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 CXIX - Illustration of the gold-ring

Argument. Ascertaining the True Unity by rejecting the illusory forms and on the said Grounds of Knowledge.

Vasishtha said:—

The human soul reflecting on its egoism, forgets its essence of the Supreme soul; as the gold-ring thinking on its formal rotundity, loses its thought of the substantial gold whereof it is made.

Rama said:—

2. Please tell me sir, how the gold can have its consciousness of its form of the ring, as the soul is conscious of its transformation to egoism.

Vasishtha said:—

3. The questions of sensible men, relate only to the substances of things, and not to the production and dissolution of the existent formal parts of things, and neither to those of the non-existent; so you should ask of the substances of the soul and gold, and not of the ego and the ring, which are unsubstantial nullities in nature. (So men appraise the value of the gold of which the ring is made, and not by the form of the ring).

4. When the jeweller sells his gold-ring for the price of gold, he undoubtedly delivers the gold which is the substance of the ring and not the ring without its substance. (So the shapes of things are nothing at all, but the essential substance—Brahma underlying all things, is all in all).

5. Rama asked:—If such is the case that you take the gold for the ring, then what becomes of the ring as we commonly take it to be? Explain this to me, that I may thereby know the substance of Brahma (underlying all appearances).

Vasishtha said:—

6. All form, O Rama, is formless and accidental quality, and no essential property of things. So if you would ascertain the nature of a nullity, then tell me the shape and qualities of a barren woman's son (which are null and nothing).

7. Do not fall into the error of taking the circularity of the ring, as an essential property of it; the form of a thing is only apparent and not prominent to the sight. (In European philosophy, form is defined as the essence of a thing, for without it nothing is conceivable. But matter being the recipient of form, it does form any part of its essence. Vasishtha speaking of matter as void of form, means the materia prima of Aristotle, or the elementary sorts of it).

8. The water in the mirage, the two moons in the sky, the egoism of men and the forms of things, though appearing as real ones to sight and thought, cannot be proved as separate existences apart from their subjects. (All these therefore are fallacies vanishing before vicharana or reasoning, the second ground of true knowledge).

9. Again the likeness of silver that appears in pearl-shells, can not be realized in the substance of the pearl-mother, or even a particle of it at any time or any place. (The Sanskrit alliterations of kanam, kshanam, kvanu, cannot be preserved in translation).

10. It is the incircumspect view of a thing that makes a nullity appear as a reality, as the appearance of silver in the shell and the water in the mirage (all which are but deceptions of sight and other senses, and are therefore never trustworthy).

11. The nullity of a nil appears as an ens to sight, as also the fallacy of a thing as something where there is nothing of the kind (as of silver in the pearl-mother and water in the mirage).

12. Sometimes an unreal shadow acts the part of a real substance, as the false apprehension of a ghost kills a lad with the fear of being killed by it. (Fright of goblins and bogies of mormos and ogres, have killed many men in the dark).

13. There remains nothing in the gold-jewel except gold, after its form of jewellery is destroyed; therefore the forms of the ring and bracelet are no more, than drops of oil or water on a heap of sand. The forms are absorbed in the substance, as the fluids in dust or sand.

14. There is nothing real or unreal on earth, except the false creations of our brain (as appearances in our dreams); and these whether known as real or unreal, are equally productive of their consequences, as the sights and fears of spectres in children. (We are equally encouraged by actual rewards and flattering hopes, as we are depressed at real degradation and its threatening fear).

15. A thing whether it is so or not, proves yet as such as it is believed to be, by different kinds and minds of men; as poison becomes as effective as elixir to the sick, and ambrosia proves as heinous as hemlock with the intemperate. (So is false faith thought to be as efficacious by the vulgar as the true belief of the wise).

16. Belief in the only essence of the soul, constitutes true knowledge, and not in its likeness of the ego and mind, as it is generally believed in this world. Therefore abandon the thought of your false and unfounded egoism or individual existence. (This is said to be self-reliance or dependance on the universal soul of God).

17. As there is no rotundity of the ring inherent in gold; so there is no individuality of egoism in the all-pervading universal soul.

18. There is nothing everlasting beside Brahma, and no personality of Him as a Brahma, Vishnu or any other. There is no substantive existence as the world, but off spring of Brahma called the patriarchs. (All these are said to be negative terms in many passages of the srutis as the following:—

There is no substantiality except that of Brahma. There is no personality (adesa) of him. He is Brahma the supreme soul and no other. He is neither the outward nor inward nor is he nothing).

