Chapter 91 — Seeds for the Mind: Breathing Vital Breath, Thinking Thoughts, Desires; Thoughts Create Form

Rama said, “I see the stupendous rock (Brahma) filling the infinite dome of vacuum and bearing countless worlds as its vast forests, with the starry frame for its flowers and the gods and demigods for its birds and fowls. Flashes of lightning are its blooming blossoms and blue clouds are the leaves of the forest trees. The seasons and the sun and moon fructify these trees with good looking fruits. The seven seas are the aqueducts at the foot of this forest, and flowing rivers are its channels. Fourteen worlds are so many regions of it, peopled with various kinds of beings.”

“This wilderness of the world is beset by the wide spreading net of desire which has spread over the minds of people like a creeping vine filling a vineyard. Disease and death form the two branches of the tree of the world yielding plentifully the fruits of our happiness and grief. Our ignorance serves to water and nourish this tree to its full growth.”

“Now tell me, sage, what is the seed that produced this tree and what is the seed of that seed? Tell me what is the original seed of the production of the mundane tree of the world (samsara)? Briefly explain this to me for the edification of my understanding, and so I may acquire the true knowledge with which you are best acquainted.”

Vasishta answered:—

Know Rama that the physical body is the seed or cause of this tree of the world (samsara). This seed is the desire concealed in the heart of the body. It shoots forth luxuriantly in the sprouts of good and bad acts and deeds. It is full of boughs and branches and luxuriant with the growth of its fruits and flowers. It thrives as thickly and quickly as the paddy fields flourish in autumn.

10 The mind is the seed of the body and is subject to and the slave of all its desires. Its treasure house consists of alternate plenty and poverty, and its casket contains the gems of pleasure and pain. 11 The mind spreads this network of reality and unreality as it projects the ornaments of truth and falsehood in dreams and visions.

12 As a dying man imagines he sees the messengers of death appearing before him, so the mind presents the figure of the unreal body as a reality. 13 All these forms and figures that appear to our view in these worlds are the creatures of the mind, just like pots and toys are the works of clay.

14 There are two kinds of seeds that give rise to the tree of the mind entwined by the creepers of its faculties. One kind of seed is the breathing of the vital breath. The other is thinking thoughts.

15 When the vital energy vibrates through the lungs and arteries, then the mind has consciousness of its existence. 16 When the vital energy ceases to circulate through the lungs and wind pipes, there ensues the unconsciousness of the mind and the circulation of the heart-blood is put to a stop. 17 It is by means of the vibrations of breath and the action of the heart that the mind perceives the existence of the world which is as false as the appearance of the blue sky in the empty space of vacuum. 18 But when these vibrations and actions fail to rouse the sleeping mind, then it is said to enjoy its peace and quiet. Otherwise they move the body and mind, just like wires move dolls in a puppet show. 19 When the body has its consciousness caused by the breathing of the vital energy, it begins to move about like a doll dancing in its giddy circle in the courtyard by the puppet player’s skill. 20 The vibrations of breath awaken our self-consciousness, which is more minute than the minutest atom and yet all pervasive in its nature, just as the fragrance of flowers is blown afar in the air by the breath of the wind.

21 It is of great good, O Rama, to confine one’s consciousness in one’s self. This is accomplished by stopping the breath by means of the practice of pranayama (breath control). 22 By restraining our self-consciousness we refrain from our consciousness of other things because the knowledge of endless objects is attended with infinite trouble to the mind. 23 When the mind comes to understand itself after it is roused from its dormancy of self-forgetfulness (addiction to thoughts of external objects), it gains what is known to be the best of gains and the purest and the holiest state of life. 24 If with the vacillation of your vital breaths and the fluctuation of your wishes you do not disturb the even course your consciousness, like the giddy part of mankind, then you are like the great Brahma himself.

25 The mind without its self-consciousness is a barren waste, and the life of man without knowledge of truth is like a maze troubled with traps and snares of errors and dangers.

26 Meditation and yoga are practiced to suppress the breath for the peace of mind. Practice breath control (pranayama) and single-pointed meditation (dhyana) according to the directions of the spiritual guide and the precepts of the scriptures. 27 Restraint of breath is accompanied by peace of mind and causes the evenness of its temperament. It is attended with health and prosperity and gives its practitioner the capacity of reflection.

28 Rama, learn another cause of the activity of the mind which the wise consider to be the source of its perpetual restlessness. This is its restless desires which cannot be satisfied.

