Traditions of Himalayan Masters


The article has the Philosophy of Reflectionism. It is the complete inner dialogue that Vashistha had with his mind is beautifully narrated by Valmiki in the Yoga Vashistha. This work is a treasure house of Vashistha’s spiritual experiences, spiritual experiences, which he shared with his beloved student Lord Ram. There is also the problems of the mind, taming the senses and mind and six qualities of mind that speed transformation. Friends this bit has excerpts from the chapter as it appears in the book.

Vashistha’s Philosophy of Reflectionism
According to the philosophy of reflectionism, which in Sanskrit is known as abhasa vada or pratibimba vada, this universe of ours is only a projection of the mind. The world has no essence of its own-the mind simply projects its contents and then believes that these projections are real. A strong belief in the validity of worldly objects brings a sense of stability. The stronger the belief in the world, the longer that world lasts. The moment the mind sees its own tricks-its projection and its firm belief in the objects it has created-this entire make-believe structure vanishes. Thus this world is merely a creation of the mind.

This is also the case with internal states, such as peace and happiness. First the mind creates a condition of dissatisfaction and then lets itself believe that it is miserable. Once it realizes it is miserable, it cannot be happy until it has overcome this misery. And that is how this tricky mind begins its peace pilgrimage. The farther it walks on its pilgrimage the more miserable it becomes until, one day, either someone reminds the mind or it remembers by itself. At that point, the thinking process goes something like this:

“Oh mind, there is no shrine of peace outside you. Change the direction of your journey and find peace within.

“In order to turn inward, you must first transcend your own belief system-the belief that someone else will give you salvation, that someone else will make you happy. In order to find peace, oh mind, first you must overcome your habit of tricking yourself-making your own projections and then getting entangled in them.

“Make yourself simple. Learn to be quiet rather than hyperactive. Do not mistake peace for an object that you attain. Rather, understand that peace is a mental state. That mental state is always present. However, mind, through your own self-created noise you disturb that state of stillness, which is called peace. Only you yourself can remove that disturbance.”

The complete inner dialogue that Vashistha had with his mind is beautifully narrated by Valmiki in the Yoga Vashistha. This work is a treasure house of Vashistha’s spiritual experiences, spiritual experiences, which he shared with his beloved student Rama, a prince who came to study with him at an early age. After completing his education, Rama returned home but soon fell into a deep depression. His father once again sought Vashistha’s counsel. Vashistha advised Rama to visit the holy places and learn from the saints and yogis.

After several years of wandering, Rama gained a little peace of mind. Because he was not fully satisfied, he returned to live in Vashistha’s ashram. On many different occasions, this enlightened sage and his fully prepared student discussed those issues that every sincere aspirant faces sooner or later. The following dialogue is a sample of an exchange between master and disciple.

The Problem of Mind
What should one do to unveil the subtle mysteries of life and attain peace and happiness?

Vashistha: Mind is the greatest of all mysteries. It stands between an individual and the highest truth and is the cause of both bondage and liberation. Properly trained, mind can help you attain enlightenment, but if misguided, it can leave you stranded on the shoals of confusion and bondage. Peace is created by the mind, Rama. First, make the decision to be content in any circumstance. From that womb of contentment, peace is born. It is foolish to expect to achieve peace by retiring into the deep forest or leaving for a distant galaxy. Ultimately, one must find peace within.

Rama: Why does the mind prefer to run in the external world rather than turning inward to find peace?

Vashistha: The mind has bound itself tightly to the senses. Driven by sense cravings, the mind runs to the external world. As long as you do not know how to withdraw the senses from the external world, you have almost no choice but to let your mind remain a victim of sense pleasure.

The objects of the senses, as well as the pleasure derived from them, are momentary. After experiencing a sensory pleasure, the mind realizes the emptiness of the experience. But, not knowing where else to find satisfaction, it turns again to the external world. Thus, dissatisfaction becomes a way of life. The constant failure to experience joy leads to frustration. Peace is lost, and the inner world becomes chaotic. Inner discontentment, frustration, and restlessness then manifest in a person’s external life, and both internal and external worlds become full of misery.

Rama: What is the solution?

Vashistha: Vairagya-non-attachment-is the only way to overcome this strife> A person cultivates an attitude of non-attachment when she or he comes to realize that all the objects of the world are transitory. The value of worldly objects is simply a creation of the mind. Once you realize that you arrived in this world with nothing and will depart with nothing, you will not be attached to the objects of the world.

Rama: I know this true but somehow I fail to maintain this knowledge, especially when it comes to interacting with the world.

