Did you know that Astavakrasana is named after a person? This time, this pose is named after a Sage called Astavakra. ‘Asta’ means 8 and ‘Vakra’ means bent, and this is because the sage was born with a body that was bent in 8 places.
The story behind Astavakrasana begins when he is in his mother’s womb. Astavakra used to hear his father reciting the Vedas, but his father was mispronouncing a verse. One day, from the womb, Astavakra decided to correct his father. This made his father furious, cursing the unborn child to be bent in 8 places. Despite his appearance, Astavakra grew up to be a gifted child, being able to read and articulate scriptures, he was able to find enlightenment.
King Janaka was one of the most famous disciples of Astavakra. Before he became a disciple of Astavakra, King Janaka decided to call in the scholars into his court for debate, as he was seeking enlightenment. He said, “I want to know who’s the best scholar in my kingdom and I will be his disciple!”
Astavakra’s father was one of the many scholars who participated in the debate. By the end of day 14, his father was about to lose. It was then Astavakra entered the scene. Upon his appearance, everyone starts laughing at including all those so-called scholars. After some time everyone stops laughing. Then Ashtavakra starts laughing even louder than them.
King Janaka confused, asked, “Why are you laughing?”
Astavakra said, “You’ve called all the scholars who are speaking of enlightenment and look at them! They are so juvenile. They look at my skin, they look at my body and they judge me. Those who have not transcended even their body, how can they speak about enlightenment? Enlightenment is beyond body beyond my mind and beyond anything that you can perceive so all these fools here, they are just parrots who are just speaking about enlightenment. They have no idea what enlightenment is.”
As such, Astavakra was given the opportunity to participate in the debate. Eventually, he won the debate and became King Janaka’s spiritual guru. It was this moment that Astavakra redeemed himself to his father. Hence, his father blessed him allowing the bends in his body to disappear, returning him with a normal body.
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