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 CXIV - Description of error

Argument. Spiritual knowledge, the only means of dispelling worldly errors, temporal desires and cares.

Rama repeated:—Tell me sir, how this stony blindness of man, is to be removed, which is caused by the train of ignorance or delusion called avidya.

Vasishtha replied:—

2. As the particles of snow, melt away at the sight of the sun, so is this ignorance dispelled in a moment, by a glance of the holy spirit.

3. Till then doth ignorance continue to hurl down the soul and spirit, as from a precipice to the depths of the world, and expose them to woes, as thick as thorny brambles.

4. As long as the desire of seeing the spirit, does not rise of itself in the human soul, so long there is no end of this ignorance (avidya) and insensibility (Moha).

5. The sight of the supreme Spirit, destroys the knowledge of our self-existence, which is caused by our ignorance; as the light of the sun, destroys the shadows of things.

6. The sight of the all-pervading God, dispels our ignorance in the same manner, as the light of the twelve zodiacal suns (all shining at once), puts the shadows of night to flight from all sides of the horizon.

7. Our desires are the offspring of our ignorance, and the annihilation of these constitutes what we call our liberation; because the man that is devoid of desires, is reckoned the perfect and consummate Siddha.

8. As the night-shade of desires, is dissipated from the region of the mind; the darkness of ignorance is put to flight, by the rise of the intellectual sun (Vivekodaya).

9. As the dark night flies away before the advance of solar light, so does ignorance disappear, before the advancement of true knowledge—Viveka.

10. The stiffness of our desires, tends to bind the mind fast in its worldly chains; as the advance of night serves to increase the fear of goblins in children.

11. Rama asked:—The knowledge of the phenomenals as true, makes what we call avidya or ignorance, and it is said to be dispersed by spiritual knowledge. Now tell me sir, what is the nature of the Spirit.

Vasishtha replied:—

12. That which is not the subject of thought, which is all-pervasive, and the thought of which is beyond expression and comprehension is the universal spirit (which we call our Lord and God).

13. That which reaches, to the highest empyrean of God, and stretches over the lowest plots of grass on earth, is the all-pervading spirit at all times, and unknown to the ignorant soul.

14. All this is verily Brahma, eternal and imperishable intelligence. To him no imagination of the mind can reach at any time.

15. That which is never born or dead, and which is ever existent in all worlds, and in which the conditions of being and change are altogether wanting.

16. Which is one and one alone, all and all-pervading, and imperishable Unity; which is incomprehensible in thought, and is only of the form of Intellect, is the universal Spirit.

17. It is accompanied with the ever-existent, all-extending, pure and undisturbed Intellect, and is that calm, quiet, even and unchanging state of the soul, which is called the Divine Spirit.

18. There resides also the impure mind, which is in its nature beyond all physical objects, and runs after its own desire; it is conceivable by the Intellect as sullied by its own activity.

19. This ubiquious, all-potent, great and godlike mind, separates itself in its imagination from the Supreme spirit, and rises from it as a wave on the surface of the sea. (So the Sruti:—Etasmat Jayate pranahmanah

&c. The life and mind have their rise from Him).

20. There is no fluctuation (Sansriti) nor projection (Vikshepa) in the all-extending tranquil soul of God; but these take place in the mind owing to its desires, which cause its production of all things in the world. (Hence the world and all things in it, are creations of the divine and active mind, and not of the inactive Supreme Soul).

21. Therefore the world being the production of desire or will, has its extinction with the privation of desires; for that which comes the growth of a thing, causes its extinction also; as the wind which kindles the fire, extinguishes it likewise. (Here is a coincidence with the Homoeopathic maxim Similes per similibus).

22. The exertion of human efforts, gives rise to the expectation of fruition, but want of desire, causes the cessation of exertions; and consequently puts a stop to the desire of employment, together with our ignorance causing the desire.

23. The thought that 'I am distinct from Brahma', binds the mind to the world; but the belief that 'Brahma is all' releases the mind from its bondage.

24. Every thought about one's self, fastens his bondage in this world;but release from selfish thoughts, leads him to his liberation. Cease from thy selfish cares, and thou shalt cease to toil and moil for naught.

25. There is no lake of lotuses in the sky, nor is there a lotus growing in the gold mine, whose fragrance fills the air, and attracts the blue bees to suck its honey.

26. The goddess of ignorance—Avidya, with her uplifted arms resembling the long stalks of lotus plants, laughs in exultation over her conquests, with the glaring light of shining moonbeams.

27. Such is the net of our wishes spread before us by our minds, which represent unrealities as real, and take a delight to dwell upon them, like children in their toys.

28. So also is the snare spread out by our own ignorance, all over this world, that it ensnares the busy people to their misery in all places, as it binds fast the ignorant men and boys in its chains.

