Yoga Vasistha



Sutīkṣṇa, 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?

Agastya replied:

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 Karuṇya who was the son of Agṇiveśyā. Having mastered the holy scriptures and understood their purport, the young man became apathetic to life.

Seeing this, Agṇiveśyā 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.

Agṇiveśyā said:

My son, listen:

I shall narrate to you an ancient lesson. 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 Himālayas 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 Ariṣṭanemi entrusted his kingdom to his son and was engaged in breath­ taking austerities in Gandhamādana 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 Vālmīki before turning the offer down.

The royal sage was then introduced to the sage Vālmīki.

He asked Vālmīki:

"What is the best way to rid oneself of birth and death?"

In reply, Vālmīki narrated to him the dialogue between Rāma and Vāsiṣṭha.

Vālmīki said:

He is qualified to study this scripture (the dialogue between Rāma and Vāsiṣṭha) 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 Rāma earlier and I had imparted it to my beloved disciple Bharadvāja. Once when he went to the mount Meru, Bharadvāja narrated it to Brahma, the creator. Highly pleased with this, the latter granted a boon to Bharadvāja.

Bharadvāja 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 Bharadvāja:

"Go to the sage Vālmīki and pray to him to continue to narrate the noble story of Rāma in such a way that the listener may be freed from the darkness of nescience."

Not content with that, Brahma accompanied by the sage Bharadvāja arrived at my hermitage.

After receiving due worship at my hands Brahma said to me:

"O sage, your story of Rāma shall be the raft with which men will cross the ocean of saṁsāra (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 Bharadvāja to explain to me what Brahma had just said.

Bharadvāja repeated Brahma's words:

"Brahma would like you to reveal the story of Rāma 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 Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and the other brothers freed themselves from sorrow."

I then revealed to Bharadvāja the secret of the liberation of Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and the other brothers, as also their parents and the members of the royal court.

And, I said to Bharadvāja:

"My son, if you, too, live like them you will also be freed from sorrow here and now."

Vālmīki continued:

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.

Mokṣa or liberation is the total abandonment of all vāsanās 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 narrate to you how Rāma lived an enlightened life of a liberated sage: knowing this you will be freed from all misunderstanding concerning old age and death.

Index of Yoga Vāsiṣṭha


Dispassion of Rāma 1

Dispassion of Rāma 2

Dispassion of Rāma 3

Dispassion of Rāma 4

1. The Story of Śūka


Longing after Realization


1. The Story of Ākāśaja (the Son of Ākāśa)

2. The Story of Līlā:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

3. The Story of Karkaṭī

4. The Story of Aindava (the son of Indu or the Moon)

5. The Story of deceitful Indra

6. The Story of Manas (Mind)

7. The Story of a Bala (Lad)

8. The Story of a Siddha

9. The Conclusion of Utpatti Prakaraṇa:

Part 1

Part 2

IV Chapter

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