Chapter 3 — Repeated Creations of the World; Repeated Incarnations of the Same Personality

Vasishta said, “Rama, I will now expound to you the knowledge that was imparted of old by the lotus-born (Brahma) for the peace of mankind after he created the world.”

Rama said, “Sage, I know that you will expound to me the subject of liberation in full length, but first remove my false ideas about the frailty of this world. How was it that the great sage Vyasa, the father and guide of Shuka, with all his omniscience, did not attain disembodied emancipation when his son did?”

Vasishta said, “There is no counting the atoms that proceed from the spirit and form the three worlds both before and after the birth of the glorious sun. There is nobody who can even count the millions of orbs that form the three worlds. Nor can anyone calculate what numbers of creation will rise from the ocean of divine existence like endless waves.”

Rama said, “It is needless to talk of worlds gone by or yet to come. Speak of the present.”

Vasishta said:—

This world consists of brute, human and heavenly beings whose lives, when they are said to perish in any part of it, really exist in the same part.

The mind is described as ever-fluctuating. In itself, it gives rise to everything in the three worlds. It resides in a void in the form of the heart, and the Uncreated also resides in the empty space of the soul (giving the mind the power to realize the latent ideas of the soul).

10 The millions of beings who are dead, those who are dying and will die hereafter, are all to be reborn here according to the different desires in their minds. 11 The external world appears as a reality, but in truth it is only a creation of our desires. It is an ideal castle in the air, and a magic view spread before us. 12 It is as false as an earthquake in a fit of delirium, like a hobgoblin shown to terrify children, like a string of pearls in the clear sky, and like trees on a bank appear moving to a passenger in a boat. 13 It is an illusion like the phantom of a city in a dream, and as untrue as the imagination of a flower growing in the air.

It is at the point of death and afterwards that the unreality of the world best appears. 14 But this knowledge (of the unreality of the world) becomes darkened upon being reborn on earth, when the shadow of this world again falls on the mirror of his sentient soul. 15 Thus there is a struggle for repeated births and deaths here, and a fancy for the next world after death. 16 After he shuffles off his body, he assumes another and then another form, and thus the world is as unstable as a stool made of plantain leaves and its coatings.

17 The dead have no sensation of the earth and other bodies made of the elements, or of the course of the world, but they fall again to these errors upon being reborn here. 18 There is an interminable ignorance resembling an immense river enveloping the face of creation, and breaking into streamlets of ignorance that are impossible to cross.

19 Divinity like a sea shoots forth in various waves of creation that rise constantly and plentifully one after the other. 20 All beings here are only the waves of this sea. Some are alike to one another in their minds and natures, while others are half alike, and some quite different from the rest.

21 I reckon that sage Vyasa there, on account of his vast knowledge and good looking appearance, is one of thirty-two of these waves. 22 There were twelve possessed of a lesser understanding. They were the patriarchs of men and endued with equal energy. Ten were men of subdued spirits, and the rest were adepts in their family duties.

23 There will be born again other Vyasas and Valmikis, and likewise some other Bhrigus and Angiras, as well as other Pulastyas and others in different forms. 24 All other men, asuras and gods with all their hosts are repeatedly born and destroyed either in their former or different shapes.

25 Like this there are seventy-two treta cycles in a kalpa age of Brahma, some of which have passed by and others to follow. Thus will there be other people like those who have gone by and, as I understand, another Rama and Vasishta like ourselves. 26 There have been ten successive incarnations of this Vyasa who has done such wonderful deeds and is famed for his vast knowledge. 27 Myself and Valmiki have been contemporaries many a time, born in different ages and very many times. 28 We have been together many times, and there were others also like myself, and so was I also born in many forms (in many ages).

29 This Vyasa will be born again eight times hereafter, and he will again write his Mahabharata and the Purana histories. 30 He will finally attain liberation from the body after he has divided the Vedas, described the acts of Bharata’s race (in the Mahabharata), and established the knowledge of Brahman (in the Vedanta). 31 This Vyasa who is devoid of fear and sorrow, and who has become tranquil and emancipate in himself after subduing his mind and discarding the worldly desires, is said to be liberated even in his present lifetime.

32 Those liberated in life may sometimes associate with relatives and estates, his acts and duties, his knowledge and wisdom, and all his exertions, like those of any other men, or he may forsake them all at once. 33 These beings are either reborn a hundred times in some age or never at all (as in the case of divine incarnations), depending on the inscrutable will (maya, or illusion) of God. 34 Souls undergo such changes by repetition, like a bushel of grain that is collected only to be repeatedly sown, then reaped again and again.

35 As the sea heaves its constant surges of different shapes, so all beings are born constantly in various forms in the vast ocean of time. 36 The wise man who is liberated in his lifetime lives with his internal belief (of God) in a state of tranquility, without any doubt in his mind, and quite content with the ambrosia of equanimity.