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 VII - Magnitude or preponderance of ignorance

Argument:—The effects of ignorance, shown in the evils brought on by our vain desires and fallacies or erroneous judgments.

Vasishtha continued. These beauties that are so decorated with precious gems and jewels, and embellished with the strings of brilliant pearls, are as the playful billows in the milky ocean of the moon-beams of our fond desires.

2. The sidelong looks of the beautiful eyes in their faces, look like a cluster of black bees, sitting on the pericarp of a full blown lotus.

3. These beauties appear as charming, to the enslaved minds of deluded men; and as the vernal flowers which are strewn upon the ground in forest lands.

4. Their comely persons which are compared with the moon, the lotus flower, and sandal paste for their coolness by fascinated minds; are viewed as indifferently by the wise, as by the insensible beasts which make a prey of them. (Lit. by the rapacious wolves and dogs and vultures which devour them).

5. Their swollen breasts which are compared with lotus-buds, ripe pomegranates and cups of gold, are viewed by the wise as a lump of flesh and blood and nauseous liquor.

6. Their fleshy lips, distilling the impure saliva and spittle, are said to exude with ambrosial honey, and to bear resemblance with the ruby and coral and vimba fruits.

7. Their arms with the crooked joints of the wrists and loins, and composed of hard bones in the inside, are compared with creeping plants, by their infatuated admirers and erotic poets.

8. Their thick thighs are likened to the stems of lumpish plantain trees, and the decorations of their protuberant breasts, are resembled to the strings of flowers, hung upon the turrets of temples.

9. Women are pleasant at first, but become quarrelsome afterwards; and then fly away in haste, like the goddess of fortune; and yet they are desired by the ignorant. (But when the old woman frets, let her go alone).

10. The minds of the ignorant, are subject to many pains and pleasures in this life; and the forest of their misdeeds, shoots forth in a thousand branches, bearing the woeful fruits of misery only. (The tree of sin brought death into the world and all our woe. Milton).

11. The ignorant are fast bound in the net of their folly, and their ritual functions are the ropes, that lead them to the prison-house of the world. The words of their lips, like the mantras and musical words of their mouths, are the more for their bewilderment. (The ignorant are enslaved by their ritualistic rites; but the Sages are enfranchised by their spiritual knowledge).

12. The overspreading mist of ignorance, stretches out a maze of ceremonial rites, and envelopes the minds of common people in utter darkness; as the river Yamuna overflows its banks with its dark waters.

13. The lives of the ignorant, which are so pleasant with their tender affections, turn out as bitter as the juice of hemlock, when the affections are cut off by the strong hand of death (i.e., the pleasures of life are embittered by the loss of relatives).

14. The senseless rabble are driven and carried away, like the withered and shattered leaves of trees, by the ever blowing winds of their pursuits; which scatter them all about as the dregs of earth, and bespatter them with the dirt and dust of their sins.

15. All the world is as a ripe fruit in the mouth of death, whose voracious belly is never filled with all its ravages, for millions and millions of kalpa ages. (The womb of death is never full).

16. Men are as the cold bodies and creeping reptiles of the earth, and they crawl and creep continually in their crooked course, by breathing the vital air, as the snakes live upon the current air. (Serpents are said to live a long time without food, simply by inhaling the open air).

17. The time of youth passes as a dark night, without the moon-light of reason; and is infested by the ghosts of wicked thoughts and evil desires.

18. The flippant tongue within the mouth, becomes faint with cringing flattery; as the pistil rising from the seed vessel, becomes languid under the freezing frost.

19. Poverty branches out like the thorny Salmali tree, in a thousand branches of misery, distress, sorrow, sickness, and all kinds of woe to human beings. (Poverty is the root of all evils in life).

20. Concealed covetousness like the unseen bird of night, is hidden within the hollow cavity of the human heart, resembling the stunted chaitya trees of mendicants; and then it shrieks and hoots out from there, during the dark night of delusion which has overspread the sphere of the mind.

21. Old age lays hold on youth by the ears, as the old cat seizes on the mouse, and devours its prey after sporting with it for a long while.

22. The accumulation of unsubstantial materials, which causes the formation of the stupendous world, is taken for real substantiality by the unwise; as the foaming froths and ice-bergs in the sea, are thought to be solid rocks by the ignorant sailor. (So all potential existences of the vedantist, are sober realities of the positive philosophy).

23. The world appears as a beautiful arbour, glowing with the blooming blossoms of Divine light; which is displayed over it; and the belief of its reality, is the plant which is fraught with the fruitage of all our actions and duties. (The world is believed as the garden of the actions of worldly men, but the wise are averse to actions and their results).

24. The great edifice of the world, is supported by the pillars of its mountains, under its root of the great vault of heaven; and the sun and moon are the great gateways to this pavilion. (The sun and moon are believed by some as the doors leading the pious souls to heaven).

25. The world resembles a large lake, over which the vital breaths are flying as swarms of bees on the lotus-beds of the living body; and exhaling the sweets which are stored in the cell of the heart (i.e., the breath of life wafts away the sweets of the immortal soul).

