Chapter 1 — The Appearance of Creation Is from the Mind of Brahma

It is through both words and lights (i.e., the words of the scripture and the lights of nature and reason) that the knower of the great god perceives the spirit of Brahma appearing within himself, like in a dream. He also knows him as such who understands him according to the holy text, “What this is, that is the self.” This passage shows, in short, the visible world at its creation residing in the empty bosom of Brahma. What this creation is, from where it arises, and how it becomes extinct in the end are now to be known in detail. O intelligent Rama, now hear me expound to you all things according to my best knowledge and agreeably to their nature and substance in the order of creation.

One conscious of himself as a spiritual and intelligent being views the passing world as a dream. This dream simile of the passing world applies equally to our knowledge of ego and non-ego. After the book describing the conduct of the seekers of liberation (mumukshu-vyavahara) follows the book of evolution (utpatti, creation), which I am now going to propound to you.

Bondage consists in our belief in the reality of the visible world. So our release depends on the negation of phenomena that are apparent to the senses. Now hear me tell you how to get rid of the visible.

Whoever is born in this world continues to progress until at last he obtains his final liberation (his ultimate perfection) or rises to heaven or falls into hell. Therefore I shall expound for your understanding everything relating to the production and continuance of things, and their prior states as they were. Now hear me, Rama, give you a brief abstract of this book. Later I will expand upon it so that you may know more of how creation is produced.

10 Know that all that appears either as living or inert in this world are like appearances in a dream in the state of sound sleep (susupti) which becomes extinct at the end of an epoch (kalpa). 11 Then there remains a nameless and undeveloped something in a state of deep, dark and dank abyss, without any light or thick-spread (nebulae) over it. 12 The wise give this great self-existence the titles of Reality (rita), Self (atma), Supreme (param), Immense (brahma), Truth (satyam) and so forth as common expressions to refer to the Great Spirit (mahatman).

13 Then this same spirit shows itself in another form called the individual soul (jivatma), and comes afterwards to be understood in the limited sense of life. 14 This inert living principle (jiva) becomes, just like the word suggests, the moving spirit, which afterwards with its power of thinking becomes the mind, and finally the embodied soul. 15 Thus the mind is produced and changed from the quiescent nature of the Great Supreme Spirit to a state of restlessness, like that of a surge heaving itself in the ocean.

16 The mind soon evolves itself as a self-willing power that exercises its desires at all times and through which this extensive magic scene of the world is displayed for our view. This scene is figured as virajmurti, or the manifestation of desires from the will of Divine Mind. In the Indian genealogy of gods, it is represented as the offspring of Brahma.

17 As the word ‘golden bracelet’ signifies nothing other than a bracelet made of gold, so the meaning of the word ‘world’ is not different from its source, the Divine Will. 18 Again as the word ‘gold’ bears the idea of the substance of which the bracelet is made, so the word ‘Brahma’ conveys the meaning of the immensity which contains the world. But the word ‘world’ contains no idea of Brahma, and neither does ‘bracelet’ convey the idea of gold. The substance contains the form just as a stone does the statue, but the form does not contain the substance.

19 The unreality of the world appears as a reality, just as the heat of the sun presents an unreal mirage in the moving sands of the desert as real waves of the sea. 20 It is this fantasy which the learned in all things describe as ignorance (avidya), nature (sansriti), bondage (bandha), illusion (maya), error (moha), and darkness (tamas).

21 Now hear me relate to you, O moon-faced Rama, about the nature of this bondage, whereby you will be able to know the mode and manner of our liberation from it.

22 The intimate relation between spectator and spectacle is called his bondage because the spectator’s mind is tightly bound to the object of his sight. Therefore, the absence of visible objects from the mirror of the mind is the only way to his liberation. 23 Knowledge of the world, which is thinking that individual existence is different from others, is said to be a false view of the soul. There can be no liberation as long as one labors under this blunder of the knowledge of separation. 24 To say that the soul is not this and not that is an endless false dispute over words. Discrimination between alternatives only serves to increase the ardor for objects.

