Chapter 34 — Prahlada’s Discrimination Leads to Self Realization

The Lord said, “O you rich jewel on the crown of the Daitya race! Receive your desired reward of me to alleviate your worldly afflictions.”

Prahlada replied, “What better blessing can I ask of you, my Lord, than to instruct me in what you think is your best gift above all other treasures of the world, and which is able to benefit and reward all our wants in this miserable life.”

The Lord answered, “May you have a sinless boy, and may your right discrimination of things lead you to your rest in God and the attainment of your supreme joy, after the dispersion of your earthly cares and the errors of this world.”

Vasishta continued:—

Being thus bid by his god, the lord of demons fell into a profound meditation, his nostrils snoring loudly like the gurgling waters of the deep. As Lord Vishnu departed from his sight, the chief of the demons made his oblations after him, consisting of handfuls of flowers and rich gems and jewels of various kinds. Then seated in lotus posture (padmasana), legs folded over one another upon his elevated and elegant seat, he chanted his holy hymn and reflected within himself.

Prahlada’s contemplation:—

My deliverer from this sinful world has asked me to have my discrimination. Therefore I must discriminate between what is true and false. I must know that I am in this dark world and I must seek the light of my soul and the principle that makes me speak, walk and take pains to exert myself. I perceive that I am nothing of this external world, like any of its green trees or hills. External bodies are all of a gross nature, but my ego is quite a simple and pure essence. 10 I am not this unconscious body, which is both dull and dumb and is made to move for a moment by means of the vital airs. The body is an unreal appearance of a transitory existence.

11 I am not the unconscious sound, which is an empty substance produced in emptiness. It is perceptible through the ear hole and is as fleeting and insubstantial as empty air. 12 Nor am I the unconscious organ of touch or the momentary feeling of touch. I find myself to be an inner principle with the faculty of reasoning and the capacity of knowing the nature of the soul.

13 I am not even my taste, which is confined to the tasting of certain objects and to the organ of the tongue, which is a trifling and ever restless thing, sticking to and moving in the cavity of the mouth. 14 I am not my sight, which is employed in seeing only what is visible. It is weak and decaying and never lasting in its power, nor capable of viewing the invisible Spirit. 15 I am not the power of my smell, which belongs only to my nasal organ and is conversant with scented substances for a short moment only.

16 I am pure consciousness and not any of the sensations of my five external organs of sense. I am neither my mental faculty, which is ever frail and unsteady, nor is there anything belonging to me or participating of my true essence. I am the soul and an indivisible whole. 17 I am pure consciousness without the objects of reasoning. My pure consciousness pervades internally and externally over all things and manifests them to view. I am the whole without its parts, pure without foulness and everlasting.

18 It is my reasoning that manifests this pot and that painting to me and brings all other objects to my knowledge by its pure light, just like the sun and a lamp show everything to sight. 19 Ah! Now I remember the whole truth: that I am the immutable and all pervading Spirit, shining in the form of consciousness. 20 This essence evolves itself into the various faculties of sense, just as the inner fire unfolds itself into the forms of its flash and flame and its sparks and visible light. 21 This principle also unfolds itself into the forms of the different organs of sense, just as the all-diffusive heat of the hot season shows itself in the shape of mirage in sandy deserts.

22 Likewise this element, the spirit, constitutes the substance of all objects, just as it is the light of the lamp which causes various colors of things, as the whiteness or other color of a piece of cloth or any other thing. 23 The spirit is the source of the perception of all living and waking beings, and of everything else in existence. Just as a mirror reflects all outward appearances, so the soul is the reflective organ of all its internal and external phenomena.

24 It is only through this immutable intellectual light that we perceive the heat of the sun, the coldness of the moon, the solidity of a rock, and the fluidity of water. 25 This is the prime cause of every object of our continuous perceptions in this world. This is the first cause of all things, without having any prior cause of its own. 26 This produces our notions of the continuity of objects that are spread all around us. They all take the name of objects from their objectivity of the soul. 27 It is this formless cause which is the prime cause of all malleable and secondary causes (such as Brahma the creative agent and others). It is from this that the world has its production, as coldness is the product of cold and the like.

