Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Luminous Vasistha

I owe a lot to the Yoga Vasistha.

In 1994, when I picked up a copy of Swami Venkatesananda's Vasistha's Yoga, I was instantly fascinated and also mystified and blown away by the content of this large volume. I had no idea of the ride it would take me on and the depths that it would bring me to.

I read from it every day in the beginning, usually just a page or two as much of it seemed so beyond me.

Over the years for some strange reason, the book kept forcing me back to the beginning so I didn't actually complete the whole work until about 10 years later. But by then I had read the initial parts dozens of times. It came at me in waves. Wave after wave until I reached the other shore of the last page. And then I started it all over again.

Sometime in the early 2000's I began to read the Yoga Vasistha to my students every Friday in the early mornings. We would have discussions which proved to be extremely powerful and illuminating as to the deeper meaning of the many stories and complex language. It is a tradition that I continue to this day with my group in Seattle. A small group of my Portland students has been getting together for coffee and Vasistha still every Friday morning as well, continuing the tradition there.

I hear tell that Swami Venkatesananda used to sit at Swami Sivananda's feet every morning for the reading of the Yoga Vasistha. I don't know if this is true or not but it shows in his translation. His level of insight, regardless of the actual rendering is astounding. Few translations have been made of this very large body of work. To be commended is the ongoing vasistha google groups translation project. I send prayers and blessings to them that they finish this monumental task.

There is much to say about this work. I am starting this blog to share some of my ideas around it with others who might not be familiar with the work as well as those Vasistha veterans who want something additional to chew on.

I am, and and the same time am not, a scholar. I don't have a Phd. I'm not a master of Sanskrit. My views frankly are a bit heretical and crass at times. So I may occasionally offend the serious student of this work. And I love it. I have thrown the book across the room a few times, pissed off at Vasistha's idiotic patriarchal attitudes and yet I pick it up again because at the core of it, Vasistha is telling the truth about consciousness. Regardless of who wrote this, regardless of its depth being conveyed by a patriarchal traditionalist, regardless of whether you agree or disagree, there is some serious power in this work.

Anyway...  I'm not going to give a scholarly rendition of this work. That would bore me. This blog is going to be how Vasistha hits me on the gut level. The raw level. The place prior to words and scholarly debates. Scholars are definitely welcome to comment but understand that sometimes I will actually defy what Vasistha says either because I know it's bullshit or I'm working with the gradual path around certain topics, or just to try it out and see if its really true. I don't mind the ride. I'm not looking for enlightenment. To me the Yoga Vasistha is more a celebration of what we are. What we are capable of.

The Yoga Vasistha is extremely large. I will be using the translation by Swami Venkatesananda, Vasistha's Yoga and occasionally pull from sources like Atreya and other classical sources. As much as I'd like to say I'm going to follow it chronologically, I may not... Well, we'll at least start at the beginning.

Some reasons I like Yoga Vasistha:

The Yoga Vasistha is for everyone. Especially those who live in the world. Every character in the many stories of the Yoga Vasistha not only 'wakes up' but goes back to work. They live their life. The Yoga Vasistha is ultimately about engagement in reality from the central point of the bindu. It is not about escapism. King Janaka, Queen Cudala, and the others all do their work in the world after realizing that 'waking up' does not mean checking out.

Vasistha doesn't discriminate as to the character of the person who wakes up. Even the evil ones have the capability to realize their true nature. Lord Bali and Karkati, the demoness all wake up. What does it mean for a demon to wake up? Really?

The structure of the Vasistha is layered in similar ways to our own mind/consciousness. The stories reflect some of our own. One of the most powerful examples of this is the Story of Lila. The cyclical nature of our reflective world is revealed in the three chapters on creation, existence, and dissolution.

Vasistha emphasizes effort and free will over fate. Chapter 2 gives much information on this as well as some profound techniques and practices.

There are many other reasons I like the Yoga Vasistha. We'll explore many soon. 

I invite you to join me as we explore this awesome work together in this blog.

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