There are many translations of this Hindu classic of Advaita Vedanda, a non-dualist school that teaches the oneness of all things and the illusory nature of the universe that we think we know. “The Song of Ashtavakra” explores self-realization and the path to liberation (i.e. Moksha.) [Ashtavakra was a sage with birth defects from which the name “8 angles” derives. Yoga practitioners will know the name from an arm balance pose that involves balancing the kinked body on bent arms in a manner that was apparently reminiscent of the look of this sage’s body.]
The translation that I read, one by Bart Marshall, is clearly written in readily understandable language. It’s presented as a series of short-form poems arranged into twenty chapters that also form a dialogue between Ashtavakra and Janaka. This version doesn’t contain commentary and analysis as some translations do. Because it’s both highly readable and inexpensively acquired, I’d recommend one give it a chance. If you later decide you’d benefit from commentary, you’ll not be at a loss by having read this version first.
As is common enough in such tracts, the book can be repetitive as it reiterates ideas like the need to avoid desire and aversion and the nature of oneness. That said, there were some quite powerful statements that genuinely expanded on the ideas of the work. (e.g. 18.100: “One of tranquil mind // seeks neither crowds nor wilderness. // He is the same wherever he goes.” Or 3.12 “Why should a person of steady mind, who sees the nothingness of objects, prefer one thing over another?”)
If you’re a student of philosophy or of yoga as a philosophy, I think this is well worth a thoughtful read.
This novella, translated from Kannada, shows the Indian family as both a gordian knot that can be the source of great strength through unity and as an unruly tangle that can neither be loosed nor made neat. It’s character-driven literary fiction that focuses on a young man in a family that becomes nouveau-riche. He is aimless and dependent upon the income of his family’s business, and that is fine and natural with him until his newly-wedded wife discovers he’s more man-child than the business executive his calling cards proclaim him to be.
I found the book to be both insightful and brilliantly crafted. As mentioned, it’s more about the family dynamic than a story, but it’s humorous, contemplative, and shows the psychology of family drama nicely.
I’d highly recommend this novella for readers of literary fiction.