Chapter 12 — The Greatness of True Knowledge

Vasishta said:—

Rama, I honor you as one of a perfect mind. You know what to ask and you understand what is spoken to you. Therefore I will continue speaking to you respectfully.

Be still, keep your mind fixed in yourself, and attend to knowledge. Be free of pride and passions and incline yourself to pure truth. You are possessed of all the qualities of an enquirer, and I those of the speaker, in as much as there are gems in the ocean. My son, you have gained the detachment that is closely related to reason, like the humidity of the moonstone correlates to gentle moonbeams. Rama, your long and early practiced pure virtues and good qualities have raised your fame, like the long stretching white fibers of the stalk exalt the spotless lotus. Now hear the words I tell you Rama, for you alone are fit to receive them, as only the moon is able to open the kumuda lotus petals.

Whatever business or investigation someone undertakes, it must be brought to a happy conclusion that tends towards his peace and tranquility. If men of good understanding did not have the solace of philosophy, what rational being could dare bear the misery that ignorance brings in this world? All the faculties of the mind are absorbed in contemplation of the Supreme, like solar heat dissolves the rocks of boundary mountains at the end of the world.

10 Rama, the intolerable stomach cramping pain caused by this venomous world is healed only by yoga meditation, just like the poison of a snakebite is removed by garuda incantations. 11 One obtains the capacity for yoga by discussing the scriptures in the company of good people, which alone can provide us with the great charm of spiritual knowledge.

12 It must be recognized that we lessen our sorrows by acting with reason. Therefore reasonable men are never to be disregarded. 13 A reasoning man gets released from his worldly sickness. He quits his frame which is full of diseases just like a snake casts off his time-worn skin. He looks with a placid mind and calm composure upon the magic scenes of the world. Hence a fully wise man is not subject to the misery of the imperfectly wise.

14 The rough and uneven pleasure of the world (samsara) is a disease that stings like a snake. It cuts men like a sword and pierces them like a spear. It binds them tightly like a rope, and burns them like fire. It blindfolds their understanding like the darkness of the night. It makes them as prostrate and dull as a slab of stone. It destroys one’s prudence and lowers his position. It casts men into the pit of error and torments them with greed. Thus there is almost no kind of trouble which does not happen to worldly minded men.

15 Worldliness is as dangerous a disease as cholera which, unless it is healed in time, is sure to trouble its patient with the torments of hell: 16 like eating stones; wounded by swords and spears; pelted by stones; burnt by fire; numbed by frost; dislocated limbs; body smeared with blood like sandalwood paste; bored by worms like worm-eaten trees; body pierced by pikes, broomsticks and the fiery shafts and bolts continually falling in battle; toil and drudgery under the sun; the cold wetness of work in a summer fountain house; dumb and deaf without rest or sleep; and, finally, suffering decapitation. 17 With thousands of such intolerable tortures of worldly life, no one should remain negligent of his release from this state but ought to think that only his reflection on scriptures can produce his real good.

18 Rama, look upon this assembly of great sages, rishis, brahmins and princes who have fortified themselves by the armor of wisdom and are liable to no pain or grief, yet they are engaged in the arduous affairs of this world with minds as placid as yours. 19 Moreover, there are many of the best of men who with their spiritual light and pure understanding reside in this world like the gods Hari (Vishnu), Hara (Shiva) and Brahma above all concerns and fluctuating desires of life.

20 The journey of this world is delightful to one who, after the removal of his errors and dispersion of the cloud of his ignorance, has come to the knowledge of truth. 21 When serenity of the mind and calm repose of the heart are secured, all the senses are subjected to peace and everything is viewed in an equal light, and this knowledge of the truth gives delight to our journey in this world.

22 Know also that this body of ours is the car, these organs are its horses, our breaths are the winds blowing upon it, and the mind is the driver who feels the delight of driving. The minute, subtle soul is the rider who is conscious of wandering about the world. Knowledge of this truth makes our earthly journey a pleasant one.