Yoga Vasistha is an extremely popular work, on Vedanta. It is an extensive philosophical
poem spread over six prakaranas or
chapters containing nearly 32,000 verses,
(according to tradition) though the available
versions contain much less (23,734 verses). It is known by several other names
such as Yogavasistharamayana, Maharamayana and Jnanavasistha also. It has several commentaries. Some
of them are: Vasistharamayanacandrika
by Advayaranya; Tatparyaprakasa of
A few summaries of the work are
also available such as Laghu-Yoga-Vasistha
of Gauda Abhinanda (9th century A. D.)
and Vasisthasaragudhartha by Ramanandatirtha. These works again have their
own commentaries written by scholars.
The work abounds in several interesting stories and analogies.
A few of them may be briefly set out
1. On the advice of his father, the sage
Vyasa, Suka goes to the king Janaka
to learn about Brahman. Though
severely tested, he comes out successful and is taught by him.
2. There is a long and interesting story
of the king Padma and his queen
Lila in the Utpattiprakarana. The
two were very much attached to each
other. The queen Lila prays to the
goddess Sarasvati and obtains the
boon that when her husband dies,
his soul should continue to live within
her room. Even though the king
Padma dies, his soul is confined to
the room as promised by the goddess.
His various experiences are seen
mysteriously by the queen Lila. Ultimately the soul of the king renters his body. He is revived and lives happily.
3. In an allegorical story, the human
mind is described as a mad man
having a thousand hands and eyes.
He constantly beats himself and
wanders in a dense forest. This shows
the self-torturing nature of the mind.
4. A magician hypnotises a king. The
king then experiences a long series
of events within a short period. This
is just to show that all things in this
world are relative, including time and
5. Through the story of the sage
Sukracarya, it is shown how a jiva
transmigrates due to intense desires
6. Dasura was a sage who was upset
by his father's death. He then tried to get peace of mind through austerities and performance of sacrifices but
failed. Finally he got it by meditation
on the atman or the Self.
7. Punya and Pavana were brothers. The former was an enlightened
person whereas the latter was not.
When their father died Pavana wept
bitterly. Punya then revealed to him
how he had had innumerable fathers
in various births and hence how it
was futile to sorrow like that.
8. The king Prahlada had neglected the
duties of the State, by constantly
immersing himself in samadhi. Lord
Visnu awakened him and advised him
to perform his duties which were equally important.
9. Gadhi was a brahmana devotee of
god Visnu. He worshipped Visnu to
know something about his Maya-power. Visnu granted the boon. Once, when this devotee, while bathing in
a river, dipped his head in water, he
had a vision of a wonderful series of
events involving himself and taking
several years. When he regained his
normal state, he discovered through
a traveller that all these incidents
were true and took place in a distant
10. In the story of Kaka-bhusunda, the
sage in the form of a crow, Vasistha is
taught the science of pranayama by
which one can live a very long life.
11. A vetala (the malevolent spirit of a
dead man) used to put difficult
questions to human beings he met
and would devour them if they
could not answer. He once met an
enlightened king who answered all the questions properly. So, he could not harm him at all!
12. Bhagiratha was a king who renounced everything to realise Brahman. After realisation he was once
requested by the people of another
country whose king had died, to be
their king. He accepted their offer
and ruled wisely. This shows that a
man of knowledge can also be a man
13. The story of the king Sikhidhvaja of Malva and his queen Cudala is the
longest of all. Hankering after true happiness and peace they start practising spiritual disciplines. Cudala,
through discriminative knowledge,
realises the Self first. Her husband
Sikhidhvaja does not succeed even
after severe austerities. Cudala, out
of her love and compassion for him,
succeeds in making him realise the
Self by adopting some clever plans.
She later tests him in various ways
to find out whether his realisation is
true and steady. When she finds him
truly established in the highest
knowledge of the Self, she brings him
back to the kingdom to rule over it
like a perfectly free and wise man.
14. There was a very poor woodcutter. He used to go to a forest in search of wood every day and supported his
family by selling the wood thus
collected. By constantly striving to
better his earnings, he one day found
the philosopher's stone. This solved
his problem permanently. This
story shows how constant efforts at
perfection, done according to the
instructions of the teacher and the scriptures, will surely succeed one
Incidentally, this wonderful work
touches upon some other topics also. It is
opined that vasanas are responsible to
bring the soul back to other lives. Hence,
sraddhas or obsequial ceremonies to the
dead are not of much use.
As regards ritualistic worship, it is
atmapuja or worship of the Self through
bodha (understanding), samya (sense of
equality towards all) and sama (calmness
of mind) that really matters. Other ingredients which are helpful are: maitri
(friendliness towards all); karuna (compassion towards the lowly and the suffering); mudita (delight towards those who are
happy) and upeksa (conscious indifference
towards the evildoers).
Murtipuja or image-worship is considered equal to balakrida or child-play. On the whole, the Yogavasistha is a
work that challenges the intellect by its
uncompromising logic and is, at the same
time, exhilarating by its beautiful poetry.
Q1. How many types of Yoga
are described in Yoga Vasistha?
Dispassion (Vairagya): opens with Rama frustrated with the nature of
life, human suffering, and disdain for the world.
Qualifications of the
the behavior of the seeker): describes
the desire and nature of seekers for liberation, and the need for self-effort
in all spiritual pursuits.
Creation (Utpatti): the arising and
birth): describes the birth of all
creation and the birth of spiritual Rama.
The existence (Sthiti): emphasizes free will and human creative
the patience and tranquility): discusses the dissolution of false dualism to
feel oneness in liberating the individual.
describes the state of an enlightened and blissful Rama.
Q2. What are the pillars to
attain Moksha According to Yoga Vasistha?
Shanti (quiescence of
the mind is peaceful, tranquil, and free from delusion and carvings, neither it
neither longs for nor rejects anything. It is supreme happiness.
Vichara (Atmic or spirit
of inquiry): is the greatest wisdom, protects one from the
calamities that befall the unthinking fool. The spirit of inquiry illuminates
and enlightens the world.
Santosha (contentment): is the supreme gain.
Satsanga (a company with
is the best companion to the destination. He, who is friendly with them, would
easily enter the kingdom of Moksha.
Q3. Who is the author of Yog
This remarkable text is traditionally attributed to
Maharishi Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana. He
related the whole of Yoga Vasishtha to Rishi Bharadwaja as it passed between
Sri Rama and sage Vasishtha. The word “Yoga” is used in its generic sense.
Practical Yoga is dealt with in two stories only. It is known by the name Jnana
Vasishtam also. Believed to be composed between the 11th and 14th century AD.
There are two books, namely, the Brihat (big) Yoga
Vasishtha and the Laghu (small) Yoga Vasishtha. The former contains 32,000
Granthas or Slokas or 64,000 lines. The latter book contains 6,000 Granthas.
Q4. Who translated Yoga
Yoga Vasistha was translated into English by Swami
Venkatesananda, Vidvan Bulusu Venkateswarlu, and Vihari
Lal Mitra. K. Naryanaswami Aiyer translated the well-known abridged
version, Laghu-Yoga-Vasistha. In 2009, Swami Tejomayananda's Yoga Vasistha Sara
Sangrah was published by the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust. In this version,
the Laghu-Yoga-Vasistha has been condensed to 86 verses and arranged into seven
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