1 Rama said, “Tell me, O holy one, where does this world go after its dissolution when it does not retain its present form or its magnificent appearance?”
2 Vasishta answered:—
Tell me, Rama, what is the form of the barren woman’s son? Where does he come from and where does he go? Tell me also, where does a castle in the sky come from and where does it go?
3 Rama replied, “There never was, nor is there, nor will there ever be a son of a barren woman, or a castle in the sky. Why do you ask me about the form and figure of something that is nothing?”
4 Vasishta said:—
As there never was a barren woman’s son or a city in the air, so there never existed any scene such as that of the world. 5 That which has no existence could not have come from anywhere, nor can it have its dissolution afterwards. So what can I tell you about its origin or demise?
6 Rama replied, “The son of a barren woman and a city in the sky are mere fictions, but the visible world is not so and it has both beginning and end.”
7 Vasishta replied:—
It is hard to have a comparison where the subject and object of the comparison agree in all respects. The world and its objects allow no comparison other than with themselves. 8 The appearance of the world is compared with that of a bracelet because the one is as false as the other. Neither is real. 9 And because there is nothing in the sky except negative emptiness, so the existence of the world in Brahma is only a negative idea. 10 As the black eye-liner collyrium is nothing other than blackness, and as there is no difference between frost and its coldness, so the world is not other than the great Brahma himself.
11 As the property of coldness cannot be denied of the moon and frost, so one cannot describe creation as not being of God. (Literally, creation is not a negative property of Brahma, but essential to His nature.) 12 As there is no water in a sea of the mirage, or light in the new moon, so this world, as it is (in its gross state) does not abide in the pure spirit of God.
13 That which did not exist owing to the lack of any cause has no present existence and cannot be destroyed. 14 How is it possible for a dull material object to have any cause other than a material one? In the same way it is not the light (but some solid substance) that is the cause of a shadow. 15 But as none of these works has come into existence without some cause, that cause, whatever it is, is displayed in what it produced. 16 Whatever appears as ignorance or illusion has some appearance of intelligence or truth, just like the illusion of the world seen in a dream displays the effect of consciousness within us. 17 Just like the illusion of the world in a dream is not without our inner consciousness of it, in the same way Brahma was not unconscious of the expansion of the world at the beginning of creation.
18 All that we see about us is situated in the Divine Soul. There is no other world that rises and sets (except what is imprinted in our minds).
19 As fluidity is another name for water and fluctuation the same with wind, and as sunshine is nothing other than light, so the world is nothing but Brahma (displayed in nature). 20 As the appearance of a city resides in the inner consciousness of a person who is conscious of his dreaming, in the same manner this world is displayed in the Supreme Soul.
21 Rama said, “If it is so, then tell me, O holy one, from where do we get our belief of its materiality? How is it that this unreal and visionary impression presents its baneful visible aspect to us? 22 If the view is in existence, there must be its viewer also, and when there is the viewer there is the view likewise. As long as either of these is in existence, there is our bondage. Our liberation chiefly depends on the disappearance of both (which can hardly take place). 23 It is entirely impossible to be liberated as long as our notion of the view is not lost in our minds. Unless the view is vanished both from the vision of the eyes and mind, no one can even form an idea in his mind of liberation.”
24 “Again the representation of the view at first and its obliteration afterwards are not enough for our liberation because the memory of the view is sufficient to bind the soul. 25 Moreover, when the picture of the view is impressed on the soul and reflected in the mirror of the mind, there is no need for its recollection (for what is deeply rooted in the soul comes out of itself). 26 The intellect, which at first was without the notion of phenomena, would be entitled to liberation, but once it has seen, it has taken on the impression of what it has seen.”
27 “Now sage, please use your reasoning to remove my hopelessness of liberation which, I imagine, is unattainable by any.”
28 Vasishta said:—
Hear me, Rama, explain to you at length how the unreal world with all its contents appears to us as real. 29 For unless it is explained to you by my reasoning, stories and examples, this doubt will not subside in your breast like mud settles in a lake. 30 Then Rama, you will be able to conduct yourself on earth as one assured that the creation and existence of the world are false concepts. 31 You will then remain like a rock against the impressions of wealth and poverty and of gain and loss, and whether your relation with anything is fleeting or lasting.
32 Know that there is that only one spirit which is self-existent. All else is mere fiction.
I will now tell you how the three worlds were produced and formed. 33 It was from Him that all these beings have come to existence, while He of himself is all and everything in it. He likewise appears to us and disappears also, both as forms and their appearances, and as the mind and its faculties, and as figures and their shapes, and as modes and motions of all things.