Chapter 114 — Description of Error

Rama repeated, “Tell me sage, how to remove this stony blindness of man caused by the trick of ignorance (avidya)?”

Vasishta replied:—

As the particles of snow melt at the sight of the sun, so this ignorance is dispelled immediately by a glance of the Supreme Spirit. Until then, ignorance continues to hurl down the soul and spirit, as from a precipice to the depths of the world, and expose them to sorrows as thick as thorny brambles. As long as the desire of seeing spirit does not rise of itself in the human soul, there is no end of this ignorance (avidya) and unconsciousness. The sight of the Supreme Spirit destroys the knowledge of our self-existence that is caused by our ignorance, just like the light of the sun destroys the shadows of things. The sight of the all-pervading God dispels our ignorance in the same manner as the light of the twelve zodiacal suns (all shining at once) puts the shadows of night to flight from all sides of the horizon.

Our desires are the offspring of our ignorance, and the annihilation of these constitutes what we call our liberation. A man who is devoid of desires is reckoned the perfect and consummate master (siddha). As the night-shade of desires is dissipated from the region of the mind, the darkness of ignorance is put to flight by the rise of the intellectual sun. As the dark night flies away before the advance of sunlight, so ignorance disappears before the advance of true knowledge (viveka or discrimination).

10 The stiffness of our desires tends to bind the mind fast in its worldly chains, like the advance of night serves to increase the fear of demons in children.

11 Rama asked, “The knowledge of phenomena as true makes what we call avidya or ignorance, and it is said to be dispersed by spiritual knowledge. Now tell me sage, what is the nature of the Spirit?”

12 Vasishta replied:—

That which is not the subject of thought, which is all-pervasive, and the thought of which is beyond expression and comprehension is the Universal Spirit. 13 That which reaches to the highest heaven of God and stretches over the lowest plots of grass on earth is the all-pervading spirit at all times, and is unknown to the ignorant soul. 14 All this is truly Brahman, eternal and imperishable Consciousness. To Him no imagination of the mind can reach at anytime.

15 That which is never born or dead and which is ever existent in all worlds, and in which the conditions of being and change are altogether wanting, 16 which is one and one alone, all and all-pervading, and imperishable Unity, which is incomprehensible in thought, and is only of the form of Intellect is the Universal Spirit. 17 It is accompanied with the ever-existent, all-extending, pure and undisturbed Conscioiusness and is that calm, quiet, even and unchanging state of the soul which is called the Divine Spirit.

18 There resides also the impure mind, which is by nature beyond all physical objects and runs after its own desire. It is conceivable by Consciousness as sullied by its own activity. 19 This ubiquitous, all-potent, great and godlike mind, in its imagination, separates itself from the Supreme Spirit and rises from it like a wave on the surface of the sea. 20 There is no fluctuation or projection in the all-extending tranquil soul of God, but these take place in the mind owing to its desires which cause the production of all things in the world. 21 Therefore the world, being the production of desire or will, has its extinction with the privation of desires, for that which is the growth of a thing causes its extinction also, like the wind that kindles the fire also extinguishes it.

22 The exertion of human effort gives rise to the expectation of results, but lack of desire causes the cessation of exertions and consequently puts a stop to the desire of activity and our ignorance that causes desire. 23 The thought that “I am distinct from Brahman” binds the mind to the world, but the belief that “Brahman is all” releases the mind from its bondage. 24 Every thought about one’s self fastens his bondage in this world, but release from selfish thoughts leads him to his liberation. Cease from your selfish cares and you shall cease to work with persistence for nothing.

25 There is no lake of lotuses in the sky, nor is there a lotus growing in the gold mine whose fragrance fills the air and attracts the blue bees to suck its honey. 26 The goddess of ignorance, with her uplifted arms resembling the long stalks of lotus plants, laughs over her conquests in exultation with the glaring light of shining moonbeams. 27 Such is the net of our wishes that our minds spread before us, which represent unrealities as real and take a delight to dwell upon them, like children in their toys. 28 So also is the trap spread out by our own ignorance all over this world. It ensnares busy people to their misery in all places, just as it tightly binds ignorant men and children in its chains.