29 Now this desire is defined as the fixed desire of the mind to possess something without consideration of its prior and ultimate conditions. 30 The intensity of one’s thought of getting something produces it before him in utter disregard of the other objects of its memory. 31 The man infatuated by his present desire believes himself as his desire depicts him to be. He takes his present form for real by forgetting the past and absent reality. 32 The current of our desires carries us away from reality, just as the drunkard sees everything whirling about him in his intoxication. 33 Men of imperfect knowledge are led to errors by their desires like a man driven to madness by the impulse of passions.

34 Such is the nature of the mind that leads to the imperfect knowledge of things, seeing the unreal as real and the unspiritual as spiritual. 35 The eager expectation of getting a thing, fixed and rooted in the heart, impels the restless mind to seek its desired object in repeated births and transmigrations.

36 When the mind has nothing desirable or disgusting to seek or shun and remains apart from both, it is no more bound to reincarnation in any form of existence. 37 When the mind is thoughtless about anything, owing to its lack of desire, it enjoys its perfect composure owing to it being unmindful of desires and all other things. 38 When there is no shadow of anything covering the clear face of consciousness, like a cloud obscuring the face of the sky, the mind is said to be extinct in a person. It is lost like a lotus flower which is never seen to grow in the expanse of the sky. 39 The mind can have no field for its action when the sphere of consciousness is drained and emptied of all its notions of worldly objects.

40 Thus far have I related to you, Rama, about the form and features of the mind that entertains thoughts of something with the fond desires of the heart. 41 There can be no action of the mind when the sphere of consciousness is as clear as the empty sky, without the thought of any imaginary or visible object moving before it like the speck of a cloud.

42 It is also called un-mindedness when the mind is practiced in the yoga of thoughtlessness of all external objects and remains transfixed in its vision of the sole essence of God. 43 When the mind has renounced the thought of everything within itself and remains in the perfect coolness of cold-heartedness of yogis, such a mind, though exercising its powers and faculties, it is said to be nil and extinct. 44 He whose lack of desires has chilled his intense desire for anything and made him impassionate is said to have become extinct and reduced like a rag to ashes. 45 He who has no desire of gain to cause his repeated birth and death is called the living liberated, though he may move about in his busy career like an unconscious potter’s wheel.

46 They are called the living liberated who do not taste the pleasure of desire but remain like fried seeds, without germinating into the sprouts of new and repeated births. 47 Men who attain spiritual knowledge in their earthly lives are said to have become mindless in this world and to be reduced to emptiness in the next.

48 There are, O Rama, two seeds or sources of the mind, namely, vital breath and desire. Though they are of different natures, yet the death of either occasions the extinction of both. 49 Both of these are causes of the regeneration of the mind, just as a pond and a pot are the joint causes of water supply. 50 Men’s gross desires cause their repeated births like seeds causing the repeated growth of trees. The germ of regeneration is contained in the desire like a future plant is contained in the seed and oil is innate in the sesame seed. 51 The conscious mind is the cause of all things in the course of time and the source of all its pleasure and pain which rise and fall in itself and never grow without it.

52 As the union of the breath of life with the organs produces sensations, so these being united with desire are productive of the mind. 53 As the flower and its fragrance and the sesame seed and its oil are united together, so is animal life inseparably connected with its desire. 54 Desire, being the active principle of man and subversive of his passive consciousness, tends to unfold the seed of the mind as moisture serves to expand the sprouts of vegetable seeds.

55 The pulsation of vital energy awakens the senses to their action and the vibrations of sensation touching the heart strings move the mind to its perception of them. 56 The infant mind, being produced by fluctuating desires and the fluctuations of vital breaths, becomes conscious of itself as separate and independent of its causes. 57 But the extinction of either of these two sources of the mind dissolves the mind and its pains and pleasures, which resemble the two fruits of the tree of the mind.

58 The body resembles a branching tree attacked by the creepers of its acts. Our greed is like a huge serpent coiling about it, and our passions and diseases are like birds nestling in it. 59 It is beset by our false senses, resembling ignorant birds setting upon it. Our desires are the sores that continually corrode our hearts and minds. 60 The shafts of death cut down the trees of our minds and bodies, just as the blasts of wind toss the fruits of trees upon the ground. The flying dusts of our desires have filled all sides and hidden the sights of things from our view. 61 Loose and thick clouds of ignorance hang over our heads. The pillars of our bodies are covered by the flying straws of our loose desires. 62 The small ship of our body, gliding slowly along in quest of pleasure, falls into the whirling current of despair. So everybody falls into utter gloom without looking to the bright light that shines within himself.

