Chapter 57 — Yogis’ Astral Bodies; Phenomena of Dreaming

Vasishta continued:—

There they saw the younger Leela of Viduratha who had arrived there after her death and before the death of that king. She was in her former habit and mode with the same body, and the same tone and tenor of her mind. She was also as beautiful in all her features as in her former graceful form and figure when living. She was the same in every part of her body and wore the same clothes as before. She had the same ornaments on her body, with the difference that it was sitting quietly in the same place, and not moving about as before.

She kept waving her pretty fan over the king’s corpse, gracing the ground below like the rising moon brightening the skies above. She sat quietly, reclining her moonlike face on the palm of her left hand. Decorated with shining gems, she appeared like a bed of flowers blooming with new blossoms. With glances from her beautiful eyes, she shed showers of flowers on all sides. The brightness of her body shone with the beams of the ethereal moon. She approached her lord of men like Goddess Lakshmi appears before God Vishnu, and with the heaps of flowers around her, she looked like Vasanta Lakshmi (Lakshmi in the aspect of the blissful Goddess of Spring). Her eyes were fixed on her husband’s face as if she was pondering his future well-being. Thoughts of his present sorrowful state spread a melancholy over her face like that of the waning moon.

They saw the maiden who was unable to see them. Their trust was in truth, so they saw everything clearly, while her views being otherwise, she could not discern their spiritual forms.

10 Rama said, “You have said, O sage, that the first Leela had returned there in her fancy and spiritual form, by the favor of the goddess of wisdom. 11 Why do you now describe her as having a body? I want to know how it came to her.”

12 Vasishta replied:—

Rama, what is this body of Leela? It is no more true than a false imagination of her gross spirit, like that of water in the mirage. 13 It is spirit alone that fills the world, and all bodies are creations of fancy. This spirit is the Intellect of God, and full of joy in itself.

14 The same understanding which Leela had of herself at her end accompanied her to her future state. The same notion of her body followed her there, even though the body itself was reduced to dust, like ice melted in water. 15 Spiritual bodies are also sometimes liable to fall into error and think themselves to be material bodies, just like we mistake a rope for the serpent.

16 The belief in anyone’s materiality, composed of earth and other elements, is as false as believing rabbits have horns on their heads. 17 Whoever thinks he has become a stag in his dream has no need to seek another stag so that he can compare himself with it. 18 An untruth appears as truth at one time and disappears at another, just like the error of a snake in a rope vanishes upon the knowledge of its falsehood. 19 So the knowledge of the reality of all things in the minds of the unenlightened is dispersed in the minds of the enlightened upon conviction of their unreality. 20 But the ignorant who have a belief in the reality of this world of dreams also believe in the reincarnation of the animal soul, like the revolution of the world on its own axis.

21 Rama asked, “If the bodies of yogis are of a spiritual nature, how is it that they are seen walking about in the sight of men?”

22 Vasishta replied:—

A yogi may take various forms upon himself without the destruction of his former body, like the human soul in a dream may deem itself transformed into a stag or any other being without undergoing any change in its spiritual essence. 23 A yogi’s spiritual body is invisible to all, although he may make it appear as visible to their sight. It is like particles of frost seen in sunbeams, and like the appearance of a white spot in autumn sky.

24 Nobody can easily discern the features of a yogi’s body, nor are they discernible by other yogis. They are as imperceptible as the features of a bird flying in the air. 25 It is from the error of judgment that men think some yogis are dead and others living, but their spiritual bodies are never subject to death or common sight. 26 The embodied soul is subject to errors from which the souls of yogis are free because their knowledge of truth has cleansed the mistake of a snake in the rope from their souls.

27 What is this body and from where does it come? What is its existence or destruction? What is lasting remains forever and is freed from the ignorance it had before.

28 Rama said, “Does the embodied soul takes a spiritual form or is it something else? Tell me this and remove my doubt.”

29 Vasishta said:—

I have told you this repeatedly, my good Rama! How is it that you do not understand it yet? There exists only the spiritual body and the material form is nothing.

30 It requires a habit of constant meditation in order to know your spiritual state and subdue your sense of materiality. As you abstain from your sense of materiality, so you attain the spiritual state. 31 Then there will be an end of your sense of gravity and solidity of objects, like the visions of a dreaming man disappear when he awakens.

32 The body of a yogi becomes as light and subtle as the impermanent appearances in a dream. 33 In his dreaming rambles, a man feels the lightness of his body. Similarly, a yogi finds his solid body is able to fly in all places like air. 34 The expectation of the long life of a master in his material body is realized in the spiritual one, after the corpse has been burnt away. 35 Everyone must assume his spiritual frame afterwards, but the yogi finds it in his lifetime by the enlightenment of his consciousness. 36 As a man upon waking from sleep remembers having an intellectual form in his dream state, so the yogi is conscious of his spiritual body in his own intellect.

37 The notion of the physical body is a mere fallacy, like that of the snake in a rope. Therefore nothing is lost by the loss of this body, nor is anything gained by its production and regeneration.

38 Rama said, “Now tell me sage, what did the palace residents think the second Leela to be? Did they see her as an embodied being or a bodiless apparition appearing before them?”

39 Vasishta answered:—

They took the sorrowful queen to be some friend of the king, having come from some place they knew not what or where. 40 They did not like to examine the matter because it is the nature of the ignorant, like that of brutes, to believe what they see without investigation or consideration of its nature.

41 As a stone flung at random flies off from its mark, so brutish and ignorant folks go astray from hitting the true mark of a thing placed before them. 42 We know not what becomes of the objects of our dream, or where they go when we awaken. Such is the case with our material bodies that are as false and fleeting as our delusive dreams.

43 Rama said, “Tell me sage, where does a hill that we dream of hide upon our waking? Kindly remove my doubt like the wind disperses the clouds of autumn.”

44 Vasishta said:—

All things that appear in dream or reside in our desires, such as a hill or the like, are absorbed in the consciousness from where they sprang, just like the motion of bodies subsides in the air that gives them vibration. 45 As the motion of the air mixes with the fixed ether, so dreams and desires set in the unchanging soul from where they arose.

46 Our dreams, like our knowledge of all other things, are made known to us by our consciousness, the nature of which is as unknown to us as that of the inner soul. 47 We do not find our dreams or desires to be distinct from our awareness of them. They appertain to it in the same way as fluidity to water and motion to air. 48 Whatever difference may appear to exist between dreams and our awareness of them is the effect of sheer ignorance. This gross ignorance is the characteristic of this world known as the phantom of fancy. 49 It is impossible to conceive of two co-eternal and co-existent causes together, so it is wrong to suppose the dream as a distinct existence or anything other than an act of our consciousness.

50 There is no difference whatever between the dreaming and waking states. In dream we see a false city appearing to view. In waking you behold the unreal world standing as a reality before you. 51 Nothing can be truly existent that appears as true in a dream. This being always true of what is seen in a dream, it is likewise so of external phenomena that we see in our daydreams. 52 As a hill in a dream immediately disappears into airy nothing, so the material world sooner or later disappears into nothing by thinking on its nothingness.

53 Some see a yogi arising in the air; others as a dead body lying on the ground. This is according to one’s belief in his spiritual or material body. Every one sees him in his own way.

54 The view of the phenomenal world as distinct from the Unity is as false as a seeing a delusion or a magic show, or a dream or delirium of the great illusion. 55 Others who are blinded by similar errors, after being awakened from cessation of physical senses at death, entertain the notion of their reproduction as in a dream. But the spiritual body of the yogi shines and soars upward, after passing over the mirage of the false appearances of the world.