Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Yogavāsişţha of Vālmīki: The Mind and its Creation

To read the Introduction and the first chapter of my book 
The Yogavāsişţha of Vālmīki: The Mind and its Creation

Please copy the link below and paste it in your Internet browser address window.

The book will be out by the 20th of February, 2014
To order your copy write to:

Mr KB Chhabra

The price is Rs 375

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Dreaded Bandit Turns poet

One day Vālmīki was standing on the banks of the river Tapsā. He saw two cranes engaged in love play. Suddenly the male bird is struck by an arrow and he dies. The female begins to move around her dead mate in utter grief. Vālmīki turns around and notices that a hunter had shot the arrow. Seeing the sorrow of the heartbroken she-crane, these words came effortlessly out of Vālmīki’s mouth:
ek fu"kkn izfr"Bka Roexe% 'kkÜÒrh% lek%A
;r~ ØkSÛÓfeFkquknsdeo/h% dkeeksfgre~AA
May you never find mental peace, O hunter!
For you have killed an innocent bird in love.

Vālmīki then felt that, although the hunter had killed the bird, he too had not done right by putting a curse on the hunter. The hunter merely did what his profession demanded. However, Vālmīki was surprised by the words that had come out of his mouth. He had unwittingly uttered words in metrical form, although he was not a poet. He was actually uneducated. What he uttered unknowingly is considered to be the first verse in Sanskrit literature. This is why Vālmīki is known as ādi kavi, the first poet. Later, Brahmā, the creator of the world, heard these words and urged Vālmīki to write the Rāmāyaņa.
Vālmīki was a bandit before he became a sage. His name was Ratnākar, and he was raised by hunters, after he was separated from his Brahmin parents. It is said that once the celestial singer Nārada was passing through a forest, and Ratnākar waylaid him. Nārada asked, ‘Why do you rob people?’
‘To feed my family,’ replied Ratnākar.
‘You know robbing people is a sin. Ask your family if they would share the consequences of your sins.’
Thinking he might be tricked, Ratnākar tied Nārada to a tree and went home and asked his family if they would share the consequences of his sins.  They all said they would not. To feed them was his duty, but how could they share the outcome of his sins? He would have to pay for his deeds himself, as this was the law of Karma. Hearing this, Ratnākar went back and surrendered himself to Nārada. There followed a total transformation of his character and he became a great sage. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Yogavasishtha of Valmiki: Forthcoming book by Dr Kuldip Kumar Dhiman (Yogavasishtha of Valmiki). An enlightening dialogue between Rama and Vasishtha.

Published by Ukay Publishing Co.

After Vālmīki wrote the epic Rāmāyaņa, called in full, Pūrva Rāmāyaņa, he was approached by Brahmā, the creator of the world, to write a book that would free humans of worldly misery and make them eternally blissful. Thus was born the scripture  known variously as Uttara Rāmāyaņa, Mahārāmāyaņa, Ārśa-Rāmāyaņa, Jñānavāsişţha, Vāsişţharāmāyaņa, more popularly called the Yogavāsişţha’ (Yogavasishtha) .

The two most important questions we can ask concern how to live a good life, and how to attain supreme bliss. One is about ‘ought’ and the other about knowing the ‘self’. In the Rāmāyaņa, Vālmīki showed how one ought to live a good life, how a king ought to rule, and how a husband, a wife, a brother, and friends ought to be.

By learning the ‘oughts’ of life, we can lead a good life, but this does not make us free of suffering. Even a so-called ‘good’ person maybe plagued with troubles such as anger, envy, jealousy, disease and old age and, ultimately, death.  Being a good person is not enough; something more is required. It is to teach this ‘something more’ that Vālmīki wrote the Yogavāsişţha. In fact, one can only properly understand the popular Rāmāyaņa only by reading the Yogavāsişţha.

Self-knowledge, freedom from bondage, metaphysics, ethics, and philosophy of the mind are the main concerns of this text. The author’s aim is to show how one can eliminate the conflicts of the mind, attain freedom from worldly bondage and still lead a normal active life. It is claimed that studying the Yogavāsişţha leads seekers to mokşa (total freedom from misery) without having to renounce the world, and it is for this reason that the book is also called Mokşopāya Samhitā.

The Yogavāsişţha was written for someone who has begun to realise that worldly objects cannot fill the void within. It is for people who wish to attain supreme bliss. It was written for people who are neither intellectually mature nor immature. The intellectually mature do not need to read works such as the Yogavāsişţha, as they can attain liberation without the help of a book or guru. Those who are uninformed or not mature enough cannot benefit from this book as they do not have the capacity to understand the issues discussed in it. The Yogavāsişţha was written for people between these two extremes.

