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 X - Description of the chaotic state

Rama said:—

1. That which remains incident to the Universal dissolution (maha-pralaya), is commonly designated by the term "formless void."

2. How then said you, there was no void, and how could there be no light nor darkness neither?

3. How could it be without the intellect and the living principle, and how could the entities of the mind and understanding be wanting in it?

4. How could there be nothing and not all things? Such like paradoxical expressions of yours, have created much confusion in me.

Vasishtha said:—

5. You have raised a difficult extra-question, Rama! but I shall have no difficulty to solve it, as the sun is at no pains to dispel the nocturnal gloom.

6. On the occasion or the termination of a great kalpa age, when there remains That Entity (the Tat sat) of God, it cannot be said to be a void, as I will now explain to you. Attend Rama and hear.

7. Like images carved in bas-relief upon a pillar, was this world situated in relievo of That Entity, and cannot be said to have been a void.[1]

8. Again when there was the representation of the plenitude under the appellation of the world at any place, (in the essence of God), and be it real or unreal, it could not have been a void and vacuity.

9. As a pillar with carved or painted figures, cannot be said to be devoid of them; so Brahma exhibiting the worlds contained in him, can not become a void. (i. e.—As a pillar is not devoid of figures which has carved images on it; so Brahma is not a void, having the worlds contained in him. This is a negative enthymem).

10. But the world contained in Brahma, becomes both something and nothing; as billows in calm waters may either exist or not exist. (So the appearance and disappearance of the worlds in Brahma, like those of the little billows in a quiet lake, prove their existence and non-existence at the same time, as it is predicated of the Chaos or the Mahapralaya. Gloss).[2]

11. Again it happens that certain figures are marked on some insensible trees in some places by the hand of time, which people mistake for images; so it comes to pass that certain figures of evanescent matter, occur in the eternal mind, which men mistake for the real world.

12. This comparison of the figured pillar and tree and the world, is a partial and not complete simile; the similitude here referring only to the situation of the transient world in the substance of the permanent Brahma, (like the appearance of false figures in the firmly fixed pillar and on the standing tree).

13. But this appearance of the world is not caused by another (as in the case of the pillar, figures and pictures carved and painted by the hands of the statuary and painter). It rises, lasts and sets spontaneously and of itself in the self-same essence of Brahma, (as the figures in the tree or the waves of the Ocean). It is the property of the divine soul and mind to raise and set such imageries in them by turns, like the creations of our imagination.[3]

14. The meaning of the word void (sunya) instead of no void (asunya) or existence, is a fiction as false as inanity is a nullity in nature. Something must come out of something, and never from a void nothing; and how can nothing be reduced to nothing in the end—mahapralaya. (sunyata sunyate katham)? (Ex nihilo nihil fit, et in nihilum nihil reverti posse).

15. In answer to your second question it has been said "there was darkness neither."Because the divine light of Brahma (which existed before creation), was not like the light of a material luminary (which is followed by darkness). The everlasting light was not to be obscured by darkness, like the sunshine, or moon-light or the blazing of fire or the twinkling of stars or our eyes.

16. It is the absence of the light of the great celestial luminaries, that is called darkness, and there being no material property in the immaterial essence of God, there could be no such light or darkness with him before creation.

17. The light of the vacuous Brahma is an internal perception of the soul, and is only felt and perceived within one's self, and never externally by any body; nor is this spiritual light ever clouded by any mist or darkness of temporal objects.

18. The indestructible Brahma is beyond and free from external and visible light and darkness; and is above the region of vacuum which is contained, as it were, within his bosom, and contains the universe as sheathed within its hollow womb.

19. As there is no difference between the outside and inside of a fruit (both of which is the same thing); so there is no shade of difference betwixt Brahma and the universe (the one pervading and the other pervaded by his spirit).

20. As the billow is contained in and composed of the water and the pot of the earth, so the world being contained in Brahma, it can not be said as null and void, but full of the spirit of God.

21. The comparison of earth and water does not agree corporeally with the spiritual essence of God, whose vacuous spirit contains and comprises the whole (Visva) within itself, as those elements do their component parts and productions.

22. Now as the sphere of the intellect is clearer and brighter far than the spheres of air and empty space; so the sense and idea of the word world as situated in the divine mind, is clearer in a far greater degree than this visible world appears to us.

23. (In answer to the third question with regard to the want of intellect), it is said thus:—As the pungency of pepper is perceived by one who tastes it, and not by him who has never tasted it; so the minutiae of the Intellect are known in the intellectual sphere by a cultivated intelligence, and by none who is without it.

24. Thus the Intellect appears as no intellect to one who is devoid of intelligence in himself, (i. e. one having the Intellect, does not perceive it without a cultivated understanding). So this world is seen in the spirit of God or otherwise, according as one has cultivated or neglected his spiritual knowledge.

25. The world as it is, is seen either in its outward figure or in a spiritual light, as other than or the same with Brahma (by the materialist and spiritualist); but the Yogi views it in its fourth (turiya) state of susupta or utter extinction in his unconscious soul.

26. Therefore the Yogi, though leading a secular life, remains somnolent (Susupta) in his soul, and tranquil (Santa) in his mind. He lives like Brahma unknown to and unnoticed by others, and though knowing all and full of thoughts in himself, he is as a treasury of Knowledge, unknown to the rest of mankind.

27. (In answer to the question how corporeal beings could proceed from the incorporeal Brahma). Vasishtha says:—As waves of various shapes rise and fall in the still and shapeless breast of the sea, so innumerable worlds of various forms, float about in the unaltered and formless vacuity of Brahma's bosom.

