Before reading further, understand what the great text aims at; because after Shuka's story, it is a full blast of abstract truths that rain like hail stones and destroy all the grand beliefs of reality and gods you have held on to till now.
It is better that you are made aware of the essence of Vaasishtam, before you venture into it s study.
GIST OF VAASISHTAM
Vaasishtam composed by the great Rishi Vaalmiki is also known by the names of Jnaana Raamaayanam, Jnaana Vaasishtam, Yoga Vaasishtam, Mahaa Raamaayanam, Aarsha Raamaayanam, and Vasishta Raamaayanam.
This text contains six Prakaranas or sections.
They are- Vairaagya, Mumukshu Vyavahaara, Utpatthi, Sthiti, Upashama, and Nirvaana.
Vairaagya Prakarana contains Rama’s lamentation about the disgusting nature of the world.
Mumukshu Vyavahaara contains the qualities to be practiced by a seeker after liberation.
Utpatthi discusses about how worlds get produced.
Sthiti tells how the world idea persists in the mind.
Upashama is where the world appearance slowly subsides.
And Nirvaana is the description of a state of a JeevanMukta who is in the Nirvaana state.
The total verses contained are 32, 000, Utpatthi section comprising one third of the whole text and the Nirvaana section almost half the text.
Vaasishtam is a huge dialogue session between Rama the heir of RaghuVamsha and his preceptor Maharshi Vasishta the Knower of all.
WHY IT IS CALLED YOGA VAASISHTA?
This great scripture with six Prakaranas is compared to a Shatpadee (six-footed bee) which hums in the form of Vasishta in front of the lotus faced Rama; and both melt off into the oneness of the honey of silence; that is why it is called Yoga Vaasishtam. (Yoga means
Rama was the heir prince of Ayodhyaa, son of the renowned warrior Dasharatha, and was the scion of Raghu dynasty. He was also an excellent Knower equal to Vasishta or Vyaasa, which is a fact not known to many.
‘Jnaana Vaasishta Raamaayanam’ is the story of how he attained Moksha even before he completed his sixteenth year.
Later of course he married Seetaa, lived for fourteen years in the forest, killed Ravana at Lankaa, took over the ruler ship of Ayodhyaa, later gave off the kingdom in the hands of his sons Lava and Kusha; and finally gave up his body in
to bid a final
farewell to the life on earth. Sarayu
He is said to be an incarnation of Vishnu who came down to save the world from evil demons; yet this is not the main purpose of his Avataar. A noble personage of the higher world descends down not to just live a story that entertains people; but his purpose is the spread of knowledge.
Rama spent a longer span of his life time in only the forest regions and took to the transfer of knowledge learnt from Vasishta to the various Rishis and Munis residing in the wilderness.
Reducing the ‘Bhoo-Bhaara’ (burden of Mother Earth) does not mean just killing demons, but spreading the Knowledge of the Aatman, so as to make most of the people reach out to the state of Realization. With lesser rebirths, Mother Earth indeed would feel happy.
Rama carried the nectar of Knowledge given to him by Sage Vasishta and distributed it to all the good souls he met, during his fourteen years of travel through the jungles and villages of
Countless seeker of knowledge would have turned into JeevanMuktas by his contact.
Unfortunately we do not have any scripted form of those wonderful dialogues on Knowledge that Rama would have had with other Sages.
As his very name indicates, Vasishta was a person of strict discipline; and expected his disciples also to maintain perfect discipline. He is a MaanasaPutra (mind-created son) of Lord Brahmaa, the creator of this world; and is also one of the Saptarishis (seven great Rishis).
He was family preceptor for the RaghuVamsha kings.
Vasishta has a wife named Arundhati, renowned for her devotion to her husband. She was not less in knowledge than Vasishta and was a revered counselor for the ladies of the royal family.
WHAT THE BOOK CONTAINS
This text is not another philosophical view-point added to the existing lot of six Darshanas.
It is just a training of Vichaara (rational thinking) offered by Vasishta to the seekers after truth.
This text does not support any theory of any philosopher, nor does it encourage blind religion, or propound a supremely powerful godhead as the creator; and it does not support also, any body-based Yoga practice (as usually misunderstood) by the students.
Vaasishtam does not explain the creation by inventing fresh terms and weird explanations ; for, according to Vasishta, there exists no emergent world at all (as an absolute reality), and he proves this view point by leading the student through many amazing mazes of stories and leaves him at the fag end of the text with the most wondrous experience of the Reality where the emergent world ceases to existence once for all; rather the student realizes as a true experience that the emergent world was not there at any time as something real, except as a panorama produced by the mind.
ESSENCE OF VAASISHTAM
What is the gist of Vaasishtam? What are its main view-points?
First of all, it is not a religious text like Raamaayana or MahaaBhaarata.
It is not any theory propounded by some thinker to explain the world around us.
It does not propound a theory of Advaita or Dvaita also.
It does not state that the Supreme Godhead is Shiva, or Naaraayana, or any other deity.
