From the Jacket
This compilation in Sanskrit originally formed an appendix to the thesis, The Philosophy of Vasistha as presented in Yogavasistha, submitted to the Banaras Hindu University in 1928 by B.L. Atreya for the degree of Doctor of letters. The author has written several books on the philosophy of Yogavasistha and other subjects connected with this magnificent work which swami Rama Tirtha considered as the most wonderful book ever written under the sun, which nobody on earth can read without Realising God Consciousness. In Vedantic traditions, Yogavasistha is regarded as the ultimate book expounding the Truth from the Siddhavastha, or the state of a yogin who has realized the Absolute Reality by personal experience.
This compilation, consisting of nearly 2500verses, was first published in 1936 by the Government Press, Allahabad as the 64th Volume in the series Sarasvati Bhavana texts and has not been reprinted thereafter. In the words of the author, it is meant for those who may wish to make themselves acquainted with the philosophy of Yogavasistha in its original, sweet and beautiful language, the charm of which eludes translation, but have not the time and intention or patience to go through the voluminous work of thirty two thousand Stanzas. The author has stated that no aspect of the philosophy or the practice recommended for experiencing the Reality and no important verse expounding the same have been omitted in this compilation.
It is a challenging job to translate such an exalted work into a language which lacks the proper words to convey exactly the sense and spirit of Vedantic and yogic terminology, but, fortunately, the 20th century has produced many literary and spiritual giants who have built up a suitable terminology for expressing Vedantic and yogic concepts in English, though the shades of meaning attached to such terms may not exactly and fully convey the connotations of the corresponding Sanskrit words. But the context in which such words are used invariably help in binging out the exact sense.
The Translator has liberally mad use of the excellent Sanskrit commentary on the Yogavasistha by Anandabodhendrasarasvati, for deciphering many complex verses, especially those dealing with esoteric and recondite subjects. But, the overpowering urge of the translator throughout was the faithful rendering of the sense and spirit of the original, simultaneously giving the reader a taste of the power and beauty of the original.
“Samvid” is giving this fruit of his askesis of knowledge to the world of questing aspirants. The work chosen for (study) and (Exposition in the form of translation) is Atreya’s condensation (in the words of the original) of Yogavasistha called by him. The style of the Samskrit Original is an alchemic fusion of the precision and clarity of the enlightened Intellect, the vividness of the luminous Imagination, the ecstasy of the emotional, sensuous and even nervous-physical being - all sharing the spiritually concrete Insightful, Inner Mystical Vision of the Absolute, which is the main-spring setting in motion the entire work. Samvid does not attempt the impossible task of shaping the least-fitted earthy English language to embody the magical Divine qualities of Samskrit but has wisely contented himself with providing the minimum necessary help to the reader to go to the original. In a work of this kind, the minimum is also the maximum. To give more would lead to a devastating distraction from the original. To give less would deprive him of the needed help. This stupendous task can be achieved only by a Tapasya of Humility, in Humility and by Humility. Humility is endless. But Humility is so natural to Samvid that he successfully makes his English efface itself, the original being left finally free to radiate the aroma of its innate Breath of the Spirit.
This vision of Vasistha is propounded in the form of a Dialogue between the Master and Disciple. The disciple is no less a person than, the Avatar among Avatars, the unique Incarnation capable of complete identification with the human personality to the extent of even a total unconsciousness of the Divinity. The Divine becomes all Human so that the Human becomes all Divine, the perfect Bridge between the Finite and the Infinite, Time and the Timeless. Rama begins his life as the representative Man, sharing the bewildering preoccupation of the Finite with the Finite, the shortlived excitements of Sensations, Feelings, Emotions, Thoughts and Images - all driven by Chameleon Desire and oriented to the Phantasmagoria of objects in this world. The consciousness of man seems to be fated to be the victim of the Turbulent ocean of Universal Life-energy with its whirlpools, eddies and typhoons with rare periods of a deceptive calm, a vain cyclic movement in Ignorance leading to a state of, the profound Sorrow which finds no escape or way out of the sorrows of existence and so deprives the will of its meaningful motivation for action and even continuation of life. The rationalising mind with its unique power of analysing and measuring the Finite and its movements, the so-called Reason and Scientific Temper (the modern consciousness and malady of the century) - is simply of no avail in the task of facing the impermanence of life in this world. Rama’s consciousness therefore leaves aside this Reason. His is willing to abdicate its suzerain status in favour of another Faculty, which will not allow Analysis, Ratiocination or Conceptualising of any kind to intrude or distract in its work. He stands firm on the Rock of Inner Contemplation, the or Faculty of Awareness, which seeks, the complete Illumination. He does not allow the Sense-mind to cloud his but is ever-wakeful and watchful of the movements of the Samsaric ocean which is threatening all the time with its seemingly endless and various Temptations to impose its slumber of Unconsciousness and Oblivion of anything other than Itself. Even when one is above this temptation, the illusive Maya of the Universe presents before the seeker many illusory lights, gurus who are really Blind but who have the delusion or perversion -(often a mixture of both) - of the true wisdom, to accept whose guidance is to have the fate of the Blind leading the blind. These dazzling personalities, who dazzle in order to impress-(and ‘man wants to be dazzled in order to be impressed’) do not and cannot have the true (wisdom) because of the basic insincerity in their constitution but consider themselves pundits. Knowledge in any field, even in the realm of the Finite, is possible and easy only by contact with a real Great Knower and not a deluded Idiot. The seeker of something other than the Finite has to seek only the in that other Dimension. If his knowledge is to be complete he has to take refuge in the company of a community of the Greats. The Infinite has infinite aspects and it is very rarely indeed that one comes across a Guru who has the key to unlock all the Mansions in the Empyrean. Hence the Upanishadic call, warning and injunction.
