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...

Argument: Ignorance and its bonds of Erroneous conceptions, and reliance on temporal objects, and the ways of getting release from them, by means of good understanding and right reasoning.

Vasishtha continued:—

1. [Sanskrit available]
Therefore this world with all its moving and unmoving beings is nothing (or no being at all). There is nothing that has its real being or entity, except the one true Ens that thou must know. (all beings are not being except the one self-existing Being. So says Sadi. All this is not being and thyself art the only being. Haman nestand anchi hastitue, so also the sruti Toam asi nanyadasti. Tu est nullum est).

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Seek him O Rama! who is beyond our thought and imagination, and comprises all entity and non-entity in himself, and cease to seek any living being or any thing in existence. (In Him is all life and every thing, that is or is not in Being and he is the source of life and light).

3. [Sanskrit available]
I would not have my heart to be enticed and deceived by the false attachments and affections of this world; all which are as delusive, as our misconception of a snake in a rope. (All our earthly relations with our relatives and properties, are deception that are soon detected by our good sense and reason, and they vanish as soon as our mistake of the snake in rope. Therefore let no worldly tie bind down thy heart to this earth).

4. [Sanskrit available]
Ignorance of the soul is the cause of our error of conceiving the distinctions of things; but the knowledge of the selfsame soul puts an end to all distinctions of knowledge of the reality of things, distinctive knowledge of existences—bheda jnana is erroneous; but their generalization—abheda jnana leads to right reasoning.

5. [Sanskrit available]
They call it ignorance avidya, when the intellect is vitiated by its intellection of the intelligibles or chetyas, but the intelligibles being left out, it comes to know the soul which is free from all attributes.

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The understanding only is the embodied soul purusha, which is lost upon the loss of the understanding; but the soul is said to last as long as there is understanding in the body, like the ghatambare or air in the pot lasts with the lasting of the pot, and vanishes upon the loss or breaking of the vessel. (The soul lasts with the intellect in the body, but flies away upon the intellect's desertion of it. This is maintained by sruti).

7. [Sanskrit available]
The wandering intellect sees the soul to be wandering, and the sedate understanding thinks, it to be stationary, as one perceives his breath of life to be slow or quick, according as he sits still or runs about. In this manner the bewildered understanding finds the soul to be distracted also. (The temperament of the mind is attributed to the soul, which is devoid of all modality).

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The mind wraps the inward soul with the coverlet of its various desires, as the silkworm twines the thin thread of its desires round about itself; which its wants of reason prevent it from understanding. (The word in the text is balavat boyishness, which is explained in the gloss to mean nirvivekatwa or want of reason, and applied to the mind, means puerile foolishness).

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Rama said I see sir, that when our ignorance becomes too gross and solid, it becomes as dull and solid as stone; but tell me O venerable sir, how it becomes as a fixed tree or any other immovable substance.

Vasishtha replied:—

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The human intellect not having attained its perfect state of mindlessness, wherein it may have its supreme happiness and yet falling from its state of mindfulness, remains in the midmost position of a living and immovable plant or of an insensible material substance. (The middle state is called tatastha bhava, which is neither one of perfect sensibility nor impassivity).

11. [Sanskrit available]
It is impossible for them to have their liberation, whose organs of the eight senses lie as dormant and dumb and blind and inert in them as in any dull and dirt matter: and if they have any perception, it is that pain only. (The puryastaka are the eight internal and external organs of sense instead of the ten organs casandria. By dormancy is meant their want of reason, and muteness and blindness express respectively the want of their faculties of sensation and action, inertness means here the want of mental action.

Rama rejoined:—

12. [Sanskrit available]
O sir, that best knowest the knowables! that the intellect which remains as unshaken as a fixed tree, with its reliance in the unity and without its knowledge of duality, approximates its perfection and approaches very near to its liberation (contrary to what thou sayest now, regarding impossibility of the dormant minds arriving to its freedom).

13. [Sanskrit available]
Vasishtha replied: Rama! we call that to be the perpetual liberation of the soul, which follows persuasion of one common entity, after its rational investigation into the natures of all other things and their false appearances. (or else the blind torpidity of the irrational yogi, amounts rather to his bondage to ignorance than the liberation of his soul from it).