According to Vasishta-
Reality (Brahman) is not a god, though gods exist as our creator-lot and care for us from some other dimension, as if it is doll-world made by them with effort.
Do gods exist?
If we earth people exist here in this three dimensional world, nothing prevents any other being residing in any other world unseen by us. We the humans are not the sole proprietors of the universe as such.
God-world (DevaLoka) is not denied in Vaasishtam, but reality is not an intelligent Godhead according to Vasishta. This God-world that the earth people know of (through Puranas) itself is just a dust mote in the countless worlds that exist unknown and unseen by us.
WHAT IS REALITY (BRAHMAN)?
Reality is an unintelligent state which has no mind, no intelligence, no divisions, no thinking, no words, and no theories; is not even aware of anything anywhere; yet it exists as the awareness, as all the objects that are understood by any one as some thing or other.
Reality is the essence of all knowledge.
It is empty of all; even the state of emptiness.
Reality is what exists in all as the understanding ability, from a mite to a Brahmaa the creator of this particular world. This understanding nature is the Aatman that is common to all living beings.
A cow understands grass; a mouse understands a cat; even an inert stone exists as its own self, as itself. Humans have acquired words and imagination to explain all this; the cats and cows and stones do not have such ability. That is all the difference that exists between a 'not-walking not-talking stone' and us the 'walking talking flesh masses'.
Everything is conscious; everything is inert.
Conscious and inert are just words invented by the talking walking flesh-masses to exhibit themselves as some superior beings made especially by a special god.
A god (imagined as a reality-entity with intelligence ruling the world) is just a brain-virus produced by the disease of self-conceit about one’s superiority as a human; and is never the resultant truth of any rational thinking process.
‘I’ am here’ ‘I’ need to be great, because a great God took the trouble to create me; so I am great’
So says the god-believing mind; and exists on the power of the God it has created by its own imagination.
Vaasishtam is completely against such irrational beliefs.
So say the Upanishads too!
Vaasishtam is atheistic in that sense; Shiva himself tells Vasishta, that there is no God who exists as the supremacy of reality.
WHAT IS BRAHMAN ACTUALLY?
What is Reality (Brahman, the swelled up world-essence)?
According to Vaasishtam, Reality is ‘Bodha’.
What is Bodha?
Bodha is that which you understand, that which you comprehend (or Information in the modern vocabulary). Rather the world you see is the Bodha presented by your own mind or intellect with its own limited data of life. World is nothing but the information content of the totality of minds.
DIFFERENT MINDS AND DIFFERENT WORLDS
You, as a conscious being understand that the world is there outside of 'you' - 'the so-called inert, living yet thinking body', through the mind which codes the objects as taste, sound, smell, touch, and sight.
This coded perception alone is understood by you as the world; and this perception is not the same for all; it is different for different individuals depending on their evolved state of brain, the genes that manufacture the bodies, the learning or non-learning states, the faults of the brain, and what not.
The understanding essence in all, filters through all this muck and presents some vague sort of a world that is constant, as if by magic.
TRAPPED INSIDE A LIFE
Though Aatman is in all, the worlds seen through the tainted minds differ; yet all see a coherent, interconnected web of a world running with so much precision and perfection.
The wonder of it all, do makes us wonder about why we are here, or who made us.
Or we may think the other way also and feel disgusted with the entire created world and want to run away from it like Rama did.
We are trapped! Aren't we? We can go on running from one place to another trying to escape from the life we are caught in, but perceptions hold on to us like shadows. World exists wherever we run to.
Is killing the body and brain, the only way to end all this process?
Vasishta holds the light of reason aloft and shows him the path of getting rid of the world; yet enjoy its beauty thoroughly; like eating the cake and having it too.
He teaches you to think, not believe.
Reality is not what you believe it to be; but reality is that which is not dependent on your belief or non-belief. This understanding of the supreme truth is referred to by the term Moksha.
Moksha is not a state waiting in the sky to swallow you up after you die.
Moksha is the perfect state of knowledge you can attain when you are living here, now, whatever you are, wherever you are.
Moksha is not seeing a deity; Moksha is not the attainment of super-powers; Moksha is not going to heaven, or Kailaasa, or Vaikuntha or any other place of enjoyment.
Moksha is Knowledge.
You do not have to die for attaining Moksha.
IS REALITY BRAHMAN?
Reality is called by different names by the scholars of yore; as Brahman, as Aatman, as Chit, as Tat, as Tvam, as Aham and so on; again a play of the mind only.
Reality is nameless; cannot be defined; cannot be explained.
It exist as all this.
Seeing the actor (Reality) behind his weird costume (world) is Moksha. When you realize this truth, you stay liberated while living; as a better state than the non-intelligent Reality.
‘To know’ yet not to know is the goal of Vaasishtam!
Vaasishtam is a magic wand that turns the mirage waters of the dreary desert into the cool Ganges waters of the heaven, and proves that the desert was never there at all; and only Gangaa flows unhindered as ever.