This compilation in Sanskrit originally formed an appendix to the thesis, "The Philosophy of Vasistha as presented in Yogavasistha", submitted to the Benares Hindu University in 1928 by B.L. Atreya for the degree of Doctor of Letters. The author has written several books on the philosophy of Yogavasistha and other subjects connected with this magni- ficent work which Swami Rarna Tirtha considered as "The most wonderful book ever written under the sun which nobody on earth can read without realising God-Conscious- ness." In Vedantic traditions, Yogavasistha is regarded as the ultimate book expounding the Truth from the siddha- vastha , or the state of a Yogin who has realised the Absolute Reality by personal experience.
This compilation, consisting of nearly 2500 verses, was first published in 1936 by the Government Press, Allahabad as the 64th volume in the series "Sarasvati Bhavana Texts" and has not been reprinted thereafter. In the words of the author, "it is meant for those who may wish to make themselves acquainted with the philosophy of Yogavasistha in its original, sweet and beautiful language, the charm of which eludes' translation, but have not the time and inten- tion or patience to go through the voluminous work of 'thirty-two thousand stanzas'." The author has stated that no aspect of the philosophy or the practice recommended for experiencing the Reality and no important verse expounding the same have been omitted in this compilation. A perusal of this work and comparison with the original work of 27,687 verses will substantiate the claim of the author.
Another special feature of this compilation is the exhaus- tive and learned introduction in five chapters written by the author. It gives everything that should be known about the original work and its philosophy, before one studies this analytical presentation of the entire philosophy of Yoga- vasistha and the Way to the realisation of the Absolute. Therefore, the translator would like to add only a few remarks about the translation.
The diction of Yogavasistha is powerful, poetic and ins- pired. It is rich in simile and metaphor. The words gush out of the fullness of the author's personal experience of the Absolute. Reality. The language is deep, recondite in many places and, at times, breaks the bounds. of traditional usage. This is what is to be expected in a work which combines soulful poetry, transcendental philosophy, spiritual expe- rience, and the exposition of the inexpressible Truth.
It is a challenging job to translate such an exalted work into a language which lacks the proper words to convey exactly the sense and spirit of Vedantic and Yogic termino- logy. But, fortunately, the 20th century has produced many literary and spiritual giants who have built up a suitable terminology for expressing Vedantic and Yogic concepts in English, though the shades of meaning attached to such terms may not exactly and fully convey the connotations of the corresponding Sanskrit words. But, the context in which such words are used invariably help in bringing out the exact sense.
The translator has liberally made use of the excellent Sanskrit commentary on the Yogavasistha by Ananda- bodhendrasarasvati , for deciphering many complex verses, especially those dealing with esoteric and recondite subjects. But, the overpowering urge of the translator throughout was the faithful rendering of the sense and spirit of the original, simultaneously giving the reader a taste of the power and beauty of the original. The translator is aware that his obsession with exactitude in translation has led to complex constructions in several places and perhaps, some transgres- sion of the normally accepted usage of the language. The translator hopes that the readers will pardon this apparent shortcoming, since the advantages of the translator's ap- proach outweigh those of the usual paraphrases which are presented as translations. The analytical headings of the several parts, chapters, sections and subsections will more than explain the contents.
