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Storytelling In Yoga Vasishta – A Study


(This the traditional prayer from Yoga Vasishta)

Salutations to that reality in which all the elements and all sentient and insentient beings shine as if they have a separate existence and in which they exist for a time and into which they merge in the end.

Salutations to that reality which is the source of the knower, the knowledge and the known and the sight, seer and seen and also the doer, doing and deed.

Salutation to that blissful reality which is the life of all beings.

About Yoga Vasishta

Once Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya asked this question of his preceptor Sage Vasishta, “What is the point and purpose of this useless existence?” The subsequent dialogue between Vasishta and Rama is known as Yoga Vasishta or the MahaRamayana. “Oh Rama, with lotus eyes, your question is indeed valid. Truly you are fit to receive that enlightening knowledge that can save one from repeated cycles of birth and death,” said Sage Vasishta.

(Figure 1: Credit: Gomangala – Rishi Vasishta teaching Dhanurvidya to Rama and Lakshamana)

The Yoga Vasishta is among the foremost of texts which explains how one can attain liberation, moksha, salvation, nirvana while still being involved in Samsara. The Yoga Vasishta is also known as the MahaRamayana. Along with the Bhagvada Geeta and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras the Yoga Vasishta is a key Indian yogic text which explains how fluctuations of the consciousness can be overcome and the highest self can be realised. Yoga Vasishta, traditionally attributed to Valmiki, the composer of the Ramayana, employs interesting stories to achieve this end. The text is structured as a discourse between Prince Rama as a seeker and his preceptor Vasishta, the enlightened sage. It is believed that merely reading this book leads to self realization. The Yoga Vasishta deals with the knowledge of the all pervasive non dual consciousness and the unreality of the manifest world.

Yoga Vasishta is a vast text which presents varied scientific ideas, cosmologies, creation theories, philosophies and tips for daily living as an enlightened being through some immensely enjoyable stories.

The beginning of Yoga Vashishta

The story

Sutishana, who was a learned man, went to the Ashram of Sage Agasti to clear his doubts, of which many there were.

He told Sage Agasti, “Truly, O sage, you are wise in all that needs to be known and a knower of the shastras. Pray, clear my terrible doubts. What is the cause of a human’s enlightenment (moksha) — action or knowledge?”

The Sage Agasti replied, “Just as birds fly through the means of both their wings, so too is a human enlightened through both action and knowledge.”

The purpose this story serves in Yoga Vasishta

This is the first narrative in Yoga Vasishta, a classic scripture on Moksha. The story takes us directly into the heart of Yoga Vasishta—which is the question of how does a human attain Moksha. And this narrative provides us an answer too—it is through a combination of knowledge and action that a human being attains moksha.

Aspects of this story

This story uses the analogy of how birds use two wings to fly to explain that men can only attain Moksha through action and knowledge.

Another story on the need for action

“There is another anecdote on the subject of this topic relating to a learned man known as Karunya,” said Sage Agasti.

The son of Agnivesya, Karunya was accomplished in the Vedas and all their appendages. Once he finished the term of studies at the Guru’s ashram, he returned home. While, he had acquired full knowledge of the scriptures – when he returned home – he took to doing nothing. Nothing interested him. He undertook no action. His father Agnivesha quizzed him, “Why son, do you desist from action? What do you hope to achieve with this inaction?”

“Truly father,” Karunya responded, “The vedas prescribe an active life with the offering of daily oblations into the fire, as also the morning and evening worship. But it has also been said that it not through yagna or action one attains enlightenment. In fact, it is said that only through renunciation one can attain enlightenment. Tell me father, teach me, for truly I am confused about whether action or renunciation aids enlightenment. This is the reason I remain inactive.”

The main frame story summary

The main story begins when the Seer Vishwamitra arrives at King Dasaratha’s court to demand the company of Rama for the protection of his sacred rites from the flesh-eating rakshasas, only to hear that the latter is absolutely dejected with the fickleness and meaninglessness of human existence. The court preceptor Vasishta, who is also present, guesses that Rama is experiencing vairagya or detachment, so essential for spiritual realisation. He offers to guide the prince through the process of enlightenment, does this through the medium of several fantastic stories. As the conversation proceeds, Rama attains enlightenment.

The story of Suka– As an illustration of a seeker who is similar to Shree Rama

From Yoga Vasishta:

Sage Vishwamitra had arrived at Ayodhya to ask for the Prince’s assistance in killing of some rakshasas (demonic beings) who were disrupting the sage’s Yagna (fire sacrifice) being performed for the well being of all living beings. When he discovers that Rama is experiencing detachment from worldly matters Sage Vishwamitra said to Prince Rama, “Truly you are the most intelligent among humans to find fault with this fleeting and unreliable world appearance. In reality you have nothing to learn besides what you already know. You are asking questions just like Suka, the son of Vyasa, the seer famed in all the three worlds.” Rama asked, “What was the nature of Suka’s enquiry? Pray do enlighten me on this, O great Sage.” with the Story of Suka Vishwamitra commenced his narrative, “Do you see Vyasa seated there, beside your father Dasaratha, with a charcoal black complexion? He has a studious and wise son, with a moon-like disposition, known in all the worlds as Suka, who too like you, O Rama, contemplated on the nature of the world appearance and its many ills and like yourself became disenchanted with the same. Then Suka, in his mind, went into a long enquiry about the nature of the truth (satyam). He finally understood the nature of reality. While he did ascertain the highest truth in his mind, he wanted validation from someone else. So he asked Vyasa, “Tell me Sir, how did this confusion of world appearance arise? How is it caused? And how might it subside? Tell me, for I am eager to learn.” Vyasa, who knew of the nature of the self, explained in it in great detail to Suka. But Suka could not pay much heed to his father’s teachings. Vyasa seeing that Suka was still seeking the truth, urged him to seek the counsel of King Janaka, of Videha, a self-realized sage. Suka proceeded to the city of Videha, which was at the foot of Mount Sumeru. Suka was stopped at the gate of the great kingdom and he sent his introduction to Janaka. The king did not invite Suka in and the young sage waited outside the gates patiently without food or water for a period of seven days.

(Figure 2: Credit: Wikipedia – Suka interaction with Janak Raja)

Finally Suka was invited into the inner chambers where Suka was entertained with every possible type of pleasure. Suka, whose mind had long ago detached itself from such joys, remained indifferent to what was presented before him. Noticing that Suka was tranquil, content and silent whether he was presented with problems or pleasures Janaka came to meet him. “What is it that you want of me?” asked Janaka. “Sir, I have come with a query – how did this world appearance commence and what is its source? Also, when will it subside?” Janaka replied, emphasizing the things that Suka had already intuited and also which his father Vyasa had told him. “I know all this through my own insights and through my father’s speech,” said Suka. “To summarise what you have said – this world is the consequence of violation (conscious will) and dissolves itself when we let go of our desires. It is a flimsy and unworthy world caused by endless desires.” “You are absolutely right, Suka, in this world there exists nothing except one universal self. The same self becomes a captive of its own desires and keeps creating the world appearance. Once it is freed of these desires, it attains liberation,” said the great King Janaka. “It is a fact that you are closer to the truth, because you have no desires or pleasures. Truly you are a hero to have been able to curtail your desires at this young age. Tell me what else do you wish to know? I must tell you this. I am a pupil of Vyasa and even your father despite his great learning has not reached the self realized state that you possess. You have excelled in your quest and have outdone both of us. Having no interest in the outer, external world, you have liberated yourself from it. Well done.” Having thus had his doubts clarified Suka left Janaka’s palace and went to a mountain summit where he could meditate in peace. After spending ten thousand years in deep meditation he was finally able to merge himself into the supreme self.

Dialogue between Vishwamitra and Shree Rama – Need to listen to stories of Sage Vasishta

From Yoga Vasishta

Vishwamitra once again addressed Rama and said, “It is time you had your mind cleared of doubts, as did Suka in the past.” “Understand Rama that it is desires that tie a human to earth but knowledge of the problems of existence begins the process of liberation. Know that curtailing of desires is what we call liberation and linking desires to worldly goals is what is responsible for man’s miseries. When the mind is engaged in detached action and has no craving for pleasures it is said to liberated from the coils of existence. Just as vegetables don’t grow in soil that is not fertile, there can be no cessation of desires unless one meditates on the highest reality. You need, O Rama for the tranquillity of your mind to be guided by Sage Vasishta.” Thereafter Vishwamitra extolled Vasishta to share his wisdom and knowledge of enlightenment with Prince Rama

Conversation between Vashishta and Shree Rama – Where Vasishta agrees to grant enlightenment to Rama through his teachings

From Yoga Vasishta

Vasishta said, “I will do what you have suggested Vishwamitra, I will destroy the mental darkness of Prince Rama and everyone listening to me, just as a lamp can dispel the darkness of the night. I do recollect the teachings of Brahma given in the past to dispel the darkness of this earth.” Vasishta addressed Rama, “I will most surely enlighten you, for you are a fit pupil.”

Rama answered, “Sir, Can you please remove this doubt of mine? How did Suka attain enlightenment while his learned father Vyasa didn’t?” Vasishta said, “O, Rama there is no counting of atoms which derive from the self and form the worlds, both before and after the formation of the wonderous sun. No one can count the number of universes (and consequent creations) that are arising at this minute from the Supreme Being. The mind that humans possess is ever fluctuating and gives rise to all things in these visible worlds. This external appearance which exists as a reality is a creation of human desires. It is as unreal as a goblin shown to terrify children. This world is as unstable as a stool made of banana leaves. The divine substratum of reality continuously keeps creating more and more. Out of this creation have emerged many Vyasas, many Valmikis, many Bhrugus, and many, many other sages. Like in this age there are seventy two age cycles in a Kalpa of Brahma. Thus there will be many more Ramas and Vashishtas like ourselves.

This Vyasa who is in front of us, divided the Vedas and wrote the great Bharata book. He has discarded his desires, fears and sorrows and remains liberated even as he engages in an active life. I hope that answers your question. As the sea sends us the surges of differently shaped waves – so are all beings born in the vast sea space of time. A liberated being lives in a state of equanimity, filled with tranquil bliss. Liberation whether with or without the body causes unselfishness. This is because enlightenment gives knowledge of the undivided unity of the self.

The story of Vasishta

From Yoga Vasishta

Vashishta narrates his own story in Yoga Vashishta, “Dispose your mind to an enquiry after the truth. The system of truth I propound was disclosed to me by Brahma in a previous kalpa.” Rama enquired, “How did this event transpire – that of Brahma disclosing this knowledge to you?” Vasishta answered, “The supreme self of infinite manifestations abides by itself. It acts a guiding light to all living beings. From this infinite self which remains unaltered Vishnu, the preserver of the universe was born, like a wave on the quiet waters of the great sea. From the navel of Vishnu emerged a lotus, in which was seated Brahma. He being acquainted with the Vedas created all the worlds we see around us. All the species of created beings were subject to pain and suffering. Brahma on seeing the misery and sorrow of the created beings, felt sorry for them. He closed his eyes and meditated on how the suffering of living beings can be eradicated. He thought self-extinction (nirvana) as the only means of escape from repeated cycles of births and deaths. Brahma thought to himself, “I will create a new bridge that will take human beings on the path to salvation.” Then Brahma created me (Vasishta) from his mind. I was born, self-contained and with the best of reason. Brahma asked me to be seated on a petal of his lotus. With the swing of his hand he overpowered my fickle-mindedness under a mist of unconsciousness. He said, “Just a dark cloud overpowers the moon, I have overpowered yourself.” I, with my reason lost, was filled with misery and sorrow. I cried in pain, “Oh what a dreadful universe this is, where does this evil originate from?” Then Brahma spoke to me and said he will give me a remedy for my affliction (though he himself caused it). I seated myself once again on a petal of his great lotus and asked, “How did this world misery come about and what is the remedy for the same.” Then Brahma taught me this knowledge which I am now going to reveal to you. Hearing this knowledge I became composed once again. Brahma became pleased and removed the darkness he had himself cast upon me. Brahma said, “O son, I destroyed your reason so that you will enquire after true knowledge. Now share this knowledge with all living beings on earth who live in misery. That is the purpose of your life.” Thus, O, Rama, I have narrated to you the story of my life and being. Since you are eager to learn the knowledge, I am happy to share it with you.” Rama said, “I have a question, how did Brahma feel a desire to send the knowledge of emancipation to earth after his creation of all beings?” Vasishta answered, “Brahma is in his very essence identical with the supreme Brahman and is born in him. He saw the course of mankind and its decay. He saw how living beings dwelt in misery. He thought of endowing me with true knowledge and sent me to the surface of the earth for dispelling humanity’s ignorance. He created other sages like me – Sanat Kumara, Narada and many more. All of us descended to earth to spread knowledge among living beings.

The background to storytelling in Yoga Vasishta – Or What Sage Vashishta tells Shree Rama before he starts narrating the stories

From Yoga Vasishta

“O Slayer of your enemies (Rama), I find a remarkable apathy growing in your mind. This apathy to existence has been produced without a cause and through your reasoning capacity alone. Worldly things are indeed conducive to misery. It is indeed in the wise that a tendency arises to abhor all worldly things and seek out true knowledge. The best among men develop indifference to worldly miseries. After thoroughly examining the inner and outer illusions of the world appearance one should distance oneself from them. When humans see a funeral they themselves feel indifferent to the world appearance but to feel this indifference without any provoking is remarkable. Just as an elephant breaks free from its fetters, humans should let go of the delusion of worldly mindedness. O Rama the only raft in this miserable world is knowledge and reason. Now pay attention as I instruct you in the greatest knowledge which delivers from this flood of world appearance. Without the herb of right reasoning, the excitements of the senses and the fears and miseries of this world will perturb the mind. Only rational knowledge can help a wise person withstand the dualities of nature. Just as fire burns away the straw, the miseries of this world burn away the mind. Just as fire cannot burn a forest receiving a rain shower, this world appearance and its attendant miseries cannot burn away the mind of a wise person who has sought refuge of the highest knowledge. The winds of the hot desert of this world cannot disturb the person who knows the highest truth. Just as a piece of fine muslin receives the dye so must a diligent student receive the words of his guru (be colored by them). Never take instruction from one who is unacquainted with the truth. Also, one who does not adhere to the words of a truth knowing preceptor is a great fool. You, oh Rama, who knows the meaning of words should take them to your heart. Just as the waters reflect the sunlight your understanding must reflect my teaching. The mind, O Rama, is as fickle as an ape in the forest, gently correct it and pay heed to my teaching. Keep yourself away from the ignorant, and honor the knowledgeable. Wisdom which resembles the tree yielding fruits of the world and also of liberation can be gained by seeking the company of the good people. There are four guards at the gate of liberation – stillness, self enquiry, contentment and the companionship of the wise. These have to be given their due because they open the gateway to liberation. Just as frozen water becomes hard as stone the understanding of the senseless man becomes stiff as a block of wood. Your good nature and virtuous disposition have made you sit here with a heart blooming like a lotus looking at the sun. Just as the music of the lute attracts the deer, my speech is attracting you. You will gain liberating knowledge by reading the scriptures and keeping the company of the wise. And also, as you practice tapasya and self enquiry. Study of knowledge is the only remedy against the plague of ignorance. Understand that this world is a poisonous plant, excessively venomous and dangerous. It will afflict unless you take pains to dispel its poison. Just like the bellows of a blacksmith expand and contract in turn, greed and ignorance move the human heart. Just as you can see the moon only in the clear, blemishless sky, only the wise are able to perceive the clear light of things. Rama, your mind is full and wise, like the clear moon. Since you understand what is spoken to you – I will go on speaking to you. Incline yourself now, to the actual truth. If there had been no consolation of philosophy, wise people would have found nothing to look forward to in this misery inducing world. Allow all the faculties of your mind to be absorbed in the contemplation of the supreme self. Just as the poison of a snake is removed by Garuda mantras, so is the venom of this world removed by yoga. Knowledge of yoga is obtained by studying the scriptures and keeping the company of the wise. We can always lesson our misery by acting with reason. Therefore, reasonable people are always respected. Like a snake casts off its skin, the person of reason gets released from his body which is full of diseases and then looks at the magic scenes of the world with calm composure. Thus, the wise person is not subject to the same misery that the unwise are. The unsteady pleasures of the world are but like a disease to humans and stings them like a scorpion. Like a sword that cuts or a spear that pierces – it hurts humans. It binds them as if by a rope and burns them as if with fire. It makes humans dull as a slab of stone. It destroys the reasoning power and binds with greed. Thus, there are many problems that torment the worldly human. Worldliness is as dangerous a disease as cholera and soon deposits men in the pits of self-made hells. Given the thousands of torments of worldly life people should diligently study the scriptures and practice yoga. The sages and rishis have fortified themselves with the best of knowledge and pass their time here in a calm and placid manner. The journey of this world is only delightful to one who has been successful in the pursuit of knowledge. Intelligent men, that have seen the supreme self, roam these worlds in delight. They do their work with detachment. They have ceased to grieve. They rely on themselves and remain quietly acting out their parts with tranquillity. They show no interest in pleasure or pain. They remain indifferent to everything. The mind, when it gets rid of attraction to pleasures, feels a great descending bliss. The self becomes cool like the moon, having become unmindful of worldly activity. These powers are attained through spiritual knowledge and no other means. Humans should try to understand the supreme self through their own reasoning. To get an understanding of the supreme self, one should continuously meditate, study the scriptures and keep the company of the wise. Those idiots, who disregard the scriptures and the teachings of the wise men, find themselves in immense difficulties. There is no recourse for such fools. There is no disease on this earth which is as painful as ignorance which man cultivates within himself. My teaching will make sense to any person with refined intellect. This scripture which I pronounce should be carefully heard by anyone who is a friend onto themselves. Just as thorns grow on the prickly ketaki plant, terrible difficulties grow on the ignorant. There is nothing as terrible as a life full of ignorance. It is better to live in dreadful wells, in the hollow of trees or remain as worms than spend a human life entrenched in ignorance. On the other hand, a human receiving the knowledge leading to emancipation will never fall into the error of ignorance. Till reason does not shine on humanity like the sun, miseries will continue to plague the world. One must understand the true nature of the self, from the guru, from the evidence of the scriptures, and from one’s own reasoning. O Rama, do imitate those who are liberated in this very life. On Earth, miseries are endless like the atoms that make up this universe and happiness is as little as a drop of water. Hence don’t cling to this limited happiness. The intelligent people should apply themselves to that state of unending ananda which is free from pain and grants themselves the highest liberation. They are understood of be the most intelligent of persons whose minds are free of worldly cares and are ever immersed in the knowledge of the cosmic consciousness. Like frogs in a well are those fools who are content with eating, drinking and enjoying their worldly possessions. Those who are fond of the company of imposters lacking in self knowledge fall into the hardest of hardships in this merciless world appearance. Just as flashes of lightning are fleeting – so is happiness and misery, which just come and go. Only those who are detached and with reasoning are fit receptacles of spiritual knowledge. To get past the dangerous waves of this world, one needs to be both dispassionate and of firm intellect. No person of fine reasoning should sleep in this world appearance knowing it capable of destroying the intellectual power. Like a person sleeping soundly on grass when his house is on fire so also is one who sleeps soundly in worldliness. To reach that state where there is no sorrowing one must aspire for the highest knowledge first. The undying state of tranquillity is to be found only with the union with the supreme self through yoga. Seek thou, O Rama, the best of gains, the best of profits, which is to be found through yoga. Enlightenment is not possible through pilgrimage, or tapasya, nor by taking refuge in a holy place. It is only by discrimination and reasoning directed towards the highest truth that enlightenment is possible. A person seated in one place, meditating within herself upon the nature of the supreme truth attains that joyous state which is far from sorrow. All sages locate themselves beyond the frail pleasures of worldly life. One should tame the mind and resort to peace and tranquillity. Peace of mind is not to be procured from any source outside oneself. Those who engage in worldly activities without getting emotionally connected to the same are the best among men. The mind that is content neither forsakes nor desires the world. Now let me tell you about the guards at the gateway to enlightenment. To long for pleasures is also a disease. It is equanimity alone that can put an end to this disease. Quietude is the best state of being because it prevents error. The person who is content in his/her own quietude is honoured everywhere. No prosperity in these worlds can match a self filled with quietude. The greatest misery gets lost when the mind is tranquil. When a person has attained quietude the highest truths manifest by self to the mind. Just as children rely on their mother, so do all humans rely on a person with an even disposition. No outer property can vie with the satisfaction provided by the inner calm of the soul. When you are afflicted by diseases or by any crisis, you can rest on inner equanimity to help you. When you eat with a calm mind, even food tastes sweeter. No demon, rakshasha, tiger, or snake troubles a tranquil person. Just as the stone cannot be attacked by arrows, so too a calm person does not encounter reverse circumstances. Even the Emperor on this throne is not as graceful a vision as is a tranquil man. A person who lives in a tranquil state is said to be living in this world like no other. The self-controlled person experiences neither pleasure nor pain on coming in contact with the objects of the senses. A sage is the person who acts with reason and discernment in all matters. The mind of the sage is calm like the cooling moon equally at the approach of a feast or of impending death. A sage conducts himself in all matters as if fast asleep. The sage immersed in calm is not disturbed by anything that happens. The sage knows the body frame is not himself.  He takes in his stride all the tribulations that life throws. The sage lives in this world but is not infected with worldliness. So hence, O Rama, attain quietude. It is reasoning alone which is the antidote to the venom called worldliness. The world is like a tree of troubles, which when felled with the tree of reason will cause no problems any more. There is no safety for the wise except their own reason and understanding. It is intelligence that helps us distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil. Just as a lion tears apart a great elephant, intelligence destroys errors of the mind. Note, O Rama, that both prosperity and enlightenment are attained through the proper use of intelligence. Just as some plants float over the waters, so too do people who have cultivated their intelligence float over various calamities. Want of reason destroys the hopes and prospects of a person. O Rama, cast of all lethargy (tamas) and pay heed to cultivating your intelligence only. The person of right intelligence does not fall into the pit of errors that the unreasoning person falls into. All problems presenting themselves before humanity are caused by want of reason. The intellectual power of man combined with spiritual knowledge sets him on the path to higher consciousness. Reasoning destroys the errors of the mind, which appear like ghosts in the sky. Humans torment themselves by their own inability to use their reasoning capacity. Know, O Rama, the fruit of reason to be the fount of joy called Kailvalya. It is because of reasoning and its attendant disinterest in the objects of the senses that detachment to worldly joys and sorrows manifests. When reason sets in, a sage never desires nor denies what he possesses. The mind established in equanimity enjoys the inner state of expansion that occurs. Such a person is neither depressed nor happy at the happening of any event and remains detached to all things. This person is neither inactive nor immersed in activity. Such a sage remains content without thought fluctuations, like the waveless sea. The wise person should constantly practice self enquiry and should constantly ask who he/she is and where he/she has come from, and what the nature of the world he/she finds himself/herself in is? The Veda and Vedanta form the basis of our knowledge system and the truth of these can be ascertained through our own intellect. Reason is neither dulled by the darkness of the night nor dimmed by bright daylight. A person possessed of reasoning will become successful in all things. Just as the ripe mango fruit is longed for by all, so is a man possessed of reason loved. Like travellers acquainted with the way, so are people of discerning intellect on the right path. The sick man is not as miserable as an ignorant man. It is better to jump as a frog in the mud, crawl as a worm in the soil rather than walk like a human deprived of reasoning. Lack of reasoning is the abode of all dangers. Those unsupported by their own intellect are liable to fall into the pit of darkness. It is reasoning alone that keeps one from falling into the mirage of this world. O Rama, next I will speak of the merits of contentment. To the contented person rulership of a domain appears to be less worthy than a raw straw. If the heart is contented one is never dejected or disturbed by circumstances. The sages that remain contented feel the enjoyments of the rich are like venom to the soul. Contentment is the greatest healer and that which repels all evil. To leave aside those desires which are not worthy of being pursued, is called contentment. Until the soul can learn to feel its own contentment, troubles will bloom. The mind lightened-up by contentment is like a cool lotus in full bloom under the sunlight. A mind that is not contented is not able to absorb knowledge. A contented person is verily like a ruler of a large country. A contented person becomes self-possessed. A contented person acquires a perpetual composure within self, as if being cooled by the moon. All the fortunes wait on a person who is contented. A person who is contented quells all worries as the rains settle down the dust of the earth. Oh Rama, understand that the company of the virtuous is one of the greatest rafts in crossings over the waters of this world. The company of the wise results in great prosperity. It is satsang indeed which wards away the forest of disasters. The society of the wise (satsang) is the best way to improve the intellect. It is what uproots the tree of ignorance. Contentment, company of the wise, self-enquiry and quietude are the gatekeepers to enlightenment. The best of men who has renounced the company of fools has great reasoning power. Only those, whose merits are being bent with sweet fruits, feel the desire to listen to this teaching (Yoga Vasishta). My teaching contains the pathway to final extinction (nirvana). O Rama, this egotism and non egotism, this vast expanse with all the worlds, space and mountains are to be understood to be without form and foundation. There are no elements as the earth and others. These exist in our imagination only and are like ghosts appearing in a dream only. They resemble hills moving on the shore to one passing in a boat, or like ghosts appearing to an unsound mind. Such is the appearance of the world that is without any seed, source or origin of its own. It is like impression of the tale in the mind, like taking the bracelet to be gold or waves to be the ocean. This is just like the blueness of the sky, which though charming to behold is entirely without any color. The world is like an unreal wonder – exactly like the picture of a fire which appears to be burning without actually doing so. The Sanskrit word Jagat is applicable to the transitory world which appears likes a chain of dancing lotus flowers or passes like the waves in the sea. It is as useless as the withered forest in autumn, when the leaves and fruit fall without offering nourishment or shade. Just as the mountains are filled with dangerous caves, so too is this world filled with the dangerous cravings of dying men. It is better to take refuge in the cooling shade of philosophy than to observe this world which is like a picture in a card. All sentient and insentient things are made of dust and being capable of being reduced to dust again. My teachings explain the nature of the world appearance and the best way to engage in it. My teaching invariably gives rise to good understanding. Every composition is worthy only when it leads to good sense, else even the Vedas can be renounced if they don’t further the interest of the intellect. Advice confining to reason even when spoken by a small child must be adhered to and the words which don’t further this end must be ignored even if they are spoken by Brahma. The dawn is always accompanied by a flood of sunlight, so is my work attended upon with reason.”

(Figure 3: Credit: Gomangala – Devi Ahalya being blessed by Lord Rama)

A study of the philosophy underlying the key stories in Yoga Vasishta


In the very first section of Yoga Vasishta, Shree Rama asks, “Who are those heroes who have freed themselves from Maya and darkness, and how did they free themselves?” The narratives in Yoga Vasishta are a means to nirvana. The context to the storytelling is that the supreme person Rama, the foremost among the wise, is himself asking the questions. The Yoga Vasistha itself says that as a scripture it is easy to comprehend because it is embellished with stories. The objective of storytelling in Yoga Vasishta is a direct realisation of the truth.

Feature Image Credit: Om Swami


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