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Sri Rama goes on a holy pilgrimage together with his brothers and returns after a long tour. Rama develops a pensive mood and is lost in thoughts. Rama had just completed his fifteenth year of life and instead of enjoying the pleasures of the palace, he developed profound dispassion (vairagya) which is the seed of wisdom (Jnana or knowledge). Rama became a jignasu, an enquirer. The great Sage Vishwamitra arrived at the palace of king Dasharatha. In reply to an enquiry of Sage Vishwamitra, Sri Rama observed: "Sir, there is not an iota of bliss in this world. Wealth does not confer bliss. This wealth which the mind covets and which is very ephemeral in its nature is utterly useless like a flower-bud on a creeper growing in a well and encircled by a serpent. Life is like a drop of rain water dropping from the end of a leaf. I do not rejoice in this life of mine which is like a flash of lightning in the cloud of delusion. I am terrified by the enemy, the harmful Ahamkara (egoism). There is no greater enemy than it. It is impossible to control this mind of ours. This venomous monster that is mind is more terrible than fire itself. I am like a bird caught in a trap, and the fire of desire has scalded me. I am unable to understand the end and the aim of all these births. All these objects which appear to perish produce only bondage. Even Brahma (the creator) has to die in a Kalpa which is but a moment of time. Therefore, in this dilemma of mine, please point out to me that resplendent and eternal state, devoid of pain, doubt and delusion. How could the great ones manage to avoid the pain in this world? Will someone unlock to me the real mysteries? Is there not such a state as quiescence? I shall not be able to attain this state of quiescence with my efforts alone, therefore, please enlighten me in this respect." Rama is seen here as a deeply involved student of Vedanta who is desirous of Knowledge (Gyaan) through which he would get liberation. The whole subsequent discourse is an answer to the various questions

and doubts raised by Rama. Sage Viswamitra asks Sage Vasistha to tell Rama about the spiritual knowledge they gained from the discourse they had of Brahma as Sri Rama is an Adhikari (deserving student) for the spiritual knowledge. Vasistha accordingly starts a discourse about Suka who also had a similar problem. Sukas father sent him to King Janaka for answers to his questions. King Janaka told Suka: "Atman (soul) alone is, all pervading as the all-full Chidakasha everywhere. There is nothing other than that. That knowledge or Gyaan is bound by its own Sankalpa, and with the liberation from that Sankalpa, there is freedom from the bondage." Vasistha tells Rama that this is the path he too should follow. Vasistha said: "O Rama, the extinction of Vasanas alone is Moksha (liberation), the fixation of the mind in material objects through Vasanas (latent tendencies) is bondage. Atma-Vichara (self-inquiry) is very essential for the mind to get purified and to attain the state of Shanti (peace) which is the pathway for realisation. An aspirant for perfection should cultivate such virtues as Santosha (contentment) and should keep the company of sages and saints (Sadhu-sangha)." Concluding the discourse, Vasistha said: "This Jiva (individual soul) has three forms (gross, subtle and Turya), the first two of which are base ones and the last one is Supreme Brahman. O Rama, having attained and being absorbed in the Turiya state, do not identify yourself with the first two forms, namely the gross and the subtle, but destroy them once and for all." Sage Vasistha enumerates the stages by which one can reach this ultimate goal. The first stage is the Subhechha which makes one arrive at a firm resolve to study and seek spiritual knowledge. This resolve is practised in word, thought and deed (body, speech and mind). The second stage is known as Vicharana, a process of enquiry. This stage helps to eliminate pride, envy, Ahamkar (egoism), desires, delusions etc. arising out of Avidya (Nescience or ignorance). One can achieve this stage successfully with the grace of a Guru. The third stage is Vairagya, freedom from attractions, wherein he would listen to the Tattva-Jnana stories (stories about spiritual knowledge) from great souls. This third stage would bring in its train the matchless lotus bud of Jnana (Knowledge) that blossoms through the sun of Viveka (discrimination). At this stage the mind would vanish like the autumnal

