”The world-appearance is a confusion: even the blueness of the sky is an optical illusion.
I think it is better not to let the mind dwell on it, but to ignore it.”
~ Vasistha’s Yoga
The above verse is said to be the central teaching of Vasistha’s Yoga. It is a very long, lyrical and important spiritual text, written by Valmiki, and it covers the most important ideas of Advaita. It also resembles Kashmiri Shaivasm, Jainism, Buddhism. It is a universal text really, explaining the path to liberation. It uses many stories and allegories, but is also quite clear about the fundamentals. It has been called the ”most wonderful book in the world.” In this post I will be adding chronological extracts and summaries of passages from the book.
The setting is a palace in ancient India. Rama is the young god-king. He has just returned from a long pilgrimage around India, and after some time he becomes despondent, pale and emaciated. He withdraws from the pleasures of his priviliged life. His father is troubled by this unaccountable change and invites the great sage Vasistha to come and find out what troubles his son, and what he can do about it
”Vasistha demands direct observation of the mind, its motion, its notions, its reasoning, the assumed cause and the projected result, and even the observed and the observation ~ and the realisation of their indivisible unity as infinite consciousness.”
(From The Introduction to Vasistha’s Yoga)
The first part of Vasistha’s Yoga includes Rama’s very vivid description of his dejection.
”Again and again he sings to himself, ”Alas! we are dissipating our lives in various ways, instead of striving to reach the supreme!”
Rama comes in to the central room of the palace and explains to Vasistha what is bothering him…..
”I grew up happily….I was instructed by worthy teachers…I went on apilgrimage….During this time, my heart begins to question ”What do people call happiness and can it be had in the ever-changing objects of this world?”
”Unrelated objects come together and the mind conjures up a relationship between them. Everything in this world is dependent upon the mind….(but) …on examination the mind itself appears unreal!…We live a life of slavery…Ignorant of the truth we have been wandering in this dense forest called the world. What is this world? What comes into being, grows and dies?”
Rama then goes through a litany of his observations on the changing phenomena of existence and the impossibility for gaining happiness from such ephemeral things.
Wealth he says..
”Gives birth to numerous worries and the insatiable craving for more..”
The lifespan is so short, says Rama…
‘It’s duration is like that of a water droplet on a leaf. The lifespan is fruitful only to those who have self-knowledge….others exist here like donkeys.”
Rama says that persistent egotism makes him bewildered…
”It (egotism) generates endless sinful tendencies…all suffering revolves around egotism. Egotism eclipses self-control, destroys virtue and dissipates equanimity…When I am under the influence of egotism I am unhappy, when I am free from egotism I am happy.”
Rama speaks of the eternally restless mind, which is always dissatisfied….
”The mind flits in all directions at once but is unable to find happiness anywhere…I am bound by the knots of craving to the net that has been spread in my mind…Craving in its different forms dances like a goblin.
The characteristic of this craving is that it has no direction: it drives me in one direction now and the very next moment it takes me away in another direction, like a mad horse.
In the mind the light of wisdom momentarily shines, but there is delusion the next moment.”
Rama talks then about the impermanent body and the suffering inherent in that impermanence…
”The tree which is the body is born in the forest of samsara (repetitive existence)
The restless monkey (mind) plays on it,
It is the abode of crickets (worries),
It shelters the venomous serpent (of endless craving),
It is constantly eaten by the insects (endless suffering),
and the wild crow (of anger) dwells on it.”
Rama says that even though childhood is said to be a time of happiness and peace, that he does not agree….
”Helplessness, mishaps, cravings, inability to express oneself…the child is exposed to countless happenings around it: they puzzle the child, confuse the child and arouse…fantasies and fears.”
Thereafter Rama says the Human being is thrust into Youth, when they become helplessly subjected to lust and desire…
”His heart is full of desire and anxiety…In Youth, the man is tempted by the mirage of happiness and in its pursuit he falls into the well of sorrow…(he is) a slave of sexual attraction..(though)…very soon the very flesh that contributed to the attractiveness transforms into the shriveled ugliness of old age.”
Rama says then that old-age completes the suffering, before death consumes the body.
Essentially Rama describes Time, of which he says …
”Time alone creates innumerable Universes, and in a very short time Time destroys everything. Time is merciless…greedy…insatiable.
Time uses the two balls known as the sun and the moon for his pastime.”
So, Rama has set forth his judgement of the nature of existence (which is undeniably true). He calls out to Vasistha the sage…
”O Holy One! Whatever appears to be permanent or transient in this world ~ it is all like a dream….The perception of the world has destroyed the …desire for sense pleasures (in my mind)…Instruct me in such a way that I may be forever free from…distress…
I have given up everything but I have not established myself in wisdom; hence I am partly caught and partly freed.”
The above is a lovely passage which describes the soul which has made considerable self-effort to enquire, and has attained some measure of dispassion, but has not as yet attained full liberation. The whole of the text that follows is Vasistha’s teachings to establish the full liberation in the god Rama. The whole court and many beyond gathered to hear the debate.
To be continued………