Chapter 18 — The Effect of the Yoga Vasishta; Its Similes & Examples

Vasishta said:—

The previous parts of this work, as already related, give rise to understanding like seeds sown in a good field never fail to produce a good harvest.

Even human compositions are acceptable when they instruct good sense because men are always required to abide by reason. Otherwise, the Vedas should be renounced as unreliable. Words that conform to reason are to be received even if spoken by children. Otherwise they are to be rejected as straw even if they are pronounced by the lotus-born Brahma himself.

Whoever drinks from a well because it was dug by his ancestors, but who rejects the holy water of the Ganges even when placed before him, is an incorrigible simpleton.

As early dawn is invariably accompanied by light, so is good judgment an inevitable attendant on the perusal of this work. Whether these lessons are heard from the mouth of the learned or well studied by oneself, they gradually will make their impressions upon the mind by constant reflection on their sense. They will first furnish a variety of Sanskrit expressions, and then spread before him a series of holy and judicious maxims, like so many ornamental vines that decorate a hall. They will produce a cleverness joined with such qualifications and greatness as to engage the good grace of gods and kings.

They are called intelligent who know the cause and effect of things. They are likened to a torch-bearer who is clear sighted in the darkness of the night. 10 All false and covetous thoughts become weaker by degrees, just as the sky is cleared of mist at the approach of autumn.

11 Your thoughts require only the guidance of reason, as every action needs be duly performed to make it successful. 12 The intellect becomes as clear as a great lake in autumn and it gets its calmness like that of the sea after its churning by Mandara Mountain. 13 Like the flame of a chandelier cleansed of its soot and dispelling the shroud of darkness, refined intellect distinguishes things and shines forth in full brightness.

14 The evils of penury and poverty cannot overpower those whose strong sight can discern the evils of their opposites (wealth and riches), just like no dart can pierce the mortal parts of a soldier clad in full armor. 15 No worldly fears can daunt the heart of a wise man, however near they may approach him, just as no arrow can pierce a huge solid stone. 16 Such doubts as “whether it is destiny or our own merit that is the cause of our births and actions” are removed, just as darkness is dispelled by daylight.

17 There is a calm tranquility attending the wise at all times and in all conditions. So also does the light of reason, like solar rays, follow the dark night of error. 18 A man of right judgment has a soul as deep as the ocean and as firm as a mountain, and a cool serenity always shines within him like that of moonlight.

19 He who arrives slowly at what is called “living-liberation,” who remains calm amid the endless turmoil, and who is quite aloof from common talk 20 has a mind that is calm and cool at everything. It is pure and full of heavenly light, shining serenely like moonlit night in autumn. 21 When the sun of reason illuminates the cloudless region of the mind, no ominous comet of evil can make its appearance. 22 All desires are at rest with the elevated. They are pure with the steady and indifferent to the inert, like a body of light clouds in autumn.

23 The slanders of envious ill-wishers are put out of mind (by the wise), just like the frolics of night demons disappear at the approach of day. 24 A mind fixed on the firm basis of virtue and placed under the burden of patience is not to be shaken by accidents but remains like a plant in a painting. 25 A knowing man does not fall into the pitfalls that lie all about in the affairs of this world. Who that knows the way will walk into a ditch? 26 The minds of the wise are as delighted in acting in accordance with the instructions of good books and the examples of the virtuous as chaste women are fond of keeping themselves within their inner apartments.

27 The detached philosopher views each of the innumerable millions of atoms that compose this universe in the light of it being a world. 28 The man whose mind is purified by a knowledge of the precepts of liberation neither regrets nor rejoices at the loss or gain of the objects of enjoyment. 29 Men of unfettered minds look upon the appearance and disappearance of every atomic world as the fluctuating wave of the sea. 30 They neither grieve at unwished-for occurrences nor pine for their wished-for chances. Knowing well all accidents are the consequences of their actions, they remain as unconscious as trees.

31 These holy men appear just like ordinary people. Their minds remain unconquered and they live upon what they get, whether they receive any manner of welcome or unwelcome. 32 They having understood the whole of this scripture, and having read and considered it well, hold their silence like a curse or blessing (which is never uttered by saints).

33 This scripture is easy to be understood and it is ornamented with figures of speech. It is a poem full of flavors and embellished with beautiful similes. 34 One who has a slight knowledge of words and their meanings may be self taught in it, but he who does not understand the meanings well should learn from a pundit. 35 After hearing, thinking and understanding this work, one has no more need to practice austerities or meditation or repeating mantras or performing other rites. A man requires nothing else in this world for the attainment of his liberation. 36 By deep study of this work and its repeated perusal, a man attains an uncommon scholarship and the purification of his soul.

