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 CXXVI - Description of the spiritual state

Argument:—The seven stages of yoga Meditation, and the true state of spirituality.

Rama said:—

1. Tell me sir, the practices of the seven stages of yoga; and the characteristics of yogis in every stage.

Vasishtha related:—

2. Know Rama, mankind to be divided into two classes of the zealous and resigned (i.e. the active and the inactive); the one expectant of heavenly reward, and the other inclined to supreme felicity. Know now their different characters as follows:—

3. Those that are addicted to enjoyments, think the quietude of nirvana as nothing to their purpose, and give preference to worldliness above the final bliss of others; and he that acts his part on this sense, is styled an active and energetic man.

4. Such a man of the world bears his resemblance to a tortoise, which though it has its neck well hid in its shell, still stretches it out to drink the salt water of the sea it inhabits; until after many births, he gets a better life for his salvation (as when the tortoise is removed to a lake of fresh water).

5. But he who reflects on the nothingness of the world, and the uselessness of his situation in it; such a man does not allow himself to be carried on, by the current of his old and rotatory course of duties here in day after day.

6. And he who reflects in himself, after being released from the burden of his business, on the delight of his rest after labour, he is the man who is said to repose in his quiescence.

7. When a man comes to reconnoitre in himself, how he shall become dispassionate, and get over the boisterous ocean of the world; such a man is said to have come to his good and right sense, and to stand on the way to his tolerance.

8. He who has an unfeelingness in his heart, of the very many thoughts that daily rise in his mind; and manages his gravest and greatest concerns, without being much concerned about them in his mind; each a man is said to taste the delight of his stayedness day by day.

9. He who condemns the rustic amusements and mean employments of men;and instead of taking up the faults and failings of others for his merry talk, employs himself to meritorious acts.

10. Whose mind, is engaged in agreeable tasks and unpainsome acts; who is afraid of sin, and disdains all pleasures and bodily enjoyments.

11. Whose discourses are full of love and tenderness, and appropriate without any harshness; and whose speeches are suitable to the time and place in which they are delivered.

12. Such a man is said to stand on the first step of yoga, when he makes it his duty to attend the society of the good and great, whom he learns to imitate in his thoughts, words, and actions.

13. He collects also the work on divine learning from every where, and reads with attention and diligence; he then considers their contexts, and lays hold on the tenets, which serve to save him from this sinful world.

14. Such a man is said to have come upon the (first) stage of yoga, or else he is a hypocrite who assumes the guise of a yogi for his own interest only. The yogi then comes to the next step of yoga, which is styled the stage of investigation—Vichara.

15. He then hears from the mouths of the best pandits, the explanations of the srutis and smritis, the rules of good conduct, and the manner of meditation and conduct of yoga practice.

16. He then learns the divisions of categories and distinction of things, together with the difference between actions that are to be done or avoided; all which being heard from the mouth of an adept in yoga, will facilitate his course through the other stages, in like manner as the master of a house enters with facility into every apartment of his dwelling. (The guidance of a guru or spiritual guide, is essential to the practice of yoga).

17. He wears off his outer habit of pride and vanity, his jealousy and avarice, and the other passions which formed as it were an outer garment of his person, as a snake casts off his slough from him.

18. Having thus purified his mind (from the vile passions), he attends to the service of his spiritual preceptors and holy persons, and makes himself acquainted with the mysteries of religion. (This is the second stage of yoga, which is one of moral discipline and search after truth).

19. He then enters into the third stage of unsociality or avoidance of all company, which he finds to be as agreeable to him as a bed of flowers. (Lit.: a bedstead be strewn with flowers).

20. Here he learns to fix his mind to its steadiness, according to the dictates of the sastras; and passes his time in talking on spiritual subjects, in society of hermits and devotees.

21. He sits also with the dispassionate Vairagis, and religious recluses sanyasis who are disgusted with the world; and relying on the firm rock of his faith, he wears out his long life with ease.

22. He passes his moral life with cheerful delight of his loneliness, and pleasing tranquillity of his mind in his woodland retreat and wanderings.

23. By study of holy books and performance of religious acts, he gets a clear view of things, as it generally attends upon the virtuous lives of men.

24. The sensible man who has arrived to the third stage of his yoga practice, perceives in himself two kinds of his unconnectedness with the world, as you will now hear from me.

25. Now this disconnection of one with all others is of two sorts, one of which is his ordinary disassociation with all persons and things, and the other is his absolute unconnection with every thing including himself. (i.e. One's entire irrelation with both the subjective and objective).

