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 LIV - Reflections on death

Argument. The lot of living beings and the cause of their death. The duration of human life as determined by their acts and enjoyments, and the merit of their conduct in life time.

The goddess continued:—

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Those therefore who know the knowable God, and rely in virtue, can go to the spiritual worlds and not others. (Knowable means what ought to be and not what is or can be known).

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All material bodies which are but false and erroneous conceptions of the mind, can have no place in Truth (the true spirit); as no shadow can have any room in sunshine. (So gross matter has no room in the subtile spirit).

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Lila being ignorant of the knowable (God), and unacquainted with the highest virtue (the practice of Yoga), could go no further than the city of her lord which she had at heart.

The waking lila said:—

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Let her be where she is (I inquire no more about her); but will ask you of other things. You see here my husband is about to die, so tell me what must I do at present.

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Tell me the law of the being and not being of beings, and what is that destiny which destines the living beings to death.

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What is it that determined the natures of things and gave existence to the categories of objects. What is it that has caused the warmth of the fire and sun, and gave stability to the earth?

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Why is coldness confined to the frost and the like, and what forms the essence of time and space; what are the causes of the different states of things and their various changes, and the causes of the solidity of some and tenuity of others?

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What is that which causes the tallness of trees and men above the grass and brambles; and why is it that many things dwindle and decay in the course and capability of growth?

The goddess said:—

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At the universal dissolution of the world, when all things are dissolved in the formless void; there remains the only essence of Brahma, in the form of the infinite sky stretching beyond the limits of creation on all sides.

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It then reflects in its intellect in the form of a spark of fire, as you are conscious of your aerial journey in a dream.

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This atomic spark then increased in its size in the divine spirit, and having no substance of itself, appeared what is commonly styled the ideal world.

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The spirit of God residing in it, thought itself as Brahma—the soul of the world, who reigned over it in his form of the mind, as if it was identic with the real world itself. (The world is a display of the Divine Mind).

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The primary laws that he has appointed to all things at their first creation, the same continue invariably in force with them to the present time (i. e. the primordial law or nature).

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The minds of all turn in the same way as it was willed by the divine mind, and there is nothing which of itself can go beyond the law which the divine will has assigned to it.

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It is improper to say that all formal existences, are nothing, because they remain in their substance (of the divine spirit), after disappearance of their forms; as the substance of gold remains the same after alteration of its shape and form.

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The elementary bodies of fire and frost still continue in the same state, as their elements were first formed in the Divine mind in the beginning of creation.

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Nothing therefore has the power to forsake its own nature, as long as the divine intellect continues to direct his eternal laws and decrees which are appointed to all.

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It is impossible for any thing to alter its nature now from the eternal stamp, which Divine will has set upon all the substantial and ideal forms of creation.

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As the Divine Intellect knows no opposition in its way, it never turns from the tenor of its own wonted intelligence which directs the destinies of all. (This is the real or subjective, intellectual or nominal view of evolution of all things from the divine mind).

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But know in the first place the world to be no created thing. All this that appears to exist, is but a display of the notions in our consciousness, like the appearances in our dreams.

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The unreal appears as real, as the shadow seems to be the substance. Our notions of things are the properties of our nature (i. e. they are natural to us, as they are engrafted in it by the eternal mind).

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The manner in which the intellect exhibited itself, in its different manifestations, at the beginning, the same continues in its course to this time, and is known as the samvid-kachana or manifestations of consciousness, which constitute the niyati—course or system of the universe.

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The sky is the manifestation of the intellectual idea of vacuity in the divine mind; and the idea of duration in the intellect, appeared in the form of the parts of time.

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The idea of liquidity evolved itself in the form of water in the divine mind; in the same manner as one dreams of water and seas in his own mind. (So the air and earth are manifestations of the ideas of fluidity and solidity).

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We are conscious of our dreams in some particular state of our intellect, and it is the wonderfully cunning nature of the intellect, that makes us think the unreal as real.

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The ideas of the reality of earth, air, fire and water are all false; and the intellect perceives them within itself, as its false dreams and desires and reveries.