clouds. This is known as manonasha or mano-laya (destruction of the mind). The Jignasu (enquirer) remains in the transcendent Sat-Bhava (experiences bliss). Such a person will have full Jnana (knowledge) and would be free from any gloom of duality. The egoism is completely eliminated. He is a Jivan-Mukta (liberated), even though he engages in external activities in day to day life. Sage Vasistha says in conclusion that the existence of Manas or the mind is Sankalpa, but its non-existence is bliss. Truth (sat) is self-luminous and all-pervading. It alone is the essence and perfect bliss, free from all objects. This alone is Jnana (knowledge) and Sat (existence). It is the cognition of this state of non-duality that constitutes the real Karma-Yoga or the renunciation of the fruits of all actions. The whole narration is set as a dialogue between Sage Valmiki and Sage Bharadvaja who asks Valmiki as to how did Rama, full of Sattwa Guna, come into this world of samsara full of pain and cycles of rebirths. Valmiki concludes that whoever listens to this perfect dialogue between Vasistha and Sri Rama would tread the path of liberation, and attain the perfect goal of life, namely Mukti.

Yoga Vashishtha an Introduction

Swami Suryaprakash Saraswati
Yoga Vashishtha, written by Sage Valmiki, is the spiritual teaching imparted by Sage Vashishtha to Sri Rama. In Balakand of Ramayana there is also a reference that Rama received spiritual instructions and guidance from his guru Vashishtha. While the Ramayana relates Sri Rama's adventures and the meaning of the different stages of his life, Yoga Vashishtha relates the teachings which he received and describes the different chapters in his spiritual evolution. Yoga Vashishtha is also known as the Maha Ramayana, the Uttar Ramayana and the Vashishtha Ramayana. We can also call it the 'Behind the scenes Ramayana', because it describes how Rama's knowledge, wisdom and understanding evolved and progressed throughout the different stages of his life. Yoga Vashishtha is an elaborate work, consisting of 32,000 verses and 64,000 lines. It has been divided into six main chapters, which are the different stages of spiritual evolution in the life of Sri Rama. The chapters are called prakaranas. The first chapter is Vairagya Prakarana, in which Sri Rama experiences a very deep and intense dispassion and distaste for all worldly objects and pleasures. Although in Sri Rama's case the desire for worldly objects was never described as being very intense, still it is the first stage of Sri Rama's spiritual evolution and the first requirement in spiritual life. The second chapter is the Mumukshu

Prakarana, which describes the intense desire for Self-realization that Sri Rama experiences. After achieving vairagya, after attaining the state of being different from the world, of not being involved but being more of an observer, then the next stage is changing the quality of the desires from worldly to spiritual. That is the second stage of Sri Rama's evolution. The third chapter is the Utpatti Prakarana in which Sri Rama learns from his guru the origins of the world. It is deepening the understanding of why we get caught up and involved with worldly objects and pleasures, and how those outside objects are identified in the mind. The fourth chapter is the Sthiti Ramayana in which, after having attained that firm understanding of the origin of the world process, Sri Rama sustains himself in the Self, in Brahman. That is the time of spiritual enlightenment. The fifth chapter is the Upasama Prakarana, which describes the deep peace that emerged from having attained that spiritual enlightenment. The sixth chapter is the Nirvana Prakarana, which is the final liberation.

Waking up from the dream

The main theme of Yoga Vashishtha is that the soul is undergoing a dream from which it must awake. This dream represents our association and identification with the world. The fact that it is described as being a dream means that whatever is in it has to be false. Nothing in a dream can be true. Waking up from that dream is the ultimate goal, Self-realization. Yoga Vashishtha has been written, not as straight dialogue between Sage Vashishtha and Sri Rama, but in the form of a story within a story within a story. It is not a standard scriptural textbook. Our lives are also rather like a story within a story within a story. For example, a desire arises for a particular object. Then there is a pursuit to obtain that object. If the object is attained, there is an elation, a happiness, that doesn't last very long, as we know. Then there is a further desire for what we consider to be a better object. Again there is another pursuit after that object. But if the object is not obtained, there is frustration, anger, loss of mental balance, and then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere guilt arises - "Why was I pursuing this object in the first place?" But the desire for that object still remains along with the guilt. The mind that is feeling guilty for pursuing that object is the same mind that wants to obtain that object. So there is mental conflict, confusion and no clarity. The first chapter has been called Vairagya Prakarana because until one cuts that identification with and desire for worldly objects, that fogginess will remain. Not until the fogginess disappears will mental clarity prevail and will one be able to evaluate, analyze and reflect on what the true aspiration is. While we are involved in that desire, we cannot see what the real aspirations are and what we

