Yoga Vasistha

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An old painting of people talking in houses
A painting from the Yoga Vasistha manuscript, 1602

Yoga Vasistha (Sanskrit: योग-वासिष्ठ) is a Hindu spiritual text written by sage Valmiki. It is believed by some Hindus to answer all the questions that arise in the human mind, and can help one to attain Moksha. It recounts a discourse of sage Vasistha to Prince Rama. The contents of Vasistha's teaching to Rama is associated with Advaita Vedanta, the illusory nature of the manifest world[1] and the principle of non-duality. This is one of the longest texts in Sanskrit after the Mahabharata, and an important text of Yoga. It consists of about 32,000 shlokas, including numerous short stories and anecdotes used to help illustrate its content. In terms of Hindu mythology, the conversation in the Yoga Vasishta takes place chronologically before the Ramayana.

Other names of this text are Mahā-Rāmāyana, ārsha Rāmāyana, Vasiṣṭha Rāmāyana,[2] Yogavasistha-Ramayana and Jnanavasistha.[1]

Context[edit]

Prince Rama returns from touring the country, and becomes utterly disillusioned after experiencing the apparent reality of the world. This worries his father, King Dasaratha, who expresses his concern to Sage Vasistha upon Rama's arrival. Sage Vasistha consoles the king by telling him that Rama's dis-passion (vairagya) is a sign that the prince is now ready for spiritual enlightenment. He says that Rama has begun understanding profound spiritual truths, which is the cause of his confusion; he needs confirmation. Sage Vasistha asks the king to summon Rama. Then, in King Dasaratha's court, the sage begins his discourse to Rama (which lasts 21 days). The answer to Rama's questions forms the entire scripture that is Yoga Vasistha.

Content[edit]

The traditional belief is that reading this book leads to spiritual liberation. The conversation between Vasistha and Prince Rama is that between a great, enlightened sage and a seeker who is about to reach wholeness. This is said to be among those rare conversations which directly leads to Truth.

The scripture provides understanding, scientific ideas and philosophy; it explains consciousness, the creation of the world, the multiple universes in this world, our perception of the world, its ultimate dissolution, the liberation of the soul and the non-dual approach to creation.

An oft-repeated verse in the text is that relating to Kakathaliya, ("coincidence"). The story is that a crow alights on a palm tree, and that very moment the ripe palm fruit falls on the ground. The two events are apparently related, yet the crow never intended the palm fruit to fall; nor did the palm fruit fall because the crow sat on the tree. The intellect mistakes the two events as causally related, though in reality they are not.

Structure[edit]

Yoga Vasistha is divided into six parts: dis-passion, qualifications of the seeker, creation, existence, dissolution and liberation. It sums up the spiritual process in the seven Bhoomikas:

  1. Śubhecchā (longing for the Truth): The yogi (or sādhaka) rightly distinguishes between permanent and impermanent; cultivates dislike for worldly pleasures; acquires mastery over his physical and mental organism; and feels a deep yearning to be free from Saṃsāra.
  2. Vicāraṇa (right inquiry): The yogi has pondered over what he or she has read and heard, and has realized it in his or her life.
  3. Tanumānasa (attenuation – or thinning out – of mental activities): The mind abandons the many, and remains fixed on the One.
  4. Sattvāpatti (attainment of sattva, "reality"): The Yogi, at this stage, is called Brahmavid ("knower of Brahman"). In the previous four stages, the yogi is subject to sañcita, Prārabdha and Āgamī forms of karma. He or she has been practicing Samprajñāta Samādhi (contemplation), in which the consciousness of duality still exists.
  5. Asaṃsakti (unaffected by anything): The yogi (now called Brahmavidvara) performs his or her necessary duties, without a sense of involvement.
  6. Padārtha abhāvana (sees Brahman everywhere): External things do not appear to exist to the yogi (now called Brahmavidvarīyas); in essence there is a non-cognition of 'objects' as the separation between subject and a distinct object is dissolved; and tasks get performed without any sense of agency (doership). Sañcita and Āgamī karma are now destroyed; only a small amount of Prārabdha karma remains.
  7. Turīya (perpetual samādhi): The yogi is known as Brahmavidvariṣṭha and does not perform activities, either by his will or the promptings of others. The body drops off approximately three days after entering this stage.,

Excerpts[edit]

"The great remedy for the long-lasting disease of samsara is the enquiry, 'Who am I? To whom does this samsara belong?', which entirely cures it."

