Categories: Hindu Scripture

Yoga Vasistha:Unveiling Truth’s Veil

Yoga Vasistha, also known as the Vasistha Yoga Samhita, is an ancient and influential philosophical text in Hinduism, believed to date back to the 1st-3rd century BCE. Attributed to Maharishi Valmiki, though its true author remains unknown, it contains over 29,000 verses, with a shorter version of 6,000 verses called the Laghu Yogavasistha. The text, presented as a dialogue between sage Vasistha and Prince Rama, explores life’s frustrations, the quest for liberation, and the spiritual path towards freedom. Structured in six books filled with stories and philosophical insights, it delves into concepts like Maya, Brahman, non-duality, and the practice of Yoga.


The title “Vasistha” refers to Rishi Vasistha, while “Yoga” in the text means the Yogic theme in its stories. There are two versions: “Brihat Yoga Vasistha” means “great or large,” and “Laghu Yoga Vasishta” means “short or small.” The longer version is also called “Yoga Vasistha” and known by other names like Vasistha Ramayana.


The origins of the text Yoga Vasistha remain a puzzle, with estimates placing its creation anywhere from the 6th to the 14th century CE. It references Buddhist schools established around the 5th century and doesn’t mention later Hindu scholars like Gaudapada and Adi Shankara, hinting at a time before their influence. There’s a shorter version attributed to Abhinanda from the 9th or 10th century, while the full editions seemingly evolved over time. The oldest known manuscript, Moksopaya, dates back to the 10th century AD in Srinagar.

The theory suggests that the original Vasistha work might have been a lost Upanishad with Brahmanical ideas. This early text transformed into the Moksopaya in or after the 6th century, also known as Laghu-Yogavasistha. Over time, this shorter version expanded into the fuller editions, incorporating elements from Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. By the 12th century, ideas from Kashmiri Shaivism, particularly the Trika school, were also included. This evolution through serial expansion, revisions, and interpolations is a common trait in Indian literature, suggesting the text’s development over centuries. Peter Thomi’s research further supports this theory on Yoga Vasistha’s chronology.


The text is said to be written by Maharishi Valmiki, who wrote the Valmiki Ramayana. Another shorter version, the Laghu-Yogavasistha, is thought to be written by Abhinanda of Kashmir, possibly from Bengal originally.


The Yoga Vasistha is a vast text with varying verse counts, ranging from 6,000 to around 36,000, structured in a poetic form called Grantha, designed with 32-syllable verses that can be sung. It’s a philosophical work blending Vedanta, Yoga, Samkhya, Jainism, and Buddhism.

Surendranath Dasgupta praised its poetic imagery and the repeated philosophical ideas presented eloquently. The text consists of six books, each delving into different aspects:

Book 1: Vairagya-prakaranam (Exposition of dispassion): This book begins with Rama’s disillusionment and frustration with the nature of life, human suffering, and his discontentment with the world. It sets the stage for exploring the quest for meaning and understanding the disillusionment that leads one to seek deeper truths.

Book 2: Mumukshuvayahara-prakaranam (Exposition of the behavior of the seeker): Through Rama’s character, this book explores the yearning for liberation, the traits of those seeking such freedom, and emphasizes the need for self-effort in all spiritual endeavors. It delves into the seeker’s journey and the qualities required for spiritual growth.

Book 3: Utpatti-prakaranam (Exposition of the arising and birth): This book delves into the birth of creation itself and the birth of the spiritual side of Rama. It provides insights into the origin and existence of the universe, combining cosmology with spirituality.

Book 4: Sthiti-prakaranam (Exposition of the existence and settling): Focusing on the nature of the world, this book explores various non-dualistic concepts through numerous stories. It places emphasis on free will and the creative power inherent in humans, offering insights into existence and its intricacies.

Book 5: Upashama-prakaranam (Exposition of patience and tranquility): This book discusses meditation techniques, the dissolution of false dualism, and the experience of unity leading to liberation. It dives into the power of meditation in achieving inner peace and recognizing the oneness of existence.

Book 6: Nirvana-prakaranam (Exposition of freedom and liberation): The final book portrays an enlightened and blissful state of Rama. It also includes extensive sections on Yoga, providing guidance on achieving freedom from the cycle of existence and attaining liberation. This book serves as a culmination of the teachings, emphasizing the ultimate goal of spiritual enlightenment.

The number of verses varies across books, culminating in a cumulative total of around 29,289 verses in some versions, showcasing the profound depth and breadth of the text’s philosophical teachings.


The Yoga Vasistha explores a person who remains unchanged whether they live in society or as a solitary soul. They’re untouched by the illusions of teachings and scriptures. They’re beyond attachment or arrogance, free from fear or anger towards others. They transcend the pull of external desires, experiencing contentment within. Their actions are performed without longing for the future or dwelling on the past. They exist as a compassionate presence among all ages, embodying virtues of kindness, wisdom, and love.

The text also delves into the nature of existence, portraying samsara as the cycle of rebirth, driven by delusion, chaos, impurity, and ignorance. It emphasizes that self-awareness and understanding break the chains of this cycle. Ultimately, it highlights the ephemeral and illusory nature of worldly existence, where birth is inevitably followed by death.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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