really want to obtain, and there will be no real transformation in the quality of that desire. That is why Vairagya Prakarana has been described as the first chapter in Sri Rama's spiritual evolution, and of course it applies to all aspirants. Once there is clarity, then comes the second chapter, Mumukshu Prakarana, which is changing the quality of that desire to a higher nature, which is Self-realization. Sri Rama describes this in a very beautiful and simple way. If you pour water into a basket made out of straw, what will happen? The water will not remain in the basket. All the water will permeate through and the basket will remain empty. The basket symbolizes the drive to indulge and involve oneself in worldly objects and pleasures because there is a need for happiness and peace, the desire to obtain something, to achieve something, and to be stable in that happiness and inner peace. The pouring of water into the basket represents the effort, the purushartha, that one makes in one's life to obtain that something. But what happens? The fact that the water permeates through the basket and leaves it empty means that no matter how much water you pour in, no matter how deep you go in that dream, the basket will always remain empty. That is the transitory, short term and temporary nature of the happiness and contentment derived from worldly objects. Imagine you are having a nightmare in which people are chasing you and you are running away. Suddenly the road splits into two. On one side people are still chasing you, so you say, "I'd better not go in that direction and I cannot go back." So what do you do? You either turn to the right and continue running in the same circle, or you simply wake up and put an end to the dream. This waking up from the dream, which is described in Yoga Vashishtha, is the opening of the third eye. The third eye is a symbol which represents discrimination, wisdom. It is that discrimination and wisdom which ultimately leads one to the experience of vairagya, of dispassion. Discrimination means knowing what is right and what is wrong, being able to differentiate and to guide one's life and efforts towards something everlasting, not something temporary which will disappear the moment you touch it. Applying that discrimination then becomes dispassion. Dispassion is not something that can be applied as an intellectual concept, rather it is a gradual process of transformation of the mind and of the nature of the mind, transformation of the desires and the quality of these desires. So, Yoga Vashishtha describes the spiritual aim as being the waking up from that dream that we are going through.

Sutikshna and Agastya

The first story in the Vairagya Prakarana does not begin with Sage Vashishtha speaking to Sri Rama, but with a very humble and modest Brahmin named Sutikshna who has gone to his guru, Sage Agastya, for spiritual guidance. When Agastya, knowing his disciple very well, asked him the cause of his confusion

and grief, Sutikshna said, "Tell me, is it the performance of one's duty that will lead one to liberation, to nirvana, to moksha, or is it the renunciation of everything, going to the Himalayas and forgetting everybody and everything?" Sage Agastya replied, "Just as a bird flies on two wings, in the same way the aspirant flies up to the goal of self-realization, to liberation, on the two wings of karma and wisdom. So it is neither one nor the other but the blending of the two. That is the art which one has to learn to evolve in spiritual life." Seeing that Sutikshna was still confused, Agastya said, "I will tell you another story to help you understand better."

Agnivesya and Karunya

The second story is about Karunya and his father Agnivesya. Once upon a time there was a boy named Karunya who went to the gurukul at an early age and mastered the Vedas and the Puranas and became a very knowledgeable person. After finishing his training, he returned to his father's home. Suddenly, one day he too became depressed and fell into a state of grief. Agnivesya went to him and said, "Tell me the cause of your grief." Karunya replied, "I have been studying all this time, but still I have one question. It is mentioned in the scriptures that one will attain liberation, that one will free oneself from the cycle of births and deaths, through the performance of one's duties. But at the same time it says that only through renunciation will one attain this freedom. So what should one do?" Agnivesya replied, "I will tell you a story which will help you to understand this point perfectly."

