Chapter 119 — Illustration of the Gold Ring: Form Versus Substance

Vasishta said:—

The human soul reflecting on its sense of ego forgets its essence of the Supreme Soul, just as a gold ring thinking on its round form loses its thought of the gold substance of which it is made.

Rama said, “Please tell me sage, how can gold have consciousness of its form of a ring, like a soul is conscious of its sense of ego?”

Vasishta said:—

The consciousness of men relates only to their substance and not the production and dissolution of their forms. So you should ask about the substance of the soul and gold, and not of ego and the ring, which are unsubstantial nothings in nature. When the jeweler sells his gold ring for the price of gold, he undoubtedly delivers the gold which is the substance of the ring and not the ring without its substance.

Rama asked, “If such is the case, that you take the gold for the ring, then what becomes of the ring as we commonly take it to be? Explain this to me so that thereby I may know the substance of Brahman.”

Vasishta said:—

All form, O Rama, is formless and accidental quality without any essential property. So, if you would ascertain the nature of a non-existence, then tell me the shape and qualities of a barren woman’s son. Do not fall into the error of taking the roundness of a ring as an essential property of it. The form of a thing is only apparent and not prominent to sight. Water in a mirage, two moons in the sky, men’s sense of ego, and the forms of things, though appearing as real to sight and thought, cannot be proved as separate existences apart from their subjects. Again, the likeness of silver appears in oyster shells but you cannot find even a particle of silver in the shell. 10 An imprudent view of a thing makes a nothing appear as real, like the appearance of silver in a shell or water in a mirage. 11 The invalidity of a nothing appears falsely as an existent entity to sight, the fallacy of a thing as something where there is nothing of the kind. 12 Sometimes an unreal shadow acts the part of a real substance, such as the false apprehension of a ghost kills a lad from fear of being killed by it.

13 After its form of jewelry is destroyed, there remains nothing in gold jewelry except gold. Therefore, the forms of the ring and bracelet are no more than drops of oil or water on a heap of sand. The forms are absorbed in the substance, just as the fluids in the sand.

14 There is nothing real or unreal on earth other than the false creations of our brain, and these whether known as real or unreal are equally productive of their consequences, like the sights and fears of ghosts in children. 15 A thing, whether it is so or not, proves itself as it is believed to be by different kinds and minds of men. Poison becomes as effective as an elixir to the sick, and ambrosia proves as heinous as hemlock with the immoderate.

16 Belief in only the essence of the soul constitutes true knowledge. Belief in individual ego and mind, as these are generally believed in this world, is ignorance. Therefore abandon the thought of your false and unfounded sense of ego as individual existence. 17 As there is no roundness of the ring inherent in gold, so there are no individual egos in the all-pervading Universal Soul.

18 There is nothing everlasting beside Brahman and no personality of Him as a Brahma, Vishnu or any other. There is no substantive existence such as the world, only Brahma’s offspring called the patriarchs. 19 There are no other worlds beside Brahma, nor is there any heaven without Him. Hills, demons, mind and body all rest in that spirit which is not any of these. 20 He is no elementary principle, nor is he any material cause. He is none of the three times of past, present and future but all. He is not anything in being or not-being. 21 He is beyond your concepts of individual ego, selfhood and selfishness, and all your entities and non-entities. There is no attribution or particularity in He who is above all your ideas. He is none of the ideal personifications of your notions.

22 He is the fullness of the world, supporting and moving all, being unmoved and unsupported by any. He is everlasting bliss without decay, having no name or symbol or cause of his own. 23 He is no being (sat) that is born and existent, nor is He non-existent. He is neither the beginning, middle or end of anything, but is all in all. He is unthinkable in the mind, and unutterable by speech. He is vacuum about the emptiness, and a bliss above all joy.

24 Rama said, “Now I understand that Brahman is the same in all things, yet I want to know what is this creation that we see all about us?”

25 Vasishta replied:—

The Supreme Spirit being perfectly tranquil and all things being situated in Him, it is wrong to speak of this creation or that when there is no such thing as a creation at anytime.

26 All things exist in the all containing spirit of God, just as the whole body of water is contained in the universal ocean. But there is fluctuation in the waters owing to their fluidity, whereas there is no motion in the quiet and motionless spirit of God.

27 The light of the luminaries shines of itself, but not so the Divine light. It is the nature of all lights to shine of themselves, but the light of Brahma is not visible to sight. 28 As the waves of the ocean rise and fall in the body of its waters, so these phenomena appear as concepts in the mind of God (as his ever-varying thoughts). 29 To men of little understanding, these thoughts of the Divine Mind appear as realities. They think this sort of ideal creation will last for ages.

30 Creation is determined to be a thought of the Divine Mind. Creation is not anything different from the mind of God, just as the visible sky is nothing other than a part of Infinity. 31 The production and extinction of the world are mere thoughts of the Divine Mind, just as the formation and dissolution of ornaments take place in the same substance of gold.

32 The mind that has obtained its calm composure views creation as full of the presence of God. Those who are led by their own convictions take the nonexistent for reality, like children believing ghosts are real existences. 33 The consciousness of individual ego causes the error of the objective knowledge of creation. The tranquil unconsciousness of ourselves brings us to the knowledge of the Supreme, who is above the objective and inert creation.

34 These different created things appear in a different light to the wise who view them all in the unity of God, just as the intelligent well know that toy puppets of play soldiers are composed of mud and clay. 35 This plenitude of the world is without beginning or end and appears like a faultless or perfect piece of workmanship. It is full with the fullness of the Supreme Being and remains full in the fullness of God. 36 This fullness which appears as the created world is essentially the Great Brahma and is situated in his greatness, just as the sky is situated in the sky, tranquility in tranquility, and joy in joy.

37 Look at the reflection of a very long landscape in a mirror or the picture of a far stretching city in a miniature and you will find distances lost in their closeness. So the distances of worlds are lost in their proximity to one another in the spirit of God.

38 Some think of the world as a non-entity and others as an entity by taking the world in different lights of being a thing beside God or a reflection of Brahman. 39 After all, it can have no real entity, being like the picture of a city and not the city itself. It is as false as the appearance of clear water in a desert mirage, and that of a double moon in the sky.

40 Magicians show magic cities in the air by sprinkling handfuls of dust before our eyes. In the same way our false consciousness represents the unreal world as a reality. 41 Unless our inborn ignorance, like an arbor of harmful plants, is burnt down to the very root by the flame of right reasoning, it will not cease to spread out its branches and grow the rankest weeds of our imaginary pleasures and sorrows.