Stories From Yoga Vasishtha

by Swami Sivananda

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Book Code: ES169
150 pages
ISBN: 81-7052-033-9
Book Dimensions: 7.0 x 5.0 x 0.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 240 grams

Table of Contents

Dedication v
Letter vi

Sri Swami Sivananda



Hastamalaka Stotra xiv
Para Puja xx
Essence of Yoga Vasishtha xxiii
Prologue 2
1. Vairagya Prakarana (On Dispassion) 3

The Story of Sukadeva

2. Mumukshu Prakarana (On Longing for Liberation) 15
3. Utpatti Prakarana (On Creation) 22
The Story of Karkati 23
The Story of Indra and Ahalya 30
A Tale for a Bala 32

The Story of a Siddha

4. Sthiti Prakarana (On Existence) 41
The Story of Sukra 42
The Story of Bhima, Bhasa and Dridha 48
5. Upasanti Prakarana (On Dissolution) 54
The Story of King Janaka 55
The Story of Gadhi 62
The Story of Uddalaka 70
The Story of Bhasa and Vilasa 75
The Story of Veetahavya 85
6. Nirvana Prakarana (On Liberation) 90
The Story of the Bilva Fruit 92
The Story of Sikhidhwaja 92
The Story of Ikshwaku 116
7. Appendix 125
Sri Satya Narayana Vrata 125
Realisation of the Ultimate Reality 141
Prayers and Songs 143
The Universal Prayer 143
Invocatory Prayer 143
Maha Mantra 144
Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra 144
Kirtans 144
Song of Instructions 146
Song of Eighteen “Ities” 147
Song of Ethics 147
Yoga of Synthesis 147
Essence of Vedanta 148
Song of Moderation 148
Saints of India 148
Saints of the World 149






24th December, 1958

Beloved Jignasus,

The Yoga Vasishtha is a wonderful book in this world. The non-dual Brahman alone exists. This world does not exist in the three periods of time. Knowledge of the Self alone will free one from the rounds of birth and death.

Extinction of Vasanas (cravings) is Moksha. Mind generates this universe through Sankalpa (thought).

Annihilate the little “I”, Vasanas and Sankalpa.

Meditate on the Self and become a Jivanmukta. This is the gist of the Yoga Vasishtha.

Swami Sivananda


Born on the 8th September, 1887, in the illustrious family of Sage Appayya Dikshitar and several other renowned saints and savants, Sri Swami Sivananda had a natural flair for a life devoted to the study and practice of Vedanta. Added to this was an inborn eagerness to serve all and an innate feeling of unity with all mankind.

His passion for service drew him to the medical career; and soon he gravitated to where he thought that his service was most needed. Malaya claimed him. He had earlier been editing a health journal and wrote extensively on health problems. He discovered that people needed right knowledge most of all; dissemination of that knowledge he espoused as his own mission.

It was divine dispensation and the blessing of God upon mankind that the doctor of body and mind renounced his career and took to a life of renunciation to qualify for ministering to the soul of man. He settled down at Rishikesh in 1924, practised intense austerities and shone as a great Yogi, saint, sage and Jivanmukta.

In 1932 Swami Sivananda started the Sivanandashram. In 1936 was born The Divine Life Society. In 1948 the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy was organised. Dissemination of spiritual knowledge and training of people in Yoga and Vedanta were their aim and object. In 1950 Swamiji undertook a lightning tour of India and Ceylon. In 1953 Swamiji convened a ‘World Parliament of Religions’. Swamiji is the author of over 300 volumes and has disciples all over the world, belonging to all nationalities, religions and creeds. To read Swamiji’s works is to drink at the Fountain of Wisdom Supreme. On 14th July, 1963 Swamiji entered Mahasamadhi.


The earliest work in Sanskrit on Vedanta of the highest order is the Vasishtha Maha Ramayana or Yoga Vasishtha. This monumental work is one without a second in Sanskrit literature. Vasishtha, the great sage, taught the principles of Vedanta to his royal pupil, Sri Rama, the victor of Ravana and hero of the epic, Ramayana. He narrated beautiful and interesting stories to illustrate the principles. The book is written in the language of Valmiki.

