[9] It offers a radical version of non-dualistic philosophy. The Gita insists on the complete unreality of external world and absolute oneness of existence. It does not mention any morality or duties, and therefore is seen by commentators as 'godless'. It also dismisses names and forms as unreal and a sign of ignorance.[10]

In a conversation between Janaka and Ashtavakra, pertaining to the deformity of his crooked body, Ashtavakra explains that the size of a Temple is not affected by how it is shaped, and the shape of his own body does not affect himself (or Atman). The ignorant man's vision is shrouded by names and forms, but a wise man sees only himself:[11][12]

You are really unbound and action-less, self-illuminating and spotless already. The cause of your bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling the mind. (I.15)

You are unconditioned and changeless, formless and immovable, unfathomable awareness, imperturbable- such consciousness is un-clinging. (I.17)

You are not bound by anything. What does a pure person like you need to renounce? Putting the complex organism to rest, you can go to your rest. (V.1) [13]

The Pali suttas avoid saying "you are" and "I am" and so on -- the Buddhist doctrine is called "Anatta" or "Anatman", contrasted with the Vedic doctrine of "Atman".

I did a quick Google search and the first thing I found was ...

Ashtavakra Gita. One of the great spiritual texts of ancient India. Liberation is the priority…

... which is a little blog entry, not a study. The author doesn't say much (it's short) except recommends reading the Gita. The one thing he does say -- referring to "the language of ‘I’ and ‘Self’" that's used in the Gita -- is ...

Yes, the words in places are certainly different from the Buddha-Dharma. That is hair-splitting, a formation of an unnecessary duality.

... so I guess maybe he recognises that it sounds a bit heretical or counterfactual to an orthodox early-Buddhist view.

One time that author (i.e. Christopher Titmuss) was quoted previously on this site was actually on a similar topic -- Was the doctrine of 'Anatta', accepted as doctrine by modern Buddhism, actually taught by the Buddha? -- i.e. where someone questioned something he had written about Anatta, and questioned whether that matches an orthodox Buddhist view or doctrine.

If you're interested you might also see this topic -- How is it wrong to believe that a self exists, or that it doesn't? -- which focuses on the sutta which was alluded to in the previous topic above.

If you like the format of the Gita (i.e. question-and-answer) then you might possibly like The Questions of King Milinda e.g. summarised here. They include a famous "simile of a chariot", which explains that there isn't really a "self" in the same way that there isn't really a "chariot". I found that explanation a bit abstract (i.e. just words) and I prefer the doctrine in MN 22, which also has some famous similes, but especially the explanation of views-of-self which includes the following as a reason for not having a doctrine-of-self,

Mendicants, it would make sense to be possessive about something that’s permanent, everlasting, eternal, imperishable, and will last forever and ever. But do you see any such possession?” “No, sir.” “Good, mendicants! I also can’t see any such possession.

It would make sense to grasp at a doctrine of self that didn’t give rise to sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress. But do you see any such doctrine of self?” “No, sir.” “Good, mendicants! I also can’t see any such doctrine of self.

... but maybe it's necessary that there are several explanations (about self and selfishness and so on).

Two more things I'd like to mention.

One is that the bits of the Gita which Wikipedia quotes, above, remind of Huineng's poem -- contrast the Gita's saying,

You are really unbound and action-less, self-illuminating and spotless already

... with Huineng's saying, I think, effectively,

There is no "you".

The other thing is that items listed in Christopher Titmuss' blog, e.g. ...

  • Can the water in the wave be separate from the Ocean?
  • Can the cloud be separated from the Sky?
  • Can a human being exist separate from the environment?
  • Is there the capacity to embrace separation and non-separation?

... seem to me to be, as Andrei's answer said, "in-line with the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism" -- i.e. they're examples of a doctrine of "emptiness" (sunyata), more than of "non-self" (anatta).

Perhaps it would be interesting to compare it in detail with Buddhist doctrine, but like I said I don't know of such. There probably are similarities and differences, and I guess it's up to you to decide whether. like Christopher Titmuss, you consider such differences to be "hair-splitting".

If I read it one of the first things I read is ...

Liberation is to know yourself
as Awareness alone

I think that "awareness" there might mean what Buddhism calls consciousness rather than mindfulness; but to me that (i.e. "know yourself as Awareness") sounds contrary to elementary Buddhist doctrine: which says that consciousness is impermanent and dependently originated (e.g. it varies depending on "contact"), and that therefore you shouldn't identify with it and so on.

I don't want to disparage it, so I don't want to go on pointing out disparities.

Maybe the doctrine-of-self is important though: according to the Buddhism of the Pali suttas abandoning the "self-view" (or "self-doctrine" or "identity-view") is a milestone, the first stage of enlightenment.

Anyway I think that topics on this site are meant to be introductions to Buddhism, maybe this answer does that. I don't know though, what do you already know about Buddhism, you didn't mention that in the question.

A quick scan suggests that some of its themes are like the Buddhism of the Pali suttas -- e.g. that desire is tedious, that attachment has been going on since forever and that it's time to stop, that ignorance is a problem. It also has some themes that may be reminiscent of later versions of Buddhism , e.g. ...

Right and wrong, pleasure and pain,
exist in mind only.
They are not your concern.

... which might sound a bit scandalous to someone who's used to early Buddhism's including/emphasising ethics in its doctrine (you might see e.g. Can you criticise or improve Ven. Bodhi's description of Mahayana for more on that topic).

  • Thank You, Chris. I agree with you that the non-self teaching of Buddism may not be apparent in the AG, but it's clear that whatever is being called as "self" is not the ego... the section on liberation reads... When there is no “I” there is only liberation. When “I” appears bondage appears with it. Knowing this, it is effortless to refrain from accepting and rejecting.
    – Epic
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 23:09

This is a book from 1939, which I have not read but includes some analysis of Buddhism and other doctrines, including some Hindu doctrines: The Buddha's Doctrine Of Anatta by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu


As long as you keep searching (have the desire to search). You will find something. Once you have found it what then? Everything is written is just a finger pointing to the moon. As long as you keep searching you will find other fingers. The next one may be softer, shinier or stronger than the first. The finger is rooted in desire whereas the moon, the truth is beyond it. Only awareness or experience of "higher truths" so you say, set any progress in the search. Else caught up in the cobweb of the "desire" for the search of truth, one is enslaved by the very same desire.

Hope this was helpful.

  • Hello Amit, I think the problem with your answer is that it is not an answer to the OP’s question, “are there any comparative studies done between Ashtavakra Gita and Buddhism?” Instead, you are responding to the OP’s search for answers, a much more general, and off-topic, subject. Stack Exchange is focused on finding the best answers to people’s questions. Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 15:25
  • Very true! If only the question was posted I would have not replied. The justification/explanation given to support the question to me suggests a very different purpose for the inquiry by the questioner. I believe just blank answering the question is moot if we dont see the subjective side where the question is arising. I wanted to give a solution to his quandary and not an answer. As you say it would be worthless and off topic if he does not see worth in the answer.. Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 19:13

The heritage of the Buddha, and it's actually not so that the Buddha and his disciples do not compare, but very precisely, has a lot of comparison, and the most comprehensive collection is found as starter of the sutta collection: DN 1: Brahmajāla Sutta.

Would not make much sense to ask others then the Buddha or his Sangha of right following monks in regard of comparisons.

(Note that this has been not given for trade, exchange, stacks and to keep one entertained and bound, but as a tiny way out of the cyrcle)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .