Yogavasistha Maharamayan

The Yoga Vasistha, also known as the Maharamayan, is a voluminous Sanskrit work which is widely read by the seekers of self-realisation and liberation. It is one of the greatest spiritual and philosophical wonders ever produced by the Indian mind. Swami Ram Tirtha, one of the greatest Advaita Vedanta masters, said, “One of the greatest books, and the most wonderful according to me ever written under the Sun, is Yoga Vasistha which nobody on earth can read without realising God –Consciousness.” According to Lala Baijnath, “On the Vedanta Philosophy, there has not, up to this time, been written any other work, so big, and expounding the doctrines with so many stories, illustrations and arguments, as Yogavasistha. All will agree when it is said that, by the study of this work alone, even the most passionate and worldly-minded will become dispassionate and will gradually realise peace within. It is the crest –jewel of all the works on the Vedanta, and no aspirant of liberation can afford to neglect it.

“The Yoga vasistha has been a favourite book of spiritual seekers in india these several centuries. Its special appeal lies in its thoroughly rational approach, and in its presentation of vedanta as a philosophy which dares, like the bhagavad-git, to bridge the gulf between the secular and the sacred, action and contemplation, in human life, through a comprehensive and lofty spirituality. The reader will come across passages such as the verse entry ii:18, highlighting the importance of reason:

The remark of even a child is to be accepted, if it is in accordance with reason; but the remark of even brahma himself, the creator of the world, is to be rejected like a piece of straw if it does not accord with reason.

It is this philosophy of a comprehensive spirituality, rational and practical, that man in the modern age needs to rescue himself from his stagnation of worldliness and put him on the high road of creative living and fulfillment.”
….Swami Ranganathananda

Maharshi Balmiki says in Yogavasistha, “This world-appearance is a confusion, even as the blueness of the sky is an optical illusion. I think it is better not to let the mind dwell on it, but to ignore it. Neither freedom from sorrow nor realisation of one’s real nature is possible as long as the conviction does not arise in one that the world-appearance is unreal. And this conviction arises when one studies this scripture with diligence. It is then that one arrives at the firm conviction that the objective world is a confusion of the real with the unreal. If one does not thus study this scripture, true knowledge does not arise in him even in millions of years.”

“Moksa or liberation is the total abandonment of all vasana or mental conditioning, without the least reserve. Mental conditioning is of two types—the pure and the impure. The impure is the cause of birth; the pure liberates one from birth. The impure is of the nature of nescience and ego-sense; these are the seeds, as it were, for the tree of re-birth. On the other hand, when these seeds are abandoned, the mental conditioning that merely sustains the body, is of a pure nature. Such mental conditioning exists even in those who have been liberated while living: it does not lead to re-birth as it is sustained only by past momentum and not by present motivation”

Swami Venkatesananda says, “Vasistha demands direct observation of the mind, its motion, its notions, its reasoning, the assumed cause and the projected result, and even the observed and the observation—and the realisation of their indivisible unity as the infinite consciousness. That is the uniqueness of this scripture which hence declares itself to be supreme:

Except through this scripture, one cannot gain what is good, now or at any time. Therefore, for perfect realisation of the supreme truth, one should fervently investigate this scripture alone. (vi.2.103).”

According to Swami Muktananda, “The Yoga Vasistha is a unique work of Indian philosophy. It is highly respected for its practical mysticism. The study of this great scripture alone can surely help one to attain to God-consciousness. For aspirants of the highest beatitude, the Yoga Vasistha is like nectar. It is a storehouse of wisdom. Like the Amritanubhava of Sri Jnaneshwar, the path shown in this work is for those who are highly spiritually evolved, almost to the state of a Siddha. It expounds the highest doctrine with many stories and illustrations. Not only philosophers, but even the modern psychologists and scientists will certainly find in it something related to their own discoveries. Most of the scriptures were narrated by God to His devotees, but the Yoga Vasistha was narrated to God Himself. It is the teaching of the sage Vasistha imparted to Lord Rama. It contains true understanding about the creation of the world.”