26. The blue vault of heaven appears as a spacious and elevated dome to the ignorant who think it to contain all the worlds, which are enlightened by the light of the sun situated in the midst. But it is an empty sphere, and so the other worlds beyond the solar system, to which the solar light doth never reach.

27. All worldly minded men, are as old birds tied down on earth by the strong strings of their desires; and their heart moves about the confines of their bodies, and their heart strings throb with hopes in the confines of their bodies, as birds in cages in the hope of getting their release.

28. The lives of living beings are continually dropping down, like the withered leaves of trees, from the fading arbours of their decayed bodies, by the incessant breathing of their breath of life. (The respiration of breath called ajapa, is said to be the measure of life).

29. The respectable men, that are joyous of their worldly grandeur for a short time, are entirely forgetful of the severe torments of hell, awaiting on them afterwards.

30. But the godly people enjoy their heavenly delights as gods, in the cooling orb of the moon; or range freely under the azure sky, like heavenly cranes about the limpid lakes.

31. There they taste the sweet fruits of their virtuous deeds on earth; and inhale the fragrance of their various desires, as the bees sip the sweetness of the opening lotus.

32. All worldly men are as little fishes (shrimps), swimming on the surface of this pool of the earth; while the sly and senile death pounces upon them as a kite, and bears them away as his prey without any respite or remorse.

33. The changeful events of the world, are passing on every day, like the gliding waves and the foaming froths of the sea, and the ever changing digits of the moon.

34. Time like a potter, continually turns his wheel, and makes an immense number of living beings as his pots; and breaks them every moment, as the fragile play-things of his own whim.

35. Innumerable kalpa ages have been incessantly rolling on, over the shady quiescence of eternity;and multitudes of created worlds have been burnt down, like thick woods and forests, by the all desolating conflagrations of desolation. (According to the Hindus the universal destruction, takes place by the Violent concussion of all the elements, and by the diluvian floods also).

36. All worldly things are undergoing incessant changes, by their appearance and disappearance by turns; and the vicissitudes of our states and circumstances, from these of pleasure and prosperity to the state of pain and misery and vice versa, in endless succession. (Pain and pleasure succeed one another).

37· Notwithstanding the instability of nature, the ignorant are fast bound by the chain of their desire, which is not to be broken even by the thunder bolt of heaven. (Man dies, but his desires never die, they keep their company wherever he may fly).

38. Human desire bears the invulnerable body of the Jove and Indra, which being wounded on all sides by the Titans of disappointment, resumed fresh vigour at every stroke. (So our desires grow stronger by their failure, than when they are allayed by their satisfaction).

39. All created beings are as particles of dust in the air, and are flying with the currents of wind into the mouth of the dragon-like death, who draws all things to his bowels by the breath of his mouth. (Huge snakes are said to live upon air, and whatever is borne with it into his belly).

40. As all the crudities of the earth, and its raw fruits and vegetables, together with the froth of the sea and other marine productions, are carried by the currents to be consumed by the submarine heat, so all existence is borne to the intestinal fire of death to be dissolved into nothing.

41. It is by a fortuitous combination of qualities, that all things present themselves unto us with their various properties; and it is the nature of these which exhibits them with those forms as they present to us; as she gives the property of vibration to the elementary bodies, which show themselves in the forms of water and air unto us.

42. Death like a ferocious lion, devours the mighty and opulent men; as the lion kills the big elephant with his frontal pearls.

43. Ambitious men are as greedy birds of air upon earth, who like the voracious vultures on the tops of high hills, are born to live and die in their aerial exploits, as on the wings of clouds in search of their prey.

44. Their minds liken painter's paintings on the canvas of their intellects, showing all the variegated scenes of the world, with the various pictures of things perceptible by the five senses (i.e., the images of all sensible objects are portrayed in the intellect).

45. But all these moving and changeful scenes, are breaking up and falling to pieces at every moment; and producing our vain sorrow and griefs upon their loss, in this passing and aerial city of the world.

46. The animal creations and the vegetable world, are standing as passive spectators, to witness and meditate in themselves the marvelous acts of time, in sparing them from among his destruction of others.

47. How these moving creatures are subject every moment, to the recurrent emotions of passions and affections, and to the alterations of affluence and want; and how they are incessantly decaying under age and infirmity, disease and death from which their souls are entirely free. (Hence the state of torpid immobility is reckoned as a state of bliss, by the Hindu and Buddhistic Yogis and ascetics).

48. So the reptiles and insects on the surface of the earth, are continually subjected to their tortuous motions by their fate, owing to their want of quiet inaction, of which they are capable in their subterranean cells. (The Yogis are wont to confine themselves in their under-ground retreats, in order to conduct their abstract meditations without disturbance. So Demosthenes perfected himself in his art of eloquence in his subterrene cave).

49. But all these living bodies are devoured every moment, by the all destructive time in the form of death; which like the deadly and voracious dragon lies hidden in his dark-some den (Here the word kala is used in its triple sense of time, death, and snake all which being equally destructive and hidden in darkness, it is difficult to distinguish the subject from its comparison. Hence we may say, time like death and snake or death like time and snake or the snake like time and death, devours all living creatures, insects and other reptiles also).

