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 XVIII - The incarnation of the living spirit

Argument. The Impure state of the soul; and its Purity leading to the knowledge of the only One.

Vasishtha continued:—

The living souls (Jivatman), residing in the seeds of material bodies (bhuta-vija) in all parts of the world, differ from one another; and there according to the difference in their knowledge of themselves (tanmatra), or self identity with the Unity.

2. As long as there is no volition nor nolition, connected with the identity of the living soul; so long it reposes in a state of rest, not unlike that of sound sleep (susupti).

3. But living souls addicted to their wishes, view their identity with the same; and find themselves born in their desired shapes here below.

4. The tanmatras of the living soul and its proclivities, run in one channel to the reservoir of life, and are thickened into one living being by their mutual coalition.

5. Some of them are situated apart from one another, and are dissolved also separately; and some are joined together, and are born as two gunja fruits growing together.

6. The world consisting of thousands of orbs like gunja fruits, contains the assemblage of atoms on atoms; and these unconnected with one another, form the great garden of God.

7. These being joined also with one another, became dense and thick; and remain in the same place, where it has grown.

8. The different states of the mind, ensuing upon the absence of its present objects under its province, brings on a change in its constitution, which is called its regeneration (in a new life).

(Thus the change of the mind under the change of circumstances, is reckoned its transformation to a different being).

9. Thus every regeneration of the mind in a new life, is accompanied with its concomitant desires, and their results. The new life is attended with its proper body, unless the mind has lost its reminiscence.

10. As the pure Spirit taking the form of the vital breath, performs the functions of the body;so the mind being reborn in a new body, is employed in all the functions of the same body.

11. The souls of all living beings are subject to the three states of waking, dreaming, and sound sleep, which are caused by the mind and not by the body.

12. Thus the soul passing under the triple condition in its living state, does not give rise to the body, as the sea-water gives rise to the waves. (The body is caused by the mind, and not by the soul which has no connection with it).

13. The living soul having attained its intellectual state, and the rest of the conditions of sound sleep (susupti), is awakened to the knowledge of itself, and is released from its rebirth;while the ignorant soul is subjected to be born again.

14. And though the knowing and unknowing souls attain the state of susupti, and resemble each other in kind; yet the unknowing susupta soul, which is not awakened to the knowledge of its spirituality, is doomed to be reborn in the mortal world.

15. The ubiquity of the intellect, makes it pass into the mind in its next birth; and exhibit itself in different forms in all its succeeding and subordinate regenerations (stages of life).

16. Among these repeated births, the subordinate regenerations resemble the many folded coatings of a plantain tree; and the spirit of Brahma is contiguous to, and pervades the whole, like the lofty leaves of the same tree.

17. The influence of the Divine spirit, is as cool as the cooling shade of a plantain arbour. It is of its own nature; and is as unchangeable as the pith of the plantain tree, notwithstanding the changes in all its outer coats and coverings.

18. There is no difference or diversity in the nature of Brahma the creator, in his repeated and manifold creations of worlds; for he being the seed of the world, shoots forth by his moisture into the form of the expanded tree of the world, and becomes the same seed again.

19. So Brahma taking the form of the mind, becomes the same Brahma by reminiscence of his mind; as the sap of the soil makes the seed to bring forth the fruit, which reproduces the like seed.

20. So the productive seed proceeding from Brahma, displays itself in the form of the world. But as no body can say what is the cause of the sap in the seed, so no one can tell why the spirit of God, teems with productive seed (of Brahma) in it.

21. So no one should inquire into the cause of Brahma; because his nature being inscrutable and undefinable, it is improper to say of him this or the other.

22. He must not attribute causality to what is not the cause, nor impute the causation of material bodies to the immaterial spirit of God, that is the prime and supreme cause of all (as the Prototype). We must reason rightly regarding what is certain truth, and not argue falsely about what transcends our knowledge.

23. The seed casts off its seedy form, and assumes the shape of the fruit; but Brahma (the seed of all) contains the fruit (of the universe) in his bosom, without laying aside the seed.

24. The seed of the fruit bears a material form, but Brahma—the universal seed, has no form at all; therefore it is improper to compare the visible seed, with the invisible Brahma; who is beyond all comparison.