19. There are no other worlds beside Brahma, nor is the heaven without Him. The hills, the demons, the mind and body all rest in that spirit which is no one of these.

20. He is no elementary principle, nor is he any cause as the material or efficient. He is none of the three times of past, present and future but all; nor is he anything in being or not-being (in esse or posse or in nubibus).

21. He is beyond your egoism or tuism, ipseism and suism, and all your entities and non-entities. There is no attribution nor particularity in Him, who is above all your ideas, and is none of the ideal personifications of your notions (i. e. He is none of the mythic persons of abstract ideas as Love and the like).

22. He is the plenum of the world, supporting and moving all, being unmoved and unsupported by any. He is everlasting and undecaying bliss; having no name or symbol or cause of his own. (He is the being that pervades through and presides over all—sanmatram).

23. He is no sat or est or a being that is born and existent, nor an asatnon est (i. e. extinct); he is neither the beginning, middle or end of anything, but is all in all. He is unthinkable in the mind, and unutterable by speech. He is vacuum about the vacuity, and a bliss above all felicity.

Rama said:—

24. I understand now Brahma to be self-same in all things, yet I want to know what is this creation, that we see all about us (i. e. are they the same with Brahma or distinct from him?)

25. Vasishtha replied: The supreme spirit being perfectly tranquil, and all things being situated in Him, it is wrong to speak of this creation or that, when there is no such thing as a creation at any time.

26. All things exist in the all containing spirit of God, as the whole body of water is contained in the universal ocean; but there is fluctuation in the waters owing to their fluidity, whereas there is no motion in the quiet and motionless spirit of God.

27. The light of the luminaries shines of itself, but not so the Divine light; it is the nature of all lights to shine of themselves, but the light of Brahma is not visible to sight.

28. As the waves of the ocean rise and fall in the body of its waters, so do these phenomena appear as the noumena in the mind of God (as his ever-varying thoughts).

29. To men of little understandings, these thoughts of the Divine mind appear as realities; and they think this sort of ideal creation, will be lasting for ages.

30. Creation is ascertained to be a cognition (a thought) of the Divine Mind; it is not a thing different from the mind of God, as the visible sky is no other than a part of Infinity.

31. The production and extinction of the world, are mere thoughts of the Divine mind; as the formation and dissolution of ornaments take place in the self-same substance of gold.

32. The mind that has obtained its calm composure, views the creation as full with the presence of God; but those that are led by their own convictions, take the inexistent for reality, as children believe the ghosts as real existences.

33. The consciousness of ego (or the subjective self-existence), is the cause of the error of the objective knowledge of creation; but the tranquil unconsciousness of ourselves, brings us to the knowledge of the supreme, who is above the objective and inert creation.

34. These different created things appear in a different light to the sapient, who views them all in the unity of God, as the toy puppets of a militia, are well known to the intelligent to be made and composed of mud and clay.

35. This plenitude of the world is without its beginning and end, and appears as a faultless or perfect peace of workmanship. It is full with the fullness of the supreme Being, and remains full in the fullness of God.

36. This plenum which appears as the created world, is essentially the Great Brahma, and situated in his greatness; just as the sky is situated in the sky, tranquillity in tranquillity, and felicity in felicity. (These are absolute and identic terms, as the whole is the whole &c.).

37. Look at the reflexion of a longsome landscape in a mirror, and the picture of a far stretching city in the miniature; and you will find the distances of the objects lost in their closeness. So the distances of worlds are lost in their propinquity to one another in the spirit of God.

38. The world is thought as a nonentity by some, and as an entity by others; by their taking it in the different lights of its being a thing beside God, and its being but a reflection of Brahma. (In the former case it is a nonentity as there can be nothing without God; in the latter sense it is real entity being identic with God).

39. After all, it can have no real entity, being like the picture of a city and not as the city itself. It is as false as the appearance of limpid water in the desert mirage, and that of the double moon in the sky.

40. As it is the practice of magicians, to show magic cities in the air, by sprinkling handfuls of dust before our eyes; so doth our erroneous consciousness represent the unreal world, as a reality unto us.

41. Unless our inborn ignorance (error) like an arbour of noxious plants, is burnt down to the very root by the flame of right reasoning, it will not cease to spread out its branches, and grow the rankest weeds of our imaginary pleasures and sorrows.