Laghu Yoga Vasishta
Laghu Yoga Vasishta
Translation by K. Narayanaswami Aiyer
Published by The Adyar Library And Research Centre
E-Text Source: archive.org
THE YOGA-VASISTHA is a popular text on Advaita Vedanta, Puranic in form and philosophical in content. It is also known by other names like Arsa Ramayana, Jnana Vasistha, Maha Ramayana, Vasistha Ramayana and Vasistha and is ascribed to sage Valmiki himself. It is in the form of replies given by Vasistha to Sri Rama's queries regarding philosophical problems of life and death, and human suffering, and treats the essentials of Advaita Vedanta. It seems to advocate the dristi sristi vada which holds that the world exists only so long as it is perceived: mano drsyam idam sarvam 'the whole world of things is the object of the mind'.
The Laghu-Yoga-Vasistha is an abridged version of the Yoga-Vasistha, compiled by one Abhinanda of Kashmir. For the first three Prakaranas there is a commentary called Vasistha Candrika by Atman Suka, and for the last three Prakaranas, Mummidi Devaraya wrote the Samsaratarani commentary (both published with the text, Nirnayasagar Press, Bombay, 1888).
This English rendering of the Laghu-Yoga-Vasistha by the late K. Narayanaswamy Aiyer was first published in 1896 (Thomson & Co., Madras) and then in 19I4 (Hoe & Co., Madras). It is a free translation trying to present the ideas contained in the text in a lucid manner using at times the explanations of the Sanskrit commentaries. The Adyar Library is again bringing this work into print as there has been a demand for it. Some editorial changes have been made. A biographical sketch of the translator has also been included in this edition.
IT is intended to give herein a short introduction to, and an analysis of, Laghu Yoga Vasistha. Of course the analysis cannot be an exhaustive one, as it will have then to run through many pages and form a book of its own. There are, as at present known to us, two works by the name of Yoga Vasistha, the larger one going by the name of Brihat Yoga Vasistha and the smaller one, Laghu Yoga Vasistha. The term Brihat means great, while Laghu signifies small. Vasistha is because of this work emanating from Rishi Vasistha as will be seen later on. Though the book is dubbed with the appellation, Yoga Vasistha, it treats of jnana only though practical Yoga is dealt with in two stories in this work. Even there it says that the pure Raja-Yoga is meant and not Hatha-Yoga. Rather the word Yoga seems to have been used in the title of this work in its generic sense of including Jnana- Yoga and other Yogas as in the Bhagavad Gita.
Of the two above mentioned works, the smaller one is an abridgment of the bigger and contains about 6,000 Granthas [A Grantha equals 32 syllables], whereas the latter contains 36,000. The commentary of the former has the same number of Granthas as the original whereas that of the latter amounts to 74,000 Granthas which with its original is a lakh on the whole. In the abridged text, almost all the words of the bigger one are reproduced verbatim from the bigger one, the work of the author being generally to clip the bigger of its expansive descriptions and so on; so that in the work before us, we have got the quintessence extracted. This work seems to have been undertaken by one Abhinanda, a great pandit of Kashmir. The authorship or rather writership is attributed to Rishi Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana who is said to have related the whole of Yoga Vasistha to Rishi Bharadwaja as having occurred between Sri Rama and Rishi Vasistha. But of this, later on. The larger work seems to have been partially translated by a gentleman hailing from Bengal. But this one, though small, it is named, is yet big enough.
This work is, in the words of Madame Blavatsky, 'meant for the few only'. In the phraseology of this work, it is intended neither for those Ajnanis (or the worldly-minded), who welter in the sea of Samsara without being indifferent to the worldly things nor for those higher spiritual personages who have reached a state of adeptship, so as to be above all advice. Hence it is written in the interests of those who have become indifferent to worldly things and crave for spirituality becoming a potent factor in their daily lives. Fancy a work like The Voice of Silence put into the hands of a worldly person of decidedly materialistic view and he will throw it away in sheer disgust. Similarly will this work appear to a person who has not caught a glimpse even of the higher life and principles. A person of true Vairagya, should he wish to have not only some hints thrown on the nature of cosmos, Manas (mind) and Universal Spirit from the idealistic standpoint but also some rules of guidance in his daily practical life towards occult knowledge with the proper illustrations will herein find, in my opinion, a mine of knowledge to be guided by and to cogitate upon.