63 Just as flying dust settles when the winds die down, so does the dust of the mind settle by extinguishing the force of our vital airs and desires. 64 Again, intelligence is the seed or root of both of these, and there being this intelligence within us, we have both our vitality and our desires also. 65 This intelligence, by forsaking its universality and retaining its individuality, springs from consciousness. Then it becomes the seed both of vitality and slight wish.

66 Know that your intelligence is the same as your consciousness. It resembles the seed of the mind and its desires, both of which quickly die with their root, like an uprooted tree. 67 Intelligence never exists without consciousness. It is always accompanied with it, like mustard seed and its oil. 68 Wakeful consciousness gets its intelligence from its desire, just as the waking consciousness of men views their death or departure to distant lands in dreams from their thoughts of the same. 69 Only our curiosity makes our consciousness have its intelligence of what can be understood only by the intellect (God), just as the desire of knowing anything leads the conscious soul to its knowledge.

70 This world is no more than a network of our imagination, as children imagine a demon hidden in the dark. 71 It is like a tree stump that looks like a man in the dark. The world is like the streaks and particles of sunbeams and moonlight beaming through a chink in a wall that look like fire. So is everything that can be known by our thinking. 72 The objects of our knowledge are as deceptive as the appearance of a moving mountain to a passenger in a boat. All appearances are the presentations of our error or ignorance and disappear at the sight of right knowledge. 73 As the fallacy of a snake in a rope and the appearance of two moons in the sky vanish before the keen clear vision of the observer, so the representation of the triple world disappears before penetrating understanding.

74 The inner certainty that the world is an illusion is called the perfection of knowledge by the wise. The knowledge of all things, whether seen before or not, is equally a delusion of the mind. 75 Therefore it is right to rub out the impressions of consciousness with diligence, because the preservation of those visible signs is the cause of our bondage in the world. 76 The erasure of these marks from the mind is equivalent to our liberation because the consciousness of these impressions is the painful cause of repeated reincarnations in this world of grief.

77 Consciousness which is unconscious of the outward world but preserves consciousness of the self is attended both with present joy and the lack of future regeneration. Therefore be unconscious of the externals and conscious of the internal bliss of your soul. The wakeful soul that is unconscious of the externals is blessed with the consciousness of its inward blissfulness.

78 Rama asked, “Sage, how is it possible to be both unconscious and yet active? How can unconsciousness be freed from its unavoidable mental inactivity?”

79 Vasishta replied:—

Sensible unconsciousness, having its existence, dwells on nothing beside itself. Though it is living, it is unconscious of everything else. 80 He is both unconscious and yet not inactive who has no visible object in his consciousness, and who discharges his duties and all the affairs of his life without attaching his mind to them. 81 He is not sleeping and yet unconscious whose mind is unconscious of the sensible objects of perception, but yet clear with the impressions of the knowable objects of intellectuality. Such a person is said to be the living liberated.

82 When the indifferent soul thinks of nothing in itself, but remains with its calm and quiet composure in possession of his internal consciousness, like a young child or a deaf and dumb person, 83 it becomes possessed of its wisdom and rests in full knowledge of itself without its dullness. Such a soul is no more liable to the troubles of this life or to the doom of future births. 84 When the yogi rests in his state of calm mental tranquility by forsaking all his desires, he perceives a calm delight pervading his innermost soul like blue spreading over the sky. 85 The unconscious yogi remains with the consciousness of his unity with that Spirit which has no beginning or end and in which he finds himself to be utterly absorbed and lost. 86 Whether moving or sitting or feeling or smelling, he always seems to abide and do everything in the Holy Spirit. With his self-consciousness and unconsciousness of anything beside, he is dissolved in his internal delight.

87 Shut out these worldly sights from your mind with your utmost, painstaking endeavors. Cross this world of grief, resembling a perilous ocean, on the firm bark of your virtues. 88 As a small seed produces a large tree stretching wide in the sky, so does the minute mind produce these ideal worlds which fill the empty space of the universe and appear to sight as real. 89 When the conscious soul entertains the idea of some figure in its imagination, memory or hope, that becomes the seed of its production in the very form which the soul had in its view. 90 So the soul brings forth itself and falls into its deception by its own choice. Thus it loses the consciousness of its freedom and is subjected to the bondage of life.

