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New version of Yoga Vasistha


Here are some remarks by the 2013 compiler, Tom Palotas:

The Underlying Story: the Enlightenment of Rama

Valmiki’s book, Yoga Vasishta is about Rama awakening to God realization through the lectures of
sage Vasishta. Rama asks questions and Vasishta gives answers over a twenty-two day period.

This is the same Rama who was an incarnation of the god Vishnu and who is worshipped as God by
many in India even today. The subject of the book is a lesson by itself. Even gods forget their identity
when they incarnate and require a God-realized master to wake them up.

It is a very long book, about 32,000 slokas or verses of two lines each. V. L. Mitra’s English
translation is about a million words. By comparison, the King James Bible is about three-quarters of
a million. Valmiki describes twenty-two occasions when the assembly broke for the evening. The last
day was one of confirmation and celebration, so Vasishta’s discourses, sermons and stories extended
over twenty-two days. At a comfortable spoken pace of 120 words a minute, that works out to about
five to six hours of constant dialogue each day.

Most of us would be ecstatic to attain God realization in only twenty-two days.

The book itself states that simply reading it can evoke enlightenment. “Whoever hears and attends to
these discourses of Rama and Vasishta is sure to be relieved in every state of life and be united with
[God] after his release.” (VIA.128.109) (Citations are to Book, Chapter, and verse.)
“Reading this Vasishta Maharamayana is sure to produce the knowledge of self-liberation in its
reader, even during his lifetime in this world.” (VIB.95.25)
“There was never a better scriptures than this, nor is any like this now in existence or likely to be in
fashion in the future. . . . This is the best among the principal works of the scriptures. It is easily
intelligible and delightful. There is nothing new here, only what is well known in spiritual
philosophy. Let a man read the many stories contained in this book with delight. He undoubtedly will
find this book the best of its kind.” (VIB.103.25, 42-43)

Yet among Vasishta’s or Valmiki’s praise for the book, it also recognizes that it may not be to
everyone’s taste. “Should this scripture prove distasteful, owing to it being the composition of a holy
sage, then the student may consult the sacred scriptures to perfect his spiritual knowledge.”


The first step in Rama's Path toward Liberation is disgust with worldly life; here is a sample of his thinking:

"3 Since I was born in this my father’s palace, I have remained here, grown up, and received my
education. 4 Then, O leader of sages, desiring to learn good customs, I set out to travel to holy places
all over this sea-surrounded earth. 5 By this time, a series of reflections arose in my mind that shook
my confidence in worldly objects. 6 I employed my mind to discriminate the nature of things, which
gradually led me to discard all thoughts of sensual enjoyments.

7 What are worldly pleasures good for, and why do men multiply on earth? Men are born to die, and
they die to be born again. 8 There is no stability in the tendencies of beings whether movable or
immovable. They all tend to vice, decay and danger, and all our possessions become the grounds of our poverty.

9 All objects of sense are detached from each other like iron rods from one another. It is only
imagination which attaches them to our minds. 10 It is the mind that pictures the existence of the world
as a reality, but if we know the deceptiveness of the mind, we are safe from such deception. 11 If the
world is an unreality, it is a pity that ignorant men should be allured by it, like deer tempted by a
distant mirage of water. 12 We are sold by none, yet we are enslaved to the world. Knowing this well,
we are spell-bound with riches, as if by a magic wand. 13 What are the enjoyments in
this essence but misery? Yet we are foolishly caught in its thoughts, like bees caught in honey.

14 Ah! After long, I perceive that we have insensibly fallen into errors, like senseless stags falling into
pits in the wilderness. 15 Of what use is royalty and these enjoyments to me? What am I and where
do all these things come from? They are only vanities. Let them continue as such without any good or
loss to anybody. 16 Reasoning in this manner, O holy brahmin, I came to be disgusted with the world,
like a traveler in a desert."

Section 1, chapter 12


Having developed a firm non-attachment to worldly life Rama then asks his Guru Vasistha for advice on achieving Liberation. The first keynote is self-reliance:

"II 4 O Rama, listen to what I [Vasistha] 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 Brahmā 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."


More on the keynote of trying or self-effort:

There is no other way to bring about the end of all misery than one’s own effort. (III, 6, 14.)
There is hardly anything in existence which is not attainable through right & earnest effort. (III, 92, 8.)
Through effort alone the wise always come out of dangerous situations, and not through the absurd belief in destiny. (II, 7, 18.)
One gets only what he has striven for; nothing is ever achieved by sitting idly. (II, 7, 19.)
Every one is his own friend or enemy; if one does not save himself, there is no other to save him. (VIb, 162, 18.)
It is our own efforts that bring victory over our undesirable condition without fail. (III, 92, 19.)
One should, therefore, learn to be active along the right direction. (III, 92, 28.)
He is a great fool undoubtedly, who relies on fate, or believes that God will throw him capriciously in hell or heaven. (II, 6, 27.)