1 Vasishta said:—
Now hear me relate to you, Rama, the several classes of higher, lower and middling species of beings, and the various grades of their existence here and elsewhere in the scale of creation.
2 The first class in birth (idam-prathama) were the first to be produced. They are those whose long practice in a course of virtuous actions in prior states has secured to them the property of only goodness.
3 The second grade is called state of sound qualities (guna pivari). This is attained by the prosperous and leads them to meritorious deeds, to the acquisition of their desired objects, and their right dealing in the affairs of the world.
4 The third grade is termed substantiality (sasatwa) or the state of men of substance. It is attended with like results, proportioned to the righteous and unrighteous acts of men, who may obtain their liberation after a hundred reincarnations of their souls on earth.
5 The fourth grade (atyanta tamasi) comprises infatuated people who are addicted to their varying desires in this changeful world 6 and come to the knowledge of truth after passing a thousand lives in ignorance and sin, and suffering the effects proportionate to their good or evil deeds.
7 The fifth grade is composed of men of a baser nature, called adhama-satwa by the wise, and who may possibly have their liberation after a course of numberless births in different shapes and forms.
8 The sixth grade is composed of those men involved in extreme darkness (atyanta tamasi) who are doubtful of their liberation (sandigdha-moksha) and continue in the vicious course of their past lives.
9 Those who pass two or three previous births in other states and are then born with the quality of gentleness are in the seventh grade, called the gentry (rajashi). 10 The wise say that those who remain mindful of their duties and are employed in discharge of them in this state of life are entitled to their liberation soon after their death.
11 Those among the gentry (rajashi), whose acts are commensurate with those of gentlemen and the nobility, are included in the eighth class and are called nobility (raja satwiki) and are entitled to their liberation after a few births on earth.
12 The ninth class comprises the noble nobility (raja-rajashi) whose actions conform with their title, and who obtain their long longed-for liberation after a course of hundred births in the same state.
13 The next or tenth class is composed of the blinded gentry (rajatamasi) who act foolishly under their infatuation and who are uncertain of their liberation even after a thousand births. 14 The most giddy of this class are called the excessively infatuated gentry (atyanta-raja-tamashi). Their conduct in life corresponds with their name and their reincarnations do not cease at anytime. 15 Then the lower classes comprise the children of ignorant darkness (tamas) of whom the tamasas form the eleventh grade, and are said to be deprived of their liberation forever more. 16 However, there have been a few among them who have obtained their salvation by means of their divine knowledge, and their good acts during their lifetime.
17 Next follows the twelfth order who combine the qualities of darkness and enlightenment (tamasa-rajasa) and who are liberated after a thousand births in their former demonic state, and one hundred births in their progressive improvements.
18 Then comes the thirteenth order of those in darkest darkness (tamas-tamasi) who have to reincarnate for millions of years, both in their prior and later births, before they can have their liberation from the bondage of body.
19 Last comes the fourteenth order of beings, who continue in their state of gross ignorance (atyanta-tamasi) forever, and it is doubtful whether they can have their liberation at all.
20 All other masses of living beings also have proceeded from the body of the great Brahma, just as the moving waves rise from the great body of waters. 21 As the lamp flickering by its own heat scatters its light on all sides, so does Brahma glowing in himself radiate his beams in the shape of a glittering particle spread all over the universe. 22 As sparks are flung by the force of a burning fire, so these multitudes of produced beings rise from the substance of Brahma himself. 23 As the dust and filaments of mandara flowers fly and fill the air on all sides, and as moonbeams shoot out of its orb to fill the four quarters of heaven and earth, so the minutiae of divine essence emanate from the Deity and spread throughout the universe.
24 As the variegated tree produces its leaves and flowers of various colors from itself, so the varieties of created beings spring from one Brahma, the source of all. 25 As gold ornaments relate to the metal gold of which they are made and wherein they exist, so all things and persons are in relation to Brahma, out of whom they have sprung and in whom they abide. 26 As drops of water are related to the pure water of the waterfall, so Rama are all things related to the uncreated Brahma from which they issue as like drops. 27 As the air in a pot or about a basin is the same as the air that surrounds heaven, so all individual objects are the same with the undivided spirit of the all-pervading Brahma.
28 As raindrops and drops of water from water spouts, whirlpools and waves are identical with their parent waters, so are all these sights of phenomena the same as the great Brahma from where they spring and where they exist and subside. 29 As a mirage, by the fluctuation of sunbeams on sand, presents the appearance of a swelling sea wave, so all visible objects show themselves to the sight of the spectator, beside which they have no figure or form of themselves. 30 Like cooling moonbeams and burning sunlight, so all things shine with their different luster derived from Brahma. 31 It is He from whom all things have risen, and it is to Him that they return in their time; some after reincarnations of a thousand births, and others after longer periods of transmigrations in various bodies.
32 All these various forms of beings in the multiform world are moving in their respective spheres by the will of the Lord. They come and go, rise and fall, and shine in their transitory forms, like the sparks of fire, fluttering and sparkling for a moment, then falling and becoming extinct forever.