Following are Some important excerpts from “ The Supreme Yoga : A new Translation of the Yoga Vasistha , by Swami Venkatesananda”: –

Engage yourself in action, established in the spirit of yoga and unattached to the action; thus you shall not be bound. Be at peace, even as Brahman is peace. And make your action of the nature of Brahman. Thus doing everything as an offering unto Brahman, you will instantly become Brahman. The Lord dwells in all. By performing all your actions as an offering unto him, shine as the Lord adored by all. Become a true sanyasi (renunciate) by firmly abandoning all thoughts and notions; thus you shall liberate your consciousness. The cessation of all thoughts and notions or mental images and the cessation of heavy psychological conditioning are the supreme self or Brahman. Striving towards this end is known both as yoga and as widsom (jnana); the conviction that Brahman alone is all, including the world and the ‘I’, is known as ‘offering everything to Brahman’ (Brahmarpanam).

Since the seed does not contain anything other than the seed, even the flowers and the fruits are of the same nature as the seed: the substance of the seed is the substance of subsequent effects, too. Even so, the homogeneous mass of cosmic consciousness does not give rise to anything other than what it is in essence. When this truth is realised, duality ceases. Consciousness never becomes un-consciousness. If there is modification, that too is consciousness. Hence, whatever there may be, wherever and in whatever form—all this is Brahman. All these exist for ever in their potential state in the mass of homogeneous consciousness.

There is no essential difference in truth between Brahman and the world: they are synonyms. When the reality is thus seen,Brahman alone is seen.Even as all that is seen as water in the world is naught but hydrogen and oxygen gases, even so the world-appearance is but Brahman alone. The one consciousness appears as the mind, the mountains, etc., even as the multicoloured feathers and the wings of the peacock are present in the egg of the peacock. This power or faculty is potentially present in the infinite consciousness. Whatever is now seen as the diverse objects of the universe, if it is seen with the eye of wisdom (the eye that is wisdom), then only Brahman or the infinite consciousness will be seen. For that is non-dual though apparently diverse, just like the notion of diversity in the fluid in the peacock’s egg. The notion of Brahman and the world is therefore both dual and non-dual. That which is the substratum for all these notions of unity and diversity—that is the supreme state.

The infinite consciousness pervades the entire universe, and the universe exists in the infinite consciousness. The relationship is one of diversity and non-diversity—just as the numerous parts of the peacock are in the one egg-substance. Where is the diversity in all this?

“Only he lives who strives to gain self-knowledge, which alone is worth gaining in this world, thereby putting an end to future births; others exist here like donkeys. To the unwise, knowledge of scriptures is a burden; to one who is full of desires, even wisdom is a burden; to one who is restless, his own mind is a burden; and to one who has no self-knowledge, the body (the life-span) is a burden.”

Lord Rama Says , “All suffering surely revolves around egotism (it is the ‘I’ who suffers); and egotism is the sole cause of mental distress. I feel that egotism is my worst disease! 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. Egotism eclipses self-control, destroys virtue and dissipates equanimity. Giving up the egotistic notion that “I am Rama” and giving up all desires, I wish to rest in the self. I realise that whatever I have done with an egotistic notion is vain: non-egotism alone is truth. 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. It is this egotism alone, without rhyme or reason, that has spread the net of family and social relationships, to catch the unwary soul. I think I am free from egotism; yet, I am miserable. Pray, enlighten me. Bereft of the grace earned through the service of the holy ones, the impure mind-stuff remains restless as the wind. It is dissatisfied with whatever it gets and grows more and more restless by the day. The sieve can never be filled with water; nor can the mind ever reach the state of fulfilment however much of worldly objects one acquires. The mind flits in all directions all the time, but is unable to find happiness anywhere. Unmindful of the possibility of reaping great suffering in hell, the mind seeks pleasure here, but even that it does not get. Like the lion in a cage, the mind is ever restless, having lost its freedom yet not happy with its present state. Alas, O holy one, I am bound by the knots of craving to the net that has been spread by the mind. Even as the rushing waters of a river uproot the trees on its bank, the restless mind has uprooted my whole being. I am being wafted like a dry leaf in the wind by the mind. It does not let me rest anywhere. It is this mind alone which is the cause of all objects in the world; the three worlds exist because of the mind-stuff. When the mind vanishes the worlds vanish too.

