Thomas Byrom. The Heart of Awareness: A Translation of the Ashtavakra Gita. Foreword by J. L. Brockington. Boston, Mass.: Shambhala, 2001. Paperback, xxv + 92 pages.
The Ashtāvakra-Gītā is one of those inspirational didactic works from the late medieval era that are hard to put down once one has started to read or recite them. It has long been one of my favorites, and at one point I even translated several of its chapters. Written in easy Sanskrit and in a recitation-friendly style, this text comprises twenty chapters with such promising titles as “Wisdom,” “The True Seeker,” “The Boundless Ocean,” “Forget Everything,” and “My Own Splendor.” As is often the case with scriptures of this kind, the author chose to remain anonymous, allowing his tradition to speak for itself.
The philosophical content of this Gītā (“Song”) gives voice to the core wisdom of Vedānta, Hindu India’s tradition of metaphysical nondualism. It talks about Pure Awareness beyond all thoughts and words, and how to realize it. The whole poem springs from direct experience, and many of its stanzas are ecstatic speech, conveying the bliss of enlightenment.
Thomas Byrom, who was educated at Oxford and Harvard universities and also has published a translation of the Buddhist Dhammapada, has created a highly readable and nuanced rendering. His version is bound to delight anyone who is keen on Vedānta or Yoga. It is faithful to the intent of the original, while seeking to capture it lucidly and with simple poetic elegance. For those wishing to go more deeply, the author has appended some guiding notes.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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