28 The gods Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Indra, who are causes of the existence of the world, all owe their origin to this prime cause who has no cause of Himself. 29 I hail that Supreme Soul which is impressed in me and is apart from every object of thought of the intellect, and which is self manifest in all things and at all times. 30 All beings stand in relation to the modes and modalities of this Supreme Being. They are immersed as properties in that intellectual Spirit. 31 Whatever this internal and intelligent Soul wills to do, the same is done everywhere. Nothing other than the Soul exists in reality anywhere.

32 Whatever is intended to be done by this intellectual power, the same receives a form of its own. Whatever is thought to be undone by the intellect, the same is dissolved into nothing from its substantiality. 33 These numberless series of worldly objects are like shadows cast on the immense mirror of emptiness. 34 All these objects increase and decrease in size under the light of the soul, like the shadows of things enlarging and diminishing themselves in sunshine.

35 This internal Soul is invisible to all beings except those whose minds are melted down in piety. It is seen by the righteous in the form of the clear sky. 36 This great Cause, like a large tree, gives rise to all visible phenomena like its germ and sprouts. The movements of living beings are like the flittering of bees about this tree. 37 It is this that gives rise to the whole creation both in its ideal and real and mobile or quiescent forms, just as a huge rock gives growth to a large forest with its various kinds of big trees and small shrubs.

38 It is not separate from anything existing in the womb of this triple world, but resides alike in the highest gods as in the lowest grass below. It manifests them all to our view. 39 This is one with the ego and the all-pervading soul. It is situated as the moving spirit and the unmoving dullness of the whole.

40 The Universal Soul is beyond the distinction, of “my”, “your” or “his” individual spirit. It is above the limits of time and place, of number and manner, of form or figure or shape or size. 41 The one intelligent soul, by its own intelligence, is the eye and witness of all visible things. It is represented as having a thousand eyes and hands and as many feet. 42 This is that supreme ego of myself that wanders about the sky in the body of the shining sun, and also wanders in other forms, as those of air in the current winds.

43 The sky is the azure body of my Vishnu with its accompaniments of the conch shell, discus, club and the lotus in the clouds, all of which are tokens of prosperity in this world by their blissful rains. 44 I find myself identical with this god while I am sitting in my lotus posture in this state of samadhi, and when I have attained my perfection in stillness. 45 I am the same with Shiva, the god with his three eyes, his eyeballs rolling like bees on the lotus face of Gauri. I am in the form of the god Brahma and I contain the whole creation in me, like a tortoise contracting its limbs in itself. 46 I rule over the world in the form of Indra. As a monk I command the monastery which has come down to me. I am an Indra when I rule over my domain, and a poor monk when I dwell in my humble cell.

47 I am both male and female, and I am both boy and girl. I am old as regards my soul, and I am young with regard to my body, which is born and ever renewed.

48 The ego is the grass and all kinds of plants on earth. It is also the moisture which grows them, like its thoughts in the ground of consciousness. In the same manner as herbs grow in holes and wells have their moisture, the ego or soul is the core and foundation of all substance. 49 It is for pleasure that this ego stretched out the world, like a clever boy who makes dolls of clay in his play. 50 This ego is me who gives existence to all being, and it is I in whom they live and move about. Being at last forsaken by me, the whole existence dwindles into nothing.

51 Whatever image is impressed in the clear mirror of my intellect, that and nothing else is in real existence because there is nothing that exists apart from myself. 52 I am the fragrance of flowers and the color of their leaves. I am the figure of all forms and the perception of everything that can be perceived. 53 Whatever movable or immovable thing is visible in this world, I am its inmost heart without having any of its desires in my heart.

54 As the primary element of moisture is diffused in nature in the form of water, so my spirit is spread over plants and all other things at large in the form of vacuum. 55 I enter inside everything in the form of consciousness, and I extend in the manner of various sensations at my own will. 56 As butter is contained in milk and moisture is inherent in water, so the power of consciousness is spread in all beings, and so ego is situated inside all things. 57 The world at all times, whether present, past or future ages, exists in consciousness. The objects of intelligence are all inert and devoid of motion, like the mineral and vegetable productions of earth.

58 I am the all-grasping and all-powerful form of Brahman which fills infinite space and is free from any diminution or decrease in shape or size. I am this all-pervading and all-productive power known as the Universal Form (virat murti). 59 I have gained my boundless empire over all worlds without seeking or asking for it, and without subduing it like Indra of old or crushing the gods with my arms.