29 Men are busy with worldly affairs with such thoughts as, “I am poor and bound in this earth for my life; but I have my hands and feet with which I must work for myself.” 30 But they are freed from all affairs of this life who know themselves as spiritual beings, and that their spiritual part is neither subject to bondage nor labor. 31 The thought that “I am neither flesh or bones but some thing other than my body” releases one from his bondage. One having such assurance within is said to have weakened his avidya or ignorance.

32 The imagination of earthly men paint ignorance as dark as the darkness that surrounds the highest pinnacle of Mount Meru, blazing with the blue light of sapphire, or at the primeval darkness impenetrable by sunlight. 33 Earth-born mortals also represent ignorance as the blackness which naturally covers the face of heaven by its own nature, like the blue vault of the sky. 34 Thus, in the imagination of the unenlightened, ignorance is pictured with a visible form. But the enlightened never attribute qualities of physical sensation to inanimate and imaginary objects.

35 Rama said, “Tell me sage, what is the cause of the blueness of the sky if it is not the reflection of the blue gems on the Meru’s peak? Is it a collection of darkness (at night) by itself?”

36 Vasishta replied:—

Rama, the sky being only an empty vacuum cannot have the quality of blueness which is commonly attributed to it. Nor is it the bluish luster of the blue gems that are supposed to abound on the top of Meru. 37 Nor is there any possibility of a body of darkness abiding in the sky when the cosmic egg is full of light (which has displaced the primeval darkness) and when the nature of light is the brightness that stretches over the extraterrestrial regions.

38 O fortunate Rama, the sky which is a vast vacuum is open to a sister of ignorance with regard to its inner hollowness. 39 As one after losing his eyesight sees only darkness all about him, so the lack of the objects of sight in the womb of emptiness gives the sky the appearance of a dark scene. 40 By understanding this, as you come to the knowledge that the apparent blackness of the sky is no black color of its own, so you come to learn the seeming darkness of ignorance to be no darkness in reality.

41 Want of desire or its detachment is the destroyer of ignorance. It is as easy to effect it as to annihilate a lake of lotuses growing in the sky.

42 It is better, O good Rama, to distrust the delusions of this world and disbelieve the blueness of the sky than to labor under the error of their reality. 43 The thought that “I am dead” makes one as sad as when he dreams of his death in sleep. Similarly, the thought that “I am living” makes one as cheerful as when he wakes from the deadly dream of his death-like sleep. 44 Foolish imaginations make the mind as dull as that of a fool, but reasonable reflections lead it to wisdom and clear sightedness.

45 A moment’s reflection of the reality of the world and of his own essence casts a man into the gloom of everlasting ignorance, while his forgetfulness of these removes all mortal thoughts from his mind. 46 Ignorance produces passions and temptations for all transient objects. Ignorance is busy destroying the knowledge of the soul. It is destroyed only by knowledge of the soul.

47 Whatever the mind seeks is instantly supplied by the organs of action which serve as ministers subservient to the orders of their king. 48 Therefore, he who, by his diligent application to spirituality, does not attend to the dictates of his mind in the pursuit of phenomena entertains the tranquility of his inmost soul.

49 What did not exist at first has no existence even now. That which appears as existent is nothing other than the quiescent and immaculate essence, Brahma himself. 50 Let no other thought of any person, thing, place or object employ your mind at anytime, except that of the immutable, everlasting and unlimited spirit of Brahma. 51 Rely upon the superior powers of your understanding, exert your sovereign intellect, and root out all worldly desires by enjoyment of the pleasures of your mind.

