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 XXXII - On the sustentation and dissolution of the body

Argument: Exposition of the animation of the complicate Body, and its ultimate decomposition at death.

The god continued:—

1. Hear me, holy sage! now relate to you, how the active and oscillating principle of the intellect, acts on the human body and actuates it to all its actions, whereby it receives the noble title of its active agent. (The disembodied and nameless intellect, gets many appellations in its embodied state, according to its various temporal and spiritual avocations and occupations in life. gloss).

2. But the mind of man which is impelled by its former (or pristine) propensities, prevails over the (good) intellect; and being hardened in its vicious deeds, pursues its changeful wishes and desires. (The former evil propensities refer to those of past lives, and allude to the original depravity of human nature and will).

3. The mind being strengthened by illusion (maya), the intellect becomes dull and stultified as stone; and this power of delusion growing stronger by divine dispensation, displayed the universe to view. (The maya is otherwise called Brahma Sakti Divine omnipotence, which overpowers on the omniscience of God in the acts of creation, &c. Hence the neutral omniscience is called the Intellect chit, and the active omnipotence is styled the mind).

4. It is by the good grace of this power, that the intellect is allowed to perceive sometimes, the fallacy of the aerial city of this world, and at others to think it as a reality. (i.e. It comes to detect the fallacy by exercise of its intellection, and thinks it real by its subjection-illusion).

5. The body remains as dumb as stone, without the presence of the intellect, the mind and its egoism in it; and it moves about with their presence in it, as when a stone is flung in the air.

6. As the dull iron is made to move, by its contiguity to or attraction of the loadstone; so doth the living soul jiva act its parts, by the presence of the omnipresent soul in it. (The actions of the living soul are its respirations, and direction of the organs of action to their respective function).

7. It is by the power of the all pervading soul, that the living principle shoots out in infinity forever, as the germs of trees sprout forth the seed in all places. And as the recipient mirror receives the reflection of objects situated at a distance from it, so the living soul gets the reflex or image of the distant supreme spirit in itself. (God made man in his own image).

8. It is by forgetfulness of its own and real nature, that the living soul contracts its foul gross object, as a legitimate twice-born man mistakes himself for a sudra by forgetting his birth by such error or illusion.

9. It is by unmindfulness of its own essence, that the intellect is transformed to the sensuous mind; as some great souls are deceived to believe their miserableness in the distractedness of their intellect percipience. (Men are often misled to believe themselves otherwise than what they are, as it was the case with the princes Lavana, Gadhi, and Harischandra mentioned before and as it turns out with all miserable mortals, who forget their immortal and celestial natures).

10. It is the intellect which moves the dull and inert body, as the force of the winds shakes the waters of the deep to roll and range about in chains and trains of waves.

11. The active mind which is always prone to action, leads the machine of the body together, with the passive and helpless living soul at random, as the winds drive about in different directions, together with the inert stones (ballast) contained in it. (i.e. The mind is the mover of both the body and soul, but the intellect is the primum mobile of all).

12. The body is the vehicle, and God has employed the mind and the vital breath, as the two horses or bullocks for driving it. (The mind is said also to be its driver, the soul its rider, and the breaths are its coursers).

13. Others say, that the rarefied intellect assumes a compact form, which becomes the living soul; and this riding on the car of the mind, drives it by the vital airs as its racers. (Hence the course of the mind and its thoughts, are stopped with the stoppage of respiratory breaths).

14. Sometimes the intellect seems as something born and to be in being, as in its state of waking and witnessing the objects all around;at others it seems to be dead and lost as in the state of its profound sleep. Again it appears as many, as in its dreaming state; and at last it comes to know itself as one and a unit, when it comes to the knowledge of truth and of its identity with the sole unity.

15. Sometimes it seems to be of a different form, without forsaking its own nature; as the milk becomes the butter and curd etc. and as the water appears in the shape of a billow or wave or of its foam or froth. (That changed in all, yet in all the same &c. Pope).

16. As all things depend upon light, to show their different forms and colours to view, so the mental powers and faculties, do all of them depend upon the intellectual soul for their several actions. (The intellect in the form of the soul, directs and exhibits the actions of the mind).

17. Again the Supreme Spirit being situated in the mind within the body, the animal soul has its life and action;as all things appear to sight, while the lighted lamp shines inside the room. (As the silent soul directs the mind, so the active mind keeps the soul alive).

18. The ungoverned mind gives rise to all diseases and difficulties, that rise as fastly and thickly, as the perturbed waters rise in waves, which foam out with thickening froth.

19. The living soul dwelling like the bee in the lotus-bed of the body, is also subject to diseases and difficulties as the bee to the rains and flood; and it is as disturbed by the casualties of life, as the calm sea-water are perturbed to waves by the blowing winds.

20. The dubitation that, "the divine soul is omnipotent, and the living soul is impotent and limited in its powers; and therefore the human soul is not the same with the Divine"; is the cause of our woe, and serves to darken the understanding; as the clouds raised by the sunlight, serve to obscure the solar disk (this doubt leading to dualism, cuts us from God and exposes us to all the calamities of life).

21. The sentient soul passes under many transmigrations in its insensibility, and in utter want of its self consciousness; like one subdued to dull obtuseness by some morphia drug, which makes him insensible of the pain inflicted upon his own person, (This drug is some anaesthetic agent as opium, chloroform and the like).

22. But as it comes to know itself afterwards by some means or other, it recovers from its dull insensibility, and regains its state of original purity; as a drunken or deluded person turns to his duty, after he comes to remember himself. (So the lost and stray sheep, returns to its fold and master).

