by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar | 1896 | 137,618 words | ISBN-10: 818514141X | ISBN-13: 9788185141411
This page relates “the story of mithya-purusha or the illusory personage”, the 11th part of chapter 6 of Laghu-yoga-vasistha (English translation). This ancient Sanskrit book contains epic legendry (similair to puranas and itihasa) and deals with the Advaita-vedanta (non-dual) branch of Indian philosophy. It is authored by sage (rishi) Valmiki and condensed (laghu) from an even larger work, forming a discourse between Vasistha (Vasishtha) and Rama. This part is included in the chapter “nirvana-prakarana”.
“May you attain Ātma-jñāna and enjoy supreme bliss after giving up all conceptions of diversities. Do not afflict thy self, Oh Rāma, like the Mithyā-Puruṣa.” So said Vasiṣṭha, when Rāghava asked him: “How did Mithyā-Puruṣa go about with an afflicted heart and without the least benefit to himself? Please explain it to me lucidly.”
Vasiṣṭha continued: “This story will provoce great laughter and is full of marvellous incidents. In a nook of Cidākāśa, where there is not the universe, a certain male personage arose. He was attired in Māyā and replete with Ajñāna. He was base in his tendencies, puerile and of dull head with the lowest intelligence. He arose like rolls of hair appearing in the Ākāśa or water in a mirage. He was nothing but a void out of a void. He went by the name of Mithyā-puruṣa. Unobservant of his own growth and the Chit (Consciousness) that manifests itself as if distinct from the universe, he contracted the Saṃkalpa (or thought) of creating the highest Ākāśa without any impediments and did create one. Then in order to set a limit to it, he constructed an enclosed abode. With the idea that the Ākāśa was pent up and protected by him in that habitation, his desires were bound by that limited Ākāśa as identical with it. In course of time, it began to grow dilapidated and at last gave way, like a hill worn away by Manvantaric gusts of wind or like rain ceasing with the close of the rainy season.
Then this Mithyā-puruṣa bewailed the disappearance of the Ākāśa in the following manner: ‘Oh Ākāśa, in an instant hast thou vanished with the disappearance of my house. Where hast thou gone to?’ Having finished his lamentations over this house Ākāśa, he created a fresh well and entering into it without any disturbance from without, became fondly attached to the Ākāśa therein. Being disappointed as ever in this second effort of his, when the well became quite useless with time and was gradually filled up, he again was afflicted in mind and cried aloud. Then again to preserve the Ākāśa, he created a fresh pot; and enamored with its beautiful structure, he gladly entered it and was chained in it with affection. Time, Oh dark skinned Rāma, set again its hands on this vessel and disposed of it. Finding that all the things, he created with great belief in their permanency, became the victims of time, he dug a pit in the ground and becoming greatly attached to the Ākāśa therein, lived in it, as if permanent. Even this was done away by the elephant of time, like light dispelling darkness. Crying over its loss as usual, he built again a circular abode with the four quarters in it and dwelt in it with great joy. When the time of destruction arrived for doing away with this house and all the other mundane eggs [worlds –Ed.), he drooped like a dry leaf in a whirlpool of wind. The usual cries being over, he created a grange for the Ākāśa, which having served him for a time succumbed to time. Thus did he grieve for a long period over the loss of these many creations of his, namely the Ākāśa-house, Ākāśa-well, etc. Now this personage was no other than an ignoramus in that he enclosed the Ākāśa within an earthly tenement and having identified himself with the house, etc., fancied he worked and lived and died with it.”
Rāma asked: “What do you drive at, in this story? What do you mean by enclosing the Ākāśa?”
Vasiṣṭha said thus: “The Mithyā-puruṣa is no other than the idea of ‘I’ (Ahaṃkāra) arising in the void which is like a dark-colored cloud. This Ākāśa in which all the universes exist, is self-existent before creation, all full and endless. In it the idea of ‘I’, arises like the sense of touch in Vāyu (air); and then this void of Ahaṃkāra fancied itself protecting the Chid-ākāśa of Ātma. Then encased in the several bodies of the well, etc., which he created himself, he again and again subjected himself to pains. With his body, he contracted the thought arising from Bhūtākāśa. Through it, he detested all sufferings. Therefore, Oh lotus-eyed Rāma, do not render yourself liable to pains, like Mithyā-puruṣa who, being imprisoned in the different bodies of house-Ākāśa. etc., identified himself with Bhūtākāśa. The imperishable Śiva who is more all-pervading than Ākāśa, stainless and immaculate and cannot be guaged by the mind, is the natural Ātma-tattva. Can this Ātma-tattva be easily visited or attained by all? Such being the case, the ignorant despond that the ‘I’, the heart-Ākāśa, perishes while the body perishes. Will the indestructible Ākāśa disappear when pots and others which seem to limit it are destroyed? Ākāśa will never vanish with the disappearance of the pot? So with the destruction of the body, Ātma will never be destroyed. It is only through direct spiritual vision that Brahmic-Reality which is the transcendental Cinmātra and Sat, more subtle than Ākāśa and the atom of atoms will shine everywhere; but Ahaṃkāra, which is the idea of ‘I’, is destroyed like a pot. There is really no such thing, as birth or death in any place or time. It is only Brahman which manifests itself as the universe through forms. Therefore having considered all the universes as the supreme Principle without beginning, middle or end, without differences or non-differences, without existence or non-existence, may you be without pains. Should this idea of ‘I’ be destroyed through the desireless Ātma-jñāna, this idea, which is the source of all accidents, non-eternal, dependent, discrimination-less, the seed of all sins, Ajñāna and birth and destruction, then this very destruction is the state of the stainless Jīvanmukti state.