There are some peculiar traits in the feature of this work as contradistinguished from other spiritual works in the Sanskrit literature. As all know, the Vedas and the Upanishads are so mystic in their nature in many places that their real meaning is not grasped clearly and all persons except true occultists rare to find in this world interpret them in different ways, one holding that the Vedas inculcate nature worship, another putting upon them a diametrically opposed view and so on. Even in the Ten Upanishads, all the metaphysical leaving aside for the present, as impossible, the occult theories have not been worked out in a systematic manner except in the way of some clues vouchsafed thereupon. Taking the Puranas in their dead letter light, our Pandits generally have found them replete with indecent and absurd stories and thrown them into a corner; and hence the nick name of Puranas has been applied, in ordinary usage amongst us, to anything that is a farrago of fictions and absurdities. But for the timely resurrection of them by H. P. Blavatsky with the profound ray of light shed upon them by her, almost all of us should have unanimously buried, by this time, into oblivion all those savouring of Puranas. Even she has not thrown full light on them, as she probably was not privileged so to do. As regard, Itihasas, namely, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, they are considered as so many stories only and as such are much in favour of our orthodox Pandits who do not care to go above worldly things. Vedanta soars high in the region of the Absolute with its theories and words; and our metaphysicians of the old school in India, carrying the notion of the physical world up there, try to solve the problem of the homogeneity or otherwise of the Infinite and are wrangling with one another as our Advaitins, Visishtadvaitins and Dvaitins are doing in their everyday lives, so much so that their arguments end in mental gymnastics only and with nothing practical in their lives. Here a curious instance occurs to me. One day an Advaita Pandit lectured in a certain place about Brahman being Nirguna (or without any attributes), and the only Reality and argued with great vehemence against his adversary. Next day seeing him, while I was passing by, circumambulate an idol in a temple, I asked him as to whom he was paying respects. The Pandit merely laughed over the affair without an answer. Thus are most of our Pandits, theorizing only with nothing practical about them and soaring into the region of the Absolute without a proper knowledge of the basic foundations of Vedanta.
But Yoga Vasistha has chalked out for itself a new and distinct path. At first, it enunciates a doctrine in its several bearings and then elucidates it with beautiful stories. There in it gives also rules of guidance for the conduct of life in the daily world, these also finding their illustrations in the stories given out. As in the Puranas, we have not to rack our brains over with the slight hints thrown therein and to sometimes give up in despair the problems before us.
Secondly This book serves as a ladder wherewith to scale from the Seswara Sankhya doctrine of Patanjali as given out in his Yoga-Sutras to the Maya-conception of the Advaita Pantheists and thus renders possible a reconciliation between them both. Through a study of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, it is clear from Book III, Aphorism 17 that the cause of all pains is the conjunction of the seer with the visual or the subject with the object; the conception of 'I' having been brought about by the identification of the subject with the object. Through Sakshatkara Anubhava or direct realization, the Yogi finds he is one with the subject and does not find then the reality of the object. It is this that is illustrated in the story of Suka.
Thirdly, some of the theories and facts, occult, metaphysical or otherwise, given out by H. P. B. find their corroborations in this work. I have got a deep-seated conviction in me which tells me that if Theosophical ideas are ever to gain a firm footing in India, it can only be by showing that it is H. P. B.'s explanations alone that can throw proper light upon and galvanize with life our old Aryan works. For this purpose, I think all the authorities, express or implied, which are found in a stray form in the Hindu works, should be ransacked, culled out and given to the world. As H. P. B. herself said, her business was to string the flowers found in India as well as in other places and make a nosegay out of the same.