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A man is then only said to have reached to his state of solity kaivalya, when he understands the community of all existence in the unity, and forsakes his desire for this thing and that. (But is said in sundry places of this work that the abandonment of the knowledge of the subjective and as well as of the objective, which constitutes the true liberation of the soul; which means the taking of the subject and object of thought and all other duties in nature in one self-existent unity and not to forget them all at once). (So says Sadi, when I turned out duality from my door I came to knowledge of one in all).

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One is then said to recline in Brahma who is inclined to his spiritual Contemplation, after his investigation of divine knowledge in the sastras, and his discussion on the subject in the company of the learned doctors in divinity. (The unlearned religionist is either a zealot or an opiniatre—abhakta tatwa jnani).

16. One who is dormant in his mind and has the seed of his desire lying latent in his heart, resembles an unmoving tree, bearing the vegetative seed of future regenerations (transmigrations) within its bosom.

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All those men are called blocks who liken the blocks of wood and stone, and to be lack brains who lack their brain work, and whose desires are gone to the rack. These men possessing the property of dulness as of dull matter, are subject to the pains of repeated births, recurring like the repetends of their remaining desires. (The doctrine of transmigration is, that the wish being father to the thought, every one meets with his lot in his next birth, as it is thought of or fostered by him in his present life. [Sanskrit: vasana eva pratyavrittikaranam]).

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All stationary and immovable things, which are endowed with the property of dull matter, are subject to repeated reproductions. (Owing to the reproductive seed which is inborn in them, like the inbred desire of living beings), though they may long continue in their dormant state (like images of saints in their trance).

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Know O pure hearted Rama! the seed of desire is as inbred in the breasts of plants, as the flowers are inborn in the seeds and the earthenwares are contained in the clay. (The statue says, Aristotle lies hid in the wood, and the gem in the stone, and require only the chisel of the carver and statuary to bring them out).

20. [Sanskrit available]
The heart that contains the fruitful seed of desire in it, can never have its rest or consummation even in its dormant state; but this seed being burnt and fried to its unproductiveness (by means of divine knowledge), it becomes productive of sanctity, though it may be in its full activity.

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The heart that preserves the slightest remnant of any desire in it, it again filled with its full growth to luxuriance; as the little remainder of fire or the enemy, and of a debt and disease, and also of love and hatred, is enough to involve one in his ruin as a single drop of poison kills a man. (This stanza occurs in Chanakya's Excerpta in another form, meaning to say that, "No wise man should leave their relic, lest they grow as big as before [Sanskrit: punasva bhavati tasmadyasmat sesam na karayet]).

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He who has burnt away the seed of his desire from any thing, and looks upon the world with an even eye of indifference, is said to be perfectly liberated both in his embodied state in this earth, as also in his disembodied or spiritual form of the next world, and is no more subjected to any trouble (Subjection to desire is deadly pain and freedom from it is perfect bliss. Or as it is said:—Desire is a disease and its want is ease. [Sanskrit: aashayei param dukham nairashyam paramamsukham]. Again our hopes and fears in constant strife, are both the bane of pig man life [Sanskrit: bhayasha jivapashah] &c.

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The intellectual power which enveloped by the seed of mental desire, supplies it with moisture for its germinating both in the forms of animals and vegetables every where (i.e. The divine power which inheres in the embryos of our desires, causes them to develope in their various forms).

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This inherent power resides in the manner of productive power in the seeds of living beings, and in that of inertness in dull material bodies. It is of the nature of hardness in all solid substances, and that of tenuity in soft and liquid things. (i.e. The divine power forms the particular properties of things, and causes them to grow and remain in their own ways).

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It exhibits the ash colour in ashes, and shows the particles in the dust of the earth; it shows the sableness of all swarthy things, and flashes in the whiteness of the glittering blade.

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It is the spiritual power which assumes the communal form and figure, in which it resides in the community of material things, as a picture, a pot (ghata-pata) and the like. (The vanity of the unity is expressed in the words of Veda "the one in many."[illegible Sanskrit])

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It is in this manner that the divine spirit fills the whole phenomenal world, in its universally common nature, as overspreading cloud, fills the whole firmament in the rainy season.

I have thus expounded to you the true nature swarupa said:—

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of the unknown Almighty power, according to my best understanding, and as far as it had been ascertained by the reasoning of the wise: that it fills all and is not the all itself, and is the true entity appearing as no entity at all.

