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 XXI - On the philosophy of the mind

Argument. Inquiry into the cause of the fulness of the mind.

Rama said:—

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Venerable sir! that art acquainted with the mysteries of all things, I have a great doubt swelling in my breast like a huge surge of the sea.

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How is it sir, that any foulness could attach to the mind, when it is situated in the eternal purity of the infinite Spirit, which is unbounded by time and space.

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Again as there is nothing, nor was there ever, nor anything ever to be at any time, or place, beside the entity of the Holy one, how and whence could this foulness come in Him?

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Vasishtha answered: Well said Rama! I see your understanding approaching to the way of your liberation, and exhaling the sweetness of the blossoms of the garden of paradise (Nandana).

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I see your understanding is capable of judging both a priori and a posteriori, and is likely to attain that acme which was gained by the gods, Sankara and others.

6. It is not now the proper time and place for you to propose this question, it should be adduced when I would come to the conclusion of the subject.¨

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This question should be asked by you when I come to the conclusion, and it will be demonstrated to you as clearly as the situation of a place in a map or globe, placed in the palm of your hand (hastamalaka).

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This question of yours will be most suitable at the end, as the sounds of the peacock and swan, are best suited to the rainy season and autumn.

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The blueness of the sky, is pleasant to look upon at the end of the rainy weather; but it is odd to speak of it during the rains. (So the question must have its proper place and occasion).

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It is best to investigate into the mind by the nature of its acts and operations, which tend to be the causes of the repeated births of mankind.

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It is by its nature, that the mind has its power of thinking, and leading all the organs and members to their several actions, as it is ascertained by the seekers of salvation.

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Men learned in the sastras and eloquent in speech, have given various appellations to the mind, in different systems of philosophy, according to its various perceptive faculties and different functions and operations in the body. (Gloss. It is called the mind (mana) from its power of minding (manana); it is termed internal sight (pasyanti) from its seeing inwardly;it is the ear (srotra) from its hearing—sravana from within, and so on).

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Whatever nature the mind assumes by the fickleness of its thoughts, it receives the same name and nature for itself, as the same fleeting air receives from its exhaling of different odours.

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So the mind delights itself with the thoughts of its desired objects, and assimilating itself into their natures.

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It receives the same form in which it delights, and which it assumes to itself in its imagination.

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The body being subject to the mind, is moulded in the same form of the mind; just as the wind is perfumed by the odour of the flowerbed, through which it passes (and the fragrance it carries).

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The inward senses being excited, actuate the outward organs of sense in their own ways, as the exciting motion of the winds, drives the dust of the earth before their course.

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The mind exerts its powers in the action of the external organs in the performance of their several functions; just as the flying winds drive the dust in different directions.

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Such are the acts of the mind which is said to be the root of action, and these combine together as inseparably as the flower and its fragrance.

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Whatever nature the mind adopts to itself by its wonted habit, the same shoots forth in the form of its two kinds of motion (the will and action).

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And according as the mind does its action, and brings about the result by its assiduity, in like manner does it enjoy the fruition thereof, and enslaves itself to the enjoyment.

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It understands that as its right course, which agrees well with its temperament; and knows for certain that there is no other way to its real good (beside its wonted course).

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Minds of different castes follow different pursuits, according to their particular proclivities; and employ themselves in the acquisition of wealth and virtues, desired objects and liberation according to their best choice.

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The mind is ascertained by the Kapila (Sankhya) philosophers, as a pure substance, like the immaterial intellect (under the title of pradhana); and this view of it is adopted in their system or sastra (in opposition to the doctrine of Vedanta).

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These men relying on the error of their own hypothesis, inculcate their supposed view of the mind to others, as the only light to guide them in the way of their salvation.

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But the professors of Vedanta doctrines, acknowledge the mind as Brahma himself; and preach peace and self-control, as the only means of the attainment of liberation.

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But that there is no other way to the salvation of the supposed mind (than by these means), is an ipse dixit of the Vedanta, and an assumed dogma (kalpitaniyama) as those of other schools.

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The Vijnanavadi philosophers also, have ascertained and upheld peace and self-government as the leaders to liberation, but this too is an effusion of their erroneous understandings.

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Thus all sects give out their own views, in the false rules they have adopted for the salvation of their supposed minds; and assert that there is no other way to it, beside what is laid down by them.

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So the Arhatas (Buddhists) and the other sectarians, have proposed a variety of fictitious methods for the liberation of the mind, of their arbitrary will in their respective sastras.[1]

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The arbitrary rules of the learned, and those unsupported by the srutis, are as numerous and varying from one another, as the bubbles of clear water (but are never lasting like the dicta of the holy writ).

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Know mighty Rama, the mind to be the source of all these rules and methods, as the sea is the source of every kind of gem (lying hid in its bosom).

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There is no innate sweetness in the sugarcane nor bitterness in the nimba, both of which are sucked by insects; nor is there any heat or cold inherent in the sun or moon (as both of them are peopled by gods and spirits). It is the intrinsic habit of the mind that makes the difference.

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Those that want to enjoy the unadulterated happiness of their souls, should habituate their minds to assimilate themselves to that happy state, and they are sure to have the same.

