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 XCI - On the origin of the human body and consciousness

Argument. Of Desire and Breathing as the two seeds, producing the Plant of Human Body, bearing the fruits of Worldliness.

Rama said:—

I see the stupendous rock (Brahma) filling the infinite vault of vacuum, and bearing the countless worlds as its vast forests, with the starry frame for its flowers and the gods and demigods for its birds and fowls.

2. The flashing of lightnings are its blooming blossoms, and the azure clouds are the leaves of the forest trees; the seasons and the sun and moon fructify these arbors with good looking fruits.

3. The seven seas are the aqueducts at the foot of this forest, and the flowing rivers are its channels; and the fourteen worlds are so many regions of it, peopled with various kinds of beings.

4. This wilderness of the world, is beset by the wide spreading net of cupidity; which has overspread on the minds of people, as the creeping vine fills the vineyard ground.

5. Disease and death form the two branches of the arbor of the world (Sansara Mahiruha), yielding plentifully the fruits of our weal and woe; while our ignorance serves to water and nourish this tree to its full growth.

6. Now tell me, sir, what is seed that produced this tree, and what is the seed of that seed also. Thus tell me what is the original seed of the production of the mundane tree.

7. Explain to me all this in short, for the edification of my understanding; and also for my acquirement of the true knowledge with which you are best acquainted.

8. Vasishtha answered:—Know Rama! the corporeal body to be the seed or cause of this arbour of the world. This seed is the desire which is concealed in the heart of the body, and shoots forth luxuriantly, in the sprouts of good and bad acts and deeds.

9. It is full of boughs and branches, and luxuriant in the growth of its fruits and flowers; and it thrives as thickly and fastly, as the paddy fields flourish in autumn.

10. The mind which is the seed of the body, is subject to and slave of all its desires. Its treasure house consists of alternate plenty and poverty, and its casket contains the gems of pleasure and pain.

11. It is the mind which spreads this net-work of reality and unreality;as it stretches the fretwork of truth and falsehood in dreams and visions.

12. As the dying man sees in his imagination, the messengers of death appearing before him; so doth the mind, present the figure of the unreal body as a reality.

13. All these forms and figures, which appear to our view in these worlds, are the formations of the mind, as the pots and toys are the works of clay. (The mind being the same with Brahma; is the formal cause of all existences).

14. There are two kinds of seeds again which give rise to the arbor of the mind, which is entwined by the creepers of its faculties; one kind of these is the breathing of the vital breath, and the other is thinking or the train of its thoughts. (The text has the words dridha-bhavana or the certainty of the knowledge of its reality).

15. When the vital air vibrates through the lungs and arteries, the mind then has the consciousness of its existence.

16. When the vital breath ceases to circulate through the lungs and wind pipes, there ensues the insensibility of the mind and the circulation of the heart-blood is put to a stop.

17. It is by means of the vibrations of breath and the action of the heart, that the mind perceives the existence of the world which is as false as the appearance of the blue sky, in the empty space of vacuum.

18. But when these vibrations and actions fail to rouse the sleeping mind, it is then said to enjoy its peace and quiet; otherwise they merely move the body and mind, as the wires move the dolls in the puppet show.

19. When the body has its sensibility, caused by the breathing of the vital air, it begins to move about like a doll dancing in its giddy circle in the Court yard, by artifice of the puppet player.

20. The vibrations of breath awaken also our self-consciousness, which is minuter than the minutest atom; and yet all pervasive in its nature, as the fragrance of flowers, which is blown afar in the air by the breath of the wind.

21. It is of great good, O Rama! to confine one's consciousness in one's self (as it is to shut the fragrance of the flower in its seed vessel; and it is effected by stopping the breathing by means of the practice of pranayama or suppression of breath; as the diffusion of odours is prevented by shutting out the current air).

22. By restraining our self-consciousness we in ourselves succeed to refrain from our consciousness of all other things because the knowledge of endless objects (particulars), is attended with infinite trouble to the mind. (All knowledge is the vexation of the spirit. Solomon's Proverbs).

23. When the mind comes to understand itself, after it is roused from its dormancy of self-forgetfulness (by being addicted to the thoughts of external objects); it gains what is known to be the best of gains, and the purest and the holiest state of life.