It is the crest-jewel of all the works on Vedanta. It is a masterpiece. A study of the book raises a man to the lofty heights of divine splendour and bliss. It is really a vast store of wisdom. Those who practise Atma Chintana or Brahma Abhyasa or Vedantic meditation will find a priceless treasure in this marvellous book. He who studies the book with great interest and one-pointedness of mind cannot go without attaining Self-realisation. The practical hints on Sadhana are unique. Even the most worldly-minded man will become dispassionate and will attain peace of mind, solace and consolation.

The Yoga Vasishtha was once one of the most widely read books in India. It greatly influenced the general philosophical thought. The late Pundit Brindawana Saraswati of Benares had read the Yoga Vasishtha one hundred and sixty-five times. It is a comprehensive, deep, systematic and literary philosophical work of ancient India.

The name is derived from the sage Vasishtha. Though the book is called Yoga Vasishtha, it treats of Jnana only. Practical Yoga is dealt with in two stories. The word “Yoga” is used in the title of this work in its generic sense. It is known by the name Jnana Vasishtham also.

Rishi Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, compiled this remarkable book. He related the whole of the Yoga Vasishtha to Rishi Bharadwaja as it passed between Sri Rama and sage Vasishtha.

There are two books, namely, the Brihat Yoga Vasishtha and the Laghu Yoga Vasishtha. The former is a big book containing 32,000 Granthas or Slokas or 64,000 lines. “Brihat” means big. The latter book contains 6,000 Granthas. “Laghu” means small.

The Yoga Vasishtha contains a system of ancient philosophical thought unique in its kind. This is a valuable heritage from the hoary past of this sacred land known as Bharatavarsha or Aryavarta. The system of thought that is presented in this book is a highly valuable contribution not only to Indian philosophical thought but also to the philosophical thought of the world at large.

Those whose minds are turned from this world, who have become indifferent towards the objects of this world and who are thirsting for liberation, will be really benefited by a study of this precious book. They will find in this book a vast mine of knowledge and practical spiritual instructions for guidance in their daily life. The Yoga Vasishtha first enunciates a doctrine in its various aspects and then makes it very lucid through interesting stories. This is a book for constant study as many times as possible. It must be read and re-read, studied and mastered.

The Yoga Vasishtha deals with the subject of effecting union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul amidst all the trials and tribulations of life. It prescribes various directions for the union of the Jivatma and Paramatma.

The nature of Brahman or Sat and the various methods of attaining Self-realisation are vividly described in this book. The main enquiry regarding the final beatitude or summum bonum is beautifully dealt with. This book embodies in itself the science of ontology, the knowledge of the Self, the principles of psychology, the science of emotions, the tenets of ethics and practical morality, discourses on theology, etc. The philosophy of Yoga Vasishtha is sublime and unique.

The book consists of six Prakaranas or sections, namely:

1. Vairagya Prakarana (on dispassion or indifference); 2. Mumukshu Prakarana (on longing for liberation); 3. Utpatti Prakarana (on creation or origin); 4. Sthiti Prakarana (on preservation or existence); 5. Upasanti Prakarana (on dissolution or quiescence); and 6. Nirvana Prakarana (on liberation). According to Yoga Vasishtha, this world of experience with various objects, time, space and laws, is a creation of the mind, that is, an idea or Kalpana. Just as objects are created by the mind in dream, so also everything is created by the mind in the waking state also. Expansion of the mind is Sankalpa. Sankalpa, through its power of differentiation generates this universe. Time and space are only mental creations. Through the play of the mind in objects, nearness seems to be a great distance and vice versa. Through the force of the mind, a Kalpa is regarded as a moment and vice versa. A moment of waking experience may be experienced as years in dream. The mind can have the experience of miles within a short span and miles can also be experienced as a span only. Mind is not anything different and separate from Brahman. Brahman manifests Himself as mind. Mind is endowed with creative power. Mind is the cause of bondage and liberation.