WHO IS QUALIFIED TO STUDY THIS SCRIPTURE?
This text is not an ordinary text that any and everyone can lay hands on.
It is a tough book oozing with abstract knowledge.
It is the last resort for a seeker, who after studying countless books of philosophy and religion, finds no peace yet and falls at the feet of Vasishta at last, begging for help.
Others will find no use for it, because the study and understanding of the book requires extreme purity of mind and a very high intellectual level.
This book contains countless stories, big and small; yet this book is not a collection of stories but the collection of extremely abstract thought processes, concealed within the amusing unique tales that Vasishta presents Rama with.
Who is fit to read this book?
If you are already a JeevanMukta (liberated while living) and have understood what the perceived emergent world is, if you have no attachment to any form of a deity or saint, if you are not addicted to any cult or philosophy or religion as such, if you do not have even a minuscule of desire for anything that is connected to the perceived world, if you are always silent in your own essence of truth, then do not bother; this book is not for you.
Why should a person who is already floating blissfully in the Sky of Truth, learn the process of growing wings?
If you are not at all familiar with any philosophy, or Upanishads, or texts composed by Shankara and other great thinkers, and if you are not dissatisfied with the life you live as a human stuck to earth, if you do not have the curiosity to know why the world exists as the world or you as a you, if you are not interested in attaining Moksha the final goal prescribed for all humans by the ancient texts, then do not bother; this book is not for you.
If like Rama (learned in all the philosophies and Upanishads), you feel dispassion rising in you through proper reasoning process, and you feel trapped in this limited structure of a human life, and want to get out of it like a man drowning in floods, then and then only get ready for the journey through the knowledge path, holding the hands of great Sage Vasishta; you will surely reach the end of all search.
When you start the study of this great scripture-
Be like a child which when fed up of all toys and games, starts crying for its mother and collapses on her lap exhausted and tired; and approach Vasishta like a child approaching a mother; he will indeed sing lullabies of wonderful stories and slowly make you close your eyes peacefully in the bliss of Aatman.
Approach this book with reverence and respect; for it is a knowledge that is far beyond the level of the ordinary.
HOW TO STUDY THE TEXT
Vaasishtam is an experience; not a study.
You cannot read it to gain merit; or add it to one of your collection of philosophical thoughts.
You cannot also read it verse by verse and try to gather its meaning step by step as you do with any other Sanskrit texts, like Shankara’s for example. You have to grasp this book, paragraph by paragraph; idea by idea and reason it out as a personal experience at every point of the study.
As and when you move from Prakarana to Prakarana, you have to swell up in knowledge (like Brahman-Reality); and not also forget off the previous ones as if done with and casually proceed to understand the later ones like reading an ordinary book.
Study of JnaanaVaasishtam is a penance of Knowledge.
You cannot hurry through it.
You have to expand in knowledge as a JnaanaBrahman.
After the study of the whole text, you must stay as the very essence of Vaasishtam, the very knowledge of reality as 'you the essence of Reality' (Brahman).
If not, then start once again from the beginning and ascend the Everest of Vichaara, till you reach the summit of Knowledge-experience.
Vaasishtam is a long climb up the
Vasishta holds your hand and walks you up slowly up the rugged mountain,
amusing you with intriguing stories of the highest sort. You will never be
aware of the climb at all and will find yourself suddenly on the peak point of
of Vichaara and have the most amazing
vision of Reality. Knowledge Mountain
After that, there is no coming down at all!
You can throw off the book also as finished and done with.
The book takes you to that level of knowledge where the book itself turns into just another ordinary book that belongs to the world.
Even Vasishta melts off; you also melt off; and what is left back?
The silent bliss which is beyond the grasp of words and thoughts!
Later, whatever life you live here in the life-stage, nothing matters; absolute silence alone stands as the essence of all. Just the drama of life goes on, without an actor!
HOW TO ATTAIN MOKSHA (KNOWLEDGE-STATE) BY THE MERE STUDY OF THIS BOOK?
Starting from Vairaagya Prakarana, you must develop dispassion as you read Rama’s detailed description of the worthlessness of the world. You must feel the disgust rising in your own mind.
Next you must practice the qualities suggested by Vasishta to purify the mind. It cannot happen in a day or two. The muck that is collected in the mind like hardened rock cannot be got rid off by just reading about the qualities to be cultivated. You have to sincerely develop those qualities as advised by Guru Vasishta.
Later as you enter the study of Utpatthi Prakarana, you must be in a state to wonder and analyze from where forth this world came to about, who made it, why I am here and so on.
In the Sthiti Prakarana, you will understand how the world continues to be, as a product of mind only.
In the Upashama Prakarana, the waves of all doubts slowly subside off.
In the Nirvaana Prakarana your mind is silenced into a peaceful death; this is the first half of Nirvaana Prakarana. How to live in the world after such a silent state is attained, is explained in the second half of Nirvaana Prakarana.