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Now hear me tell you about death, for removing your doubts with regard to the future state; that death is destined for our good, in as much as it leads us to the enjoyment of the fruits of acts in this life.

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Our lives are destined in the beginning to extend to one, two, three and four centuries in the different Kali, Dwapara, Treta and Satya ages of the world. (Corresponding with the golden, silver, brazen and iron ages of the ancients).

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It is however by virtue of place and time, of climate and food, and our good or bad actions and habits, that human life extends above or descends below these limits.

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Falling short of one's duties lessens his life, as his excelling in them lengthens its duration; but the mediocrity of his conduct keeps it within its proper bound.

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Boys die by acts causing infant diseases and untimely deaths; so do the young and old die of acts that bring on juvenile and senile weakness, sickness and ultimate death.

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He who goes on doing his duties as prescribed by law of the Sastras, becomes both prosperous and partaker of the long life allotted by the rule of the Sastra.

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So likewise do men meet their last state and future reward, according to the nature of their acts in life-time; or else their old age is subjected to regret and remorse, and all kinds of bodily and mental maladies and anxieties.

Lila said:—

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Tell me in short, O moon-faced goddess! something more with regard to death; as to whether it is a pleasure or pain to die, and what becomes of us after we are dead and gone from here. (Death is said to be release from misery by some, and the most grievous of all torments by others. So Pope:—O, the pain, the bliss of dying).

The goddess replied:—

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Dying men are of three kinds, and have different ends upon their death. These are those who are ignorant, and such as are practiced in yoga, and those that are reasonable and religious.

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Those practicing the dharana yoga, may go wherever they like after leaving their bodies, and so the reasonable yogi is at liberty to range everywhere. (It consists in mental retention and bodily patience and endurance).

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He who has not practiced the dharana yoga, nor applied himself to reasoning, nor has certain hopes of the future, is called the ignorant sot, and meets with the pain and pangs of death.

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He whose mind is unsubdued, and full of desires and temporal cares and anxieties, becomes as distressed as a lotus torn from its stalk (i. e. it is the subjection of inordinary passions, and suppression of inordinate desires and cares; which ensure our true felicity).

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The mind that is not guided by the precepts of the Sastras, nor purified by holiness; but is addicted to the society of the wicked, is subjected to the burning sensation of fire within itself at the moment of death.

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At the moment when the last gurgling of the throat chokes the breath, the eye-sight is dimmed and the countenance fades away; then the rational soul also becomes hazy in its intellect.

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A deep darkness spreads over the dimming sight, and the stars twinkle before it in day-light; the firmament appears to be obscured by clouds, and the sky presents its gloomy aspect on every side.

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An acute pain seizes the whole frame, and a Fata Morgana dances before the vision; the earth is turned to air and the mid-air seems to be the moving place of the dying person.

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The sphere of heaven revolves before him, and the tide of the sea seems to bear him away. He is now lifted up in the air, and now hurled down as in his state of dizziness or dream.

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Now he thinks as falling in a dark pit, and then as lying in the cavern of a hill; he wants to tell aloud his torments, but his speech fails him to give utterance to his thoughts.

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He now finds himself as falling down from the sky, and now as whirled in the air like a bundle of straws blown aloft in the air by a gust of wind. He is now riding swiftly as in a car, and now finds himself melting as snow.

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He desires to acquaint his friends of the evils of life and this world; but he is carried away from them as rapidly as by an air-engine, (like a stone shot by a ballista or an aeronaut in a balloon).

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He whirls about as by a rotatory machine or turning wheel, and is dragged along like a beast by its halter. He wallows about as in an eddy, or turns around as the machine of some engine.

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He is borne in the air as a straw, and is carried about as a cloud by the winds. He rises high like a vapour, and then falls down like a heavy watery cloud pouring out in the sea.

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He passes through the endless space and revolves in all its vortiginous vacuities, to find as it were, a place free from the vicissitudes to which the earth and ocean are subject (i. e., a place of peace and rest).

