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 XCVI - Inquiry into the nature of mind

As the Ego, the Subjective and Really Existent Entity

Argument. The Faculties of the Mind, and their Various Functions and appellations.

Vasishtha said:—

1. The mind is mere thought, and thought is the mind in motion (literally, having the property of fluctuation). Its actions are directed by the nature of the thoughts (lit. according to the nature of the objects of thought); and the result of the acts is felt by every body in his mind.

Rama said:—

2. Sir, I pray you will explain in length, regarding the immaterial mind as opposed to the material body, and its inseparable property of will or volition (contrary to the inertness of dull matter).

Vasishtha replied:—

3. The nature of the mind is known to be composed of the property of Volition, which is an attribute of the infinite and almighty power of the Supreme soul (i. e. the mind is the volitive principle of the soul).

4. The mind is known to be of the form of that self moving principle, which determines the dubitation of men between the affirmative and negative sides (as whether it is so or not dwikotika). I. e. The principle of rationality or the Reasoning faculty, consisting of the two great alternatives; viz. 1. The principle of contradiction; or of two contradictory propositions of which one is true, and the other untrue, i. e. Is, or, is not. 2. Raison determinantic or determining by a priori reasoning, as, why so and not otherwise.

5. The mind is known to be of the form of Ego, which is ignorant of the self manifesting soul of God; and believes itself as the subject of its thoughts and actions.

6. The mind is of the nature of imagination (Kalpana), which is ever busy in its operations:hence the inactivity of the mind is as impossible in this world, as the insapience of the sapient man. (Imagination is an active faculty, representing the phenomena of the internal and external worlds, Sir W. Hamilton. It is an operation of the mind consisting of manifold functions, such as:—1. of receiving by the faculty of conception. 2. of retaining by the faculty of memory. 3. of recalling by the power of reproductive fancy; 4. of combining by productive fancy. In modern philosophy, it is the power of apprehending ideas, and combining them into new forms).

7. As there is no difference in the essence of fire and heat; so there is no difference whatever between mind and its activity, and so betwixt the mind and soul (i. e. the living soul).

8. The mind is known by many names in the same person and body, according to its various faculties and functions, its various thoughts and desires, and their manifold operations and consequences. (The mind, soul and intellect taken together as the same thing, comprise all the powers of intellect and intelligence).

9. The Divine Mind is said to be distributed into all souls by mistake and without any reason; since the All—to pan is without any substance or substratum, and indivisible in its nature. It is a mere fabrication of our desires and fancies to diversify it in different persons. (The Divine mind being the Anima mundi, contains all within itself, and having no container of it).

10. Whoever has set his desire in any thing as if it were a reality, finds the same to be attended with the like fruit as he had expected of it. (It means either that Association of ideas in the mind, introducing as by a chord; a train of kindred consecutive ideas, which are realised by their constant repetition, or that the primary desires of our nature, which are not factitious, but rising from our constitutions, are soon satisfied).

11. It is the movement of the mind, which is said and perceived by us to be the source of our actions; and the actions of the mind are as various as the branches, leaves and fruits of trees. (So it is said, the tree of desire has the mind for its seed, which gives force to the action of bodily organs, resembling its branches; and the activities of the body, are the causes which fructify the tree of desire).

12. Whatever is determined by the mind, is readily brought into performance by the external organs of action (Karmendriya); thus because the mind is the cause of action, it is identified with the effect. (By the law of the similarity of the cause and effect, in the growth of one seed from another. Or that the efficient cause a quo, is the same with the final-propter quod by inversion of the causa-cognoscendi—in the effect being taken for the cause).

13. The mind, understanding, egoism, intellect, action and imagination, together with memory, or retentiveness, desire, ignorance, exertion and memory, are all synonyms of the mind. (The powers of the mind, constitute the mind itself).

14. So also sensation, nature, delusion and actions, are words applied to the mind for bewilderment of the understanding. (Many words for the same thing, are misleading from its true meaning).

15. The simultaneous collision of many sensations (like the Kakatali sanyoga), diverts the mind from its clear sight of the object of its thought, and causes it to turn about in many ways.

Rama asked said:—

16. How is it Sir, that so many words with their different significations, were invented to express the transcendent cause of our consciousness (the mind), and heap them on the same thing for our confusion only?

Vasishtha replied:—

17. As man began to lose sight of his consciousness, and laboured under suppositions about his self, it was then that he found the mind to be the waking principle within him (i. e. it is after one has lost the knowledge of his conscious soul, that he thinks himself to be composed of the mind. Or it was after man's degradation from his spiritual nature, that he came to consider himself as an intellectual being with no higher power than his mental faculties the manas (whence he derives his name as man, manava or manusha)).

