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 CXIII - Description of ignorance and delusion (avidya)

Argument. Extirpation of Evil Desires and duality by the true knowledge of unity called the Vidya.

Vasishtha continued:—

1. The false desires which continually rise in the breast; are as the appearances of false moons in the sky, and should be shunned by the wise.

2. They rise in the minds of the unwise amidst their ignorance; but every thing which is known only by its name and not in actuality, can not have its residence in the minds of wise people. (Nominalism as opposed to Realistic Platonism).

3. Be wise, O Rama; and do not think like the ignorant; but consider well all that I tell you;—there is no second moon in the sky, but it appears so only by deception of our optical visions.

4. There exists nothing real or unreal any where, except the only true essence of God; as there is no substantiality in the continuity of the waves, besides the body of waters.

5. There is no reality in any thing, whether existent or non-existent, all which are mere creations of your shadowy ideality; do not therefore impute any shape or figure to the eternal, boundless and pure spirit of God.

6. You are no maker nor master of anything, then why deem any act or thing as your own (mamata—meity?) You know not what these existences are, and by whom and wherefore they are made.

7. Neither think yourself as actor, because no actor can attempt to do anything. Discharge whatever is your duty, and remain at your ease with having done your part.

8. Though you are the actor of an action, yet think not yourself as such, minding your inability to do or undo any thing: for how can you boast yourself as the actor, when you know your inability for action.

9. If truth is delectable and untruth is odious, then remain firm to what is good; and be employed in your duties (in the path of truth and goodness).

10. But as the whole world is a gallery, a magic and an unreality;then say what reliance is there in it, and what signifies pleasurableness or unpleasurableness to any body.

11. Know Rama, this ovum of the world to be a delusion, and being inexistent in itself, appears as a real existence to others.

12. Know this busy sphere of the world, which is so full with its inessence; to be an ideal phantasm presented for the delusion of our minds.

13. It is like the beautiful bamboo plant, all hollow within, and without pith and marrow in the inside; and like the curling waves of the sea, both of which are born to perish without being uprooted from the bottom. (It is impossible to root out the bamboo as well as the rising wave of the water).

14. This world is as volatile as the air and water flying in the air, and hardly to be tangible or held fast in the hand; and as precipitous as the water-fall in its course (hurling down and sweeping away everything before it).

15. It appears as a flowery garden, but never comes to any good use at all; so the billowy sea in the mirage, presents the form of water, without allaying our thirst.

16. Sometimes it seems to be straight, and at others a curve; now it is long and now short, and now it is moving and quiet again; and everything in it, though originally for our good, conspires to our evil only.

17. Though hollow in the inside, the world appears to be full with its apparent contents; and though all the worlds are continually in motion, yet they seem to be standing still.

18. Whether they be dull matter or intelligences, their existence depends upon their motion; and these without stopping any where for a moment, present the sight of their being quite at rest.

19. Though they are as bright as light to sight, they are as opaque as the dark coal in their bowels; and though they are moved by a superior power, they appear to be moving of themselves.

20. They fade away before the brighter light of the sun, but brighten in the darkness of the night; their light is like that of the mirage, by reflection of sunbeams.

21. Human avarice is as a sable serpent, crooked and venomous, thin and soft in its form; but rough and dangerous in its nature, and ever unsteady as a woman.

22. Our love of the world, ceases soon without the objects of our affection; as the lamp is extinguished without its oil, and as the vermilion mark, which is soon effaced. (Here is a pun upon the world sneha meaning a fluid substance as well as affection; and that the world is a dreary waste, without the objects dear to us).

23. Our false hopes are as transient, as the evanescent flash of lightnings; they glare and flare for a moment, but they disappear in the air as these transitory flashes of light.

24. The objects of our desire are often had without our seeking; but they are as frail as the fire of heaven; they appear to vanish like the twinkling lightnings, and being held carefully in the hand, they burn it like the electric fire. (This passage shows the science of electricity and the catching of electric fire, to have been known to the ancients).

25. Many things come to us unasked, and though appearing delightsome at first, they prove troublesome to us at last. Hopes delayed, are as flowers growing out of season, which, neither bear their fruits, nor answer our purposes. (Unseasonal flowers are held as ominous and useless).

26. Every accident tends to our misery, as unpleasant dreams infest our sleep and disturb our rest.

27. It is our delusion (avidya), that presents these many and big worlds before us; as our dreams produce, sustain and destroy all the appearances of vision in one minute.

28. It was delusion which made one minute, appear as many years to king Lavana; and the space of one night, seem as the long period of a dozen of years to Haris chandra.

29. Such also is the case with separated lovers among rich people, that a single night seems as a live long year to them, in the absence of their beloved.

30. It is this delusive avidya, that shortens the flight of time to the rich and happy; and prolongs its course, with the poor and miserable: all of whom are subject to the power of delusion vipary'asa.

31. The power of this delusion is essentially spread over all the works of creation, as the light of a lamp, is spread over things in its effulgence and not in substance.

32. As a female form represented in a picture is no woman, and has not the power of doing any thing; so this avidya which presents us the shapes of our desired objects in the picture of the mind, can produce nothing in reality.

33. The delusion consists in the building of aerial castles in the mind, without their substance; and though these appear in hundreds and thousands of shapes, they have no substantiality in them.