Now I shall give out some illustrations. They are:
(I) That Para brahman, the Absolute is not the cause of the creation of Brahma or the universe as creation implies some conditioned thought and space and as the Infinite is unconditioned and can therefore have no kind of causal relationship to that which is finite or conditioned, viz., the universe which manifests itself or is absorbed according to the Law of the Absolute (vide the story of Sikhidwaja).
(2) Devas and Asuras are merely the opposite intelligential forces or poles in nature such as positive and negative. With the cessation of the one aspect, the other also ceases to exist. This statement is to be found in the story of Prahlada.
(3) In The Secret Doctrine it is stated that the Asuras, Rudras, etc., represent in one sense the egos of man; they being the active powers as opposed to Devas, the passive ones. This fact is exemplified in Sukra's story as well as in the story of the I00 Rudras.
(4) The eking out of the double and the means through which such things are done, vis., through the mastery of Kundalini Sakti are given out in the story of Sikhidwaja.
(5) Being itself a work intended for occult students, this book gives out the seven states of Jnana and Ajnana (vide Utpaththi and Nirvana Prakaranas); the seven Ajnana states are not given out in the works I have come across though the former are.
(6) The relationship between an occult Guru and his Sishya or disciple (as appears from the story of Sikhidwaja).
(7) The experiences of those persons (who are able to elevate themselves beyond their physical bodies) as a Jiva-Suchi or Neevara-Sukam, either as a needle or the tail-end of paddy which is exemplified in the Story of Karkati.
(8) Some of the secret meanings of Brighu, Vasistha, Kasyapa, etc., as well as of the worship of God.
(9) The reality of thought as in the story of Gadhi.
(I0) The emergence of all objects from the moon after a minor deluge.
Without multiplying more instances of this kind, I shall proceed to the contents of this work. The occasion which called it forth demands that the work was intended for those only who wish to practically travel on the higher path. Most of our readers will have been fully acquainted with the contents of our great Epic poem, the Ramayana. We find therein that Rishi Viswamitra turns upon the stage in the early years of Sri Rama. The Rishi appears before his father, Dasaratha and demands of him his son Rama to war with the Rakshasas interfering with his sacrifice. Just before this time, Rama goes on a pilgrimage to the many sacred places; and having visited the Asramas (hermitages) of the wise, returns to his native place. On his return, he grows quite disgusted with his material life, spurns his wealth and other regal possessions and grows despondent without performing any of his daily duties. His attendants go and complain to the King his father of the grievous plight of their master. Thereupon the father sends for his son, seats him on his lap and enquires of him his state. But the son evades the question by simply laughing over the affair and gets away. At this juncture, Muni Viswamitra turns up and the King delighted with the usual arrival of such a distinguished and reverend guest consents to execute any orders of the noble Muni. The Muni demands Rama for his aid at which Dasaratha is panic-struck. Yet rallying himself, he volunteers his own services in lieu of his eldest and dearly beloved boy begotten through dire Tapas. Immediately the Muni begins to curse Dasaratha for his vacillation in the fulfilment of his promises, when Vasistha interposes and pacifies the sage by making the King fulfil his promise. Then Rama is sent for and his servants meanwhile relate to the Rishis the pitiable present plight of their master disdaining to perform such actions as tasting food, drinking water, etc. At which Vasistha remarks that the Vairagya (indifference) of the Prince is not akin to that produced by such momentary accidents as the loss of some dearly beloved relative or wealth but is one which is the premonitory symptom of a spiritual development in him after which development all his duties will be regularly performed by him. On Rama's arrival at the regal assembly, he is asked by one of the Rishis as to the cause of his present sorrow. At which Rama makes a long tirade against wealth, life, Ahankara, Manas (mind), desires, body and other material things and at last winds up by saying that he will rather expose himself to the torments of hell-fire than undergo the excruciating mental tortures, consuming him little by little through the above mentioned causes. This concludes the chapter called Vairagya Prakarana or the section on indifference to worldly things.
