Chapter 117 — The Seven States of Ignorance

Rama said, “Please sage, tell me briefly, what are the grounds of yoga meditation that produce the seven kinds of consummation that are the aims of yogi adepts. You are best acquainted with all esoteric truths. You, sage, must know better than all others.

Vasishta replied:—

They consist of the seven descending states of ignorance and the seven ascending states of knowledge. These again diverge into many others by their mixtures together. All these states of ignorance and knowledge, being deep rooted in the nature of man either by his habit or training, produce their respective results. Attend now to the nature of the seven states or grounds of ignorance, and you will also come to know the nature of the seven grounds of knowledge.

This will be the shortest lesson that I will give you about the definitions of true knowledge and ignorance. One’s own true nature is his highest knowledge and liberation. Whatever distracts one from this knowledge to the false sense of individual ago is the cause of his ignorance that leads him to the error and bondage of this world. Those who do not deviate from their awareness of the self as composed of only pure consciousness are not liable to ignorance because they lack passions, affections, and the feelings of envy and enmity. The greatest ignorance and error of mankind is forgetting self awareness and diving into consciousness (chit) after thoughts of cognizable objects.

The space that takes place in the mind between a past and future thought of one object to another, that respite of the mind from thinking is the resting of the soul in the consciousness of its true form (swarupa).

That state of the soul when it is calm after the setting of the thoughts and desires of the mind, and which is as cold and quiet as the bosom of a stone, and yet without the dullness of slumber or dull drowsiness, is called the repose of the soul in its recognition of itself. 10 The soul is said to be at rest in itself and shines forth with its unsleeping intelligence when it is devoid of its sense of ego, destitute of its knowledge of dualism, and lacking in any distinction between it and the state of the one Universal Soul.

11 This state of the pure and self-intelligent soul is hidden by the various states of ignorance which I will now describe to you. These are three states of wakefulness known as embryonic waking, ordinary waking, and intense waking. 12 Again, the different states of dreaming are also said to be the grounds of its ignorance and these are waking dream, sleeping dream, sleepy waking and sound sleep (susupti). These are the seven grounds of ignorance. 13 These are the seven grounds that produce sheer ignorance. When joined with one another they become many more mixed sattes known under different names, as you will hear by and by.

14 At first there was the intelligent Consciousness which gave rise to the nameless and pure intelligence which became the source of the would-be mind and individual soul. 15 This intellect remained as the ever waking embryonic seed of all, which is why it is called the waking seed. It is the first condition of cognition, so it is said to be the primal waking state.

16 The waking state is next to the primal waking intelligence of God, and it is the belief in the individual personality of the ego. 17 The great waking (mahajagrat) is the firm belief that I am such a one, and this thing is mine, by virtue of my merits in this or bygone times (karma). 18 The cognition of the reality of anything, either by bias or mistake, is called the waking dream. Examples are the sight of two moons in the halo, of silver in shells, water in the mirage, and the imaginary castle building of day dreamers.

19 Dreaming in sleep is of many kinds, as is known by one upon awaking who doubts their truth owing to their short-lived duration. 20 The reliance placed on things seen in a dream, after one wakes from his sleep, is called his waking dream, and lasts only in the mind as a memory. 21 A thing long unseen and appearing dimly with a strong figure in the dream, if taken for a real thing of the waking state, is also called a waking dream. 22 A dream dreamt either in the whole body or the dead body of the dreamer appears as a phantom of the waking state.

23 Besides these six states, there is a sluggish state of the individual soul which is called his sound sleep (susupta) and is capable of feeling its future pleasures and pains. 24 In this last state of the soul or mind, all outward objects from a straw up to a mountain appear as mere atoms of dust in its presence, just as the mind sees a miniature of the world in profound meditation.

25 I have thus told you Rama, the features of true knowledge and error in brief, but each of these states branches out into a hundred forms with various traits of their own.

26 A long continuous waking dream is described as the waking state (jagrat) and it becomes diversified according to the diversity of its objects. 27 The waking state contains under it the conditions of the wakeful soul of God. Also, there are many things under these conditions that mislead men from one error to another, like a storm casts boats into whirlpools and eddies. 28 Some of the lengthened dreams in sleep appear like the waking sight of daylight, while others, though seen in the broad daylight of the waking state, are no better than night-dreams seen in the daytime, and therefore are called our daydreams.

29 I have thus far related to you the seven grades of the grounds of ignorance which with all their varieties are to be carefully avoided by the right use of our reason and by the sight of the Supreme Soul in ourselves.