Chapter 17 — Describing Liberation while Living and Brahman beyond Words

Vasishta said:—

It is difficult, O Rama, to describe in words the inexplicable nature of the liberation of disembodied souls. But let me tell you more about the liberation of living beings.

The desire of doing one’s duties without expectation of reward is also called living liberation, and those who do their duties in this way are said to be the living liberated. The wise sages describe dependence of beings on their desires and their strong attachment to external objects as their bondage and chains in this world. But the desire to conduct oneself according to the course of events without any expectation of results also constitutes the liberation of the living as one’s duties are performed with the body only. The desire to enjoy external objects is truly the bondage of the soul. Indifference to worldly enjoyments constitutes one’s freedom in his living state. Lack of greed and anxiety in anticipation of some gain, and absence of joy and change in one’s disposition afterwards make true freedom of men.

O high-minded Rama, know that desire, which is eager expectation to possess anything, is the greatest bondage of men. He who is devoid of desire for anything, whether existent or nonexistent in the world, is the truly great man with the greatest magnanimity of his soul. Therefore Rama, forsake the thoughts both of your bondage and liberation, and also of your happiness and misery. Get rid of your desire for the real and unreal and remain as calm as the undisturbed ocean. 10 Think yourself, O most intelligent Rama, to be devoid of death and decay. Do not stain your mind with fears of disease or death. 11 These substances are nothing, nor are you any of these things that you see. There is something beyond these, and know that you are that very thing (which is the soul).

12 The phenomenon of the world is an unreality and everything here that appears real in your sight is unreal. Knowing yourself to be beyond all these, what earthly thing is there that you can crave? 13 All reasoning men, O Rama, consider themselves in one of four different lights in their minds. I shall now explain these to you in brief.

14 He who considers his whole body as the offspring of his parents (devoid of his spiritual part) is surely born to bondage of the world. 15 But they who are certain of their immaterial soul, which is finer than the point of a hair, are another class of men who are called wise and are born for their liberation. 16 There is a third class of men who consider themselves as same with the Universal Soul of the world. Such men, O support of Raghu’s race, are also entitled to their liberation. 17 Then there is a fourth class who consider themselves and the whole world to be as insubstantial as the empty air. These surely partake in liberation.

18 Of these four kinds of beliefs, the first leads to bondage and the other three, growing from purity of thought, lead to the path of liberation. 19 Among these, the first is subject to the bondage of greed, but the other three, proceeding from pure desire, are crowned with liberation. 20 In my opinion, those of the third kind, who consider themselves one with the Universal Soul, are never subject to sorrow or pain. 21 The magnitude of the Supreme Spirit extends over and below and all about existence. Therefore the belief that “All in one” or “One in all” never holds a man in bondage.

22 The fourth kind, those who believe in emptiness and maintain the principles of nature or illusion, are in ignorance of the divine knowledge that represents God as Shiva, Lord, He, and eternal Soul. 23 He is all and everlasting without a second or another like him. He is pervaded by his omniscience, and not by the ignorance called illusion (maya). 24 The spirit of God fills the universe like the water of the ocean fills the deep. The spirit of God stretches from the highest heaven to the lowest abyss of the infernal regions. 25 Therefore only His reality is ever existent. No unreal world exists at anytime. Liquid water fills the sea, and not the swelling wave that rises in it.

26 As the bracelets and armlets are nothing other than gold, so the varieties of trees and herbs are not distinct from the Universal Spirit. 27 It is the one and same omnipotence of Supreme Spirit that displays different forms in its works of the creation.

28 Never be joyful or sorry for anything belonging to you or another. Do not feel delighted or dejected at any gain or loss that may happen to occur to you. 29 Be of an even disposition, and rely on your essence as one with the Supreme Soul. Attend to your many duties. Be observant of unity in your spiritual concerns and dualities in your worldly affairs.

30 Beware of falling into the hidden holes of this world in your pursuit of varieties of objects. Do not be like an elephant falling into a hidden pit in the forest. 31 O Rama of great soul, there cannot be a duality as it is thought in the mind. O Rama of enlightened soul, there cannot be any unity or duality of the soul. The true essence is ever existent without unity or duality. It is called the all and nothing particular, and as itself (swarupa). 32 There is no ego or your subjective-self, nor are there any objective worlds that you see. All this is the manifestation of the eternal and imperishable Omniscience. Know this world to be neither an entity nor non-entity by itself.

33 Know the Supreme Being to be without beginning and end, the enlightener of all lights, the un-decaying, unborn and incomprehensible one. He is without part and without any change in him. He is beyond imagination and beyond all the imaginary objects about us. 34 Know for certain in your mind that the Lord is always present in the full light of your consciousness. He is the root of your consciousness. He is of the nature of your inner soul. He is conceivable in the intellect. He is the Brahman, the all and everlasting, the all-pervading, the subjective “I” and the objective “you” and this world.