The Supreme Yoga
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THE SUPREME YOGA
Volumes I & II
Table of Contents
Prayer Before Daily Reading
I. VAIRAGYA PRAKARANAM
II. MUMUKSHU VYAVAHARA PRAKARANAM
III. UTPATTI PRAKARANAM
IV. STHITI PRAKARANAM
V. UPASHAMA PRAKARANAM
VI. NIRVANA PRAKARANAM
The Yoga Vasishtha has always been considered as perhaps the most elaborate exposition of Philosophy and Religion ever written under the sun. The work, which is voluminous in its nature, has been abridged by several scholars subsequently to make the treatise accessible to people who would not have the time and patience to wade through this large literature. Sri Swami Venkatesananda, a direct disciple of His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, has, however, excelled the earlier precis writers on this subject in his brilliant two-volume presentation of this Scripture under the title ‘The Supreme Yoga.’ The First Edition was published under the auspices of The Chiltern Yoga Trust, P.O. Elgin, Cape Province, South Africa, in two excellently printed volumes.
Now, the Third Edition of this veritably standard work is being published by The Divine Life Society Headquarters for the benefit of all seekers of Truth and the general readers of spiritual teachings. We have a firm hope that this well-known, towering teaching will provide to everyone the requisite inspiration and solace.
25th April, 1995
THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY
This publication is dedicated to my Gurudev Swami Sivananda. His life was a symphony whose constant refrain was: “In all conditions I am Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.” Sage Vasistha incarnated as Swami Sivananda to embody the Supreme Yoga. In Gurudev Yoga Vasistha was alive.
This book, The Supreme Yoga, is a translation into English accompanied by brief expositions, by Swami Venkatesananda of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh, India, of the well-known Vedanta treatise in Sanskrit, The Yoga Vasistha.
The Swami has arranged the verses of the book in such a way as to convert them into a rosary of daily thoughts throughout the year; on the lines of his two other books, already published, namely, The Srimad Bhagavatam or The Book of God, and The Bhagavad-Gita or The Song of God.
The Yoga Vasistha has been a favourite book of spiritual seekers in India these several centuries. Its special appeal lies in its thoroughly rational approach, and in its presentation of Vedanta as a philosophy which dares, like The Bhagavad-Gita, to bridge the gulf between the secular and the sacred, action and contemplation, in human life, through a comprehensive and lofty spirituality. The reader will come across passages such as the verse entry for 3 February, highlighting the importance of reason:
‘The remark of even a child is to be accepted, if it is in accordance with reason; bit the remark of even Brahma Himself, the Creator of the World, is to be rejected like a piece of straw, if it does not accord with reason.’
It is this philosophy of Comprehensive spirituality, rational and practical, that man in the modern age need to rescue himself from stagnation of worldliness and put him on the high road of creative living and fulfilment.
Swami Venkatesananda, who has been working untiringly for decades to spread the life-giving message of Yoga and Vedanta in East and West, has done a great service to spiritual seekers far and wide by bringing out this translation of The Yoga Vasistha in the wake of his translation of the other two great books.
The Chiltern Yoga Trust of Elgin, South Africa, deserves the silent thanks of readers for publishing these three books of the Swami and helping to broadcast far and wide the life-giving, purifying, and inspiring ideas of Eternal India,Amar Bharat, in her Vedanta.
Hyderabad, A.P., India
20 December 1975
Scholars speculate about the author of this monumental scripture and such other academic matters: may God bless them with success.
The Yoga-Vasistha is the greatest help to the spiritual awakening and the direct experience of the Truth. This is certain. If this is what you want, you are welcome to Yoga-Vasistha.
The text abounds in repetitions which are, however, not repetitious. If you do not like (or need) repetition, then read just this one verse:
This world-appearance is a confusion: even as the
blueness of the sky is an optical illusion. I think it is
better not to let the mind dwell on it, but to ignore it. (I.3.2)
This verse occurs several times in the scripture and it seems to be the very essence of the teaching.
If that is not quite clear to you now, read the scripture. The numerous ways in which this truth is revealed will help open your mind.
It is wise to read just one page a day. The teaching is revolutionary. The biased mind does not readily accept it. After the daily reading, meditate. Let the message soak through.
