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 VIII - Allegory of the spreading arbour of ignorance

Argument:—Description of ignorance as a wide spreading tree.

Vasishtha continued. Hear me now relate to you Rama, how this poisonous tree of ignorance has come to grow in this forest of the world, and to be situated by the side of the intellect, and how and when it came to blossom and bloom. (The Divine intellect is the stupendous rock, and the creation is the forest about it, in which there grew the plant of error also).

2. This plant encompasses all the three worlds, and has the whole creation for its rind, and the mountains for its joints (Here is a play of the word parva and parvata which are paronymous terms, signifying a joint and mountain; Hence every mountain is reckoned as the joint or land-mark of a country dividing it from another tract of land).

3. It is fraught with its leaves and roots, and its flowers and fruits, by the continuous births and lives and pleasures and pains and the knowledge and error of mankind. (All these are the productions of human ignorance).

4. Prosperity gives rise to our ignorance of desiring to be more prosperous in this or in our next lives (by means of our performance of ceremonial rites), which are productive of future welfare also. So doth adversity lead us to greater error of practising many malpractices to get rid of it; but which on the contrary expose us to greater misfortunes. (Hence it is folly to make choice of either, which is equally pernicious).

5. One birth gives rise to another and that leads to others without end; hence it is foolishness in us to wish to be reborn again. (All births are subject to misery; it is ignorance therefore to desire a higher or lower one, by performance of paratrika acts for future lives).

6. Ignorance produces greater ignorance, and brings on unconsciousness as its effect: so knowledge leads on to higher knowledge, and produces self-consciousness as its result. (Good tends to best, and bad to the worst. Better tends to best, and worse to the worst).

7. The creeping plant of ignorance, has the passion for its leaves, and the desires for its odours; and it is continually shaking and shuffling with the leafy garment on its body.

8. This plant falls sometimes in its course, on the way of the elephant of Reason; it then shakes with fear, and the dust which covers its body, is all blown away by the breath of the elephant's trunk; but yet the creeper continues to creep on by the byways according to its wont.

9. The days are its blossoms, and the nights are the swarms of black bees, that overshadow its flowers; and the continued shaking of its boughs, darts down the dust of living bodies from it, both by day and night. (i.e., Men that live upon their desires and hopes, are daily dying away).

10. It is overgrown with its leaves of relatives, and overloaded with the shooting buds of its offspring; it bears the blossoms of all seasons, and yields the fruits of all kinds of flowers.

11. All its joints are full of the reptiles of diseases, and its stem is perforated by the cormorants of destruction; yet it yields the luscious juice of delight to those that are bereft of their reason and good sense.

12. Its flowers are the radiant planets, that shine with the sun and moon every day in the sky;the vacuum is the medium of their light, and the rapid winds are vehicles, that bear their rays as odours unto us. (Vacuity is the receptacle of light, but the vibrations of air transmit it to our sight).

12a. Ignorance blossoms every day in the clusters of the bright planetary bodies, that shine with the sun and moon by day and night; and the winds playing in the air, bear their light like perfumes to us.

(i.e. It is the spirit that glows in the stars, and breathes in the air, but ignorance attributes these to the planets and breezes, and worships them as the navagrahas and marut ganas, both in the vedas and the popular Puranic creeds).

12b. Ignorance blossoms in the clusters of stars and planets, shining about the sun and moon every day; and breathes in the breezes blowing at random amidst the vacuous firmament. (Hence the ignorant alone adore the stars and winds in the vedas, but the sapient know the light of God to glow in the stars, and his spirit to breathe in the air).

13. These innumerable stars that you see scattered in the vault of heaven, O son of Raghu's race, are the blooming blossoms of this arbor of ignorance (i.e. ignorance shows them as twinkling stars to us, while they are numberless shining worlds in reality).

14. The beams of the sun and moon, and the flames of fire, which are scattered about us like the crimson dust of flowers; resemble the red paint on the fair body of ignorance, with which this delusive lady attracts our minds to her.

