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 CI - Story of the boy and three princes

An Allegory of the Hindu Triads

Argument. The old Nurse's tale of the three Princes or Powers of the Soul, in elucidation of the Fabrications of Imagination.

Rama said:—

Relate to me, O chief of sages! the tale of the boy, in illustration of the Mind (and the other principles of our intellectual nature).

Vasishtha replied:—

2. Hear me Rama, tell you the tale of a silly and jolt-headed boy, who once asked his nurse, to recite to him some pretty story for his amusement.

3. The Nurse then began to relate her fine wrought story for the pleasure of the boy, with a gladsome countenance, and in accents sweet as honey.

4. There were once on a time, some three highminded and fortunate young princes; in a desolate country, who were noted for their virtues and valour. (The three princes were the three hypostases of the holy trinity, dwelling in the land of inexistence or vacuity, asat-pure.

I. e. these triple powers were in being in empty space, which is co-eternal with them).

5. They shone in that vast desolate land resembling the spacious sky, like stars in the expanse of the waters below. Two of them were unbegotten and increate, and third was not born of the mother's womb. (These three uncreated princes, were the principles of the soul and the mind, and the living soul—jiva, which is not procreated in the womb with the body).

6. It happened once on a time, that these three, started together from their dreary abode (of vacuum), for the purpose of finding a better habitation somewhere else. They had no other companion with them, and were sorrowful in their minds, and melancholic in their countenances; as if they were transported from their native country. (This means the emigration of these principles, from the eternal and inane sphere of Brahma, to the mundane world of mortality, which was very painful to them).

7. Having come out of that desert land, they set forth with their faces looking forward; and proceeded onward like the three planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter in their conjunction.

8. Their bodies which were as delicate as Sirisha flowers, were scorched by the powerful sun shining on their backs; and they were dried like leaves of trees by the heat of the summer day on their way (i. e. their tender spiritual bodies melted under the heat of the solar world).

9. Their lotus like feet were singed by the burning sands of their desert path, and they cried aloud like some tender fawns, going astray from their herd saying:—"O Father save us". (The alienated soul and mind, which are doomed to rove about in this world are subjected to endless pains, causing them to cry out like the tormented spirit of our Lord:—Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani;—Lord, Lord, hast thou forsaken me?).

10. The soles of their feet were bruised by the blades of grass, and the joints of their bodies, were weakened by the heat of the sun; while their fair forms were covered with dust flying from the ground on their lonesome journey. (Their pilgrimage in the thorny and sunny paths of the world of woes).

11. They saw the clump of a leash of trees by the way side, which were braided with tufts of spikes upon them, and loaded with fruits and flowers hanging downward; while they formed a resort for flights of the fowls of air, and flocks of the fauna; of the desert, resting both above and around them. (The copse of the three trees, means the triple states of dharma, artha and Kama, or virtue, wealth and their fruition, which are sought after by all).

12. The two first of these trees did not grow of themselves (but were reared by men); and the third which was easy of ascent, bore no seeds to produce other plants in future (i. e. virtue and wealth require to thrive by cultivation, and enjoyment which is delectable to taste, is not productive of any future good or reward).

13. They were refreshed from the fatigue of their journey, under the shade of these trees; and they halted there like the three Deities Indra, Vaya and Yama, under the umbrage of the Parijata arbour of Paradise. (The three gods—Jupiter, Eolus and Pluto, were the regents of the three regions of heaven, sky and the infernal world:—swar, bhuvar and bhur, composing the three spheres of their circuit).

14. They eat the ambrosial fruits of these trees; and drank their nectarious juice to their fill; and after decorating themselves with guluncha chaplets, they retook themselves to their journey (i. e. the intellectual powers are supported by the fruits of their acts in their journey through life).

15. Having gone a long way, they met at the mid-day a confluence of three rivers, running with its rapid currents and swelling waves. (The three streams are the three qualities of satva, rajas and tamas or of goodness, mediocrity and excess, which are commingled in all the acts of mankind).

16. One of these was a dry channel and the other two were shallow and with little water in them; and they looked like the eyes of blind men with their blinded eye-balls (i. e. the channel of satva or temperance was almost dried up, and that of rajas or mediocrity had become shallow for want of righteous deeds; but the stream of tamas or excess was in full force, owing to the unrighteous conduct of men).

17. The princes who were wet with perspiration, bathed joyfully in the almost dried up channel; as when the three gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva lave their sweating limbs, in the limpid stream of Ganges. (The three powers of the soul, like the three persons of the Puranic trinity, were respectively possessed of the three qualities of action; and yet their pure natures preferred to bathe in the pure stream of goodness—satva, as in the holy waters of heavenly Ganga—the hallowed Mandakini).

18. They sported a long while in the water, and drank some draughts of the same, which was as sweet as milk, and cheered their spirits with full satisfaction of their hearts (meaning that satwika or good conduct is sweeter far to the soul, than any other done as unjust or showy—rajas or tamas).

19. They resumed their journey, and arrived at the end of the day and about sunset, to their future abode of a new-built city, standing afar as on the height of a hill. (This new-built city was the new-made earth; to which the spirits descended from their Empyrean).

20. There were rows of flags fluttering like lotuses, in the limpid lake of the azure sky; and the loud noise of the songs of the citizens was heard at a distance.

21. Here they saw three beautiful and goodly looking houses, with turrets of gold and gems shining afar, like peaks of mount Meru under the blazing sun. (These were the human bodies, standing and walking upright upon the earth, and decorated with crowns and coronets on their heads).