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The mind having fled from the sphere of the phenomenal world, becomes exempt from all its pleasure and pain, like the fledged bird flying in the air by casting its shell and leaving its cage below.

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O sinless Rama! Cherish no fondness for the phenomenal world, which is an unreal illusion, full of fear and unholiness, and is stretched out to ensnare the mind.

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The wise have styled our consciousness of the world as a magic scene (maya), an appearance of ignorance—avidya, a mere thought (bhavana), and the cause and effect of our acts.

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Know that it is the delusive mind, which stretches the visible world before thee, rub it off therefore as dirty mud from the mind.

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This visible appearance which naturally appears before thee in the form of the world, is called the production of ignorance by the wise.

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Men being deluded by it, are at a loss to know their real good, as the blinded eye is incapable to perceive the brightness of the day.

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It is the contemplation of objects (sankalpa), that presents the phenomena to our view, like arbors in the empty sky; and it is their incogitancy (asankalpana), which effaces their images from the inward and outward sights.

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It is the abstract meditation of the thoughtful yogi, that weakens the outward impressions, and by dissociating the soul from all external things, keeps it steady and sedate in itself.

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The mind being inclined to the right view of things, by its abstraction from the unreal sights, produces the clearness of the understanding, and an insouciant tranquillity of the soul.

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The mind that is regardless of realities as well as of unrealities (that is of its inward and outward reflections); and is insensible of pleasure and plain, feels in itself the delight of its singleness or unity.

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Application of the mind to unworthy thoughts, and to the internal or external sights of things, debars the soul from tasting the sweets of its solity (apart from other considerations).

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The mind that is subject to its endless desires, is like the clear firmament obscured by the clouds; and ranges in the maze of doubt between truth and untruth, as of supposing the rope for the serpent.

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Man obstructs to himself the sight of the clear firmament of his intellect, by the mist of his doubts; but he thinks it as unobstructed by his error, and indulges the fancies of his imagination which tends the more to his error.

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He takes the true, incorruptible and supreme Brahma in a different light (of base and corruptible things), as one mistakes one thing for another in the dark or in his error.

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Having got rid of his false imagination, man comes to the knowledge of true God and his happiness, as one freed from his false apprehension of a tiger in a copse, is set at rest with himself.

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The bugbear of one's (soul's) imprisonment in the vacuity (cavity) of the body, is dispersed by his insight into it, as the fear of a lion lurking in the jungle, is removed upon finding no such thing therein.

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So on looking deeply, you will find no bondage in the world; the notions that this is the world and this is myself, are only errors of the mind.

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It is flight of fancy, that fills the mind with chimeras of good and evil; just as the shade of evening, presents spectres of vetala ghosts to little children.

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Our fancies alight on us at one time, and depart at another, and assume different forms at will; just as our consorts act the part of wives in our youth, and of nurses in our old age.

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She acts the part of a house wife in her management of household affairs, and taken as a mistress, she embraces us in her bosom (or She hangs on us by the neck).

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And like an actress, the mind forgets to display its parts, when it plays another, so every body is betaken by the thoughts he has in his head, in neglect of others which are absent.

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The ignorant do not perceive the selfsame unity, in all things he beholds in the world; but they view every thing in the light, as they have its idea imprinted in their minds.

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They meet also with the results of the forms, which they have in view for the time; though they are not in reality what they seem to be, nor are they entirely false (being the idealities of their mind).

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Man views every thing in the same manner as he thinks it in himself; as his fancy of an elephant in the sky, makes him view the elephants in clouds.

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He believes these elephants pursuing their mates, in his thought;so it is the thought, that gives the outward forms of things.

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Rama! repel your drowsiness, and behold the supreme soul in thy soul; and be as a bright gem by repelling the shadows of all external things.

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It is impossible, O Rama, that one so enlightened as thyself, will receive the reflection of the world, as dull matter like others (rather than a reflection of the Spirit).

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Being certain of its immateriality, never taint thy mind with its outward colouring, or the knowledge of its reality; but know it as no way distinct from the Supreme Spirit.

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Mind in thyself the Being that is without beginning or end, and meditate on the Spirit in Spirit. Do not let the reflections of thy mind, imbue their tinge in the pure crystal of thy soul.

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Be on thy guard, as never to allow the reflections of your mind, to taint the clear crystal of thy soul; but remain unmindful of the visibles, and regardless of all worldly desires (which are causes of misery and repeated births and deaths).

Footnotes and references:


The Arhatas have seven categories:

  1. The animated and intelligent body.
  2. The inanimate and insensible body as rocks &c.
  3. The organs of sense.
  4. Ignorance or austerities, called Āvarana.
  5. Tonsure of the head called nirāvarana.
  6. Bondage to repeated births and deaths.
  7. Liberation or final emancipation.

They are divided into seven schisms, according to their belief or disbelief in this last viz.

  1. Sadvādis or believers in liberation.
  2. Asadvādis—unbelievers.
  3. Syadvādis—Sceptics.
  4. SadaSadavādis—misbelievers.
  5. Anirvachaneyavādis—Infidels.
  6. Nāstikas—Atheists.
  7. Sūnyavādīs—Vacuists.



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