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 XLI - Description of ignorance

Argument. Delusion the cause of error.

Rama said:—

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Sir, I feel your speech to be as cooling and shining as the water of the milky sea; it is as deep and copious as the vast ocean:—

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I am sometimes darkened and enlightened at others, by the variety of your discourses, as a rainy day is now obscured by the cloud, and again shines forth brightly with sunshine.

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I understand Brahma as infinite and inconceivable, and the life and light of all that exists. I know that light never sets; but tell me, how they attribute many qualities that are foreign to his nature.

Vasishtha replied:—

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The wording and meaning of my lectures to you, are all used in their right and ordinary sense, they are neither insignificant or meaningless, equivocal or ambiguous, or contradictory of one with another.

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You will understand the proper import of my phraseology, when the eyesight of your understanding becomes clearer, and when the light of reason will rise in your mind.

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Do not mistake the meanings of my words, or the phraseology I have used all along, in order to explain the subject of my lectures, and purport of the sastras, for your acquaintance with them.

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When you will come to know the clear Truth of Brahma, you will know more regarding the distinctions of significant words, and their significations and significates.

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The distinctive verbal signs are invented for the communication of our thoughts, in conveying our instructions to others, and for our knowledge of the purport of the sastras.

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Words and their meanings, phrases and their constructions, are used for the instruction of others; they are applied to the use of the ignorant, and never apply to those who are acquainted with truth (by their intention).

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There is no attribute, nor imputation, that bears any relation with the free and unsullied soul. It is the dispassionate spirit of the supreme Brahma, and the same is the soul of the existent world.

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This subject will again be fully discussed and dilated upon with various arguments, on the occasion of our arriving to the conclusion of this subject (in the book of Nirvana).

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I have said so far about verbiage at present, because it is impossible to penetrate into the deep darkness of ignorance, without the means of verbiage (flux de mots).

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As conscious ignorance offers herself a willing sacrifice to the shrine of knowledge, she bids her adversary—the destroyer of error, to take possession of her seat in the bosom of man. (Here is a double intender of the word avidya, the former meaning ignorance as well as a concubine, and the latter signifying the wife and knowledge; hence it implies the advance of knowledge upon disappearance of her rival ignorance).

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As one weapon is foiled by another, and one dirt is removed by the other (cow dung and ashes), and as one poison is destroyed by another, and also as one foe is driven out by another enemy (similes curantur).

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So Rama, the mutual destruction of errors, brings joy to the soul. It is hard however to detect the error; but no sooner it is found out than it is put to destruction. It means the confutation of false doctrines by one another.

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Ignorance obscures our perspicacity, and presents the false and gross world before us. We all view this wonderful universe, but know not what and how it is.

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Unobserved it rushes to our view, but being examined with attention, it flies upon keen observation. We know it is a phantasm, and yet find it appearing with its dimensions and figures before us.

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O the wonderful enchantment, which has spread out this world, and made the unreality to appear as a sober reality, to the knowledge of every one of us.

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This earth is a distinct wide extended superfices, resting on the indistinct surface of an unknown substratum. He is the best of beings that has stretched this enchantment.

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When you are enlightened with the thought, that all this is inexistent in reality; you will then become the knower of the knowable (God), and understand the import of my lectures.

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So long as you are not awakened to true knowledge, rely upon my words, and know this immensity as the creature of the incorrigible and immovable ignorance.

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All this immensity, that appears to sight, is but the picture of your mistaken thought;it is all unsubstantial, and a mere manifestation of your deluded mind only.

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He is entitled to liberation, whose mind is certain of the reality of Brahma; and knows the moving and unmoving figures without, as the thoughts of the mind presented to the sight.

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The whole scale of the earth, is as a net of birds to catch the fleeting mind; it is as false as a landscape in the dream; which represents the unreal as real ones to the mind.

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He who looks upon the world without his attachment to it, is never subject to grief or sorrow on any account. And he who thinks all these forms as formless, sees the formless spirit.

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The forms of the formless spirit, is the formation of ignorance, and when the blemishes of passions and mutations, do not even belong to great souls, how can these attributes relate to the greatest God.

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The attributes given to the Supreme Spirit, are as dust thrown upon the surface of limpid water; it is our thoughts only that attribute these qualities to the inconceivable One, as we attribute certain meanings to words (that bear no relation to them).

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It is usage that establishes the meanings of words, which continue to be inseparably joined with them; and it is usage that determines their use in the sastras.

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As the cloth cannot be thought of without its thread, so the soul is unintelligible without the medium of words giving its true definition.

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It is possible to gain the knowledge of the soul from the sastras, without one's self-consciousness of it; as it is possible to get over the sea of ignorance, by means of spiritual knowledge.

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Rama! it is impossible to arrive at the state of what is called imperishable life and bliss, when the soul is any how polluted by the blemishes of ignorance.

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The existence of the world verily depends on the existence of the Supreme; know this, and do not question how and whence it came to exist.

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Let it be for thee to think only how thou shalt get rid of this unreality; for it is upon the disappearance of the unreality, that thou canst know the real truth.

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Leave off thinking whence is all this, how it is and how it is destroyed at last; believe it to be really nothing, but only appearing without being actually seen.

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How can one know, how the unreality appears as reality by his mistake of it, when the error of reality, in the unreal, has taken a firm footing in his mind?

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Try your best to destroy this prejudice of yours, and then you will know the truth. And verily such men are the greatest heroes and most learned in the world, who are freed from prejudices.

37. [Sanskrit available]
Strive to destroy your baneful ignorance, or it is sure to overpower on thee as upon the rest of mankind.

38. [Sanskrit available]
Take care, lest it should enthral thee to the pain of thy repeated transmigrations, and know ignorance to be the root of all evils and companion of every vice. It creates a man's interest in what proves his peril.

39. [Sanskrit available]
Avoid quickly this false view, the baneful cause of your fears and sorrows, and of your diseases and dangers; and the germ of errors in the mind; and thereby ford over this perilous ocean of the world.

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