Chapter 9 — Investigation of Acts (Thoughts Are Action; Mind Is Soul)

Rama asked, “Will you sage, who is versed in all knowledge, kindly explain the true sense of destiny (daivam) in popular use.”

Vasishta replied:—

It is a man’s activity and nothing else, O Raghava, that is the cause of all his actions and the recipient of their consequences. Destiny has nothing to do with it. Destiny is a mere imaginary thing that neither exists nor acts nor feels (their effects). It is neither seen nor regarded. Destiny refers to the good or bad results that proceed from action. People label the wished for and unwished for consequences resulting from the good and bad deeds of human activity as destiny. The majority of mankind calls human activity, which is the only cause of some unavoidable future consequence, to be destiny.

Truly, O Raghava, destiny, though empty as a void, appears to be real to somebody who thinks it to be an active agent, while others know it to be inactive. Again, destiny is a mere saying uttered by men upon the result of some good or bad effect of their actual efforts, that “it is this which has produced the other.” It is my belief and I know it for certain that destiny is no more than a word uttered by people upon their attainment of the object of their exertions. 10 Destiny is a word of consolation uttered by men to signify the good or evil they encounter and which they call to be the effect of the other.

11 Rama asked, “Sage, how is it that you, who is all wise, now contradict your own assertion that destiny is the result of the stock of our former acts?”

12 Vasishta answered saying:—

Well said, O Rama. You know everything. But hear me tell you the whole of it, whereby you will have a firm belief in the nonexistence of destiny.

13 In the end, even all the various desires that men may have entertained in their minds come to be accounted as his deeds. 14 All animals also act according to their desires, doing nothing for which they have no inclination in their natures. 15 As a villager goes to his village and a townsman goes to town, so it is the nature of desire to lead men to their particular acts.

16 The keen and firm resolution with which an act was done in a former state of life, that truly is termed destiny in successive births. 17 Thus the acts of all active beings conform to their natures, and the actions of men are in accordance with their desires. Desire is nothing other than the mind itself, and the mind is the same as the human soul. 18 The mind is the soul and cause of all acts which they call the doings of destiny. Certainly, without the mind there is no destiny. 19 This mind is truly the living soul that acts as it desires and accordingly enjoys the fruit. The same is destiny.

20 Rama, know that the mind, the heart, desire, action and destiny are synonymous terms applied by the virtuous to the unascertainable soul. 21 Now whatever the so-named soul undertakes to do continually and with a firm resolution, it obtains the fruit thereof accordingly. 22 O support of Raghu’s race, it is by means of the activity or effort of the soul, and by no other means, that the soul obtains everything. May it lead you to your good only.

23 Rama said, “Being caught in the net of my pre-existent desire, I remain a captive to them and do as they lead me to. Say then, O sage, what else I can do?”

24 Vasishta replied:—

So then, O Rama, you can reach your lasting good if you exert your efforts for it. There is no other way.

25 Desires are of two kinds: some lead to good and others to evil. Hence the desires of one’s prior state must have been of one kind or the other. 26 If pure desires guide you now, gradually you will be led by means of your good acts to attain the state of your lasting welfare. 27 But if wrong inclinations tend to lead you to difficulties, of necessity you must try your best to overcome such propensities.

28 Rama, you are wise, perfectly intelligent, and composed of more than just a dull body. Now if you need another’s guidance to waken your intellect, then when is your own intelligence? 29 If you would have someone else enlighten your understanding, then who was the other who illuminated him, and who is the other to illuminate that person also? Therefore, because no one is wholly devoid of understanding, let him improve it himself.

30 The currents of our desires flow between two channels of good and evil. It requires the exertion of our actions to turn them to the right course. 31 You who is the mightiest of the mighty must exert the force of your activity to turn your mind away from a direction to the profitless and towards a profitable course. 32 By directing the mind from the wrong to the right way, it will take the right course; and the opposite is true also.

But because the human mind is like a child, it must not be forced. 33 The training of a child is like that of the mind. It is done slowly by gentleness and indulgence, and not by force or hurry.

34 You have already mastered all your good and bad desires by your constant practice. From now on, you have to direct your tendencies to good only. 35 O victorious Rama, when by your pristine habits you have an aptitude to do good, know that it is the result of your good nature. 36 O sinless Rama, at present your desires are lying dormant in your mind. They require some practice to be employed only to the doing of good. 37 If you will not exert yourself now to improve your dormant desires by constant practice, you can never expect to be happy. 38 When doubtful, incline towards what is good, and as you thrive on this you shall have no evil to fear.

39 Whatever one practices, with time he will become perfect, just like studying from childhood makes the learned free from error. 40 When you have good will inside, you must accomplish your purpose by means of your activity and your subjection of the organs of your body. 41 So long as your mind is imperfect and unacquainted with the state of divine truth, you must attend to your teacher, books and reasoning and act according to their directions. 42 Having first finished your acts and known the truth, you must abandon even your meritorious deeds, and all your desires with them.

43 Having known by your good understanding that the virtuous course led by honorable men is truly good, give particular attention to know the nature of God, then forsake even that and remain as silent as an ancient sage (muni).