An oft-recurring expression in this scripture is kakataliya–a crow alights on the cocoanut palm tree and that very moment a ripe cocoanut falls. The two unrelated events thus seem to be related in time and space, though there is no causal relationship.
Such is life. Such is ‘creation’ . But the mind caught up in its own trap of logic questions ‘why’, invents a ‘why’ and a ‘wherefore’ to satisfy itself, conveniently ignoring the inconvenient questions that still haunt an intelligent mind.
Vasistha demands direct observation of the mind, its motion, its notions, its reasoning, the assumed cause and the projected result, and even the observed and the observation–and the realisation of their indivisible unity as the infinite consciousness.
That is the uniqueness of this scripture which hence declares itself to be supreme:
Except through this scripture, one cannot gain what is
good, now or at any time. Therefore, for perfect realisation
of the supreme truth, one should fervently investigate
this scripture alone. (VI.2.103)
It is, however the teaching that is supreme, not a book or a sage. Hence, Vasistha is bold enough to say:
If, however, one thinks it is not authoritative because
it is of human origin, one can resort to the study of
any other scripture dealing with self-knowledge and
final liberation. (VI.2.175)
Whichever be the scripture taught by whomever and whichever be the path you choose, stop not till the psychological conditioning ceases entirely. Hence, Vasistha exhorts the seeker:
One should study at least a small part of this scripture
daily. The beauty in this scripture is that its student is
not abandoned to his despair; if something is not clear
in the first instance, a further study of the scripture
makes it clear. (VI.2.175)
Dust of Gurudev’s Feet
Om Tat Sat
Om Namah Sivanandaya
Om Namo Narayanaya
Om Namo Venkatesaya
Prayer Before The Daily Reading
yatah sarvani bhutani pratibhanti sthitani ca
yatrai ‘vo ‘pashamam yanti tasmai satyatmane namah (1)
jnata jnanam tatha jneyam drasta darsana drsyabhuh
karta hetuh kriya yasmat tasmai jnaptyatmane namah (2)
sphuranti sikara yasmad anandasya ‘mbare vanau
sarvesham jivanam tasmai brahmanandatmane namah (3)
Salutations to that reality in which all the elements, and all the animate and inanimate beings shine as if they have an independent existence, and in which they exist for a time and into which they merge.
Salutations to that consciousness which is the source of the apparently distinct threefold divisions of knower, knowledge and known, seer, sight and seen, doer, doing and deed.
Salutations to that bliss absolute (the ocean of bliss) which is the life of all beings whose happiness and unfoldment is derived from the shower of spray from that ocean of bliss.
ubhabhyam eva paksabhyam yatah khe paksinam gatih
tathai va jnana larmabhyam jayate paramam padam (7)
SUTIKSNA, the sage, asked the sage Agastya:
O sage, kindly enlighten me on this problem of liberation–which one of the two is conducive to liberation, work or knowledge?
Verily, birds are able to fly with their two wings: even so both work and knowledge together lead to the supreme goal of liberation. Not indeed work alone nor indeed knowledge alone can lead to liberation: but, both of them together form the means to liberation. Listen: I shall narrate to you a legend in answer to your question. There once lived a holy man by name Karunya who was the son of Agnivesya. Having mastered the holy scriptures and understood their purport, the young man became apathetic to life. Seeing this, Agnivegya demanded why Karunya had abandoned the due performance of his daily duties. To which Karunya replied: “Do not the scriptures declare on the one hand that one should fulfil scriptural injunctions till the end of one’s life and on the other that immortality can be realised only by the abandonment of all action? Caught between these two doctrines, what shall I do, O my guru and father?” Having said this, the young man remained silent.
My son, listen: I shall narrate to you an ancient legend. Duly consider its moral and then do as you please. Once upon a time, a celestial nymph named Suruci was seated on a peak in the Himalayas when she saw a messenger of Indra the king of gods fly past. Questioned by her, he informed her of his mission which was as follows: “A royal sage by name Aristanemi entrusted his kingdom to his son and was engaged in breath-taking austerities in Gandhamadana hill. Seeing this, Indra asked me to approach him with a bevy of nymphs and escort the royal sage to heaven. The royal sage however wanted to know the merits and the demerits of heaven. I replied: In heaven, the best, the middling and the least among pious mortals receive appropriate rewards, and once the fruits of their respective merits have been exhausted they return to the world of mortals. The royal sage refused to accept Indra’s invitation to heaven. Indra once again sent me to the royal sage with the request that he should seek the counsel of the sage Valmiki before turning the offer down.
