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 LX - On duration and time and thoughts of the mind

Argument. The reason of introducing the two Lilas in the tale. The one as the counterpart of the other.

Vasishtha said:—

I have related to you this tale, prince! for removing your error of the phenomenal world. Mind this tale of Lila, and renounce your misconception of the gross material world.

2. The substantiality of phenomena is a nil by itself, and requires no pains to invalidate it. It is hard to disprove a reality; but there is no difficulty in effacing a falsehood from the mind.

3. True knowledge consists in viewing the visibles as void, and knowing the one vacuum as the sole unity and real entity; one loses himself at last in this infinite vacuity. (Vasishtha was a sunya vadi or vacuist, which Sankaracharya was at the pains to refute in his Dig-vijaya).

4. When the self-born Brahma created the world from nothing, and without the aid of any material or elementary body; it is plain that there was an eternal void, and all these are but manifestations of the vacuous soul. (The Teom and Beom of Genesis, corresponding with Tama and

Vyom of the Veda, were the origin of creation).

5. The same creative soul, has spread the seeds of its consciousness in the stream of creation, and these produce the images as they incessantly appear to us, unless we take the pains to repress them.

6. The appearance of the world, is but a perspective of the sphere of divine intellect; and contained in the small space of human intellect within the soul; as in a transparent particle of sand.

7. Such being the case, say what is the essence of this erroneous conception, and what may be our desires or reliance in it, and what can be the meaning either of destiny or necessity? (The predestination and chance, to which the Fatalists ascribe the origination of the universe).

8. This entire whole which is visible to the eye, is but a false appearance as that of magic; and there is no truth nor substance in a magic show.

Rama said:—

9. Oh! the wondrous exposition of the world, that you have now explained to me. It refreshes my soul, as the moon-beams revive the blades of grass, that have been burnt down by a conflagration.

10. It is after so long, that I have come to know the truly knowable; such as what and how it is, and the manner whereby, whence and when it is to be known.

11. I have my peace and rest in pondering on this wonderful theory, and your elucidation of the doctrines of the Sruti Sastras.

12. But tell me this one thing to remove my doubt, as my ears are never satiate, with drinking the nectarious juice of your sweet speech.

13. Tell me the time, which transpired during the three births of Lila's husband. Was it the duration of a day and night in one case, and of a month in another, and the period of a whole year in the case of Viduratha?

14. Or did any one of them live for many years, and whether they were of short or longer durations, according to the measure of men, gods or Brahma. (Because a human year is a day and night of the polar gods, and a moment of the cycle of Brahma. And revolution of the whole planetary system to the same point makes a day of Brahma).

15. Please sir, kindly tell me this, because little hearing is not sufficient to me, as a drop of water is not enough to moisten the dry soil or the parched ground of summer heat.

Vasishtha said:—

16. Know sinless Rama! that whosoever thinks of anything in any manner at any place or time, he comes to feel the same in the same manner, and in the same place and time.

17. Take for instance the destructive poison, which becomes as ambrosia to venomous insects, that take it for their dainty nourishment; and so is an enemy turning to a friend by your friendly behaviour unto him. (In both cases the evil turns to good by our taking it as such).

18. And the manner in which all beings consider themselves, and all others for a length of time; the same they seem to be by their mode and habit of thinking, as if it were by an act of destiny (i. e., they consider their thoughts of things as their destined nature, which is not so in reality; for fair is foul and foul is fair; according as our judgments declare).

19. The manner in which the active intellect represents a thing in the soul, the same is imprinted in the consciousness of its own nature. (Here the Chit is said to be the intellectus agens and consciousness—Samvid—the intellectus patiens. The motion of the mind gives us the impressions of the swiftness and slowness of time).

20. When our consciousness represents a twinkling of the eye as a Kalpa, we are led to believe a single moment an age of long duration. (As a short nap appears an age in dreaming), and (a long age as a moment as in the case of the seven sleepers of Kehef).

21. And when we are conscious of or think a Kalpa age as a twinkling, the Kalpa age is thought to pass as a moment; and so a long night in our unconscious sleep, appears as a moment upon waking.

22. The night appears a longsome age, to the long suffering sick, while it seems as a moment, in the nightly revels of the merry; so a moment appears as an age in the dream, and an age passes off as a moment in the state of insensibility. (The length and shortness of duration, depending on our consciousness and insensibility of the succession of our ideas. See Locke and Kant on our idea of time).

