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Amita

Yoga Vasishta

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Amita

Not as well known as the Mahabharata, the Ramayana or the Upanishads, this is a large philosophic work based on the teachings of the ancient Rishi Vasishta.  I encourage all who have, or have not studied it to share impressions here.

One pioneering study of it was done in the 1930s by B. L. Atreya, the Philosophy of the Yoga-Vasistha.  It is also known as the Maha-Ramayana. The range and depth of subjects covered is amazing.

Here is a sample on the subject of Self-Reliance:

Quote

II 4 O Rama, listen to what I [Vasishtha] am about to say, which instruction is sure to remove the darkness of ignorance. A well-sustained self-effort leads to success in every field of life. Wherever one encounters failure, it is due to lack of self-effort.

Liberation produces selflessness; we lose our selfishness when we come to know the unity of the soul. By effort one can attain knowledge which leads to salvation. This is obvious; but what is called God, destiny or fate is fictitious and is not seen. The dull and the ignorant created God, which is none other than self-effort of a past incarnation affecting one.

Self-effort, Rama, is that mental, verbal and physical action which is in accordance with the instructions of a holy person well versed in the scriptures. This will reveal the moon of spiritual bliss beyond the dark clouds of mental impurities. Such effort, continuous and constant, gives good results, all the rest is sheer madness. The goal of self-effort is Self-realization.

It is only by such effort that Indra became king of heaven, that Brahma became the creator, and Vishnu and Shiva earned their place. When right self-effort is sustained, one rises to that lofty state wherein ruling the vast earth is known as insignificant compared to the glory of Self-realization.

I have pleasure in writing this brief foreword to Dr. B. L. Atreya’s work on The Philosophy of The Yoga-vasistha. Some of the recent historical accounts of Indian philosophy hardly do justice to the importance of this work. Dr. Atreya’s work will help to correct this defect. He gives an admirable account of the main ideas of the system and his comparisons with western views are as a rule stimulating...

Dr. Atreya’s work is certain to rank among the dependable English treatises on Samskrit philosophical classics.

S. RADHAKRISHNAN - 1935

Edited by Amita
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Amita
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II 5 Self-effort is of two categories: that of past births and that of this present birth. Past efforts can be counteracted by current labors. There is constant conflict, like battling rams, between these two in this incarnation. That which is more powerful triumphs. Men of self-effort, by firm and long practice, can undo the past effort.

Self-effort which is not in accord with the scriptures is motivated by delusion. To go against scriptural injunctions will lead to disasters. Mental desire alone, without the needed action, is pure lunacy. It will not only be useless, but it will lead to further delusions.

There is no power greater than right action in the present. Hence, one should take recourse to self-effort, gritting one's teeth, and one should overcome evil by good and destiny by present effort. Even obstructions presented by the devas are due to bad actions in past lives.

One’s effort must be maintained until the past negative karma is overpowered. The virtues of this life are bound to overcome the vices of past lives. Therefore, one must cultivate serenity, self-control, reflection and meditation by his self-effort.

One must release oneself from the fetters of the world-process by the force of self-effort. Having confidence in the Divine Self as one’s inner reality is needed to attain Liberation.

All great men and sages attained success through their self-effort. Reliance on destiny or God is an expression of ignorance and this is the main cause of failure.

 

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Amita

A few lectures on the Yogavaistha & its philosophy by B.L. Atreya:

https://ia800801.us.archive.org/25/items/YogavasisthaAndItsPhilosophy_201709/Yogavasistha and its Philosophy.pdf

An excerpt praising the work:

Quote
Swami Rama Tirtha, one of the greatest saints of modern India, said, in one of his
American Lectures: “One of the greatest books, and the most wonderful according to me ever
written under the sun, is Yogavasistha, which nobody on earth can read without God-
Consciousness” (In Woods of God-Realisation, Delhi Edn, Vol., III, o. 259). Dr. Bhagwan
Das, an erudite scholar of Indian thought, writes in the Prefatory Note to his Mystic
Experiences: “The Yogavasistha, a Samskrit work, in thirty-two thousand slokas, or sixtyfour
thousand lines; is highly honoured among Indian Vedantins, for its philosophy and its
hints on practical mysticism, as also for its literary beauty and poetry. The saying about it,
among Vedantins, is that it is a work of the Siddhavastha; i.e., for the philosopher-yogi, who,
having mastered the theory, is passing on to the practice of it, while the other well known
works, even the Gita, the Upanishads, and the Brahmasutras are works of the
Sadhanavastha, i.e., for those who are yet trying to master the theory.” Late Lala Baijnath, in
his Introduction to the Hindi Translation of Yogavasistha, writes: “On the Vedanta
philosophy there has not up to this time, been written any other work so big, and expounding
the doctrines with so many stories, illustrations and arguments, as Yogavasistha. All will
agree, when it is remarked, that by the study of this work alone even the most passionate and
worldly-minded will become dispassionate and will gradually realise peace within”
(Yogavasistha Bhasatika, Vol.II, p.7). And: “It is the crest-jewel of all the works on the
Vedanta, and no aspirant of liberation can afford to neglect it” (Ibid. Vol. I, p.4).

 

Edited by Amita

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toast

What exactly is the point of this thread?

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Amita
2 minutes ago, toast said:

What exactly is the point of this thread?

See OP: "I encourage all who have, or have not studied it to share impressions here."

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Amita

An abridgment of the YV was translated into English in 1896 by K. Narayanaswamy Aiyer, it is still in print.  Here is a pdf:

https://selfdefinition.org/yoga/Laghu-Yoga-Vasishta-trans-1896-Narayanaswamy-Aiyer.pdf

The Introduction describes the intended student:  The Yoga-Vasishta "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."

