By Upendra Mishra
Some of my friends who know me well also know my fascination with Bollywood movies and songs, Yoga Vashishtha, Upanishads, the great epic Mahabharata and mythologies in general. They often ask me about Yoga Vashistha because it is relatively lesser known scriptures. Also, I had never heard about Yoga Vashishtaha either but got captivated by it after I was introduced.
One day I ran into Deepak Chopra at a conference in Boston many years ago, and we started talking about books. Given my interest and the nature of my questions, he recommended that I should read two books: Yoga Vashishta attributed to sage Vashistha, and “I Am That” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (1982, The Acorn Press.) I ordered “I am That” on Amazon and got Hindi version of Yoga Vashishta when I visited a Gita Press store in Delhi.
I became totally mesmerized by Yoga Vashistha. It became my five most favorite books. Whenever I get into deep darkness and hit stumbling blocks in life’s trials, I often pick up Yoga Vashistha and start reading it where ever the book opens.
I think that Yoga Vashishtha is the most powerful yet simple wisdom and life’s learning for common people like us.
What is Yoga Vashishta?
In a nutshell, after the 15-year-old Prince Rama returns home after touring India, he goes into deep depression. He is saddened by the state of world affairs, sorrows, grief and misery of the society and individuals. He loses interest in everything in which a prince of that age and stature at that time should be interested in: food, play, music, dance, women, fun, joy and everything.
The entire world looks hopeless to teenage Rama. His father, King Dashrath, who had all his hopes on Rama, is disappointed and saddened. Then, one day he calls Rama in his court in front of all great courters, kings and sages of his time, including sage Vashishtha and asks Guru Vashishths to cure Rama of his mental illness.
Before saying any word of wisdom or advice, Vashishtha asks Rama to tell him his problems and what was on his mind, and then young Rama explodes and talks about uselessness of wealth, sources of grief, problems with ego, craziness with cravings and desires, human body, wickedness or impurities of childhood, adulthood and old age, fatal attraction with women, truth, reality and power of time, momentariness and changing nature of everything and a lack of friendship with great souls.
At the end after his monologue of venting out, Rama asks Vashishtha to teach him about something that after knowing that mind becomes completely peaceful and after knowing that sorrows of life disappears.
“Teach me that by knowing which I become free from grief, fear and sadness and become enabled with knowledge.”
The rest of Yoga Vashishta is a dialogues or question-and-answer between Rama and Vashishtha.
Vashistha points out that everything exists nowhere but in our mind. Whatever we think and believe in that becomes reality for us. If we want to change anything, first of all we have to de-condition our mind, de-clutter it, and make a fresh start with a fresh thinking of what we want to become and what we want to do. Without the de-conditioning our mind, we will remain struck in the vicious cycle and never come out of it.
De-conditioning of our mind also means that we stop scheming and playing mind games. Neither be stuck in the past nor in the future.
“Be totally free of conditioning. Ideas and thoughts are bondage; and their coming to an end is liberation. Therefore, be free of them and do whatever has to be done spontaneously,” says Vashishtha, adding that when the truth is known, all descriptions cease, and only when one severs the very root of the mind with the weapon of non-conceptualization, can one reach the Absolute Brahman which is omnipresent, supreme peace.
“The mind is purified by persistent contemplation of truth. Only when the mind is totally purified of all conditioning does it regain its utter purity; that pure mind experiences liberation,” he tells Rama. “One should enjoy the delight that flows from peace. The man whose mind is well-controlled is firmly established in peace. When the heart is thus established in peace, there arises the pure bliss of the Self without delay.”
Knowingly or unknowingly, this principle has been religiously practiced by the world’s once richest man and legendry investor: Warren Buffett.
Once Buffett was asked what he does after making his business dealings. He said soon after a business deal is done, he gets it out of his mind as one empties the bathtub after taking a bath and fill it up again with fresh water before taking the bath next time and again empty the tub.
“You only get one mind and one body. And it’s got to last a lifetime. Now, it’s very easy to let them ride for many years. But if you don’t take care of that mind and that body, they’ll be a wreck forty years later, just life the car would be. It’s what you do right now, today, that determines how your mind and body will operate ten, twenty, and thirty years from now,” says Buffett.
Says Vashishtha: “The state of mind of the liberated ones who are still living and who see both the supreme truth and the relative appearance, is known as transparency. It is improper to call it the mind: it is really satva. These knowers of truth are mindless and are in a state of perfect equilibrium: they live their life here playfully. They behold the inner light all the time, even though they seem to be engaged in diverse actions.”
Of all the historical figures, Buddha had one of the best understandings of minds and its power. “It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways,” Buddha had said. “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
(Mr. Mishra is managing partner of the Waltham, MA-based integrated inbound marketing and PR firm The Mishra Group. He writes about his three passions: marketing, scriptures and gardening.)