The translator invites the readers to verify for themselves, by a study of the original work, the conviction of the author expressed in the following verses: "When this (scripture) is heard, meditated upon and understood, there is nothing whatever, such as austerity, meditation or repetition of sacred words, that is of use to a man here, for the attainment of liberation. (11-18-35) There is no other scripture that removes the ignorance of those with intellects refined a little, as this scripture does when listened to. (11-13-14) Having heard these holy means of liberation, producing the benefit of direct experience (of the Self), even a child goes to the state of the knower of That (Self). What need one say of a person like you? (VI b-215-6) It is the destroyer of all misery and a great comforter of the heart. (11-10-9) It ends (both) pleasure and pain and is the one cause of Supreme Bliss. (11-10-7) The intellect of one displaying nobility, who hears this (scripture) daily, attains to enlightenment even beyond perception (or ordinary knowledge). There is no doubt (about this). (111-8-13)
Sri Vasisthadarsanam (the Philosophy of Vasistha) is an attempt to place before the modern world, in a systematic form, the philosophical doctrines embodied in an ancient work Yogavasistha. Yogavasistha, also known as the Maharamayana, the Arsararnayana, jnanavasistha , Vasis- tharamayana or simply as Vasistha, is a voluminous Sanskrit work which is widely read, in the original as well as in vernacular translations, by the seekers of self-knowledge throughout India. It is the Bible of those who seek for Peace and Liberation, as the Ramayana of Tulsi Das and the Bhagavata are for the devotees and the Bhagavadgita for men of action. Thousands of men and women from the lowest to the highest grade of culture find solace in the study of this wonderful work, which contains many stories in which even children may find pleasure, and philosophical speculations which the brightest intellect may find difficult to comprehend. In grandeur it may be compared to the great Himalayas which, being situated on the earth, are within the reach of all, yet whose lofty peaks baffle the attempts of even the most earnest expedition. Men of all tastes, literary, religious or philosophical, find interest in it. It is really one of the wonders that the mind of India has produced in its literature, and surely the best companion for one who is anxious to realise Cosmic Consciousness and to live on the heights of spiritual Peace, where the best and the noblest men of India have always aspired to stay. All who have had the fortune of studying Yogavasistha share this view, and others who will study it earnestly will not differ much.
Svami Rama TIrtha, one of the greatest saints of modern India and a great Vedantist, said in one of his American lectures, "One of the greatest books, and the most wonder- ful according to me ever written under the sun, is Yoga- vasistha which nobody on earth can read without realising God-Consciousness" ("In the Woods of God-realisation", Delhi edition, Vol. III, p. 295). Dr. Bhagwan Das, an erudite scholar of Indian thought, writes in the Prefatory Note to his "Mystic Experiences": "The Yogavasistha, a Sanskrit work in thirty-two thousand slokas, or sixty-four thousand lines, is highly honoured among Indian Vedantins for its philosophy and its hints on practical mysticism, as also for literary beauty and poetry. The saying about it, among the 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 Upanisads and the Brahmasutras, are works of the Sadhanavastha, i.e., for those who are yet trying to master the theory." Lala Baijnath, in his Introduc- tion 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 doc- trines with so many stories, illustrations and arguments, as Yogavasistha. All will agree when it is said 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. Bhumika, p. 7). He further says, "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, Bhumika, p. 4).
The author of Yogavasistha himself was quite confident of the uniqueness, greatness, effectiveness and beauty of his own composition, and has given expression to his opinion in several places in the work. Here are some of his statements: "It is a composition of thirty-two thousand verses containing beautiful similes and metaphors. (II.17.6) It is written in a very intelligible style, ornamented with literary beauties, and full of illustrations in support of the doctrines expoun- ded. (11.18.33) Having studied, understood and realised its philosophy, one does not stand in need of any other performance for liberation. (1l.18.35) Having learnt the method of liberation expounded in this work, even a child comes to realise the Self. (Vlb. 215.6) It brings all suf- ferings to an end, and gives a unique consolation to the heart. (11.10.9) It leads one to the state of highest bliss which is beyond pleasure and pain. (11.10.7) He who studies it daily comes to realise God-consciousness. (1l1.8.13) And he becomes liberated even while living this life. (11l.8.15) With the help of this work one crosses over the ocean of misery. (1.2.14) It is really a store of wisdom, and contains all that is best anywhere. (111.8.12)"
The greatness, authoritativeness and value of Yogava- sistha are also evinced from the influence it has had in the history of Indian thought. A comparative study of Yoga- vasistha with Vakyapadiya and Vairagyasataka of Bhartr- hari, with the Mandukyakarikas of Gaudapada , with Vivekacudamani, Aparoksanubhuti, Satasloki etc. of Sankaracarya, and with Manasollasa of Suresvaracarya will clearly reveal the influence which Yogavasistha has exer- cised over these illustrious thinkers of the Advaita school of thought. About ten centuries ago, in the first half of the 9th century A.D., the huge work was summarised into a Laghu Yogavasistha by Gauda Abhinanda of Kashmir. Since then, it has become very popular and has inspired many writers on Yoga and Vedanta. Vidyaranya (Madhavacarya), a well- known writer of the first half of the fourteenth century, must have considered Yogavasistha as a book of great authority, for he quotes it very often in his famous and widely read work, Paricadasi, and his Jivanmuktiviveka is chiefly based on it, containing no less than 253 slokas of it in support of its own thesis. Yogavasistha has also been quoted in many other works, some of which are Bhaktisagara of Narayana Bhatta (Vide Winternitz: Geschichte der indischen Littera- tur, Vol. III. p. 443 note), in Hathayoga-pradipika (IV. 15, 22,23,56 and 61), Ramagita (Sarnadhi, 17,23,31,32, etc.), Vedantasiddhantarnuktavali and Vijnanamrta etc.
