Yoga Vasishta

by Staff

According to tradition, the original verses are attributed to Sage Valmiki, author of the great epic Ramayana. The Yoga Vasishta consists of approximately 32,000 verses and represents a dialogue between SageVasishta and Sri Rama, the king of Ayodhya. It is through this dialogue that the teachings of Advaita (the doctrine of non-duality) are presented to Sri Rama.

Valmiki’s vast work was abridged centuries ago by a Kashmiri scholar. Long ago, an unknown scholar further condensed the work into a series of 230 couplets, broken down into ten chapters. This smaller version became known as Yoga Vasishta Sara, or the Essence of Yoga Vasishta.

In ancient India, noble families associated their households with sages and holy men of repute. The great Sage Vasishta was wise council to the Solar Race lineage that Sri Rama was born into. While Rama is considered to be an incarnation of God, he plays the role of a man in the Ramayana, Sage Valmiki’sgreat epic on the life of Sri Rama.

When Rama was a young man fulfilling his duties in palace life, a great change came over him. He lost all interest in the people around him, his daily activities, eating, etc. Because his son lost weight due to extreme lack of interest, Rama’s father, King Dasaratha, became worried. With the help of Sage Viswamitra, Rama was summoned and the sage recognized Rama as one who was full of wisdom and dispassion for things of the world, thus ready for the imparting of final wisdom.

Rama joined Viswamitra and accompanied him to the latter’s jungle hermitage. There, in the company of these wise men, Viswamitra asked Sage Vasishta to instruct Rama in the highest wisdom, and thus confirm his state of enlightenment. The verses that follow contain some of the teachings imparted to him.

Salutations to that calm effulgence which is endless and unlimited by space, time, etc., the pure consciousness which can be known by experience only.

The great remedy for the long-lasting disease of the external world (samsara) is the inquiry, “Who am I?, to whom does this samsara (world) belong?” which entirely cures it.

He is a happy man whose mind is inwardly cool and free from attachment and hatred and who looks upon this (world) like a mere spectator.

The Self is more extensive than space; it is pure, subtle, undecaying and auspicious. As such how could it be born and how can it die?

Dissolution of the Mind
Consciousness which is undivided imagines to itself desirable objects and runs after them. It is then known as the mind.

The mind has come into existence through this (imagination) on account of forgetfulness. Like the experience of one’s own death in a dream it ceases to exist when scrutinized.

The mind is bound by latent impressions (vasanas). When there are no impressions it is free. Therefore, O Rama, bring about quickly, through discrimination, the state in which there are no impressions.

Association with the wise, abandonment of latent impressions, self-inquiry, control of breathing-these are the means of conquering the mind.

The Destruction of Latent Impressions
Just as the wind does not affect the creepers in a picture, so also afflictions do not affect one whose understanding is fortified by firmness and (always) reflected in the mirror of inquiry.

If one realizes the unity of things everywhere, one always remains tranquil, inwardly cool and pure like space without the sense of “I.”

Meditation on the Self
The mind, the intellect, the senses, etc. are all the play of Consciousness. They are unreal and seem to exist only due to lack of insight.

Method of Purification
Remain always as pure Consciousness which is your constant (i.e. true) nature beyond the states of waking, dream, and deep sleep.

Do not be that which is understood, or the one who understands. Abandon all concepts and remain what you are.

Eliminate one concept by another and the mind by the mind and abide in the Self. Is this so difficult, O holy man?

When you do your work, do it without attachment even as a crystal which reflects the objects before it (but is not affected by them).

Worship of the Self
After knowing that by which you know the (world), turn the mind inward and then you will see clearly (i.e. realize) the effulgence of the Self.

After rejecting through reasoning all that can be known as “non-truth,” what remains as pure Consciousness—regard that as your real Self.

Knowledge is not separate from you and that which is known is not separate from knowledge. Hence there is nothing other than the Self, nothing separate (from it).

“I am the whole universe. I am the undecaying Supreme Self. There is neither past nor future apart from me”—reflect in this manner.

Exposition of the Self
The Self is realized in the body only with effort, like sugar from the sugar cane, oil from sesame seeds, fire from wood, butter from a cow, and iron from stones (i.e., ore).

Like the sky seen in an unbroken crystal, the Supreme Lord of the nature of Consciousness is seen (i.e., exists) in all objects.

The Self is without beginning or end. It is immutable Existence and Consciousness. It is manifest space, it is the source of the jiva (individual soul) and higher than the highest.

There is neither bondage nor liberation, neither duality nor non-duality. There is only Brahman (the Self) always shining as Consciousness.

That which exists and which shines (i.e. is known to exist) are all the Self; anything else which seems to shine does not (really) exist. Consciousness alone shines by itself. Ideas of knower and known are idle postulates.

Depend always on that true reality between the sentient and the inert which is the infinite space-like heart.

The belief in a knower and the known is called bondage. The knower is bound by the known; he is liberated when there is nothing to know.

If one meditates on that state which comes at the end of the waking state and the beginning of sleep, he will directly experience undecaying bliss.

The Self shines by itself as the one boundless ocean of consciousness agitated by waves of thought.

A note on some of the technical terminology:
In Sanskrit the word Advaita literally means, “not-two.” Maya is translated to mean “That which does not exist.” Therefore, according to Advaitic terminology, the reality or unreality of the world is only due to the perception of the seeker. For “that which does not exist” simply never was. Additionally, since there is “not-two” in existence, there can never be a world, or God, apart from the individual. This emphasis on proclaiming the supreme truth of the individual and the all-inclusiveness of the Self as the substratum of all creation is the great gift of Advaita Vedanta. To the seeker who desires to wake up from the dream of existence, the teachings in Yoga Vasishta provide the means that lead to full awareness of the Self.