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Editorial 2

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Vālmīki on the yoga teachings of the wise Vasiṣṭha

A book of stories


In ancient times there lived a Ṛṣi, a wise seer, who had learned his wisdom in periods long before the ascent of common man. He had been living (and may still be living today) on Earth for ages when he met the young prince Rāma, when the latter was about 16. Rāma lived many thousands of years ago and was born in Ayodhyā in India in the great kingdom of the Solar Dynasty. He was not only a prince, he was also the one in which the great immortal god Viṣṇu would work, the avatāra who lived on earth at that time to help humankind at the crossroads, at a time of transition between successive eons.

Vasiṣṭha became the spiritual teacher of the boy who would become one of the most influential figures in history, and who had to be prepared to become the vehicle for the seventh avatar of the great god himself. The Yoga-Vāsiṣṭḥa which is supposed to have been written by the author who also wrote the epic Rāmāyaṇa, Vālmīki, contains the questions on the most essential issues of human life which were put before Vasiṣṭha by Rāma and answered by Vasiṣṭha. The wise old man did so in the form of stories. The text is known as the Yoga-Vāsiṣṭḥa and this philosophical treatise preceded Rāma’s practical teachings and challenges of life until he became a king, as is narrated in the Rāmāyaṇa epos.

The Laghu or ‘small’ Yoga Vāsiṣṭha, an English translation we put on this website, is an ancient abridgement by Abhinanda of the larger Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha (or BṛhadYoga-Vāsiṣṭha)1, containing the essentials of the non-dualistic interpretation of the essence of the Vedas – which in their turn are the most ancient books known to humankind. The Laghu Yoga Vāsiṣṭha consists of six chapters comprising 41 stories.

We have chosen to place this important work on this website because it is thoroughly Theosophical and elucidating, but relatively unknown even among theosophists. It has been said that Jñāna Yoga is of all forms of yoga that which is most fit for our time.

The main theme of this work can be said to be an explanation of a mysterious phrase in an ancient text containing Buddhist and pre-Buddhist teachings of which part is now known to the world as The Voice of the Silence1:

“The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real. Let the Disciple slay the Slayer. For – when to himself his form appears unreal, … when he has ceased to hear the many, he may discern the ONE. Then only, not till then, shall he forsake the region of Asat, the false, to come unto the realm of Sat, the true.”

The Laghu Yoga Vāsiṣṭha has the viewpoint that the universe is a mode of the consciousness of Ātma. Thus it approaches very close to the deeper Buddhist teachings such as found in The Voice of the Silence and the Laṅkāvatara Sūtra (even though the Buddhists, of course, deny the existence of ātma). (I leave this statement here unexplained – but it will be apparent to those who study both works or other Advaita and Mahayana texts).

The parallel theme is that ignorance (Ajñana) is the cause of cyclic existence and all suffering – a teaching which we find reflected in the Buddhist doctrine of pratityasamutpāda, or the causal chain of twelve links which keeps our souls bound in the cycle of deaths and rebirths. Thoroughly explained are the various states of consciousness after death and of developed yogic consciousness (among modern Theosophists and Vedāntins known as jāgrat, svapna, suṣupti, turya and turyātīta respectively). It explains coming into existence and the nature of the universe and of the mind within non-dualistic reality. No text I know of, explains these themes more profoundly than this (Laghu) Yoga-Vāsiṣṭha.

Other important topics of discussion between the wise man and the prince are, among many others, the origin of I-consciousness, its growth and quiescence; the nature of māyā (illusion of separateness) and the way to overcome it, the states of jñāna and ajñāna (spiritual knowledge and ignorance) are among the topics on which it throws light. “Jñāna alone is the true God, and the flowers etc. with which God has to be worshiped are: equal vision for all, contentment of mind, and spiritual wisdom,” declares the sage.

Also discussed is how to distinguish between the Self and the non-Self, what is the nature of the mind, about the relation between ‘creation’ and time, about the seven and the ten worlds, the three ākāśas or spaces, the five elements, the meaning of nirvāṇa and its relation to non-attachment, and the seven jñānas or wisdoms. The text could be called ‘The Book of Jñāna Yoga’, or ‘The Book of ultimate understanding of the Self through spiritual knowledge’ as taught by the Great Rishi Vasiṣṭha.

The work is said to be for true aspirants who seek true knowledge and is, according to the translator who refers to H.P. Blavatsky, ‘meant for the few only.’ In the phraseology of this work, it is intended neither for ajñānis, i.e. those ignorant of or not interested in essential knowledge leading to wisdom, in other words the worldly-minded who enjoy and suffer in our world of illusions, and also not for those very high spiritual personages who have reached a state of adeptship and thus need no more advice. Hence it is written in the interests of those who have already seen the futility of worldly existence and become indifferent to worldly things and crave for spiritual emancipation and to have truth as the leading factor in their daily lives.

This is an edited (corrected) copy by us of the translation by K. Nārāyanaswami Aiyer, published in 1896, and revised in 2001, published by The Adyar Library and Research Centre in Chennai, India.

According to modern scholars the Yoga Vāsiṣṭha has been written recently (i.e. around the twelfth century CE), but according to itself it is of very great antiquity, i.e. many millennia. The question is: Did the writer of the Yoga Vāsiṣṭha study Advaita and Buddhism, or were the Buddha and Shankara acquainted with the Yoga Vāsiṣṭha? Universal truth and true philosophy are of course beyond time, so I think this question does not matter much for what the books tries to convey.

Photographed and scanned copies and various formats (but not in MS Word) of the 1896 edition are to be found on internet under A translation of Yoga-Vâsishta-Laghu – (the smaller)

– Editors Daily Theosophy

To go to the Laghu Yoga-Vāsiṣṭḥa on this site, click here.



  1. The Voice of silence, translated by H.P. Blavatsky and consisting of three fragments, is in its totality posted on this site: []