24. If with the vacillation of your vital breaths, and the fluctuation of your wishes, you do not disturb the even tenor of your consciousness, like the giddy part of mankind, then you are likened to the great Brahma himself (who lives and does what he likes, without any disturbance of his inward intuition).

25. The mind without its self-consciousness or conscience, is a barren waste; and the life of man with its knowledge of truth, is as a mazy path, beset with traps and snares of errors and dangers.

26. The meditative Yogi is practised to the suppression of his breath for the peace of his mind, and conducts his pranayama or restraint of respiration, and his dhyana or intense meditation, according to the directions of his spiritual guide and the precepts of the sastras.

27. Restraint of breath is accompanied by the peace of mind, causing the evenness of its temperament; and it is attended with health and prosperity and capacity of cogitation to its practiser.

28. Learn Rama, another cause of the activity of the mind, which is considered by the wise as the source of its perpetual restlessness; and this is its restless and insatiable concupiscence.

29. Now this concupiscence is defined as the fixed desire of the mind, for the possession of something, without consideration of its prior and ultimate conditions (i.e. Whether it is worth having or not, and whether its gain will be productive of the desired object in view).

30. It is the intensity of one's thought of getting something that produces it before him; in utter disregard of the other objects of its remembrance. (The gloss gives a mystic sense of this passage; that reminiscence which is the cause of the reproduction of prior impressions, is upset by the intensity of the present thought in the mind).

31. The man being infatuated by his present desire, believes himself as it depicts him to be; and takes his present form for real, by his forgetfulness of the past and absent reality. (The present unreal appears as real, and the past reality passes away as an unreality, as in the case of prince Lava's believing himself a chandala during his dream, and so it is with us to take ourselves as we think us to be).

32. It is the current of our desire, that carries us away from the reality; as the drunkard sees everything whirling about him in his intoxication.

33. Men of imperfect knowledge, are led to like errors by their desires, as a man is driven to madness by the impulse of passions.

34. Such is the nature of the mind, that it leads to the imperfect knowledge of things, so as to view the unreal as real, and the unspiritual as spiritual.

35. It is the eager expectation of getting a thing, which is fixed and rooted in the heart, that impels the restless mind to seek its desired object, in repeated births and transmigrations.

36. When the mind has nothing desirable or disgusting to seek or shun, and remains apart from both, it is no more bound to regeneration in any form of existence.

37. When the mind is thoughtless about anything, owing to its want of desire of the same; it enjoys its perfect composure, owing to its unmindfulness of it and all other things.

38. When there is no shadow of anything, covering the clear face of consciousness, like a cloud obscuring the face of the sky; it is then that the mind is said to be extinct in a person, and is lost like a lotus-flower, which is never seen to grow in the expanse of the sky.

39. The mind can have no field for its action, when the sphere of the intellect is drained and devoided of all its notions of worldly objects.

40. Thus far have I related to you, Rama, about the form and features of the mind; that it is only the entertaining of the thought of something with fond desire of the heart. (Here the mind is identified with the fond thought or wish of a man).

41. There can be no action of the mind, when the sphere of the intellect is as clear as the empty sky, and without the thought of any imaginary or visible object moving before it as the speck of a cloud.

42. It is called unmindedness also, when the mind is practised to its Yoga, or thoughtlessness of all external objects, and remains transfixed in its vision of the sole essence of God.

43. When the mind has renounced the thought of everything within itself, and remains in its perfect coolness of cold-heartedness (sang froid) of Yogis; such a mind, though exercising its powers and faculties, it is said to be nil and extinct.

44. He whose want of desires, has chilled his ardour for anything, and made him impassionate, is said to have become extinct, and reduced like a rag to ashes (leaving the form without its substance).

45. He who has no desire of gain to cause his repeated birth and death, is called the living liberated; though he should move about in his busy career like a potter's wheel (which is insensible of its motion).

46. They are also styled the living liberated, who do not taste the pleasure of desire; but remain like fried seeds, without regerminating into the sprots of new and repeated births.

47. Men attaining to spiritual knowledge in their earthly lives, are said to have become mindless in this world, and to be reduced to vacuity (the summum bonum of vacuists) in the next.

48. There are, O Rama! two other seeds or sources of the mind, namely, the vital breath and desire; and though they are of different natures, yet the death of either occasions the extinction of both.

49. Both of these are causes of the regeneration of the mind, as the pond and the pot (or pipes), are the joint causes of water supply. (Wherein the want of the one, is tantamount to the loss of the other also).