52 The great ignorance that rises in the mind and raises the desires of your heart has spread the net of your false hopes for your ruin, causing your death and decrepitude under them. 53 Your wishes burst out in expressions such as, “These are my sons and these are my treasures. I am such a one and these things are mine.” All this is the effect of a magic spell of ignorance that binds you tightly. 54 Your body is a void in which your desires have produced all your selfish thoughts, like empty winds raising waves on the surface of the sea.

55 Learn, you who are seekers of truth, that the words “I” and “mine” and “this” and “that” are all meaningless in their true sense. There is nothing that may be called real at anytime except knowledge of the true self and essence of Brahman.

56 The heavens above and the earth below, with all the ranges of hills and mountains on earth and all the lines of its rivers and lakes, are only the dissolving sights seen in the same or different lights as they are represented by our ignorance. 57 Phenomena rise to view from our ignorance and disappear before the light of knowledge. They appear in various forms in the substratum of the soul, just as the fallacy of a snake appears in the substance of a rope.

58 Rama, know that only the ignorant are liable to the error of taking the earth, sun and stars for realities; not so the learned to whom the great Brahman is present in all his majesty and full glory in all places and things. 59 While the ignorant labor under the doubt of two ideas, a rope and a snake in the rope, the learned are firm in their belief and sight of one true God in all things.

60 Therefore do not think like the ignorant, but well consider all things like the wise and the learned. Forsake your earthly wishes and do not grope like the vulgar by believing the not-self to be the self. 61 Of what good is this dull and dumb body to you, Rama, (in your future state) that you are so overcome by alternating joy and grief at its pleasure and pain? 62 Like the wood of a tree, its gum resin, and its fruit and seed are not one and the same thing, though they are so closely related to one another, so this body and the embodied being are quite separate from one another, though they are so closely united with each other.

63 As the burning of a pair of bellows does not blow out the fire or stop the air blown by another pair, so the vital air is not destroyed by destruction of the body but finds its way into another form and frame elsewhere. 64 The thought that “I am happy or miserable” is as false as the idea of water in a mirage. Knowing it as such, give up your misconceptions of pleasure and pain and place your reliance upon the sole truth. 65 O how wonderful it is that men have so utterly forgotten the true Brahman and have placed their reliance on false ignorance, the sole cause of errors.

66 Do not, O Rama, give way to ignorance in your mind, which being overspread by its darkness will render it difficult for you to pass over the errors of the world. 67 Know ignorance to be a false fiend and deluder of the strongest minds. It is the baneful cause of endless sorrows and produces the poisonous fruits of illusion. 68 It imagines hellfire in the cooling beams of the watery orb of the moon. Ignorance conceives the torments of infernal fires proceeding from the refreshing beams of that celestial light. 69 It views a dry desert in wide waters rolling with waves and undulating with the fragrance of the aqueous kalpa flowers. It imagines a dry mirage in the empty clouds of autumn. 70 Ignorance builds imaginary castles in empty air and causes the error of rising and falling towers in clouds. It is the delusion of our fancy that makes us feel the emotions of pleasure and pain in our dreams.

71 If the mind is not filled and led away by worldly desires, then there is no fear of falling into the dangers that the daydreams of our earthly affairs constantly present before us. 72 The more our false knowledge lays hold of our minds, the more we feel the torments of hell and its punishments in us, like nightmares in sleep. 73 The mind pierced by error, as if by the thorny stalk of a lotus, sees the whole world revolving before it like the sea rolling with its waves. 74 Ignorance takes possession of the mind, converts enthroned princes to peasants, and reduces them to a condition worse than that of beastly hunters.

75 Therefore, Rama, give up the earthly desires that serve, at best, to bind down the soul to this mortal earth and its mortifying cares. Remain like the pure white crystal, reflecting the colors of all things around in your stainless mind. 76 Employ your mind to your duties without being tarnished by your attachment to any. Remain like the unsullied crystal, receiving the reflections of outward objects without being stained by any.

77 Knowing everything with eagerness in your watchful mind and performing all your duties with due submission, and staying away from the common track with your exalted mind, you will raise yourself above comparison with any other person.