Suruchi and Devadutta

So here is the third story, and the dialogue between Sage Vashishtha and Sri Rama has still not yet begun. Agnivesya began, "Once upon a time a beautiful damsel named Suruchi was sitting on a mountain peak in the Himalayas, reflecting on life. All of a sudden she saw a messenger of Lord Indra's flying by, so she called him and asked, "Where are you going?" He replied, "That is a very good question, let me tell you a story."

Devadutta and Arishtanemi

Once upon a time there was a king named Arishtanemi. After having performed his kingly duties and having ruled the kingdom with authority, according to the scriptures, he had retired and passed on his kingdom to his son. For hundreds and hundreds of years he had practised severe austerities and meditations in the forest. Lord Indra was so impressed that he sent his messenger Devadutta to invite Arishtanemi to the heavens. So Devadutta went off in a chariot full of the most beautiful damsels and the most learned scholars to invite King Arishtanemi

on a first class flight to the heavens. Devadutta arrived in the forest where Arishtanemi was practising his meditation, and passed on Lord Indra's invitation. Arishtanemi understood that he was being offered a reward for his good deeds, the fruits of his karmas. He said, "Tell me what kind of fruits I will enjoy from these karmas in the heavens?" Devadatta replied, "According to the karmas one has performed in one's life, the quality of the fruit will vary. Due to this variety, there is jealousy amongst the enjoyers of the fruits. Therefore, once the bonus is consumed, you have to go back and pass through another stage of birth." King Arishtanemi said very firmly, "No, I am not going with you. I am performing these austerities to experience everlasting happiness and peace within, and to know that source, not to go through the same thing. Therefore, I'm not going with you."

Arishtanemi and Valmiki

So Devadutta returned in an empty flight, first class, and told Lord Indra what Arishtanemi had said. Lord Indra said, "Go back and take him to Sage Valmiki. Tell Sage Valmiki to instruct Arishtanemi in spiritual knowledge, to guide him and lead him towards liberation, which is the reason why he is here." Devadutta took King Arishtanemi to Sage Valmiki and when Arishtanemi saw Valmiki, he understood that he had come to the right place. He said, "I wish you to instruct and guide me, so that I can become free from these sorrows and miseries which I am unable to separate myself from alone." At this point, Sage Valmiki begins to tell King Arishtanemi the story of Yoga Vashishtha, the dialogue between Sage Vashishtha and Sri Rama.

From intellect to intuition

So the introduction to Vairagya Prakarana contains many stories within stories. These stories have a twofold meaning. There is always a superficial meaning and at another level a more spiritual and deeper understanding. In the first story Sutikshna approaches Agastya for spiritual guidance. Sutikshna means subtle, sharp, and Agastya means the effulgent sun. The movement of Sutikshna towards Sage Agastya represents the move of the intellect towards intuition. An aspirant with the ability to move from intellect to intuition is considered to be the highest type of aspirant. The scriptures say that intellect is considered to be a barrier in spiritual life, but this has to be understood properly. As the absence of intellect is not the key to overcoming this barrier, the key has to be something associated with intellect.

Intellect begins with the letter 'I'. The purpose of intellect is also to serve 'I', so if intellect is not the barrier directly, it is this 'I-ness' associated with the intellect which becomes the barrier. Intellect and ego, 'I-ness', have a very intimate relationship, even more intimate than the relationship between a husband and wife. The way to transcend this barrier is therefore not to create an absence of intellect, but to change the purpose and application of intellect. Instead of applying the intellect for ourselves, we apply the intellect for others. The guru-disciple relationship is described as the way to transcend this barrier. In all these stories there is a guru and a disciple. In the guru-disciple relationship there is acceptance, faith and surrender: one is undergoing training, one is 'intuition'. This ability to move from intellect to intuition is considered to be a quality of the highest type of aspirant, because while letting go of family and possessions is not considered so difficult, letting go of that 'I-ness' is considered to be one of the toughest and rarest abilities.