18. When man after considering himself and other things comes to understand them in their true light; he is then said to have his understanding—buddhi. (We understand with or by means of reason, as we say—a proposition is right by its reasons hetuvada; but not reason on any thing without understanding it; as we cannot judge of a thing without knowing what it is).

19. When man by false conception of himself, assumes a personality to him by his pride, he is called an egoist, with the principle of ego or egoism in him, causing his bondage on earth. Absolute egoism is the doubting of every thing beside self-existence. Persona est rationalis naturae individua substantia. Boethius.

20. It is called thought which passes from one object to another in quick succession, and like the whims of boys, shifts from one thing to another without forming a right judgement of any. (Thoughts are fickle and fleeting, and flying from one subject to another, without dwelling long upon any).

21. The mind is identified with acts, done by the exercise of a power immanent in itself as the agent; and the result of the actions, whether physical or moral, good or bad, recurs to the mind in their effects. (The mind is the agent and recipient of the effects of all its various internal and external actions, such as right or wrong, virtuous or vicious, praiseworthy or blamable, perfect or imperfect and the like).

22. The mind is termed fancy for its holding fast on fleeting phantasies by letting loose its solid and certain truths. It is also the imagination, for giving various images or to the objects of its desire—ihita Kalpana. It is called Kakataliya Sanyoga or accidental assemblage of fancied objects. It is defined as the agglutinative and associative power to collect materials for imagination which builds up on them. (Imaginari est quam rei corporae figuram contemplari. Descartes).

23. The Memory or retention is that power of the mind, which retains an image whether known or unknown before, as if it were a certainty known already;and when it is attended with the effort of recalling it to the mind, it is termed as remembrance or recollection. (Memory is the storehouse of ideas preconceived or thought to be known before in the mind. Retention is the keeping of the ideas got from sensation and reflection. Remembrance is the spontaneous act of the mind; and recollection and reminiscence, are intentional acts of the will. All these powers and acts of the mind, are singly and collectively called the mind itself; as when I say, I have got it in mind, I may mean, I have it in memory, remembrance &c. &c.)

24. The appetence which resides in the region of the mind, for possession of the objects of past enjoyment; as also the efforts of the mind for attainment of other things, are called its desires. (Appetites or desires are—common to all, and are sensitive and rational, irascible

&c. Vide Reed and Stewart. The mind is the same as desire; as when I say, I have a mind to do a thing, I mean, I have a desire to do it).

25. When the mind's clear sight of the light of the soul or self, is obscured by the shadow of other gross things, which appear to be real instead of the true spiritual, it is called ignorance; and is another name of the deluded understanding. (It is called avidya or absence of Vidya or knowledge of spiritual truth. It becomes Mahavidya or incorrigible or invincible ignorance, when the manners and the mind are both vitiated by falsehood and error).

26. The next is doubt, which entraps the dubious mind in the snare of scepticism, and tends to be the destruction of the soul, by causing it to disbelieve and forget the supreme spirit. (To the sceptic doubts for knowledge rise; but they give way before the advance of spiritual light).

27. The mind is called sensation, because all its actions of hearing and feeling, of seeing and smelling, thinking and enjoying, serve to delight the senses, which convey the impressions back to the mind. (The doctrine that all knowledge is derived originally from senses, holds the single fact of sensation as sufficient for all mental phenomena. It is the philosophy of Condillac, called Dirt philosophy by Fichte).

28. The mind that views all the phenomena of nature in the Supreme Spirit, and takes outward nature as a copy of the eternal mind of God, is designated by the name of nature itself. (Because God is the Natura naturans or the Author of Nature; and the works of nature—matter and mind, are the Natura naturata. Hence the mind knowing its own nature and that of its cause, is said to be an union of both natures, and is the personality of Brahma the Demiurge, who is combined of nature and mind).

29. The mind is called maya or magic, because it converts the real into unreal, and the unreal into real. Thus showing the realities as unrealities, and the vice-versa by turns. It is termed error or mistake of our judgement, giving ascent to what is untrue and the contrary. The causes of error are said to be ignorance (avidya) and passions (tamas).

30. The sensible actions are seeing and hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling, of the outward organs of sense; but the mind is the cause both of these actions and their acts. (The mind moves the organs to their actions, as also feels and perceives their acts in itself).

31. The intellect (chit) being bewildered in its view of the intellectual world (chetyas), manifests itself in the form of the mind, and becomes the subject of the various functions which are attributed to it. (The intellect having lost its universality, and the faculty of intellection or discernment of universal propositions, falls into the faults of sensitivity and volition, by employing itself to particular objects of sense and sensible desires).

