Yoga Vasistha [English], Volume 1-4

by Vihari-Lala Mitra | 1891 | 1,121,132 words | ISBN-10: 8171101519

The English translation of the Yoga-vasistha: a Hindu philosophical and spiritual text written by sage Valmiki from an Advaita-vedanta perspective. The book contains epic narratives similar to puranas and chronologically precedes the Ramayana. The Yoga-vasistha is believed by some Hindus to answer all the questions that arise in the human mind, an...

Chapter XII - Different aspects of yoga

Varieties of yoga.

The Yoga system will be found, what Monier Williams says of Hinduism at large, "to present its spiritual and material aspects, its esoteric and exoteric, its subjective and objective, its pure and impure sides to the observer." "It is," he says, "at once vulgarly pantheistic, severely monotheistic, grossly polytheistic and coldly atheistic. It has a side for the practical and another for the devotional and another for the speculative." Again says he:

"Those, who rest in ceremonial observances, find it all satisfying; those, who deny the efficacy of works and make faith the one thing needful, need not wander from its pale; those, who delight in meditating on the nature of God and man, the relation of matter and spirit, the mystery of separate existence and the origin of evil, may here indulge their love of speculation." (Introduction to Indian Wisdom p. xxvii.)

We shall treat of these seriatim, by way of notes to or interpretation of the above, as applying to the different modes of yoga practised by these several orders of sectarians.

1.  Spiritual yoga.  ~~

That the earliest form of yoga was purely spiritual, is evident from the Upanishads, the Vedanta doctrines of Vyasa and all works on the knowledge of the soul (adhyatma Vidya). "All the early Upanishads", says Weber, "teach the doctrine of atma-spirit, and the later ones deal with yoga meditation to attain complete union with atma or the Supreme Spirit." Web. Ind. Lit. p. 156. "The atma soul or self and the supreme spirit (paramatma) of which all other souls partake, is the spiritual object of meditation (yoga)." Max Müller's A. S. Lit. p. 20. Yajnavalkya says:  ~~  ~~

"The Divine Spirit is to be seen, heard, perceived and meditated upon &c." If we see, hear, perceive and know Him, then this whole universe is known to us." A. S. Lit. p. 23. Again, "Whosoever looks for Brahmahood elsewhere than in the Divine Spirit, should be abandoned. Whosoever looks for Kshatra power elsewhere than in the Divine Spirit, should be abandoned. This Brahmahood, this Kshatra power, this world, these gods, these beings, this universe, all is Divine Spirit." Ibid. The meaning of the last passage is evidently that, the spirit of God pervades the whole, and not that these are God; for that would be pantheism and materialism; whereas the Sruti says that, "God is to be worshipped in spirit and not in any material object."  ~~-~~

2.  The Materialistic yoga.  ~~  ~~

The materialistic side of the yoga, or what is called the Prakritika yoga, was propounded at first in the Sankhya yoga system, and thence taken up in the Puranas and Tantras, which set up a primeval matter as the basis of the universe, and the purusha or animal soul as evolved out of it, and subsisting in matter. Weber's Ind. Lit. p. 235.

Of Matter—Prakriti.

Here, the avyakta—matter is reckoned as prior to the purusha or animal soul; whereas in the Vedanta the purusha or primeval soul is considered as prior to the avyakta-matter. The Sankhya, therefore, recognizes the adoration of matter as its yoga, and its founder Kapila was a yogi of this kind. Later materialists meditate on the material principles and agencies as the causes of all, as in the Vidyanmoda Tarangini;  ~~

Of Spirit—Purusha.

These agencies were first viewed as concentrated in a male form, as in the persons of Buddha, Jina and Siva, as described in the Kumara Sambhava  ~~; and when in the female figure of Prakriti or nature personified, otherwise called Saktirupa or the personification of energy, as in the Devi mahatmya;  ~~-~~ &c. They were afterwards viewed in the five elements panchabhuta, which formed the elemental worship of the ancients, either singly or conjointly as in the pancha-bhautika upasana, described in the Sarva darsana sangraha.

Nature worship in eight forms.

The materialistic or nature worship was at last diversified into eight forms called ashta murti, consisting of earth, water, fire, air, sky, sun, moon, and the sacrificial priest, which were believed to be so many forms of God Isa, and forming the objects of his meditation also. The eight forms are summed up in the lines:  ~~  ~~  ~~ or as it is more commonly read in Bengal,  ~~  ~~ That they were forms of Isa is thus expressed by Kalidasa in the Raghu-vansa;  ~~  ~~; and that they were meditated upon by him as expressed by the same in his Kumara Sambhava:


The prologue to the Sakuntala will at once prove this great poet to have been a materialist of this kind; thus:





"Water the first work of the creator, and Fire which receives the oblations ordained by law &c. &c. May Isa, the God of Nature, apparent in these forms, bless and sustain you."