This work consists on the whole, of six Prakaranas or sections. Passing by the first, namely, Vairagya Prakarana which has appended to it, the story of Suka, the son of the present Vyasa, we have five other Prakaranas, namely, Mumukshu (longing after Salvation), Utpatti (origin), Stithi (preservation), Upasanthi (quiescence) and Nirvana (absorption), the last. In these five chapters, Vasistha inculcates advice upon Rama, gives him the reason why and how he should work in the world by tracing the origin of the universe and the 'I' in man to which are identical from the idealistic stand point with the Original Cause or the Causeless Cause of all and devising means for their destruction and finally initiates him into the mysteries of Atman.
First comes the story of Suka in the first Prakarana. Suka was not satisfied with all the explanations his father, Vyasa gave of Maya and hence resorted to Janaka for aid who by Aparoksha or direct realisation within himself, showed the end. Then comes the second Prakarana called Mumukshu. Of the four fold qualifications necessary to a disciple on the path, vis., the discrimination of Atman and non-Atman, etc., Rama having developed the first three is asked by Vasistha to concentrate his mind upon the attainment of Moksha. For this purpose, Vasistha expatiates in Mumukshu Prakarana upon the preliminary qualifications necessary for the attainment of Moksha or salvation. Here the author says that the four sentinels posted at the gate of Moksha are Santi (quiescence of mind or sweet patience), Vichara (the enquiry after Atman), Santosha (contentment of mind) and Sadhu-Sanga (association with the wise) and will have to be befriended by one wishing to attain Moksha. Should one of them at least be befriended, he will introduce the aspirant to his companion sentinels. Then the author goes on to explain that Moksha does not mean the physical separation from all worldly affairs but only a state of the mind bereft of all impure Vasanas or clinging towards, but yet working as usual amidst, worldly things. The difference between Vasanas, pure and impure is well defined in this chapter.
Having thus given out the nature of the goal towards which all egos are gravitating, Vasistha, in order to relieve Rama from the mental despair and anguish in which he was placed, then traces the origin of 'I', its growth and its quiescence and then that state from which the above three states can be viewed as one. For this purpose, he gives out its relationship with the one Reality and the universe. This is precisely the position in which Arjuna was placed when he was instructed by Sri Krishna as in the Bhagavad Gita and when also he was told the relationship existing between the Universal Spirit, the ego and the cosmos; the difference being that the detailed instructions in this work are not given in a veritable battle field but in that of the mind and are illustrated by a series of stories wherein the different stages of the mind are worked out to suit a disciple on the path. Now taking his stand on the Pantheistic conception of Brahman being the one Reality and the universe and Jiva as his aspect or manifestation, Vasistha begins the Utpatti Prakarana with the statement that the Jiva or ego in man and the universe in their innate condition are Brahman only and this phenomenal universe is but an outcome of the Divine Will seeming to be real through the workings of the mind. In the technical phraseology of this work, the ideation reflected in the Lila-Sankalpa of Brahman is the origin of the world; its manifestation, the preservation of the world; and its disappearance, the destruction of the world. These are the three aspects that are dilated upon in the second, third and fourth Prakaranas. In other words, the old Hindu philosophers held that the universe is nothing but states or modes of consciousness reflected through the Sankalpa or will of Para Brahman which is said through its Law to evolve the universe out itself for its Lila or sport. The word Sankalpa is rather a difficult word to translate. Originally it is the Divine Will in manifestation and in man in his present stage becomes the will-thought pertaining to his Antahkarana or the lower mind. It is through the Sankalpa of our Manas that the universe appears to be and it is this Sankalpa that is asked to be given up by one who wishes to soar to the one Reality beyond this universe. The author of this work defines, in one chapter, Sankalpa to mean the ideation of Aham or 'I'; which arises in the relationship of subject to object when conditioning is brought about.