26. The ordinary unconnection is the sense of one's being neither the subject or object of his action, nor of his being the slayer of or slain by anybody; but that all accidents are incidental to his prior acts (of past lives), and all dependant to the dispensations of Providence.

27. It is the conviction that, I have no control over my happiness or misery or pain or pleasure; and that all prosperity and adversity, employment and privation, and health and disease, ever betide me of their own accord.

28. All union is for its disunion, and all gain is for its loss; so the health and disease and pain and pleasure come by turns, and there is nothing which is not succeeded by its reverse. Because time with its open jaws, is ever ready to devour all things.

29. The negative idea of inexistence, which is produced in the mind, from our want of reliance in the reality of things;is the very sense which is conveyed by the phrase of our ordinary unconnection with all things.

30. With this sort of the disunion of every thing in the mind, and our union with the society of high minded men; and disassociation with the vile and unrighteous, and association with spiritual knowledge:—

31. These joined with the continual exertion of our manliness in our habitual practice of these virtues, one assuredly arrives to the certain knowledge of what he seeks (i.e. his god), as clearly as he sees a globe set in his hands.

32. The knowledge of the supreme author of creation, sitting beyond the ocean of the universe, and watching over its concerns;impresses us with the belief, that it is not I but God that does every thing in the world, and that there is nothing that is done here by me, but by the great God Himself.

33. Having left aside the thought of one's self agency on any act, whoso sits quiet silent and tranquil in himself, such a one is said to be absolutely unconnected with every thing in the world.

34. He that does not reside within or without anything, nor dwells above or beneath any object; who is not situated in the sky, or in any side or part of the all surrounding air and space; who is not in anything or in nothing, and neither in gross matter nor in the sensible spirit.

35. Who is present and manifest in every thing, without being expressed in any; and who pervades all things like the clear firmament, who is without beginning and end and birth and death. Whoso seeks this Lord of all, is said to be set in the best part of this stage.

36. Contentment is as sweet fragrance in the mind, and virtuous acts are as handsome as the leaves of a flower; the heart string is as stalk beset by the thorns of cares and anxieties, and thralls with the gusts of dangers and difficulties.

37. The flower of inward discrimination, is expanded like the lotus-bud, by the sun-beams of reason, and produces the fruit of resignation in the garden of the third stage of yoga-practice.

38. As it is by association with holy men, and by means of the assemblage of virtuous acts, that one arrives on a sudden to the first stage of yoga:—

39. So is this first step to be preserved with care, and grown up like a tender sprout, with the watering of reasoning at its root (in order to lead it to the succeeding steps or stages).

40. The yoga practitioner like a good gardener, must foster the rising plant of spiritual knowledge, by the daily application of reasoning to every part of it. (The parts of the plant of spirituality, are its dispassionateness, unworldliness and the like, which require to be reared up by proper reasoning).

41. This stage being well managed, and all its parts being properly performed, introduces the succeeding stages (all of which depend on the first as their basis).

42. Now the better state of the third stage, as it has been already described, is one of all desires and arrogations in the mind of the yogi.

Rama said:—

43. Now tell me sir, what is the way of the salvation of an ignorant man, of one of a base birth, and addicted to baseness himself; who has never associated with the yogis, nor received any spiritual instruction.

44. Who has never ascended on any of the first, second or succeeding stages of yoga, and is dead in the like state of ignorance in which he was born.

Vasishtha replied:—

45. The ignorant man that has never attained to any of the states of yoga in his whole life, is carried by the current of his transmigration to rove in a hundred births, until he happens by some chance or other, to get some glimpse of spiritual light in any one of them.

46. Or it may be that one happens to be dissatisfied with the world, by his association with holy men; and the resignation which springs thereby, becomes the ground of one of the stages of his yoga.

47. By this means, the man is saved from this miserable world; because it is the united voice of all the sastras, that an embodied being is released from death, no sooner he has passed through any one stage of yoga (or union with his maker).

48. The performance of a part only of some of the stages of yoga, is enough for the remission of past sins; and for conducting the expurgated person to the celestial abode in a heavenly car. (The wicked man turning from his wickedness, and doing what is right and saveth his soul).

49. He enjoys the Parnassian groves of Sumeru in company with his beloved, when the weight of his righteous acts, outweighs those of unrighteousness.

50. The yogi, released from the trap of his temporal enjoyments, and has passed his allotted period; expires in due time, to be reborn in the houses of yogis and rich men, or in the private mansions of learned, good and virtuous people.