32. Being changed into the category of the mind, the intellect loses its original state of purity, and becomes subject to a hundred desires of its own making (by its volitive faculty).

33. Its abstract knowledge of general truths being shadowed by its percipience of concrete and particular gross bodies, it comes to the knowledge of numbers and parts, and is overwhelmed by the multiplicity of its thoughts and the objects of its desires (i. e. having lost the knowledge of the universal whole and discrete numbers, the mind comes to know the concrete particulars only).

34. It is variously styled as the living principle and the mind by most people on earth; but it is known as intellection and understanding (chitta and buddhi) by the wise.

35. The intellect being depraved by its falling off from the sole supreme soul, is variously named by the learned according to its successive phases and functions, owing to its being vitiated by its various desires, and the variety of their objects.

Rama said:—

36. O Sir! that art acquainted with all truths, please tell me, whether the mind is a material or immaterial thing, which I have not been able to ascertain as yet. (It is said to be matter by materialists and as spirit by spiritualists).

Vasishtha replied:—

37. The mind, O Rama! is neither a gross substance nor an intelligent principle altogether: it is originally as intelligent as the intellect; but being sullied by the evils of the world and the passions and desires of the body, it takes the name of the mind. (From its minding of many things).

38. The intellect (chit) which is the cause of the world, is called the chitta or heart, when it is situated in the bosom of sentient bodies, with all its affections and feelings (avilam). It then has a nature between goodness and badness (by reason of its moral feelings and bad passions).

39. When the heart remains without a certain and uniform fixity to its purpose, and steadiness in its own nature, it feels all the inner changes with the vicissitudes of the outer world, and is as a reflector of the same. (The text says, the fluctuations of the heart, cause the vicissitudes of the world. But how can the heart be subjective, and the world the objective? Is the heart author of its feelings without receiving them from without? Yes).

40. The intellect hanging between its intelligence and gross objects, takes the name of the mind, when it is vitiated by its contact with outward objects.

41. When the action of the Intellect or the faculty of intellection, is vitiated by sensitivity, and becomes dull by reason of its inward dross; it is then styled the mind, which is neither a gross material thing, nor an intelligent spiritual principle.

42. The intellectual principle is variously designated by many such names, as the mind, the understanding, the ego, and the living soul or principle of animation.

43. The mind bears its different appellations according to the variety of its functions;just as an actor in the theatre, appears under different names and garbs of the dramatic personages on the stage. (The world is a stage, where one man acts many parts. Shakespeare).

44. As a man passes under many titles, according to his various occupations and professions; so the mind takes different appellations according to the various operations of its nature. (Thus one man is a scholar, a householder, an officer, a subject and many others at once).

45. Besides the names that I have mentioned regarding the mind, the disputants in mental philosophy, have invented many others agreeably to their diverse theories.

46. They have attributed to the mind many designations, according to the views in which they designed to exhibit its nature; such as some calling it the intellect, another the understanding, the sensation and so forth.

47. One takes it as dull matter, and another as the living principle; some one calls it the ego, while others apply the term understanding to it. (As Manas or Manu is the father of and of the same nature with all mankind; so is the mind manas or mens, similar in its nature and names with every one and all its operations).

48. I have told you, Rama that egoism, mind and the light of understanding, together with the volition of creation, are but different properties of the one and same internal principle. (Ego—the subjective, mind—the motive, understanding—the thinking, and the volitive powers, all relate to the same soul. All these are different faculties having the one and same common root—the one universal soul).

49. The Nyaya philosophy has taken the mind &c., in different lights according to its own view of them; and so the Sankhya system explains the perception and senses in a way peculiar to itself. (Namely: the Nyaya says, the Ego to be a dravya or substance; the living soul as God; the mind a sensitive particle and internal organ; and understanding as a transitory property of the mind. The Sankhya has the understanding as a product of matter, and egoism a resultant of the same, and the mind as the eleventh organ of sense).

50. In this manner are all these terms taken in very different acceptations, by the different systems of Mimamsa, Vaiseshika, Arhata and Buddhist philosophy. The Pancharatra and some other systems, have given them particular senses disagreeing with one another. (See Rakhaldasa Nyayaratna's tract on the identity of the mind and the soul atma; and Hiralal's reply to and refutation of the same).

51. All these various doctrines, arising at different times and in distant countries, lead at last to the same supreme Being, like the very many different ways, leading their passengers to the same imperial city. (All systems of philosophy, like every scheme of religion and its different sects and schisms, lead their followers to the same truth of one Superintending power or Deity).

52. It is ignorance of this supreme truth or misunderstanding of the discordant doctrines, that causes the votaries of different systems and sects, to carry on an endless dispute among themselves with bitter acrimony. (All party contentions, are but effects of ignorance of the various terminology bearing the same sense).