In beginning with Utpatti Prakarana, the author gives out a story to illustrate Para Brahman manifesting itself as Brahma, the creator with the conception of 'I' through its own Sankalpa. Instead of giving out, as in the Puranas, that the creator, Brahma arose out of the navel of Narayana with four hands, etc., this work states that, out of the one vast Akasa of Jnanam, the one Plenum of Abstract Intelligence, a Brahmin, the primeval ego called Akasaja was born who lived for a long time when Kala (time) wanted to get at him and bring him under his clutches but was unable to do so through the radiant Tejas (lustre) that shone about his person. Then Kala consulted with Yama (Death) who also is the personification of Time but in the lower or Rupa planes and advised the former to go in quest, of any of the past Karmas of the Brahmin which were found to be nil. Thereupon Yama is said to have remarked to Kala that the Brahmin was no other than Brahma himself; though performing Karmas, Brahma had nothing clinging to him, as he did not perform them for any selfish purposes of his own. From this, it will be clear that, ere creation began, there was one vast space or Akasa with no activity in it or in the noumenal state of Para Brahman. When evolution began, three kinds or states of Akasa are said to have evolved, vis., Jnanakasa, Chidakasa and Bhutakasa. The last is the elemental Akasa compounded of the quintuplicated five elements, Akasa, Vayu, etc., whereas Chidakasa corresponds to the plane of the lower mind. Jnanakasa corresponds to the third body or plane. The first ego of Brahma which is differentiated into many is then, in the story of Lila, traced in its workings in the three Akasa above-mentioned. The three pairs introduced therein are (i) Lila and Padma, (2) Arundhati and Vasistha, (3) Viduratha and his spouse. In the story of Karkati we come to the lowest stage, whether of the man or world. The intelligence or Purusha that pervades the physical body is described in this story. In the Upanishads and other books, the Purusha in this stage is likened to a thread or the tail-end of paddy. As stated in this work further on, the normal experience of humanity now is of being no other than the physical body, though some may, in theory, hold that they are different from the body; the second experience is the direct perception of their being like a thread-like substance in the gross body and being different from the gross one. In the third state, they rise to a direct experience of their being the universe. The Rakshasi Karkati having a voracious stomach was unable to fully gratify her appetite and hence got a boon from Brahma to enter as a Jiva-Suchi or living needle into all human beings, with the power of troubling those of lower desires but becoming the slaves of those who are conquerors of them. It is this Rakshasi that is at the bottom of all our pains and that can be made to minister to our wants, if we will only make up our minds to lord over our desires.
The story of Aindhava brings some corroborations to the occult doctrine. The author, after describing that the universe is no other than the aspect of the Brahmic intelligence, now proceeds to the enumeration of the worlds that exist. At the beginning of a creation, Brahma is said to have asked the resplendent orb of the sun to describe its origin. The sun and its nine brothers of suns are said to have been born out of Indu since according to the Hindu or occult doctrine all things merge into the moon during Pralaya - the son of Kasyapa, and to be ruling over the ten worlds created by their own Sankalpa as if they were Brahmas themselves. Hence arose the ten worlds out of their minds. These ten worlds may refer to either the ten solar systems or the ten worlds which are subtler and subtler than one another and existing in space. Besides the 7 worlds as ordinarily known, there are said to be at first three other worlds which have arisen out of the one. Out of the one arises at first the three lokas of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra who originate and work in the seven worlds, Bhu, Bhuvar, etc., up to Satya. Then are introduced the stories of the wily Indra, Chitta and a lad to exemplify the illusory nature of the universe. In the story of Sambarika, the Siddha, the illusory nature of time is also illustrated. Thus eight stories conclude this chapter wherein is traced the initial stage of the origin of 'I' wherein is exemplified the fact that the universe arises out of the mere Sankalpa of the original creator, both the universe and Jiva, the intelligence arising as the illusory aspect of the one Substratum.
