This offering was not intended to be a book as such. I kept some notes on the main points covered in the video and expanded them a little so there could be a take-home in the form of a pdf handout to be released along with each video. I have received some feedback on culling these handouts into an eBook so with a little tweaking—here it is. I humbly offer this unto all who may feel it useful.
The Yoga Vāsiṣṭha is a very important scripture for sincere seekers of the truth but perhaps not as well-known as some others. This scripture has many stories that are used to point to subtle truths which are generally hard to absorb theoretically—especially today, when political correctness imposes itself on direct communication. Swami Venkatesananda’s translations on the Yoga Vāsiṣṭha are the very best as only excessive descriptions in the story or redundancy is left out but the essentials are brought to light in very simple language.
Here, I have chosen to focus on the important teachings communicated through the stories, without the stories or illustrations. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The reader may not get the background based on which or through which the teachings were communicated and it may also seem repetitive as some stories bring out teachings covered earlier so some overlap and redundancy was unavoidable. The advantage however falls to seekers who have been on the path for a while and are able to grasp the subtle but lofty truths without concern of redundancy.
Chapter six is the largest part of the scripture and broken in two parts. I have gone light in the contents of this chapter and instead, chosen to focus on topics useful to the seeker which is mostly in the earlier chapters. I recommend a study of either version of Swami Venkatesananda’s work, the fuller version or the concise version to benefit from this focused attempt to highlight the main teachings of the Yoga Vāsiṣṭha. Let us begin.
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The Yoga Vāsiṣṭha is a very important scripture for sincere seekers of the truth but perhaps not as well-known as some others. Here, we have a dialogue between the great sage Vāsiṣṭha and Rama who amongst other wonderful qualities, was also a prince. The core of the scripture is a dialogue between Vāsiṣṭha and Rama in the royal court of his father and in the presence of other great ones and sages.
After finishing his education with others, Rama returned to his home and resumed his normal way of princely living. Very soon, he had an urge to go out and see the country before he would get into the thick of his duties and responsibilities. With his father’s permission, he set out to see the world – the land his duties were tied to. He toured the length and width of the land and eventually, returned to the palace and princely way of life.
Soon, a wave of thought overtook him and he became indrawn and pensive. Others noticed this but did not know quite what to make of it. One day, the great sage Vishvamitra came to the royal court and asked the king, Rama’s father for a favor. He asked that Rama’s company him for some time as he was involved in a sacred rite which required his full involvement and there were others bent on disturbing the rite. With Rama, the rite would be secure and this would benefit others including Rama in many ways. Rama was sent for but to the surprise of his father, he appeared very indrawn and pensive. When asked about the cause of his present state, Rama spoke about his observations on life and the inability to reconcile what was observed during his journey, what he had very intelligently pondered upon and what was expected of him in terms of his duties and responsibilities. He was not dejected but at the threshold of awakening and sage Vishvamitra requested the sage Vāsiṣṭha to resolve any doubts Rama may have.
Part 1 (17 March 2015)
Focus: background / examining everything / awakening / at the crossroads
Part 2 (26 March 2015)
Focus: the liberated sage / self-effort / essence of all scriptures / the course of action
Part 3 (2 April 2015)
Focus: Four Gatekeepers to the Realm of Freedom or Moksha
Part 4 (9 April 2015)
Focus: the task / in the heart first / self-control next / then inquiry
Part 5 (16 April 2015)
Focus: the illusion / the cure / spiritual discipline / all these help
Part 6 (23 April 2015)
Focus: beyond conditioning / purification / staying undistracted / beyond restlessness
Part 7 (30 April 2015)
Focus: restlessness is ignorance / controlling the mind / understanding renunciation / renunciation
Part 8 (7 May 2015)
Focus: how bondage happens / mind is the doer / liberation and delusion / the unconditioned state
Part 9 (14 May 2015)
Focus: The Seven States or Planes of Wisdom
Part 10 (21 May 2015)
Focus: Yoga—the means of purification / appearances—reflections in consciousness / reality—the indivisible consciousness.
Part 11 (17 April 2016)
Focus: Simple Ways to Increase Satva or Natural Goodness
Part 12 (26 April 2016)
Focus: Simple ways to transform existing rajas and tamas into satva
Part 13 (6 May 2016)
Focus: The seeds of samsara and the mind and conclude with some practical ways to unmind the mind.
Part 14 (29 May 2016)
Focus: the state of quiescence; going beyond - the no-mind; and; reality - the seed for consciousness.
Part 15 (5 June 2016)
Focus: (1) The state of pure being, (2) Attain a quiet mind first, (3) Inner ascent, (4) Control of mind, (5) Cause and cure of samsara, (6) Avoid conceptualization, and, (7) Relentless self-inquiry.
Part 16 (13 June 2016)
Focus: The first of the seven states or planes of wisdom: śubhecchā or a noble wish. Towards this, we will cover: awakening; renuciate; renunciation; behavior of a renunciate, and, focus of the renunciate.
Part 17 (25 June 2016)
Focus: The second of the seven states or planes of wisdom: vicāraṇā or direct and steady observation of the mind. Towards this, we will cover: study, right conduct and meditation; company of the wise and the good; know what is good, harmful, right and wrong; and; resolutely giving up what is not good.
Part 18 (6 July 2016)
Focus: The third of the seven states or planes of wisdom: tanumānasi or the thinned and weakened mind. The characteristics of one in this state: (1) one assimilates the teaching of the scriptures, lives with masters and listens to their teachings; (2) being indifferent to this world, one leads a very disciplined life, away from society and completely free from all contacts; (3) practice of the teachings results in right perception of what is; (4) the spirit of non-attachment of both types increases.
Part 19 (27 July 2016)
Focus: the fourth of the seven states or planes of wisdom: satvāpatti or natural turning away from sense pleasure and dwelling in truth. We also talked about four simple ways towards this: (1) do what should be done because it needs to be done and not for any other purpose, (2) refrain from doing what should not be done, knowing intuitively that it should not be done, (3) live a simple and natural life, and, (4) live in accordance with the teachings, engage yourself in appropriate activity and accept whatever happens naturally.
Part 20 (18 September 2016)
Focus: the fifth of the seven states or planes of wisdom: asamśaktti or natural and total non-attachment or freedom. Towards this, we will discuss: (1) total non-attachment or freedom and conviction in the nature of truth happen together, (2) the state of non-attachment or freedom is asamśaktti, (3) perception of the world gives way to the feeling of being, and, (4) though engaged in ‘worldly activities’, one is established in an inner vision of non-duality.
Part 21 (1 October 2016)
Focus: the sixth and seventh states or planes of wisdom: padārthābhavanī or natural cessation of objectivity and turīya or liberated while living.
Part 22 (16 October 2016)
Focus: The Dreadful Elephant in The Forest of Saṁsāra.
Part 23 (23 October 2016) New! (series complete)
Focus: We will conclude this series with focus on: (1) what liberated sages conclude, (2) attitudes conducive to liberation, (3) overcoming saṁsāra and some sorrow, (4) a noble person, and, (5) Vāsiṣṭha’s concluding instructions.