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 XXIV - Investigation of the living principle

Argument: Disquisition of the Arteries and organs of the body. The seat of life and its actions.

Bhusunda continued:—

1. [Sanskrit available]
All things being thus unstable, unprofitable and unpleasant to man, there is one reality only in the view of the wise, which is beyond all error and imperishable, and which though present in all things and all places, transcends the knowledge of all.

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This essence is the soul or self, and its meditation is the remover or all sorrow and affliction. It is also the destroyer of the erroneous vision of the world, which has passed every man, and biased his understanding by his long habit of thinking this phantom of his dream as a sober reality.

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Spiritual contemplation dawns in the clear atmosphere of the unpolluted mind, and traverses amidst its whole area like the solar light, and it destroys the darkness of all sorrows and erroneous thought which over spreads it.

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Divine meditation being unaccompanied by any desire or selfish view, penetrates like the moon-beams through the darkness of the night of ignorance.

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This spiritual light is easily obtainable by Sages like you, and too difficult to be retained (dharana) by brutes like ourselves. Because it is beyond all imaginable resemblance, and is known by the ravished Sages as the transcendent light.

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How can a man of common understanding come to the knowledge of that thing, which is an associate to the clear understanding of the meditative Sage only.

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There is a little resemblance of this spiritual light, with the intellectual light of philosophers, whose minds are enlightened by the cooling moon-beams of philosophy, as those of the inspired saints are illumed with spiritual light.

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Among the associates of spiritual knowledge, there is one particularly friend by to me, which alleviates all my sorrows, and advances my prosperity, and this relates to the investigation of the vital breath which is the cause of life.

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Vasishtha said: After speaking in this manner the Sagely bird Bhusunda held his silence, when I calmly joined my rejoinder, and adduced my question to him by way of amusement, though I was full well acquainted with the subject.

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I addressed him saying, O thou long living bird, and remover of all my doubts, tell me truly, my good friend, what you mean by meditation of the vital breath (which you say to be the cause of vitality).

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Bhusunda replied: You sir, who are learned in the knowledge of vedanta, and sure remover of all doubts in spiritual science, are now by way of joke only, putting this question to me who am but a brute bird and an ignorant crow.

12. [Sanskrit available]
Or it may be to sound my shallow knowledge of the subject, and to instruct me the rest in which I am imperfect, that you like to have my answer to the question, wherein I can lay no objection (as no body is unprepared to know more and better of a subject).

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Hear me, tell you some thing relating to cogitation of vital breath, which has the cause of Bhusunda's longevity and the giver of Bhusunda's spiritual knowledge.

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You see sir, this beautiful fabric of the body, supported upon the three strong pillars or posts of the three humours; and having nine doorways about it. (The three humours are the bile, phlegm and wind, and the nine openings are the earholes, nostrils, the sockets of the eyes, the mouth).

This abode is occupied by its owner or the haughty house holder said:—

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Ahankara or egoism, who dwells in it with his favourite consort Puryashtaka, and his dependants of the Tanmatras at all times. (These terms have been explained before).

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You well know the inside of this house which I need not describe, its two ears are as its two upper storied rooms, the two eyes are as its two windows, and the hairs on the head are as its thatched covering on the top of the house.

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The opening of the mouth is the great door way to the house, the two arms are as its two wings; and the two sets of teeth answer the strings of flowers, which are hung on the gate way for its decoration.

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The organs of sense are the porters to this house, and convey the sights and sounds, flavours and feelings of things in to it. These are enclosed by the great wall of the body, and the two pupils keep watch on tower of this edifice.

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The blood, fat and flesh form the plaster of this wall, and the veins and arteries answer the strings to bind the bamboos of the bones together, and the thick bones are the big posts that uphold this fabric.

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There are two tender nerves called Ida and Pingala, which lie and stretch along the two sides of this building.

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There are three pairs of lotus like organs formed of soft flesh and bones, and these stretch up and down perpendicularly in the body, and are attached to one stalk like artery connecting them with one another.

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Then the etherial air which is inhaled through the nostrils, supplies these lotiform organs with moisture, as if it poured water at their roots, and makes them shoot out in soft leaflets, shaking gently at the breath of air, passing incessantly through the lungs and nostrils.

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The shaking leaves agitate the vital air, as the moving leaves of the trees in the forest, increase the force of the current air in the firmament.

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The inflated vital air then passes in many ways, through the holes of the entrails inside the body, and extends to and fills all the pores and canals of the frame from top to bottom.

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These then receive different appellations, according to their course through the several, and are denominated as the five fold vital airs of prana, apana, samana, udana, and vyana;by them that are skilled in science of pneumatic. (The prana-vayu is the breathing of the nostrils, the apana is the wind in ano, samana is the air circulating through the whole body, udana is the air of speech, and the vyana is the air let out through the pores of the whole body).

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All the vital powers reside in the triple lotiform organ of the heart, and thence extend up and down and on all sides like beams from the lunar disk.

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These vital powers are employed in passing in and out, in taking in and letting out, in rising and falling, and also in moving throughout the body.

28. [Sanskrit available]
The prana or air of life is said by the learned to be situated in the lotus formed organ of the heart, which has also the power of moving the eyelids in their twinklings. (Hence one's life time is measured both by the numbers of his breathings, as also by that of the twinklings of his eye).

29. [Sanskrit available]
This power some times assumes the form of touch or the feeling of perception, and at others it takes the shape of breath by blowing through the nostrils. Some times it is seated in the stomach for culinary action, and oft-times it gives utterance to speech.

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What more shall I say, than that it is our lord—the air, that moves the whole machine of the body, as a mechanic models everything by means of his machinery.

31. [Sanskrit available]
Among these there are two principal airs, by name of prana and apana, which take their two different courses upward and downward, the one is the breath of life and the other is the vitiated which is let out.

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It is by watching the course of these airs that I remain quiet at this place, and undergo the vicissitudes of heat and cold, as it is destined to the lot of the feathered tribe.

33. [Sanskrit available]
The body is a great machine, and the two airs are its indefatigable mover. It has the sun and moon or the fire and moonlight, shining in the midst of its heart.

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The body is a city and the mind is its ruler, the two airs are as the car and wheel of the body;while Egoism is the monarch of this city, and the eight members are as so many horses attached to the car of the body.

35. [Sanskrit available]
Thus by watching the motion of those airs (i.e. of the prana and apana—inspiration and expiration for the whole of my lifetime); I find the course of my life to be as interminable, as that of the continuity of my breathings. (The thought of continuity prolongs the course of life).

36. [Sanskrit available]
The airs serve the body alike in all its states of waking, dreaming, and sound sleep, and his days glide on imperceptibly who remains in his state of profound sleep. (so the yogi remaining in his trance is utterly insensible of the course of time).

37. [Sanskrit available]
These breaths being divided into a thousand threads, according as they pass through the many canals of the body, are as imperceptible as the white fibres passing inside the stalks of lotus plants.

38. [Sanskrit available]
By watching the incessant course of vital airs, as also by attending to the continued course of time, and thinking in one self of the interminable course of his respirations, and the moments of time and train of his thoughts, as also by attempting to restrain their course by the habit and practice of pranayama, that he is sure to lengthen the duration of his life in this world; and attain to his eternal life in the next.

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