50. The gross desires of men are the causes of their repeated births, as the seeds are causes of the repeated growth of trees; and the germ of regeneration is contained in the desire, as the future plant is contained in the seed, and the oily juice is inbred in the sesamum seed.

51. The conscious mind is the cause of all things in the course of time, and the source of all its pleasure and pain, which rise and fall in itself, and never grow without it. (Avindbhavin).

52. As the union of the breath of life with the organs, produces the sensations; so these being united with desire, are productive of the mind. (Hence the living and sensitive plants which are devoid of desire, are devoid of mind also).

53. As the flower and its fragrance, and the sesamum seed and its oil are united together; so is animal life inseparably connected with its desire. (Hence extinction of desire is tantamount to living death).

54. The desire being the active principle of man, and subversive of his passive consciousness; it tends to unfold the seed of the mind, as moisture serves to expand the sprouts of vegitable seeds.

55. The pulsation of the vital breath, awakens the senses to their action, and the vibrations of sensation touching the heart strings, move the mind to its perception of them.

56. The infant mind being thus produced by the fluctuating desires, and the fluctuations of vital breaths, becomes conscious of itself, as separate and independent of its causes.

57. But the extinction of either of these two sources of the mind, is attended with the dissolution of the mind; and also of its pains and pleasures, which resemble the two fruits of the tree of the mind.

58. The body resembles a branching tree, beset by the creepers of its acts; our avarice is as a huge serpent coiling about it, and our passions and diseases are as birds nestling in it.

59. It is beset by our erroneous senses, resembling the ignorant birds setting upon it; and our desires are the cankers, that are continually corroding our breasts and minds.

60. The shafts of death are felling down the trees of our minds and bodies; as the blasts of wind toss the fruits of trees upon the ground;and the flying dusts of our desires have filled all sides, and obscured the sights of things from our view.

61. The loose and thick clouds of ignorance overhang on our heads, and the pillars of our bodies, are wrapped around by the flying straws of our loose desires.

62. The small bark of our body, gliding slowly along in quest of pleasure, falls into the eddy of despair; and so every body falls into utter gloom, without looking to the bright light that shines within himself.

63. As the flying dust is allayed by the setting down of the winds, so doth the dust of the mind subside, by subsidence of the force of our vital airs and desires. (The two moving forces of the mind).

64. Again it is intelligence or Samvedya, which is the seed or root of both of these; and there being this intelligence within us, we have both our vitality and our desires also. (The word Samvedya in the text is explained as Chaitanya, which is the same with intelligence).

65. This intelligence springs from Samvid or consciousness; by forsaking its universality, and retaining its individuality;and then it becomes the seed both of vitality and velleity. (Samvid the consciousness of the impersonal self, being vitiated to the knowledge of one's personality, produces the mind and its selfish desires).

66. Know then your intelligence as the same with your consciousness, and resembles the seed of the mind and its desires, both of which quickly die away with their root, like a rootless or uprooted plant and tree.

67. The intelligence never exists without consciousness, and is ever accompanied with it, as the mustard seed and its oil. (Or rather, as the oil is contained in the mustard seed).

68. The wakeful conscience gets its intelligence from its desire, as the waking consciousness of men, views their death and departure to distant lands in dream, from their thoughts of of the same.

69. It is owing to our curiosity only, that our consciousness has its intelligence of the intelligible (God); as it is the desire of knowing any thing, that leads the conscious soul to the knowledge of it. (It means simply that, understanding combined with the desire of knowing a thing, becomes the knowledge itself. Here is a play of the paronyms, Samvid, Samitti, Samvedya, Samvedana and the like).

70. This world is no more than a network of our imagination, as the boys imagine a goblin to be hidden in the dark. (So Bacon: Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark (for fear of demons)).

71. It is as the stump of a tree, appearing as a man in the dark;and like the streaks and particles of sunbeams and moonlight, issuing through the chink of a window or wall, appear as fire: and so are all the cognizables of our cognition (but deceptions of our senses).

72. The objects of our knowledge are as deceptive, as the appearance of a moving mountain, to a passenger in a boat. All appearances are the presentations of our error or ignorance, and disappear at the sight of right knowledge.