60 O the extensive spirit of God! I bow down to that spirit in my spirit and find myself lost in it, as in the vast ocean of the universal deluge. 61 I find no limit to this spirit as long as I am seated in the enjoyment of my spiritual bliss. I appear to move about like a minute mollusk in the fathomless expanse of the Milky Ocean. 62 This temple of the cosmic egg is too small and constricted for the huge body of my soul. It is impossible for me to be contained in it, just as it is impossible for an elephant to enter into the eye of a needle. 63 My body stretches beyond the region of Brahma, my attributes extend beyond the categories of the various schools of philosophy, and there is no definite limitation given of them to this day.

64 The attributes of a name and body to the unsupported soul are falsehoods, and it is false to compress the unlimited soul within the narrow bounds of the body. 65 To say this is I and this is another are altogether wrong. What is this body or my want of it, or the state of living or death to me? 66 How foolish and short-witted were my forefathers, who having forsaken this spiritual domain, wandered as mortal beings in this frail and miserable world. 67 How great is this grand sight of the immensity of Brahman. How mean are these creeping mortals with their high aims and ambition and all their splendors of royalty.

68 My pure intellectual sight, filled with endless joy and accompanied by ineffable tranquility, surpasses all other sights in the whole world. 69 I bow down to the Self situated in all beings, which is the intelligent and intellectual soul, and quite apart from whatever is the object of reasoning or thought. 70 I who am the unborn and uncreated soul rule triumphant over this perishing world by my attainment to the state of the great Universal Spirit, which is the chief object of gain, the supreme good of mortal beings, and which I live to enjoy.

71 I take no delight in my unpleasant earthly dominion which is full of painful greatness. I would not like to lose my everlasting kingdom of good understanding, which is free from trouble and full of perpetual delight. 72 Cursed be the wicked demons who are so sadly ignorant of their souls and resort to their strongholds of woods and hills and ditches for the safety of their bodies, like the insects of those places.

73 Ignorance of the soul leads to serving the dull ignorant body with articles of food and clothing. This was how our ignorant elders pampered their bodies for no lasting good. 74 What good did my father Hiranyakasipu reap from his prosperity of a few years in this world? What did he acquire worthy of his descent in the line of the great sage Kasyapa? 75 He who has not tasted the blissfulness of his soul has enjoyed no true blessing during his long rule of a hundred years in this world.

76 He who has gained the ambrosial delight of his spiritual bliss, and nothing of the temporary blessings of life, has gained something which is ever full in itself and of which there is no end to the end of the world. 77 It is the fool and not the wise who forsakes this infinite joy for the temporary delights of this world. Such a fool resembles the foolish camel which foregoes his fodder of soft leaves in order to browse the prickly thorns of the desert. 78 What man of sense would turn his eyes from such a romantic sight and like to roam in a city burnt down to the ground? What wise man is there that would forsake the sweet juice of sugarcane in order to taste the bitterness of nimba? 79 I reckon all my forefathers as very great fools for leaving this happy prospect in order to wander in the dangerous paths of their earthly dominion.

80 Ah, how delightful is the view of flowering gardens and how unpleasant is the sight of the burning deserts of sand. How very quiet are these intellectual reveries and how very boisterous are the cravings of our hearts! 81 There is no happiness to be had in this earth that would make us wish for our sovereignty in it. All happiness consists in the peace of the mind, which always concerns us to seek. 82 It is the calm, quiet and unaltered state of the mind that gives us true happiness in all conditions of life and the true kingdom of things in all places and at all times, and under every circumstance in life.

83 The virtue of sunlight is to enlighten all objects, and that of moonlight to fill us with its ambrosial nectar. But the light of Brahman transcends them both by filling the three worlds with its spiritual glory which is brighter than sunbeams and cooler than moonlight. 84 The power of Shiva stretches over the fullness of knowledge, and that of Vishnu over victory and prosperity.