Vashistha: This is because the mind is fully convinced that this world and its objects are real; this is called maya. Maya is a strong belief in the existence of that which does not exist. To illustrate this point, let me tell you a story.

Once a washerman asked his son to go to the barn and get his donkey. But when the son tried to fetch the donkey, he wouldn’t budge. The boy went to his father and told him the donkey wouldn’t move.

“is the donkey tied up? The washerman asked.
“No. That’s what I don’t understand,” the son replied.
“Well then, slap him on the rump to get him moving!” the father replied in exasperation.
The son tried this but the donkey still wouldn’t move. He went back to his father and said, “Father, he must be sick. Please come and see for yourself.”

The time, father and son went together to fetch the donkey. The father also tried to get the donkey to move, but to no avail. Then suddenly, he understood the problem. He took the donkey’s, which was attached to his halter but not attached to the post. He first wound the rope around the post ad then unwound it and began walking out of the barn. Only then did the donkey follow him.

This, Rama, is the case with people whose minds are fully convinced of the reality of worldly objects and the bondage they create. This world is not capable of binding either mind or soul; the mind is in bondage simply because it believes that it is in bondage.

Rama: How can the mind over come this illusion?

Vashistha: The mind must apply a two-fold method. First, it must overcome its craving for worldly objects with the help of constant contemplation on the illusory nature of worldly pleasure. Second, the mind must recognize its true nature and maintain that awareness constantly.

Forgetfulness of the true nature of the Self is what makes a human being subject to timidity, weakness, fear, and insecurity. It is this forgetfulness that causes us to keep searching for a haven in the external world. Once you realize your inner Self, you become free from the charms of the world, as well as from the fear of death. I will tell you another ancient tale to illustrate this point.

Once there was a lion cub who was separated from the pride right after birth, before his eyes had opened. Thus he never saw his real mother. He was helpless, but after a few days a flock of sleep happened by. He joined the flock and was raised with the lambs. As a result, he identified himself with the sheep and learned to behave like them. He learned to follow others blindly, to be afraid of dogs, and to submit when whipped by the shepherd. He grew to full adulthood, but because he constantly watched the sheep who surrounded him, and because his identification with them was complete, he never noticed how big he was or what sharp, powerful claws he had. He never found out how fast he could run, how high he could jump, and how loud he could roar.

One day, another lion crept up on the flock and let out a tremendous roar. The flock scattered. The young lion, who was as frightened as the other sheep, ran away too. In full flight, he passed a pond and saw his reflection for the first time. To his astonishment, his reflection resembled the lion he was running from. He was confused. Why didn’t he look like the other sheep? As he examined this reflection, he was disappointed at first because he expected to see a sheep, but his disappointment he tried roaring like the lion he had just heard and found that he could! This filled his mind with delight and wonder. He jumped and roared and relished the realization that he was truly a lion. He never returned to the flock, but joined the pride and lived as the king of the forest.

You see, Rama through our identification, we create a self-image and, based on that, we create a reality. If this identification is false, we become victims of falsehood. If the identification is correct, then we are fortunate enough to live in the light of truth. 

Rama: I understand, Gurudeva. Overcoming the charms and temptations of the world, turning the mind inward, and attaining a true glimpse of oneself is possible through vairagya-non-attachment. But the essence of vairagya is too subtle to grasp. Furthermore, while trying to practice vairagya, how do I deal with my other weaknesses, which distract me during sadhana?
Vashistha: Learn to withdraw your senses and mind systematically before practicing vairagya or committing yourself to any intense practice of contemplation or meditation. This process is called pratyahara-sense withdrawal.

Taming the Senses and Taming the Mind
People who search for joy in the external world are always disappointed. Desires and cravings begin in the mind and motivate the senses to contact objects. That is why trying to control the senses alone will not be effective.

The first step is to convince the mind and senses that it is necessary to withdraw. To do this, you must find out why the mind is running in the external world. You will discover that the mind and senses keep busy in the external world-or resort to step-in order to escape from reality, which is painful. This external search for peace is very tiring and, sooner or later, the mind stops to rest. Rest feels good. If the mind can be made to see and acknowledge the effect of rest, it will begin developing a willingness to rest and withdraw the senses.

When we pull in the mind and senses voluntarily with the thread of knowledge, we experience true relaxation. After the mind experiences the joyful stillness in the body that results from pratyahara, it can be successfully instructed to look within for the true source of happiness.