Purification of the mind

The second story is between Karunya and Agnivesya. Karunya means one who is full of grief, confusion, and Agnivesya means an embodiment of fire. The movement of Agnivesya towards Karunya represents the need of the chitta to be purified by the superconsciousness, the need of the mind to be purified through raja yoga. Karunya is considered to be the second best type of aspirant on the spiritual path. In the first story Sutikshna approached Agastya for spiritual guidance, but here Agnivesya had to approach Karunya in order to relieve him of his grief and confusion. Spiritual inclination The third story is between Suruchi, a damsel, and Devadutta, Lord Indra's divine messenger. Suruchi means good taste. Her calling out to Devadatta is a sign of spiritual inclination, because even though it may have been a mental diversion initially, it becomes the source of her being led to spiritual heights, as Devadutta then tells the story which eventually leads to the dialogue between Sage Vashishtha and Sri Rama. Suruchi also represents the integration of sentiments required in an aspirant on the path of bhakti. She is considered to be the third best type of aspirant on the spiritual path.

From rajas to sattwa

In the next story, Arishtanemi approaches Sage Valmiki, not directly, but after having refused a first class invitation to the heavens. The movement of Arishtanemi towards Valmiki therefore symbolizes the movement of rajas towards sattwa, Arishtanemi representing rajas, the destroyer of evil, and Valmiki representing divine purity, sattwa.

Sri Rama and Sage Vashishtha

In the next story revealed by Sage Valmiki to Arishtanemi, Sri Rama represents the embodied divine Self and Sage Vashishtha represents the Self in the highest state of liberation. This depicts the movement of the soul towards Self-realization. It is the waking up of the soul from the world, which is the theme of Yoga Vashishtha. Sri Rama is the ideal disciple, the best that one can find. In this teaching, Sage Valmiki expands on each and every aspect of spiritual evolution. These stories, therefore, are not only stepping stones leading into Yoga Vashishtha, but also describe the different types of aspirants on the spiritual path and the internal processes and movements they undergo as the personality is transformed. They also emphasize the need for a guru-disciple relationship. Before beginning the story between Sri Rama and Sage Vashishtha, Valmiki explains that he had composed the Poorva Ramayana. Yoga Vashishtha is known as the Uttar Ramayana and the Ramacharitamanas is considered to be the Poorva Ramayana. Valmiki says that he offered the Poorva Ramayana to his disciple Bharadvaja, who became so enlightened and so happy from reading it that he revealed the story to Brahma, the creator. Brahma also became so happy after hearing it that he offered Bharadvaja any boon he wanted. Bharadvaja asked for a way by which everyone could escape from and transcend the miseries of the world, and become liberated. Brahma then sent him to ask Sage Valmiki to write the Uttar Ramayana, which would be in the form of a dialogue between Sri Rama and his guru Sage Vashishtha. As a result, everyone who comes into contact with that spiritual teaching and who studies it with devotion will become liberated. It is from this point that the dialogue between Sri Rama and Sage Vashishtha begins.

Some verses (From The Concise Yoga Vasishtha)

"This universe is nothing but the Self-experiencing of the Infinite." (p. 329 of the Concise Yoga Vasishtha) You are Brahman (God), I am Brahman, the whole universe is Brahman. Whatever you are doing realize this truth at all times. This Brahman or the Self alone is the reality in all beings, even as clay is the real substance in thousands of pots. (Yoga Vasishtha, 6.1.49) You should contemplate this truth again and again, from beginning to end, reflect upon it and you should march along this path now, O Noble one. Though engaged in diverse activities, you will not be bound if your intelligence is saturated with this truth; otherwise you will fall, even as an elephant falls from the cliff. Again, if you conceptualize this teaching only for your intellectual entertainment, and do not let it

act in your life, you will stumble and fall like a blind man. (Guru Vasishtha's advice to the future King Rama - from Yoga Vasishtha, 6.1.1) What is, is the sole reality - which is neither created nor destroyed. It is that infinite consciousness that is perceived by the ignorant as the universe. (Yoga Vasishtha 3.52) This seemingly endless stream of ignorance can be crossed over only by the constant company of the holy ones. From such company there arises wisdom concerning what is worth seeking and what is to be avoided. Then there arises the pure wish to attain liberation. This leads to serious inquiry. Then the mind becomes subtle because the inquiry thins out the mental conditioning. (Yoga Vasishtha 3.122)

