Rama there are four gate-keepers at the entrance to the Realm of Freedom (Moksha).
"Rama there are four gate-keepers at the entrance to the Realm of Freedom
(Moksha). They are self-control, spirit of inquiry, contentment and good
company. The wise seeker should diligently cultivate the friendship of these, or
at least one of them.
With a pure heart and a receptive mind, and without the veil of doubt and the restlessness of the mind, listen to the exposition of the nature and the means of liberation, O Rama. For, not until the supreme being is realised will the dreadful miseries of birth and death come to an end. If this deadly serpent known as ignorant life is not overcome here and now, it gives rise to interminable suffering not only in this, but in countless lifetimes to come. One cannot ignore this suffering, but one should overcome it by means of the wisdom that I shall impart to you.
O Rama, if you thus overcome this sorrow of repetitive history (samsara), you will live here on earth itself like a god, like Brahma or Vishnu! For when delusion is gone and the truth is realised by means of inquiry into self-nature, when the mind is at peace and the heart leaps to the supreme truth, when all the disturbing thought-waves in the mind-stuff have subsided and there is unbroken flow of peace and the heart is filled with the bliss of the absolute, when thus the truth has been seen in the heart, then this very world becomes an abode of bliss.
Such a person has nothing to acquire, nor anything to shun. He is untainted by the defects of life, untouched by its sorrow. He does not come into being nor go out, though he appears to come and go in the eyes of the beholder. Even religious duties are found to be unnecessary. He is not affected by the past tendencies which have lost their momentum: his mind has given up its restlessness, and he rests in the bliss that is his essential nature. Such bliss is possible only by self-knowledge, not by any other means. Hence, one should apply oneself constantly to self-knowledge—this alone is one's duty.
He who disregards holy scriptures and holy men does not attain self-knowledge. Such foolishness is more harmful than all the illnesses that one is subject to in this world. Hence, one should devoutly listen to this scripture which leads one to self-knowledge. He who obtains this scripture does not again fall into the blind well of ignorance. O Rama, if you want to free yourself from the sorrow of samsara (repetitive history) receive the wholesome instructions of sages like me, and be free.
In order to cross this formidable ocean of samsara (repetitive history), one should resort to that which is eternal and unchanging. He alone is the best among men, O Rama, whose mind rests in the eternal and is, therefore, fully self-controlled and at peace. He sees that pleasure and pain chase and cancel each other, and in that wisdom there is self-control and peace. He who does not see this sleeps in a burning house.
He who gains the wisdom of the eternal here is freed from samsara and he is not born again in ignorance. One may doubt that such unchanging truth exists! If it does not, one comes to no harm by enquiring into the nature of life; seeking the eternal will soften the pain caused by the changes in life. But, if it exists, then by knowing it one is freed.
The eternal is not attained by rites, rituals, pilgrimages or by wealth; it is to be attained only by the conquest of one's mind, by the cultivation of wisdom. Hence everyone—gods, demons, demi-gods or men should constantly seek (whether one is walking, falling or sitting) the conquest of the mind and self-control, which are the fruits of wisdom.
When the mind is at peace, pure, tranquil, free from delusion or hallucination, untangled and free from cravings, it does not long for anything, nor does it reject anything. This is self-control or conquest of mind—one of the four gate-keepers to liberation which I mentioned earlier.
All that is good and auspicious flows from self-control. All evil is dispelled by self-control. No gain, no pleasure in this world or in heaven is comparable to the delight of self-control. The delight one experiences in the presence of the self-controlled is incomparable. Everyone spontaneously trusts him. None (not even demons and goblins) hates him.
Self-control, O Rama, is the best remedy for all physical and mental ills. When there is self-control, even the food you eat tastes better. Otherwise it tastes bitter. He who wears the armour of self-control is not harmed by sorrow.
He who even while hearing, touching, seeing, smelling and tasting what is regarded as pleasant and unpleasant, is neither elated nor depressed—he is self-controlled. He who looks upon all beings with equal vision, having brought under control the sensations of pleasure and pain, is self-controlled. He who, though living amongst all is unaffected by them, neither feels elated nor hates, is self-controlled.