Edited by Amita

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Amita

Here are some verses on self-effort or self-reliance, an aspect of spiritual living that is often glossed over:

Quote

II 4 O Rama, listen to what I [Vasishtha] am about to say, which instruction is sure to remove the darkness of ignorance. A well-sustained self-effort leads to success in every field of life. Wherever one encounters failure, it is due to lack of self-effort.

Liberation produces selflessness; we lose our selfishness when we come to know the unity of the soul. By effort one can attain knowledge which leads to salvation. This is obvious; but what is called God, destiny or fate is fictitious and is not seen. The dull and the ignorant created God, which is none other than self-effort of a past incarnation affecting one.

Self-effort, Rama, is that mental, verbal and physical action which is in accordance with the instructions of a holy person well versed in the scriptures. This will reveal the moon of spiritual bliss beyond the dark clouds of mental impurities. Such effort, continuous and constant, gives good results, all the rest is sheer madness. The goal of self-effort is Self-realization.

It is only by such effort that Indra became king of heaven, that Brahma became the creator, and Vishnu and Shiva earned their place. When right self-effort is sustained, one rises to that lofty state wherein ruling the vast earth is known as insignificant compared to the glory of Self-realization.

II 5 Self-effort is of two categories: that of past births and that of this present birth. Past efforts can be counteracted by current labors. There is constant conflict, like battling rams, between these two in this incarnation. That which is more powerful triumphs. Men of self-effort, by firm and long practice, can undo the past effort.

Self-effort which is not in accord with the scriptures is motivated by delusion. To go against scriptural injunctions will lead to disasters. Mental desire alone, without the needed action, is pure lunacy. It will not only be useless, but it will lead to further delusions.

There is no power greater than right action in the present. Hence, one should take recourse to self-effort, gritting one's teeth, and one should overcome evil by good and destiny by present effort. Even obstructions presented by the devas are due to bad actions in past lives.

One’s effort must be maintained until the past negative karma is overpowered. The virtues of this life are bound to overcome the vices of past lives. Therefore, one must cultivate serenity, self-control, reflection and meditation by his self-effort.

One must release oneself from the fetters of the world-process by the force of self-effort. Having confidence in the Divine Self as one’s inner reality is needed to attain Liberation.

All great men and sages attained success through their self-effort. Reliance on destiny or God is an expression of ignorance and this is the main cause of failure.

Self-effort must be sustained from a very early age in order that it may be powerful. But self-effort devoid of wisdom leads to negative developments. A self-effort that has been adopted in a sporadic manner will be unable to gather enough strength to overthrow past karmas.

 

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Amita

More sound guidance from this ancient Rishi:

Quote

The lazy man is worse than a donkey. One should never yield to laziness but strive to attain liberation, seeing that life is ebbing away every moment. Every day one must think of the impermanent body and struggle to conquer the animal nature. He must take recourse to association with good and virtuous people. One should not revel in the filth known as sense-pleasures, even as a worm revels in pus. By good deeds, good will return to you; by bad deeds, bad will return. Nowhere is there any God, fortune or fate. One who ignores his present ability for self-effort for fear of his past bad actions, might as well fear his own two arms, thinking them dangling vipers.

One who thinks that fate or God is directing him, is brainless and the goddess of fortune abandons him. Hence, by self-effort, discrimination, good association and study of the scriptures, acquire wisdom. Then realize that self-effort will end — in the direct realization of the truth. But ignoring, or going against the traditional injunctions, will not work. One should not try to create a gemstone from an ordinary pebble. Those who do not believe in the long practiced and experienced truths of the wise, but depend upon God, luck or destiny, are fools called the "living dead." If lazy dullness, this dreadful source of evil, were not found on this earth, who would ever be illiterate or poor? It is because lazy ones rely, life after life, on God or fortune that this earth is full of people who live like animals, miserable and poverty-stricken.

 

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II 6 The only God or fortune is previous action [karma]. As is the effort so is the fruit, O Rama: this is the meaning of self-effort, and it is also known as fate. What is called fate or divine will is nothing other than the action or self-effort of the past. The present is infinitely more potent than the past. Just as a man can govern a boy, vigorous present actions can control past karma. The evils of yesterday can be remedied by the good actions of today. There is no need to rely on destiny, luck or God. They indeed are fools who are complacent about the bitter fruits of their past actions (which they regard as divine will) and do not engage themselves in self-effort now. A weak and dull-witted man can only see the hand of providence when he is confronted by a powerful adversary and succumbs to him.

If you see that the present self-effort is sometimes thwarted by fortune (or divine will), you should understand that the present self-effort is weaker than past actions. Even the apparent experience of defeat sings the glory of one's own past self-effort.

Sometimes it happens that, without effort, someone receives a great gain. This is certainly not an accident nor some kind of divine act, but the fruit of self-effort in a past birth.

It is important to render the spiritual striving of this life more powerful than the worldly striving of past lives. When failure or loss occurs, one should not yield to vain grief. Rather one must try again and again, until the goal is reached.

 

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There are four methods of crossing over the ocean of worldly existence, namely Tranquillity (sama), Contentment (samtosa), Company of the good or the wise (sadhu-sanga), and Thinking (vicara). (II, 16, 18.) They are so related to one another that, if one of them is fully acquired, others will inevitably accompany it. One should, therefore, make effort in acquiring any one of them thoroughly. (II, 16, 22.)


From B.L. Atreya's big study, Philosophy of Yoga-Vasishtha, page 136; following pages give details of each of the four.

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Amita

One may also like The Vision and the Way of Vasistha, a condensation by Atreya that was not put into English until recently. See Samvid's translation in the Samata Books edition which has the Sanskrit for each verse also. Also a good Introduction and detailed analysis of contents by Atreya.

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