There are three ways of practicing pratyahara. The first is to withdraw the senses and mind from the external world, and then focus them consciously on a chosen object in the realm of the mind. Another way to practice is to see everything in the world as existing within the Atman the Self. With this approach, nothing is outside the Atman, so there is no need to withdraw the senses. A third practice is to carry out all your activities as if they were sacred duties. In this way you bring sanctity to even the most mundane aspects of life. When a human being gives up all desires of the mind and delights in the Self, then he or she is said to be a person of steady wisdom.

If you cannot control your senses immediately, Rama, don’t be discouraged. The process by which the senses move toward their objects is very subtle. It begins with thinking-you become attached to something just by thinking about it. Something becomes attractive because of inner cravings, or because of latent impressions from the past that exists in the mind. The samskaras and vasanas in the mind see something similar to themselves in the external objects and fell great joy in this correspondence. The inner experience of full identification is called enjoyment. In that affinity or feeling of sympathy you say, “This belongs to me.” Attachment follows that thought.

Therefore, attachment arises from merely thinking about something. The desire to act is based on that attachment. If something impedes that action, we become angry. If we find that the obstruction cannot be overcome, we become depressed. Or if we feel strong, we might fight the obstruction. That produces anger. From anger, delusion arises and, from that, loss of memory. With loss of memory, the power of discrimination (buddhi) is lost. It is then impossible to decide anything appropriately and, at this point, a human being is doomed.

Study yourself, Rama, because only then can you build the foundation needed to withdraw your senses and mind. Look at the nature of pleasure and pain determines for yourself the results of attachments to the world of names and forms. As a human being, you have freedom to create your world. Controlling the senses is your birthright. Therefore, practice pratyahara to conserve your energies and, then, concentrate and focus these energies one-pointedly.

Six Qualities of mind that Speed-Transformation
I will teach you how to create an environment in which self-transformation can more easily occur. While you are controlling the activities of the senses and withdrawing them from their respective objects, you must adopt a healthy philosophy of life, which will create a good environment for your self-transformation. There are six qualities that will help accomplish this. They are: shama, dama, titiksa, uparati, samadhana, and mumuksa.

Shama  is quietude of mind, tranquility, equanimity, and composure. First, learn to compose yourself. Rather than expecting the external world to conform to your expectations, learn to expect the unexpected. Regard turmoil as normal and take worldly blows in stride. Expecting things to be perfect leads to disappointment. Disappointment and tranquility cannot coexist.

An average person feels happy in response to happy events and miserable in the face of sad events. Such a person is tossed by the tides of the external world, and happiness becomes purely accidental. To attain tranquility, you must learn not to be influenced by external circumstances. That is the only way to find the state of stillness within. Once you know how to remain still, you can study both the external and the internal worlds.

The second quality is dama - self-restraint, self-control, self-mastery, and control over your senses. The activities of the senses are the first step in forming habit patterns. The conscious mind is connected to the senses. It is through the senses that the conscious mind interacts with the objects of the external world. If the mind is not trained properly, then the senses become the guiding force and the poor mind follows them helplessly. This helplessness occurs because the mind gives too much importance to sensory objects and too much authority to the senses. Consequently, they take over.

The senses are like horses. The body is the chariot; the mind is the reins; and the intellect is the driver. The soul dwells in the body-mind organism. If the horses are untrained and are not properly connected to the reins, they can destroy both the chariot and the driver. Even if the reins are strong and held tightly in the hands of the driver, wild horses can still create serious problems.

Therefore, training the senses is of the utmost importance. This training must be based on proper understanding because if you try to restrain your senses without it, repression and suppression will result. Therefore, you must be fully convinced of the importance of being happy and healthy, and understand that control over your senses maintains that state. using knowledge as the basis for controlling the senses is discipline. Discipline must be lovingly accepted by your mind, not imposed on it.

The third attribute is titiksa - forbearance, tolerance, and endurance at the physical, mental, and verbal levels. Expand your capacity to face every situation and circumstance that life brings. Coping with the world requires endurance and forbearance. Be ready for anything in life because anything can happen.

The body has enormous capacities - it is simply a matter of unfolding them. Do not allow yourself to become dependent on external objects. It is important to live a comfortable life and to have a regular schedule. But do not let comfort make you lazy, and do not let regularity lapse into rigidity. Maintaining a degree of flexibility is also part of discipline. Learning to endure the discomfort brought about by heat, cold, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and sleepiness is part of the practice of titiksa. Develop the ability to adjust yourself to every situation.

Uparati means desisting from sensual pleasure. There is a difference between craving objects and needing objects. You must make a sincere effort to earn your livelihood. After you have earned it, enjoy it. Although you must have means and resources, you should be able to withdraw yourself whenever you wish. You can do this only when you are not involved with the objects you have acquired. If you get involved, if you start analyzing how much time and energy you put into gaining these objects, how hard you worked, how many years it look, and therefore, how valuable these objects are, then you create a strong attachment to them. We bind ourselves with the objects of the world by keeping track of all these details.

