Yoga Vasistha [English], Volume 1-4

by Vihari-Lala Mitra | 1891 | 1,121,132 words | ISBN-10: 8171101519

The English translation of the Yoga-vasistha: a Hindu philosophical and spiritual text written by sage Valmiki from an Advaita-vedanta perspective. The book contains epic narratives similar to puranas and chronologically precedes the Ramayana. The Yoga-vasistha is believed by some Hindus to answer all the questions that arise in the human mind, an...

Chapter II - Description of the first cause

Section I - Narrative of the Air-Born and Aeriform Brahman

Vasishtha resumed:—

Hear me Rama; now relate to you the narrative of one Akasaja or air-born Brahman, which will be a jewel to your ears, and enable you the better to understand the drift of the book of Genesis.

2. There lived a Brahman Akasaja by name, who sat always reclined in his meditation, and was ever inclined to the doing of good to all creatures.

3. Finding him long-lived, Death thought within himself saying:—It is I alone that am imperishable, and devour all things one by one.

4. How is it that I cannot cram myself with this air-born, wherein I find my teeth as blunt in him, as the edge of a sword is put to the bluff by the solid rock.

5. So saying, he proceeded to the abode of the Brahman, intent upon making an end of him; for who is of so dull a nature as is not alert in his practice.

6. But as he was about to enter the house, he was opposed by a gorgeous flame of fire, like the conflagration of final destruction on the last day of the dissolution of the world.

7. He pierced the ambient flame and entered the dwelling, where seeing the Brahman before him, he stretched his hand to lay hold on him with all avidity.

8. He was unable even with his hundred hands (i. e. with all his might) to grasp the Brahman, as it is impossible for the strongest to withstand the resolute man in his wonted course.

9. He then had recourse to Yama—his lord to clear his doubt, and to learn why he could not devour the air-born (being).

10. Yama replied saying:—Death, trust not too far thy own might, that makes thee mighty to destroy the living. It is the act of the dying person that is the chief cause of his death and naught otherwise.

11. Therefore do thou be diligent to find out the acts of the person thou intendest to kill; because it is by their assistance only that thou canst seize thy prey.

12. Hereupon Death betook himself gladly to wander about in all places under the horizon. He roved over the habitable parts, as also throughout the lacunal and fluvial districts.

13. He traversed the forests and jungles, marshy and rocky grounds and maritime coasts, and passed to foreign lands and islands, and pried through their wildernesses, cities and towns.

14. He searched through kingdoms and countries, villages and deserts;and surveyed the whole earth to find out some act of the Brahman in any part of it.

15. At last Death with all his search and effort, came to find the acts of the air-born Brahman, to be as nil as the offspring of a barren woman; and his mind as transfixed (in meditation) as if it were a rock.

16. He then returned from his reconnoitering to his all-knowing master Yama, and besought his advice, as servants do in matters of doubt and difficulty (how to proceed).

17. Death addressed him saying:—"Tell me my lord, where the acts of the Air-born Brahman are to be found;" to which Yama after a long head-work, replied as follows.


Section II - State of the Soul

18. Know, O Death! that this air-born seer has no acts whatever; for as he is born of empty air so his doings are all null and void. (i. e. the bodiless spirit or mind is devoid of acts requiring physical means and appliances).

19. Whoso is born of air, is as pure as air itself, and has no combination of cause or acts like all embodied (beings).

20. He has no relation with acts of his prior existence. He is nil as the child of an unprolific woman, and as one unborn, uncreated and unbegotten.

21. Want of causes has made him a pure vacuous being, and the privation of prior acts has made him as nil as an etherial arbor.

22. His mind is not ruffled as those of others, by reason of the privation of his former acts; nor is there any such act of his present state, whereby he may become a morsel to death.

23. Such is the soul seated in the sheath of vacuity, and remaining for ever as the simple form of its own causality (karanadeha), and not guided by any extraneous causation whatever.

24. It has no prior deed, nor does it do any thing at present; (i. e. neither led by predestination, nor actuated by present efforts); but continues as something in the shape of aeriform intelligence.

25. Our inference of the actions of breathing and motion by the agency of the soul, is a mere supposition; because the soul is devoid of every thought of or tendency to action.

26. It sits meditating on itself as inseparable from the Supreme Intelligence, just as the images (in painting and statuary), are inseparable from the mind of the painter and sculptor.

27. The self-born Brahman is as intimately connected with the objects of his thought, as fluidity is associated with water and vacuity with the firmament.