22. Two of these were not the works of art, and the third was without its foundation; and the three princes entered at last into the last of these. (The two first were the bodies of men in their states of sleep and deep sleep, called swapa sopor or swapnas-somnus and sushupti-hupnos or hypnotes, which are inborn in the soul; but it is the jagrata or waking body which is the unstable work of art).

23. They entered this house, and sat and walked about in it with joyous countenances; and chanced to get three pots as bright as gold therein.

(These pots were the three sheaths of the soul, mind and of the vital principle, called the pranamaya-kosha).

24. The two first broke into pieces upon their lifting, and the third was reduced to dust at its touch. The far sighted princes however, took up the dust and made a new pot therewith? It means, that though these sheaths are as volatile as air, yet it is possible to employ the vital principle to action.

25. Then these gluttonous princes cooked in it a large quantity of corn for their food; amounting to a hundred dronas minus one, for subsistence of their whole life-time. (It means that the whole life-time of a hundred years, allotted to man in the present age of the world, is employed in consuming so many measures of food, except perhaps one Drona, which is saved by his occasional fasts during his long life).

26. The princes then invited three Brahmans (childhood, youth and age) to the fare prepared by them, two of whom (childhood and youth) were bodiless; and the third (i. e. old age) had no mouth wherewith to eat.

27. The mouthless Brahman took a hundred dronas of the rice and eat it up, because he devoured the child and youth, and the princes took the remainder of the Brahman's food for their diet (which was nothing).

28. The three princes having refreshed themselves with the relics of the Brahman's food; took their rest in the same house of their next abode, and then went out in their journey of hunting after new abodes (or repeated transmigrations).

29. Thus I have related to you, O Rama! the whole of the story of the boy and princes; now consider well its purport in your mind, and you will become wise thereby.

30. After the nurse had finished her relation of the pretty parable, the boy seemed glad at what he had heard (though it is plain without understanding its import).

31. I have told you this story, O Rama! in connection with my lecture on the subject of the mind; and it will serve to explain to you, the fabrication of the mind of this imaginary being of the world.

32. This air-built castle of the world, which has come to be taken for a reality, is like the story of the body, but a false fabrication of the old nurse's imagination. (Or old grand-mother's tale, and giving a name and form to an airy nothing).

33. It is the representation of the various thoughts and ideas of our minds, which exhibit themselves to view, according to the notions we have of them in our states of bondage and liberation (i. e. our bondage to gross bodies, exhibits them in their grosser form, and our liberation from the materialistic, shows them in their subtile and immaterial shapes).

34. Nothing is really existent except the creations of our imagination, and it is our fancy which fashions all the objects in their peculiar fantastic forms. (Everything appears to us as we fancy it to be; whereby the same thing is viewed in a different light, not only by different persons; but by the same person in a different state of mind).

35. The heavens, earth, sky and air, as also the rivers, mountains and the sides and quarters of the sky, are all creations of our fancy, like the visions in our dreams; which join and disjoin and fashion the views in their phantastic forms. (Imagination or phantasy, is a faculty representative of the phenomena of internal or external worlds. Sir William Hamilton).

36. As the princes, the rivers and the future city, were mere creations of the nurse's imagination, so the existence of the visible world, is but a production of the imaginative power of man. (The nurse's representations of the princes &c., were rather the prosopopoeia or personifications of her abstract thoughts; as the material world is a manifestation of the ideal, and called by the sufis suwari manavi and suwari zahiri).

37. The imaginative power manifests all things all around, as the moving waters, show the rise and fall of the waves in the sea. "It gives a shape of airy nothing". "It is the power of apprehending ideas and combining them into new forms and assemblages".

38. It was this imaginative power of God, which raised the ideas of things in his omniscient and all comprehensive soul; and these ideals were afterwards manifested as real by his omnipotence; just as things lying in the dark are brought to view by the light of the day. (Imaginatio est rei corporae figuram contemplari. Descartes and Addison. It is a lively conception of the objects of sight. Reid. It recalls the ideas by its reproductive fancy, and combines them by its productive power).

39. Know hence, O Rama! the whole universe to be the net-work of imagination, and your fancy to be the most active power of the mind. Therefore repress the thickening phantoms of your fleeting fancy, and obtain your tranquillity by your sole reliance on the certainty of the immutable soul of souls.

"Retire the world shut out, imagination's airy wings repress; call thy thoughts home &c." Young's Night thoughts.


The Co-Ordinate Triads


  The Three Princes or
Intellectual Powers.

1. The Soul.
2. The Mind.
3. The Living Spirit.
The Three Stages or

1. Swar--Heaven.
2. Bhuvar--Sky.
3. Bhur--Earth.
The Three Planets.

1. Jupiter.
2. Mercury.
3. Venus.
The Three Deities.

1. Indra of heaven.
2. Vayu--Air ether. sustentation.
3. Yama--Death or mortal state.
The Three Trees of Act.

1. Dharma--Acts.
2. Artha--Gains.
3. Kama--Fruition.
 The Three Rivers.

1. Satya--Goodness.
2. Rajas--Righteousness.
3. Tamas--Vice.

The Three Gods.

1. Brahma of creation.
2. Vishnu
3. Siva dissolution.

  The Three Houses of rest.

1. Sushupti--Sleep.
2. Swapna--Dream.
3. Jagrata--Waking.

The Three Pots or sheats.

1. Of the Soul Neutral.
2. Of the Mind Action.
3. Of Life to operation.

The Three Brahman guests.

1. Childhood Neutral
2. Youth Active.
3. Old age co-operation.