This section deals with the Sthithi character or the preservative aspect of the mind or the universe. In the first story of Sukra, the ego is made to pass after its origin through a series of births in a time appearing very short to his father Bhrigu who was then engaged in Nirvikalpa Samadhi near his son and hence was existing in higher planes. Students of esoteric literature know full well that, of all the planets, Sukra or Venus corresponds to our ego or the higher Manas. This higher Manas and the ray of Atman or Buddhi pass through the different forms of humanity as well as the lower ones. Having traced thus, the author next proceeds to give out the curious story of Dama and two others to illustrate how the 'I' in man developss itself in him after innumerable births with the Ahankara we find in him now. Once upon a time, there raged a war between the Devas and the Asuras. The latter, finding themselves worsted in it, created through the Mayavic power of their leader three men without Ahankara or the conception of 'I' in them to fight with their opponents; since one without Ahankara will be able to face his enemy without any the least fear, and regardless of the consequences of his actions. The Devas, finding their enemy too tough for them to deal with, applied to the higher powers for help. Vishnu advised them to adopt a rather queer plan. That was of again and again pretending to make war with their opponents and of again and again retiring from the field, when their enemy made onslaughts against them. By this process, they were told by Vishnu that the 'I' in the Mayavic personages would be provoked and hardened and that those personages would grow terribly afraid of the results of the war and be discomfited through the generation of 'I' in them. This procedure was adopted and the Devas gained the day. After this was over, three others of true Jnana and hence without Ahankara were created afresh by the Asuras and sent against the Devas, Finding them too hard to combat with, the passive powers of Devas again implored Vishnu for aid. In this instance, Vishnu came directly to the field of battle and took the 3 Mayavic personages away, as men of true Jnana find their asylum in Him alone. Thus we find that the desires in the external world which have at first no hold on the subtle 'I' in this world get a hold over it and concrete it through, as it were, a play of spiral game with it. It thus takes a long time ere the evils desires take possession of the heart. Likewise many births are required for their eradication. Both these stages are necessary to a progressing ego. The ego should first get into desires and be tinged with Ahankara; so that, through such a course, it may learn the lessons at their hands and after the lessons are learnt it no longer needs the desires and gets out of them. This is the reason why, in that, valuable work called The Light on the Path, it is said: 'Seek in the heart the source of evil and expunge it. It lives fruitfully in the heart of the devoted disciple as well as in the heart of the man of desire. Only the strong can kill it out. The weak must wait for its growth, its fruition, its death. And it is a plant that lives and increases throughout the ages. It flowers when the man has accumulated unto himself innumerable existences'.
Then this Prakarana, having in all 5 stories, ends with those of Dhasura and Kacha wherein it is sought to explain the position that, though the universe appears to be real in itself in this stage, it is nothing but Atmic Sankalpa or a mode of the consciousness of Atman. It is in this Prakarana that the three modes of Ahankara engendered are mentioned. The first is the stage where the man identifies himself with the physical body which is the lowest of Ahankaras and ought to be shunned. The second is where one identifies himself with a thread-like small wire. In the third stage, he finds he is this entire universe. These three stages correspond to the gross, subtle and causal bodies of man and are the intelligences presiding over them. Beyond these is Turya, the 4th stage where one is above the universe and identifies himself with the Spirit itself.
Upasanthi or Upasama Prakarana
This is the section which deals with the quiescence of the mind after its sport in the universe. This Prakarana rejoices in nine stories wherein it is stated that the quiescence of mind can be obtained only after many births. To develop this state, many means are given out, such as the Lord's grace through Bhakti or devotion, the direct knowledge of Maya, Yoga, Atma-Vichara or Atmic enquiry, and Chitta-Nirodha or the control of mind, Pranayama, etc. King Janaka sees all as Chidanada and reaches a higher state. Punnya and Pavana reach the goal after the lapse of many births. Bali of the Trivikrama Avatar did his actions in a Nishkama manner without reference to their fruits. Prahlada was ever worshipping the lotus feet of Isvara. Gadhi, the father of Viswamitra had a direct perception of Maya and thence of God, since the Absolute cannot be seen without overcoming Maya. Atma-Vichara or Atmic enquiry was the ceaseless means adopted by Uddhalaka and Suraghu. Bhasa and Vilasa put an end to all their pains through the same course. Veethahavya resorted to Pranayama or the control of breath for the subjugation of his mind.