73. As the fallacy of the snake in the rope, and the appearance of two moons in the sky, vanish before the keen sightedness of the observer;so the representation of the triple world, disappears in like manner, from before the penetrating understanding.

74. The inward certitude of the illusion of the world, is what is called the perfection of knowledge by the wise; and the knowledge of all things whether seen before or not, is equally a delusion of the mind.

75. It is therefore right, to rub out the impressions of consciousness with diligence; because the preservation of those vestiges, is the cause of our bondage in the world.

76. The erasure of these marks from the mind, is tantamount to our liberation; because the consciousness of these impressions, is the sore cause of repeated transmigrations in this world of woe.

77. The uninert consciousness, which is unconscious of the outward world, but preserves the consciousness of the self, is attended both with present felicity, and want of future regeneration also. Be therefore unconscious of the externals, and conscious of the internal bliss of your soul; because the wakeful soul that is insensible of the externals, is blessed with the sensibility of its inward blissfulness.

78. Rama asked:—How is it possible sir, to be both unconscious and yet uninert; and how can unconsciousness be freed from and get rid of its unavoidable supineness?

Vasishtha replied:—

79. That is called the unsluggish or sensible unconsciousness, which having its existence, dwells on nothing beside itself; and which though it is living, is insensible of everything else (and yet quite sensible of its own existence).

80. He is called both the unconscious and yet uninert, who has no visible object in his consciousness; and who discharges his duties and all the affairs of his life, without attaching his mind to them.

81. He is said to be unslumbering and yet unconscious, whose mind is insensible of the sensible objects of perception; but yet clear with the impressions of the knowable objects of intellectuality: and such a person is said to be the living liberated also (who is removed from the material to the spiritual world, has his ajada asamvid or unslumbering unconsciousness).

82. When the indifferent soul thinks of nothing in itself, but remains with its calm and quiet composure, like a young child or a deaf and dumb person, in possession of his internal consciousness:—

83. It becomes then possest of its wisdom, and rests in full knowledge of itself without its dullness; and is no more liable to the turmoils of this life, nor to the doom of future births.

84. When the adept rests in his state of sedate hybernation, by forsaking all his desires; he perceives a calm delight to pervade his inmost soul, as the blueness overspreading the sky.

85. The unconscious Yogi remains with the consciousness of his unity with that Spirit; which has no beginning nor end; and in which he finds himself to be utterly absorbed and lost.

86. Whether moving or sitting, or feeling or smelling, he seems to abide always, and do everything in the Holy spirit; and with his self-consciousness and unconsciousness of aught besides, he is dissolved in his internal delight.

87. Shut out these worldly sights from your mind, with your utmost endeavours and painstaking;and go across this world of woes, resembling a perilous ocean, on the firm bark of your virtues.

88. As a minute seed produces a large tree, stretching wide in the sky; so doth the minute mind produce these ideal worlds, which fill the empty space of the universe, and appear as real ones to sight.

(The word sankalpa in the text, is used in the triple sense of imagination, reminiscence and hope, all of which are causes of the production of things appearing both as real and unreal).

89. When the conscious soul entertains the idea of some figure in itself, by its imagination, reminiscence or hope; the same becomes the seed of its reproduction, or its being born in the very form which the soul has in its view.

90. So the soul brings forth itself, and falls into its deception by its own choice;and thus loses the consciousness of its freedom, by the subjection to the bondage of life.

91. Whatever form it dotes upon with fondness, the same form it assumes to itself; and cannot get rid of it, as long it cherishes its affection for the same; nor return to its original purity, until it is freed from its impure passions.

92. The soul is no god or demigod, nor either a Yaksha nor Raksha, nor even a Nara—man or Kinnara—manikin; it is by reason of its original delusion—maya, that it plays the part of a player on the stage of the world.

93. As the player represents himself in various shapes, and then resumes and returns to his original form; and as the silkworm binds itself in the cocoon of its own making, and then breaks out of it by itself; so doth the soul resume its primal purity, by virtue of its self-consciousness.

94. Our consciousness is as the water in the great deep of the universe, encompassing all the four quarters of the world, and the huge mountains within it. (As the sea hides the rocks under it).

95. The universal ocean of consciousness, teems with the heaven and earth, the air and the sky, the hills and mountains and the seas and rivers, and all things encompassed by the sides of the compass; as its surges, waves and billows and eddies.