"Nothing whatsoever is born or dies anywhere at any time. It is Brahman alone, appearing in the form of the world."

"O Rama, there is no intellect, no consciousness, no mind and no individual soul (jiva). They are all imagined in Brahman."

"That consciousness which is the witness of the rise and fall of all beings – know that to be the immortal state of supreme bliss."

"Knowledge of truth, Lord, is the fire that burns up all hopes and desires as if they are dried blades of grass. That is what is known by the word samadhi – not simply remaining silent."

"The moon is one, but on agitated water it produces many reflections. Similarly, ultimate reality is one, yet it appears to be many in a mind agitated by thoughts."

Text origin and evolution[edit]

The Yoga Vasistha is a syncretic work, containing elements of Vedanta, Jainism, Yoga, Samkhya, Saiva Siddhanta and Mahayana Buddhism, thus making it, in the opinion of one writer, "a Hindu text par excellence, including, as does Hinduism, a mosaic-style amalgam of diverse and sometimes opposing traditions",[3] providing an example of Hinduism's ability to integrate seemingly opposite schools of thought.[3] The oldest available manuscript (the Moksopaya or Moksopaya Shastra) is a philosophical text on salvation (moksa-upaya: "means to release"), written on the Pradyumna hill in Srinagar in the 10th century AD.[4][5][6] This text was expanded and Vedanticized from the 11th to the 14th century AD – resulting in the present text,[7] which was influenced by the Saivite Trika school.[8] This version contains about 32,000 verses; an abridged version by Abhinanda of Kashmir (son of Jayanta Bhatta) is known as the Laghu ("Little") Yogavasistha and contains 6,000 verses.[9]

Influence[edit]

Yoga Vasistha is considered one of the most important scriptures of the Vedantic philosophy.[10]

Indian freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar has praised Yoga Vasistha. Quotes from his Autobiography "My Transportation For Life" [11]

  • "All of a sudden I fell upon the Yoga Vashistha, and I found it of such absorbing interest that I have come to regard it ever since as the best work on the Vedanta Philosophy. The propositions were so logical, the verse is so beautiful, and the exposition is so thorough and penetrating that the soul loses itself in raptures over it. Such a fine combination of philosophy and poetry is a gift reserved only for Sanskrit poets"
  • "When I used to be lost in the reading of the Yoga Vashistha, the coil of rope I was weaving dropped automatically from my hands; and, for hours on end I lost the sense of possessing the body and the senses associated with that body. My foot would not move and my hand was at a stand still. I felt the deeper yearning to surrender it all. All propaganda, all work seemed such a worthless task, a sheer waste of life. At last the mind and the matter asserted their sway over the body and swung it back to work again"

Commentaries[edit]

The following traditional Sanskrit commentaries on the Yoga Vasistha are extant

  • Vāsiṣṭha-rāmāyaṇa-candrikā by Advayāraṇya (son of Narahari)
  • Tātparya prakāśa by ānanda Bodhendra Sarasvatī
  • Bhāṣya by Gaṅgādharendra
  • Pada candrikā by Mādhava Sarasvatī

Translations[edit]

Originally written in Sanskrit, the Yoga Vasistha has been translated into many Indian languages, and the stories are told to children in various forms.[9]

During the Moghul Dynasty the text was translated into Persian several times, as ordered by Akbar, Jahangir and Darah Shikuh.[1] One of these translations was undertaken by Nizam al-Din Panipati in the late sixteenth century AD. The translation, known as the Jug-Basisht, has since became popular in Persia among intellectuals interested in Indo-Persian culture.[12][13]

Yoga Vasistha was translated into English by Swami Jyotirmayananda, Swami Venkatesananda, Vidvan Bulusu Venkateswaraulu and Vihari Lal Mitra. K. Naryanaswami Aiyer translated the well-known abridged version, Laghu-Yoga-Vasistha. In 2009, Swami Tejomayananda's Yoga Vasistha Sara Sangrah was published by the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust. In this version the Laghu-Yoga-Vasistha has been condensed to 86 verses, arranged into seven chapters.

