For my 20th birthday I received a second-hand book from my brother. "Here." He said. "Just read this. That's something for you." I had never done yoga or meditated before and this was the first yoga book I ever read. When I read it I loved it. Although I didn't understand everything, when I read it, I mainly thought: "This is what I want. This is what I want!"
This gift turned out to be a harbinger. Because now 30 years later, Kriya Yoga is my daily spiritual practice and the text feels like a vivid and clear manual.
It is a small booklet with two texts from the Ramayana. The Speeches of the Wise Vâshista and The History of Queen Chudâlâ. Yoga Vâsishtha is a part of the Maharamayana and is considered a work of the highest order on the Vedanta philosophy.
I recently found this edition online on the website of Ars Floreat. Via this link you can download the text for free.
The speeches of the sage Vashista
I have selected some quotes from the chapters. In the comments below you can respond or ask questions about the text.
"A wise man dwells entirely in the Self"
A wise man watches the movements of his mind as he lives in the world and performs all the duties that life imposes upon him. The mind should not be occupied only with the vain worldly cares, nor should it be occupied only with thoughts pertaining to life in the world. We must not allow the mind to enter unreservedly into the vast field of outward enjoyment, nor to dwell with the objects and actions of the senses.
O Rama! Let him dwell alone in Buddhi, and let him taste no other pleasure than the pleasure of the Self.
A wise man abides entirely in the Self, and his equanimity is like the steadfastness of a Himalayan peak; motionless in all seasons and all times. When the time comes, this serene state of mind comes to maturity, which is attained through continuous practice of Yoga and the service of a teacher.
Thus the Yogi, freed from fear and worry, passes over the vexation and errors of the world; nor is he afraid of ever falling out of this state.
page 9 and 10
"The world is created by the spirit"
Know that this world is a perpetual illusion; it is maintained by men of impetuous nature as well as by men of very sluggish disposition; it is they who support this imaginary structure, just as a building is supported by columns.
Those who are intelligent should examine the phenomena of the world, and after seeing there what is true and false, they should stick to the truth only.
The world is created by the mind, and through him it receives its magnitude, and thus the world of the imaginations is created.
"For the Yogi with a controlled mind, the world is all calm"
Pure-minded people view the tall and bright buildings of the cities in the same calm, cool light with which they view the trees in a forest. He who in his innermost being sees the world in God is in reality the Lord of all mankind!
To the controlled-mind Yogi, the world is all calm; for it is the divine Spirit manifesting itself in the form of the ego and also in the form of the world.
He who has gained both outer and inner calm by applying Yoga and who, thanks to the help of his spiritual Guru, sees the world as inseparable from God – such a person rejoices everywhere in Samadhi; but he who looks at the differences and separates his own self from the self of others — such a person is eternally and always pushed back and forth, as if by the rolling waves of the sea
page 20 and 21
"All the light pales like candlelight for the Light of Atman"
Leave untouched all that you can obtain by your own doing, Sri Rama, and remain steadfast and independent of anything in the world. Trust only in your own consciousness of Infinity. Know that you are "asleep" when you are "awake," think of your own Self as "all" and only—and united with the Supreme Spirit.
We worship the Yogis who have come to know the true nature of the Self and who have thereby attained their spiritual state.
All light fades like candlelight to the Light of Atman, and the brilliance of all the suns is but refracted rays compared to that Light of Lights.
He who knows the Truth of God is above the rest of mankind by that sacrifice of the little self (ego), and by the greatness of his mind, which he obtained through the Yoga exercises.
page 24 and 25
"The materialists, Ramaji, know nothing of the mind"
He who preaches the unreality of the world and the reality of Brahman is often called foolish by the ignorant – for it is not possible for a sage and an ignorant to agree on this matter, any more than a sober man can find it with a drunkard.
The materialists, Ramaji, know nothing of the mind; they believe that matter has its own cause and effect in it. But the sages see the all-pervading spirit in all forms of creation, just as the substance of gold is present in all gold objects.
An intelligent man who believes that the supreme and ever-silent mind of Brahman pervades the entire universe cannot be dissuaded from this strong belief.
There is only one Being Who really exists; That Truth and Consciousness is itself; Whose nature is eternal peace and pure intelligence. This Supreme Spirit is immaculate, always at rest, and does not get better or worse.
Being so immaculate, always at rest, and perfect, He sees nothing but what really exists; and all "creations" have their existence in this Ocean of peace, as particles of His Divine splendor.
page 28 and 29
O blessed Rama, know that this is the highest Truth. Blessed are they that hear it; and threefold blessed are those who make the reality of this their one goal in life. This is it:
Brahman is the intellect;
Brahman is the spirit;
Brahman is pure intelligence;
He is substance;
He is sound;
He is the principle of all things;
The universe is Brahman;
Yet He is infinitely beyond all of this.