96. It is our consciousness that comprises the world, which is no other beside itself; because the all comprehensive consciousness comprehends all things in itself (in its conscious ideas of them).

97. When our consciousness has its slight pulsation and not its quick vibration, it is then said to rest in itself; and is not moved by the action of outward objects upon it.

98. The seed or source of our consciousness, is the Divine Spirit, which is the inbeing of all beings; and which produces our consciousness, as the solar heat produces the light, and as the fire emits its sparks.

99. This Inbeing in us exhibits itself in two forms within ourselves; the one is our self-consciousness, and the other is our consciousness of many things lying without us: the former is uniform and the latter is of mutable form.

100. This two fold division of the one and same soul, is as the difference of ghata and pata or of the pot and painting, and like that of I and thou, which are essentially the same thing, and have no difference in their in-being.

101. Now do away with this difference, and know the true entity to be a pure unity, which is the positive reality remaining in common with all objects.

102. Forsake the particulars only, and seek the universal one which is the same and in common with all existence. Know this Unity as the totality of beings, and the only adorable One.

103. The variety of external forms, does not indicate any variation in the internal substance; change of outward form, makes a thing unknowable to us as to its former state; but outward and formal differences, make no difference in the real essence.

104. Whatever preserves its uniform and invariable appearance at all times, know that to be the true and everlasting inner essence of the thing (and not its changeful external appearance).

105. Rama! Renounce the doctrines which maintain the eternal subsistence of time and space, of atoms and generalities and the like categories; and rely in the universal category of the one Being in which all others are reducible. (All varieties blend into the Unity of Brahma).

106. Though the endless duration of time, approximates to the nature of the Infinite Existence; yet its divisions into the present, past and future, makes it an ununiform and unreal entity.

107. That which admits of divisibility, and presents its various divisions; and what is seen to diverge to many, cannot be the uniform cause of all (hence time being ever changeful and fleeting, cannot be the unchanging cause of all).

108. Think all bodies as appertaining to one common essence, and enjoy thy full bliss by thinking thyself as the same, and filling all space.

109. He who is the ultimate pause or end of all existence in common, know, O wise Rama! that Being to be the source and seed of the whole universe, which has sprung from Him.

110. He who is the utmost limit of all things in common, and is beyond description and imagination; He is the first and beginning of all, without any beginning of his own, and having no source or seed of himself.

111. He in whom all finite existences are dissolved, and who remains without any change in himself; knowing Him in one's self, no man is subjected to trouble, but enjoys his full bliss in Him.

112. He is the cause of all, without any cause of his own; He is the optimum or best of all, without having anything better than himself.

113.All things are seen in the mirror of his intellect, as the shadow of the trees on the border of a river, is reflected in the limpid stream below.

114.All beings relish their delight in him, as in a reservoir of sweet water; and anything delicious which the tongue doth taste, is supplied from that pure fountain.

115. The intellectual sphere of the mind, which is clearer than the mundane sphere, has its existence from his essence; which abounds with the purest delight, than all dulcet things in the world can afford.

116.All these creatures in the world, rise and live in him; they are nourished and supported by him, and they die and are dissolved in him.

117. He is the heaviest of the heavy and the lightest of all light bodies. He is the most ponderous of all bulky things, and the minutest of the most minute.

118. He is the remotest of the most remote, and the nearest of whatever is most propinqueous to us; He is the eldest of the oldest and the youngest of the most young.

119. He is brighter far than the brightest, and obscurer than the darkest things; He is the substratum of all substances, and farthest from all the sides of the compass.

120. That being is some thing as nothing, and exists as if he were non-existent. He is manifest in all, yet invisible to view; and that is what I am, and yet as I am not the same.

121. Rama! Try your best to get your rest, in that supreme state of felicity; than which there is no higher state for man to desire.

122. It is the knowledge of that holy and unchangeable Spirit, which brings rest and peace to the mind; know then that all-pervasive soul, and be identified with the pure Intellect, for your liberation from all restraint.

(And the way to this state of perfect liberation, is to destroy by degrees the seeds of our restraints to the same. Namely:—To be regardless of the body, which is the seed of worldliness; and then to subdue the mind, which is the seed of the body;and at last to restrain the breathings and desires, which are the roots of sensations and earthly possessions; and thus to destroy the other seeds also, until one can arrive to his intellectual, and finally to his spiritual state).