23. The notions of the resurrection of the dead, and of one's metempsychosis, and being re-born in a new body; of his being a boy, youth or old man; and of his migrations to different places at the distance of hundreds of leagues, are all but the phenomena of sleep, and retrospective views in a dream.

24. King Haris Chandra is said, to have thought a single night as a dozen of years; and the prince Lavana to have passed his long life of a hundred years as the space of a single night. (So the seven sleepers of Kehef passed a long period as one night, and so of others).[1]

25. What was a moment to Brahma, was the whole age of the life-time of Manu (Noah); and what is a day to Vishnu, constitutes the long period of the life-time of Brahma. (This alluded to the comparative differences in the cycles of planetary bodies presided by the different deities; such as Jupiter's cycle of 60 years round the sun, is but one year to the presiding god of that planet).

26. The whole life-time of Vishnu, is but one day of the sedate Siva; for one whose mind is motionless in his fixed meditation, is unconscious of the change of days and nights and of seasons and years. (Since the meditative mind is insensible of the fluctuation of its ideas, or that there is an utter quietus of them in the quietism of the Yogi's mind).

27. There is no substance nor the substantive world, in the mind of the meditative Yogi (who views them in their abstract light); and to whom the sweet pleasures of the world, appear as bitter, as they are thought to be the bane of his true felicity.

28. The bitter seems to be sweet, by being thought to be so; and what is unfavorable, becomes favorable as that which is friendly comes to be unfriendly by being taken in their contrary senses. (The mind can make a heaven of hell and a hell of a heaven. Milton).

29. Thus Rama! it is by habitual meditation, that we gain the abstract knowledge of things; as on the other hand we forget what we learnt, by want of their recapitulation. (Habit is second nature, and practice is the parent of productions).

30. These by their habitude of thinking, find every thing in a state of positive rest; while the unthinking fall into the errors of the revolutionary world, as a boat-passenger thinks the land and objects on the shore, to be receding from and revolving around him.

31. Thus the unthinking part of mankind, and those wandering in their error, think the world to be moving about them; but the thinking mind, sees the whole as an empty void, and full of phantoms, as one sees in his dream.

32. It is the thought (erroneous conception), that shows the white as black and blue; and it is the mistake of judgement, that makes one rejoice or sorrow at the events of life.

33. The unthinking are led to imagine a house where there is none; and the ignorant are infatuated to the belief of ghosts, as they are the killers of their lives.

34. It is reminiscence or memory, which raises the dream as her consort;and which represents things as they are presented to it, by the thoughts of the waking state.

35. The dream is as unreal as the empty vacuity, abiding in the hollow receptacle of the intellectual soul; it overspreads the mind like the shadow of a cloud, and fills it with images like those of a puppet-show under the magic lantern.

36. Know the phenomena of the revolving worlds, to be no more in reality, than mere resultants of the vibrations of the mind, in the empty space of the soul; and as the motions and gestures of the fancied hobgoblins, to the sight of children.

37. All this is but a magical illusion, without any substance or basis of itself; and all these imposing scenes of vision, are but the empty and aerial sights of dreams.

38. Just as the waking man, beholds the wondrous world before him, so also does sleeping man see the same; and both of them resemble the insensible pillar, which finds the images of statues engraved upon it: (because the soul is ever awake in every state of all living bodies).

39. The great monument of the Divine Spirit, has the figure of the created world, carved in itself in the same manner, as I see a troop of soldiers passing before me in my dream. (All these appear to be in action, in their true state of nullity and inaction).

40. So is this waking world asleep in the soul of Brahma, and rises in his mind as the vegetable world springs from the sap lying hid in the earth, which gives it its growth and vernal bloom.

41. So likewise does the creation lie hid in, and spring from the Supreme Spirit; as the brightness of gold ornaments is contained in, and comes out of the material metal. (The Divine Spirit is both the material and efficient cause of creation—ex quo & a quo.)

42. Every atom of creation, is settled in the plenum of Divine spirit; as all the members of the body, are set in the person of their possessor.

43. The visible world has the same relation, to the bodiless and undivided spirit of God; as one fighting in a dream bears to his antagonist (both believing in their reality, while both of them are unreal in their bodies).