A careful study of the Minor Upanishads will reveal that a number of them are wholly or panially composed of slokas selected verbatim from Yogavasistha. (Vide our Paper - "Yogavasistha and some of the Minor Upanishads" pub- lished in the Princess of Wales Sarasvati Bhavana Studies, 1933.) All the six chapters of the Maha Upanisad , except the first, which is a small introductory chapter in prose, which contains no less than 535 slokas, all the five chapters of the Annapurna Upanisad (337 slokas) but the introductory portion (17 slokas), the whole of the Aksi Upanisad , the main portion of the Muktika Upanisad , the fourth chapter of the Varaha Upanisad, 50 slokas of the Sannyasa Upanisad , 18 slokas of the Sandilya Upanisad , 10 slokas of the Yajnavalkya Upanisad , 3 slokas of the Yogakundali Upanisad and one sloka of the Paingala Upanisad , are taken verbatim from Yoga-vasistha. The section on Samadhi in the Jabaladarsana Upanisad , the whole of the Tejobindu Upanisad , stanzas 1 to 11 of the fourth section of the Yogasikha Upanisad , 1 to 9 of the Tripuratapini Upanisad and 12 to 16 of the second part of the Saubhagyalaksmi Upanisad , when compared with Yogavasistha, clearly reveal its influence, if not direct borrowing from it, as in the case of the former group of Upanisads.
All these facts clearly indicate that Yogavasistha is one of the most important works of Indian Philosophy and that, in the history of Indian thought, it has stood on equal footing with the Upanisads and the Bhagavadgita for the last one thousand years at least.
Yet it is very strange that this important work has been very much neglected by oriental scholars. There is, for example, not a single paragraph on the philosophy of Yogavasistha in the two admirable volumes of Prof. Radhakrishnan's Indian Philosophy. Prof. Das Gupta has not even mentioned the name Yogavasistha in his first volume of "A History of Indian Philosophy", where he devotes a long chapter to the philosophy of Gaudapada and Sankara whose works were written much later than Yoga- vasistha. The learned author, it is gratifying, has however, although not at the right place in the "History of Indian Philosophy", devoted a chapter to the philosophy of Yoga- vasistha in his Vol. II. There is no mention of the name of Yogavasistha in the otherwise very excellent Bibliography of Indian Philosophy prepared by Prof. Vasudeva Abhyankara Shastri and appended to the Sarvadarsanasangraha edited by him and published in the Bombay Government Oriental (Hindu) Series. There was hardly any work in any language dealing with the philosophy of Yogavasistha in a systematic, exhaustive and clear manner, from which a modern reader could have an exact idea of it, before the three small works of the present writer- "Yogavasistha and its Philosophy", "Yogavasistha and Modern Thought" and "Vasisthadarsa- nam" appeared recently.
It is due to this paucity of literature on Yogavasistha that there prevails a great deal of ignorance and also of mis- understanding about the nature of the work. Dr. Winternitz, Dr. Farquhar and Prof. Radhakrishnan (Vide "Geschichte der indischen Litteratur" Vol. III. p. 443; "An Outline of Religious Literature of India," p. 228; and "Indian Phi- losophy" Vol. II. p. 452, footnote) have all regarded Yogavasistha as a "religious (sectarian) work," as differen- tiated from philosophical. This view will be exploded after a careful study of the work. It is a purely philosophical work, written in a popular but literary style. It is in no way inferior to many works which are usually accepted as philosophical by the students of Indian Thought.
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