The Yoga Vasistha is a popular text on Non-dual God, Ancient in form and philosophical in content. It is also known by other names like Knowledge Vasistha, Maha Ramayana, Vasistha Ramayana and Vasistha and is ascribed to Sage Valmiki himself. It is in the form of replies given by Vasistha to Sri Rama’s queries regarding philosophical problems of life and death, and human suffering, and treats the essentials of Advaita Vedanta.
Yoga Vasistha, written by Sage Valmiki, is the spiritual teaching imparted by Sage Vasistha to Sri Rama. Yoga Vasistha is also known as the Maha Ramayana, the Uttar Ramayana and the Vasistha Ramayana. It describes how Rama’s knowledge, wisdom and understanding evolved and progressed throughout the different stages of his life. Yoga Vasistha is an elaborate work, consisting of 32,000 verses and 64,000 lines.
The main theme of Yoga Vasistha 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. People who are interested in Self Realization can also study the more comprehensive Brihat Yoga Vasistha book and the smaller one, Laghu Yoga Vasistha. The term Brihat means great, while Laghu signifies small.
The sum total of pleasures of the whole world is a mere drop when compared to the bliss of Moksha. When all the desires are destroyed, the extinction of the mind where Mind becomes “No-Mind” is Moksha. If the illusory I-ness or Ego perishes, the end of thoughts to the Maya is Moksha. Extinction of all Psychological conditioning constitutes Eternal Liberation of the Self. Self Knowledge is the realization that the Self is in reality not bound, but always pure and free. Realize that you are the immortal all pervading Self and become free. This is the goal of our life and the goal of our existence.
The book deals with six major sections:
- Dispassion or indifference
- Longing for liberation
- Quiescence of mind, and
There are four gate-keepers at the entrance to the Realm of Freedom. They are:
- Santi (self-control or quietness of mind),
- Vichara (spirit of inquiry),
- Santosha (contentment) and
- Satsanga (good company).
The wise seeker should diligently cultivate the friendship of these, or at least one of them. This World-appearance is a confusion, even the blueness of the sky is an optical illusion.
There are four gate-keepers at the entrance to the Realm of Freedom. They are Santi (self-control or quietness of mind), Vichara (spirit of inquiry), Santosha (contentment) and Satsanga (good company). The wise seeker should diligently cultivate the friendship of these, or at least one of them. When the mind is at peace, pure, tranquil, free from delusion or hallucination, untangled and free from cravings, it does not long for anything nor does it reject anything. This is self-control or conquest of mind.
All that is good and auspicious flows from self-control. All evil is dispelled by self-control. No gain, no pleasure in this world or in heaven is comparable to the delight of self-control. The delight one experiences in the presence of the self-controlled is incomparable. Everyone spontaneously trusts him. None (not even demons and goblins) hates him.
Self-control, O Rama, is the best remedy for all physical and mental ills. When there is selfcontrol, even the food you eat tastes better, else it tastes bitter. He who wears the armour of self-control is not harmed by sorrow.
He who even while hearing, touching, seeing, smelling and tasting what is regarded as pleasant and unpleasant, is neither elated nor depressed — he is self-controlled. He who looks upon all beings with equal vision, having brought under control the sensations of pleasure and pain, is self-controlled. He who though living amongst all is unaffected by them, neither feels elated nor hates, even as one is during sleep — he is self-controlled.
Inquiry (the second gate-keeper to liberation) should be undertaken by an intelligence that has been purified by a close study of the scripture, and this inquiry should be unbroken. By such inquiry the intelligence becomes keen and is able to realize the supreme; hence inquiry alone is the best remedy for the long-lasting illness known as samsara (repeated births).
The wise man regards strength, intellect, efficiency and timely action as the fruits of inquiry. Indeed kingdom, prosperity, enjoyment, as well as final liberation, are all the fruits of inquiry. The spirit of inquiry protects one from the calamities that befall the unthinking fool. When the mind has been rendered dull by the absence of inquiry, even the cool rays of the moon turn into deadly weapons, and the childish imagination throws up a goblin in every dark spot. Hence, the non-inquiring fool is really a storehouse of sorrow. It is the absence of inquiry that gives rise to actions that are harmful to oneself and to others, and to numerous psychosomatic illnesses. Therefore, one should avoid the company of such unthinking people.
They in whom the spirit of inquiry is ever awake illumine the world, enlighten all who come into contact with them, dispel the ghosts created by an ignorant mind, and realize the falsity of sense-pleasures and their objects. O Rama, in the light of inquiry there is realization of the eternal and unchanging reality; this is the supreme. With it one does not long for any other gain nor does one spurn anything. He is free from delusion, attachment; he is not inactive nor does he get drowned in action; he lives and functions in this world and at the end of a natural life-span he reaches the blissful state of total freedom.
The eye of spiritual inquiry does not lose its sight even in the midst of all activities; he who does not have this eye is indeed to be pitied. It is better to be born as a frog in the mud, a worm in dung, a snake in a hole, but not be one without this eye. What is inquiry? To inquire thus: “Who am I? How has this evil of samsara (repetitive history) come into being?” is true inquiry. Knowledge of truth arises from such inquiry; from such knowledge there follows tranquility in oneself; and then there arises the supreme peace in the Self and the ending of all sorrow.
Contentment is another gate-keeper to liberation. He who has quaffed the nectar of contentment does not relish craving for sense-pleasures; no delight in this world is as sweet as contentment which destroys all sins.
What is contentment? To renounce all craving for what is not obtained unsought and to be satisfied with what comes unsought, without being elated or depressed even by them — this is contentment. As long as one is not satisfied in the self, he will be subjected to sorrow. With the rise of contentment the purity of one’s heart blooms. The contented man who possesses nothing owns the world.
Satsanga (company of wise, holy and enlightened persons) is yet another gatekeeper to liberation. Satsanga enlarges one’s intelligence, destroys one’s ignorance and one’s psychological distress. Whatever be the cost, however difficult it may be, whatever obstacles may stand in its way, satsanga should never be neglected. For, satsanga alone is one’s light on the path of life. Satsanga is indeed superior to all other forms of religious practices like charity, austerity, pilgrimages and the performance of religious rites.
One should by every means in one’s power adore and serve the holy men who have realized the truth and in whose heart the darkness of ignorance has been dispelled. They who, on the other hand, treat such holy men disrespectfully, surely invite great suffering.
These four — contentment, satsanga, the spirit of inquiry, and self-control — are the four surest means by which they who are drowning in this ocean of samsara can be saved. Contentment is the supreme gain. Satsanga is the best companion to the destination. The spirit of inquiry itself is the greatest wisdom. And, self-control is supreme happiness. If you are unable to resort to all these four, then practice one: by the diligent practice of one of these, the others will also be found in you. The highest wisdom will seek you of its own accord. Until you tame the wild elephant of your mind with the help of these noble qualities, you cannot have progress towards the supreme, even if you become a god, demi-god or a tree.
Therefore, O Rama, strive by all means to cultivate these noble qualities. He who is endowed with the qualities that I have enumerated thus far is qualified to listen to what I am about to reveal.
When the mind is at peace and the heart leaps to the supreme truth, when all the disturbing thought-waves in the mind-stuff have subsided and there is unbroken flow of peace and the heart is filled with the bliss of the absolute, when thus the truth has been seen in the heart, then this very world becomes an abode of bliss. (II:12)