The doctrine of Drishti-Srishtivada is expounded in the Yoga Vasishtha. In some places Vasishtha speaks of the Ajatavada of Sri Gaudapadacharya, the great Guru of Sri Shankara. You begin to see and then there is creation. This is Drishti-Srishtivada. This world does not exist at all in the three periods of time. This is Ajatavada or non-origin of the universe.

This is a most inspiring book. Every student of Vedanta keeps this book for constant study. It is a constant companion for a student on the path of Jnana Yoga. It is not a Prakriya Grantha. It does not deal with the Prakriyas or categories of Vedanta. Only advanced students can take up this book for their study. Beginners should first study the Atma Bodha, Tattwa Bodha, and Atmanatma Viveka of Sri Shankara, and the Pancheekaran before they take up the study of Yoga Vasishtha.

Moksha, according to Yoga Vasishtha, is the attainment of the essence of the bliss of Brahman through knowledge of the Self. It is freedom from births and deaths. It is the immaculate and imperishable seat of Brahman wherein there are neither Sankalpas nor Vasanas. The mind attains its quiescence here. All the pleasures of the whole world is a mere drop when compared to the infinite bliss of Moksha.

That which is called Moksha is neither in Devaloka nor in Patala nor on earth. When all desires are destroyed, the extinction of the expansive mind alone is Moksha. Moksha has neither space nor time in itself; nor is there in it any state external or internal. If the illusory idea of “I” or Ahamkara perishes, the end of thoughts (which is Maya) is experienced, and that is Moksha. Extinction of all Vasanas constitutes Moksha. Sankalpa is only Samsara; its annihilation is Moksha. It is only Sankalpa, destroyed beyond resurrection, that constitutes the immaculate Brahmic seat or Moksha. Moksha is freedom from all sorts of pains (Sarva-Duhkha Nivritti) and the attainment of supreme bliss (Paramananda Prapti). “Duhkha” means pain or suffering. Births and deaths generate the greatest pain. Freedom from births and deaths is freedom from all sorts of pains. Brahma Jnana or knowledge of the Self alone will give Moksha. The quiescence produced in the mind by the absence of desires for objects is Moksha.

Moksha is not a thing to be achieved. It is already there. You are in reality not bound. You are ever pure and free. If you were really bound you could never become free. You have to know that you are the immortal, all-pervading Self. To know that, is to become That. This is Moksha. This is the goal of life. This is the summum bonum of existence. That state of non-attraction of the mind, when neither “I” nor any other self exists for it, and when it abandons the pleasures of the world, should be known as the path that leads to Moksha.

The Absolute according to the Yoga Vasishtha is Satchidananda Para Brahman, who is non-dual, partless, infinite, self-luminous, changeless and eternal. He is the ocean of Being in which we all live and move. He is beyond the reach of the mind and senses. He is the ultimate substance. He is the unity behind the subject and the object of experience. He is one homogeneous essence. He is all-pervading. He is beyond description. He is nameless, colourless, odourless, tasteless, timeless, spaceless, deathless and birthless.

He whose mind is calm, who is endowed with the “Four Means” of salvation, who is free from defects and impurities can realise the Self intuitively through meditation. The scriptures and the spiritual preceptor cannot show us Brahman. They can only guide us and give us a hint by way of analogies and illustrations.

Shanti (quiescence of mind), Santosh (contentment), Satsang (association with sages) and Vichara (Atmic enquiry) are the four sentinels who guard the gates of Moksha. If you make friendship with them, you will easily enter the kingdom of Moksha. Even if you keep company with one of them, he will surely introduce you to his other three companions.

The student should have an unshakable conviction that Brahman is the only Reality, that everything is Brahman, that Brahman is the very Self of all beings. Then he should realise this truth through direct cognition or intuition (Aparokshanubhava). This direct knowledge of Brahman alone is the means of liberation.

