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Yoga Vasistha Maharamayana

Yoga Vasistha home page

Shivabalayogi & Yoga Vasistha

English Translations

The Underlying Story

Timeless & Historical

The Organization of the Book

Similes & Metaphors

The Essence

Stories in Yoga Vasistha

Nirvana & Living Liberated

Personal Effort

Surplus Sections

Humor in Yoga Vasistha

Narrow Attitudes Fellow Feelings

Words & Terminology

Endless Possibilities

Yoga Vasistha Stories

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Narrow and Universal Feelings

As written down in medieval times, Yoga Vasistha is not a pure expression of a yogi’s teaching.  The scribes inserted their gloss because some parts are what we today would call culturally insensitive.  The condescending references towards women and “lower” social classes belong to the pundit scribes who wrote down the stories.  One cannot imagine a yogi having such attitudes.

The brahmin scribes who put the existing Sanskrit text in writing were misogynistic to the extent they blame women for being the seducers of men and of less value.  But in two of the most significant stories, that of Queen Leela and Queen Chudala, it is the woman who first attains Self realization and ends up having to wake up their husbands.

India is held up as the land of wisdom and sages.  Certainly, we can believe that India may be the land where more sages have lived and the culture of the ancient sages has best been preserved.  But consistent references to foreigners as being savages, less enlightened or even less than civilized are a bit too much.  “Among all living beings confined in this earth, only the human race living in this part (India) are capable of receiving instruction and civilization.”  (IV.40.12)  This is suitable praise to cultivate the patronage of a medieval Indian ruler, to whom the written Yoga Vasistha was directed, but yogis do not distinguish on the basis of national identity.

The most obvious gloss is the reverence towards the brahmin priest class.  Brahmins are held up as the most pure of men and even gods.  At the end of the work, Vasistha instructs King Dasharata to reward every brahmin.  (VIB.214.30-32)  He feeds the brahmins first, ten thousand of them gathered from all over the realm, then his family gods, his family and friends, then servants and citizens, and only at the end does he bother with the poor, needy, lame, blind and lunatics.

If this ending isn’t enough, Valmiki, the narrator of Yoga Vasistha, is made to state that upon each recital of the work, the brahmins are to be rewarded.  “At the close of reciting these lectures on the way to attain human salvation, it is suitable for every sensible man to honor brahmins with diligence and serve them with desirable gifts of food and drink and furnish them with good houses for their lodging.  They should also be rewarded with gifts and payments and supplied with money to their hearts’ desire and to the utmost capacity of the donor.  Then the giver or master of the ceremony should rest assured of having discharge his duty and reaped the merit according to the intent of the scriptures.”  (IVB.215.15-16)

The consistent and self-serving pandering to the brahmin caste of priests, together with disdain for tribals, shudras (low caste) and chandalas (mixed child of a shudra and one of the three higher castes) also reflect an attitude that we should consider prejudiced.  Even so, the brahmin pundits did not alter the many stories of demons who attained Self realization, and the one person who survives all the ages is a crow, Bhushunda.

Periodically, there is a sentence about universal love.  This is the attitude that reflects the yogi.  “The mind, cleansed of its selfishness, turns to universal benevolence and philanthropy.”  (IV.35.67)

“Fellow feeling for all living beings makes the best state of the mind.”  (IV.56.42)

“Know Rama that all created beings are friendly and useful to you, and there is no person or thing in the world with which you are not related in some way.  It is false to look anyone as a friend or foe among the various orders of created beings in the universe.  In reality, each may be of help to you, however unfriendly they may appear at first.”  (V.18.63-64)

The truth in Yoga Vasistha is universal fellow-feeling where gender, culture, caste or even demons are seen only as appearances.  This is the yogi’s teaching.

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