15. The wild elephant of the mind, ranges at large under the arbour of Ignorance; and the birds of our desires, are continually hovering and warbling upon it; while the vipers of sensual appetites, are infesting its stem, and avarice settles as a huge snake at the root. (The text has the words "and greediness decorates its bark" which bear no meaning).

16. It stretches with its head to the blue vault of the sky, forming as a canopy of black arbour of black Tamala trees over it. The earth supports its trunk, and sky overtops its top; and it makes a garden of the universe (with its out stretched arms).

17. It is deeply rooted underneath the ground, and is watered with milk and curds, in the canals of the milky and other oceans, which are dug around its trunk.

18. The rituals of the three vedas, are fluttering like the bees over the tree, blooming with the blossoms of beauteous women, and shaking with the oscillations of the mind; while it is corroded in the inside by the cankering worms of cares and actions. (It means to say, that the vedic rites, the love of women, the thoughts of the mind and the bodily actions, are all attendants of ignorance; and he is wise who refrains from them in toto).

19. The tree of ignorance, blossoming like the flowers of the garden of paradise, exhales the sweet odours of pleasure around; and the serpent of vice twining round it, leads the living souls perpetually to evil deeds, for the supportance of their lives.

20. It blooms with various flowers, to attract the hearts of wise; and it is fraught with various fruits, distilling their sweets all around. (These fruits and flowers are the sensual pleasures, which allure the ignorant to them).

21. With the aqueducts about, it invites the birds of the air to drink of them;and being besmeared with the dust of its flowers, it appears to stand as a rock of red earth or granite to sight. (The water beds below it, are mistaken for the salsabil or streams of Paradise, and its rock-like appearance, shows the grossness of ignorance crasse or tabula rasa).

22. It shoots out with buds of mistakes, and is beset by the briars of error; it grows luxuriant in hilly districts, with exuberance of its leafy branches. (Meaning that the hill people are most ignorant).

23. It grows and dies and grows again, and being cut down it springs out anon; so there is no end of it. (It is hard to extirpate ignorance at once).

24. Though past and gone, yet it is present before us, and though it is all hollow within, it appears as thick and sound to sight. It is an ever fading and ever green tree, and the more it is lopped and cropt, the more it grows and expands itself.

25. It is a poisonous tree, whose very touch benumbs the senses in a moment; but being pressed down by reasoning, it dies away in a trice.

26. All distinctions of different objects, are dissolved in the crucible of the reasoning mind; but they remain undissolved in their crude forms in the minds of the ignorant, who are employed in differentiating the various natures of men and brutes, and of terrene and aquatic animals.

27. They distinguish the one as the nether world, and the other as the upper sky; and make distinctions between the solar and lunar planets, and the fixed starry bodies. (But there are no ups and downs, nor any thing as fixed in infinite vacuity).

28. Here there is light, and there is darkness on the other side, and this is empty space and that is the solid ground; these are the sastras and these are the Vedas, are distinctions unknown to the wise.

29. It is the same spirit that flies upward in the bodies of birds, or remains above in the form of gods; the same spirit remains fixed in the forms of fixed rocks or moves in continued motion with the flying winds.

30. Sometimes it resides in the infernal regions, and at others it dwells in the heavens above; sometimes it is exalted to the dignity of gods, and some where it remains in the state of mean insects and worms.

31. In one place it appears as glorious as the god Vishnu, and in another it shows itself in the forms of Brahma and Siva. Now it shines in the sun, and then it brightens in the moon; here it blows in the blowing winds, and there it sways in the all-subduing yama. (Some Europeans have conjectured and not without good reason, the relentless god of death the yama of Hindus, to be same with as the ruthless king Jamshed of prehistoric Persia. So says Hafiz Ayineye, Sekendar Jame jamast bingars).

32. Whatever appears as great and glorious, and all that is seen as mean and ignoble in their form, from the biggest and bright sun down to the most contemptible grass and straw; are all pervaded by the universal spirit: it is ignorance that dwells upon the external forms; but knowledge that looks into the inner soul, obtains its sight up the present state.