Chapter 42 — From Brahman to Ordinary Mind: Producing Individual Souls

Vasishta continued:—

Rama, now hear what is the antidote against the widespread disease of ignorance and the raging epidemic of unreality, which vanish from view upon your close inspection of it. I am going to expand upon something I was going to mention earlier (in Chapter 40) concerning the qualities of sattva (purity) and rajas (activity) in order to investigate the powers of the mind.

The same Brahman who is all-pervading, undecaying and immortal, without beginning or end and free from error, is known as intellectual light. The Intellect, which is the body of Brahma and has its vibration in itself, becomes agitated and condensed at intervals, like the translucent water of the ocean has its motion of itself and becomes dense and thickened by its disturbance. As seawater is agitated in itself without any motion or excitation from without, so the almighty Power exerts its force in itself throughout all eternity and infinity.

As the air stirs in its own bosom of emptiness forever, so the power of the Divine Spirit exerts itself spontaneously and freely in its own sphere of the spirit. As a flame rises high of its own accord, so the power of the Spirit extends in itself in all directions. As the sea seems to move with its sparkling waters, reflecting the sun and moonbeams upon its surface, so the almighty Spirit appears to shake with the fleeting reflections of creation in its bosom. As the sea sparkles with the golden beams of the starry sky, so the vast translucent soul of God shines with the light of its own intellectual sphere.

10 As chains of pearly rays glitter to our sight in the empty sky, so diverse forms of things fly about in the vast emptiness of Consciousness. 11 These intellectual images, being pushed forward by the force of Consciousness, begin to roll in its empty sphere like waves in the sea. 12 These images, although inseparable from the Consciousness of the Divine Spirit, yet seem to be apart from it, like light shining through the holes of needles and other openings. 13 The universal Omnipotence exhibits itself in those particular forms, as the moon shows her various crescent shapes in her different phases. 14 Thus the intellectual power of the Supreme Spirit, coming to shine forth as light, refracts itself in various forms as the very many appearances of that great light.

15 The Supreme Spirit, though conscious of its nature of infinity and indivisibility, yet assumes to itself the state of its individuality in every separate and limited form of created beings. 16 When the Supreme Entity takes these several forms upon itself, it is immediately joined by a train of qualities and properties, with quantity, modality and the like as followers in its train. 17 Unsubstantial Consciousness, deeming itself as a substance by being separated from the Supreme Soul, becomes divided into infinity like the waves of the seawater.

18 As there is no material difference of the armlet and bracelet from the same gold with which they are made, so Consciouness and the Soul are one and same thing. The thought makes the difference in their different modes. 19 As there is no difference between one lamp and the others that are lighted from the same light, so it is of all souls and intellects: they are alike in their nature, but differ only in their particular attributes.

20 Consciousness, being put to action by the force of the soul on particular occasions, pursues its desires and the objects of its fancy. 21 The same consciousness also, taking its forms of will and action at different times and places, is called the embodied soul or spirit, and also known as kshetrajna, the knower of the field. 22 The witness consciousness is so named from its familiarity with the body (kshetra) and its knowledge of its inner and outward actions. 23 This being filled with its desires, is designated as ego or selfishness, and this again being soiled by its fancies, takes the name of understanding. 24 Understanding leaning towards its wishes is called the mind, which when it is compacted for action, takes the name of the senses or sensation. 25 Next the senses are furnished with their organs called the organs of sense, which being joined with the organs of action, the hands and feet, are together called the body. 26 Thus the living soul being tied to its thoughts and desires, and being trapped in the net of pain and sorrow, is called the heart (chitta, the memory aspect of the mind). 27 Thus the gradual development of consciousness produces its successive results. These are the different states or conditions of the living soul, and not so many forms of it, but all these are the impurities of the soul.

28 The living soul becomes associated with egoism in its embodied state, and this being polluted by its egoistic understanding becomes entangled in the net of selfish desires, which becomes the mind. 29 The lustful mind becomes eager to graft itself in its consorts and offspring, and to secure the false possessions of the world to itself and without a rival. 30 The tendencies of the mind pursue their desired objects, as the cow follows the lusty bull. The mind runs after its objects only to be polluted by them, as the sweet stream of the river meets the sea to become bitter and briny. 31 Thus the mind, being polluted by its selfishness, loses the freedom of its will and becomes bound to its desires, like silkworms in their cocoons.

32 The mind exposes the body to confinement by its pursuit of its desires, until it comes to feel the bitterness of its own bondage and the bitter regret of the conscious soul. 33 Knowing itself to be enslaved, it bids farewell to the freedom of its thought and knowledge and begets gross ignorance within itself, which rages and ranges free in the forest of this world with its horribly monstrous appearance.

34 The mind, containing within it the flame of its own desires, is consumed to death like a chained lion in a fire. 35 It assumes to itself the agency of all its various acts under its subjection to a variety of desires. Thus it exposes itself to the changes of its state in this life and all its future births. 36 It labors continually under all of its eight-fold states of understanding; namely knowledge, intelligence and activity or active agency, and its egoism or selfishness, all of which are causes of all of its sorrows. 37 It is sometimes called nature (prakriti or character) or the seat of self delusion (maya). The mind is often converted to foulness (malas) and very often to activity. 38 It is sometimes called bondage and is often synonymous with the heart-mind. It is also called ignorance (avidya, literally, not-knowledge) and also frequently identified with the will or volition.

39 Know Rama that the heart-mind is tied to the earth by a chain of sorrow and misery. It is full to the brim with greed and grief and it is the abode of passions. 40 It is living dead with the cares of age and the fear of death to which the world is subject. It is troubled with desires and disgust and stained by its ignorance and passions. 41 It is infested with the prickly thorns of its wishes and the brambles of its acts. It is quite forgetful of its origin and it is beset by the evils of its own making. 42 It is confined like a silkworm in its own cocoon where it is doomed to dwell with its sorrow and pain. Although it is only a minute particle in its shape, it is the seat of endless hellfire. 43 It is as minute as the soul, and yet appears as huge as the highest hill. This world is a forest of wild poisonous trees branching out with their fruits of decay and death. 44 The snare of desire is stretched over the whole world. Its fruits are like those of Indian fig trees which have no core or flavor within.

45 The mind being burnt by the flame of its sorrow and bitten by the serpent of its anger, and being drowned in the boisterous sea of its desires, has entirely forgotten its great Father (Brahma). 46 It is like a lost male deer straying out of its herd, and like one deprived of reason by his sorrows, or more like a moth burned by the flame of world affairs. 47 It is torn away like a limb from its place in the Spirit and thrown in an unsuitable spot. It is withering away like a lotus plant plucked from its root. 48 Being cast amidst the bustle of business among men who are inimical or like dumb pictures to him, every man is groveling in this earth amidst dangers and difficulties. 49 Man is exposed to the difficulties of this dark and dismal world like a bird that has fallen into the waters of the sea. He is entangled in the snare of the world like one snatched to a fairyland in the sky.

50 The mind is carried away by the current of business like a man borne by the waves of the sea. Lift it, O brave Rama, from this pit, as they do an elephant sinking in the mud. 51 Lift up your mind by force, O Rama, like a bullock from this delusive puddle of the world where it is shorn of its brightness and is weakened in its frame.

52 Rama, the man whose mind is troubled in this world by successions of joy and grief, or by the vicissitudes of weakness from old age, disease and death, is no human being. He resembles a monstrous rakshasa demon, although he may have the figure of a man on him.