Chapter 11 — The Supreme Truth: Knowledge of Brahman

Vasishta said:—

I tell you again and repeatedly, O pious Rama, for your understanding. You can never know the spirit without a constant habit of contemplating on it. Gross ignorance becomes compact by the accumulated false knowledge of previous births and past lives. The perceptions of external and internal body senses, both in the states of consciousness and unconsciousness, cause the great errors of embodied beings. Spiritual knowledge is far beyond the perception of the senses and can only be attained after controlling the five external organs of sense and the mind, which is the sixth organ of sensation.

5 How is it possible to know the spirit whose essence is beyond the reach of our faculties of sense and whose powers transcend those of all our sensible organs? If you want to be an adept in divine wisdom, you must use the sharp sword of your knowledge to cut off this creeper of ignorance which has grown up in the hollow of the tree of your heart.

Rama, conduct the practice of your spiritual knowledge like King Janaka with his full knowledge of all that is knowable to man. Janaka remains certain in his knowledge of the truth when involved in active duties, in his waking state, and when he remains quiet at his leisure. Vishnu was led to perform his various acts in his repeated incarnations through his reliance on this certain truth. 10 May you, Rama, be certain of the main truth which conducted the three-eyed god Shiva in the company of his fair consort, and which led the dispassionate Brahma to the act of creation. 11 It was the assurance of this eternal truth which led the teachers of the gods and demons, even Brihaspati and Bhargava, in their duties, and which guide the sun and moon in their courses, and even directs the elements of fire and air in their wonted ways. 12 This truth was well known to the host of rishis, including Narada, Pulastya, Angira, Pracheta, Bhrigu Krutu, Atri and Suka, as it is also known to me. 13 This is the certainty which has been arrived at by all other learned brahmins and sages, and this is the firm belief of everybody who has been liberated in his lifetime.

14 Rama said, “Tell me truly, O venerable sage, the true nature of the truth upon which the great gods and wisest sages have grounded their belief and became freed from their sorrow and grief.”

15 Vasishta replied:—

O worthy prince who is great in arms and in your knowledge of all things, hear me tell you the plain truth in reply to your question, the certainty arrived at by all of them.

16 All these spacious worlds that you see spread all about you is situated in the immensity of Brahman. 17 Brahman is consciousness and this world and all its animate and inanimate creatures. Brahman is me, Brahma, you, and all our friends and enemies. 18 Brahman is the triple times of past, present and future, all of which are comprehended in his eternity like waves and surges in the immensity of the ocean. 19 This same Brahman appears to us in all the various forms of our perception, and in the different shapes of the actor, action and its act, as those of the feeder, feeding and food, and of the receiver, reception and the thing received.

20 Brahman expands in himself by his power of evolution, unfolding himself by his expansion power. Hence he would be our enemy if he would do anything unfavorable into us. 21 Thus Brahman being situated and employed with himself, does nothing either good or evil to any other. The attribution of passions to him is like planting a tree in empty air.

22 They who are dead to their desires are very delighted to reflect on this truth, that they are continually living and moving in the all pervading Brahman. 23 All things are full of Brahman and there is nothing of pleasure or pain. Brahman resides in his identical all and is pleased with all in himself. 24 The Lord is manifest in his Lordship, and I am no other person beside himself. This pot, that painting, and I myself are full with the identical Brahman. 25 Hence it is in vain to speak of our attachment or aversion to worldliness since we bear our bodies and dare to die in Brahman only. 26 Our bodies being the abodes of Brahman, it is false to think of our bodily pains or enjoyments, like thinking a rope to be a snake.

27 How can you say that this or that is your doing when you have no power to do anything? Waves on the surface of the sea cannot move the waters deep below. 28 You, me, he and all others are only breaths of the Universal Spirit. We heave and then subside like waves in the sea, but the spirit of God, like the waters of the deep, does not rise or fall at anytime.

