Interview With Ashraf Karayath, Author of “JANAKA AND ASHTAVAKRA: A Journey Beyond”

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Ashraf Karayath was born in Nadapuram, a village in Kerala, India. After finishing his MA in English Literature in 1991, he migrated to Dubai. He has twenty-five years of business experience coupled with a background in management philosophy. Despite his professional preoccupations, he continues in his quest to unravel the timeless knowledge of ancient Indian culture.

What inspired you to learn about Indian Ancient Culture?

It was about 17 years ago that I had the opportunity to read the Ashtavakra Gita, and I found it surprisingly enlightening in many ways. In it I found the roots of many of the philosophies that I have studied, such as: New Age Science, Theory of the Law of Attraction, Existentialism and Quantum Physics. When I came across the profound message of the Ashtavakra Gita, I came up with the idea to write about it.

What message do you want to convey with the book?

“Janaka and Ashtavakra” is a novel that tells the story of the ancient King Janaka obsessed with his quest for spiritual liberation. Janaka is the father of Sita in Ramayana in Bala Kanda. My story is about his turbulent life, the impending war in his kingdom, and the betrayal and intrigue in the mysterious world of his palace. When the entire world believes that calamity is imminent, Janaka clings to his deeply held conviction and belief that there is a connection between what is inside and outside of a person and realizes that war is not a solution. Thus, he delves into himself with his Guru Ashtavakra, unraveling a new world and finally a new reality unfolds for the kingdom and the palace. Based on the great Ramayana epic of our living narrative tradition, my novel renews and deepens the characters loved by modern readers. The story also tells how a person can remain calm in each crisis and dive deep into himself to find solutions to his problems.

How do you view religion and spirituality? How far spirituality is relevant in the modern age?

I believe the word spirituality is often misunderstood. When people hear about spirituality, they usually associate it with religion, a sort of dogma, ideology, or self-righteous morality. Some people associate it with strange ways of clothing, a strange way of living, or extravagant paraphernalia related to cults or movements. My view is coming from a different perspective–that the subject of spirituality is so simple and the idea is to make the whole process easy, so I am trying to explain those steps though a story. I believe that everybody has a spark of divinity and everybody deserves to be enlightened, and this is what Ashtavakra advises to the King in the story.

Every one of us has an energy stream incessantly flowing, but we don’t realize it due to our bondages. To me, spirituality means how one can connect to that energy stream and use it as his/her guidance system, so that we can find more meaning in what we are doing in our day to day life. Good artists, scientists, businessmen are highly spiritual, as they have realized their potential consciously or unconsciously; hence they pursue what they do.

In one of the interviews you said, “I realized that it is not hard work that makes a person successful, but inspired action that comes from within when a person realizes their innate strength and vision.
Please explain.

Most management theories deal with quick-fix approaches, and what a business leader needs is wisdom that really connects them to his inner vision. We do not know that wellness is our essential nature because we have been programmed to believe that we must fight to be successful. Being spiritual is exploring the world within us, understanding the innate strength we have, and expressing ourselves in the fullness of who we are.

Please elaborate what you said: “The Ashtavakra lessons were more advanced and insightful than what (Jean Paul) Sartre or other thinkers told us at the beginning of the 20th century.”

Existential thinkers who lived in the 19th century and after the war. , had negative philosophical conclusions. Ashtavakra Gita gives answers to many of these absolute questions about life.
Ashtavakra lessons, when properly understood, will set you free and lead you to infinite mastery in a matter of seconds. You don’t have to live a rustic life or do any hard exercise. When you have the proper knowledge, you will be released. And I think it’s the essence of life, and that’s what I believe about this book.
In my book, the protagonist Janaka seeks enlightenment outside of himself until, with the help of his guru, he realizes that peace and enlightenment are within him. He goes through a lot of turbulence and manages to stay calm and composed in the midst of the crisis.

Do you think today’s world that is facing a lot of challenges has a lot to learn from the ancient Indian
wisdom?

Definitely. If we read ancient scriptures, we’ll often find knowledge that are deep and timeless, and may draw lessons to affect our current situations. When the entire world is gripped by fear and unpredictability, people lose their expectations and faith, and that they will have anxiety, stress and fear. These are all apprehensive emotions and that they will impact our psychological state very badly, which successively , will affect our system .This is the time where we all need to reckon ourselves to the strength of our inner wellbeing, which is dominant and inherent.

How is it different from regular mythological fiction?

At first glance, it may seem like a mythological story, but it’s a story about the search for knowledge, liberation,emancipation, awareness and more. Janaka understood the follies and the insignificance of the luxury that surrounded him and he was also a saint who always looked for the right way to free himself and enlighten himself.

What is the philosophy of Ashtavakra?

The Ashtavakra Gita is an extraordinary discourse on non-dualism, consciousness, emancipation, and the absolute realities of life. The Ashtavakra Gita’s knowledge will assist a seeker in elevating himself from the relative to the absolute, paving the way to liberation.It teaches how a person can and help him have control on his consciousness in a matter of seconds or a flash.

What obstacles have you faced while writing this book?

I had only a dream, a notion. But I nurtured that idea and started developing it. Janaka’s story was fragmented in various scriptures and puranas, and Ashtavakra Gita was difficult to understand.It was difficult to incorporate Ashtavakra’s messages into a novel, making it dramatic and fascinating for the reader without breaking from the primary plot.

There are so many books available in the market about Ashtavakra, what is unique about him in your Book?

Although there are a few books in English regarding Ashtavakra philosophy, they are neither readable nor easy to learn, and if one does not understand them thoroughly, one may be misled. The mission and purpose of my work is to simplify subjects such as consciousness, enlightenment, and how one can achieve peace and a balanced life as covered in Ashtavakra Gita (The Song of Ashtavakra); to give them within the context of an engaging story, so that every reader can understand them with ease.

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