51. Being thus born, he betakes himself to the habitual practice of the yoga of his former birth; and has the wisdom to begin at once at the stage to which he was practiced, and which was left unfinished before (hence arises the difference in the capacities of youth).

52. These three stages, Rama, are designated the waking state; because the yogi retains in them his perception of the differences of things, as a waking man perceives the visible to differ from one another.

53. Men employed in yoga acquire a venerable dignity (in their very appearance), which induce the ignorant to wish for their liberation also (in order to attain to the same rank).

54. He is reckoned a venerable man, who is employed in all honorable deeds, and refrains from what is dishonourable, who is steadfast in the discharge of all his social duties, whether they are of the ordinary kind or occasional ones.

55. He who acts according to customary usage, and the ordinances of sastras; who act conscientiously and according to his position; and thus dispenses all his affairs in the world, is verily called a venerable man.

56. The venerableness of yogis germinates in the first stage, it blossoms in the second, and becomes fruitful in the third stage of yoga.

57. The venerable yogi dying in state of yoga, comes first to enjoy the fruition of good desires for a long time (in his next birth); and then becomes a yogi again (for the completion of his yoga).

58. The practice of the parts enjoyed in the three first stages of yoga, serves to destroy at first the ignorance of the yogi, and then sheds the light of true knowledge in his mind, as brightly as the beams of full-moon illume the sky at night.

59. He who devotes his mind to yoga, with his undivided attention from first to last, and sees all things in one even and same light, is said to have arrived to the fourth stage of yoga.

60. As the mistake of duality disappears from sight, and the knowledge of unity shines supremely bright; the yogi is said in this state to have reached the fourth stage of yoga, when he sees the world as a vision in his dream.

61. The first three stages, are represented as the waking state of the yogi; but the fourth is said to be the state of his dreaming, when the visibles disappear from his sight; as the dispersed clouds of autumn gradually vanish from sight, and as the scenes in a dream recede to nothingness.

62. They are said to be in the fifth stage, who have their minds lying dormant in them, and insensible of their bodily sensations. This is called the sleeping state or hypnotism of yoga meditation.

63. In this state there is an utter stop of feelings, of the endless varieties of things and their different species, in the mind of the yogi, who relies in his consciousness of an undivided unity only; and whose sense of a duality is entirely melted down and lost in the cheerfulness of his wakeful mind.

64. The fifth stage is likewise a state of sound sleep, when the yogi loses all his external perceptions, and sits quiet with his internal vision within himself.

65. The continued sedateness of his posture, gives him the appearance of his dormancy, and the yogi continues in this position, the practice of the mortification of all his desires.

66. This step leads gradually to the sixth stage, which is a state of insensibility both of the existence and inexistence of things as also of one's egoism and non-egoism (of his own entity and non-entity).

67. The yogi remains unmindful of everything, and quite unconscious of the unity or duality, and by being freed from every scruple and suspicion in his mind, he arrives to the dignity of living liberation. (This tetrastich is based on the sruti which says, [Sanskrit: bhidyate hadayagranyi, chidyate svvammshyayah tasmindvashte paravare]).

68. The yogi of this sort though yet inextinct or living, is said to be extinct or dead to his sensibility; he sits as a pictured lamp which emits no flame, and remains with a vacant heart and mind like an empty cloud hanging in the empty air.

69. He is full within and without him, with and amidst the fulness of divine ecstasy, like a full pot in a sea; and possest of some higher power, yet he appears as worthless on the outside.

70. After passing his sixth grade, the yogi is led to the seventh stage; which is styled a state of disembodied liberation, from its purely spiritual nature.

71. It is a state of quietude which is unapproachable (i.e. inexpressible) by words, and extends beyond the limits of this earth; it is said to resemble the state of Siva by some, and that of Brahma by others. (The two views of the Tantrikas and Vedantists).

72. By some it is said to be the state of the androgyne deity, or the indiscriminate of the male and female powers; while others have given many other denominations to it, according to their respective fancies. (The other systems have different appellations to designate this state).

73. The seventh is the state of the eternal and incomprehensible God, and which no words can express nor explain in any way. Thus Rama, have I mentioned to you the seven stages of yoga (each branding the other in its perfections).

74. By practice of these perfections, one evades the miseries of this world; and it is by subjection of the indomitably elephantine senses, that one can arrive to these perfections.