English translations[edit]

1) Complete translation
  • Vālmīki (1891). The Yoga-Vásishtha-Mahárámáyana of Válmiki. trans. Vihārilāla Mitra. Calcutta: Bonnerjee and Co. pp. 3,650. OCLC 6953699. 
  • Vālmīki (1999). The Yoga-Vásishtha-Mahárámáyana of Válmiki. trans. Vihārilāla Mitra. Delhi: Low Price Publications. 
  • Vālmīki (2000). The Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha of Vālmīki. trans. Vihārilāla Mitra. Delhi: Parimal Publications. OCLC 53149153.  Sanskrit text with English translation.
  • This complete translation is currently being prepared for publication in the public domain at the Project Gutenberg/Distributed Proofreaders: http://www.pgdp.net. A preview version is available at:
http://www.scribd.com/collections/2493058/Yoga-Vasishtha-Mitra-translation
  • Scanned images' version at archive.org:
http://archive.org/details/YogaVasishthaMaharamayana
2) Abbreviated versions
Also see below for English translations published by Avadhoota Datta Peetham, Mysore 570025, India

Telugu translations[edit]

Complete translation
  • Vasishtha Rama Samvaadam, Sri Yeleswarapu Hanuma Ramakrishna.

Audio files available : http://www.pravachanam.com/browse/telugu/srimad_bhagavadgita/yeleswarapu_hanuma_ramakrishna.

YogavaasishTa hRdayamu in six Parts by Sri Kuppa Venkata Krishnamurthy: Part I: Vairagya and Mumukshu vyvahAra prakaraNa-s; Part II: Utpatti prakaraNa; Part III: Sthiti prakaraNa; Part IV: Upasama prakaraNa; Part V: NirvaNa prakaraNa - Book I; Part VI: NirvaNa prakaraNa - Book II

The above volumes present in condensed form the material of each sarga giving importance to the philosophical teaching of Advaita.

The same volumes are also rendered into English by Dr. P. Krishnamurthy (Part I), Dr. Haragopal (Part II) and Dr. Vemuri Ramesam (Parts III, IV, V and VI).

All the books are available from Avadhoota Datta Peetham, Mysore 570025, India

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Leslie 2003, pp. 104
  2. ^ Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, Volume 5. pp. 4638, By various, Published by Sahitya Akademi, 1992, ISBN 81-260-1221-8, ISBN 978-81-260-1221-3
  3. ^ a b Chapple 1984, pp. xii
  4. ^ Slaje, Walter. (2005). "Locating the Mokṣopāya", in: Hanneder, Jürgen (Ed.). The Mokṣopāya, Yogavāsiṣṭha and Related Texts Aachen: Shaker Verlag. (Indologica Halensis. Geisteskultur Indiens. 7). p. 35.
  5. ^ Gallery – The journey to the Pradyumnaśikhara
  6. ^ Leslie 2003, pp. 104–107
  7. ^ Hanneder, Jürgen; Slaje, Walter. Moksopaya Project: Introduction.
  8. ^ Chapple 1984, pp. x–xi
  9. ^ a b Leslie 2003, pp. 105
  10. ^ The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition, pp 37, By Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Contributor Irene Petryszak, Edition: illustrated, revised, Published by Himalayan Institute Press, 2002, ISBN 0-89389-227-0, ISBN 978-0-89389-227-2
  11. ^ Savarkar,Vinayak D. "My Transportation for Life" pp.151 http://www.savarkarsmarak.com/activityimages/My%20Transportation%20to%20Life.pdf
  12. ^ Juan R.I. Cole in Iran and the surrounding world by Nikki R. Keddie, Rudolph P. Matthee, 2002, pp. 22–23
  13. ^ Baha'u'llah on Hinduism and Zoroastrianism: The Tablet to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Concerning the Questions of Manakji Limji Hataria, Introduction and Translation by Juan R. I. Cole

References[edit]

External links[edit]