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 LV - The states of life and death

Lila said:—

Tell me, goddess! for edification of my knowledge, the manner in which a living being comes to die and to be re-born in another form.

2. The goddess replied:—As the action of the heart ceases to act, and the lungs blow and breathe no more, the current of the vital airs is utterly stopped, and the living being loses its sensibility.

3. But the intellectual soul which has no rise nor fall, remains ever the same as it abides in all moving and unmoving bodies, and in air, water, fire and vacuum. Gloss. So saith the Sruti:—The soul is unlimited, permanent and imperishable.

4. When the hindrance of breathing, stops the pulsation, and motion of the body, it is said to be dead; and is then called an inert corpse (but not so the soul).

5. The body being a dead carcase, and the breathing mixing with the air, the soul is freed from the bonds of its desires, and flies to and remains in the mode of the discrete and self-existent soul. Gloss. The Sruti says:—"His elemental parts mix with the elements, and his soul with the Supreme." The unconditioned—nirupadhika spirit, joins with the Holy spirit; but not so the conditioned (upadhika) soul of the unholy.

6. The soul having its desires and styled the animal spirit—Jiva, is otherwise than the atman—soul. It remains in its sepulchral vault under the same atmosphere as the soul of Padma, which thou sawst hovering about his tomb. Gloss. The desire binds down the spirit to its own sphere. (The Ghost hovering about the charnel vault. Milton).

7. Hence such departed spirits are called pretas or ghosts of the dead, which have their desires and earthly propensities attached to them; as the fragrance of the flower is concentrated in its pollen, and thence diffused through the air.

8. As the animal souls are removed to other spheres, after their departure from this visible world, they view the very many scenes and sights; that their desires present before them like visions in a dream.

9. The soul continues to remember all its past adventures, even in its next state, and finds itself in a new body, soon after the insensibility of death is over. Gloss. This is the linga or sukshma deha—the spiritual or subtile body of spiritualism.

10. What appears an empty vacuum to others, seems as a dusky cloud to the departed soul, enveloping the earth, sky, moon and all other orbs within its bosom:—(the circumambient atmosphere).

11. The departed spirits are classed in six orders, as you shall now hear from me; namely, the great, greater and greatest sinners, and so likewise the three degrees of the virtuous.

12. These are again subdivided into three kinds, as some belonging to one state, and others composed of two or three states (i. e. of virtue and vice intermixed) in the same individual soul.

13. Some of the most sinful souls, lose the remembrance of their past states for the period of a whole year; and remain quite insensible within themselves, like blocks of wood or stone. (This is called the pretarastha continuing for a whole year after death). (It is allied to Abraham's bosom or Irack of Mahometans).

14. Rising after this time, they are doomed to suffer the endless torments of hell; which the hardness of their earthly mindedness has brought upon them. (This is the Purgatory of Christians).

15. They then pass into hundreds of births, leading from misery to misery, or have a moment's respite; from the pains in their short lived prosperity, amidst their dreaming journey through life. (These transmigrations of the soul, are the consequences of its evil propensities).

16. There are others, that after their torpor of death is over, come to suffer the unutterable torments of torpidity, in the state of unmoving trees (which are fixed to undergo all the inclemencies of weather).

17. And others again that having undergone the torments of hell, according to their inordinate desires in life, are brought to be re-born on earth, in a variety of births in different forms.

18. Those of lesser crimes, are made to feel the inertness of stones for sometime, after the insensibility attending upon their death. (This means either the insensibility of dead bodies, or that of mineral substances.)

19. These being awakened to sensibility after some period, either of duration long or short (according to their desert); are made to return on earth, to feel the evils of brutish and beastly lives.

20. But the souls of the least sinful, come to assume soon after their death, some perfect human form, in order to enjoy the fruits of their desire and desert on earth.

21. These desires appear before the soul as dreams, and awaken its reminiscence of the past, as present at that moment.

22. Again the best and most virtuous souls, come soon after their death, to find themselves in heavenly abodes, by reason of their continued thoughts and speculations of them.

23. Some amongst them, are brought to enjoy the rewards of their actions in other spheres, from which they are sent back to the mortal world, at the residences of the auspicious and best part of mankind.