25. Brahma evolves himself in his creation and does not produce the world like the fruit from the seed; therefore know the world as the vacuous heart of Brahma, and is neither born nor unborn of itself.

26. The viewer viewing the view, is unable to see himself (his inward soul) because his consciousness being engrossed by external objects, is disabled from looking into itself.

27. Of what avail is sagacity to one, whose mind labours under the error of water in a mirage; and what power has the mirage over a mind, which is possessed of its sagacity?

28. As the looker on the clear sky does not see every part of it, and as the eye that looks on all others does not see itself; so we see everything about us besides ourselves.

29. As the looker on the clear sky, does not see what is above the skies; so we see ourselves and others as material beings; but cannot see the inward part of the immaterial soul, as the wise men do.

30. Brahma who is as clear as the firmament, cannot be perceived by all our endeavours; because the sight of the sky as a visible thing, cannot give us an insight into the invisible Brahma; (which fills all space with his presence).

31. Such a sight cannot present itself to us, unless we can see the true form of God; but it is far from being visible to the beholder, as the sight of subtilest things.

32. We see the outward sight because we cannot see the beholder of the sight (i.e. God himself who beholds his works). The beholder (God) is only the existent being, and the visibles are all nothing.

33. But the all seeing God, being permeated in the visibles; there can be no beholding of him as a personal God, nor of them as distinct things. Because whatever the Almighty King proposes to do, he instantly forms their notions, and becomes the same himself.

34. As the sweet saccharine juice of the sugarcane, thickens itself into the form of the sugarcandy; so the will of God, becomes compact in the solid body of the universe.

35. As the moisture of the ground and of the vernal season, becomes incorporated in vegetable life, bringing forth the fruits and flowers;so the energy of the Divine Intellect, turns itself into the living spirit; which shortly appears in a corporeal form (of the body and its limbs).

36. As every thing is beheld in our sight, without being separated from its idea in the mind; so the inward notion, shows itself in the shape of the visible object, like the vision in a dream, which is but a representation of the thoughts entertained in our minds. (i.e. The thought is the archetype of the appearance).

37. The ideas of self and others, are as granules in the mind, and are like the grains of salt, which are produced in the briny grounds from moisture of the earth (i.e. saline particles, produced of terrene and marine serosity). So the multitudes of thoughts in the mind, are exactly as the globules of salt or sand on the seashore (almost infinite in their number).

38. As the serum of the earth appears in various shapes (of minerals and vegetables); so the sap of the intellect, produces the infinity of ideas and thoughts, growing as trees in the wilderness of the mind.

39. These trees again shoot forth in branches and leaves, of which there is no end; and so is every other world like a forest, supplying its sap to innumerable plants, like the thoughts in the mind.

40. The intellect perceives in itself the existence of everything, as distinctly as the inherent power of the living soul exhibits itself in creation. (The power of the soul is its reminiscence (sanskara) of the past, which reproduces and presents the former impressions in its subsequent states of birth).

41. Every one's intellect, perceives the existence of the world, in the same manner as his living soul, happens to meet with every thing, as present before it, by virtue of its former acts, and their reminiscence stampt in it.[1]

42. There are some living souls, which meet and join with others and propagate their species; and then cease to exist after having lived a long time together.

43. You must observe with your keensightedness and well discerning mind, in order to look into the different states and thoughts of others. (Read the minds in their outward look and indications).

44. There are thousands of worlds like atoms of earth, contained in the mind; as in the ample space of the sky and in the particles of water; and these reside in those atoms like oil in the mustard seeds.

45. When the mind becomes perfect, it comes to be the living being; and the intellect being purified, becomes all pervasive. Hence is the union of the intellect with the living spirit.

46. The self-entity of the lotus-born Brahma and all other living beings, is only their self-deception; and the sense of the existence of the world, is as a protracted dream rising and setting in the mind.

47. Some beings pass into successive states of existence, as a man passes from one dream to another;and they think themselves to be firmly established in them, as one supposes to be settled in some house, appearing to him in his dream.

48. Whatever the intellect dwells upon at any time or place, it immediately sees the same appearing therein before it; as anything which is seen in dream, appears to be true to the dreamer all that time.

49. The atom of the intellect, contains the particles of all our notions; as the seed-vessel contains the farinaceous atoms of the future fruits and flowers, and branches and leaves (of very large trees).