37 The ego and the non-ego, that is, the viewer and the viewed, are both only imaginary monsters of the imagination. Only their annihilation leads to the vision of the soul. 38 The error of the reality of ego and the perceptible world will vanish away like visions in a dream, for who that knows the falsehood of dreams will fall into the error (of taking them for truth)? 39 As an imaginary palace gives no joy or grief to anyone, the false conception of the world is the same.

40 Just like nobody is afraid of a painting of a serpent, to one who knows, the sight of a living serpent neither terrifies nor pleases. 41 Our knowledge of a picture removes our fear of a painted serpent. Our conviction of the unreality of the world must disperse our mistake of a snake’s existence.

42 Even the plucking of a flower or tearing of its leaflet requires a little effort, but no exertion whatever is required to gain the blessed state. 43 Plucking or pulling off a flower involves an action of the body, but with yoga there is no physical action. You only have to fix your mind. 44 It can be practiced with ease by anyone sitting in his easy seat and fed with his usual food who is not addicted to gross pleasures or breaching the rules of good conduct. 45 You can derive happiness from your own observations at any place and time, as you can from your association with the good whenever it is available. This is an optional rule.

46 These are the means of gaining a knowledge of the highest wisdom, conferring peace in this world, and saving us from the pain of being reborn in the womb. 47 Those who are afraid of this course and are addicted to the vicious pleasures of the world are to be reckoned as too base, no better than feces and worms in their mother’s bowels.

48 Attend now, Rama, to what I am going to say in another way with regard to advancing in knowledge and improving one’s understanding. 49 Hear now a new method in which this scripture is learned, and its true sense interpreted to people by means of its exposition.

50 A simile or example serves to explain the unapparent meaning of a passage by illustration with something that is well known and which may be useful to help understanding. 51 It is hard to understand a meaning without an example, just as it is useless to have a lamp-stand at home without setting a lamp on it at night. 52 The similes and examples I have used to make you understand are all derived from some cause or other, but they lead to knowledge of the uncaused Brahma. 53 Whenever comparisons and compared objects are used to express cause and effect, they apply to all cases except Brahma (who is without a cause).

54 The examples that explain the nature of Brahma are to be taken in their partial sense. 55 The examples given to explain divine nature are to be understood as referring to a world seen in a dream. 56 In such cases, no material example can apply to the incorporeal Brahma, and no optional and ambiguous expression can give a definite idea of him.

57 Those who find fault with examples of an imperfect or contradictory nature cannot blame our comparison of the appearance of the world to a vision in dream.

58 Earlier and later developments of this non-entity (the world) are considered to exist in the present moment. Waking and dreaming states are known from our boyhood. 59 The comparison of the existence of the world with the dreaming state is exact in all instances because our desires, thoughts, pleasures and displeasures, and all other acts are the same in both states. 60 This work and all others composed by other authors on the means of salvation have pursued the same plan in their explanation of the knowable. 61 The resemblance of the world to a dream is found also in the scriptures and the Vedanta. It is not to be explained in a word, but requires a continued course of lectures. 62 Such writings also cite comparisons of the world to the images in a dream or an imaginary paradise of the mind in preference to other similes.

63 Whenever a causality is shown by a simile of something which is no cause, there the simile is applied in some particular and not all its general attributes. 64 The partial similarity of this comparison with some property of the compared object is unhesitatingly acknowledged by the learned in all their illustrations.

65 When the light of the senses is compared with a lamp, the reference is to brightness only and not its stand, holder, oil or wick. 66 The compared object is to be understood in its capacity of admitting a partial comparison, as in the instance of sense and light. The simile consists in the brightness of both. 67 When the knowledge of a knowable thing is derived from some particular property of the comparison, it is the subject of a suitable simile in order to understand the sense of some great saying. 68 We must not overshadow our intellect by bad logic, or set at nothing our common sense by an unholy skepticism.

69 We have by our reasoning well weighed the verbosity of our opinionative adversaries and never set aside the holy sayings of the Vedas, even when they are at variance with the opinions of our families. 70 O Rama, we have stored in our minds the truths resulting from the unanimous voice of all the scriptures, whereby it will be evident that we have attained the object of our belief, apart from the fabricated systems of heretical scriptures.