24. Those of moderate virtues are blown away by the atmospheric air, upon the tops of trees and medicinal plants, where they rove about as the protozoa, after the insensibility of death is over.

25. Being nourished here by the juice of fruits, they descend in the form of serum and enter into the hearts of men, whence they fall into the uterus in the form of semen virilis, which is the cause of the body and life of other living beings.

The gloss says:—Having enjoyed in the next world the good fruits of their virtuous deeds, they are blown down on earth by the winds and rain. Here they enter in the form of sap and marrow in the vegetable productions of corn, grain and fruits; and these entering the body of animals in the form of food, produce the semen, which becomes the cause of the lives and bodies of all living beings.

26. Thus the dead, figure to themselves some one of these states of living bodies, according to their respective proclivity, after they recover from the collapse attending upon their death.

27. Having thought themselves to be extinct at first, they come to feel their resuscitation afterwards, upon receiving the offering of the mess, made to their departed spirits (by their surviving heirs).

28. Then they fancy they see the messengers of death, with nooses in their hands, come to fetch them to the realm of Yama; where they depart with them (with their provision for one year offered in their Sradh ceremony).

29. There the righteous are carried in heavenly cars to the gardens of Paradise, which they gain by their meritorious acts in life.

30. But the sinful soul, meets with icebergs and pitfalls, tangled with thorns and iron pikes, and bushes and brambles in its passage, as the punishment of its sins.

31. Those of the middling class, have a clear and paved passage, with soft grassy path-ways shaded by cooling arbours, and supplied with spring waters on both sides of them.

32. On its arrival there, the soul reflects within itself that: "here am I, and yonder is Yama—the lord of the dead. The other is the judge of our actions—Chitragupta, and this is his judgement given on my behalf."

33. In this manner the great world also, appears to every one as in a dream; and so the nature and manner of all things, present themselves before every soul.

34. But all these appearances are as void as air; the soul alone is the sentient principle, and the spacious space and time, and the modes and motions of things, though they appear as real, are nothing in reality.

35. Here (in Yama's court), the soul is pronounced to reap the reward of its acts, whereby it ascends either to the blissful heaven above, or descends to the painful hell below.

36. After having enjoyed the bliss of heaven, or suffered the torment of hell, it is doomed to wander in this earth again, to reap the reward of its acts in repeated transmigrations.

37. The soul springs up as a paddy plant, and brings forth the grains of intelligence; and then being assembled by the senses, it becomes an animal, and lastly an intelligent being.

I. e. The insensible vegetable, entering into the animal body in the form of food, is converted to a sensible but irrational soul; but entering as food in the body of man, it turns to a rational and human soul. The one Universal soul is thus diversified in different beings. (It is the plant and food that sustains and nourishes all souls. Gloss).

38. The soul contains in itself the germs of all its senses, which lie dormant in it for want of its bodily organs. It is contained in the semen virilis of man, which passing into the uterus, produces the foetus in the womb of the female.

39. The foetus then becomes either well-formed or deformed, according to the good or evil deeds of the person in its past state; and brings forth the infant of a goodly or ill shapen appearance.

40. It then perceives the moonlike beauty of youthful bloom, and its amorous disposition coming upon itself; and feels afterwards the effects of hoary old age, defacing its lotus-like face, as the sleets of snow, shatter and shrivel the lotus leaflets.

41. At last it undergoes the pains of disease and death, and feels the same insensibility of Euthanasia as before, and finds again as in a dream its taking of a new form.

42. It again believes itself to be carried to the region of Pluto, and subjected to the former kinds of revolution; and thus it continues to conceive its transmigration, in endless births and various forms.

43. Thus the aerial spirit goes on thinking, for ever in its own etherial sphere, all its ceaseless metempsychosis, until its final liberation from this changeful state.

Lila said:—

44. Tell me kindly, O good goddess! for the enlightenment of my understanding, how this misconception of its changeableness, first came upon the soul in the beginning.

45. The goddess replied:—It is the gross view of the abstract, that causes us to assume the discrete spirit, in the concrete forms of the earth and sky and rocks and trees (all of which subsist in the spirit, and are unsubstantial in themselves).

46. As the divine intellect manifests itself, as the soul and model of all forms; so we see these manifestations, in the transcendental sphere of its pure intelligence.