There is no difference between the waking and dream experiences. The waking state is a long dream. The dream experiences become unreal as soon as man comes back to his waking state. Even so, the waking state becomes unreal for a sage who has attained Self-realisation. For the man who dreams, the waking state becomes unreal.

A Jivanmukta roams about happily. He has neither attractions nor attachments. He has nothing to attain, nor has he anything to give up. He works for the well-being of the world. He is free from desires, egoism and greed. He is in solitude though he works in the busiest part of a city.

May you all drink the nectar of Yoga Vasishtha! May you all taste the honey of wisdom of the Self! May you all become Jivanmuktas in this very birth! May the blessings of sage Vasishtha, sage Valmiki and other Brahma-Vidya Gurus be upon you all! May you all partake of the essence of the bliss of Brahman!



Hastamalaka was born as the son of a Brahmin, Prabhakara by name, in the village called Sreebali in South India. He was quite indifferent to all worldly affairs from his very boyhood. He behaved like one who was dumb and deaf. Once, when Sri Shankara visited this place with his followers, Prabhakara took his son Hastamalaka to him and prostrated at his feet. Sri Shankara lifted both the father and son and questioned the Brahmin.

Prabhakara spoke as follows: “O venerable sage! this son of mine is mute and indifferent to all affairs from his very boyhood. He is now thirteen years old. He understands none of our talks nor does he take any interest in them. He has studied neither any scripture nor the Vedas that are fit to be studied by a Brahmin. He knows not even the alphabets. With great difficulty I performed his thread ceremony. He never goes to play with his playmates. Observing his indifferent nature, his friends sometimes beat him but he never becomes angry. Sometimes he takes food and at other times he does not. But he is happy and cheerful always. What is his dull state of mind due to? Pray, save my child!”

In reply, Sri Shankara put the following questions to the boy. The reply given by the boy is incorporated in the Stotra named after him–the “Hastamalaka Stotra”. In truth, he was neither deaf nor dumb, but a fully illumined Jnani–a Jivanmukta!

Sri Sankara asked:

O beloved child! Who art thou? Whose son art thou? Where dost thou go? What is thy name? Wherefrom dost thou come? For my sake please give me a reply to the queries. Thou art very dear unto me.

Hastamalaka replied:

I am neither a man nor a Deva nor a Yaksha (superhuman); neither a Brahmin, nor a Kshatriya, nor a Vaisya nor a Sudra. I am neither a Brahmachari (celibate), nor a Grihastha (householder), nor a Vanaprastha (one leading a forest life prior to renunciation), nor a Bhikshu (mendicant). I am myself the eternal Self-knowledge.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, free from the limiting adjuncts of ether, etc., who induces the mind and the senses to function, just as the sun induces people to do their duties.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, the changless, whose nature is pure Consciousness, just as the nature of fire is heat, depending upon which the gross mind and the senses perform their respective functions.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge. Just as the reflection of the face in the mirror is no other than the face itself, even so the Jiva is no other than the Atman reflected in the Buddhi (intellect).

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, who exists even when the Buddhi does not exist, just as the face exists in the absence of the mirror and the reflection seen in it.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, who is beyond the mind and the senses, who is the mind of the mind, the eye of the eye, etc., and who is not approached by any of these.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, who is One and shines by His own light; the One who illumines various intellects, just as the one sun is variously reflected in different pots of water.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, who illumines all the intellects at one and the same time, like the sun which gives light, to all eyes at the same time and not one by one.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, depending on whose light the eye gets the power of seeing other objects; just as at the rising of the sun we perceive objects and not otherwise.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, the One without of second, who illumines the intellects both steady and unsteady, just as the one sun is seen reflected differently in both steady and unsteady waters.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, who appears to be bound to one of dull intellect, just as the sun which is covered by the clouds is understood to be without brightness and lustre by the foolish.

