The Yoga Vasishta of Valmiki is a monumental spiritual work containing the teaching of Vasishta to Rama. For countless it has inspired and guided the spiritual seekers. Academic scholars have long neglected the work for no right reasons and a proper study of it is sure to re-orient the attitude of the intellectuals to the non-dual reality and the world-process and convince them that the final Advaitic Teaching is not that the world is an illusion but it is Brahman.
Abhinanda Pandita’s Laghu-Yoga-Vasishta is a well known obridgement of the big work and the present publication containing Introduction and Translation attempts to give the needed coherence and clarity to the supreme Teaching.
Sri. K.N. Subramanian who was initiated into spiritual discipline by sadguru Sri Gnananandagiri, Thapovanam and who pursued vedantic study and sadana under the sage’s guidance is a staunch believer in the uniqueness of the Vedantic Tradition associated with Vasishta, Dattatreya, Gaudapada and Shankara. In his writings and talks he stresses that the advaitic sadana as contained in traditional works and as preserved by traditional seers, alone can lead to true advaitic experience envisaged by the Upanishads.
The spiritual seekers of India have derived inspiration and guidance from the spiritual classic Yoga Vasishta of Valmiki through countless centuries. The teachings of Vasishta have percolated to the general people in various garbs-wise sayings', selections, adaptations and quotations. Great traditional scholars like Vidyaranya, Madhusudhana Saraswati and Bhaskararaya and recent thinkers Swami Rama Tirtha, Bhagavan pas, Manilal Dwivedi and Dr. Atreya have been profoundly influenced by the thoughts of Vasishta. Sri Dwivedi rightly says that the idealism of Vasishta alone holds the key to world peace and harmony among people.
Academicians, however, have not paid much attention to the work, possibly because in their view, the repetitions and the contradictions the work abounds in, militate against a coherent philosophy and that the teachings of the Yoga Vasishta unsettle the normal conception of time and space and the accepted chronological order, The transcendental spirit is beyond time and space and if, in the seer's unique unitive spiritual vision, all the notions of time and space disappear as fancies, the fault is not with Vasishta but with the nature of Reality. One other ground for the bias against the Yoga Vasishta is its penchant for repetitions. In Vasishta's method of spiritual instruction, the repetitions, contradictions, similes and stories have a positive purpose and are not a verbal superfluity.
It is Sri Ananda Bodhendra's iliuminating commentary. Tatparya Prakasika' that discloses to us the method that underlies the mode of teaching in the Yoga Vasishta.
Dr. Atreya, the author of The Philosophy of the Yega Vasishta,' a penetrating study, has totally ignered 'Tatparya Prakasika' and that is the reason he complains against the repetitions and contradictions. Vasishta deliberately employs them and in the light of 'Tatparya Prakasika,' everything is in place and the complaint has no. grounds.
Abhinanda Pandita's abridged version called 'Laghu Yega Vasishta, theugh has net cempletely breught out the teachings of Vasishta, nevertheless enables seekers to. appreciate the unique teachings of the seer, and can inspire further attempt to. study and understand the whole work.
That is wisdom after attaining which nething else remains unknown. Vasishta's Teachings show the path to. the attainment of such wisdom. Fer the seekers of spiritual solace and also. fer these engaged in the intellectual quest ef reselving the mystery of life, Vasishta remains the only perfect guide.
The Yoga Vasishta embodying the instructions of Sage Vasishta to Sri Ramachandra in the council of Dasaratha was composed by Valmiki at the behest of Brahma himself. As in the case of Purva-Ramayana, this was dictated by Valmiki to his pupil Bharadwaja. This remarkable spiritual classic which, according to the author consists of 32,000 verses, made Sri Rama a perfectly enlightened person, fully competent for the discharge of royal duties. Rama was not the sole beneficiary. All the personages-King Dasaratha, his other sons, ministers and other Vasishta-became completely enlightened at the end of the discourses, which took place for several days in the royal council.
Sri Vasishta is next only to Brahma in the line of preceptors of the Advaitic tradition commencing from Sri rayana. Appropriately, his teachings have inspired, guided and moulded countless souls in the quest for and attainment of spiritual wisdom and are bound to fascinate and delight generations of seekers and quench their thirst for supreme spiritual bliss.
The well-known verse! associated by tradition with the recitation of Ramayana affirms that the Supreme Person revealed by the Vedaswas born as the son of Dasaratha, while the Veda itself issued forth from Valmiki as the Ramayana. It is also well-known that the Veda is divided into Karma-kanda and Jnana-kanda. portions dealing with Karma and Jnana respectively. In the view of the teachers of Vedanta, a person, by adhering to the tenets of Karma- Kanda, acquires the mental competence which enables him to pursue the spiritual, enquiry, prescribed by the Jnana- kanda and attain realisation. If the Karma-kanda and Jnana- kanda of the Veda are complementary, as means and end, Valmiki's two Ramayanas, the one dealing with the story of Rama called Purva Ramayana and the other recording the teachings of Vasishta to Rama, called Uttara Ramayana or Vasishta Ramayana are also complementary, the former representing upaya. the means, and the latter the upeya, the goal. Only if we interpret it in this way, Ramayana can be considered to represent the complete Veda as affirmed by the traditional verse.