28. From the fullness of the Divine soul (Brahmatma), proceeds the fullness of the living soul (Jivatma), which is formless also (nirakriti). This aspect of Brahma is said to be owing to the purpose of manifesting himself (as living in all living beings).

29. So the totality of worlds proceeding from the plenum of Brahma, there remains the same sum total also as the plenitude of Brahma himself.

30. Considering the world as synonymous with Brahma in our minds, we find their identity (in the same manner), as one finds by taste the pepper and its pungency to be the same thing.

31. Such being the state of the unreality of the mind and its cognizables, their reflections upon each other (i. e. of the mind upon the object and those of the object on the mind), are equally untrue as the shadow of a shadow. (Here is an utter negation of perception and perceptibles. There being no material subtratum, the shadowy scene of the world is a mere mental synthesis. Berkeley).[4]

32. Know Brahma to be smaller than the smallest atom, and minutest of minutest particles. He is purer than air, and more tranquil than the subtile ether which is embosomed in him.

33. Unbounded by space and time, his form is the most extensive of all. He is without beginning and end, and an ineffable light without brightness in it. (He is the light of lights).

He is of the form of intellect said:—

34. chit and life eternal, without the conditions and accidents of vitality—jivata. The Divine Mind has its will eternal, and is devoid of the desires of finite minds—chittata.

35. Without the rise of the intellect (i. e. its development), there is neither vitality nor understanding, no intellection nor any organic action or sensation, and no mental desire or feeling whatever; (all of which are but products of the intellect or Ego).

36. Hence the Being that is full of these powers (and without which no power has its display), and who is without decline or decay, is seen by us to be seated in his state of tranquil vacuity, and is rarer than the rarefied vacuum of the etherial regions.

Rama said:—

37. Tell me again and more precisely of the form of this transcendental Being, who is of the nature of infinite intelligence, and which may give more light to my understanding.

Vasistha said:—

38. I have told you repeatedly, that there is one supreme Brahma, the cause of causes, who remains alone by himself, when the universe is finally dissolved or absorbed in him. Hear me describe Him fully to you.

39. That which the Yogi sees within himself after forgetting his personality, and repressing the faculties and functions of his mind, in his Samadhi—meditation, is verily the form of the unspeakable Being.

40. As the Yogi who is absorbed in his meditation in absence of the visible world, and in privation of the viewer and visibles, and sees the light shining in himself, even such is the form of that Being.

Who having forgotten the nature of the living soul said:—

41. jiva, and his proclivity towards the intelligibles, remains in the pure light and tranquil state of his intellect (as in Yoga), such is the form of the Supreme Spirit.

42. He who has no feeling of the breathing of the winds, or of the touch or pressure of any thing upon his body;but lives as a mass of intelligence in this life; is verily the form of the Supreme.

43. Again that state of the mind, which a man of sense enjoys in his long and sound sleep, that is undisturbed by dreams and gnats, is verily the form of the Supreme.

44. That which abides in the hearts of vacuum, air and stone, and is the intellect of all inanimate beings, is the form of the Supreme.

45. Again whatever irrational and insensible beings live by nature, as without the soul and mind (as vegetables and minerals), the tranquil state of their existence is the nature of the Supreme Soul.

46. That which is seated in the midst of the intellectual light of the soul, and what is situated in the midst of the etherial light of the sun, and that which is in the midst of our visual light, is verily the form of the Supreme. (This passage admits of an occult interpretation in the Yoga system).

47. The soul which is the witness of our knowledge, of solar and visual lights and darkness, is without beginning and end, and is the form of the Supreme.

48. He who manifests this world to us, and keeps himself hidden from view, be he the same with or distinct from the world, is the form of the Supreme.

49. Who though full of activity, is sedate as a rock, and who though not a vacuum (being the plenum of all), appears yet as an empty vacuity, such is the form of the Supreme.

50. He who is the source and terminus of our triple consciousness of the knower, known and knowledge (i. e. from whom they rise and in whom they set by turns); is most difficult of attainment.

51. He who shines forth with the lustre of the triple conditions of the knowable, knower and their knowledge, and shows them to us as a large insensible mirror, is verily the form of the Supreme, who is here represented not as the cause—nimitta, but as the source—vivarta of the triple category.

52. The mind that is liberated from bodily activities (as in the waking Jagrat state) from its dreaming (as in the swapna or sleeping state), and is concentrated in the intellect (as in the state of susupti or sound sleep), and abides alike in all moving as well as unmoving bodies (as in the turiya or fourth state of the soul), is said to remain in the end of our being.

53. The intelligent mind which is as fixed as an immovable body, and freed from the exercise of its faculties, is comparable with the Divine Mind.[5]

54. ?missing text?

Footnotes and references:


The pre-existent substratum is the Noumenon underlying all phenomena. It is the support of qualities, and something in which all accidents inhere. Berkeley.


It contradicts the well known axiom of Locke, that, "it is impossible for the same thing to be and not be at the same time."


The unknown substance is the known cause, a spiritual substance—God. Berkeley.


The venerable Vasishtha would not raise the question "where is the shadow of a shadow?" (prativimbasya prativambam kutak), had he known the discoveries of the modern science of Optics, and the achievements of photography and phonography, the refractions of prismatic lens and the vibrations of musical wires.


The gods Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Sun, Indra and all others, are assimilated into the Supreme Spirit in their state of rest. He is beyond all attribute and out of the sphere of the universe, and is of the form of an immutable Intellect.