Inquiry (the second gate-keeper to liberation] should be undertaken by an intelligence that has been purified by a close study of the scriptures, and this inquiry should be unbroken. By such inquiry the intelligence becomes keen and is able to realise the supreme; hence inquiry alone is the best remedy for the long-lasting illness known as samsara.
The wise man regards strength, intellect, efficiency and timely action as the fruits of inquiry. Indeed kingdom, prosperity, enjoyment as well as final liberation, are all the fruits of inquiry. The spirit of inquiry protects one from the calamities that befall the unthinking fool. When the mind has been rendered dull by the absence of inquiry, even the cool rays of the moon turn into deadly weapons, and the childish imagination throws up a goblin in every dark spot. Hence, the non-enquiring fool is really a storehouse of sorrow. It is the absence of inquiry that gives rise to actions that are harmful to oneself and to others, and to numerous psychosomatic illnesses. Therefore, one should avoid the company of such unthinking people.
They in whom the spirit of inquiry is ever awake illumine the world, enlighten all who come into contact with them, dispel the ghosts created by an ignorant mind, and realise the falsity of sense-pleasures and their objects. O Rama, in the light of inquiry, there is realisation of the eternal and unchanging reality: this is the supreme. With it one does not long for any other gain, nor does one spurn anything. He is free from delusion, attachment. He is not inactive nor does he get downed in action; he lives and functions in this world and at the end of a natural life-span he reaches the blissful state of total freedom.
The eye of spiritual inquiry does not lose its sight even in the midst of all activities; he who does not have this eye is indeed to be pitied. It is better to be born as a frog in the mud, a worm in dung, a snake in a hole, but not to be with this eye. What is inquiry? To inquire thus: "Who am I? How has this evil of samsara (repetitive history) come into being?"Is true inquiry. Knowledge of truth arises from such inquiry. From such knowledge there flows tranquility in oneself; and then there arises the supreme peace that passeth understanding, and the ending of all sorrow. (Vicara or inquiry is not reasoning or analysis; it is directly looking into oneself.)
Contentment is another gate keeper to liberation. He who has quaffed the nectar of contentment does not relish craving for sense pleasures. No delight in this world is as sweet as contentment which destroys all sins.
What is contentment? To renounce all craving for what is not obtained unsought and to be satisfied with what comes unsought, without being elated or depressed even by them—this is contentment. As long as one is not satisfied in the self, he will be subject to sorrow. With the rise of contentment the purity of one's heart blooms. The contented man, who possesses nothing owns the world.
Satsang (company of wise, holy and enlightened persons) is yet another gate keeper to liberation. Satsanga enlarges one's intelligence, and destroys one's ignorance and one's psychological distress. Whatever be the cost, however difficult it may be, whatever obstacles may stand in its way, satsanga should never be neglected. For satsanga alone is one's light on the path of life. Satsanga is indeed superior to all other forms of religious practices like charity, austerity, pilgrimage and the performances of religious rites.
One should by every means in one's power adore and serve the holy men who have realised the truth and in whose heart the darkness of ignorance has been dispelled. They, on the other hand, who treat such holy men disrespectfully, surely invite great suffering.
These four—contentment, satsanga (company of wise men), the spirit of inquiry, and self-control—are the four surest means by which they who are drowning in the ocean of samsara (repetitive history) can be saved. Contentment is the supreme gain. Satsanga is the best companion to the destination. The spirit of inquiry itself is the greatest wisdom. And, self-control is supreme happiness. If you are unable to resort to these four, then practise one: by diligent practice of one of these, the others will also be found in you. The highest wisdom will seek you of its own accord. Until you tame the wild elephant of your mind with the help of these noble qualities you cannot progress towards the supreme, even if you become a god, demi-god or a tree. Therefore, O Rama, strive by all means to cultivate these noble qualities. He who is endowed with the qualities that I have enumerated thus far is qualified to listen to what I am about to reveal. You are indeed such a qualified person, O Rama."
Swami Venkatesananda, The Concise Yoga Vasistha
State University of New York Press (October 1984), pp. 32-35
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