Besides all this the Sivites of the present day, are found to be votaries of this materialistic faith in their daily adoration of the eight forms of Siva in the following formula of their ritual:

  ~~       ~~

  ~~       ~~

  ~~       ~~

  ~~       ~~

Both the Sankhya and Saiva materialism are deprecated in orthodox works

as atheistic and heretical, like the impious doctrines of the modern positivists and materialists of Europe, on account of their disbelief in the existence of a personal and spiritual God. Thus says, Kumarila:  ~~  ~~ (Max Müller's A. S. Lit. p. 78.)

3.  The Esoteric "Jnana yoga."

It is the occult and mystic meditation of the Divinity, practised by religious recluses after their retirement from the world in the deep recesses of forests, according to the teachings of the Aranyakas of the Vedas. In this sense it is called "Alaukika" or recluse, as opposed to the "laukika" or the popular form. It is as well practicable in domestic circles by those that are qualified to practise the "Jnana yoga" ( ~~) or transcendental speculation at their leisure. Of the former kind were the Rishis Suka deva, Yajnavalkya and others, and of the latter sort were the royal personages Janaka and other kings and the sages Vasishtha, Vyasa and many more of the "munis."

4.  The Exoteric Raja yoga.

This is the "laukika" or popular form of devotion practised chiefly by the outward formulae—vahirangas of yoga, with observance of the customary rites and duties of religion. The former kind called Vidya ( ~~) and the latter Avidya ( ~~), are enjoined to be performed together in the Veda, which says:  ~~ &c. The Bhagavadgita says to the same effect,  ~~-~~. The yoga Vasishtha inculcates the same doctrine in conformity with the Sruti which says:  ~~  ~~


5. The Subjective or Hansa yoga.

The hansa or paramahansa yoga is the subjective form, which consists in the perception of one's identity with that of the supreme being, whereby men are elevated above life and death. (Weber's Ind. Lit. p. 157.) The formula of meditation is "soham, hansah" ( ~~) I am He,

Ego sum Is, and the Arabic "Anal Haq"; wherein the Ego is identified with the absolute.

6. The objective word Tattwamasi.

The objective side of yoga is clearly seen in its formula of tattwamasi—"thou art He." Here "thou" the object of cognition—a non ego, is made the absolute subjective (Weber. Ind. Lit. p. 162). This formula is reduced to one word tatwam  ~~ denoting "truth," which contained in viewing every thing as Himself, or having subordinated all cosmical speculations to the objective method.

7. The Pure yoga-Suddha Brahmacharyam.

The pure Yoga has two meanings viz., the holy and unmixed forms of it. The former was practised by the celibate Brahmacharis and Brahmacharinis of yore, and is now in practice with the Kanphutta yogis and yoginis of Katiyawar in Guzerat and Bombay. Its unmixed form is found among the Brahmavadis and Vadinis, who practise the pure contemplative yoga of Vedanta without any intermixture of sectarian forms. It corresponds with the philosophical mysticism of saint Bernard, and the mystic devotion of the Sufis of Persia. (See Sir  Wm.  Jones. On the Mystic Poetry of the Hindus, Persians and Greeks.)

8. The Impure or Bhanda yoga.

The impure yoga in both its significations of unholiness and intermixture, is now largely in vogue with the followers of the tantras, the worshippers of Siva and Sakti, the modern Gosavis of Deccan, the Bullabhacharis of Brindabun, the Gosains, Bhairavis and Vaishnava sects in India, the Aghoris of Hindustan, and the Kartabhajas and Nera-neris of Bengal.

9. The Pantheistic or Visvatma yoga.

This is well known from the pantheistic doctrines of Vedanta, to consist in the meditation of every thing in God and God in every thing; "Sarvam khalvidam Brahama"  ~~; and that such contemplation alone leads to immortality.  ~~  ~~ It corresponds with the pantheism of Persian Sufis and those of Spinoza and Tindal in the west. Even Sadi says:

"Haman nestand unche hasti tui," there is nothing else but thyself. So in Urdu, Jo kuch hai ohi hai nahin aur kuchh.

10. The Monotheistic or Adwaita Brahma yoga.

It consists in the meditation of the creed  ~~ of the Brahmans, like the "Wahed Ho" of Moslems, and that God is one of Unitarian Christians. The monotheistic yoga is embodied in the Svetaswatara and other

Upanishads (Weber p. 252 a). As for severe monotheism the Mosaic and Moslem religions are unparalleled, whose tenet it is "la sharik laho" one without a partner; and, "Thou shalt have no other God but Me."