Lord RAMA continues , “It is really when the mind-stuff is enveloped by craving that innumerable errors arise in the darkness of ignorance thus caused. This craving dries up the good and noble qualities of the mind and heart, like sweetness and gentleness of disposition, and makes me hard and cruel. In that darkness, craving in its different forms dances like a goblin. Though I adopt various methods to restrain this craving, the latter overpowers me in a moment and helplessly drives me astray, even as a gale carries a straw away. Whatever hope I entertain of developing dispassion and such other qualities, craving cuts that hope away even as a rat snaps a thread. And I helplessly revolve caught in the wheel of craving. Like birds caught in a net, we are unable, though we have the wings for it, to fly to our goal or abode of self-knowledge. Nor can this craving be ever appeased, even if I were to quaff nectar. The characteristic of this craving is that it has no direction: it drives me in one direction now and the very next moment it takes me away in another direction, like a mad horse. It spreads in front of us a very wide net of son, friend, wife and other relations. Though I am a hero, this craving makes me a frightened coward; though I have eyes to see, it makes me blind; though I am full of joy, it makes me miserable; it is like a dreadful goblin. It is this dreadful goblin craving that is responsible for bondage and misfortune; it breaks the heart of man and creates delusion in him. Caught by this goblin, man is unable to enjoy even the pleasures that are within his reach. Though it appears as if the craving is for happiness, this craving leads neither to happiness nor to fruitfulness in this life; on the contrary, it involves vain effort and leads to every kind of inauspiciousness. Even when it occupies the stage called life on which several happy and unhappy situations play, this craving, like an aged actress, is incapable of performing anything good and noble and suffers defeat and discomfiture at every turn. Yet, it does not give up dancing on the stage! Craving now ascends to the skies, now dives into the depths of the nether world; it is ever restless. For it is based on the emptiness of the mind. In the mind the light of wisdom momentarily shines, but there is delusion the next moment. It is a wonder that sages are able to cut this with the sword of self-knowledge.”

Though the self is extremely subtle and atomic and of the essential nature of pure consciousness, by it the entire universe is wholly pervaded. This omnipresent being by its very existence inspires the world-appearance to ‘dance to its tunes’. That which is thus subtler than a hundredth part of the tip of a hair is yet greater than the greatest, because of its omnipresence.

All these objects which appear in consciousness are indeed non-different from consciousness, even as a sculpture carved of stone is nothing but stone. Just as the whole tree with all its future ramifications is in the seed, the entire universe of the past, the present and the future is contained in the atom of infinite consciousness. Therefore, though the self is neither the doer of actions nor the experiencer of experiences, it is the doer of all actions and the experiencer of all experiences: there is nothing apart from it. Within the atom of infinite consciousness the doership and the experiencer are inherent. The world, however, has never really been created, nor does it disappear: it is regarded as unreal only from the relative point of view; from the absolute point of view it is non-different from the infinite consciousness.

The Holy ones emphasise: persistently tread the path that leads to the eternal good. And the wise seeker knows: the fruit of my endeavors will be commensurate with the intensity of my self-effort and neither fate nor a god can ordain it otherwise.

Fate or divine dispensation is merely a convention which has come to be regarded as truth by being repeatedly declared to be true. If this god or fate is truly the ordainer of everything in this world, of what meaning is any action (even like bathing, speaking or giving), and whom should one teach at all? No. In this world, except a corpse, everything is active and such activity yields its appropriate result. No one has ever realised the existence of a fate or divine dispensation.

People use such expressions as “I am impelled by fate or divine dispensation to do this” for self-satisfaction, but this is not true. For example, if an astrologer predicts that a young man would become a great scholar, does that young man become a scholar without study? No. Then, why do we believe in divine dispensation? Rama, this sage Visvamitra became a Brahma-Rsi by self-effort; all of us have attained self-knowledge by self-effort alone. Hence, renounce fatalism and apply yourself to self-effort.

