Chapter 11 — On the Qualifications of Student and Teacher; the Four Guards at the Door of Liberation

Vasishta continued:—

I have fully related to you about the descent of knowledge on earth, the reason for my birth, and the intention of lotus-born Brahma. Now Rama, as you are eager to learn transcendental knowledge, and as you are so anxious for it in your mind, it must be the effect of your pristine merit.

Rama said, “Sage, how was it that the supreme lord felt a desire to send down knowledge on earth after his creation (and not with it)?”

Vasishta replied:—

Brahma in his own nature is the same as the Supreme Brahman. He is born in Him like a wave is born of the waters of the deep. This great lord saw the imperfection of his creation and saw its whole course in times past, present and future. He saw the decay of ceremonial rites after the end of the age of truth (the golden age) and other ages and considering the error in which men were to fall, he felt pity for them. Then the lord thought of giving me true knowledge and sent me to earth to dispel the ignorance of mankind.

Like me, he has sent other great sages here, like Sanat Kumara, Narada and many others also. He has sent them all to redeem mankind from the chains of its ignorance through a series of good acts and through their progress in divine knowledge. 10 At the end of the past golden age, these great sages saw the gradual decay on earth of the holy rituals. 11 They created rulers at various places on earth in order to regulate the course of duties and observe proper limits. 12 They made many works on traditional law and sacrificial rules to be observed on earth, and appropriate provision for the accomplishment of religious and temporal duties (in the smritis). 13 But with time, all these duties became slack in their conduct, and men have no thought other than seeking their daily maintenance.

14 Every day disputes arise among landowners on account of their estates and properties, and people are subjected to various penalties in large numbers. 15 Under such conditions, it is not possible to govern without states fighting each other, resulting in rulers and subjects inevitably being reduced to wretchedness. 16 In order to remove the impotence (of such princes) and lead them to a comprehensive view of things, we have prescribed many excellent precepts of knowledge to them. 17 This spiritual knowledge was first given to princes, but afterwards it came to be known under the title of royal science (raja vidhya, kingly science). 18 This royal science is of a hidden, esoteric nature. It is also the best kind of spiritual knowledge. Many kings have been set beyond the reach of calamity by knowledge of this science. 19 It is after many such fair-famed princes had gone by that your mighty self was begotten by the present King Dasharata.

20 O slayer of your enemies, I find a very agreeable and holy kind of apathy growing spontaneously in your most clear understanding. 21 There is another kind of cold-heartedness, O Rama, caused in the minds of the virtuous and reasonable men which is called casual detachment. 22 But your unprecedented and astonishing apathy, produced without any cause and only by your reason, is called by the wise to be real detachment.

23 Seeing the harmfulness of worldly things, what man will not grow adverse to them? The greatest displeasure is that which rises in the mind from one’s own judgment. 24 They are reckoned as great and wise men whose detachment springs without cause (of detestation to the world) and whose minds are clear. 25 It is as graceful to see a person whose mind with good discrimination feels a disgust from its own judgment as it is to see a young bridegroom adorned with garlands of flowers. 26 They are esteemed as the best of men who, after judicious consideration of worldly troubles, apply themselves to detachment. 27 It must be by one’s repeated and judicious examination of inner and outer illusions that he should forcibly withdraw himself from them.

28 Who is there at the mournful sight of a funeral event who does not feel an aversion to worldliness? However, it is aversion born of itself that is highly commendable. 29 I see that you are sincerely indifferent and reaching the acme of true greatness. You are worthy of the best knowledge as is the moist earth of receiving seeds. 30 It is by the grace of the lord God and Supreme Spirit that a lucky understanding like yours naturally inclines to reason.

31 It is by performance of ritual duties and observance of prescribed rules that the demerits of former births are expunged. 32 Upon removing former demerits, understanding turns of itself to become aware of spiritual matters, like the simultaneous flight of a crow towards a falling coconut. 33 But those devoted only to ritual acts are like people plunged in an eddy in which they whirl up and down until they come to perceive the state of supreme (joy). 34 Seeing this (illusory) state of the world, a man must shake off the delusion of his worldly-mindedness, just as the elephant breaks loose from his chains.

35 It is too intricate, O Rama, to understand the course of this boundless world. Not even the greatest of embodied beings can know it without true knowledge. 36 Know, O support of Raghu’s race, that men of great understanding have passed over the un-fordable ocean of the world by means of the raft of their knowledge and reason.