75. Hear me relate to you Rama, of a furious elephant, which with its protruded tusks, was ever ready to attack others.

76. And as this elephant was about to kill many men, unless it could be killed by some one of them; so are the senses of men like ferocious elephants of destruction to them.

77. Hence every man becomes victorious in all the stages of yoga, who has the valour of destroying this elephant of its sensuality the very first step of it.

Rama said:—

78. Tell me sir, who is this victorious hero in the field of battle, and what is the nature of this elephant that is his enemy, and what are these grounds of combat where he encounters him, and the manner how he foils and kills this great foe of his.

Vasishtha replied:—

79. Rama! it is our concupiscence which has the gigantic figure of this elephant, and which roams at random in the forest of our bodies, and sports in the demonstrations of all our passions and feelings.

80. It hides itself in the covert of our hearts, and has our acts for its great tusks; its fury is our ardent desire of anything, and our great ambition is its huge body.

81. All the scenes on earth are the fields for its battle, where men are often foiled in their pursuit of any.

82. The elephant of concupiscence kills members of miserly and covetous men, in the state of their wish or desire, or exertions and effort, or longing and hankering after anything.

83. In this manner does this fierce greediness, lurk in the sheath of human breast under the said several names, and it is only our forbearance from those desires, that serves as the great weapon of their destruction.

84. This ubiquious desire of our possession of everything in the world, is conquered by reflection on the ubiquity of the soul in all of them;and that the unity of my soul, stretches over and grasps all things that I covet.

85. He is doomed to suffer under the colic pain of this venomous avarice, who minds to continue in this world, in the manner as it goes on with the rest of mankind.

86. It is the mitigation of the smart poison of avarice, that is our highest wisdom, and it is our liberation, when the calm and cooling countenance of inappetency appears to our sight.

87. Words of advice stick to the sapient mind, as drops of oil adhere on glass mirror; and that our indifference to the world is the only preventive of its thorns, and is the best advice to the wise.

88. It is as advisable to destroy a desire by the weapon of indifference, no sooner it rises in the breast, as it is proper to root out the sprout of a poisonous plant, before it spreads itself on the ground.

89. The concupiscent soul, is never freed from its miserliness; while the mere effort of one's indifference, makes it set quiet in itself (without cringing at others).

90. It is by your carelessness about everything, and by your lying down as supine as a dead carcass, that you can kill your desire by the weapon of your indifference, as they catch and kill fishes with hooks (by sitting silent beside some pond or lake).

91. Let this be mine or that I may have it, is what is called desire by the wise; and the want of every desire for wealth &c., is called resignation by them.

92. Know that the remembrance of some thing, is alike the desire of having the same in one's possession again; and it includes both what was enjoyed before or next.

93. O high minded Rama, you must learn to remain as a block in your mind, by forgetting whatever you think of or otherwise; all of which must be buried in oblivion, for your estrangement from the world. (Retire, the world shut out, imagination's airy wing repress—Young).

94. Who will not lift up his arms, and have his hairs standing at their end, to hear and reflect in himself that, want of desire is the summum bonum of every one's desire. (Desire of nothing is the most desirable thing, is a paralogism in logic).

95. It is by sitting quite silent and quiet, that one attains to the state of his supreme felicity, a state before which the sovereignty of the world seems as a straw.

96. As a traveller traverses on foot through many regions, in order to reach to his destination, so the yogi passes through all his ordinary acts, to reach his goal of final bliss.

97. What is the good of using many words, when it can be expressed in a few; that our desire is our strongest bondage, and its want our complete liberation.

98. Now Rama, rest quiet in your joy, with knowing that all this creation is full of the increate, everlasting, undecaying and tranquil spirit of God; and sit quiet and delighted in yourself with viewing the visibles in their spiritual sense.

99. Know that it is the ignoring of every thing and the quiet posture of the yogi, which is called as yoga by the spiritual; and continue to discharge your duties even in your yoga state, until you get rid of them by the privation of your desires.

100. It is also the unconsciousness of one's self, which is likewise styled yoga by the wise; and it consists of the entire absorption of one's self in the supreme, by wasting away his mind and all its operations.

101. Again this self absorption is the conceiving of one's self, as he is the all pervasive spirit of Siva, which is increate, self-conscious and ever benevolent to all. This conception of one's self is tantamount to his renunciation of every thing besides himself.

102. He who has the sense of his egoism and meism (i.e. that this is I and these are mine), is never released from the miseries of life; it is the negation of this sensation that produces our liberation, and therefore it is at the option of every body, to do either this or that for his bondage or salvation.