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 Wisdom Tree

ISBN 978-81-8328-532-2

After Valmiki wrote the epic Ramayaņa, called in full, Poorva Ramayaņa, he was approached by Brahma, 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 Ramayaņa, Maharamayaņa, Arsha-Ramayaņa, Gyananavasishtha, Vasishtharamayaņa, more popularly called the 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 Ramayaņa, Valmiki 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 Valmiki wrote the Yogavasishtha. In fact, one can properly understand the popular Ramayaņa only by reading the Yogavasishtha .

Core philosophy

Although the Yogavasishtha is voluminous, its central message can be expressed in a few statements: Nothing exists except absolute consciousness (also called universal consciousness or Brahman), and the world is the imagination of this universal consciousness. The universal consciousness is absolute and perfect. All change happens in the phenomenal world, (which has no independent existence, as it is just an imagination of absolute consciousness). All the beings of the world are no different from the universal consciousness, as they emerged out of it. All the misery that is experienced by individual beings happens because they mistakenly identify themselves with their body and forget that they are essentially the same as the universal consciousness, Brahman. Since misery arises out of ignorance of the self, it ends with knowledge of the self. 

Main questions
Ever since humans began to think and wonder, they have asked many questions. If we examine all these questions, we realise there are ultimately no more than a dozen fundamental questions. Such questions would arise in any thinking person all over the world in every age. They are perennial questions, and throughout the Yogavasishtha, these questions have been asked several times by Rama or some other disciple: What is this ever-changing world? Why is it there? Who created this worldand why? What was there before the creation of the world, and what will remain after it is destroyed? Why do we see so much misery around us? What is man? Where do all beings come from and where do they go? What is mind, and how is it quietened? How is illusion (maya) created, and how does one break this illusion and see the absolute truth? How does ignorance arise in pure consciousness? 

Most of these questions, however, have no answers as they are beyond the scope of the intellect. When we try to answer these questions, we only get into further mess, and that is why the wise have called them ultimate questions, atiprshnas. One must, therefore, not waste time trying to solve these eternal questions, but find ways of quietening the mind and becoming blissful.

Nearly at the end of the Yogavasishtha, Vasişţha tells Rama about a dialogue between him and King Prajnapti.  The king puts twenty questions to Vasishtha, and the latter answers them in five chapters. If we read just this section properly, we would understand everything that is discussed in the Yogavasishtha.

Throughout the Yogavasishtha, Vasishtha answers Rama’s questions so thoroughly and repeatedly that at the end of it even a stone would get liberated. He says many things, and gives many proofs and arguments, but ultimately all these boil down to just one thing: how to quieten the mind and realise our intrinsic blissful nature.