They who have reached the highest planes of consciousness are indeed great men, They are adorable; even an emperor is like a worthless blade of grass compared to them, for they are liberated here and now.

—From Brahma the creator down to the blade of grass, all this is nothing but the Self: ignorance is non-existent unreality. There is no second thing here known as the mind. In that self itself, the veil (that is also of itself) floats, creating the polarisation of subject-object; and the infinite consciousness itself is then known as the mind. This veil is an idea, an intention or a thought in that infinite consciousness. Mind is born of this idea or thought, and mind has to vanish with the help of an idea or thought, i.e., by the coming to an end of the idea or thought. The firm conviction that ‘I am not the absolute Brahman’ binds the mind; and the mind is liberated by the firm conviction that ‘everything is the absolute Brahman’. Ideas and thoughts are bondage; and their coming to an end is liberation. Therefore, be free of them and do whatever has to be done spontaneously. Even as thought or idea ‘sees’ blueness in the sky, the mind sees the world as real. There is no blueness in the sky: the inability of the sense of sight to see beyond a certain limit appears as blueness. Even so, it is only the limitation of thought that perceives the world-appearance. This world-appearance is delusion, O Rama : it is better not to let the very thought of it arise again in the mind. By thinking ‘I am lost’ one comes to grief, and by thinking ‘I am alert’ one goes towards bliss.

VASISTHA continued: When the mind continually dwells on deluded or stupid ideas it becomes deluded; and when the mind continually dwells on enlightened and magnanimous ideas it is enlightened. When the thought of ignorance is sustained in the mind, ignorance is firmly established; but, when the self is realised, this ignorance is dissolved. Moreover, whatever the mind seeks to attain, that the senses strive for with all their energy.

If one has not abandoned the cravings of the mind, then all the instructions of a preceptor, study of scriptures, recitation of mantras and so on are as valuable as straw! Only when one severs the very root of the mind with the weapon of non-conceptualisation, can one reach the absolute Brahman which is omnipresent, supreme peace.

That alone is regarded as worship which is performed when one is in a state of equanimity like that of space, when the mind has become utterly quiescent without the least movement of thought, when there is effortless absence of perversity. Established in this state of equanimity, the wise man should experience infinite expansion within himself while carrying out his natural actions externally without craving or rejection. Such is the nature of the worshipper of this intelligence. In his case, delusion, ignorance and egosense do not arise even in dream. Remain in this state, O sage, experiencing everything as a child does. Worship the Lord of this body (the intelligence that pervades it) with all that is brought to you by time, circumstance and environment, and rest in supreme peace, devoid of desire .The LORD continued : Whatever you do and whenever you do it (or refrain from doing it) —all that is worship of the Lord who is pure consciousness. By regarding all that as the worship of the self who is the Lord—he is delighted.