There is reason to believe that the Yoga Vasishta, containing as it does Vasishta's own teachings, was considered as the highest authority in regard to the nature of the Reality and the nature of the world. Ananda Bodhendra, the learned commentator of the Yoga Vasishta, cites a passaqe" from the 15th Chapter of the Aditya Purana in which Shiva says to his son Skanda: "Jnanam (knowledge) is never the characteristic or attribute of Atma (Self). Atma itself is of the nature of Jnana which is all-pervasive, eternal and auspicious. I am the Self of all the beings. The supreme ruler is one only. Shanmukha! All the objects are fictitiously imposed on me. All the world is only Consciousness . Ignorant people see it as world. Wise people see the world as the mere self. This truth, incomprehensible to the ordinary, was taught by Vasishta to Rama in bygone times." It is apparent that Shiva was alluding to the teachings ofVasishta to Rama contained in the Yoga Vasishta, in support of His own instructions to Shanrnukha. on the nature of Self.
While commenting on Sri Krishna's observation "Rishibhir bahudha geetam" (Gita, 13-4). Shankara interprets the passage to mean "expounded much by sages like Vasishta." Such an interpretation would be proper, only if Vasishta's exposition of Brahman as contained in the Yoga- Vasishta, was already well-known. Many minor Upanishads contain several verses from the Yoga Vasishta and utilise the kind of terminology used and ideas explained in it. It should be apparent that the composer of the minor Upanishads had borrowed them from the Yoga Vasishta and not the reverse. Later Vedantic writers, chiefly Vidyaranya (14th Century), Madhusudhana Saraswati (15 Century). Paramasivendra Saraswati, Bhaskararaya (17tb. Century) have frequently quoted Vasishta in support of their views. Vidvaranya's -"Jivan mukti viveka," describing the ways of a Jivanmukta, the realised soul, is largely based upon the Yoga Vasishta. Further, Vasishta's ideas are traceable in the works Viveka Chudamani" and "Sarva Vedanta Siddhanta Sara Sangraha" of Adi Shankara and in the works of Sureswara, Sarvajnatman. Prakasananda-all of whom are anterior to Vidyaranya.
Among recent thinkers, Sri Rama Tirtha, who had ed on Vedanta in America, and Japan was totally captivated by the work Yoga Vasishta and he described it as one of the greatest books and the most wonderful ever written under the Sun, which nobody on earth can read without realising God-Consciousness." The noted scholar Bhagavan Das felt that Yoga. Vasishta is intended for the people in siddha-avasta. that is, those who have mastered the theory and have become adepts. Seekers and saints have always turned to it for inspiration and guidance. Though academicians in their works on Indian Philosophy have not n much importance to the Yoga Vasishta, this lacuna has been more than rectified by Dr. Atreya's learned work Philosophy of the Yoga Vasishta" and modern seekers are increasingly drawn towards Vasishta's philosophy, which is deep comprehensive, rational and constructive.
"A pupil like Sri Rama, a preceptor like Sri Vasishta, a scripture like Yoga Vasishta, there have never been nor ever will be" so exclaimed Sri Vasudeva Brahmendra Saraswati of Tamilnad, a deep 'student of the Yoga Vasishta and this verse has been approvingly quoted by Dr. Atreya elsewhere in his writings.
What does Vasishta himself think of his work? Vasishta repeatedly exhorts the listener to study his teachings again and again and affirms that by a mere study of his work, one will become enlightened. Sri Rama is asked by Vasishta at the end of the long discourse, "Rama, your mind has attained realisation. There is nothing more for you to hear. You have accomplished all that has to be accomplished, attained all that has to be attained. Abide in thy own Self. You may yourself tell me after contemplation, how you feel at heart and whether there is anything more for you to know." Sri Rama replies. "Great seer, I feel that I have accomplished all that has to be accomplished. I am supremely blissful. I am exceedingly tranquil. There is no craving in my heart. That which has to be explained has been explained by you; that which has to be known has been known by me. Having fulfilled the purpose, let Saraswati, the Goddess of Speech withdraw into silence."
When the entire assembly rises to pay tribute to Vasishta, Sri Rama exclaims: "The greatest of fortunes, the grandest of visions, the noblest of scriptures, the greatest of literary works, the most beautiful of landscapes, the worthiest of possessions I have now attained." Visvamitra says, "O what a holy deed! After listening to the wisdom from the very mouth of the Seer, we feel as though we have taken bath in a thousand Gangas." Narada states, "What I have not heard in Brahmaloka, nor on the earth before, I have now heard. I have become very holy." Lakshmana exclaims, "You have shown that you are Sun even to the Sun-by extinguishing not only external darkness, but the internal darkness as well"
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