50. The trees however are not affected by any of these accidents, because they stand firm on their roots, and though suffering under heat and cold and the blasts of heaven, yet they yield their sweet fruits and flowers for the supportance and delight of all living creatures. (So the Yogis stand firm on their legs, and while they suffer the food and rest privations of life and the inclemencies of weather, they impart the fruits of divine knowledge to the rest of mankind, who would otherwise perish like the insects of the earth, without their knowledge of truth and hope of future bliss).

51. The meek Yogis that dwell in their secluded and humble cells, are seen also to move about the earth, and imparting the fruits of their knowledge to others; as the bees residing in the cells of lotuses, distribute their stores of honey after the rains are over. (The Yogis and the bees remain in their cells during the four months of the rainy season (varsha-chatur masya), after which they be-take to their peregrinations abroad).

52. They preach about the lectures as the bees chaunt their rhyme all about, saying; that the earth which is as a big port; it supplies the wants of the needy, for making them a morsel in the mouth of the goddess of death (i.e., the earth supports all beings for their falling into the bowels of death).

53. The dreaded goddess Kali wearing the veil of darkness over her face, and eying all with her eyeballs, as bright as the orbs of the sun and moon, gives to all beings all their wants, in order to grasp and gorge them in herself. (The black goddess Kali or Hecate, nourishes all as matrika or matres, and then devours them as death, like the carnivorous glutton, that fattens the cattle to feed and feast upon them).

54. Her protuberant and exuberant breasts are as bountiful as the bounty of God, to suckle the gods and men and all beings on earth and hills and in the waters below. (But how can death be the sustainer of all).

55. It is the energy of the Divine intellect, which is the matrika-mater or mother (mater or materia of all, and assumes the forms of density and tenuity and also of motion and mobility; the clusters of stars are the rows of her teeth, and the morning and evening twilights, are the redness of her two lips).

(She is called Usha and sandhya or the dawning and evening lights, because of her existence in the form of the twilights, before the birth of the solar and lunar lights. The Vedas abound with hymns to usha and sandhya and these form the daily ritual of the Brahmans to this day under the title of their Tri-sandya—the triple litany at sun-rise, sun-set and vertical sun).

56. Her palms are as red as the petals of lotuses, and her countenance is as bright as the paradise of Indra; she is decorated with the pearls of all the seas, and clad with an azure mantle all over her body (Hence the goddess Kali is represented as all black from her blue vest).

57. The Jambudwipa or Asia forms her naval or midmost spot, and the woods and forests form the hairs of her body. She appears in many shapes and again disappears from view, and plays her part as the most veteran sorceress in all the three worlds. (The text calls her an old hag, that often changes her paints and garments to entice and delude all men to her).

58. She dies repeatedly and is reborn again, and then passes into endless transformations, she is now immerged in the great ocean or bosom of Kala or Death her consort, and rises up to assume other shapes and forms again. (Hence the mother-goddess is said to be the producer and destroyer of all by their repeated births and deaths in their everchanging shapes and forms).

59. The great Kalpa ages are as transitory moments in the infinite duration of Eternity, and the mundane eggs (or planetary bodies in the universe); are as passing bubbles upon the unfathomable ocean of infinity; they rise and last and are lost by turns.

60. It is at the will of God, that the creative powers rise and fly about as birds in the air; and it is by his will also, that the uprisen creation becomes extinct like the burning flash of the lightning. (The flaming worlds shoot forth, and are blown out as sparks of fire).

61. It is in the sunshine of the divine Intellect, and under the canopy of everlasting time, that the creations are continually rising and falling like the fowls of forestlands, flying up and down under the mist of an all encompassing cloud of ignorance.

62. As the tall palm tree lets to fall its ripened fruits incessantly upon the ground; so the over topping arbor of time, drops down the created worlds and the lords of Gods perpetually into the abyss of perdition. (There is an alliteration and homonym of the words, tala and pattala meaning both tall and the tala or palm tree).

63. The gods also are dying away like the twinklings of their eyes, and old time is wearing away with all its ages, by its perpetual tickings. (The ever wakeful eyes of gods are said to have no twinkling; but time is said to be continually twinkling in its ticking moments).

64. There are many Rudras existing in the essence of Brahma, and they depend on the twinkling of that Deity for their existence. (The immortal gods are mortal, before the Eternal God).

65. Such is Brahma the lord of gods, under whom these endless acts of evolutions and involutions are for ever taking place, in the infinite space of his eternal Intellect and omnipotent will.

66. What wonderous powers are there that cannot possibly reside in the Supreme spirit, whose undecaying will gives rise to all positive and possible existences. It is ignorance therefore to imagine the world as a reality of itself.

67. All these therefore is the display of the deep darkness of ignorance, that appears to you as the vicissitudes of prosperity and adversity, and as the changes of childhood, youth, old-age and death; as also the occurrences of pain and pleasure and of sorrow and grief. (All of which are unrealities in their nature).