11. The Dualistic or Dwaita yoga.

The dualistic yoga originated with Patanjali, substituting his Isvara for the Purusha of Sankhya, and taking the Prakriti as his associate. "From these," says Weber, "the doctrine seems to rest substantially upon a dualism of the Purusha male and avyakta or Prakriti—the female." This has also given birth to the dualistic faith of the androgyne divinity—the Protogonus of the Greek mythology, the ardhanariswara of Manu, the undivided Adam of the scriptures, the Hara-Gauri and Uma-Maheswara of the Hindu Saktas. But there is another dualism of two male duties joined in one person of Hari-hara or Hara-hari; whose worshippers are called dwaita-vadis, and among whom the famous grammarian Vopadeva ranks the foremost.

12. The Trialistic or Traita-yoga.

The doctrines of the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, and that of the Platonic triad and Christian Holy Trinity are well known to inculcate the worship and meditation of the three persons in one, so that in adoring one of them, a man unknowingly worships all the three together.

13. The Polytheistic yoga or Sarva Devopasana.

This consists of the adoration of a plurality of deities in the mythology by every Hindu, though every one has a special divinity of whom he is the votary for his particular meditation. The later upanishads have promulgated the worship of several forms of Vishnu and Siva (Web. I. Lit. p. 161); and the Tantras have given the dhyanas or forms of meditation of a vast member of deities in their various

forms and images (Ibid. p. 236).

14. The Atheistic or Niriswara yoga.

The Atheistic yoga is found in the niriswara or hylo-theistic system of Kapila, who transmitted his faith "in nothing" to the Buddhists and Jains, who having no God to adore, worship themselves, in sedate and silent meditation. (Monier Williams, Hindu Wisdom p. 97).

15. The Theistic or Astikya yoga.

The Theistic yoga system of Patanjali otherwise called the seswara yoga, was ingrafted on the old atheistic system of Sankhya with a belief in the Iswara. It is this system to which the name yoga specially belongs. (Weber's Ind. Lit. pp. 238 and 252).

16. The Practical Yoga Sadhana.

"The yoga system," says Weber, "developed itself in course of time in outward practices of penance and mortifications, whereby absorption in the Supreme Being was sought to be obtained. We discover its early traces in the Epics and specially in the Atharva upanishads." (Ind. Lit. p. 239). The practical yoga Sadhana is now practised by every devotee in the service of his respective divinity.

17. The devotional or Sannyasa yoga.

The devotional side of the yoga is noticed in the instance of Janaka in the Mahabharata, and of Yajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka in the practice of their devotions in domestic life. These examples may have given a powerful impetus to the yogis in the succeeding ages, to the practice of secluded yoga in ascetism and abandonment of the world, and its concerns called Sannyasa as in the case of Chaitanya and others.

18. The Speculative Dhyana yoga.

It had its rise in the first or earliest class of Upanishads, when the minds of the Rishis were employed in speculations about their future state and immortality, and about the nature and attributes of the Supreme Being.

19. The Ceremonial or Kriya yoga.

This commenced with the second class or medieval upanishads, which gave the means and stages, whereby men may even in this world attain complete union with the Atma (Web. I. Lit. p. 156). The yogachara of Manu relates to the daily ceremonies of house-keepers, and the Kriya yoga of the Puranas treats about pilgrimages and pious acts of religion.

20. The Pseudo or Bhakta yoga.

The pure yoga being perverted by the mimicry of false pretenders to sanctity and holiness, have assumed all those degenerate forms which are commonly to be seen in the mendicant Fakirs, strolling about with mock shows to earn a livelihood from the imposed vulgar. These being the most conspicuous have infused a wrong notion of yoga into the minds of foreigners.

21. The Bhakti yoga.

The Bhakti yoga first appears in the Swetaswatara Upanishad where the Bhakti element of faith shoots forth to light (Web. Ind. Lit. pp. 252 and 238). It indicates acquaintance with the corresponding doctrine of Christianity. The Bhagavad Gita lays special stress upon faith in the Supreme Being. It is the united opinion of the majority of European scholars, that the Hindu Bhakti is derived from the faith (fides) of Christian Theology. It has taken the place of  ~~ or belief among all sects, and has been introduced of late in the Brahma Samajas with other Vaishnava practices.

The other topics of Prof. Monier Williams being irrelevant to our subject, are left out from being treated in the present dissertation.

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