Yoga Vasishtha: Qualities of the genuine spiritual seeker

Yoga Vasishtha for genuine Seekers

Summary of Yoga Vasishtha Section 1: Dealing with Dispassion


The Yoga Vasishtha, a Vedantic text, is part of the celebrated Indian epic Ramayana.  The Ramayana tells the tale of Lord Rama, rightful heir to the throne of Ayodhya, who is forced in to a fourteen year exile in the jungles. The Yoga Vasishtha is a fascinating dialogue between Lord Rama and his spiritual guide Vasishtha. It is divided in to 6 parts. The first section Vairagya Prakaranam deals with Dispassion.

A young Prince seeks Liberation

Rama, the sixteen year old Prince of Ayodhya has travelled through his land and returned, completely transformed in his approach to life. Rama is no longer interested in the pleasures of the palace, in relatives, wealth, power and all things that are of interest to a sixteen year old youth. A particular trend of thought has taken hold of Rama: What do people call happiness and can it be had in the ever changing objects of this world? All beings in this world take birth but to die and they die to be born!
This make it clear that the Yoga Vasishtha is not a merely a fanciful tale or an intellectual treatise, it is a guide for those who seeks nothings less than liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Quite early in the scripture, the legendary author of the Yoga Vasishtha clarifies: He is qualified to study this scripture who feels, "I am bound, I should be liberated."

Adhikari: A Genuine Seeker

As opposed to many other spiritual traditions that preach and convert, the Indian spiritual tradition is based on the idea of Adhikar or qualification.
A teacher often asks if the student is an "adhikari", the one who has the "adhikar", or who is ready to receive this teaching. The only qualification required to receive the spiritual teachings is a genuine desire for these. The Indian Masters part reluctantly with the teachings. The Master will often test the aspirant in many different ways to confirm that he is a genuine seeker.

Thus an Adhikari is one who:

  • Asks, "What is happiness? What is suffering?"
  • Feels, "I am bound, I should be liberated."
  • Seeks something permanent; is uninterested in the transient and ever-changing.
  • Sees pain and suffering in all worldly life.

Turning away from the worldly

Running away from the world is different from turning away from the worldly.
Rama is not poverty stricken, he is the crown prince and heir to the throne. He has seen no failure in his life, having had the best of all things in the world. He is young, healthy, he has wealth and fame. Rama has no need to run away from the world. Rama does not show interest in wealth or even in worship. He is attached to nothing and depends on nothing. When all desires are satisfied and yet one feels empty, then the seeker turns away from the world. This turning away from the world and all things worldly is an essential prerequisite to enlightenment.
Rama is an Adhikari, a genuine seeker. His attitude of dispassion is attained through keen observation and contemplation. This dispassion is superior to that insight obtained through circumstances or disappointment in the world.

Neti, Neti- Not this, Not this

Rama explains the reasons for his turning away from the worldly. Systematically he goes through all aspects of life and one by one he negates them as sources of happiness. This is the Vedantic process of negation "Neti, neti." that is, "Not this, not this."
Thus Rama reasons:

  • Wealth does not satisfy; it generates a craving for more.
  • Everyone seeks a long Ayus or life span but this is only filled with misery.
  • All suffering revolves around the Ahamkara or sense of individuality.
  • Chitta or mind stuff is constantly dissatisfied and gets more restless each day.
  • Kama or desires and cravings drive us mad and can never be satisfied.
  • The Body, a source of pleasure to some, is a home of illness, mental distress and changing emotions.
  • Childhood, regarded by some as a period of happiness and innocence, is characterized by helplessness, foolishness, inability to express oneself, dependency on others and changing moods.
  • Youth is a phase in life that is consumed by lust and passion.
  • In old age the body is weak and unable to satisfy desires, yet the desires continue to flourish and it is too late to make one’s life meaningful.
  • Death is inevitable and no one can master Time.
  • Hidden behind the treacherous joys of samsara or worldly life are the jaws of Death.


Rama's reasons for turning away from the world are based on a solid foundation of observation, experience and reasoning. It is not merely a momentary whim or passing fancy.

Conclusion of Section 1 of Yoga Vasishtha

Through acute observation and clear reasoning Rama arrives at the conclusion that the ways of samsara, the worldly path is not for him. Yet he is honest and self observant enough to admit that he is not enlightened, that he is not established in wisdom.
This is an important step for a seeker. Having turned away from the world a genuine seeker seeks the company of sages and enlightened Masters and asks for guidance. This is not the end of the journey. It is, in reality, only the beginning of the journey leading to Mastery of the Self.

Book Recommendations:

The Concise Yoga Vasishtha

The Supreme Yoga

Ramayana

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Comments:

Adarsh Misra from Gurgaon Haryana India:
The Yoga Vasishtha is an inspiring work. We were brought up with this. My mother never failed to settle a dispute or provide mental quiet when it was lacking by taking us through the chapters on the limitlessness of desire. Possibly this occurs in later chapters.
This is an interesting way to make the text easy to comprehend. Thank you.

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