Chapter 10 — Inert Is Not Realized; Ignorance Is of the All-Pervading God

Vasishta continued:—

Therefore this world with all its moving and unmoving beings is nothing. There is nothing that has its real being or entity except the one true Being that you must know. O Rama, seek him who is beyond our thought and imagination and comprises all entity and non-entity in himself. Cease to seek any living being or anything in existence.

I would not have my heart be enticed and deceived by the false attachments and affections of this world. They are all as delusive as our misconception of a snake in a rope. Ignorance of the soul is the cause of our error of conceiving distinctions between things. Knowledge of the identical soul and the reality of things put an end to all distinctions. Distinctive knowledge of existences (bheda jnana) is false, but their generalization leads to right reasoning. 5 They call it ignorance (avidya) when the intellect is weakened by its acceptance of phenomena, but phenomena being left out, the intellect comes to know the soul which is free from all attributes.

All this illusion is caused by the mind. If the mind vanishes, the illusion will also vanish. The embodied soul (purusha) is said to last as long as there is consciousness in the body, like the air (ghatambare) in the pot lasts with the lasting of the pot and vanishes upon the pot being broken. The wandering intellect sees the soul wandering, and calm understanding thinks it to be stationary, just as one perceives his breath of life to be slow or quick according to whether he is sitting still or running about. In this manner, bewildered understanding finds the soul to be distracted. The mind wraps the inner soul with the cover of its various desires, just as the silkworm twines the thin thread of its desires (vasanas) round about itself, which its lack of reason prevents it from understanding.

Rama said, “I see, sage, that when our ignorance becomes too gross and solid, it becomes as dull and solid as stone. But tell me, O venerable sage, how does consciousness become a fixed tree or any other inert substance?”

10 Vasishta replied:—

They have abandoned the capability of thinking which is inherent in human consciousness, so they remain like a living and immoveable plant or an inert material substance. 11 The liberation of no mind is impossible for those whose organs of eight senses lie dormant, dumb, blind and inert as in any dull and dirt matter. If they have any perception, it is only pain.

12 Rama replied, “O sage, who best knows what is knowable, but if consciousness remains as unshaken in a fixed tree, with its reliance in unity and without knowledge of duality, does that not approximate perfection and approach liberation?”

13 Vasishta replied:—

Rama, perpetual liberation of the soul follows upon rational investigation into the natures of all other things, their false appearances, and the realization of one common entity. 14 A man only reaches his state of singleness (kaivalya) when he understands that all existence dwells in the unity and when he forsakes his desire for this thing and that. 15 One inclined towards spiritual contemplation, who has investigated divine knowledge in the scriptures, and who has discussed the subject in the company of the learned sages is said to rest in Brahman.

16 One who is dormant in his mind and has the seed of his desires lying latent in his heart resembles an unmoving tree bearing the vegetative seed of future transmigrations within its bosom. 17 All those men are called blocks who, like blocks of wood or stone, lack brains and whose desires are gone to the rack. Men possessing the property of dullness like dull matter are subject to the pains of repeated births, recurring like the repetitions of their remaining desires. 18 All stationary and inert things are endowed with the property of dull matter and are subject to repeated reproductions.

19 Know, O pure hearted Rama, that the seed of desire is as inbred in the heart of plants as flowers are inborn in seeds and earthenware is contained in clay. 20 The heart that contains the fruitful seed of desire can never have its rest or realization even in its dormant state. But this seed being burnt and fried to unproductiveness produces sanctity, though it may appear fully active. 21 The heart that preserves the slightest remnant of any desire can again be filled with its full, luxuriant growth, just as a little remainder of fire or the enemy, or of a debt and disease, and also of love and hatred, is enough to involve one in his ruin, just as a single drop of poison kills a man.

22 He who has burnt away the seed of his desire for anything and everything and who looks upon the world with an even eye of detachment is said to be perfectly liberated both in his embodied state in this earth and in his disembodied or spiritual form of the next world, and is no more subjected to any trouble.

23 Intellectual power enveloped by the seed of mental desire supplies moisture for it to germinate everywhere in the forms of animals and plants. 24 This inherent power resides like productive power in the seeds of living beings, and in that of inertness in dull material bodies. It is of the nature of hardness in all solid substances and that of softness in soft and liquid things. 25 It exhibits ash color in ash and shows particles in the dust of the earth. It shows darkness in all swarthy things and flashes in the whiteness of a glittering blade. 26 Spiritual power assumes the form and figure in which it resides in the community of material things, such as a picture, a pot and the like. 27 In this way the Divine Spirit fills the whole phenomenal world like a cloud filling the sky in rainy season.

28 I have explained the true nature (swarupa) of the unknown almighty power according to my best understanding, and as far as it had been determined by the reasoning of the wise. It fills all and is not the all itself. It is the true entity appearing as no entity at all. 29 Our inability to see this invisible spiritual power leads us to the false conception of the external world, but a slight sight of this Almighty Being removes all our pains in this scene of vanity.

30 The wise call our dim vision of Almighty Power blindness or ignorance. This ignorance give rises to the belief in the existence of the world and thereby produces all our errors and misery. 31 Who is free of this ignorance and beholds the glorious light of God finds darkness disappear from his sight, just as the icicles of night melt away at the appearance of sunlight. 32 A man’s ignorance flies off like the dream he tries to remember after he wakes from his sleep. 33 Again, when a man ponders well the properties of the object before him, his ignorance flies away like darkness at the approach of light. 34 Darkness recedes from a man who advances to explore into it with a lamp in his hand. Butter is melted down by application of heat. In the same way, one’s ignorance is dispelled and dissolved by application of the light of reason.

35 One in darkness with a lit torch in his hand sees only a blaze of light before him and no shadow of darkness about him. In the same way, one who seeks truth perceives the light of truth shining in his face with no trace of the darkness of falsehood behind him. 36 Ignorance flies away and disappears with the light of reason. Although an unreal nothing, illusion appears as something real wherever there is lack of reason. 37 The great mass of thick darkness disappears into nothing at the advance of light. In the same way, the substantiality of gross ignorance is dissolved into insubstantiality at the advance of knowledge.

38 Unless one examines a thing, it is impossible to distinguish it from another. But upon examination, he comes to detect the fallacy of his prejudgment. 39 He who considers whether the flesh, blood or bones of his bodily frame constitutes his personality will at once understand that he is none of these and all these are distinct from himself. 40 Nothing belonging to a person makes the person. Something beyond forms one’s personality. Nothing in the world from its first to last is that spirit which has neither beginning nor end and is the eternal and Infinite Spirit. 41 Ignorance being overcome, there remains nothing except the one eternal soul which is the adorable Brahman and substantial whole.

42 The unreality of ignorance is evident from the negative term of negation and ignoring its essentiality, and requires no other proof to disprove its essence, just as the taste of a thing is best proved by the tongue and no other organ of sense. 43 There is no ignorance or inexistence except the consciousness and existence of God who pervades all visible and invisible natures, to which the names existence and inexistence are attributed.

44 Ignorance (avidya) is not of knowledge but of Brahman. The dispersion of this ignorance brings us to the knowledge of God. 45 Ignorance of Him is the belief that all things in the world are distant and distinct from Brahman. The belief that all things visible in the world are the manifestation of omnipresence causes the removal of ignorance by presenting the presence of God.