Presently, I am reading the Yog Vasishta, a long discourse of great renown between Rama and the sage Vasishta. As is common in such books, the story is told by one sage to another about a royal sages conversation with Valmiki who in turn tells the story of the discourse itself. So it’s a story about a story about the story. And the story is told with the use of stories. (laughs) It’s a technique often used by great teachers. Jesus, for example, gave many teachings as parables. It does not require a great mind to learn from, tends to have layers of understanding, and steps you out of the mind more.
In some ways the book is the essence of the Ramayana, much like the Bhagavad Gita is the essence of the Mahabarata. Each is the epic story of the life of an avatar, Rama and Krisna respectively.
The book opens with Rama being upset as he has fallen into dispassion and finds nothing moves him. He has hit the “dry” part when the old is falling away but the new is not yet established.
Vishvamitra then introduces the 700 page response from Vasishta: covering creation, existence, dissolution, and liberation. But first, he covers self-effort.
Back in Free Will vs. Determinism, I discussed how a persons perspective on this debate shifts as we grow through the stages of development. Vasishta take a very practical and direct approach to this question. In essence, he states that your results are a direct reflection of your own efforts. As is the effort, so is the fruit. Period.
There is no fate or divine dispensation. What is called fate or divine will is nothing more than the self effort of the past, the fruits of prior actions, including past incarnations. Fate seems real only because it’s been repeatedly said to be. When people complain about events that befall them or their fate, they are complaining about the consequences of their own doing. If we travel, we get there. There is no fate involved.
If fate was true, he asks what is the meaning of any action? What is the value of any teaching? Other than a corpse, everything is active and such activity leads to an appropriate result.
He goes on to observe that the present effort is much more powerful than the past. If we want to overcome the fruits of the past it simply means we need to apply more effort, more energy. If our efforts seem to be thwarted, then more effort is required. Simple. Improve the intensity of effort and neither fate nor a god can stand in the way.
Some people refer to so called “bad karma”. Karma is simply action or energy. This is neither good nor bad. That is only our judgment of the consequences of it. Action simply is. The consequences may not always come as expected, but that is neither good nor bad either.
It is worth noting that the interplay of action is unfathomable because one action interacts with all others. Thus the form of the result is impossible to predict. This is why one should avoid expecting a certain result. But for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so the consequence can be anticipated, just not the form of it.
He goes on to describe people who blame providence as being weak and dull-witted. But he does observe that self-effort is based on 3 things:
– knowledge of the scriptures (right action)
– guidance of the wise
– ones own effort
In other words, correct effort, not just effort itself. The key advice is to persistently tread the path that leads to the eternal good. Sometimes, effort that is not bearing results is a sign it is incorrect not that more is required. This is where knowledge and guidance are key.
It’s worth observing at this point that “effort” here means energy, applying oneself consistently. It does not mean stressing, overdoing, or otherwise being extreme. It is correct doing. Strong and consistent but not at the expense of others or oneself.
He also observes that the consequences of our past express themselves through latent tendencies in the mind. In other words, the story we carry is the vehicle for our programmed responses. These can be both pure and impure, the second inviting trouble. As they are blind spots, they tend to be repeaters, habitual responses that continually give us the same undesired results.
Thus, he observes that you are not impelled by anything other than yourself. So you are free to gradually turn away from the impure tendencies. It is simply a matter of paying attention. When a response arises, look at where it arises from. Then choose. As we favour the pure, they will be strengthened and lead us to liberation.
Vasishta goes on to describe 4 gatekeepers to Moksha, liberation. They are:
– inquiry into truth
– company of the wise, satsang.
He describes self-control as a mind at peace, free of delusion and cravings. One that does not long for or reject anything. This of course is achieved, not by ego control, but by letting go. (laughs) By stepping into the deeper self and loosing identification with the mind. Equally, contentment cannot be gained but rather arises naturally from the above. One can see how these “gates” are all interrelated.
He observes that direct experience is the basis for all proofs, the direct experience of truth as it is.
A little tough love, but its a good wake up call to step out of any stories of blame, get clear, and just do it.
A wise man describes this book thus:
A summation of the essence of the Vedas by Valmiki. It is an Itihasa (eternal past) of Smriti (pure remembrance) of the Veda (pure Knowledge). Its reading aids in awakening the remembrance of Totality.
The translation is by Swami Venkatesananda. If you are interested in the book, it’s available from Amazon.ca
(also spelled Vasistha or Vasishtha)