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 I - Description of the evening and breaking of the assembly

Argument. said:—

The close of the day, its announcement, the court breaks for Evening service, and the effect of the Sage's sermon on the Audience.

Valmiki says:—

You have heard the relation of the subject of Stoicism or composure of the soul; attend now to that of Nirvana, which will teach you how to attain the final liberation of yourselves.[1]

2. As the chief of Sages was saying his magniloquent speech in this manner, and the princes remained mute with their intense attention to the ravishing oration of the Sage:

3. The assembled chiefs remained there as silent and motionless portraits, and forgot their devotions and duties, by being impressed in their minds with the sense and words of the Sage's speech.

4. The assemblage of Saints, was reverently pondering upon the deep sense of the words of the Sage, with their curled brows and signs of their index fingers (indicating their wonder).

5. The ladies in the Seraglio were lost in wonder, and turned upward their wondering eyes, resembling a cluster of black bees, sucking intently the nectarious honey of the new blown flowers (of the Sage's speech).

6. The glorious sun sank down in the sky, at the fourth or last watch of the day; and was shorn of his radiant beams as he was setting in the west (as a man becomes mild with his knowledge, of truth at the end of his journey through life).

7. The winds blew softly at the eve of the day, as if to listen to the sermon of the Sage, and wafted about the sweets of his moving speech, like the fragrance of the gently shaking mandara flowers.

8. All other sounds were drowned in the deep meditation of the audience, as when the humming of the bumble bees, is pushed in their repose, amidst the cell of blooming flowers at night.

9. The bubbling waters of the pearly lakes, sparkled unmoved amidst their embordered beds; as if they were intently attentive to listen to the words of the Sage, which dropped as strings of pearls from his flippant lips. (So the verse of Hafiz affixed to the title page of Sir William Jones' Persian grammar: "Thou hast spoken thy verse, and strung a string of pearls").

10. The pencil of the declining ray penetrating the windows of the palace, bespoke the halting of the departing sun, under the cooling shade of the royal canopy, after his weary journey all along the livelong day.

11. The pearly rays (or bright beams) of the parting day, being covered by the dust and mist of the dusk, it seemed to be besmeared as the body of a dervish with dust and ashes; and had gained its coolness after its journey under the burning sun (The cool and dusky eve of the day is compared with the dust-sprinkled body of the ascetic approaching to his cell).

12. The chiefs of men with their heads and hands decorated with flowers, were so regaled with the sweet speech of the Sage, that they altogether remained enrapt in their senses and minds.

13. The ladies listening to the sage, were now roused by the cries of their infants and the birds in their cages, to get up from the place and to give them their suck and food. (It means that the birds and boys, were alone insensible of the Sage's discourse).

14. Now the dust flung by the pinions of fluttering bees, covered the petals of the night blooming kumuda flowers; and the flapping chouries were now at rest, with the tremulous eyelids of the princes.

15. The rays of the sun, fearing to be waylaid by the dark night shade, which had now got loose from the dark mountain caves, fled through the windows to the inner apartment of the palace (which was already lighted with lamps).

16. The time watches of the royal palace, knowing it to be passed the fourth watch of the day, sounded aloud their drums and trumpets, mingled with the sound of conch-shells, loudly resounding on all sides.

17. The high-sounding speech of the sage, was drowned under the loud peal of the jarring instruments;as the sonorous sound of the peacock, is hushed under the uproar of roaring clouds.

18. The birds in the cages, began to quake and shake their wings with fear; and the leaves and branches of the lofty palm trees, shook in the gardens, as by a tremendous earthquake.

19. The babes sleeping on the breasts of their nurses, trembled with fear at the loud uproar; and they cried as the smoking clouds of the rainy season, resounding between the two mountain craigs resembling the breasts. (It is common in Indian poetry to compare the swelling breasts to rising hills, and say Kucha giri).

20. This noise made the helmets of the chieftains, shed the dust of their decorating flowers all about the hall; as the moving waves of the lake, sprinkle the drops of water upon the land.[2]

21. Thus the palace of Dasharatha being full of trepidation at the close of the day, regained its quiet at the gradual fall of the fanfare of sounding conch shells, and the hubbub of drum beatings at the advance of night.

22. The Sage put a stop to his present discourse, and addressed Rama then sitting in the midst of the assembly, in a sweet voice and graceful language. (Mudhura-Vritti is the middle or graceful style between the high and low).

Vasishtha said:—

23. O Raghava! I have already spread before you the long net of my verbosity; do you entrap your flying mind in the same way, and bring it to your bosom and under your subjection.

