Chapter 17 — On the Contents of the Yoga Vasishta

Thus, O progeny of Raghu, a reasoning soul is worthy of attending to the words of wisdom, just as a prince (is inclined to listen) to a discourse on polity. A clear and high-minded man who has renounced the company of stupid folks is capable of fair reasoning, just like the clear sky has the capacity of receiving moonlight. You who are replete with the entire grace of such quality should now attend to the words that I say to remove the errors of your mind. Only he whose tree of merit is bending down with its load of fruit will be interested to hear these words for the sake of his salvation. It is only the noble minded, and not the base, who are receptacles of grand and holy sermons conferring the knowledge of their future state.

This collection of thirty-two thousand couplets (slokas, verses of two lines each) is judged to contain the essence of the means to liberation and to confer the final annihilation (of our being). As a lamp presents its light to every waking man, so does this work effect the ultimate enlightenment of every person whether he would like it or not. One’s knowledge of this work, whether by his own perusal or hearing about it from others’ repetition, tends to the immediate obliteration of his errors and to the increase of his delight, as if done by the holy river of heaven (Ganges). As the fallacy of mistaking a rope for a snake is removed by examining it, so the fallacy of the reality of the world is removed by reading and studying this work, which gives peace to one who is vexed and tired of the world.

10 It contains six books all filled with sentences full of reason, each distinct from the other in its import. It has many couplets containing chosen examples on all subjects.

11 The first book (Vairagya Prakaranam, Chapter on Detachment) treats of detachment and causes the growth of apathy (in the mind) like a tree growing in desert soil. 12 It contains one thousand five hundred stanzas which, being well considered in the mind, must impart a purity like the luster of a gem after it is polished.

13 The next book (Mumukshu Vyavahara Prakaranam, Chapter Concerning the Qualities of the Aspirant for Liberation) dwells on the conduct of one longing after his liberation, and contains a thousand couplets arranged in judicious order. 14 It describes the nature of men desiring their liberation.

Then follows the third book (Utpatti Prakaranam, Chapter on Creation) on the creation of the world, filled with stories and examples. 15 It has seven thousand couplets teaching sound philosophy about the spectator and spectacle of the world in the forms of “I” and “you”, designated the ego and non-ego. 16 It contains a description of how the world was produced from its state of non-existence. A diligent attention to this chapter will convey a full knowledge of this world to the mind of the listener.

17 This ego and non-ego, and this vast expanse with all the worlds, space and mountains, are to be seen as having no form or foundation as there are no such things. 18 There are no elements such as the earth and others. They exist only as the fabrications of our minds. They are like phantoms appearing in a dream, or like castles in the air. 19-20 They resemble hills moving on the shore to one passing in a boat, or like hobgoblins appearing to an unsound mind. Such is the appearance of the world which has no seed, source or origin of its own.

21 It is like the impression of a tale in the mind, or the sight of a chain of pearls in the sky, or taking a bracelet for its gold, or a wave for the water. 22 Creation is just like the blue of the sky, always apparent to sight, charming to behold, yet never real, there being no color in it. 23 Thus whatever unreal wonders appear to us in our dreams or in the sky, they are only like a fire in a picture that only seems to be burning and has no fire in it.

24 The word jagat (all that moves, the universe) is appropriately applied to the transitory world, which passes like the sea with its heaving waves, appearing as a dancing chain of lotus flowers. 25 It is (as false) as imagining a body of water from the sound of geese, and as useless as a withered forest in autumn when leaves and fruit fall off and the trees yield neither shade nor luscious nutriment. 26 It is full of delirious cravings like men at the point of death, and is as dark as caverns in the mountains. Hence the efforts of men are only acts of their frenzy.

27 It is better to dwell in the clear sky of the autumn harvest of philosophy, after the frost of ignorance has subsided, than to view this world which is no more than an image on a post or a picture on a wall. 28 Know all conscious and unconscious things are made of dust.

Next follows the fourth book on Existence (Sthiti Prakaranam). 29 It contains three thousand couplets full of explanations and stories showing the existence of the world to be a form of the essence of the spectator ego. 30 It describes how the spectator (ego) manifests as the spectacle (non-ego), and how the ten-sided sphere of the garden of the world manifests both as subjective and objective (at the same time). 31 It has thus arrived at its development which is said to be everlasting.

Next follows the fifth book on peacefulness (Upashanti Prakaranam) consisting of five thousand couplets. 32 The fifth is styled the book on holiness, containing a series of excellent lectures and demonstrating the false conception of the world, as “I”, “you” and “he” (as distinct existences). 33 The suppression of this error forms the subject of this book. Hearing this chapter on peacefulness serves to put an end to our reincarnations in this world.

34 After suppression of the train of errors, there still remain slight vestiges of it, to a hundredth part, just as a picture of soldiers gives us some faint idea of soldiers. 35 Aiming at the object of another person is as vain as looking at the beauty of an imaginary city, or sitting in expectation of an unattainable object. It is like noisily fighting for something in sleep. 36 It is as vain as a man whose desires are not subdued, bursting into a roaring like that of the loud and tremendous thunder-claps. It is like building a city on the model of effaced impressions from a dream. 37 It is as vain as an imaginary city, with gardens, flowers and fruit growing in it. It is like a sterile woman bragging of the valorous deeds of her unborn and imaginary sons. 38 It is like a painter about to draw the chart of an imaginary city on the ground who has forgotten to sketch a plan beforehand. 39 It is as vain as expecting evergreen foliage and fruit in all seasons, and the breeze of an arbor that has not grown or a future ornamental garden, pleasant with the sweets of spring.

40 Then follows the sixth book entitled annihilation (Nirvana Prakaranam), which is as clear as the waters of a river after its waves have subsided. 41 It contains the remaining number of couplets (i.e., the remaining 14,500 couplets of the 32,000 total that is the entire work). Knowledge of these verses is pregnant with great meaning. Their understanding leads to the chief good of utter extinction and pacification of desires. 42 The intellect that is separated from all its objects presents the manifestation of the soul, full of intelligence and free from all impurity. It is enveloped in the sheath of infinite void and is wholly pure and devoid of worldly errors.

43 Having finished its journey through the world and performed its duties here, the soul assumes a calmness like that of the unbreakably hard column of the sky reflecting the images of the tumultuous world (without changing itself). 44 It rejoices exceedingly at being delivered from the innumerable snares of the world, and it becomes as light as air by being freed from its desire of looking after endless objects. 45 The soul that takes no notice of any cause or effect or doing, or what is to be avoided or accepted, is said to be disembodied though encumbered with a body, and to become unworldly in its worldly state.

46 An intelligent soul is compared to a solid rock, compact and without any gap in it. It is the sun of intelligence which enlightens all people and dispels the darkness of ignorance. 47 An ordinary soul, though so very luminous, has become grossly darkened by being confined to the vile fooleries of the world and wasted by the malady of its cravings. 48 When freed from the imaginary monster of its egoism, a soul becomes incorporeal, even in its embodied state, and beholds the whole world as if it were placed on the point of one of a multitude of hairs, or like a bee sitting on a flower upon Sumeru Mountain. 49 An intelligent and empty soul contains and beholds in its sphere a thousand glories of the world, shining in each atom, as it was in a mirror.

50 It is not even possible for thousands of Vishnus, Shivas and Brahmas to equal the great minded sage in the extent of his comprehensive soul because the liberated have their chief good stretched to a far greater limit than any.