I am the Atman, the embodiment of eternal Self-knowledge, who is ever pure and untainted like the Akasa (ether), the one Self who permeates all objects, whom the objects cannot touch or taint by their contact.

Just as the difference between the various gems (precious stones) arises due to their peculiarities (in colour and shape), so also the Atman is seen separate by the difference of the Upadhi (limiting adjunct). Just as the moon is seen to be many and changing in the waters, in the same way, O Vishnu, Thou appearest different (in different Upadhis). (In reality Thou art One, ever pure and changeless.)


How can worship be done of that Being, who is without parts, who is Existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute, and who is without change (Vikalpa) and without duality?

Where can one invite Him who is all-full? Which seat is to be offered to Him who is the seat, the support of all? How is it possible to offer Arghya, Padya and Achamana (purificatory Kriyas of worship performed with water) to one who is ever pure?

Bath is needless for one who is all purity itself; of what use is clothing for Him in whom the world itself exists? To one who is devoid of creed and clan, where is the necessity for the sacred thread?

Of what use are incense and flowers to one who is ever pleased and is without desires for enjoyment? How can one dress Him who is without form? Of what avail are decorations to one who is without attributes?

What purpose would dhoop (sweet-smelling incense) serve to one who is spotless? And how should one offer lights to Him who is Himself the Light of all lights? What Naivedya (sacred rice-offerings) can be offered unto Him who is ever self-contented and immersed in His own bliss?

How can one offer tambula (betel) unto Him who imparts bliss to all beings, who is consciousness and is self-luminous and who imparts light to the sun and other objects?

How can one go around Him who is endless? How to prostrate unto Him, who is One and devoid of duality? Of Him no praises are possible, whom the four Vedas themselves fail to amply describe.

How can Neerajanam (waving of camphor, etc.) be done unto Him who is self-luminous, and how can one replace Him to His original seat (Udwasan), who is all-full and all-pervading?

9. This Para Puja should be done by all seekers of Brahman always and at all times with a devoted and one-pointed mind.

Note: Avahana, Asana, Padya, Arghya, etc., are the various acts of worship to personal gods according to the rules of Upasana or ritualistic worship. The purport of this Stotra is that these are not possible to the one, non dual Brahman. The Supreme Self should be understood in the light of the above Stotra by all seekers of Brahman.


Hari Om! Salutations to Satchidananda Para Brahman, from whom all beings proceed, by whom they are manifest, upon whom they depend, and in whom they become extinct in the end at the cosmic Pralaya!

Persons qualified to read this work called Yoga Vasishtha should neither be Ajnanis (the ignorant) who are wholly sunk in the mire of Samsara nor those Jivanmuktas or liberated sages who have already attained the knowledge of the Atman, but only those who feel that they are under bondage and who long to attain freedom from births and deaths.

Rishi Bharadwaja said: “O venerable Guru! relate to me first about Rama and then tell me how I can attain the final emancipation.”

Sage Valmiki replied…



O Bharadwaja! Free yourself from births and deaths after meditating upon the path pointed by sage Vasishtha to Rama, who followed the valuable instructions of his Guru and attained Self-realisation.

Rama wanted to visit all the sacred places of pilgrimage. He obtained the permission of his Guru as well as his father and set out on his holy pilgrimage. He visited all the holy places and returned to Ayodhya. Rama had then attained the fifteenth year of his age. His body gradually became emaciated. His blooming face became pale. He sat silent and motionless in Padmasana and remained absorbed in thought. He forgot to perform his daily duties. King Dasaratha asked Rama repeatedly to reveal to him the cause of his grief and absent-mindedness, but Rama did not give any answer.

At this juncture Viswamitra entered the council hall of the king.

Dasaratha paid due respects to the Muni and said: “O venerable Muni! please tell me the object of your coming. I agree to part with any object you expect to receive from me.”

Whereupon, Viswamitra said: “I am performing a great Yajna. The Rakshasas (demons) are troubling me very much. Please allow me to take your eldest son, Rama. He will destroy all these terrible Rakshasas.”

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