Fleetness is the character of the mental powers and force is the property of the wind. 85 Inflammation is the property of fire and moisture is that of water. Silence is the quality of devotees for success in their tapas and eloquence is the qualification of learning. 86 It is the nature of aerials to move about in the air and of rocks to remain fixed on the ground. The nature of water is to set deep and run downwards and that of mountains to stand and rise upwards. 87 Equanimity is the nature of Buddhists and drunken merry making is the liking of wine-drinkers. Spring delights in its flowering and the rainy season exults in the roaring of its clouds. 88 Yaksha demons are full of delusiveness, celestials are familiar with cold and frost, and those of the torrid zone are habituated to its heat. 89 Thus many other beings are suited to their respective climates and seasons and are habituated to the very many modes of life and varieties of habits to which they have been accustomed in the past and present times. 90 It is the one uniform and Unchanging Consciousness, according to its changeable will and velocity, that ordains these many forms and changing modifications of powers and things.

91 The same unchanging Consciousness presents these hundreds of changing scenes to us, just as the same and unchanging light of the sun shows a thousand varying forms and color to the sight. 92 The same Consciousness sees at a glance all these great multitudes of objects that fill the infinite space on all sides, in all the three times of the present, past and future. 93 The identical pure Consciousness knows at once the various states of all things presented in this vast phenomenal world, in all the three times that are existent, gone by and are to come hereafter. 94 At one and the same time, this pure Consciousness reflects all things existent in the present, past and future times. It is full with the forms of all things existing in the infinite space of the universe. 95 Knowing the events of the three times, and seeing the endless phenomena of all worlds present before it, Divine Consciousness continues full and perfect in itself and at all times.

96 Understanding ever continues the same and unaltered in spite of the great variety of its perceptions of innumerable objects of sense and thought, such as the different tastes of sweet and sour in honey and nimba fruit at the same time. 97 Consciousness, by abandonment of mental desires and knowing the natures of all things by reducing their dualities into unity, is in its state of acuteness. 98 It views them alike with an equal eye and at the same time in spite of the varieties of objects and their great difference from one another.

99 By viewing all existence as non-existence, you get rid of your existing pains and troubles. By seeing all existence in the light of nothingness, you avoid the suffering of existing evils. 100 The intellect being withdrawn from its view of the events of the three tenses, and being freed from the chains of its fleeting thoughts, there remains only a calm tranquility. 101 The soul being inexpressible in words proves to be described only in negative terms. There ensues a state of one’s perpetual unconsciousness of his soul or self existence. 102 In this state of the soul it is equal to Brahman, which is either nothing at all or the all of itself. Its absorption in perfect tranquility is called its liberation from all feelings.

103 The intellect weakened by its will does not see the soul in a clear light, as the deceived eye has only a dim and hazy sight of the world. 104 The intellect weakened by the dirt of its desire and dislike is impeded in its heavenly flight, like a bird caught in a snare. 105 They who have fallen into the snare of delusion by their ignorant choice of this or that are like blind birds falling into the net in search of their prey. 106 Entangled in the meshes of desire and confined in the pit of worldliness, our fathers were barred from this unimpeded sight of spiritual light and endless delight. 107 In vain did our forefathers flourish for a few days on the surface of this earth only to be swept away by a gust of wind like fluttering flies and gnats into the ditch. 108 If these foolish pursuers of painful worldly pleasures had known the path of truth, they would never have fallen into the dark pit of unsubstantial pursuits.

109 Foolish folks are subject to repeated pains and pleasures by their various choice of things. They follow the fate of short-lived worms born to move and die in their own ditches and ponds. 110 He is said to be really alive who lives true to nature and who, by the rising cloud of his knowledge of truth, suppresses his mirage of desires and aversions. 111 The hot and foul fumes of fancy fly far away from the pure light of reason, just as the hazy mist of night is dispersed by the bright beams of moonlight.

112 I hail that soul which dwells as the inseparable consciousness in me. At last I come to know my God that resides like a rich gem enlightening all the worlds in myself. 113 I have long thought upon and sought after you, and at last I have found you rising in myself. I have chosen you from all others. Whatever you are, I hail you, my Lord, as you appear in me. 114 I hail you in me, O lord of gods, in your form of infinity within myself and in the shape of bliss within my soul of bliss. I hail you, O Supreme Spirit, who is superior to and master of all.

115 I bow down to that cloudless light shining like the full moon within me, and to that identical form which is free from all predicates and attributes. It is the self risen as light in myself. The Soul (atman) is identical to that blissful soul which I find in myself.