29. Men are busied in worldly affairs with such thoughts, as these that, 'I am poor and bound in this earth for my life; but I have my hands and feet wherewith I must work for myself'.

30. But they are freed from all affairs of this life, who know themselves as spiritual beings, and their spiritual part is neither subject to bondage nor labour. (They know themselves to be bodiless, in their embodied forms).

31. The thought that 'I am neither flesh nor bones, but some thing else than my body,' releases one from his bondage; and one having such assurance in him, is said to have weakened his avidya or ignorance.

32. Ignorance (avidya) is painted in the imagination of earthly men, to be as dark as the darkness which surrounds the highest pinnacle of Meru, blazing with the blue light of sapphire, or at the primeval darkness impenetrable by the solar light. (Hence ignorance and darkness are used as synonymous terms).

33. It is also represented by earth-born mortals, as the blackness which naturally covers the face of heaven by its own nature like the blue vault of the sky. (Thus Avidya is represented as the black and the blue goddess Kali).

34. Thus ignorance is pictured with a visible form, in the imagination of the unenlightened; but the enlightened never attribute sensible qualities to inanimate and imaginary objects.

Rama said:—

35. Tell me sir, what is the cause of the blueness of the sky, if it is not the reflexion of the blue gems on the Meru's peak, nor is it a collection of darkness by itself.

Vasishtha replied:—

36. Rama! the sky being but empty vacuum, cannot have the quality of blueness which is commonly attributed to it; nor is it the bluish lustre of the blue gems which are supposed to abound on the top of Meru.

37. There is neither the possibility of a body of darkness to abide in the sky, when the mundane egg is full of light (which has displaced the primeval darkness); and when the nature of light is the brightness which stretches over the extramundane regions. (This is the zodiacal light reaching to extramundane worlds).

38. O fortunate Rama! the firmament (sunya) which is a vast vacuum, is open to a sister of ignorance (avidya) with regard to its inward hollowness. (The sky and ignorance are twin sisters, both equally blank and hollow within, and of unlimited extent, enveloping the worlds within their unconscious wombs).

39. As one after losing his eyesight, beholds but darkness only all about him; so the want of the objects of sight in the womb of vacuity, gives the sky the appearance of a darksome scene.

40. By understanding this, as you come to the knowledge, that the apparent blackness of the sky, is no black colour of its own; so you come to learn the seeming darkness of ignorance to be no darkness in reality (but a figurative expression derived from its similitude to the other).

41. Want of desire or its indifference, is the destroyer of ignorance;and it is as easy to effect it, as to annihilate the lotus-lake in the sky (an Utopia or a castle built in the air, being but an airy nothing).

42. It is better, O good Rama! to distrust the delusions of this world, and disbelieve the blueness of the sky, than to labour under the error of their reality.

43. The thought that 'I am dead,' makes one as sorrowful, as when he dreams of his death in sleep; so also the thought that 'I am living' makes one as cheerful, as when he wakes from the deadly dream of his death-like sleep.

44. Foolish imaginations make the mind as stolid as that of a fool; but reasonable reflexions lead it to wisdom and clearsightedness.

45. A moment's reflexion of the reality of the world and of his own essence, casts a man into the gloom of everlasting ignorance, while his forgetfulness of these, removes all mortal thoughts from his mind.

46. Ignorance is the producer of passions and tempter to all transient objects; it is busy in destroying the knowledge of the soul, and is destroyed by knowledge of the soul only. (Ignorance leads to materialism, but it is lost under spiritual knowledge).

47. Whatever is sought by the mind, is instantly supplied by the organs of action; which serve as ministers subservient to the orders of their king. (The body serves the mind).

48. Hence who so does not attend to the dictates of his mind, in the pursuit of sensible objects, entertains the tranquillity of his inmost soul, by his diligent application to spirituality.

49. What did not exist at first, has no existence even now (i. e. material objects);and these that appear as existent, are no other than the quiescent and immaculate essence—Brahma himself. (The eternal is ever existent, and the instantaneous are but the phases and fluctuations of the everlasting).

50. Let no other thought of any person or thing, or of any place or object employ your mind at any time, except that of the immutable, everlasting and unlimited spirit of Brahma. (For what faith or reliance is there in things that are false and fleeting).

51. Rely in the superior powers of your understanding, and exert your sovran intellect (to know the truth); and root out at once all worldly desire by enjoyment of the pleasures of your mind.

52. The great ignorance that rises in the mind and raises the desires of thy heart, has spread the net of thy false hopes for thy ruin, causing thy death and decrepitude under them.

53. Thy wishes burst out in expressions as these that, "these are my sons and these my treasures; I am such a one, and these things are mine." All this is the effect of a magic spell of ignorance, that binds thee fast in it.