37 Now, with attention and steadiness of mind, hear this rational knowledge for your deliverance from the flood of this world. 38 Without the remedy of right reason, the unceasing excitement of the senses and the fears and miseries of the world will continually disturb the mind. 39 There is nothing other than rational knowledge that can enable holy men to endure the afflictions of the opposite extremes of heat and cold and wind and rain. 40 The constant cares and miseries which befall to men at every step sometimes serve to torment the ignorant mind like a flame of fire burns straw. 41 But the troubles of this world cannot afflict a wise man who knows the knowable and discerns all things; just as it is impossible for the flame of fire to burn wood drenched by rain.

42 A man knowing the truth is like a firm oak tree that no whirlwind of disease or distress raised by the hot winds of this desert of the world has the power to upset. 43 An intelligent man who has a mind to know the truth must diligently serve his wise teacher with loving regard. 44 What a well-minded teacher says in response to any question must be carefully preserved in the mind, like a piece of fine muslin receives dye.

45 O best of the eloquent, you must not receive instruction from one unacquainted with truth. Whoever asks such a person anything is the greatest of fools. 46 He is the basest of men who does not carefully attend to the words of the truth-telling teacher who is asked about anything. 47 He is the best inquirer who seeks answers from a person who demonstrates by his actions whether he knows the knowable or not. 48 A person who asks boyish questions without determining the teacher’s qualifications is reckoned a vile inquirer incapable of knowing great things.

49 When asked, a wise man will reply to him who is able to comprehend the former and later propositions, and who is possessed of a good understanding, but he should make no answer to a vile brutish being. 50 The teacher who gives his lecture without examining the capacity of the inquirer to grasp his meaning is pronounced unwise by the learned.

51 O delight of Raghu’s race! Our meeting is very congenial. We are well adapted to each other. You as inquirer are an admirer of virtue and I the speaker am well acquainted. 52 You who understand the meaning of words should well consider everything that I tell you and take them to heart. 53 You are truly great and disgusted with the world, and you know the truth among mankind. Whatever is spoken to you must be impressed in your mind like red dye on muslin. 54 By your attention to what I say and your discrimination of spiritual matters, you can make your understanding receive my instruction like waters reflect sunlight. 55 Receive all that I say and store them diligently in your mind; or else it is useless to ask me anything.

56 The mind, O Rama, is as fickle as an ape in the forest. Correct it carefully and attend to spiritual instruction. 57 Always keep yourself from the injudicious and ignorant and those addicted to the company of wicked people, and honor the virtuous. 58 It is by association with good people that we can gain the wisdom that resembles a tree yielding fruits of enjoyment and liberation.

59 It is said there are four guards who keep watch at the gate of liberation (moksha), namely: peace (equanimity, self-control), judgment (spirit of inquiry), contentment, and company of the good. 60 All these, or three or two of them, are to be attended with care because they shall open the door leading to the abode of liberation. 61 At least one of them is to be sought with diligence, even at the expense of one’s life. Because by securing one of these a man can reconcile and gain all four .

62 The wise man is a receptacle of all scriptures, of all knowledge and austerity, and is a gem on earth, just like the sun is the receptacle of light. 63 The dull understanding of a senseless man becomes as stiff as a block, and like water freezing as hard as stone.

64 Your good nature and good qualities, O Rama, and the counsels of the learned in the scriptures, have made you sit here with a heart blooming like a lotus towards the rising sun. 65 Your ears lifted to hear these wise lectures have enabled you to repress your thoughts; as the music of the lute attracts the mind of the deer. 66 Now secure, O Rama, the treasures of peace and good nature by your practice of detachment of which there is no decay. 67 Your knowledge of the attainment of liberation will be increased by your attending to the scriptures and the society of good men, and also by your practice of austerity and self subjection. 68 You must know that the sure remedy against ignorance is the study of divine knowledge with a clear understanding.

69 Know this world is a poisonous plant and a seat of dangers. It infects the ignorant at all times, unless one will take the pains to dispel his darkness. 70 Greed accompanied by ignorance moves within the heart in a serpentine course, by turns expanding and contracting it like a blacksmith’s bellows. 71 The true light of things dawns only in the minds of the wise, just as the gentle moon appears only in a clear and cloudless sky. 72 He is truly called a man who can judge (the truth) by the major and minor propositions, whose mind is expanded and filled with brilliant ingenuity.

73 Rama, the clear wisdom of your mind makes you shine like the full moon dispelling the darkness of the cloudless sky by her cooling and translucent beams.