"Hence, he who desires salvation should divert the impure mind to pure endeavour by persistent effort—this is the very essence of all scriptures."
VASISTHA: O Rama, even as water remains water whether there are waves
or no waves, whatever be the external appearance of the liberated
sage, his wisdom remains unchanged. The difference is only in the
eyes of the ignorant spectator. Therefore, O Rama, listen to what I
am about to say: this instruction is sure to remove the darkness of
In this world whatever is gained is gained only by self-effort; where failure is encountered it is seen that there has been slackness in effort. This is obvious, but what is called fate is fictitious and is not seen. Self-effort, Rama, is that mental, verbal and physical action which is in accordance with the instructions of a holy person well-versed in the scriptures. It is only by such effort that Indra became king of heaven, that Brahma became the creator, and the other deities earned their place.
Self-effort is of two categories: that of past births and that of this birth. The latter effectively counteracts the former. Fate is none other than self-effort of a past incarnation. There is constant conflict between these two in this incarnation; and that which is more powerful triumphs.
Self-effort which is not in accord with the scriptures is motivated by delusion. When there is obstruction in the fruition of self-effort one should examine it to see if there is such deluded action, and if there is it should be immediately corrected. There is no power greater than right action in the present. Hence, one should take recourse to self-effort, grinding one's teeth, and one should overcome evil by good and fate by present effort. The lazy man is worse than a donkey. One should never yield to laziness but strive to attain liberation, seeing that life is ebbing away every moment. One should not revel in the filth known as sense-pleasures, even as a worm revels in pus.
One who says," Fate is directing me to do this", is brainless, and the goddess of fortune abandons him. Hence, by self-effort acquire wisdom and then realise that this self-effort is not without its own end, in the direct realisation of the truth. If this dreadful source of evil named laziness is not found on earth, who will ever be illiterate and poor? It is because laziness is found on earth that people live the life of animals, miserable and poverty-stricken.
VALMIKI said: At this stage, it was time for evening prayers and the assembly broke up for the day.
VASISHTHA: As is the effort so is the fruit, O Rama. This is the meaning of self-effort, and it is also known as fate [divine will]. When afflicted by suffering, people cry," Alas, what tragedy"or"Alas, look at my fate"both of which mean the same thing. What is called fate or divine will is nothing other than the action or self-effort of the past. The present is infinitely more potent than the past. They indeed are fools who are satisfied with the fruits of their past effort [which they regard as divine will] and do not engage themselves in self-effort now.
Sometimes it happens that without effort someone makes a great gain. For example, the state elephant chooses (in accordance with an ancient practice) a mendicant as the ruler of a country whose king suddenly died without leaving an heir; this is certainly not an accident nor some kind of divine act, but the fruit of the mendicant's self-effort in the past birth.
Sometimes it happens that a farmer's efforts are made fruitless by a hailstorm. Surely, the hailstorm's own power was greater than the farmer's effort, and the farmer should put forth greater effort now. He should not grieve over the inevitable loss. If such grief is justified, why should he not weep daily over the inevitability of death? The wise man should of course know what is capable of attainment by self-effort and what is not. It is ignorance however to attribute all this to an outside agency and to say that God sends me to heaven or to hell or that an outside agency makes me do this or that—such an ignorant person should be shunned.
One should free oneself from likes and dislikes and engage oneself in righteous self-effort and reach the supreme truth, knowing that self-effort alone is another name for divine will. We only ridicule the fatalist. That alone is self-effort which springs from right understanding that manifests in one's heart which has been exposed to the teachings of the scriptures and the conduct of holy ones.
O Rama, one should, with a body free from illness and mind free from distress, pursue self-knowledge so that he is not born again here. Such self-effort has a threefold root and therefore threefold fruit—an inner awakening in the intelligence, a decision in the mind, and the physical action.
Self-effort is based on these three: knowledge of scriptures, instructions of the preceptor, and one's own effort. Fate [or divine dispensation] does not enter here. Hence he who desires salvation should divert the impure mind to pure endeavour by persistent effort — this is the very essence of all scriptures.
Rama, the tendencies brought forward from past incarnations are of two kinds—pure and impure. The pure ones lead you towards liberation, and the impure ones invite trouble. You are indeed consciousness itself, not inert physical matter. You are not impelled by action by anything other than yourself. Hence you are free to strengthen the pure latent tendencies in preference to the impure ones. The holy ones emphasize: persistently tread the path that leads to eternal good. And the wise seeker knows: the fruit of my endeavours will be commensurate with the intensity of my self-effort, and neither fate nor a god can ordain it otherwise. Indeed, such self-effort alone is responsible for whatever man gets here. When he is sunk in unhappiness, to console him people suggest that it is his fate. This is obvious: one goes abroad and one appeases one's hunger, by undertaking a journey and by eating food—not on account of fate. No one has seen such a fate or a god, but everyone has experienced how an action (good or evil) leads to a result (good or evil). Hence, right from one's childhood one should endeavour to promote one's true good (salvation) by a keen, intelligent study of the scriptures, by having the company of the holy ones and by right self-effort.
Swami Venkatesananda, The Concise Yoga Vasistha
State University of New York Press (October 1984) pp. 26-29
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