A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1932 | 241,887 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of methods of right conduct: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the eleventh part in the series called the “the philosophy of the yogavasishtha”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 11 - Methods of Right Conduct

The Yoga-vāsiṣṭha does not enjoin severe asceticism or the ordinary kinds of religious gifts, ablutions or the like for the realization of our highest ends, which can only be achieved by the control of attachment (rāga), antipathy (dveṣa), ignorance (tamaḥ), anger (krodha), pride (mada), and jealousy (mātsarya), followed by the right apprehension of the nature of reality[1]. So long as the mind is not chastened by the clearing out of all evil passions, the performance of religious observances leads only to pride and vanity and does not produce any good. The essential duty of an enquirer consists in energetic exertion for the achievement of the highest end, for which he must read the right sort of scriptures (sac-chāstra) and associate with good men[2]. He should somehow continue his living and abandon even the slightest desire of enjoyment (bhoga-gandham parityajet), and should continue critical thinking (vicāra). On the question whether knowledge or work, jñāna or karma, is to be accepted for the achievement of the highest end, the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha does not, like Śaṅkara, think that the two cannot jointly be taken up, but on the contrary emphatically says that, just as a bird flies with its two wings, so an enquirer can reach his goal through the joint operation of knowledge and work[3].

The main object of the enquirer being the destruction of citta, all his endeavours should be directed towards the uprooting of instinctive root inclinations (vāsanā), which are the very substance and root of the citta. The realization of the truth (tattva-jñāna), the destruction of the vāsanās and the destruction of the citta all mean the same identical state and are interdependent on one another, so that none of them can be attained without the other. So, abandoning the desire for enjoyment, one has to try for these three together; and for this one has to control one’s desires on one hand and practise breath-control (prāṇa-nirodhena) on the other; and these two would thus jointly co-operate steadily towards the final goal. Such an advancement is naturally slow, but this progress, provided it is steady, is to be preferred to any violent efforts to hasten (hatha) the result[4]. Great stress is also laid on the necessity of self-criticism as a means of loosening the bonds of desire and the false illusions of world-appearance and realizing the dissociation from attachment (asaṅga)[5].

Footnotes and references:


sva-pauruṣa-prayatnena vivekena vikāśinā
sa devojñāyate rāma na tapaḥ-snāna-karmabhiḥ.
in. 6. 9.


Good men are defined in the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha as follows:

deśe yaṃ sujana-prāyā lokāḥ sādhuṃ pracakṣate
sa viśiṣṭaḥ sa sādhuḥ syāt taṃ prayatnena saṃśrayet.
ill. 6. 20.


Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, I. I. 7, 8.


Ibid. V. 81.


Ibid. V. 93.

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