91 Whatever form it dotes upon with affection, the same form it assumes to itself. The soul cannot get rid of it as long it cherishes its affection for it. The soul cannot return to its original purity until it is freed from its impure passions. 92 The soul is no god or demigod or any yaksha or raksha, and not even any man or kinnara. It is by reason of its original illusion (maya) that it plays the part of a player on the stage of the world. 93 An actor represents himself in various shapes, then resumes and returns to his original form. A silkworm binds itself in the cocoon of its own making, then breaks out of it by itself. Similarly, the soul resumes its primal purity by virtue of its self-consciousness.

94 Our consciousness is like the water in the great deep of the universe, encompassing all the four quarters of the world and the huge mountains within it. 95 The universal ocean of consciousness teems with heaven and earth, air, sky, hills, mountains, seas and rivers and everything else as its surges, waves and whirling currents. 96 Our consciousness comprises the world. There is nothing other than consciousness because the all comprehensive consciousness comprehends all things in itself. 97 When our consciousness has its slight pulsation and not its quick vibration, then it is said to rest in itself and is not moved by the action of outward objects upon it.

98 The seed or source of our consciousness is the Divine Spirit, which is the essence of all beings and which produces our consciousness like the solar heat produces light and like fire emits sparks. 99 This Essence (Pure Existence) in us exhibits itself in two forms within ourselves. One is our self-consciousness and the other is our consciousness of many things lying without us. The former is uniform and the latter is of mutable form. 100 This twofold division of the one and same soul is like the difference between a pot and its painting, and like that of I and you, which are essentially the same thing and have no difference in their in-being.

101 Now do away with this difference and know the true entity to be a pure unity, which is the positive reality in common with all objects. 102 Forsake the particulars and seek the universal which is the same and in common with all existence. Know this unity as the totality of beings and the only adorable One. 103 The variety of external forms does not indicate any variation in the internal substance. Change in outer form makes a thing unknowable to us as to its former state, but outer differences of form make no difference in the real essence. 104 Whatever preserves its uniform and unchanging appearance at all times, know that to be the true and everlasting inner essence of the thing.

105 Rama, renounce the doctrines that maintain the eternal existence of time and space, of atoms and generalities and the like categories. Rely on the universal category of the one Being into which all others are reduced. 106 Though the endless duration of time approximates the nature of the Infinite Existence, yet its divisions into present, past and future make it not uniform and an unreal entity. 107 That which admits of divisibility and presents its various divisions and what is seen to diverge into many cannot be the uniform cause of all.

108 Think all bodies as belonging to one common essence and enjoy your full bliss by thinking yourself as the same, filling all space. 109 Know, O wise Rama, that the Being who is the ultimate end of all existence in common is the source and seed of the whole universe. 110 He who is the utmost limit of all things in common and who is beyond description and imagination is the first and beginning of all, without any beginning of his own and having no source or seed of himself. 111 No man is subject to trouble, but enjoys his full bliss in He in whom all finite existences are dissolved and who remains without any change in himself. 112 He is the cause of all without any cause of his own. He is the best of all without having anything better than himself.

113 All things are seen in the mirror of his Intellect, just as the shadow of trees by a river reflects in the clear stream below. 114 All beings taste their delight in Him like in a reservoir of sweet water. Anything delicious the tongue tastes is supplied from that pure fountain. 115 The intellectual sphere of the mind, which is clearer than the mundane sphere, has its existence from His essence which abounds with more pure delight than all sweet things in the world can offer. 116 All creatures in the world rise and live in Him. They are nourished and supported by Him and they die and are dissolved in Him.

117 He is the heaviest of the heavy and the lightest of all light bodies. He is the most ponderous of all bulky things and the minutest of the very minute. 118 He is the remotest of the most remote and the nearest of whatever is near to us. He is the eldest of the oldest and the youngest of the very young. 119 He is far brighter than the brightest and more obscure than the darkest. He is the substratum of all substances and the farthest from all the sides of the compass.

120 That Being is some as nothing, and exists as if He were non-existent. He is manifest in all, yet invisible to view. That is what I am and yet I am not the same.

121 Rama, try your best to rest in that supreme state of joy which is the highest state for man to desire. 122 Knowledge of that holy and unchangeable Spirit brings rest and peace to the mind. Know that all-pervasive Soul and identify with the pure Consciousness for your liberation from all restraint.