"That Self is empty like space; but it is not nothingness, since it is consciousness. It is: yet because it cannot be experienced by the mind and senses, it is not. It being the Self of all, it is not experienced (as the object of experience) by anyone. Though one, it is reflected in the infinite atoms of existence and hence appears to be many. This appearance is however unreal... But the self is not unreal. It is not a void or nothingness: for it is the Self of all... That Self or infinite consciousness is, from the ordinary point of view, the creator, the protector and the overlord of all; and yet from the absolute point of view, in reality, being the Self of all, it has no such limited roles." (p. 101-102) "It does nothing, yet It has fashioned the universe. Sustaining the entire universe, It does nothing at all. All substances are non-different from It, yet It is not a substance; though It is non-substantial It pervades all substances. The cosmos is It's body, yet it has no body... that infinite consciousness is and is not. It is even what it is not. All these statements about what is and what is not are based on logic, and the infinite consciousness goes beyond truth, beyond logic." (p. 377-378) "In my vision, It is pure and supreme peace. In this there are infinite potentialities like figures in an uncut marble. Thus the supreme self is at the same time diverse and non-diverse. It is when you do not have direct self-knowledge that there arises in you doubt concerning this." (p. 540) "The whole universe is filled with this infinite and undivided consciousness." (p. 494) "Even as in a collection of a thousand pots there is space within and outside of all the pots, undivided and indivisible, even so the self exists pervading all beings in the three worlds." (p. 400) "Because the substratum (the infinite consciousness) is real, all that is based on it acquires reality, though the reality is of the substratum alone... To me you are real, and to you I am real; even so the others are real to you or to me. And, this relative reality is like the reality of dream-objects." (p. 71) "He sees the truth who sees that he is the omnipresent infinite consciousness which encompasses within itself all that takes place everywhere at all times. He sees the truth who knows that the Self, which is as subtle as the millionth part of the tip of a hair divided a million times, pervades everything. He sees the truth who sees that

there is no division at all between the self and the other, and that the one infinite light of consciousness exists as the sole reality. He sees the truth who sees that the non-dual consciousness which indwells all beings is omnipotent and omnipresent." (p. 163) "Spreading the net of worldly objects of pleasure, it is this egotism that traps living beings. Indeed, all the terrible calamities in this world are born of egotism... When I am under the influence of egotism, I am unhappy; when I am free from egotism I am happy. Egotism promotes cravings; without it they perish." (p. 10) "Regard your body and senses as instruments for experiencing, not as Self." (p. 474) "The self is neither this nor that; it transcends whatever is the object of experiencing here. In the unlimited and unconditioned vision ... all this is but the one Self, the infinite consciousness, and there is nothing which can be regarded as the not-Self. The substantiality of all substance is none other than the Self or the infinite consciousness." (p. 295) "Consciousness becomes embodied though it is truly like space, incapable of being contained." (p. 561) "O Rama, you are not born when the body is born, nor do you die when it dies. To think that the space within the jar came into being when it was made and the space perishes with the jar is sheer foolishness..." (p. 294) "... when the inner light, kindled by a proper study of the scriptures and inquiry into their truth, illumines both knowledge and the experience of it, their total identity is realized. This inner light itself is regarded as self-knowledge by the holy ones: and the experience of it is an integral part of self-knowledge and non-different from it. He who has self-knowledge is for ever immersed in the experience of it." (p. 321) "... abandon the false and fanciful notion of the ego-sense within your own heart. When this ego-sense is dispelled the supreme light of self-knowledge will surely shine in your heart." (p. 211) "He who sees the Lord, the sun, in one's heart, sees the truth." (p. 357) Rama: "Lord, what is the heart that is spoken of by you?" Guru Vasishtha: "O Rama, two aspects of the "heart" are spoken of here: one is acceptable and the other is to be ignored. The heart that is part of this physical body and is located in one part of the body may be ignored! The heart which is acceptable is of the nature of pure consciousness. It is both inside and outside and it is neither inside nor outside. This is the principal heart and in it is reflected everything which is in the universe, and it is the treasure-house of all wealth. Consciousness alone is the heart of all beings, not the piece of flesh which people call the heart!" (p. 302) "He who sees the universe, without the intervention of the mind and therefore without the notion of a universe, he alone sees the truth. Such a vision is known as nirvana." (p. 455-456)

