As the world celebrates Deepavali in the welcome home-coming of Sri Rama, I was inspired to go through the text of Yog Vashishtha the dialogue between Sri Rama and his guru sage Vashishtha ascribed by sage Valmiki. Most of us are familiar with the Ramayana, the life story of Sri Rama. His character is ever-inspiring, and hence it is worthwhile to know the teachings that went into shaping this character. Yog-Vashishtha outlines these teachings explicitly.
The text begins with the Vairagya Prakarana, wherein Sri Rama after his pilgrimages is in a despondent state towards all worldly matters. Then sage Vashishtha inculcates advice upon Rama, gives him the reason why and how he should work in the world by tracing the origin of the universe and the ‘I’ in man and finally initiates him into the mysteries of Atman.
In the second chapter, the Mumukshu Prakarana he lays out the four fold qualifications necessary to a disciple on the path, vis., the discrimination of Atman and non-Atman, etc., Rama having developed the first three is asked by Vashishtha to concentrate his mind upon the attainment of Moksha. For this purpose, Vashishtha expatiates in Mumukshu Prakarana upon the preliminary qualifications necessary for the attainment of Moksha or salvation.
Here the author says that the four sentinels posted at the gate of Moksha are Shanti (peace of mind/stillness), Vichara (the enquiry after Atman/mindfulness), Santosha (contentment of mind) and Sadhu-Sanga (association with the wise) and will have to be befriended by one wishing to attain Moksha. Should one of them at least be befriended, he will introduce the aspirant to his companion sentinels. Then the author goes on to explain that Moksha does not mean the physical separation from all worldly affairs but only a state of the mind bereft of all impure Vasanas(desires) or clinging towards, but yet working as usual amidst, worldly things.
In the next chapter or the Utpatti Prakarana, the author gives out a story to illustrate Para Brahm manifesting itself as Brahma, the creator with the conception of ‘I’ through its own Sankalpa or resolve.
And taking the reader through the Sthiti Prakarana or the preservation aspect, explains how the ‘I’ in man passes through different stages and develops itself in him after innumerable births as the Ahankara we find in him now.
The next section, the Upasanthi Prakarana elaborates on the quiescence of the mind. To develop this state, many means are given out, such as the Lord s grace through Bhakti or devotion, the direct knowledge of Maya(illusory forces), Yoga, Atma-Vichara or Atmic enquiry, and Chitta-Nirodha or the control of mind, Pranayama, etc.
And the last section, the Nirvana Prakarana illustrates the Turiya or fourth state, where the developed one is able to have a commanding view of the lower stages.
A voluminous text replete with stories pertaining to spiritual development of any aspirant in this field.
Source: Yog Vashishtha
Contributed by Jyoti Prateek