34. It deludes the ignorant, as a mirage misleads the deer in a desert;but it can not deceive the knowing man by its false appearances.

35. These appearances like the foaming waters, are as continuous as they are evanescent, they are as fleeting as the driving frost, which can not be held in the hand.

36. This delusion holds the world in its grasp, and flies aloft with it in the air; it blinds us by the flying dust, which is raised by its furious blasts. (This is delusion of ambitions).

37. Covered with dust and with heat and sweat of its body, it grasps the earth and flies all about the world. The deluded man ever toils and moils, and runs every where after his greed.

38. As the drops of rain water, falling from the clouds, form the great rivers and seas; and as the scattered straws being tied together, make the strong rope for the bondage of beasts; so the combination of all the delusive objects in the world, makes the great delusion of Maya and Moha. ('Gutta cum gutta facit lacum'. Drop by drop, makes a lake. Or by drops the lake is drained. And many a little, makes a mickle).

39. The poets describe the fluctuations of the world as a series of waves and the world itself, as a bed of lotuses: pleasant to sight, but floating on the unstable element. But I compare it with the porous stalk of the lotus, which is full of perforations and foramens inside; and as a pool of mud and mire, with the filth of our sins (the world is full of hidden traps and trapdoors and is a pit of sinfulness).

40. Men think much of their improvement, and of many other things on earth; but there is no improving in this decaying world; which is as a tempting cake with a coating of sweets, but full of deadly gall within.

41. It is as an extinguishing lamp, whose flame is lost and fled we know not where. It is visible as a mist, but try to lay hold on it, and it proves to be nothing.

42. This earth is a handful of ashes, which being flung aloft flies in particles of dust; and the upper sky which appears to be blue, has no blueness in it.

43. There is the same delusion here on earth, as in the appearance of couple of moons in the sky; and in the vision of things in a dream, as also in the motion of immovable things on the land, to the passenger in a boat. (Things taken to be true, prove to be false).

44. Men being long deluded by this error, which has fastly laid hold of their minds, imagine a long duration of the world, as they do of the scenes in their dreams.

45. The mind being thus deluded by this error, sees the wonderful productions of world, to rise and fall within itself like the waves of the sea.

46. Things which are real and good, appear as otherwise in our error; while those that are unreal and noxious, appear as real and good to our deluded understandings.

47. Our strong avarice riding on the vehicle of the desired object, chases the fleeting mind as bird-catchers do the flying birds in nets.

48. Delusion like a mother and wife often offers us fresh delights, with her tender looks and breasts distilling sweet milk.

49. But these delights serve only to poison us, while they seem to cool the worlds with their distillation; just as the crescent orb of the moon, injures us with too much of her moistening influence, while it appears to refresh us with her full bright beams.

50. Blind delusion turns the meek, mild and mute men, to giddy and vociferous fools; as the silent Vetalas become in their revelous dancings, amidst the silent woods at night.

51. It is under the influence of delusion, that we see the shapes of snakes and serpents, in our brick-built and stone made houses at night falls (i. e. apprehensions of these in darkness).

52. It makes a single thing appear as double, as in the sight of two moons in the sky; and brings near to us whatever is at a distance, as in our dreams; and even causes us to dream ourselves as dead in sleep.

53. It causes the long to appear as short, as our nightly sleep shortens the duration of time; and makes a moment appear as a year, as in the case of separated lovers.

54. Look at the power of this unsubstantial ignorance, a negative thing, and still there is nothing which it can not alter to some thing else.

55. Therefore be diligent to stop the course of this delusion, by your right knowledge: as they dry up a channel by stopping the current of the stream.

Rama said:—

56. It is wonderful that a false conception, which has no real existence, and is so delicate as almost a nothing (but a name) should thus blind the understanding.

57. It is strange that something without form or figure, without sense or understanding, and which is unreal and vanishing, should so blindfold the world.

58. It is strange that a thing sparkling in darkness, and vanishing in day light, and mope-eyed as the moping owl, should thus keep the world in darkness.

59. It is strange that something prone to the doing of evil (deception), and unable to come to light and flying from sight, and having no bodily form whatever, should thus darken the world.

60. It is a wonder that one acting so miserly, and consorting with the mean and vile, and ever hiding herself in darkness, should thus domineer over the world.

61. It is wonderful that fallacy which is attended with incessant woe and peril, and which is devoid of sense and knowledge, should keep the world in darkness.

62. It is to be wondered that error arising from anger and avarice, creeping crookedly in darkness, and liable to instant death (by its detection), should yet keep the world in blindness.

63. It is surprising that error which is a blind, dull and stupid thing itself, and which is falsely talkative at all times, should yet mislead others in the world.

64. It is astonishing, that falsehood should betray a man, after attaching so close to him as his consort, and showing all her endearments to him; but flying at the approach of his reason.

65. It is strange that man should be blinded by the womanish attire of error, which beguiles the man but dares not to look at him face to face.

66. It is strange that man is blinded by his faithless consort of error, which has no sense nor intelligence, and which dies away without being killed.

67. Tell me Sir, how this error is to be dispelled, which has its seat in the desires, and is deeply rooted in the recesses of the heart and mind, and lead us to the channels of endless misery, by subjecting us to repeated births and deaths, and to the pains and pleasures of life.