"Liberation is but a synonym for pure mind, correct self-knowledge and a truly awakened state. The complete absence of all desires and hopes is liberation. Until one reaches this true inner awakening or self-knowledge, one considers oneself bound and strives for liberation. Abandon these wrong notions of bondage and liberation and become a man of supreme renunciation." (p. 296) "The knowers of truth rest in the infinite consciousness alone: but that is indescribable and indefinable. Even expressions like "that alone is" are inadequate and misleading... For one who rests in his own Self and rejoices in the Self, in whom cravings have ceased and egosense is absent, life becomes non-volitional and there is perfect purity. One in millions, however, is able to reach this unconditioned state of pure being." (p. 705) "Liberation is to realize that all this is pure consciousness." (p. 61) "The enlightened one lives a non-volitional life engaging himself spontaneously in appropriate action... He lives for the sake of others, with a heart full of compassion for all beings." (p. 597-598) "The enlightened sage lives in a state of realization of the truth even while he engages himself in diverse activities. In diversity he experiences unity; he rejoices even in unpleasant situations. Though he lives in the world he is really not in it. What more does an enlightened person have to gain? Just as ice is ever cool, the sage lives a natural life, doing what is natural to him, without aspiring {to} or abandoning anything. The characteristic of the ignorant man is that he strives to be other than what he is." (p. 671) "He is silent in useless arguments, he is deaf to useless talk, he is a corpse in relation to unrighteous actions, he is very much alive in righteous actions, he is brilliant in exposing what is auspicious and in a moment he reveals the greatest truth. All this is natural to the wise man. He does not have to strive to acquire these qualities." (p. 669) "As long as there is the body, so long shall pain be painful, and pleasure pleasant: but the wise are not attached to either." (p. 155)

Back The Yoga Vasistha Introduction By Sri Swami Venkatesananda Valmiki wrote 32000 Shalokas Yoga Vasishtha
The Yoga Vasistha is a scripture of great importance but it is perhaps not as wellknown in the world as, for instance, the Bhagavad Gita may be.

The scripture contains wonderful health hints, psychosomatic theories, wonderful instructions for meditation and for worship and beautiful descriptions, if not instructions, concerning warfare. All this and highly romantic stories, too. However, we are not really concerned with all that. Most of our problems revolve around the questions: What is our life? What am I? What must I do? Why am I here? Some of us at some time or other in our lives reach the point where we feel: "I am living a useless life. What is all this for? I feel so insignificantlike a dry leaf which is wafted in the wind." There arises despairwhat St. John of the Cross might have called the dark night of the soul. The response to this question is the teaching contained in the scripture. Vasistha declares right in the beginning that the feeling that I am bound psychologically and that I want to get out of this prison is the qualification of one who can profit by study of this text. If the soul experiences this dark night and that soul, craving for light, is exposed to this teaching, it is instantly enlightened. Why do despair and fear arise in our life? Why do we get attached to anything in this life? Why do we hate anything in this life? All these arise from hope or desire for happiness, for peace of mind. This hope inevitably leads us to its own destruction, leads us to unhappiness. Vasistha says: "Give up all these ideas of running away from this world. Dont even try to examine what this despair is, dont even try to investigate whatever is a passing phenomenon. Dont even let your mind dwell on what has been considered unreal." There is one verse which is extremely beautiful: bhramasya jagatasya sya jatasya kasavarnavat apunah smaranam manye sadho vismaranam varam The world is bhramaan appearance, hallucination. Vasistha compares the world-appearance to the blueness of the sky; although there is nothing blue there, if you look at it you will still see blue. This hallucination will continue as long as you continue to look at it and wonder. You have hallucinated this world and you have strengthened this hallucination by constantly thinking about whether it is real or unreal. Vasistha says: "It is better to think of something else." What is the reality? That which is, is real. The following example occurs quite often in the scripture: there is a bracelet made of gold. Bracelet is a word which we have used conventionally. We also see this as a form and as soon as the form is seen, it generates a concept and a word in the mind. If we dismiss the word and look at the form, we can play a very interesting game: is it gold or is it bracelet? Both. How can only one thing be two? The substance is gold; the reality is gold. It appears in a certain form and convention has given it a name.