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Thus the rising and falling spirit roves without cessation, and the soul breathing hard and sighing without intermission, sets the whole body in sore pain and agony.

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By degrees the objects of his senses become as faint to his failing organs, as the landscape fades to view at the setting of the sun. (The world recedes; it disappears: Pope).

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He loses the remembrance of the past and present, upon the failing of his memory at this moment; as one is at a loss to know the sides of the compass after the evening twilight has passed away.

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In his fit of fainting, his mind loses its power of thinking; and he is lost in a state of ignorance, at the loss of all his thoughts and sensibility. (So the lines:—It absorbs me quite, steals my senses, shuts my sight. Pope).

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In the state of faintishness, the vital breath ceases to circulate through the body; and at the utter stoppage of its circulation, there ensues a collapse murch'ha or swooning.

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When this state of apoplexy joined with delirium, has reached its climax, the body becomes as stiff as stone by the law of inertia, ordained for living beings from the beginning.

Lila said:—

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But tell me, O goddess, why do these pains and agonies, this fainting and delirium, and disease and insensibility, overtake the body, when it is possessed of all its eight organs entire.

The goddess replied:—

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It is the law appointed by the author of life from the first, that such and such pains are to fall to the lot of living beings at such and such times. (Man's primeval sin brought pain and disease and death into the world).

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The primeval sin springs of itself as a plant in the conscious heart of man, and subjects him to his doomed miseries, which have no other intelligible cause. (There is no other assignable cause of death and disease except the original guilt).

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When the disease and its pain overpower the body, and prevent the lungs and arteries to expand and contract, in order to inhale and exhale the air, it loses its equipoise (samana) and becomes restless.

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When the inhaled air does not come out, nor the exhaled breath re-enter the lungs, all pulsation is at a stop; and the organic sensations are lost in their remembrance only. (As in the memory of sleeping and dreaming men).

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When there is no ingress nor egress of the vital air, the pulse sinks and becomes motionless, and the body is said to become senseless, and the life to be extinct.

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I shall also die away in my destined time, but my consciousness of former knowledge will all be awake at the hour of death (which proves the immortality of the soul).

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Though I am dead and gone from here in this manner, yet I must mind, that the seed of my innate consciousness (the soul), is never destroyed with my life and body.

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Consciousness is inward knowledge and imperishable in its nature;therefore the nature of consciousness is free from birth and death. (The body is subject to birth and death, but not the soul).

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This consciousness is as clear as a fresh fountain in some persons, and as foul as tide water in others; it is bright in its form of the pure intellect—chit in some, and polluted with the passions of animal life, in its nature of the sentient or living soul—chetana in many.

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As a blade of grass is composed of joints in the midst, so is the even nature of the sentient or living soul; which is combined with the two states of birth and death amidst it.

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The sentient soul is neither born nor dead at any time; but witnesses these two states as the passing shadows and apparitions in a dream and vision.

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The soul is no other than the intellect, which is never destroyed anywhere by any. Say, what other thing is this soul, which is called the Purusha beside the intellect itself. Gloss. It is not the body, nor the vital breath, nor perceptions nor mind; it is not the understanding nor egoism, nor the heart nor illusion, all of which are inactive of themselves.

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Say then whom and what you call to be dead today, and whether the intellect is liable to disease or demise at any time and in any wise. Millions of living bodies are verily dying every day, but the intellect ever remains imperishable.

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The intellect never dies at the death of any living being; because all the living soul continues the same upon the demise of every body here.

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The living soul therefore, is no more than the principle which is conscious of its various desires, affections and passions. It is not that principle to which the phases of life and death are attributed by men.

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So there is none that dies, nor any one that is born at any time; it is this living principle only that continually revolves in the deep eddy of its desires.

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Considering the unreality of the visible phenomena, there can be no desire for them in any body; but the inward soul that is led by its egoism to believe them as true, is subject to death at the dis-appearance of the phenomena.

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The recluse ascetic flying from the fears of the world as foreign to his soul; and having none of its false desires rising in his breast, becomes liberated in his life and assimilated with the true ONE.

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