The royal sage was then introduced to the sage Valmiki. He asked Valmiki, “What is the best way to rid oneself of birth and death?” In reply, Valmiki narrated to him the dialogue between Rama and Vasistha.
aham baddho vimukttah syam iti yasya ‘sti niscayah
na tyantam ajno no taj jnah so smin chastre dhikaravan (2)
He is qualified to study this scripture (the dialogue_ between Rama and Vasistha) who feels “I am bound, I should be liberated”, who is neither totally ignorant nor enlightened. He who deliberates on the means of liberation propounded in this scripture in the form of stories surely attains liberation from the repetitive history (of birth and death).
I had composed the story of Rama earlier and I had imparted it to my beloved disciple Bharadvaja. Once when he went to the mount Meru, Bharadvaja narrated it to Brahma, the creator. Highly pleased with this, the latter granted a boon to Bharadvaja. Bharadvaja sought a boon that “all human beings may be freed from unhappiness” and begged of Brahma to find the best way to achieve this.
Brahma said to Bharadvaja: “Go to the sage Valmiki and pray to him to continue to narrate the noble story of Rama in such a way that the listener may be freed from the darkness of nescience.” Not content with that, Brahma accompanied by the sage Bharadvaja arrived at my hermitage.
After receiving due worship at my hands Brahma said to me: “O sage, your story of Rama shall be the raft with which men will cross the ocean of samsara(repetitive history). Hence, continue its narration and bring it to a successful completion.” Having said this, the Creator instantly disappeared from the scene.
As if puzzled by the abrupt command of Brahma, I requested the sage Bharadvaja to explain to me what Brahma had just said. Bharadvaja repeated Brahma’s words: “Brahma would like you to reveal the story of Rama in such a manner that it would enable all to go beyond sorrow. I, too, pray to you, O sage: kindly tell me in detail, how Rama, Laksmana and the other brothers freed themselves from sorrow.”
I then revealed to Bharadvaja the secret of the liberation of Rama, Laksmana and the other brothers, as also their parents and the members of the royal court. And, I said to Bharadvaja: “My son, if you, too, live like them you will also be freed from sorrow here and now.”
bhramasya jagatasya ‘sya jatasya kasavarnavat
apunah smaranam manye sadho vismaranam varam (2)
This world-appearance is a confusion, even as the blueness of the sky is an optical illusion. I think it is better not to let the mind dwell on it, but to ignore it. Neither freedom from sorrow nor realisation of one’s real nature is possible as long as the conviction does not arise in one that the world-appearance is unreal. And this conviction arises when one studies this scripture with diligence. It is then that one arrives at the firm conviction that the objective world is a confusion of the real with the unreal. If one does not thus study this scripture, true knowledge does not arise in him even in millions of years.
Moksha or liberation is the total abandonment of all vasana or mental conditioning, without the least reserve. Mental conditioning is of two types–the pure and the impure. The impure is the cause of birth; the pure liberates one from birth. The impure is of the nature of nescience and ego-sense; these are the seeds, as it were, for the tree of re-birth. On the other hand, when these seeds are abandoned, the mental conditioning that merely sustains the body is of a pure nature. Such mental conditioning exists even in those who have been liberated while living: it does not lead to re-birth as it is sustained only by past momentum and not by present motivation.
I shall now narrate to you how Rama lived an enlightened life of a liberated sage: knowing this you will be freed from all misunderstanding concerning old age and death.
Upon his return from the hermitage of his preceptor, Rama dwelt in his father’s palace sporting in various ways. Desirous of touring the whole country and visiting the holy places of pilgrimage, Rama sought the presence of his father and asked to be permitted to undertake such a pilgrimage. The king chose an auspicious day for the commencement of this pilgrimage; and on that day, after receiving the affectionate blessings of the elders of the family, Rama departed.
Rama toured the whole country from the Himalayas downwards, along with his brothers. He then returned to the capital to the delight of the people of the country.