If you take your success too seriously, you get entangled and fail to use the objects of your success as a means for the next level of achievement-the spiritual. Thus, right from the beginning of your worldly endeavors, desist from the cravings of the senses and maintain awareness that although the worldly objects provide some degree of comfort, ultimately, they are worthless.

Therefore, Rama, work hard, but once the work is done, forget it. Think and feel as though you have done nothing. Cultivate an attitude of forgetfulness. Perform your actions, but when you receive the fruit, take it as a gift from above. This is uparati, and it is the ground on which you practice non-attachment.

The fifth attribute is samadhana, putting together or arranging in proper order. It refers to putting the statements of different teachers and scriptures in their proper context. There are many philosophies, many instructions and, in most cases, thy appear contradictory. For example, it is said that the objects of the world are completely illusory. Like objects in a dream, they are totally worthless. But it is also said that all the objects in the world evolve from God and are meant for God. Enjoy the objects of the world without getting attached to them. If you do not develop the ability to place these statements in proper context, you will be confused.

Another example: It is said that the path of karma is as valid as the path of knowledge. Yet it is also said that one cannot attain the highest realization by performing one’s actions because it is through knowledge, not karma, that one gains liberation. Without the ability to place these statements in proper context, you will become confused and may wonder, "“If actions cannot help me attain freedom, no matter how beautifully and skillfully I perform them, then why should I bother performing actions? Learned teachers resolve this conflict by pointing out that if you do not perform your actions skillfully, they will create obstacles, no matter what spiritual path you are treading. Performing your actions skillfully allows you to live in this world happily while minimizing the obstacles. If you have samadhana-the ability to put things in the proper context-you will easily understand that the paths of karma and knowledge are complementary paths.

The sixth quality – mumuksa - is the most important. Mumuksa is the desire for liberation. Without mumuksa, spiritual practice turns into a mere art. You’ll become an accomplished philosopher who is miserable from carrying the burden of knowledge without the benefit of experience. If you study out of curiosity or for the sake of studying itself, you become a pedant or a logician.

Many people know so much that they lose their faith. They keep studying and finding contradictions. Because they lack mumuksa, they do not understand the principle of samadhana-how to put things in proper order. But once you desire liberation, everything falls into place. You become tongue-tied because everything makes sense. You understand that it doesn’t make sense to many people, but you will not waste your time explaining it to them because they don’t have the strength of desire necessary to under stand. That’s why the Upanishads say: “Those who think it is known to them know nothing at all. And those who do not think it is known to them might know it.” Once you know, you cannot express it because it is so subtle.

You can answer the questions that grow out of mere curiosity yourself. If you study the nature of your curiosity and the source from which it grows, you will find the answers. But you will find there are certain powerful questions that you cannot answer. They don’t allow you to sit peacefully but drag you from one book to another, from one place to another, from one teacher to another. That is the power of mumuksa-the desire for liberation.

These are the six prerequisites students must cultivate before committing themselves to the practice of any spiritual discipline.

The knowledge that Vashistha imparted to the world is found throughout Vedic, Upanishadic, and Puranic (epic) literature. However, Yoga Vashistha, Vashistha Samhita, and the portions of the Vedas said to have come through Vasistha are the main sources of his teaching. In Yoga Vashistha, he teaches the practical aspect of yogic disciplines related to body, breath, and mind. Thus unique encyclopedic text falls between hatha and kundalini yoga. It contains precise techniques of pranayama, concentration, and sense withdrawal. The beauty of Yoga Vashistha is that it blends yogic practices with the sublime teachings of vedanta (jnana yoga). In the 24,000 verses that comprise this text, Vashistha raises and resolves the issues related to almost every aspect of life. The underlying theme is vairagya, non-attachment, and it is fully balanced with abhyasa, the actual yogic practices.

However, the highest level of knowledge imparted by Vashistha was supposedly contained in another text, also called Vashistha Samhita, which no longer exists. References to this text are found throughout spiritual literature and, based on those references, it is assumed that it was one of the most authoritative texts of the highest branch of tantra, the samaya school of shrividya. This school is the inner essence of the Vedic tradition, where an aspirant learns the pure yogic techniques of going inward and attaining the experience of oneness with Shiva and Shakti. Fragments from this text are found in the form of quotations in other texts, but the knowledge Vashistha imparted in Vashistha Samhita is preserved intact only in the oral tradition of the Himalayan masters.

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