Sri Yoga Vasishtha is a very well known book in India, especially among those who are keen to acquire salvation. No other book can help an aspirant better in his progress towards spirituality. It teaches explicitly the oneness (non-duality) of Atma and establishes firmly that there is no difference between man and God — jiva and Brahm. Studying this book earnestly and following the path it suggests, an aspirant who is physically active and has sharp understanding can attain salvation.
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The book offers practical guidance to true seekers of all types. But mere reading and glancing through the pages will be of no avail. Only those aspirants, who are true seekers of the Truth and have an urge for liberation and practise yoga, can understand the subtle points described in the book and derive benefit.
The ignorant can also benefit provided they are honest and keen to realise the Truth. Diligent study of the book will help them to build up their lives under the guidance of able masters.
Rishi Valmiki, one of the greatest sages of India, has highly esteemed this book and called it Maha Ramayana since it contains all the secrets and subtle knowledge about Atma. He who studies this book intently and tries to understand it either by himself or through a master and practises yoga with full faith, will surely attain the true knowledge and become liberated from the bondages of the material world.
Sri Yoga Vasishtha presents a detailed dialogue on Atmagyan, between Sri Ramchandra, the disciple, and Sri Vasishtha Muni, the master, wherein the master explains all the methods to attain salvation.
Sri Ramchandra, though he was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and a perfect being, acted like an ignorant being for the benefit of the worldly people and sought guidance of his master on true knowledge of Atma. The methods described are practical, and only diligent seekers can take advantage of them.
How Lord Vishnu was reincarnated as Sri Ramchandra is a long story narrated in the scriptures. It will suffice here to say that Lord Vishnu, accepting the curses of some sages, took upon himself the role of Sri Ramchandra and acting like an ordinary ignorant person attained true knowledge through his perfect master.
The dialogue was first recorded by Rishi Valmiki in Sanskrit. It gives a thorough explanation and guidance for Self-realisation, but in a complicated manner. It is very difficult to comprehend and assimilate these subtle ideas with our present limited understanding. Hence all efforts have been made in the present book to simplify it so as to enable persons of ordinary understanding treading the spiritual path to attain salvation.
The fundamental point about the Truth and the untruth, or what is Brahm (God Infinite) and what is manifestation, has been very well explained. The original text in Sanskrit is divided into six sections, one each on dispassion (vairagya*), liberation (moksha), creation (utpatti), phenomenal or illusory aspect of all manifestations (sthiti), quiescence of mind (upashanti) and nirvana (Atmagyan). It comprises thirty-two thousand verses, each helpful to the seeker of the Truth. There is a considerable repetition in the content, the reason being that without repetition the divine and subtle things are not clearly established in the mind. In the present book, however, repetitions have been avoided as far as possible, yet at places repetitions have been felt necessary for a clear comprehension. It has been proved by practical examples that all manifestations perceived physically or mentally are illusory, except Atma — God Infinite — which is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Those who merely talk about Atma and only theoretically preach the illusory aspects of the material world are deceiving themselves because it takes hard practices for ages to realise the Truth.