I am now almost into 18th chapter but that does not mean that I have fully absorbed the message. It would take many rounds of reading and reflections before I can claim to have got the message reasonably well.
Same goes for Bhagavat Gita. Though I have read many times, I have stopped after first few chapters partly because I felt discussions rambling beyond the actual intent and partly because I read it for peace of mind rather than knowledge pursuit; halo of ‘holiness’ around it has blocked the philosopher in mind. Incidentally, that is also the reason to pick up Ashtavakra Gita this time, rather than Bhagavat Gita, so that my quest can go unhindered
Another irritant while reading these two are noises of interpretations. Though I studied Sanskrit for more than 10 years, those are long back. My knowledge of Sanskrit at this point is rudimentary. It helps me to understand if something is wrong but not enough to find what is right. Problem with Sanskrit literature like Ashtavakra Gita and Bhagavat Gita are their meaning and its analysis are typically presented mixing up both. It takes time to remove what is translators/interpretations perceptions and what is actual message
Based on my reading of Bhagavat Gita and Ashtavakra Gita, my early impressions as a philosopher are:
1. Essential message in both are the same. Do not be misled by illusions, perceptions, emotions. You are real, and not your perceptions. It is very easy being an escapist, attributing outside; but real strength, real happiness, real solution is within; not in materials or people outside. Living by this conviction, and action based on these convictions, is key
2. This message is drawn on a broader canvas in Bhagavat Gita, accommodating multiple paradigms in philosophy while in Ashtavakra Gita message is blunt.
3. Bhagavat Gita appeals to wider audience making it easier for many to follow, eventually taking towards same message. It requires an enlightened soul to take the right message from Ashtavakra Gita. It is is like, some may get it while others may get simply lost especially since message from Ashtavakra Gita raise some fundamental questions that demand answer. Those answers need to be found by self, within self
4. Being more accommodative, Bhagavat Gita provides more scope for initial misinterpretations. Well, these misinterpretations do vanish on sustained reading and reflections. It is very much like message from Ramayana is idealistic and simple while message from Mahabharata can be appealing to many but potentially misleading initially