The story of Gadhi is worthy of being reproduced here. Having been daily engaged in meditation in water, he one day wished to know the nature of Maya and was blessed by Vishnu the Higher Self, here represented as a dark blue cloud with the boon of seeing Maya directly and of overcoming it. Some days after, as he was passing to the waters of a tank, his mind recurred to the boon of Vishnu; and when he stepped into the tank, he was entranced and vividly remembered, in his normal state, all the lives he had led during his Samadhi, as a Brahmin and as a Chandala (out-caste). Not knowing the reason why these visions arose, he returned home where he met with a guest who uttered some words which went to prove that his dream in the tank was a reality. So in order to verify the same, he went to the many places pointed out by the guest and found all the events of his dream realized as an actuality in the waking state. This story illustrates the fact that the many lives we are going through in our present state of Ajnana are like so many dream lives which, though they may appear as true like our waking states, are yet not so, when a high stage of spiritual development arises. In the story of Veethahavya with which this Prakarana winds up, the different stages of his development on the uttering of the sacred word, Pranava, are described. To produce a control of the mind, two things are essential, Prana Nirodha and Sanga-Tyaga, viz., the control of Prana and renunciation of Sanga or association. By the latter is meant not disassociation with the world but only with the longing after, or the attraction towards, the objects of the world. By Prana-Nirodha, the author expressly states that he does not mean it in the Hatha-Yogic form but only in the Raja-Yogic way.
This last section has 14 stories in it. The ego in this stage reaches the Turya or fourth state, after the developed one has 'crossed the three Halls' and is able to have a commanding view of the lower stages. This Prakarana begins with the story of Bhusunda, the great Yogi. Bhusunda, meaning a crow, typifies a great spiritual power existing from a very remote period through marvellous Yoga strength and, according to his own version, had witnessed Vasisthas born eight times, Hiranyakshas diving with the earth down into Patala thrice, Daksha, the Prajapati losing the sacrifice twice and other mysteries. Then comes the story of Deva Puja. Here is stated the true rationale of the Puja or worship of God now conducted by the Hindus. All the form worships are intended for the men in the lower stages alone. Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, etc., are developed entities only. Jnana alone is the true God and the flowers, etc., with which God has to be worshipped are equal vision over all, contentment of mind, spiritual wisdom, etc. Of course this is likely to disturb the equilibrium of our orthodox men; but facts cannot be gainsaid and should be given out. After some stories are passed, the story of Arjuna comes in where in Karmas are asked to be performed without caring for their fruits. But the best story of all in this Prakarana is the story of Sikhidwaja. Some years ago it came out in 'The Theosophist' in a series of articles. The author impresses, through this story upon a disciple, the necessity of a Guru, an adept and not an ordinary teacher in order to lead him on into the higher pursuits of occult mysteries. Otherwise the disciple will only be, like the blind led by the blind. He is asked to place implicit faith in the words of such a Guru. The Master can truly impress his thoughts upon the student's mind only when it is rendered passive to that of the teacher, Otherwise no real progress in occultism in possible. But the Hindus of modern days have degraded it to such an extent as to exact the same kind of obedience from an ordinary student towards an ordinary teacher. Then some other points have also to be noticed in this story. True renunciation lies not in immuring oneself in a closet or going to a forest but in performing one's Karmas with a mental abnegation. One should neither court fresh Karmas nor shirk the old ones that are peculiarly his. This should be the position of a true Jnani. True renunciation or Sannyasa is finely illustrated in this story. King Sikhidwaja after leaving his kingdom, retires into the forest. There his wife, herself an adept, visits him in her Mayavic Rupa or double, assuming a male physical form and passing by the name of Kumbha Muni. When the king found that this supposed Muni was a personage of great powers, he took him up as his Guru; he consenting to the two conditions imposed upon him as in other cases of initiation, namely, implicit faith in, and acting up to, the words of the Guru and repeated efforts to be made for the entire control of the mind. Then the Muni remarks that the King's pains were caused by want of true Sannyasa or renunciation in him. The King replies that he gave up his kingdom, wealth, wife, etc., and retired into the forest and wishes to know if that is not true renunciation. No, the Muni replies. Then the King gives up his love for the forest in which he is and asks if that does not constitute true renunciation. Again did the same negative word come out of the lips of the Muni. Then the King consigns the bowl, cloth, etc., which alone he has, into the fire and wishes to know if that is not Sannyasa. Again was the same negative reply given out. Then the King ruminates over his situation; it is sin on his part to gainsay his Master's words and hence he dives into himself and finds that the last cumbrance in him is his body which he wants to dispose of by ascending a high cliff and precipitating it down the same, when the Muni prevents him from doing so and remarks that true renunciation lies in the mind and not in the external things such as body, etc. Then the Muni sets the King aright by going into the origin of pain.