29 All persons returning to Brahman after their death have their bodies and their personal identities reduced into Him and retaining in Him, just as moving and still waters rest alike in the sea. 30 All moving and inert souls and bodies rest alike in the supreme Brahman, just as the individual soul (jiva) and its form reside in God, and whirling and still waters remain in the same sea. 31 The soul and the body are the two states of the likeness and unlikeness of Brahman. One is the living soul of bodies and the other is the gross body itself.

32 Irrational souls who are ignorant of this truth are truly subject to delusion. Rational souls are not so, but enjoy their full bliss on earth while the other is ever doomed to misery. 33 The blind see the world as all dark, while the clear sighted find it fully bright and shining. So the wise are blessed with the knowledge of the one soul of the whole, while the ignorant are immersed in misery by their lack of such knowledge. 34 As the darkness of night presents its demons and ghosts only to the sight of children, and not those of grown up adults, so the world presents its delusions to the ignorant and never to the wise who behold only one Brahman in all things before them. 35 There is nothing here that lives of itself or dies away to nothing. All exist equally in God at all times. Nothing is doomed to be born or perish here to happiness or misery. 36 All beings are situated in the Universal Soul just like waves in the vast expanse of the ocean. Therefore it is false to say that one resides in the spirit and another is beside it.

37 As there is an inborn light in crystal which is capable of reflecting a variety of rays, so the spirit of God dwells in his own spirit in the form of the universe showing various shapes to view by the inner light of the spirit. 38 As water particles fly from waves, fall into the sea, and mix with its water, so the bodies of dying people fall into the body of Brahman where they existed during their lifetimes. 39 There is no being beside the being of Brahman, just as there is no wave or foam or froth of the sea beside the water of the deep. 40 As waves, surges, whirling currents, and their froth, foam, and bubbles and minute particles are all formations of water in the great body of waters, so are all beings only productions of the spirit in the Infinite Spirit.

41 All bodies with their various modes and organs of sense and their several functions, and all visible objects and their growth and decay, together with everything conducive to our happiness and misery, and all other energies and their gains, are the works of Brahma in himself. 42 The production of these various beings in existence is from the essence of Brahman, just as the formation of different ornaments is from the substance of gold. There is no cause of form or formation other than Brahma, and the distinction between cause and creation is the false conception of the ignorant.

43 Mind, understanding, egoism, the elemental atoms, and the organs of sense are all the various forms of Brahman, which is the cause of our joy or grief. 44 The words “I”, “you”, “he”, “this” and “that”, as also the terms of “mind” and “matter” all describe the identical Brahman in the same manner as the roaring of a cloud in the hills resounds in a hundred echoes through their caverns. 45 Brahman appears as an unknown stranger to us through our ignorance of him, like visions in our minds’ dreams appear futile to us.

46 Ignorance of Brahman as what he is makes men reject divine knowledge altogether, just as our ignorance of the quality of gold causes us to throw it away as waste. 47 Brahman is known as the Supreme Spirit and sole Lord by those who are acquainted with divine knowledge. But He is said to be unknown and involved in ignorance by those who are ignorant of Him. 48 Brahman being known as Brahman becomes manifest as such in a moment, just as gold when known as such is taken in due esteem. 49 Those who are versed in divine knowledge know Brahman to be without cause and causing nothing by himself, and that he is free from decay and is the Supreme Spirit and sole Lord of all.

50 He who can meditate on the omnipotence of the Supreme Spirit of Brahman comes to behold him as such in a short time, even without a teacher to guide him in his spiritual knowledge. 51 The lack of divine knowledge is called the ignorance of the ignorant. The knowledge of God constitutes the true knowledge which removes the ignorance. 52 As an unknown friend is no friend at all until he is recognized as such after removal of one’s forgetfulness, so God is no god to one as long he continues in ignorance of Him.