53. The disputants maintain their particular positions by their respective dogmatism; just as passengers persist in their accustomed paths as the best suited to them. (Bias has a stronger basis in the mind and has a faster hold of the human heart, than the best reason and the surest truth).

54. They have spoken falsely, whose words point out every thing as the fruit of our acts, and direct mankind only to the performance of their actions. It is according to the various prospects that men have in view, that they have given their reasons in their own ways. (Ask of the learned, the learned are blind, this bids you shun, and that to love mankind. Pope).

55. The mind receives its various names from its different functions as a man is called a Snataka or early bather, and a data—donor, from his acts of sacred ablutions and religious gifts.

56. As the actor gets his many titles, according to the several parts which he performs; so the mind takes the name of a Jiva or living being, from its animation of the body and its desires. (The mind is repeatedly said to be the animating and volitive principle).

57. The mind is said to be the heart also, which is perceived by every body to reside within himself. A man without the heart, has no feeling nor sensation.

58. It is the heart which feels the inward pleasure or pain, derived from the sight or touch, hearing or smelling, and eating and drinking of pleasurable and painful things.

59. As the light shows the colours of things to the sight, so the mind is the organ, that reflects and shows the sensations of all sensible objects in the cranium and sensory.

60. Know him as the dullest of beings, who thinks the mind to be a dull material substance; and whose gross understanding cannot understand the nature of the Intellect.

61. The mind is neither intelligence (chetana) nor inert matter (jada);it is the ego that has sprung amidst the various joys and griefs in this world. (The pure intelligence knows no pleasure nor pain; but the mind which is the same with the conscious ego, is subjected to both in this world).

62. The mind which is one with the divine Intellect (i. e. sedately fixed in the one Brahma), perceives the world to be absorbed into itself; but being polluted with matter (like fresh water with soil), it falls into the error of taking the world for real. (The clear mind like clear water is unsullied with the soil of the material world; but the vitiated mind, like foul water, is full of the filth of worldliness).

63. Know Rama, that neither the pure immaterial intellect, nor gross matter as the inert stone, can be the cause of the material world. (The spirit cannot produce matter, nor can dull matter be productive of itself).

64. Know then, O Raghava, that neither intelligence nor inertia, is the cause of the world; it is the mind that is the cause of visible objects, as it is the light which unfolds them to the view. (Intelligence is the knowledge of the self-evident, and not their cause).

65. For where there is no mind, there is no perception of the outer world, nor does dull matter know of the existence of anything; but everything is extinct with the extinction of the mind. (A dead body like a dull block, is insensible of every thing).

66. The mind has a multiplicity of synonyms, varied by its multifarious avocations;as the one continuous duration undergoes a hundred homonyms, by the variations of its times and seasons.

67. If egoism is not granted to be a mental action, and the sensations be reckoned as actions of the body; yet its name of the living principle, answers for all the acts of the body and mind. (Egoism or knowledge of the self, is attributed to the soul by some schools of philosophy, and sensations are said to be corporeal and nervous actions;yet the moving and animating power of the mind, must account for all bodily and mental actions.)

68. Whatever varieties are mentioned of the mind, by the reasonings of different systems of philosophy, and sometimes by the advocates of an opinion, and at others by their adversaries:—

69. They are neither intelligible nor distinguishable from one another, except that they are all powers of the self-same mind; which like the profluent sea, pours its waters into innumerable outlets.

70. As soon as men began to attribute materialistic powers and force to the nature of the pure (immaterial) consciousness, they fell into the error of these varieties of their own making.

71. As the spider lets out its thread from itself, it is in the same manner that the inert has sprung from the intellect, and matter has come into existence from the ever active spirit of Brahma. (The Sruti says:—Every thing comes out of the spirit as the thread from the spider, the hairs and nails from the animal body, and as rocks and vegetables springing from the earth).

72. It is ignorance (of the said Sruti), that has introduced the various opinions concerning the essence of the mind; and hence arose the various synonymous expressions, significant of the Intellect among the opponents.

73. The same pure Intellect, is brought to bear the different designations of the mind, as understanding, living principle and egoism;and the same is expressed in the world by the terms intelligence, heart, animation and many other synonyms, which being taken as expressive of the same thing, must put an end to all dispute. (So all metaphysical disputes owe their origin to the difference of terminology. Such as, Kant regarded the mind under its true faculties of cognition, desire and moral feeling, called as Erkenntnißvermögen or Denkvermögen, Begehrungsvermögen, and Gefühlsvermögen. Instead of multiplying the synonyms of Mind here, I refer the reader to Roget's Thesaurus for them).