24. Take the purport of my discourse in such manner, as to leave out what is unintelligible, and lay hold on its substance; as the swan separates and sucks the milk which is mixed with water.

25. Ponder upon it repeatedly, and consider it well in thy mind, and go on in this way to conduct yourself in life (viz by suppression of your desires, weakening the mind, restraining the breathing, and acquiring of knowledge).

26. By going on in this manner, you are sure to evade all dangers; or else you must fall ere long like the heavy elephant, in some pitfall of the Vindhya mountain. (Pitfalls are the only means of catching elephants).

27. If you do not receive my words with attention, and act accordingly, you are sure to fall into the pit like a blind man left to go alone in the dark; and to be blown away like a lighted lamp, exposed in the open air.

28. In order to derive the benefit of my lectures, you must continue in the discharge of your usual duties with indifference, and knowing insouciance to be the right dictum of the sastras, be you regardless of everything besides.

29. Now I bid you, O mighty monarch, and ye, princes and chiefs, and all ye present in this place, to get up and attend to the evening services of your daily ritual. (Abnika).

30. Let all attend to this much at present, as the day is drawing to its close; and we shall consider the rest, on our meeting in the next morning.

Valmiki related:—

31. After the Sage had said so far, the assembly broke, off; and the assembled chiefs and princes rose up, with their faces blooming as the full blown lotuses at the end of the day.

32. The Chiefs having paid their obeisance to the monarch, and made their salutation to Rama, they did their reverence to the sage, and departed to their respective abodes.

33. Vasishtha rose up from his seat with the royal sage Viswamitra, and they were saluted on their departure by the aerial spirits, who had attended the audience all along.

34. The Sages were followed closely, by the king and chieftains a long way, and they parted after accosting them, according to their rank and dignity on the way;

35. The celestials took their leave of the sage, and betook to their heavenward journey;and the munis repaired to their hermitages in the woods, when some of the saints turned about the palace, like bees flying in about the lotus bush (different directions).

36. The king having offered handfuls of fresh flowers at the feet of Vasishtha, entered the royal seraglio with his royal consorts.

37. But Rama and his brother princes, kept company with the sage to his hermitage; and having prostrated themselves at his feet, they returned to their princely mansions.

38. The hearers of the sage having arrived at their houses made their ablutions;then worshipped the gods, and offered their offerings to the manes of their ancestors. They then treated their guests and gave alms to beggars.

39. Then they took their meals with their Brahman guests, and members of the family; and their dependants and servants were fed one after the other, according to the rules and customs of their order and caste.

40. After the sun had set down, with the diurnal duties of men, there rose the bright moon on high, with impositions of many nocturnal duties on mankind.

41. At last the great king and the princes, and chiefs of men and the munis, together with the sages and saints, and all other terrestrial beings, betook themselves to their several beds, with silken coverlets and bed cloths of various kinds.

42. They lay thinking intensely in themselves, on the admonitions of the sage Vasishtha; on the mode of their passing over the boisterous gulf of this world, by means of this spiritual knowledge.

43. Then they slept and lay with their closed eyelids, for one watch of the night only; and then opened their eyes, like the opening buds of lotuses, to see the light of the day.

44. Rama and his brother princes, passed full three watches of the night in waking; and pondering over the deep sense of the lectures, of their spiritual guide—Vasishtha. (The present ritual allots three watches of the night to sleep, while formerly they gave but one watch to it).

45. They slept only one and a half watch of the night, with their closed eye lids; and then they shook off the dullness of their sleep, after driving the lassitude of their bodies by a short nap.

46. Now the minds of these, being full of good will, raised by the rising reason in their souls, and knowledge of truth; they felt the crescent of spiritual light lightening their dark bosoms, as the sextant of the moon, illumes the gloom of night; which afterwards disappeared at the approach of daylight, and the gathering broils of daytime.

Footnotes and references:


Note. Nirvāna or ultimate annihilation of the living or animal soul, being the aim and end of Buddhism, it is doubtful whether Vasishtha had derived his doctrine from the Buddhists or they from him.


In this verse there is the continuation of the world shaking understood through the intermediate steps. Thus the noise startled the chiefs, which shook their bodies, and these shook their heads, which caused their helmets to shake: these again shook the garlands of flowers upon them, and at last shed their dust on the ground. This kind of figure is called Krama māla corresponding with Metalepsis gradation;as we have in the following instance of Dido's exclamation in Virgil. "Happy, Oh truly happy had I been; if Trojan ships these coasts had never seen." Here the first seeing is that of the ships and then of the Trojans in them, and afterwards of Æneas as one among them, and then of her seeing him, and his seeing her, and lastly of her passion at his sight.