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 CXVII - Different states of knowledge and ignorance


Argument. The septuple grounds of true and false Knowledge and their mixed modes. And firstly, of self-abstraction or abstract knowledge of one or swarupa; and then of the different grounds of Ignorance.

Rama said:—

Please sir, tell me in brief, what are the grounds of yoga meditation, which produce the seven kinds of consummation, which are aimed at by the yogi adepts. You sir, who are best acquainted with all recondite truths, must know it better than all others.

Vasishtha replied:—

2. They consist of the seven states of ignorance (ajnana-bhumi), and as many of knowledge also; and these again diverge into many others, by their mutual intermixture. (Participating the natures of one another, and forming the mixed modes of states of truth and error).

3. All these states (both of right and wrong cognitions), being deep rooted in the nature of man (maha-satta), either by his habit or of training, made produce their respective fruits or results (tending to his elevation or degradation in this world and the next).

Note. Habit or natural disposition (pravritti) is the cause of leading to ignorance and its resulting error; but good training—sadhana and better endeavours—prayatna, are the causes of right knowledge and elevation.

4. Attend now to the nature of the sevenfold states or grounds of ignorance; and you will come to know thereby, the nature of the septuple grounds of knowledge also.

5. Know this as the shortest lesson, that I will give thee of the definitions of true knowledge and ignorance; that, it is the remaining in one's own true nature (swarupa or suiform state), that constitutes his highest knowledge and liberation; and his divergence from it to the knowledge of his ego (egoism—ahanta), is the cause of his ignorance, and leads him to the error and bondage of this world.

6. Of these, they that do not deviate from their consciousness—samvitti of themselves—swarupa, as composed of the pure ens or essence only (suddha-san-matra), are not liable to ignorance; because of their want of passions and affections, and of the feelings of envy and enmity in them. (The highest intelligence of one's self, is the consciousness of his self-existence, or that "I am that I am"as a spiritual being;because the spirit or soul is the true self).

7. But falling off from the consciousness of self-entity—swarupa, and diving into the intellect—Chit, in search of the thoughts of cognizable objects (chetyarthas), is the greatest ignorance and error of mankind. (No error is greater than to fall off from the subjective and run after the objective).

8. The truce that takes place in the mind, in the interim of a past and future thought of one object to another (arthadar thantara); know that respite of the mind in thinking, to be the resting of the soul, in the consciousness of its self-entity swarupa.

9. That state of the soul which is at calm after the setting of the thoughts and desires of the mind; and which is as cold and quiet as the bosom of a stone, and yet without the torpitude of slumber or dull drowsiness; is called the supineness of the soul in its recognition of itself.

10. That state of the soul, which is devoid of its sense of egoism and destitute of its knowledge of dualism, and its distinction from the state of the one universal soul, and shines forth with its unsleeping intelligence, is said to be at rest in itself or swarupa.

11. But this state of the pure and self-intelligent soul, is obscured by the various states of ignorance, whose grounds you will now hear me relate unto you. These are the three states of wakefulness or jagrat, known as the embryonic waking (or vijajagrat), the ordinary waking, and the intense waking called the mahajagrat (i. e. the hypnotism or hybernation of the soul, being reckoned its intelligent state, its waking is deemed as the ground of its ignorance, and the more it is awake to the concerns of life, the more it is said to be liable to error).

12. Again the different states of its dreaming (swapnam or somnum), are also said to be the grounds of its ignorance and these are the waking dream, the sleeping dream, the sleepy waking and sound sleep or sushupti. These are the seven grounds of ignorance. (Meaning hereby, all the three states of waking, dreaming and sound steep (jagrat, swapna and sushupta), to be the grounds fertile with our ignorance and error).

13. These are the seven-fold grounds, productive of sheer ignorance, and which when joined with one another, become many more and mixed ones, known under different denominations as you will hear by and by.

14. At first there was the intelligent Intellect (Chaitanya Chit), which gave rise to the nameless and pure intelligence Suddha-Chit; which became the source of the would-be mind and living soul.

15. This intellect remained as the ever waking embryonic seed of all, wherefore it is called the waking seed (Vijajagrat); and as it is the first condition of cognition, it is said to be the primal waking state.

16. Now know the waking state to be next to the primal waking intelligence of God, and it consists of the belief of the individual personality of the ego and meity,—aham and mama; i. e. this am I and these are mine by chance—prag-abhava. (The first is the knowledge of the impersonal soul, and the second the knowledge of personal or individual souls).

17. The glaring or great waking—mahajagrat, consists in the firm belief that I am such a one, and this thing is mine, by virtue of my merits in this or by-gone times or Karman. (This positive knowledge of one's self and his properties, is the greatest error of the waking man).

18. The cognition of the reality of any thing either by bias—rudhadhyasa or mistake—arudha, is called the waking dream; as the sight of two moons in the halo, of silver in shells, and water in the mirage; as also the imaginary castle building of day dreamers.

19. Dreaming in sleep is of many kinds, as known to one on his waking, who doubts their truth owing to their short-lived duration (as it was in the dreaming of Lavana).

20. The reliance which is placed in things seen in a dream, after one wakes from his sleep, is called his waking dream, and lasting in its remembrance only in his mind. (Such is the reliance in divine inspirations and prophetic dreams which come to be fulfilled).

21. A thing long unseen and appearing dimly with a stalwart figure in the dream, if taken for a real thing of the waking state, is called also a waking dream. (As that of Brutus on his seeing the stalwart figure of Caesar).

22. A dream dreamt either in the whole body or dead body of the dreamer, appears as a phantom of the waking state (as a living old man remembers his past youthful person, and a departed soul viewing the body it has left behind).

23. Besides these six states, there is a torpid—jada state of the living soul, which is called his sushupta—hypnotism or sound sleep, and is capable of feeling its future pleasures and pains. (The soul retains even in this torpid state, the self-consciousness of its merit and demerit (as impressions—sanskaras in itself, and the sense of the consequent bliss or misery, which is to attend upon it)).

24. In this last state of the soul or mind, all outward objects from a straw up to a mountain, appear as mere atoms of dust in its presence; as the mind views the miniature of the world in profound meditation.

25. I have thus told you Rama, the features of true knowledge and error in brief, but each of these states branches out into a hundred forms, with various traits of their own.

26. A long continued waking dream is accounted as the waking state—jagrat, and it becomes diversified according to the diversity of its objects (i. e. waking is but a continued dreaming).

27. The waking state contains under it the conditions of the wakeful soul of God; also there are many things under these conditions which mislead men from one error to another; as a storm casts the boats into whirlpools and eddies.

28. Some of the lengthened dreams in sleep, appear as the waking sight of day light; while others though seen in the broad day-light of the waking state, are no better than night-dreams seen in the day time, and are thence called our day dreams.

29. I have thus far related to you the seven grades of the grounds of ignorance, which with all their varieties, are to be carefully avoided by the right use of our reason, and by the sight of the Supreme soul in our-selves.

Footnotes and references:


The Text uses the terms jnāna and ajnāna, which literally signify knowledge and ignorance, and mean to say that, we know the subjective ourselves only (as-ego-sum) and are ignorant of the true nature of the objective, as whether they are or not and what they are. Though it would be more appropriate to use the words nischaya and anischaya or certainty and uncertainty, because we are certain of our own existence, and are quite uncertain of every thing besides, which we perceive in our triple states of waking, dreaming and sound sleep, which incessantly produce and present before us a vast variety of objects, all of which lead us to error by their false appearances.