Chapter 84 — Vitahavya’s Tapas; His Mental or Imaginary Worlds

Vasishta continued:—

Sage Vitahavya, having thus reflected in his mind, renounced all his worldly desires and sat in his hypnotic trance in a cave of the Vindhya Mountains. His body became motionless and devoid of its pulsations. His soul shot forth with its intellectual delight. Then with his calm and quiet mind, he sat in his penance (tapas) like the still ocean in its calmness.

His heart was cold and his breathings were stopped. He remained like a fire that has gone out after consuming its fuel. His mind withdrew from all objects of the physical senses and intensely fixed upon the object of his meditation. His eyes were almost closed under the slight pulsations of his eyelids. His slight and acute eyesight was fixed upon the top of his nose. His eyelids had the appearance of half opened lotus buds. The erect head and neck and body of the meditating sage gave him the appearance of a bas relief carved upon rock.

Sitting in this posture in the Vindhya cave with his close attention on the Supreme Soul, he passed a period of three hundred years as if only half a moment. The sage did not perceive the flight of this length of time owing to the fixedness of his mind in his soul. Having obtained his liberation in his listless state, he did not lose his life in his extreme tapas. All that time, nothing could rouse him from his profound samadhi trance. Not even the loud roar of rainy clouds could break his entranced yogic sleep (yoga nidra) meditation. 10 Loud shouts and shots of soldiers and hunters, the cries and shrieks of beasts and birds, and the growling and snarling of tigers and elephants on the hills could not break his profound samadhi. 11 The loud roars of lions, the tremendous roars of waterfalls, the dreadful noise of thunder, and the swelling clamor of the people about him could not shake his firmness. 12 The deep howling of furious fantastic sarabha animals, the violent crackling of earthquakes, the harsh cracking of the woods on fire, and the dashing of waves and splashing of torrents upon the shore could not move him from his seat. 13 The rush of waters falling on rocky shores, the clashing off the torrents dashing on each other, and the noise and heat of wild fires did not disturb his samadhi.

14 He continued only to breathe at his will to no purpose, just as the course of time flows forever to no good to itself. All sides of his cave were washed over by currents of rainwater resembling ocean waves. 15 Soon he was submerged under mud carried by floods of rainwater in the mountain cave of his tapas penance. 16 Yet he continued to keep his seat in that dreary cell, buried as he was by mud up to his shoulders.

17 The long period of three hundred years had passed over him in this way when his soul was awakened to light under the pain of the rains of his mountain cell. 18 His oppressed body then assumed its intellectual or spiritual form, the astral body (linga deha), which is a living, subtle body like air or light, but without its acts of breathing vital energy.

19 This subtle body grew by degrees to its rarefied form by its imagination. It became of the form of the inner mind which was felt to reside within the heart. 20 It thought in itself of having become a pure and living liberated sage, in which state it seemed to pass a hundred years under the shade of a kadamba tree in a romantic grove of Kailash Mountain. 21 It seemed to take the form of a vidyadhara spirit for a century of years, in which state it was quite free from the diseases of humanity. It next thought of becoming the great Indra who is served by the celestials, and its passed full five yuga ages in that form.

22 Rama said, “Let me ask you, sage. How could the mind of the sage conceive itself as Indra or a vidyadhara, whom it had never seen? How could it have any idea of extensive Mount Kailash or pass many ages in its small space in the cave? This is impossible in nature.”

23 Vasishta replied:—

Consciousness is all comprehending and all pervading. Wherever it exerts its power in any form, it immediately assumes that form by its own nature. Thus undivided consciousness exhibits itself in various forms throughout the whole creation. 24 It is the nature of consciousness to exhibit itself in any form as it represents itself in understanding. Its nature is to become whatever it pleases at any place or time.

25 So the impersonal sage saw himself in various forms and personalities in all the worlds in the ample sphere of his consciousness within the narrow space of his heart. 26 The man of perfect understanding has transformed his desires to detachment. The desires of men, like seeds of trees burned by the fire of intelligence, produce no germ of acts. 27 He thought to be an attendant on the god Shiva who bears the crescent moon on his forehead. He became acquainted with all sciences and the knowledge of all things past, present and future. 28 Everyone sees everything in the same manner on his outside as it is firmly impressed in his inner mind. But this sage, being freed from the impression of his personality in his lifetime, was at liberty to take upon himself whatever personality he chose.

29 Rama said, “I believe, O chief of sages, that the living liberated man who sits in this manner obtains the emancipation of his soul, even though he is confined in the prison house of his body. Such was the case of the self-liberated sage Vitahavya.”

30 Vasishta answered:—

Ram, how can living liberated souls be confined to the body? They remain in the form of Brahma in the outward temple of his creation, which is pure and tranquil as air. 31 Wherever the empty and airy consciousness represents itself in any form, it finds itself to be spread out there in that form. 32 So many ideal worlds appear to be present before us. They are full with the presence of the all pervading spirit of God.

33 Thus Vitahavya, confined in the cave and submerged under mud, saw multitudes of worlds and countless unformed and ideal creations in the intellect of his great soul. 34 First he thought of himself as celestial Indra. Then he conceived himself to be an earthly ruler preparing to go hunting in some forest. 35 At one time this sage supposed himself to be the swan of Brahma. At another he became a chief among the Dasa hunters in the forests of Kailash. 36 He who once thought himself to be a prince in the land of Surastra became as a forester in a village of the Andhras in Madras.

37 Rama said, “If the sage enjoyed heavenly bliss in his mind, what need did he have of assuming these ideal forms?”

38 Vasishta replied:—

Why do you ask this question, Rama, when you have been repeatedly told that this world is a false creation of the Divine Mind? The creations of the sage’s mind were also false creations.

39 The universe is the creation of Divine Consciousness. It is as unsubstantial as empty air. The ideal world of the human mind, being only a delusion, is the same. 40 In truth, O Rama, neither is that world nor is this other anything in reality. Neither you nor I have any essentiality in this nonessential world which is filled only with the essence of God. 41 The one is as the other at all times, whether past, present or future. All this visible world is the fabric of the mind which is only a copy of Consciousness. 42 Such is the whole creation, although it appears otherwise. Creation is only a transcendental vacuum, although it seems to be as firm as a diamond.

43 It is its ignorance that the mind exhibits itself in the forms of the production, growth and extinction of things, all of which are like the rise and swinging and sinking of waves in the ocean of eternal emptiness. 44 All things are situated in the empty sphere of consciousness and are perceived by its representative of the mind in the form of the firm and extended cosmos, though it has no extension in reality.