44. Thus the real and unreal, the spirit and the world, all dwindled into vacuum, at the great Kalpanta annihilation of creation, except the intellect of God which comprises the world in itself.

45. The causality of the one (i. e. the spirit of God), and the unreality of the world cannot be true (since nothing unreal can come out of the real). Except Brahm—the all (to pan), there is no other cause, as a Brahma or any other; the Divine Intelligence is the only cause and constituent of its productions.

46. Rama asked:—But what cause was it that represented the citizens, counsellors and ministers of Viduratha's royal house also to Lila's vision, in the same manner as her lord the king (who was alone the object of her thought)?

Vasishtha said:—

47. All other thoughts are associated with the principal one in the intellect, in the same manner as the high winds are accompaniments of the storm.

48. The association of thoughts, follows one another in a long and perpetual train; and caused the succession of the sights of the ministers, citizens and subjects of the king, in Lila's vision one after the other.

49. In this way the thought that the king was born of such and such a family, naturally introduced the thoughts of his palace and city, and of those that dwelt in them.

50. It is in vain to enquire into the cause and manner, of the intellect's being combined with its thoughts at all times; since it is called the gem of thoughts (Chintamani), and must be always accompanied with its radiating thoughts, like a brilliant gem with its rays (i. e. thinking is the inseparable attribute of the mind).

51. Padma thought to become a king like Viduratha, in the proper discharge of the duties of his royal family; and this constant thought of himself as such, cast the mould of the mind and manner of Viduratha upon him (i. e. he looked himself in the light of that king).

52. All animate beings of every kind, are but models of their own thoughts, like looking-glasses showing their inward reflexions to the sight. (The innate man appearing in his outward figure, is a verity in physiognomy).

53. The mind which is fixed in the meditation of God, and remains unshaken amidst the turmoils of the world; is fraught with perfect rest, and preserves the composure of the soul, until its final liberation from the bondage of the body.

54. But the thoughts of the fluctuating enjoyments of this world, alternately represented in the mirror of the mind, like the shadows of passing scenes upon a looking glass.

55. It requires therefore a great force of the mind, to overcome its worldly thoughts, and turn them to the channel of truth; as the greater force of the main current of a river, leads its tributaries to the ocean.

56. But the mind is greatly disturbed, when the worldly and spiritual thoughts, press it with equal force to both ways; and it is then, that the greater force leads it onward in either way. (There is no midway like that of the Madhyamikas between this world and the next).

Gloss. The worldly and spiritual thoughts being equally forcible, they naturally struggle in the mind, and that which is of greater force overcomes the other.

57. Such is the case with all the myriads of beings, whether they are living, dead or to come to life; and the same accidents take place in the particles of all human minds (like the concussions of atomic forces).

58. All this is the empty sphere of the Intellect, all quiet and without any basis or substratum. It is neither peopled nor filled by any thing except its own native thoughts.

59. All these appear as dreams, even in our unsleeping states, and have no form or figure in the sight of the wise. The perception of their positive existence, is but a misconception of their negative inexistence.

60. There really exists but one omnipotent and all pervasive Spirit, which shows itself in diverse forms like the flowers, fruits and leaves of trees, all appearing from the self-same woody trunk (which like the great Brahma is the origin of all its off-shoots.)

61. He who knows the increate Brahma to be the measurer, measure and the thing measured (i. e. the creator, created and the creation), to be all one and himself, can never forget this certain truth of unity, nor ever fall into the error of dualism of the cause and effect.

62. There is but one Being (SAT), who is Holy and without beginning; and who, though he appears to be of the forms of light and darkness, and of space and time, doth never rise nor set anywhere. He is without beginning, middle or end; and remains as a vast expanse of water, exhibiting itself in its waves and currents.

63. The notion of myself, thyself and the objective world, are but effusions of our perverted understandings; and it is ignorance only that shows the One as many within the Sheath of the mind, according as it imagines it to be.

Footnotes and references:


The reader is referred to the following passage in the story of Rip Van Winkle in Irving's Sketch-Book. "To him the whole twenty years, had been but as one night". The strange events that had taken place during his torpor were, that there had been a revolutionary war, when his country had thrown off the yoke of old England, and that instead of being a subject of George the third, he was now a free citizen of the United States, pp. 32-33.