The Lord who is the infinite consciousness is the silent but alert witness of this cosmic dance. He is non-different from the dancer (the cosmic natural order) and the dance (the happenings).The LORD continued: Such is the Lord who is fit to be worshipped constantly by holy ones. It is he indeed who is worshipped by wise men in various ways and in various forms such as Siva , Visnu, etc. Now listen to the ways in which he is to be worshipped. First of all, one should abandon the body-idea (the notion that ‘I am this body’). Meditation alone is true worship. Hence one should constantly worship the Lord of the three worlds by means of meditation. How should one contemplate him? He is pure intelligence, he is as radiant as a hundred thousand suns risen together, he is the light that illumines all lights, he is the inner light, the limitless space is his throat, the firmament is his feet, the directions are his arms, the worlds are the weapons he bears in his hands, the entire universe is hidden in his heart, the gods are hairs on his body, the cosmic potencies are the energies in his body, time is his gate-keeper and he has thousands of heads, eyes, ears and arms. He touches all, he tastes all, he hears all, he thinks through all though he is beyond thinking. He does everything at all times, he bestows whatever one thinks of or desires, he dwells in all, he is the all, he alone is to be sought by all. Thus should one contemplate him.This Lord is not to be worshipped by material substances but by one’s own consciousness. Not by waving of lamps nor lighting incense, nor by offering flowers nor even by offering food or sandal-paste. He is attained without the least effort; he is worshipped by self-realisation alone. This is the supreme meditation, this is the supreme worship: the continuous and unbroken awareness of the indwelling presence, inner light or consciousness. While doing whatever one is doing—seeing ,hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, sleeping, breathing or talking—one should realise one’s essential nature as pure consciousness. Thus does one attain liberation. Meditation is the offering, meditation is the water offered to the deity to wash his hands and feet, self-knowledge gained through meditation is the flower—indeed all these are directed toward meditation. The self is not realised by any means other than meditation. If one is able to meditate even for thirteen seconds, even if one is ignorant, one attains the merit of giving away a cow in charity. If one does so for one hundred and one seconds, the merit is that of performing a sacred rite. If the duration is twelve minutes, the merit is a thousand fold. If the duration is of a day, one dwells in the highest realm. This is the supreme yoga, this is the supreme kriya (action or service). One who practises this mode of worship is worshipped by the gods and the demons and all other beings. However, this is external worship.The LORD continued: I shall now declare to you the internal worship of the self which is the greatest among all purifiers and which destroys all darkness completely. This is of the nature of perpetual meditation—whether one is walking or standing, whether one is awake or asleep, in and through all of one’s actions. One should contemplate this supreme Lord who is seated in the heart and who brings about, as it were, all the modifications within oneself. One should worship the ‘bodhalingam’ (the manifest consciousness or self-awareness) which sleeps and wakes up, goes about or stands, touches what is to be touched, abandons what should be abandoned, enjoys and abandons pleasures, engages in varied external activities, lends value to all actions and remains as peace in the vital organs in the body (deha-lingam in the text may also refer to the three ‘lingams’ associated with the psychic centres). This inner intelligence should be worshipped with whatever comes to one unsought. Remaining firmly seated in the stream of life and its experiences after having bathed in self-knowledge, one should worship this inner intelligence with the materials of self-realisation. One should contemplate the Lord in the following manner: he is the light illumined by the solar force as well as the lunar force, he is the intelligence that eternally lies hidden in all material substances, he is the extrovert awareness that flows through the bodily avenues on to the external world, he is the prana that moves in one’s face(nose), he transforms contacts of the senses into meaningful experiences, he rides the chariot composed of prana and apana , he dwells in secret in the cave of one’s heart. He is the knower of the knowable and the doer of all actions, the experiencer of all experiences, the thinker of all thoughts. It is he who knows all parts or limbs thoroughly, who is recognised by being and non-being and who illumines all experiences. He is without parts but he is the all, he dwells in the body but he is omnipresent, he enjoys and does not enjoy, he is the intelligence in every limb. He is the thinking faculty in the mind. He rises in the middle of prana and apana . He dwells in the heart, in the throat, in the middle of the palate, the middle of the eyebrows and at the tip of the nose. He is the reality in all the thirty-six elements (or metaphysical categories), he transcends the internal states, he is the one that produces the internal sounds, and he brings into being the bird known as mind. He is the reality in what is described as imagination and non-imagination. He dwells in all beings as oil dwells in the seed. He dwells in the heart-lotus and again he dwells throughout the body. He shines as pure consciousness. He is immediately seen everywhere, for he is the pure experiencing in all experiences, who apparently polarises himself when apprehending the objects of such experiences.The LORD continued: One should contemplate that the Lord is the intelligence in the body. The various functions and faculties in the body serve that intelligence as consorts serve their lord. The mind is the messenger who brings and presents to the Lord the knowledge of the three worlds. The two fundamental energies, viz., the energy of wisdom (jnana sakti ) and the energy of action (kriya sakti ), are the consorts of the Lord. Diverse aspects of knowledge are his ornaments. The organs of action are the gates through which the Lord enters the outside world. ‘I am that infinite self which is indivisible; I remain full and finite,’ thus the intelligence dwells in the body. He who contemplates in this manner is equanimity itself, his behaviour is equanimous, guided by equal vision. He has reached the state of natural goodness and inner purity and he is beautiful in every aspect of his being. He worships the Lord who is the intelligence that pervades his entire body.This worship is performed day and night perpetually, with the objects that are effortlessly obtained, and are offered to the Lord with a mind firmly established in equanimity and in the right spirit (for the Lord is consciousness and cares only for the right spirit).