In reality, the world is a void For everything is only Brahman.
Avoid this great display of the world, so material to the eye, and yet so unsatisfactory when we undergo it; she is the den of the dragon of desires and wishes, and he spews forth the foam of the poison of his passions. Try to give up your desires, and you will avoid all your difficulties; stop thinking about an object, and your desire for it will disappear by itself.
"Do not cherish attachment to the world of phenomena, for it is unreal"
Beloved disciple, know that the mind is the source of all the rules and practices of Yoga, just as the sea is the source of every pearl hidden in its womb.
Thus the disciples, dear to their Gurus, must get used to staying in that happy state, in which the spirit, fleeing from the sphere of the world of phenomena and freed from all pleasure and pain, resembles a bird which, suddenly discovering that it can fly, leaves its shell and the earth beneath it and flies away.
O sinless Rama, do not hold an attachment to the world of phenomena, for it is unreal, an illusion, which produces nothing but evil and sorrow—a trap for the careless.
The Wise have called this awareness of the world of phenomena an enchanted scene — Maya — a pretence due to ignorance; no more than a thought that is the cause and effect of all our actions. Know that it is the misguided mind that creates this visible world before your eyes, and wipe it out of your mind like dust and dirt.
Through the abstract meditation of the thoughtful Yogi, devoted to the sacred Yoga, the outer impressions are weakened, and when he constantly separates his soul from all outer objects, he keeps it pure and steadfast within himself. Therefore, when the mind ceases to take its subjective reflections seriously and becomes desensitized to pleasure or pain, it feels in itself the pleasure of oneness.
"To have no wishes means complete liberation"
Destroy singot, O Rama! This is the first stage. What is the point of many words when it can be said in few words? The wants and desires are the strongest bonds – and not having wishes means complete liberation.
He who has a strong sense of the ego is never liberated from the miseries of life, for it is the very denial of this ego that produces liberation.
Those addicted to sensual pleasures regard the bliss of Nirvana as nothing! They prefer worldliness to the ultimate happiness of others; and he who plays such a part is regarded in this regard as an active and energetic man.
Such a man of the world is like a tortoise, who, though he withdraws his neck into his shell, yet sometimes through thirst stretches it out to drink the salty water of the sea he inhabits.
page 37 and 38
"Flying is not important at all for a spiritual Yogi"
Be so kind, Lord, since you are fully acquainted with spiritual knowledge, explain to me how it is that we cannot see the bodies of living and liberated beings ascending into the heavens?
Saint Vasishta replied:
Know, Sri Rama, that the ability to ascend into the heavens and fly is a natural quality of all flying creatures, such as birds and insects. The various movements which we can observe in the creatures belong to the natural disposition of the bodies.
It is not at all desirable for living and liberated Yogis to fly through the air. Such powers can easily be acquired by un-spiritual and unfree and ignorant people, both through certain mantras and through other practices belonging to the lower Yoga.
Flying is not important at all for a spiritual Yogi, who has devoted himself only to the knowledge of the Atman. He is satisfied with his spiritual knowledge and union with the Supreme Being. He does not interfere with the practices of the false or ignorant Hatha Yogis.
Surely the one who follows a path of spiritual darkness only to gain temporary fame and well-being must be blind to his future well-being?
"What is Samadhi?"
What is Samadhi? The impassiveness of the mind in the face of pride, enmity, this is meant by the term Samadhi; when the mind is as unmoved as a rock in the storm wind and surf of the passions – that is Samadhi.
When the mind is united with the Buddhi and cooperates with him – that is Samadhi. In this way I find my Self in an enlightened state, pure and always fully conscious. My mind is calm and quiet, and my soul is at peace under all circumstances. I find nothing, nothing that can disturb the sweet calm of my soul since it has found its anchorage in being continuously united with the Holy Spirit, the Atman.
There is nothing in the world that we can consider to be prior to us, for everything that shines and shines here is nothing in truth! – and has no intrinsic value.
There is nothing here that I would wish for, nor anything that would repel me – for if there is nothing of the one, there is nothing of the opposite.
The silent Sage who knows all, is holy and untouched within, is never disturbed by an undisciplined mind.
By trusting and serving his highly inspired Guru, the wise disciple receives directions and meditation methods to save himself from this ocean of the world, just as a traveler is helped by a ferryman to cross a river.
TAT PASSED HERE
I have already spoken to you, dear son, about bending and quieting the mind, which is the first step in Yoga towards the salvation of the soul. Now I will speak to you of the second step, which leads to the development and strengthening of the intellect.
