SELECTIONS FROM YOGAVAASISHTHAM – SAPTA BHOOMIKAS – I

                                    YOGA VAASISHTHAM
YOGA VAASISHTHAM 
is such a great, glorious and extraordinary text that anybody who comes
under its influence will undergo a metamorphosis which will make his life
supremely joyous and blissful.  It deals
essentially with Jnaana, spiritual knowledge.  Three paths to realisation of the Ultimate
Reality,  Karma Yoga ( path of selfless
action),  Bhakti Yoga (path of devotion)  and  Jnana
Yoga (path of knowledge) are generally recognised.   The
emphasis in Yoga Vaishtha  is  on Jnaana 
aided by  selfless action without
the sense of doer-ship as a means to purifying  the mind, an essential pre-requisite on the
spiritual path.   The word ‘Yoga’ in Yoga
Vasishtha  is used in the  generic sense of spiritual practices.  ‘Vaasishtham’ means originating from sage
Vasishtha who imparts this knowledge to youthful Rama  who had developed extreme aversion to all
worldly duties and things after  pondering over their futility and
evanescence.    
The Authorship of this work is ascribed to Maharshi
Valmiki,  the Aadi Kavi (the very first
poet), who wrote Ramayana.  While the
Ramayana  has captured the heart of the
masses not many are familiar with Yoga Vaasishtha  except 
a few who are treading the spiritual path adopting the Path of
Knowledge.
The work consists of six Sections or
Prakaranas.  They are :
Vairagya Prakarna  on indifference to worldly things.
Mumukshu Prakarana on longing after Realisation
Utpatti Prakarana on Origin
Sthiti Prakarana  on Sustenance
Upasama Prkarana on Quiescence
Nirvana on the ultimate divine merger
The following selection of verses is from Nirvana
Prakarana on   Sapta Bhoomikas,  the seven stages which all spiritual aspirants
on the path of Self-Realisation have to pass through.   
                SAPTA BHOOMIKA
     FIRST AND
SECOND STAGES
Rama to Maharshi Vasishtha:
सप्तानां योगभूमीनामभ्यासः क्रियते कथम्।
कीदृशानि च चिह्नानि भूमिकां प्रति योगिनः ॥१॥
What are the means by which the seven jnaana (spiritual
knowledge) stages can be practised? What are the characteristics of the Jnaana
Yoga
 when they reach the different
stages?
Vasishtha replies:
प्रवृत्तश्च निवृत्तश्च भवति द्विविधः पुमान्।
स्वर्गापवर्गोन्मुखयोः शृणु लक्षणमेतयोः॥२॥
There are two types of people– those who are after
material enjoyments, Pravrtta; and those who are after the spiritual
goal, Nivrtta. Hear (from me) the characteristics of those two types of aspirants
(those desiring sense-enjoyments and those desiring Moksha).
कियत्तन्नाम निर्वाणं वरं संसृतिरेव मे।
इति निर्णिय कर्ता यः स प्रवृत्त उदाहृतः ॥३॥
What is this Nirvana after all? Samsara is
better for me; a person who acts with this conviction is termed a Pravrtta  by the sages.
चलार्णवयुगच्छिद्रकूर्मग्रीवाप्रवेशवत्।
अनेकजन्मनामन्ते विवेकी जायते पुमान् ॥४॥
Like a tortoise thrusting out his neck through a hole
in a rock in the ocean, a Pravrtta, after several rebirths, develops
discrimination.
असारा बत संसारव्यवस्थालं ममैतया।
किं कर्मभिः पर्युषितैर्दिनं  तैरेव नीयते ॥५॥
There is no substance in
the activities of this mundane world, samsara. Enough of this for
me.  Of what avail are these routine
actions which occupy one’s time day in and day out?
क्रियातिशयनिर्मुक्तं किं स्याद्विश्रमणं
परम्।
इति निश्चयवान्योन्तः स निवृत्त
इति स्मृतः ॥६॥
“When shall I have
supreme peace relieved of these multifarious activities?” .  When a person comes to this inner conviction,
he is said to be a Nivrtta.
कथं विरागवान् भूत्वा संसाराब्धिं
तराम्यहम् ।
एवं विचारणपरो यदा भवति सन्मतिः॥७॥
“How am I to develop an
unattached attitude and cross this ocean of Samsara?”
