The extensive text of the Yoga-vasistha contains the
essence of Vedanta philosophy. Because of its bulk, the
repetitions and the numerous stories interwoven into the
main narrative, it is difficult for the average person to profit
from the profound thoughts which the work offers, even if he
happens to know Sanskrit. Professor B.L. Atreya has presented
in this little volume all the important aspects of the teachings
in a form which everyone can grasp. Here one finds evidence
that Theosophy has existed throughout the ages; the funda-
mentals of Theosophy are contained in this work.
Desire (trsna) and ignorance (avidya) are the source of all
suffering. To become free of suffering, every person must
exert himself, not depending on fate or the passage of time to
accomplish it. No one can impart illumination to another,
for true knowledge must be experienced by each one in the
depth of his own conciousness : 'the taste of sugar can never
be made known to one who has not tasted it himself'. Truth
dawns only upon those whose minds are tranquil, pure and
kind to all beings. All that exists is One Reality, the diverse
existences in time and space being only reflections projected
by the mind. As the mind changes, appearances change.
Therefore, self- knowledge is the key to liberation and
The Indian Section of the Theosophical Society is render-
ing service to seekers of truth in publishing this series of
lectures, delivered at the Indi
an Headquarters at Varanasi by
Professor Atreya more than half a century ago.
During the last two years a combined issue of our journal
was brought out. Both were centred round two great per-
sonalities of the Society. The present combined issue deals
with the Yoga-vasistha, a spiritual treatise which is not-so-well
known to the common man. It is an ancient and very
voluminous Sarnskrt work. It covers a very wide range of
topics, all relating to Self-knowledge and liberation. Madam
Blavatsky is reported to have said that the Yoga-vasistha is
meant for the few. Certainly it is for those few who are
really interested in liberation or in gaining Self-knowledge.
However, it may be presumed that all serious students of
Theosophy are among these few.
The yoga-vasistha is an important work on Advaita
philosophy. Its tenets are, in general, very much similar to
those of Sarnkara, with some minor differences. For example,
Vasistha considers Experience to be the ultimate pramana of
knowledge whereas Sarnkara gives importance to Sruti.
Realising the importance of the yoga-vasistha and the
difficulty of the members in undertaking a study of the
original unaided the Kashi Tattva Sabha, the premier lodge
at the Headquarters of the Indian Section, invited Dr. B. L.
Atreya of the Banaras Hindu University to deliver a series of
ten lectures on the subject in 1932. The first series of lectures
was published in Theosophy in India and later in the form of
a booklet-The Yoga vasistha and its Philosophy. The second
series of five lectures appeared as another booklet, The Yoga
vasistha and Modern Thought. In 1936 a scholarly treatise, by
the same author, was published by the Theosophical Publishing
House as The Philosophy of the yoga-vasistha.
With a view to making yoga-vasistha available in a
simpler form and reaching it to a wider cross section of our
members a lecture at Varanasi of Dr. B. L. Atreya on Self-
realisation or Deification of Man-Its Methods and Stages according
to Y oga-vasistha was published in Theosophy in India and
reprinted as a pamphlet. All these are out of print now.
Seeing its perennial importance we have much pleasure
in reprinting yoga-vasistha and Its PhilosoPhy with the hope
that it wil1lead at least some to go much deeper in their quest.
Lectures I and II are more of academic interest whereas
seekers will find the other three of greater use.
True to the tradition of ancient India the author of the
work has chosen to remain anonymous. It is said that
Sri Ramacandra, while still very young, reflecting on the
nature of things felt dissatisfied and pessimism began to
overpower him. He felt the world is transitory and illusory.
Sri Rama posed a number of questions and doubts. The
great sage Vasistha taught him that the true source of hap-
piness which lies within everyone, that no god or teacher
can confer liberation on any one. Vasistha emphasised that
the knowledge should not remain a mere belief. The nature
of the Self and world can be known by self exertion. Know-
ledge has to become a living experience.
As the work is based on a dialogue between the sage
Vasistha and Sri Ramacandra it is not a systematized work
in a terse and hair splitting style,:So characteristic of many
famous treatises. The author has avoided brevity, obscurity
and vagueness and has not put the ideas in the form of
sutras. Lofty ideas have been put in a simple manner and
made clear by many similies, analogies, illustrations, arguments
and an unusually large number of stories. A unique contri-
bution of the author is the art of story telling applied to
popularise deep philosophic ideas. This should enable us to
answer the baffling question so often asked as to how to
present Theosophy to the youth.