Persevere with infinite patience, courage and love, in your meditation practices, continue your self-study, and worship and worship God in sacred Yoga. Remember that a petty soul, a greedy soul, a soul convinced of its own superiority, will never see God. By persevering on this path for a long time, the pilgrim soul will come a long way – this is beyond all my descriptions! But this can be experienced by the holy and devoted disciple himself as long as he continues on this path.
In this state there is nothing but goodness and peace. The syllable OM is the symbol of this whole.
True worship consists only of inner meditation to worship the universal Spirit in your own Self. He is the form of Intelligence, the center of Light and as full of glory as millions of suns! He is the light of the inner spirit.
TAT TWAM ASI (THAT'S YOU1)
O worship Him in yourself! He does not demand burning candles or burning incense!
By constantly thinking about this subject and resuming your inquiry when you have let it go, you will become fully aware of the Self. The sacrifice of a pure heart, freed from desires and from aversion, is much more pleasing to Him than beautiful jewels or the most fragrant flowers.
The best meditation is that which is accompanied by the sacrifice of the lower self, the ego, to the Lord or to the sacred Yoga.
Therefore, knowledge of the Truth, subjugation of the restless mind and abandonment of desires and desires are the three factors which work together and are the cause of spiritual bliss which can never be attained by practicing any of these factors separately. They must go together.
Continue to apply these three factors at all times in your life, whether in quiet moments or when you are busy; even when you speak or listen.
Ignorant people who try to subdue their minds through the practices of Hatha Yoga, or by coercing the body, are like the fools who try to dispel darkness by black ink instead of a burning lamp.
"Know this now, or after a thousand incarnations!"
What trust can we place in the whole world, if it is nothing but a false magic? What then does pleasure or pain mean? Know, my son, that this world sphere is but a phantom, which the mind is conjured up in order to deceive it.
Sometimes it appears straight and sometimes crooked; sometimes long and sometimes short; sometimes moving and other times still. In fact, everything in the world is constantly moving and undergoing constant change, yet it seems as if it is standing still.
People place great value on their own material progress and on many more transient things on this earth—and yet in truth there is no progress in this decaying world. It's like a seductive, beautifully made dish – beautiful on the outside, but full of poison on the inside. Think of it as an extinguished lamp, the flame of which has disappeared – no one knows where to go. It is as elusive as the fog; try to grab it – it turns out to be nothing.
Take advantage of the opportunity you have to attend Sat Sanga's, and also the closeness of your Guru, and know God.
Yes, know God, O Ramaji! Serve those who speak to you about Him. He alone is real. Know this now, or after a thousand incarnations! This world is no more than a network of the imagination, just as children imagine that there is a ghost in the dark.
"It is my firm belief that I am the same Intelligence that manifests itself in the universe"
I rejoice in the happiness of others and seek to take away the misery of mankind; this universal sympathy for the weal and woe of all creatures has kept me alive and revitalized me at all times.
I stand firm as a rock in adversity and am kind to all beings in prosperity. I am never agitated, neither by poverty nor by excess, and this steadfastness of mind is the cause of my calm, long life.
It is my firm belief that I am the same Intelligence that manifests itself in the universe; who is in all space both above and below the earth; and this certainty it is that makes me Master of life and death.
"I bow down to that sun-like Way"
All wealth and excess eventually leads to misery; wealth is the harbinger of misfortune; sense pleasure is nothing but temptation; so every earthly good sooner or later turns into its opposite.
In this world of sickness and death, there is only one elixir that brings constant health and eternal life to people — that is peace and tranquility.
Know, Sri Rama, that a person who possesses spiritual peace and contentment, wherever he is, whether in quiet retreat, far away from his own land, or by the sea, or deep in the woods, in distant deserts or in a beautiful garden– feels at home everywhere. He is not attached to a particular place, but always remains detached, wherever he is, with friends in a pleasant garden or during a discussion in a company of scholars.
Wherever he goes or stands, he is always calm, quiet and self-controlled. Though he is well acquainted with all things, he never ceases to seek divine knowledge (for Truth is infinite).
Thus the holy Sage, in a state of transcendental bliss, abides always in the Supreme Being.
This transcendental state makes him detached from all sense objects, and he is constantly aware of a space filled with the presence of the Omniscient Spirit.
The Seer who has seen God's glory lives in an environment of Light; and like a burning lamp, he dispels his inner darkness, at the same time with all his outward cares and fears, all enmities, and also with all bonds of love.
I bow down before that sun-like Sage,
Who stands on all sides outside the darkness,
Who is exalted above all things that have been created,
And whose glory can never diminish.