54. Thy body is a void, wherein thy desires have produced all thy selfish thoughts; as the empty winds raise the gliding waves on the surface of the sea (resembling the fleeting moments in the infinity of the Deity).

55. Learn ye that are seekers of truth, that the words: I, mine and this and that, are all meaningless in their true sense; and that there is nothing that may be called real at any time, except the knowledge of the true self and essence of Brahma.

56. The heavens above and the earth below, with all the ranges of hills and mountains on earth, and all the lines of its rivers and lakes, are but the dissolving views of our sight, and are seen in the same or different lights as they are represented by our ignorance. (This is a tenet of the drishtisrishti system of philosophy, which maintains Visual creations or existence of phenomenals, to be dependant upon sight or visual organs and are deceptio visus or fallacies of vision only).

57. The phenomenals rise to view from our ignorance, and disappear before the light of knowledge (as the dreams and spectres of the dark, are put to flight before the rising sun-light). They appear in various forms in the substratum of the soul, as the fallacy of a snake appearing in the substance of a rope.

58. Know Rama, that the ignorant only are liable to the error, of taking the earth and sun and the stars, for realities; but not so the learned, to whom the Great Brahma is present in all his majesty and full glory, in all places and things.

59. While the ignorant labour under the doubt of the two ideas, of a rope and a snake in the rope; the learned are firm in their belief, and sight of one true God in all things.

60. Do not therefore think as the ignorant do, but consider all things well like the wise and the learned. Forsake your earthly wishes, and do not grope like the vulgar by believing the unself as the self. (The second clause has the double sense of mistaking an alien as your own, and of taking an unreality for the true God).

61. Of what good is this dull and dumb body to you, Rama? (in your future state), that you are so overcome by your alternate joy and grief at its pleasure and pain?

62. As the wood of a tree and its gum resin, and its fruit and seed, are not one and the same thing, though they are so closely akin to one another; so is this body and the embodied being, quite separate from one another, though they are so closely united with each other.

63. As the burning of a pair of bellows, does not blow out the fire, nor stop the air blown by another pair, so the vital air is not destroyed by destruction of the body, but finds its way into another form and frame elsewhere. (This is the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul and life in other bodies).

64. The thought that 'I am happy or miserable,' is as false as the conception of water in the mirage:—and knowing it as such, give up your misconceptions of pleasure and pain, and place your reliance in the sole truth.

65. O how wonderful is it, that men have so utterly forgotten the true Brahma, and have placed their reliance in false ignorance (avidya), the sole cause of errors.

66. Do not, O Rama! give way to ignorance in your mind, which being overspread by its darkness, will render it difficult for you to pass over the errors of the world.

67. Know ignorance to be a false fiend and deluder of the strongest minds; it is the baneful cause of endless woes, and producer of the poisonous fruits of illusion.

68. It imagines hell fire, in the cooling beams of the watery orb of the moon; and conceives the torments of the infernal fires, proceeding from the refreshing beams of that celestial light. (This passage alludes to the poetical description of moon light as a flame of fire, in respect to a lover, who is impatient at the separation of his beloved, and is burning under the inextinguishable flame of ardent desire).

69. It views a dry desert in the wide waters, beating with billows and undulating with the fragrance of the aqueous kalpa flowers; and imagines a dry mirage in the empty clouds of autumn. (This alludes also to the wild imageries of poets, proceeding from their false imagination and ignorance).

70. Ignorance builds the imaginary castles in empty air, and causes the error of rising and falling towers in the clouds; it is the delusion of our fancy, that makes us feel the emotions of pleasure and pain in our dreams.

71. If the mind is not filled and led away by worldly desires, there is no fear then of our falling into the dangers, which the day-dreams of our earthly affairs incessantly present before us.

72. The more does our false knowledge (error) lay hold of our minds, the more we feel the torments of hell and its punishments in us, as one dreams of night-mares in his sleep.

73. The mind being pierced by error as by the thorny stalk of a lotus, sees the whole world revolving before it like the sea rolling with its waves.

74. Ignorance taking possession of the mind, converts the enthroned princes to peasants; and reduces them to a condition worse than that of beastly huntsmen. (All tyrants are the creatures of ignorance).

75. Therefore, Rama! give up the earthly desires, that serve at best to bind down the (celestial) soul to this mortal earth and its mortifying cares; and remain as the pure and white crystal, with reflecting the hues of all things around in your stainless mind.

76. Employ thy mind to thy duties, without being tarnished by thy attachment to any; but remain as the unsullied crystal, receiving the reflections of outward objects, without being stained by any.

77. Knowing everything with avidity in thy watchful mind, and performing all thy duties with due submission, and keeping from the common track with thy exalted mind, thou wilt raise thyself above comparison with any other person.