1 Rama said, “What is that great desert, sage? When did I see it and how did I come to know it? Who were those men and what were they doing?”
2 Vasishta replied:—
Attend O great-armed Rama, and I will tell you all. That great desert is not distant or different from this wilderness of the world. 3 That which bears the name of the world is a deep and dark abyss in itself. Its hollowness is unfathomable and impassable. Its unreality appears as reality to the ignorant, and it is the great desert spoken of before.
4 True reality is obtainable only by the light of reason, and only by the knowledge of one object. This one is full without union with any other. It is one and only by itself.
5 The big bodied men you saw wandering, they are the minds of men bound to the miseries of the world. 6 Their observer was Reason personified as myself. Only I by my guiding reason and no other person could discern the folly of their minds. 7 It is my business to awaken drowsy minds to the light of reason, just as it is the work of the sun by his enlivening rays to open lotus buds to bloom. 8 My counsels have prevailed on some minds and hearts that have received them with attention, and they have turned away from earthly troubles to the way of true contentment and tranquility.
9 But there were others who paid no attention to my lectures because of their great ignorance. They fell down into the pit after I scolded them with reproofs and rebukes. 10 Those deep and dark pits were no other than the pits of hell. The plantain groves that I described were the Nandana gardens of paradise. 11 These gardens are the place of those minds that long for heavenly joys. The dark pits are the homes of hellish hearts that can never get their release from those dark dungeons. 12 Those who, having once entered the plantain grove and never come out, are the minds of the virtuous filled with all their virtues.
13 Those who fell into karanja thickets and were unable to extricate themselves from the thorns are the minds of men entangled in the snares of the world. 14 Some minds that were enlightened with the knowledge of truth got released from the snares, but the unenlightened are bound to repeated reincarnations. 15 Souls subject to rebirth have their repeated rises and falls, from higher to lower births, and likewise vice-versa.
16 The thick thicket of karanja brambles represents the bonds of conjugal and family relations. They are the source of various human desires that are springs of all other sorrows, difficulties and dangers. 17 Minds stuck in karanja bushes are those repeatedly born in human bodies and repeatedly entangled in domestic attachments from which all other animals are quite free.
18 O support of Raghu’s race, the plantain grove that I described was cooling with moonbeams. Know that it is the refreshing arbor of heaven that gives delight to the soul. 19 Those persons are placed here who have their bodies filled with virtuous deeds and edified by persevering tapas and austerities, and whose souls are elevated above others.
20 Those ignorant, thoughtless and unmindful men who slighted my advice were themselves slighted by their own minds which were deprived of the knowledge of their own souls and of their reason. 21 Those who told me, “We are undone at your sight, and you are our greatest enemy,” were demented fools, melting away with their lamentations. 22 Those who were loudly wailing, weeping a flood of tears, were men who were bitterly sad in their minds because they were snatched from the snare of pleasures to which they had been so fondly attached. 23 Those having a little sense and reason, but not arriving to the pure knowledge of God, bitterly complained in their hearts for being forced to give up their fond enjoyments of life. 24 Those who came to their understanding wept over the pains they had inflicted on their bodies for the support of their families, and were grieved in their minds to leave behind the objects of their care, for whom they had taken such pains.
25 The minds that had some light of reason, but had not yet arrived to divine knowledge, were still sorrowing for having to leave behind their own bodies where they had their previous life. 26 Those who smiled in the cheerfulness of their hearts were men who had come to the light of reason, and it was their reason that gave consolation to their hearts. 27 The reasonable soul, removed from its bondage of the world, exults with joy to find itself liberated from the cares of life. 28 Those men who laughed to scorn their battered and shattered bodies were happy to think about how they had rid themselves of the confines of their bodies and limbs, the accomplices of their actions. 29 Those who laughed with scorn to see their falling body parts were happy to think in their minds that they were no better than instruments to their various labors in the world.
30 Those who had come to the light of reason and had found their rest in the supreme state of joy, from a distance looked down with scorn upon the former homes of their meanness. 31 The man I stopped who asked with concern (about what he was going to do) was made to understand how the power of wisdom could endure the desperate. 32 The weakened limbs that gradually disappeared from sight meant the subjection of the members of the body to the control of the mind that is freed from its corruption by riches.
33 The man with a thousand arms and eyes is a symbol of the covetous mind which looks to and longs after everything, and wants to grasp all things, as with so many hands. 34 The man striking himself with his blows symbolized the torments that a man inflicts on his own mind by the strokes of his anxieties and cares. 35 The man running away striking hard blows upon his body signified how the mind runs all about, being lashed at every moment by the strokes of his unsatisfied desires. 36 The man who afflicts himself with his own desires, then flies this way and that, signifies his fool-heartedness to hunt after everything and be a runaway from himself.
37 Thus every man is harassed by his ceaseless desires and yearns in his mind to fly to his Maker and set his heart to yoga meditation. 38 All these ceaseless sorrows are the making of one’s own mind, which being worried at last by its constant anxieties, strives to retire from them and find its final repose in meditation. 39 The mind is trapped in the net of its own wishes, just like the silk worm is trapped in the cocoon by the thread of its own making. 40 The more a man’s mind is afflicted by troubles, the more busily is it employed in its moral weaknesses, just like a boy indulges himself in his playfulness, unmindful of the evils waiting upon it. 41 The mind of man is in the same plight as that of a foolish ape who straddles a half split timber, struggles to pull it out, and looses its life by smashing its own testicles.
42 No flight can release the mind unless it is practiced to resignation, restrained from its other pursuits, and constrained to the continued practice of pious meditation, which only can relieve its sorrows. 43 The mind’s misjudgments cause accumulated sorrows that increase in height like the peak of a mount. It is the government of the mind that melts our sorrows, like hoarfrost under sunbeams.
44 Throughout your lifetime, accustom your mind to the righteous ways pointed out by the scriptures. Restrain your appetites, govern your passions, and observe the silence of holy saints and sages. At last you will arrive at the holy state of holies and rest under the cooling shade of holiness. You shall no more have to grieve under the disasters that happen to all mankind.