25 Truth is not to be obtained by philosophers chopping logic or by pilgrimage or ceremonial acts, any more than believing in the reality of the material world. 26 It is hard to avoid the sight of the phenomenal world and to repress one’s ardor for it. But it is certain that phenomena can not lead us to Reality, and that the Real cannot mislead us to unreality.

27 Wherever the invisible, inconceivable and intelligent spirit exists, there the beholder views the visible beauty of God shining even in the midst of atoms. 28 The phenomenal world has its rise from Him, yet ignorant people who depart from Him to the adoration of others resemble fools who forsake rice to feed upon gruel. 29 Although this visible world is apparent to sight, yet O Rama, it is only a shadow of that Being who resides alike in the smallest atom and in the mirror of the mind, who receives the image of the largest as well as the minutest things. 30 The spirit is reflected in everything like a figure in the mirror, and it shines equally in rocks and seas and in the land and water as it does in the mirror of the mind.

31 The visible world is the scene of constant sorrows, births, decay and death. By turns the states of waking, dreaming and sound sleep present the gross, subtle and impermanent forms of things for our delusion. 32 Here I sit in a meditative mood, having wiped the impressions of phenomena from my mind, but my meditation is disturbed by the recurrence of my memories of phenomena. This is the cause of the endless reincarnations of the soul.

33 It is hard to maintain meditation beyond form (nirvikalpa samadhi) when the sight of the visible world is present before our physical and mental vision. Even the fourth stage of turiyasamadhi without sense in the state of deep sleep — is soon succeeded by self-consciousness and external awareness. 34 On rising from this state of deep meditation, one finds himself as if roused from sound sleep and he again sees the world full of all its sorrows and imperfections opening wide before him.

35 Then, O Rama, what is the good of this transient bliss which one attains by temporary meditation, when he again becomes subject to his sense of the sufferings of the world, like a vale of tears? 36 But if one can attain a state of unalterable separation of his thoughts from all worldly objects, as he has in his state of deep sleep, then he is said to have reached the highest level of holiness on earth.

37 Nobody has ever gained anything from reality with its scenes of unreal vanities because whenever his thoughts come in contact with any outward thing, he finds ‘reality’ inseparable from imperfect existence. 38 Should anybody forcibly withdraw his attention from phenomena and, for a while, fix his sight on a stone, afterwards he is sure to be carried away again by phenomena pressing upon his sight. 39 It is well known to all that a yogi’s practice of unflinching meditation, even if it has the firmness of a rock, cannot last owing to his worldly propensities. 40 Even steady meditation that has attained the fixedness of a rock cannot advance one step towards the attainment of that tranquility which has no limit. 41 Thus the sight of phenomena being altogether unavoidable, it is a foolish to think that phenomena can be suppressed by practicing prayers and austerities and similar acts of tapas.

42 The idea of the phenomena is as inherent in the mind of the spectator of the visible world as the seeds of the lotus flower are contained in its inner cells. 43 The ideal of the phenomenal world lies hidden in the minds of the spectators of the outer world, just like flavor and moisture are in fruit, oil is in sesame seeds, and sweet scent is innate in flowers. 44 Just like the fragrance of camphor and the smells of other substances are inherent in their nature, so the reflection of the visible world resides in the bosom of the intellect.

45 As your dreams and desires rise and subside of themselves under the functioning of your intellect, so the idea of a thing always reoccurs to your mind from your original idea of that thing which has been impressed onto your mind, the seat of all that is visible. 46 The mental appearance of the visible world deludes its beholder in the same way a fantasy appearance of a ghost or hobgoblin misleads a child.

47 The notion of the visible world gradually expands itself, like a seed that germinates in time, sprouts and spreads itself afterwards in the form of a plant. 48 As seeds and other minute life forms contained within the bosoms of fruit and the embryos of animals expand themselves to become wonderfully beautiful forms, so does the seed of this world lying hidden in the Divine Mind unfold itself into the wonderful forms of visible phenomena in nature.