Experiential Learning – A Story from ‘Yoga Vasishta’

Consider the two contrasting statements – ‘Greed is good’ and ‘Contentment is supreme gain’. Doesn’t this sum up the difference between the western way of life and the Eastern philosophy? In fact the entire Consumer durable industry with its mall culture heavily depends on perpetuating the philosophy that Greed is good. But how about the the second statement about Contentment? The present generation with its exposure to consumerism will find it difficult to agree with this statement.
I would think the relative merits of the two statements is best learnt through one’s experience in life. No amount of preaching is going to help. In this context I would like to narrate a story from our scriptures which deals with this question with emphasis on experiential learning.
The text I am referring to is’Yoga Vasishta’. This is in the form of a dialogue between the sage Vasishta and Rama on philosophical issues. The story goes that Rama along with his brothers went on a pilgrimage at a very young age. After returning, instead of feeling happy, he was depressed. The depression was pretty much similar to whath Budha went through in his youth. He was troubled by basic questions about human life, misery arising out of the false pursuits led by ego etc. At this point Rama met the sage Vasishta and posed certain fundamental questions. The entire dialogue between the two is captured in the text YOGA VASISHTA.
I liked the book because it was full of interesting stories to drive home the truth.

Vasishta started off with his own personal story. The story goes back to the time when Brahma started his act of creation. As he went about his job, Brahma was highly displeased with himself as he found that majority of the human beings were suffering and in great misery due to extreme greed. Brahma became compassionate and somehow wanted to solve the problem. Thus he instituted a path by following which people could get what they wanted. The path required human beings to follow certain auterities, charity(YAJNAS), truthfulness etc. People could use these as instruments to satisfy their desires. However, this did not solve the basic problem as people continued to remain miserable with ever increasing craving for material objects. Therefore Brahma created the all knowing sage Vasishta and brought him onto the earth so that he could teach the ultimate Truth leading to final liberation. Surprisingly though, as soon as the ‘all knowing Vasishta’ was born, Brahma covered him with a veil of ignorance. The ignorance plunged him into misery and he also began struggling like others. Vasishta begged and prayed earnestly to his father (Brahma) to bless him with the knowledge and wisdom which would liberate him out of the misery. Brahma obliged and revealed to him the True knowledge. Brahma explained to Vasishta that he spread the veil of ignorance on him deliberately so that he would truly appreciate the glory of true knowledge and understand the misery of ignorant masses and help them with compassion.
Having narrated his personal story, Vasishta declared that Contentment, Self control, enquiry and ‘satsang’ are the 4 gatekeepers to complete liberation. As a concession he prescribed the practice of any one of the 4, which would automatically lead to the attainment of the other virtues.

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Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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