50. I consider the atoms of the intellect and the mind, contained within the particles, of the material body, to be both vacuous, and joined in one without causing a duality in their nature.

51. So the intellect conceives within itself and of its own particles, many other atomic germs, under the influence of particular times and places and actions and circumstances; which cannot be extraneous from itself. (i.e. All notions are the making of the mind, and not impressions from without).

52. It is this particle of the intellect which displays the creation, like the vision of a dream before it; and it is this conception, that led the gods Brahma and others to the idea of their visible bodies, as it makes the little insects to think of their own bodies. (i.e. The minds of all display the outer world subjectively to all beings).

53. All that is displayed in this (outer) world, is in reality nothing at all; and yet do these living beings, though possessing the particles of intellect in them, erroneously conceive the duality of an extraneous existence.

54. Some intellects (of particular persons), display themselves in their bodies, and derive the pleasure of their consciousness, through the medium of their eyes and external organs. (i.e. Some men believe their bodily senses as the intellect, and no mind besides).

55. Others look on outward objects as receptacles of the intellect, from the belief that the all pervasive, inseparable and imperishable intellect (soul), must abide in all and every one of them. (It is the intellect which contains the material world, and not this the other, as many think omnipresence to mean).

56. Some men view the whole gross world within the body, instead of the all pervading intellect of Brahma; as Viswarupa, and these being hardened by long habit of thinking so, are plunged in the gulph of error. (These are the materialists and the Tantrika microcosmists).

57. These rove from one error to another, as a man sees one dream after another; and roll about in the pit of their delusion, as a stone when hurled from a hill downward.

58. Some persons rely on the union of the body and soul, and others relying in the soul alone, are placed beyond the reach of error; while there are many, who rely on their consciousness alone, and shine thereby as rational beings. (The Cartesians and conscientionalists).

59. They that perceive in themselves the errors of other people, are to be considered as under the influence of false dreams in their sleep (but mind not themselves, that labour under the error as the dreamer).

60. God being the all-pervading spirit of nature, is verily seen in the spirit of every body; and as he is ubiquitous, his omnipresence is present in every thing in all places. (This doctrine is the source of pantheism, and gives rise to universal idolatry, which adores the presiding spirit of the idol, and not the idol itself).

61. God that shines is the living soul of every body, resides also in the soul of that soul, as also in all the living souls and mind which are contained within the body of another. (Such as in living beings born inside the body of another).

62. One living being is born in another, and that again within another, like the coatings of plantain trees, which grow one under the other over the inmost pith. (So God is the inmost marrow of all external lives and souls, which are as crusts of the same).

63. By reverting the cognition of visibles, to the recognition of their essence (tanmatra) in the invisible plenum, we get rid of our error of the reality of the formal world, as we do of the ornament in the material gold. (i.e. The substances of gold is the material cause of the formal and changeable jewels). Gloss. The knowledge of the consequent (parak) and antecedent (pratyak), must blend in that of the sameness (samani) of both (yugupat), the internal (antar) and external (bahya) (existences).

64. He who does not inquire into the question "who he is"and "what is the world" beside himself; is not liberated in his inward soul, and suffers under the continuous fever of an erroneous life.

65. He is successful in his inquiry, who by his good understanding, comes to know how to curb his worldly avarice day by day.

66. As proper regimen is the best medicine to secure the health of the body; so is the habit of keeping the organs of sense under control, the only means of edifying the understanding.

67. He who is discoursive in his words, and not discerning in his mind, is like a blazing fire in a picture (which lightens no body). No one can be wise until he gets rid of his false wit.

68. As the perception of air, comes by the feeling and not by words of the mouth; so wisdom proceeds from the curtailing of desires (and not by lengthy or loud vociferation).

69. As the ambrosia in the painting is no ambrosial food, nor the fire in a picture is burning flame; so a beauty in a drawing is no beauteous maid, and wisdom in words is want of wisdom only.

70. Wisdom serves at first to weaken our passions and enmity, and then uproot them at once, and at last it lessens our desires and endeavours, and gives an appearance of holiness to its possessor.

Footnotes and references:


(It was Plato's doctrine of the souls' reminiscence of a former apprehension of truth awakened by the traces of ideas which sensation discovered in things).