28. His soul is as immanent in the supreme, as motion is inherent in the winds. It has neither the accumulated acts of past lives, nor those of its present state. (i. e. It is neither a passive nor active agent of prior or present acts; but is an indifferent witness of the acts of the body and mind).

29. It is produced without the co-operation of accompanying causes, and being free from prior motives, it is not subjected to the vicissitudes concomitant with human life.

30. It is found to be no other than its own cause; and having no other cause for itself, it is said to be self-produced.

31. Say, how can you lay hold on that being that has done no act before, nor is in the act of doing any thing at present? It is then only subjected to thee when it thinks itself mortal. (But he that knows his soul to be immortal is not subject to death).

32. Whoso believes his soul to be of this earth, and thinks himself to be an earthly being, he may be easily overtaken by thee; (whose power extends over earth-born mortals only).

33. This Brahman is a formless being, by reason of his disowning the material body. Hence it is as hard for thee to enthral him, as to entwine the air with a rope.

34. Death rejoined saying:—Tell me my lord! how may the unborn Aja or the self-born swayambhu, be produced out of vacuum, and how can an earthly or other elemental body be and not be (at the same time).

Yama replied:—

35. This Brahman is neither born nor is nil at any time; but remains for ever the same, as the light of intelligence of which there is no decay.

36. There remains nothing at the event of the great Doomsday, except the tranquil, imperishable and infinite Brahman himself in his spiritual form.

37. This is the nature of the everlasting vacuum, too subtile in its essence, and devoid of all attributes; but viewing present before its mind, the stupendous cosmos in the form of a huge mountain in the beginning of recreation. (The mind is the noumenon—Brahma, and the phenomena of the world is the gigantic macrocosm known as Virajmurti).

38. Being of the nature of intelligence it is imperishable; but those who view the spirit in the form of any phenomenal body, are liable to perish with it like all embodied beings.

39. Thus this Brahman remained in the womb of vacuity in the beginning, in his state of unalterable, vacuous intelligence.

40. It is purely of the nature of the inane understanding, and of the form of a vast expanse of omniscience; having neither body nor organism; no acts nor agency, nor desire of any kind in itself.

41. That which is simply of the form of vacuum and pure light, is never beset by the snare of pristine desires, as a corporeal being.

42. It has nothing to know or see without itself (i. e. beyond its self-consciousness). The only conception that we have of it, is what resembles an extended intelligence (i. e. an all-diffusive omniscience).

43. Under these circumstances, how is it susceptible of any earthly or other external form? Therefore O Death! desist from thy attempt to lay hold on the same.

44. Hearing these words of Yama, Death thought upon the impracticability of laying hold on empty vacuity by any body, and sorrowfully returned to his own abode.

45. Rama said: you said sir, that Brahma is your great grand-sire; I think it is he that you mean to say as the unborn, self-born, universal soul and intelligence.

46. So is this Brahma, Rama! as I have spoken to you, and it was with regard to the same, that the aforesaid discussion was held of yore between Death and Yama (Pluto).

47. Again when Death had made an end of all living beings at the interval of a manwantara, he thought himself strong enough to make an attempt to bear down upon the lotus-born Brahma also.

48. It was then that he was admonished by Yama, saying:—It is your habit that makes you go on your wonted course of killing.

49. But the super-etherial form of Brahma too is beyond your reach: it being simply of the nature of the mind having connection with its thoughts only, and no concern with the actual forms of things.

50. It is of the form of the wonderfully vacuous intellect, having the faculty of cognition in it. Thus the intellect being but vacuum, has neither any cause for it, nor any effect produced by it.

51. As the aeriform volitive principle in men, manifests itself without being connected with material forms, so is the self-born (Brahma) manifest to all in his own immaterial nature.

52. Like strings of pearl appearing to view in the clear firmament, and forms of cities seen in a dream, the self-born (Brahma) is manifest of himself without relation to external objects.

53. As there is no beholder nor any thing beholden of the solitary Supreme spirit which is the intellect itself; so is the mind manifest of itself (without its looking at or being looked upon by any body).

54. It is the volitive mind which is called Brahma and volition being a spiritual faculty, has no connection with any material substance.

55. As the mind of the painter is fraught with images of various things, so is the mind of Brahma full of figures of all created beings.

56. The self-born Brahma is manifest in his own mind as Brahma is manifested in the vacuous sphere of his intellect. He is without beginning, middle and end, and appears to have a figure like that of a male being, while in reality he has no body, as the offspring of a barren woman.