Thursday, November 23, 2017

Yoga Vasistha - The Art of Self-Realization


The main theme of Yoga Vasistha is that we are undergoing a dream from which we must awake. This dream represents our association and identification with the world. Dream means that whatever is ... is false. Nothing in a dream can be true. Waking up from that dream is the ultimate goal of our living... awakening.

The First chapter, On Dispassion - The Fall of Rama.

Rama said, “... what do people call happiness and can it be had in the ever-changing objects of this world? All beings in this world take birth but to die, and they die to be born! I do not perceive any meaning in all these transient phenomena which are the roots of suffering and sin. Unrelated beings come together; and the mind conjures up a relationship between them. 

Everything in this world is dependent upon the mind, upon one’s mental attitude. On examination, the mind itself appears to be unreal! But we are bewitched by it. We seem to be running after a mirage in the desert to shake our thirst! 

Sir, surely we are not bond slaves sold to a master; yet we live a life of slavery, without any freedom whatsoever. Ignorant of Truth, we have been aimlessly wandering in the dense forest called the world. What is this world? What comes into being, grows and dies? How does this suffering come to an end? ...

Rama continued, “Equally useless, O Sage, is the wealth which deludes the ignorant. Unsteady and fleeting, this wealth gives birth to numerous worries and generates an insatiable craving for more. Wealth is no respecter of persons: both the good and the wicked can become wealthy. However, people are good, compassionate and friendly only till their hearts are hardened by the passionate pursuit of wealth. 

... Wealth and happiness do not dwell together. Rare is a wealthy man who does not have rivals and enemies who scandalize him. ... Indeed, wealth seeks him who has already been chosen by death. Even so is the life-span, O Sage. Its duration is like that of a water droplet on a leaf. The life-span is fruitful only to those who have Self-knowledge. 

... Man vainly seeks to extend his life-span, and thereby he earns more sorrow and extends the period of suffering. Only he lives who strives to gain Self-knowledge, which alone is worth gaining in this world, thereby putting an end to future births; others exist here like donkeys. ...

Rama continued, “Holy sir, I am bewildered and scared when I contemplate the coming into being of the dreadful enemy of wisdom known as egotism. It comes into being in the darkness of ignorance, and flourishes in ignorance. It generates endless sinful tendencies and sinful actions. All suffering surely revolves around egotism; and egotism is the sole cause of mental distress. I feel that egotism is my worst disease! Spreading the net of worldly objects of pleasure, it is this egotism that traps living beings. ...

Rama continued, “It is when the mind-stuff is enveloped by craving that innumerable errors arise in the darkness of ignorance thus caused. This craving dries up the good and noble qualities of the mind and heart, like sweetness and gentleness of disposition, and makes me hard and cruel. 

... Thought I adopt various methods to restrain this craving, the latter overpowers me in a moment and helplessly drives me astray, even as a gale carries a straw away. Whatever hope I entertain of developing dispassion and such other qualities, craving cuts that hope away even as a rat snaps a thread. And I helplessly revolve caught in the wheel of craving. ...

Rama said, “Even childhood, the part of life which people ignorantly regard as enjoyable and happy, is full of sorrow, O Sage. Helplessness, mishaps, carvings, inability to express oneself, utter foolishness, playfulness, instability, weakness – all these characterize childhood. 

The child is easily offended, easily roused to anger, easily bursts into tears. In fact, one may boldly say that the child’s anguish is more terrible than that of a dying person, an aged man, a sick man or of any other adult. For in childhood one’s state is comparable truly to that of an animal living at the mercy of others. ...

Rama continued, “Leaving this period of childhood behind, the human being goes on to the stage of youth, but he is unable to leave the unhappiness behind! There he is subjected to numerous mental modifications and he progresses from misery to greater misery, for he abandons wisdom and embraces the terrible goblin, known as lust, that resides in his heart. His life is full of desire and anxiety. ...

Rama continued, “In his youth, man is a slave of sexual attraction. In the body which is no more than the aggregate of flesh, blood, bone, hair and skin, he perceives beauty and charm. If this ‘beauty’ were permanent, there would be some justification to the imagination; but, alas, it does not last very long. 

On the contrary, very soon the very flesh that contributed to the attractiveness, the charm and the beauty of the beloved is transformed first into the shriveled ugliness of old age, and later consumed by fire, or by worms, or by vultures. Yet, while it lasts this sexual attraction consumes the heart and the wisdom of the man. 

... When the child is dissatisfied with its childhood, youth takes over; when youth is plagued by dissatisfaction and frustration, old age overpowers it – how cruel is life. Even as wind tosses a dew-drop from a leaf, old age destroys the body. Even as a drop of poison when it enters the system soon pervades it, senility soon pervades the entire body and breaks it down, and makes it the laughing stock of other people. 

Though the old man is unable to satisfy his desires physically, the desires themselves flourish and grow. He beings to ask himself, “Who am I? What should I do?” etc., when it is too late for him to change his life’s course, alter his life-style, or make his life more meaningful. With the onset of senility, all the distressing symptoms of a physical break-down, like cough, white hairs, hard breathing, dyspepsia and emaciation, manifest themselves. ...

Rama continued, “All enjoyments in this world are delusion, like the lunatic’s enjoyment of the taste of fruits reflected in a mirror. All the hopes of man in this world are consistently destroyed by Time. Time alone, O Sage, wears everything out in this world; there is nothing in creation which is beyond its reach. 

Time alone creates innumerable universes and in a very short time Time destroys everything. Time allows a glimpse of itself through its partial manifestation as the year, the age, the epoch; but its essential nature is hidden. This Time overpowers everything. Time is merciless, inexorable, cruel, greedy, and insatiable. Time is the greatest magician, full of deceptive tricks. 

This Time cannot be analyzed; for however much it is divided it still survives indestructible. It has an insatiable appetite for everything – it consumes the smallest insects, the biggest mountains, and even the king of heaven (Indra)! ...

Rama continued, “O sage, thus neither in childhood nor in youth nor in old age does one enjoy any happiness. None of the objects in this world is meant to give happiness to anyone. The mind vainly seeks to find such happiness in the objects of this world. Only he is happy who is free from egotism and who is not swayed by craving for sense-pleasure: but such a person is extremely rare in this world. ...

Rama continued, “By reflecting on the pitiable fate of living beings thus fallen into the dreadful pit of sorrow, I am filled with grief. My mind is confused, I shudder, and at every step I am afraid. I have given up everything, but I have not yet established myself in wisdom; hence I am partly caught and partly freed. I am like a tree that has been cut but not severed from its root. ...

Having said so, Rama remained silent.


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