Herein is also given out the dual nature of Manas, the mind, the pure one being purely Satvic in nature and the impure one being full of Rajas and Tamas. The author says clearly that the non-dual Reality which exists amidst the many heterogeneous things of the world can be cognized through one's self-cognition only and not by any amount of words or logic or thought. Therefore if a person as a Jivanmukta cognizes through Samadhi the absolute identity of all things, and yet moves as usual in this world, then he will in course of time reach a state called Videhamukti, when he will throw aside all shackles of bodies and merge into the Absolute font of Bliss. As, at the end of every Prakarana in this work, there is a chapter which summarizes the subjects dealt with in it, this Prakarana closes with a chapter called Nirvana Prakarana, wherein are described the seven states of Jnana, the seven states of Ajnana having been given out in a previous chapter.
As regards the age of this work, we leave it to competent authorities to theorize as best as they may. The events recorded herein should have occurred in Treta Yuga, when Rama incarnated. But in the initiation of Rama by Vasistha as recorded in this work, we find the story of Arjuna introduced herein. Is it not an anachronism, some may ask? We shall find this objection will vanish into thin air if we bear in our mind the fact that nature is cycling round and round and is not a sealed book to our ancients. Every recurrence of the Yugas brings with it its own Vyasas, Ramas and others. Therefore before the divine vision of our omniscient Rishis, all the events, past as well as future, march in one procession as recorded in the tablets of Chitragupta. This is the very objection which many Orientalists have taken without understanding exactly the views of the Hindus as regards the book of nature. This reply to the objection made is one that has been urged by some of our medieval commentators.
Whether Yoga-Vasishta is considered as an authority or not, it is a matter of perfect indifference, so far as enquiring minds who are thirsting after real knowledge are concerned. We judge every work on its own merits and according to that canon of interpretation; we leave this work to the public to be judged. There are many repetitions in this work which are inevitable in a Hindu religious book treating of the most abstruse questions of philosophy and occultism. This work may well be given the title of an amplified 'Voice of Silence,' of Madam Blavatsky dressed in the Hindu garb. We launch out this translation of Laghu Yoga Vasistha with the conviction that full justice has not been done to the original.
It will be found that in many places in this work the translation is free and many Sanskrit words have been left untranslated. Of course in a work like this teeming with stories, a literal translation will but mar the original. There are two reasons which induced me to retain the Sanskrit words themselves in this work. Some of the terms used herein have no proper English equivalents and hence do require periphrastic expressions to express rightly the underlying ideas. Many of the terms have become commonly known to readers of Vedantic literature. To understand this work fully, its predecessor 'Vasudeva-Manana’ or the meditations of Vasudeva a compendium of Advaita philosophy published by us will be of great help. One new feature of the present translation is the summary given for every chapter or story.
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