Chapter 43 — Varieties of Living Souls

Vasishta continued:—

Thus the living soul, being derived from Brahman, assumes to itself the form of the mind and is tossed about with the thoughts and cares of the world. Then it is changed into thousands and millions of forms that it creates to itself in its imagination.

It has undergone many prior births and is in the course of migrating into many more. It will reincarnate into many more as multitudinous as the flitting particles of a waterfall. These atomic souls of living beings, being subjected to their desires by the great variety of their wishes, are made to wander under many forms to which they are bound by their desires.

They wander constantly in different directions and in distant countries, both by land and water. They live or die in those places, like bubbles blow out only to float and burst and then sink in the water below. Some are produced for the first time in a new kalpa age and others are born a hundred times in it. Some have had only two or three births while the births of others are beyond number. Some are yet unborn and are to be born yet on earth and many others have passed their births by attainment of their liberation at last. Some are alive at present and others are no more to be born. Some are born again and again for myriads of kalpas. Some remain in one state all along and many in various states repeatedly changing their forms and natures. Some are subjected to the great misery of hell and some are destined to a little joy on earth. Some enjoy the great delights of the gods in heaven and others are raised to the glory of the heavenly bodies above.

Some are born as kinnaras (half-human, half-horse celestials) and gandharvas (male nature spirits), and others as vidyadharas (supernatural spirits) and huge serpents. Some appear in the forms of the Sun god, Indra and Varuna, and others in those of the three-eyed Shiva and the lotus-born Brahma. 10 Some become the kushmanda demons and vetala demon-ghosts, and others as yaksha (nature-spirit) and raksha demon cannibals. Some again become the brahmins and the ruling class, and others become vaisyas (merchant castes) and shudras (worker castes). 11 Some become swapacha (low caste) and chandala (outcaste), and others as Kiratis and Pukkasa tribals.

Some become the grass and greens on earth, and others as the seeds of fruits and roots of vegetables, or as moths and butterflies in the air. 12 Some are formed into varieties of herbs and creeping plants, and others into stones and rocks; some into jama and kadamba trees, and others into sala, palm and tamala forests.

13 There are some placed in prosperous circumstances, becoming ministers and generals and rulers of states, while others are clad in rags and remain as religious recluses, munis and silent hermits in the woods.

14 Some are born as snakes, serpents, worms, insects and ants. There are others in the forms of great lions, big buffaloes, deer and goats, and fleet antelopes in forests. 15 Some are begotten as storks and cranes, ruddy geese and cuckoos. Others become their pastures in the shapes of lotuses, water lilies, and other aquatic shrubs and flowers. 16 Some are brought forth as elephants and their cubs, and as wild boars, bulls and asses. Others come into being as bees and beetles, flies and gadflies, gnats and mosquitoes.

17 Many are born to difficulties and dangers, and many to prosperity and adversity. Some are placed in hell pits and others in their heavenly abodes. 18 Some are situated in the stars and some in the hollows of trees. Some move upon the wings of the winds and others rest in the still air above or fly freely in the sky. 19 Many dwell in the sunlight of the day and many subsist under the moonbeams at night. There are others subsisting upon the beverage they draw from herb-like plants.

20 Some are liberated in their lifetime and wander about freely in this earth. Others live in blissful states. Some are altogether free in their reliance in the Supreme Spirit. 21 There are some that require long periods for their blessed and ultimate liberation. Others disbelieve the intellectuality and spirituality of mankind and dislike being reduced to the singleness of the One Soul, or to be reduced to their oneness or unity with the Supreme Soul.

22 Some become regents of the skies above and others roll down in the form of mighty streams. Some become females of beautiful appearances and others as ugly hermaphrodites and freaks. 23 Some are of enlightened understandings and some are darkened in their minds. Some are preachers and lecturers of knowledge and others are in ecstatic consciousness of samadhi.

24 The living souls who are dominated by their desires are so powerless of themselves that they have forgotten their freedom and are fast chained to their wishes. 25 They rove about the world, now flying up and then falling down in their hopes and fears. They are constantly tossed up and down, like play balls flung on all sides by the relentless hands of playful Death. 26 Trapped in the hundred fold snare of desire and converted to the various forms of their wishes, they pass from one body to another, as birds fly from one tree to alight on another. 27 The endless desires of the living soul, bred and led by the false imaginations of the mind, have spread this enchanted snare of illusion (maya) known by the name of the great world.

28 Stupefied souls are doomed to wander about in the world, like waters in a whirlpool, as long as they do not come to understand the true nature of their selves as selfsame with the Supreme-Self. 29 Having known and seen the true Self by forsaking their false knowledge of their individual egos, they come to their consciousness of themselves as identical with the divine Self. Having attained this in process of time, they are released from their doom of revisiting this world of pain and sorrow.

30 However, there are some unconscious beings who, in spite of their attainment of this knowledge, after passing into a hundred lives in it in various shapes, are so perverted in their natures that they have to return again to this earth. 31 Some, after having attained higher states, fall down again by the lowness of their spirits and appear in the shapes of brute creatures, and at last have to fall into hell.

32 There are some great minded souls who, having proceeded from the state of Brahman, have to pass here a single life, after which they are absorbed in the Supreme Soul. 33 There are multitudes of living beings in other worlds also, some of whom have become like the lotus-born Brahma and others as Shiva. 34 There are others who have become like the gods or brute creatures in them, and there are snakes and other reptiles also in them, as well as in this earth.

35 There are other worlds as obvious to view as this earth, and there are many such worlds that have gone by, and others are yet to appear. 36 In the other worlds there are various other creatures of different shapes produced by various unknown causes and which have their growths and deaths like those of this earth. 37 Some are produced as gandharvas and others as yakshas. Some are generated as sura demigods and some others as asura and daitya gods.

38 The manners and modes of life of the peoples in other parts of the globe are like those of men living in this part of the earth. 39 All creatures move according to their own natures and mutual relations for ever more, like the waves and currents of a river move forward, following and followed by others in regular succession. 40 The entire creation moves onward in eternal progression in its course of evolution and involution, and in its motions of ascent and descent like the waves of the ocean.

41 In this manner, multitudes of living beings with consciousness of their self-existence proceed from the Supreme Spirit, rising from and at last falling into it. 42 All created beings are detached from their source, like light from the lamp and solar rays from the sun. They are like sparks of red hot iron and the flashing sparks of fire. 43 They are like the minute moments of time and the flying odors of flowers, or the cold icicles and particles of rainwater carried by breeze and cooling the air all around. 44 The flitting particles of life, flying from one spot to another and filling different bodies with animation, are at last absorbed in the mainspring of vitality from where they had risen.

45 Particles of vital air, being thus spread out and scattered over the universe, come to assume the various forms of animated beings in all the worlds. But they are all mere creations of our ignorance. In reality they are like the rolling waves of water in the vast ocean of eternity.