The Lord should be worshipped with everything that is obtained without effort. One should never make the least effort to attain that which one does not possess. The Lord should be worshipped by means of all the enjoyments that the body enjoys, through eating, drinking, being with one’s consort and such other pleasures. The Lord should be worshipped with the illnesses one experiences and with every sort of unhappiness or suffering one experiences. The Lord should be worshipped with all of one’s activities, including life and death and all of one’s dreams.The Lord should be worshipped with one’s poverty and prosperity. The Lord should be worshipped even with fights and quarrels as well as with sports and other past-times, and with the manifestations of the emotions of attraction and aversion. The Lord should be adored with the noble qualities of a pious heart—friendship, compassion, joy and indifference. The Lord should be worshipped with all kinds of pleasures that are granted to one unsought, whether those pleasures are sanctioned by the scriptures, etc., or forbidden by them. The Lord should be worshipped with those which are regarded as desirable and others which are regarded as undesirable, with those that are considered appropriate and others that are considered inappropriate. For this worship, one should abandon what is lost and one should accept and receive what has been obtained without effort. The LORD continued: One should engage oneself in this worship at all times, established in supreme equanimity in regard to all the percepts whether they be pleasant or unpleasant. One should regard everything as good and auspicious (or one should regard everything as a mixture of good and evil). Realising that everything is the one self, one should worship the self in this spirit. One should look with equal vision upon that which is pleasant and beautiful through and through and that which is unendurably unpleasant.Thus should one worship the self. One should abandon the divisive notions of ‘This I am’ and ‘This I am not’ and realise that ‘All this is indeed Brahman’, the one indivisible and infinite consciousness. In that spirit one should worship the self. At all times, in all forms and their modifications, one should worship the self in and through all that one obtains. One should worship the self after having abandoned the distinction between the desirable and the undesirable, or even while relying on such a distinction (but using them as the materials for the worship).Without craving and without rejecting, that which is effortlessly and naturally obtained may be enjoyed. One should not get excited or depressed when faced with insignificant or significant objects, just as neither sky nor space is so affected by the diverse objects that exist and grow in it. One should worship the self, without psychological perversion, with every object that is obtained purely on account of the coincidence of the time, place and activity—whether they are popularly known as good or as not-good. In this procedure for the worship of the self, whatever article has been mentioned as being necessary for the worship is of the same nature as all others, though the expressions used are different. Equanimity is sweetness itself and this sweetness is beyond the senses and the mind. Whatever is touched by that equanimity instantly becomes sweet, whatever its description or definition may be.

Likes and dislikes, attraction and aversion are not found in the self independent of its essential nature; they are mere words. Even the concepts indicated by words like’sovereignty’, ‘poverty’, ‘pleasure’, ‘pain’, ‘one’s own’ and ‘others’, are in fact worship of the self, for the conceiving intelligence is the self. Knowledge of the cosmic being alone is the proper worship of the cosmic being. It is that self or cosmic consciousness alone which is indicated by expressions like ‘this world’. Oh, what a mysterious wonder it is that the self which is pure consciousness or intelligence somehow seems to forget its own nature and comes to regard itself as the jiva (the individual). In fact, in that cosmic being which is the reality in everything, there is not even the division into worshipper, worship and the worshipped. It is impossible to describe that cosmic being which supports the entire universe without division; it is impossible to teach another concerning it. And, we do not consider them worthy of being taught by us, who consider that god is limited by time and space. Hence, abandoning all such limited concepts, abandoning even the division between the worshipper and the worshipped (Lord), worship the self by the self. Be at peace, pure, free from cravings. Consider that all your experiences and expressions are the worship of the self.

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