By this ceaseless enquiry
the Nivrtta becomes pure in heart.
विरागमुपयात्यन्तर्वासनास्वनुवासरम्।
क्रियासूदाररूपासु क्रमते मोदतेऽन्वहम्॥८॥
Day by day he will have
more and more Vairagya, dispassion within, towards the Vasanas
(ingrained tendencies).  Every day he
starts doing more and more good and noble deeds and derives joy from them.
ग्राम्यासु जडचेष्टासु सततं
विचिकित्सति।
नोदाहरति मर्माणि पुण्यकर्माणि
सेवते ॥९॥
He will be loathe to
participate in obscene and sensuous activities. He will not  criticize and speak ill of others. He will engage
himself in virtuous and meritorious deeds. 
अनन्योद्वेगकारीणि मृदुकर्माणि
सेवते ।
पापाद्बिभेति सततं न च भोगमपेक्षते
॥१०॥
He will engage himself in
such gentle actions as will not cause mental agitation or  physical hurt to others. He will always be
fearful of doing sinful deeds. He will no longer long for sensuous enjoyments.
स्नेहप्रणयगर्भाणि पेशलान्युचितानि
च।
देशकालोपपन्नानि वचनान्यभिभाषते।
तदासौ प्रथमामेकां प्राप्तो
भवति भूमिकाम् ॥११॥
His speech will be full
of love and compassion, will have a soft and healing touch, and will be appropriate
for the time and place in which it is spoken.. Such a person, when he conducts
himself thus, is said to have reached the first stage of the Jnaana path.
मनसा कर्मणा वाचा सज्जनानुपसेवते।
यतः कुतश्चिदानीय ज्ञानशास्त्राण्यवेक्षते
॥१२॥
In his thoughts, words
and deeds he will have the association of good and noble people.  He will also read precious spiritual books,
somehow getting them from somewhere.
एवं विचारवान्यः स्यात्संसारोत्तरणं
प्रति।
स भूमिकावानित्युक्तः शेषस्त्वार्य
इति स्मृतः ॥१३॥
Such a person, who takes
to the path of vichara (reflection and contemplation), for crossing the
ocean of Samsara, is called a Bhoomikaavaan,  one who has stepped into the first stage
leading to Mukti which is known as subhechcha (शुभेच्छा), which can be roughly translated
as noble thoughts or auspicious aspirations. Thereafter he is called an Aarya.
विचारनाम्नीमितरामागतो योगभूमिकाम्।
श्रुतिस्मृतिसदाचारधाराणाध्यानकर्मणः।
मुख्यया व्याख्यया ख्याताञ्श्रयति
श्रेष्ठपण्डितान् ॥१४॥
Having reached the second
stage in the path of Jnaana, called Vichara (discrimination), he
will approach self-realised souls who have also mastered the Sastras  to get the real and essential interpretation
of the Shruti (Vedas), smruti , sadachara ( right conduct),
dharana (
concentration), dhyaana (meditation) etc.
पदार्थप्रविभागज्ञः कार्याकार्यविनिर्णयम्।
जानात्यधिगतश्रव्यो गृहं गृहपतिर्यथा
॥१५॥
Discriminating between
the Real and the Unreal, he will know what actions are to be done and what
not,  like the master of a house
acquainting himself perfectly with the knowledge of his domestic affairs.
मदाभिमानमात्सर्यदम्भमोहातिशायिताम्।
बहिरप्यर्थितामीषत्त्यजत्यहिरिव त्वचम् ॥१६॥
Like a serpent discarding
its worn out skin, he will easily cast away arrogance, vanity, quarrelsome
disposition, religious hypocrisy, sensuality with its different expressions,
and dependence on external things for his happiness.
इत्थं भूतमतिः शास्त्रे गुरुसज्जनसेवया।
स रहस्यमशेषेण यथावदधिगच्छति
॥१७॥
Thus obtaining a new
awakening by service to the spiritual guru and association with saintly souls,
he will acquire a perfect and complete grasp of the true significance of all
Sastras.
असंसङ्गाभिधामन्यां तृतीयां
योगभूमिकाम्।
ततः पतत्यसौ कान्तः पुष्पशय्यामिवामलाम्
॥१८॥
He will glide into the
third stage called Asamsanga, unattached state, even as a newly wed
husband falls on the soft bridal bed.  

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