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 IX - Ascertainment of true knowledge

Argument: Division of the three gunas or qualities. Pure essence of the Gods Hara and others, nature of knowledge and ignorance, and other subjects.

Rama said:—

1. You said sir, that all formal bodies are representations of illusion or ignorance (Avidya); but how do you account for the pure bodies of Hari, Hara and other divinities, and god-heads who are of pure essence in their embodied forms, and which cannot be the creation of our error or delusion. Please, sir, explain these clearly to (spun) me and remove my doubts and difficulties on the subject (The exhibition of gross bodies is the deception of our sense, but the appearance of pure spiritual forms, can not be production of ignorance or sensible deception. We may ignore the forms of material substances, but not those immaterial essences which are given in the sastras. gloss).

Vasishtha replied:—

2. The perceptible world represents the manifestation of the one quiescent and all inherent soul, and exhibits the glory (abhasha) of the essential intellect (sach-chit), which is beyond conception or thought divine.

3. This gives rise to the shape of a partial hypostasis, or there rises of itself hypostatics ([Sanskrit: kalakalarupini]), resembling the rolling fragment of a cloud appearing as a watery substance or filled with water. (This original fiction of the glory of God giving rise to the watery mist like a lighted lamp emitting the inky smoke, is represented in the common belief of dark ignorance ([Sanskrit: avidya]) proceeding from the bright light of divine knowledge ([Sanskrit: vidya]), and exhibited by the allegory of the black goddess of ignorance and illusion ([Sanskrit: avidya] and [Sanskrit: maya]) gushing out of the white and fair god lying inactive and dormant under her; she is hence designated by the various epithets of ([Sanskrit: shyama, kali, jaladha] and [Sanskrit: niradavarana]) and so forth, and this is the whole mystery of the Sakta faith).

4. This hypostatic fragment is also conceived in its three different lights or phases, of rarity, density and rigidity or grossness, ([Sanskrit: sukhsma; madhya, sthula]) resembling the twilight, midday light, and darkness of the solar light. The first of these is called the mind or creative will, the second styled the Brahma Hiranyagarbha or the creative power, and the third is known as Virat, the framer of the material frame, and as identic with creation itself.

5. These are again denominated the three qualities (trigunas), according to their different states, and these are the qualities of reality, brightness and darkness satva, rajas and tamas, which are designated also as the triple nature of things or their swabhavas or prakriti.

6. Know all nature to be characterised by ignorance of the triple states of the positive and comparative and superlative degrees;these are inbred in all living beings, except the Being that is beyond them, and which is the supreme one.

7. Again the three qualities of satva, rajas, and tamas or the positive, comparative and superlative, which are mentioned in this place, have each of them its subdivisions also into three kinds of the same name.

8. Thus the original Ignorance ([Sanskrit: avidya]), becomes of nine kinds by difference of its several qualities;and whatever is seen or known here below, is included under one or of the various kinds. (Hence the saktas reckon ten different forms of [Sanskrit: mahavidya], comprising the primary ignorance and its nine fold divisions).

9. Now Rama, know the positive or satwika quality of ignorance, to comprise the several classes of living beings known as the Rishis, Munis, the Siddhas and Nagas, the Vidyadhars and Suras. (All of these are marked by the positive quality of goodness inborn in their nature).

10. Again this quality of positive goodness comprises the Suras or gods Hara and others of the first class that are purely and truly good. The sages and Siddhas forming the second or intermediate class, are endued with a less share of goodness in them, while Nagas or Vidyadharas making the last class possess it in the least degree.

11. The gods being born with the pure essence of goodness, and remaining unmixed with the properties of other natures, have attained the state of purity (Holiness) like the divine Hari Hara and others. (i.e. So long the divine nature of a god is not shrouded under the veil of ignorance (avidya avarana), he is to be held in the light of a divinity as a Christ or Buddha); otherwise rajasha or qualified states of Hari Hara as they are represented by the vulgar, are neither to be regarded as such).

12. Rama! whoever is fraught with the quality of goodness in his nature, and acquainted with divine knowledge in his mind, such a one is said to be liberated in this life, and freed from further transmigration.

13. It is for this reason, O high minded Rama! that the gods Rudra and others who possess the properties of goodness in them, are said to continue in their liberated state to the final end of the world. (Hence the immortals never die and being released from their earthly coil, their good spirits rove at large in open air; last and until the last doomsday rorqucamat or final resurrection of the dead).

14. Great souls remain liberated, as long as they continue to live in their mortal bodies; and after the shuffling of their frail bodies, they become free as their disembodied spirits; and then reside in the supreme spirit. (i.e. They return to the source from which they had proceeded).

15. It is the part of ignorance to lead men to the performance of acts, which after their death, become the roots of producing other acts also in all successive states of transmigration. (Ignorance leads one to interminable action in repeated births, by making the acts of the prior life to become the source of others in the next, so the acts of ignorance, become the seeds and fruits of themselves by turns, and there is no cessation nor liberation from them).