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It is our want of the sight of this invisible spiritual power, that leads us to erroneous conception of the entity of the external world, but a slight sight of this almighty Ens, removes all our pains in this scene of vanity.

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It is our dimsightedness of Almighty power, which is styled our blindness or ignorance [Sanskrit: avidya] by the wise. It is this ignorance which give rise to the belief of the existence of the world, and thereby produces all our errors and misery.

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Who is so freed from this ignorance and beholds the glorious light of God full in his view; he finds his darkness disappear from his sight, as the icicles of night melt away at the appearance of solar light.

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The ignorance of a man flies off like his dream, after he wakes from his sleep, and wishes to recall his past vision of the night.

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Again when a man betakes himself to ponder well the properties of the object before him, his ignorance flies away from before his face, as darkness flies at the approach of light.

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As darkness recedes from a man, that advances to explore into it with a lamp in his hand, and as butter is melted down by application of heat, so is one's ignorance dispelled and dissolved by application of the light and the rise of reason.

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As one pursuing after darkness sees a lighted torch in his hand, sees but a blaze of light before, and no shadow of darkness about him;so the inquirer after truth perceives the light of truth, shining to his face and no vestige of untruth left behind him.

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In this manner doth ignorance (Avidya) fly away and disappear at the sight of the light of reason; and although an unreal nothing, she appears as something real, wherever there is the want of reason. (Hence all unreasoning men are the most ignorant).

37. [Sanskrit available]
As the great mass of thick darkness, disappears into nothing at the advance of light; it is in the same manner that the substantiality of gross ignorance, is dissolved into unsubstantiality at the advancement of knowledge. (so the advancement of inductive science, has put flight the dogmatic doctrines of old).

38. [Sanskrit available]
Unless one condescends to examine in a thing, it is impossible for him to distinguish it from another (as the shell from silver and rope for the snake); but upon his due examination of it, he comes to detect the fallacy of his prejudgment (as those of the silver and snake in the shell and the rope).

39. [Sanskrit available]
He who stoops to consider whether the flesh or blood or bones of his bodily frame, constitutes his personality, will at once perceive that he is none of these, and all these are distinct from himself. (The personality of a man consisting in his soul, and not in any part or whole of his body).

40. [Sanskrit available]
And as nothing belonging to the person makes the persons, but something beyond it that forms one's personality; so nothing in the world from its first to last is that spirit, but some thing which has neither its beginning nor end, is the eternal and infinite spirit. (The same is the universal soul).

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Thus ignorance being got over there remains nothing whatever, except the one eternal soul which is the adorable Brahma and substantial whole.

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The unreality of ignorance is evident from the negative term of negation and ignoring of its essentiality, and requires no other proof to disprove its essence; as the relish of a thing is best proved by the tongue and no other organ of sense. (The term Avidya signifying the want of vidya—knowledge and existence ([Sanskrit: vidyamanata]).

43. [Sanskrit available]
There is no ignorance nor inexistence except the intelligence and existence of God, who pervade over all visible and invisible natures, which are attributed with the appellations of existence and inexistence. (The whole being God (to Pan—the All) there is no existence or inexistence without Him).

44. [Sanskrit available]
So far about Avidya, which is not the knowledge but ignorance of Brahma; and it is the dispersion of this ignorance which brings us to the knowledge of God.

45. [Sanskrit available]
The belief of this, that and all other things in the world, are distant and distinct from Brahma, is what is called Avidya or ignorance of him; but the belief that all things visible in the world, is the manifestation of omnipresence, causes the removal of ignorance, by presenting us to the presence of God.


The following lines of the English poet, will be found fully to illustrate the divine attribute of omnipresence in the pantheistic doctrine of Vedanta and Vasishtha, as shown in this chapter et passen.

All are but parts, of one stupendous whole, Whose body nature is, and God the soul;

That, changed through all, and yet in all the same; Great in the earth, as in the etherial frame; Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze; Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees; Lives through all life, extends through all extent, Spreads undivided, operates unspent;

Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part. As full as perfect, in a pair as heart:

As full as perfect, in vile man that mourns, As in the rapt seraph, that adores and burns;To him no high, now, no great, no small; He fills, he bounds, connects and equals all.

Pope's Mortal Essays I. IX.

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