47. In the beginning, God conceived himself as the lord of creation (Brahma); and then as it were in a dream, he saw in himself, all the forms as they continue to this time.

48. These forms were manifested in the divine spirit, at first as his will; and then exhibited in the phenomenal world, as reflexions of the same, in all their present forms.

49. Among these some are called living beings, which have the motions of their bodies and limbs; and live by means of the air which they breathe, and which circulate in their bodies through the lungs and arteries.

50. Such also is the state of the vegetable creation from the first, that they having their inward sensitiveness, are notwithstanding devoid of outward motion, and receive their sustenance by the roots; wherefore they are called Padapas or pedobibers.

51. The hollow sphere of the divine intellect, beaming with intelligence, sends forth its particles of percipience, which form the consciousness of some beings, and sensitiveness in others.

52. But man uses his eyes to view the outer and the reflected world (in disregard of his consciousness of the real); although the eyes do not form his living soul, nor did they exist at his creation and before his birth. (When his view was concentrated within himself as in his sleeping visions).

53. It is according to one's estimation of himself, that he has his proper and peculiar desires, and the particular form of his body also. Such is the case of the elementary bodies likewise, from their inward conception of their peculiar natures.

Gloss said:—

So the ideas of vacuity, fluidity and solidity forming the bodies of air, water and earth; and the form of every thing agreeing with its inherent nature.

54. Thus all moving and unmoving things, have their movable and immovable bodies, according to their intrinsic disposition or idiosyncrasy as such and such.

55. Hence all self-moving beings have their movable bodies, conforming with the conception of their natures as so and so; and in this state of their belief, they continue to this time, with their same inborn or congenital bodies.

56. The vegetable world still continues in the same state of fixedness, from its sense of immobility; and so the rocks and minerals continue in their inert state, from the inborn sense of their inertness.

57. There is no distinction whatever between inertness and intelligence, nor any difference betwixt production, continuance and extinction of things; all which occur in one common essence of the supreme.

58. The varying idiosyncrasy subsisting in vegetables and minerals, makes them feel themselves as such, and causes their various natures and forms, as they have to this time.

59. The inward constitution of all immovable objects, makes them remain in their stationary states; and so of all other substances, according to their different names and natures.

60. Thus the inward crasis or quality of worms and insects, makes them conceive themselves according to their different kinds, and gives them their particular natures for ever.

61. So the people under the north pole know nothing, about those in the south, except that they have the knowledge of themselves only (as ever subject to the intense cold of the frigid zone).

62. So also all kinds of moving and unmoving beings, are prepossessed with their own notions of things, and regard all others according to the peculiar nature of themselves. (Atma vat &c.).

63. Again as the inhabitants of caves, know nothing of their outsiders; and as the frogs of dirty pools are unacquainted with pure water of streams; so is one sort of being ignorant of the nature of another.

64. But the inane intellect, residing in the form of the all pervasive mind, and all sustaining air; knows the natures of all things in all places.

65. The vital air, that enters all bodies through the pores of their bodies, is the moving principle, that gives life and motion to all living beings.

66. Verily the mind is situated in all things, whether they are moving or immovable; and so is the air, which causes the motion in some, and quiescence in others.

67. Thus are all things but rays of the conscious soul, in this world of illusion, and continue in the same state, as they have been from the beginning.

68. I have told you all, about the nature of things in the world, and how un-realities come to appear as real unto us.

69. Lo here this king Viduratha is about to breathe his last, and the garlands of flowers heaped on the corpse of thy husband Padma, are now being hung upon the breast of Viduratha.

Lila said:—

70. Tell me goddess! by what way he entered the tomb of Padma, and how we may also go there to see what he has been doing in that place.

71. The goddess said:—Man goes to all places by the way of his desires, and thinks also he goes to the distant future, in the spiritual form of pure intellect.

72. We shall go by the same way (aerial or spiritual), as you will like to take; because the bond of our friendship will make no difference in our choice and desires.

Vasishtha said:—

73. The princess Lila being relieved of her pain, by the recital of this agreeable narration; and her intellectual sight being brightened, by the blazing sun of spiritual light; beheld the insensible and unmoving Viduratha, breathe out his last expiring breath.