23. The sentient soul that fills the body, and is employed in enlivening all its members, does not strive to know the cause of its consciousness; as a leper never attempts to make use of any part of his body, which he is incapable to raise. (So the soul that is drowned in ignorance and dead in its sin, will never rise to reclaim its redemption by reproving itself).

24. When the soul is devoid of its consciousness, it does not enable the tube of the lotus-like heart to beat and vibrate with the breath of respiration; but makes it as motionless as a sacrificial vessel unhandled by the priest.

25. The action of the lotiform heart having ceased, the motion of the vital breaths is stopped also; as the fanning of the palmleaf fan being over, there is no more the current of the outer air.

26. The cessation of the vital air in the body, and its flight to some other form, sets the life to silence and sink in the original soul; just as the suspension of the blowing winds, sets the flying dusts to rest on the ground.

27. At this time, O sage, the mind alone remains on its unsullied state and without its support; until it gets another body, wherein it rests as the embryonic seed lies in the earth and water.

28. Thus the causes of life being deranged on all sides, and the eight principles of the body inert and extinct (in their actions); the body droops down and becomes defunct and motionless. (The eight principles called the puryashtakas).

29. Forgetfulness of the intellect, the intelligible (truth) and intelligence, produces the desires of them to vibrate; these give to remembrances of the past, and their want buries them to oblivion.

30. The expansion of the lotus-like heart, causes the puryashtaka body to expand also; but when the organ of the heart ceases to blow and breathe, the body ceases to move.

31. As long as the puryashtaka elements remain in the body, so long it lives and breathes; but these elementary powers being quiet and still, the body becomes inert and is said to be dead.

32. When the contrary humours, the feelings and passions and sensible perceptions, and the outward wounds and strokes, cause the inward action of the organic heart to stop:—

33. Then the puryashtaka forces are pent up in the cavity of the heart, as the force of the blowing winds, is lost in the hollow of a pair of blowing bellows.

34. When a living body has its inward consciousness, and becomes inert and motionless in its outer parts and members, it is still alive by the action of breathing in the inner organ of the heart.

35. Those whose pure and holy desires never forsake their hearts, they live in one quiet and even state of life, and are known as the living liberated and long living seers. (The pure desires are free from the influence of passions, and tendency to earthly enjoyments; which cause holy life and give longevity to man). (An unperturbed mind is the best preservative of health).

36. When the action of the lotus like machine of the heart has ceased, and the breath ceases to circulate in the body, it loses its steadiness, and falls unsupported on the ground as a block of wood or stone.

37. As the octuple body mixes with the air in the vacuum of the sky, so is the mind also absorbed in it at the same time.

38. But being accompanied with the thoughts, to which it has been long accustomed, it continues to wander about in the air, and amidst the regions of heaven and hell, which it has long believed to await on its exit from the body.

39. The body becomes a dead corpse, after the mind has fled from it in the air; and it remains as an empty house, after its occupant has departed from it.

40. The all pervading intellect, becomes by its power of intellection both the living soul as well as the mind; and after passing from its embodied form (of puryashtaka), it assumes its spiritual (ativahika) nature afterwards.

41. It fosters in its bosom the quintessence (pancha tan matram) of the subtile elemental mind, which assumes a grosser form afterwards, as the thoughts of things appear in dream.

42. Then as the intensity of its thoughts, makes the unreal world and all its unrealities, appear as real before it, it comes to forget and forsake its spiritual nature, and transform itself to a gross body.

43. It thinks by mistake the unreal body as substantial, and believes the unreal as real and the real as unreal. (i.e. It takes the unreal material as real; and the real spiritual as nothing).

44. It is but a particle of the all pervading Intellect, that makes the living soul, which reflects itself afterwards in the form of the intelligent mind. (The understanding is a partial reflection of the Intellect. Gloss). The mind then ascends on the vehicle of the octuple body, and surveys the phenomenal world as a sober reality. (i.e. The senses of the body, represent the universe as real).

45. The intellect is the prime mobile power, that gives force to the octuple material (puryashtaka) body to move itself; and the action of the breath in the heart which is called life, resembles the spiritual force of a ghost raising an inert body. (The power of spirits entering and moving inert bodies, forms a firm belief in India).

46. When the aerial mind flies into the vacuous air, after the material frame is weakened and worn out; then the lifeless body remains as a block of wood or stone, and is called a dead mass by those that are living.

47. As the living soul forgets its spiritual nature, and becomes decayed in course of time and according to the frail nature of material things; so it fades and falls away in the manner of the withered leaves of trees.

48. When the vital power forsakes the body, and the action of the pericardium is stopped; the breath of life becomes extinct, and the animated being is said to die away.

49. As all beings that are born and have come to life, fade away in time like all created things in the world; so do human bodies also fade and fall away in time, like the withered leaves of trees.

50. The bodies of all embodied beings, are equally doomed to be born and die also in their time; as the leaves of trees, are seen to be incessantly growing and falling off at all seasons; why then should we lament at the loss of what is surely to be lost.

51. Look at these chains of living bodies, which are indiscriminately and incessantly rising and falling like bubbles and billows, in the vast ocean of the divine Intellect, and there is no difference of any one of them from another; why then should the wise make any distinction between objects that are equally frail in their nature, and proceed from and return to the same source.

52. The all-pervading intellect reflects itself only in the mind of man, and no where else; as it is the mirror only that receives the reflections of objects, and no other opaque substance besides.

53. The acts and fates of men are all imprinted in the spacious and clear page of the Divine intellect, and yet are all embodied beings loud in their cries and complaints against the decrees of Heaven which is owing to their ignorance, and tending to their bitter grief and vain lamentation.