If that is clear, everything is clear. For instance, if somebody called me a fool, by reacting to that, I am accepting that I am a fool. The statement had a certain psychological form but the reality of that is nothing but pure consciousness within. Something that happened in the outside world sent me into this ocean of despair. I became afraid and I did not bother to look into it, because I took the external circumstance as something real. And so my attention was completely and totally directed towards this external experience. If I am not a fool, why should I react to him at all? In such a situation, can I look for the reality? What is the reality of one I call the other person? What is the reality of that body, that mind? At the same time what is the reality that I call me, which reacts? Are these two completely separate and independent realities? This dual enquiry has to continue together, not one after the other. The subject and the object have to be looked into together. A student of the Yoga Vasistha discovers that enlightenment consists of just three steps: there is an appearance; what is the substance behind the appearance? The mind. What is the substance of the mind, and who understands all this? The answer is pure consciousness. In that consciousness you and I, the subject and the object, appear to be divided. Consciousness, being omnipresent and infinite, manifests (no other word is possible) itself in infinite ways everywhere. It is not possible for this diversity to disappear, but what can and should disappear is seeing it as diverse objects opposed to one another. The infinite remains infinite all the time and the infinite conceives of all this in creation within itself. A beautiful symbolism is given to us: Vasistha says that this objective creation is like uncut figures in a marble slabyou are a sculptor and you think of the lovely figures you can carve out of it. All those figures exist in it already, potentially. You can visualise one big Buddha or you can visualise hundreds of smaller Buddhas in that one figure of Buddha. That is how this whole world exists. The world exists not as a reality; the world is a word and there is a psychological form. The psychological form is nothing more than an hallucination which arises in consciousness. Accepting it as an independent reality, we chase one thing and reject something else. All these experiences again form impressions on the mind, strengthening bondage or rather strengthening the idea we have of bondage. The external world and external circumstances arise in this cosmic consciousness (which you call God); the same consciousness experiences these external circumstances and these are known as subjective experiences, which changethat is all. Realising this you are freed from the delusion of considering these appearances as the reality. Having been freed, says Vasistha, you dont sit idle, you are rejecting that which is the flow of life. Finally Vasistha advises: live in this world as life is lived here, but completely free of all sorrow. Then if you have

to weep, weep; if you have to express suffering, express suffering; if you have to express joy and happiness, do sobecause you are free. I have seen only one person who measured that descriptionmy Guru, Swami Sivananda, who was a completely enlightened and liberated person and also totally human. If you went to him with an unhappy story, even before you shed tears you would find tears in his eyes; if you had something joyous to tell him, he was more happy than you were. He was completely uninhibited; free psychologically and spiritually; he was extremely busynot because he wanted to achieve anything, but because he had realised that achievement or nonachievement are both irrelevant to life. Your life is not your life. It is part of this cosmic being and whatever that cosmic being decides has to happen. The direct understanding of this is surrender. In order to see this, you must have passed through this despair. You must have come to the direct understanding that what you want to happen, does not happen. If you want something, work for it and if it does happen, Vasistha would say that it is an accidental coincidence. It does not happen all the time and you might notice that more often than not it does not happen. When one sees that, he completely surrenders and at that point he directs his attention towards the source of all these cravings, desires, hopes and anxieties and comes face to face with the mind. He realises that that mind itself is pure consciousness. In it there appears to be conditioned motivations and even that appearance is discarded. That is a life totally free, instantly freed and divine.