THE CONCEPT OF WILL (PAURUSA) IN THE YOGAVASISTHA

CHRISTOPHER KEY CHAPPLE, Fordham University

Abstract

The Yogavasistha, a Sanskrit text of over 25,000 verses dating from the early part of this millenium, consists of the spiritual instruction given to Rama by the sage Vasistha. One outstanding feature of Yogavasistha philosophy is the proclamation of the efficacy of human will (paurusa) over fate (daiva), a position also associated with Vasistha in the Mahabharata. This study serves as a textual, historical, and theological analysis of this concept of will (paurusa).^ To provide the historical background necessary for an understanding of the Yogavasistha articulation of will, serveral texts from both Hinduism and Buddhism containing passages pertinent to human voluntarism are examined. These include, among others, various Upanisads, the Sankhya Karika, and the Lankavatara Sutra. One chapter is devoted to the doctrine of mind-only, common to both the Yogavasistha and Yogacara Buddhism, and its implications for a philosophy of will.^ Translation from the Sanskrit and textual analysis is provided for the Mahabharata, Anusasanaparvan, Section Six, and for the Yogavasistha, Mumuksuprakarana, Chapters Four, Five, and Seven. In the selection from the Mahabharata, the god Brahma imparts his views on voluntarism to the sage Vasistha. In the Yogavasistha, Vasistha articulates this philosophy of will in more detail, advising Rama that all achievements are obtained only through effort and acts of will.^ Will (paurusa) is seen to play a pivotal role in the spirituality of the Yogavasistha. It is through the instrumentality of paurusa that spiritual progress is possible. However, it is made clear that the Yogavasistha approach to religious life does not involve the abnegation of worldly affairs. Rather, a paradigm is established wherein, through the instrumentality of paurusa, represented by Rama, the phenomenal world of action is reconciled with the absolute, symbolized by the sage Vasisha. This threefold paradigm, involving concepts of an absolute, a relative realm, and an intermediary between the two, is briefly discussed vis-a-vis some aspects of Sankhya-Yoga, Mahayana Buddhism, and the spirituality represented by Yudhisthira in the Mahabharata. ^

Subject Area

Religion, History of

Recommended Citation

CHAPPLE, CHRISTOPHER KEY, "THE CONCEPT OF WILL (PAURUSA) IN THE YOGAVASISTHA" (1980). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8020053.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8020053

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