Four Forms of Grace leading to Moksha

Summary Yoga Vasishtha Section 2: Dealing with the Behaviour of a Seeker.

The Yoga Vasishtha is part of the great 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 simple and short translation of the Ramayana by C. Rajagolachari is very popular in India.

The Yoga Vasishtha is a fascinating dialogue between Lord Rama and his spiritual guide Vasishtha. Prince Rama asks meaningful questions about the cycle of birth and death, the drama of human existence and the fleeting nature of life and relationships. He asks deep and direct questions regarding the creation of the universe, the nature of existence and the Self. The Supreme Yoga by Swami Venkatesananda is an excellent translation. It is also available in a concise form.

The Yoga Vasishtha, described by some as an intellectual text, is far from dry intellectual theories. It is a practical guide to enlightenment and must be studied as such. Divided in to 6 sections, Section 2 Dealing with the Behaviour of the Seeker describes stage by stage the journey of an Adhikari or genuine seeker.

Qualities of a Genuine seeker

An Adhikari or genuine seeker is one who has through keen observation and spontaneous spiritual experiences come to the conclusion that there is nothing permanent in the world and that the world illusion arises as result of the conditioning of the mind and will cease when the conditioning ceases. Such a seeker turns away from the world and is ready for Yoga. The following must be noted:

  1. Turning away from the world is not meant to be forced upon oneself but is the natural result of insightful observation.
  2. The path of Yoga chosen depends on the intensity of this insight.
  3. This is only the starting point of the internal journey and mastery comes only with practice.

Confirmation of natural spiritual insights

At first a genuine seeker requires confirmation of his natural insights. The Truth must be confirmed not from just one source but different sources. In this section the story of Sage Suka is narrated. Sage Suka arrived at the truth after deep contemplation but did not find peace until his knowledge was confirmed by his father Sage Vedavyasa and the Sage King Janaka. Having heard this from persons of authority Suka is at peace. It is should be noted here that advice and suggestions from sources that are not authoritative may mislead the seeker.

Integration of spontaneous spiritual experiences

Tthe seeker may arrive by chance to insights conducive to Self Realization. However these insights must be integrated and established. This is possible only through effort.
There are four kinds of grace (kripa):

  • Knowledge of the scriptures - This is considered important for the scriptures are maps left behind by seekers who have gone before us on this inner journey.
  • Instructions of a Master - Scriptures alone cannot guide us. Sometimes we may have to stop and ask the locals for directions. A Master is one who been on this inner journey before and knows his way around. Why not just ask for help? This is Gurukripa.
  • Self Effort - The author of the Yoga Vasishtha argues against fate and fatalism. The Sanskrit word used for fate is "daivam" or deity or god. This word is significant: the fatalists surrender to the will of deities and make ritual offerings in order to appease these deities. When you give up fatalism and belief in deities you have undertaking self effort, that is action (karma) and create samskaras (impressions) conducive to Self Realization.
  • The fourth Grace comes when the other three are present.


Two kinds of Samskaras

In Yoga Theory that are different analysis of Samskaras (mental impressions) created by karma or action; these are elaborated upon in the Yoga Sutras. Vasishtha has no interest in theories of karma, he merely divides karma and samskaras in to two types: Those that lead to liberation and those that "lead to trouble." 
Vasishtha advises Rama, a genuine seeker to strengthen the karma and samskaras (impressions) that lead to liberation and gradually abandon all others since these "lead to trouble." These old samskaras will weaken by disuse just as one gives up an unhealthy habit.

Four Methods leading to Moksha

How does a seeker swim against the stream of his fate, strengthening samskaras conducive to liberation and gradually abandoning the karma that leads to trouble?
This remains the greatest dilemma, a walk on the razor's edge, to lead the mind to the  pure without inviting a violent reaction. Vasishtha recommends 4 paths to Moksha.

  • Self Control or Training the Mind - The first path is training of the mind. This requires one to experiment with oneself. This self control is not a rigid self imposed regime. Yoga Sadhana or practice is suggested.
  • Vichara or self enquiry - To enquire "Who am I? How has this cycle of happiness and sorrow (samsara) come into being?" is true enquiry. This form of contemplation or internal dialogue should be integrated completely into one's life. 
  • Santosha or contentment - This is a trait that all of us living in the modern societies need to cultivate. We have more that we need and yet we crave something we cannot define. Contentment can go by many different names and forms and is primarily an attitude to life that we all can cultivate gradually.
  • Satsanga or Company of sages - This is probably the most difficult paths to liberation since that are not many sages in our midst and we do not have the wisdom to recognize them. So we should continue our endeavours in the other paths outlined in the Yoga Vasishtha and hope that, "When the student is ready, the Master appears."

These four methods paths are summarized in the Yoga Vasishtha as follows:
"Contentment is the supreme gain. Satsanga is the best companion to the destination. The spirit of enquiry itself is the greatest wisdom. Self control is supreme happiness."