Scholars hold different views on the date of the work.
However, all agree that the form in which it appears in the
present time is not as was written by Valmiki. The original
teachings handed down over many millennia and, according
to Dr. Atreya, were written in the present form in 32,000
slokas in the 6th century A. D. Out of these 27,687 slokiis are
available now. This being too voluminous was available
only to a few. So Gauda Abhinanda of Kashmir (9th century
A. D.) selected 4,829 slokas and brought out Laghu-Yoga-
vasistha. This helped to popularise the great work. An
unknown author selected 215 slokas to form yoga-vasistha-sara.
Dr. Atreya in his monumental work The Philosophy of
yoga-vasistha has substantiated Jin detail that a large number
of slokas from Yoga-vasistha have been quoted verbatim in
several Upanisads, showing the importance of this work.
Another important reason for chosing the yoga-vasistha
as the theme for this issue of The Indian Theosophist is its
universal, non-sectarian approach to the eternal human
problems. To give just one illustration, the author says that
the Absolute Reality is the same as "that which is called
Sunya by the Sunya Vadins, Brahman by the Brahma-uids, purusa
by the samkhya thinkers, Iswara by the followers of yoga
school, Siva by the Saivas, Time (kala) by those who believe
Time to be the only reality, the Self by those who think the
Self to be so, Non-self by the philosophers who do not believe
in the reality of the self, Miidhyama by the Madhyamikas, and
the All by those who have a vision of equality all around",
(V. 87, 18-20). This is truly a Theosophical approach.
It has not been our policy to quote original Samskrt verses,
except brief passages written in Roman alph abets using the
standard diacritical marks. The verses quoted by the learned
speaker have been given, as Appendix, inspite of increased
cost and the difficulty of proof-corrections, in the hope that
at least some of our readers would like to keep this issue for
reference and will use it frequently. The references given
within brackets indicate Prakarana, Sarga and Sloka as found
in the Yoga-vasistha published by the Nirnaya-Sagar Press,
Bombay, 1918 edition.
Comments and valuable suggestions on this venture and
for future numbers of The Indian Theosophist, of about 48
pages, are cordially invited. The readers are most welcome
to suggest or make available material for future combined
issues of this Journal.
The place of Yogavasistha in the philosophical literature of India: Uniqueness of the work;opinion of Svami Ram Tirtha and Dr. Bhagamana Dasa; opinion of the author of the work; authoritativeness of Yogavasistha: It is a source of a number of Minor Upanisads; neglect and misunderstanding of the work. The method of teaching in Yogavasistha; its fault; Vasistha sarsana; Publisher literature on Yogavasistha.
The probable date of composition of Ygavasistha
The orthodox view- The view current among modern scholars-Why it is not acceptable- Winternitz's view and its criticism-Why it is not regarded as a post-Samkara work-Why it is not to be regarded as post-Gaudapada work-An objection answered- why earlier than Bharthari- The current Yogavasistha not a work of Valmiki-Must have been written after Kalidasa and after the spread of Idealism and Nihilism of the Mahayana Buddhism- The prabable date of its composition.
The type of person for whom yogavasistha is meant
Consciousness of suffering- The cause and remedy of suffering-Self-effort versus destiny- Preliminary qualifications of the aspirant.
The Metaphysics of Yogavasistha
The sources of knowledge- The chief feature of Vasistha's philosophy- Knowledge presupposes Idea-listic Monism-Idealism-Similarity between waking and dream experience- Subjective Idealism-Objective Idealism-Worlds within worlds-Variety of world-experience- The general law of manifestation of objectives world-Individuality-Thought-power-Secret of supernormal powers-The Self-Death and after-The Cosmic Mind- The Creative Impulse- The Absolute Reality-Everything is Brahman-The world as unreal appearance-Accosmism.
Realisation of the Absolute point of view
Philosophy and life-The ultimate source of Happoness- Bondage and liberation-The way of attaining liberation-Ptactical Self-realisation-Seven stages on the path of Self-realisation- The life of liberation-Nirvana or the final liberation from the world-experience.
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