 Regarding the greatness of the Yogavāsişţha, Vālmīki, its author, is quite eloquent himself. At several places in the text, he says that, as far as self-knowledge is concerned, there is no other scripture better than the Yogavāsişţha.[1]

Although this book has inspired great scholars and thinkers, such as Śaņkarācārya, Mādhvācārya, and Nārāyaņa Bhaţţa, it has not yet achieved the popularity of the Bhagavadgītā and the Upanişads.

The complete text of the Yogavāsişţha can be found in Srimadvālmīkimahāŗşpraņītaĥ Yogavāsişţhaĥ, by Vasudeva Laxmana Sharma Pansikar. There is a shorter version of the Yogavāsişţha, called Laghu Yogavāsişţha, compiled by Abhinanda, a scholar from Kashmir. This work was translated into English by K. N. Subramanian.

In the 1930s, B. L. Atreya earned his doctorate on the Yogavāsişţha, and later published it as Yogavāsişţha aur Uske Siddhānt in Hindi. In this book he makes a thorough categorisation of the ideas discussed in the Yogavāsişţha. This book is out of print now. He also wrote Yogavāsişţha and its Philosophy, Yogavāsişţha and Modern Thought, and Vāsişţhadarśanam.

Thakurprasad Dwivedi’s Yogavāsişţha Mahārāmāyaņam is a two-volume Hindi translation published by Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan. Another Hindi translation is available in five volumes titled Yogavāsişţha Mahārāmāyaņam, written by Krishnapant Shastri, and published by Achyutgranthmala Karyalaya, Kashi.

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha wrote a short but insightful book, The Quietitude of the Mind (1975), which is based on the Upaśama Prkaraņam of the Yogavāsişţha. Another book, titled The Supreme Yoga: A new translation of the Yogavāsişţha, was published the same year. It was written by Swami Venkatesananda, and published by The Chiltern Yoga Trust, South Africa. Sri Yogavāsishtam (Mahārāmāyaņam), written by P. N. Murthy, was published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in 2001.  In 2009, Chaukhamba Prakashan published Yogavāsişţha Sār, by Swami Prakhar Pragyananda Saraswati.  This short book explains the fundamental concepts of the Yogavāsişţha in simple Hindi.

Devadu Narasimha Sastri wrote a Kannada translation of the Yogavāsişţha, under the patronage of His Highness Maharaja Sri Sir Jaya Chamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur of Mysore. This was published by Hemant Sahitya, Bangalore in 1946. There are various translations and commentaries available in Marathi, Bengali, Telugu and other languages.

 The sheer volume of the Yogavāsişţha is enough to deter most readers. It is stated in the Yogavāsişţha itself that it consists of 32,000 verses divided into six books (Prkaraņams), namely: the Vairāgya Prkaraņam, the Mumukşuvyavahāra Prkaraņam, the Utpatti Prkaraņam, the Stithi Prkaraņam, the Upaśama Prkaraņam, the Nirvāņa Prkaraņam (Pūrvārdha) and the Nirvāņa Prkaraņam (Uttarārdha). The number of verses is, in fact, much less. In the introduction to Srimadvālmīkimahāŗşpraņītaĥ Yogavāsişţhaĥ, G. V. Tagare puts the number at 23734 verses.[2]

The first book, the Vairāgya Prkaraņam, describes Rāma’s disillusionment with the world. The issue discussed here is whether jñāna (knowledge of the self) or karma (work, effort) is more important in attaining liberation from the misery of the world. The answer is that both are equally important, just as a bird needs both wings to fly.

The Mumukşuvyavahāra Prkaraņam is about the qualities of true seekers of liberation and their mental attitude. How the world was created and how it evolved is discussed in the Utpatti Prkaraņam. The Stithi Prkaraņam talks about the preservation of the universe. The world appears to be real, but with the realisation of Brahman, the mind is silenced and the world appears as nothing but Brahman. The Upaśama Prkaraņam is about quieting the mind through proper understanding; the Nirvāņa Prkaraņam, as the name suggests, is about ultimate freedom. It suggests that knowledge of the self is the best way to break free from the miseries of the world.

It has to be pointed out that the structure of the Yogavāsişţha is very loose, and apart from the first Prkaraņam, almost all the major themes are discussed and repeated throughout this mammoth text. As to the division of chapters within each Prkaraņam, again there seems to be no order. Some chapters have as few as six verses, while others run into hundreds. Often a chapter ends abruptly, and the discussion is continued in the next chapter and the next. Often, while one concept is being discussed, there is a sudden digression and another topic begins. Later the speaker returns to the previous conversation. The Nirvāņa Prkaraņam is as large as the first five combined. For some reason it is itself divided into two huge sections: the Nirvāņa Prkaraņam (Pūrvārdha) and the Nirvāņa Prkaraņam (Uttarārdha).

[1] III:8:11-17; VIB:103; VIB:163
[2] Pansikar, Vasudeva Laxmana Sharma (Ed.), Srimadvālmīkimahāŗşpraņītaĥ Yogavāsişţhaĥ Vol I, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, p VII