16. Ignorance rises from knowledge, as the hollow bubble bursts out of the level of liquid water;and it sets and sinks in knowledge likewise, as the bubble subsides to rest in the same water. (Ignorance and its action which are causes of creation, have both their rise from the omniscience and inaction of God until they are dissolved at the dissolution of the world. Physical force rises from and rests in the spiritual. Ignorance—avidya being but a negation of knowledge—vidya, is said to proceed from:—the negative being but privation of the positive).

17. And as there is no such thing as a wave; but a word coined to denote the heaving of water; so there is nothing as ignorance but a word fabricated to express the want of knowledge. (Hence the believers in ignorance are mistaken in relying their faith in a power which has no existence whatever).

18. As the water and waves are identic in their true sense, and there is no material difference between them; so both knowledge and ignorance relating to the same thing, and expressing either its presence or absence, there can be no essential difference in their significance.

19. Leaving aside the sights of knowledge and ignorance, there remains that which always exists of itself (that is, the self-existent God exists, beyond both the knowledge and ignorance of men, or whether they know him or not). It is only the contradiction of adverse parties ([Sanskrit: pratiyogi byavaccheda]) that has introduced these words. (i.e., calling the opponents as ignorant and themselves as the knowing, in their mutual altercation with one another).

20. The sights of knowledge and ignorance are nothing; (i.e., they are both blind to the sight of truth): therefore be firm in what is beyond these, and which can neither be known nor ignored by imagination of it.

21. There is some thing which is not any thing, except that it exists in the manner of the intellect and consciousness chit-samvit, and this again has no representation of it, and therefore that ens or sat is said to be inevident avidya the unknowable.

22. That One Sat being known as this or such, is said to be the destroyer of ignorance; whereas it is want of this knowledge, that gives rise to the false conception of an Avidya or ignorance. (Avidya, mithya, kalpana signifies ignorance to be a false imagination and personification also, as it is seen in the images of the ten Avidyas here).

23. When knowledge and ignorance are both lost in oblivion within one in the intellect as when both the sun-shine and its shadow are lost in shade of night. (i.e., both the knowledge of the subjective ego and objective non-ego which is caused by ignorance being concentrated in the consciousness of the intellect only within one's self).

24. Then there remains the one only that is to be gained and known, and thus it is, that the loss of ignorance tends to the dissipation of self-knowledge likewise (which is caused by it); just as the want of oil extinguishes the lamp. (Egoism and ignorance being akin to one another, both of them rise and remain and die together ([Sanskrit:ajnanahamkarayoreko satitayorut pattinashau yugavadeba]).

25. That what remains afterwards, is either nullity or the whole plenum, in which all these things appear to subsist, or it is nothing at all. (The one is the view of atheists who deny all existence, and the other of mayikas who maintain the visible nature as mere illusion. ([Sanskrit:mayamayamidamakhilam])).

26. As the minute grain of the Indian fig-tree contains within it the future arbor and its undeveloped state, so the almighty power of omnipotence is lodged in the minute receptacle of the spirit before its expansion into immensity. (The developed and undeveloped states of the supreme power, are called its vyakrita and avyakrita forces).

27. The divine spirit is more rarefied than the subtile air, and yet is not a vacuity having the chit or intellect in itself. It is as the sun-stone with its inherent fire and the milk with the latent butter unborn in it. (Hence the spirit of God is said to be embryonic seed of the universe. [Sanskrit: brahmandavijam]).

28. All space and time reside in that spirit for their development, as the spark proceeds from the fire and light issues from the sun in which they are contained. (The will or word of God produces all things from his spiritual essence).

29. So all things are settled in the Supreme intellect, and show themselves unto us as the waves of the sea and as the radiance of gems:and so our understandings also are reflections of the same.

30. The Divine intellect is the store-house of all things, and the reservoir of all consciousness (i.e., the fountain-head of the understandings of all living beings). It is the Divine essence which pervades the inside and outside of every thing. (All things are dependent to the entity of God for their existence, and there is no independent particle whatever).

31. The Divine soul is as imperishable as the air within a pot which is not destroyed by breaking of the vessel, but mixes and continues forever with the common and its surrounding air. Know also the lives and actions of living beings to be dependent upon the will of the God, as the mobility of the iron depends upon the attraction of the loadstone. (This passage negatives the free agency of man, and allows him an activity in common with that of all living beings, under the direction of the great magnet of the Divine spirit and will).

32. The action of the inactive or quiescent spirit of God, is to be understood in the same manner, as the motion of the lead is attributed to the causality of magnetic attraction, which moves the immovable iron. So the inert bodies of living beings, are moved by force of the intellectual soul.

33. The world is situated in that mundane seed of the universe, which is known under the name of intellect attributed to it by the wise. It is as void and formless as empty air, it is nothing nor has any thing in it except itself, and represents all and everything by itself, like the playful waves of the boundless ocean.