53 We can only know God when the mind comes to perceive the soul unconnected with the body, whereby it alienates itself from all worldly connections in disgust. 54 When the mind is freed from its knowledge of duality, then we come to know the one true God. By the mind’s distaste of dualism, it abandons its attachment to the world. 55 We come to the knowledge of God when we come to know ourselves to be other than our bodies and when we get rid of our personal egoism and forsake our affection for this un-kindred world. 56 The thought of God arises in our minds when we come to the true knowledge of thinking ourselves the same with Brahman, and when the mind is absorbed in meditation of the divine truth in one’s self.

57 God being known as the all of everything and comprising the whole fullness of space, we come to believe the same as Brahman. Losing our egoism and references to others, we come to know the sole entity that comprises the entire universe. 58 When I come to know this true and all-form Brahman as all in all and forming the entire whole, I become released from all my sorrows and grief. I am set free from all my delusions and desires and the responsibility of my duties. 59 I am quite calm and at ease, without any sorrow or grief, by my knowledge of the truth that I am no other than Brahman himself. I am as cool as the moon without her spots and phases in me. I am the all entire, without any disease, decay or diminution in me.

60 It is true that I am the all pervading Brahman. Therefore I cannot wish to have or leave anything from me, because I am also the blood, bones and flesh of my body. 61 It is true that I am Brahman the Universal Soul, and therefore my intellect, mind and physical senses also. I am the heaven and sky with their luminaries and quarters and the nether worlds also. 62 It is true that I am Brahman composing this pot and painting, these bushes and brambles, these forests and their grass, and also the seas and their waves.

63 The unity of Brahman is a certain truth. It is the Self which manifests in seas and mountains and all living beings, and in the qualities of reception and emission, and of extension and contraction in all material bodies. 64 All things of extended forms are situated in the intellectual spirit of Brahman who is the cause of the growth of seeds, vines and other plants. 65 The Supreme Brahman resides in his sheath of the intellectual soul like flavor in the cup of the flower, and thence diffuses itself on all sides in the form of everything everywhere.

66 He who is called the Supreme Spirit is known as the only soul of all. He is called the intellectual soul, Brahman the great, the only entity and reality, the Truth and Intelligence and apart from all. 67 He is said to be the all-inherent element and Consciousness only without anything intelligible in it. He is the pure light that gives every being its consciousness of itself. 68 To the spiritual man God appears to exist everywhere as the tranquil and intelligent Brahman, and contains in himself the powers of all the faculties of the mind and body, such as the understanding and the organs of sense. So the scriptures say, “He is the mind of the mind, the sight of the eye.”

69 Give up the thought of you being different from Brahman by knowing yourself as the reflection of the conscious soul which is the cause of the causes of the existence of the world, just like air is cause of sound caused by empty spirit of God. 70 The consciousness of Brahman is the transparent receptacle of all essences. My ego is of the same essence, which exudes continually like a shower of rain from the transparent spirit of God. 71 I am that light which shines in the souls of yogis. I am that silent spirit supported by the ambrosial drops of Divine Consciousness which continually distils its nectar juice into our souls so that we may feel in ourselves. 72 I am a wheel or a circle without beginning or end because I have the pure consciousness of Brahman in me. I am quiet in my deep sleep of samadhi meditation and I perceive that holy light shining within me.

73 The thought that “I am Brahman” affords a far greater delight to the soul than the taste of any sweet meat, which gives but a momentary delight. So the scriptures say, “God is all sweetness.”

74 One who knows his soul and intellect knows the indestructible Brahman and himself to be identical with Brahman, just as one whose mind is possessed with the image of his beloved sees her bright face in the shining orb of the moon. 75 As the sights of earthly people are fixed on the ethereal moon, so the sight of intellectual beings is fixed on the supreme and indestructible soul, which he knows to be identical with himself. 76 The intellectual power situated in the emptiness of the heart is truly the truth of pure Brahman himself. Its pleasure, pain, mutability and divisibility are attributed only through ignorance.

77 The soul who has known the truth knows himself as Supreme Consciousness, just as the pilgrim on the way sees only his saint before him and no intermediate object besides. 78 The belief that I am the pure and all pervading Consciousness is attended with purity and holiness of the soul. Knowledge of the divine power as the cause of the union of earth, air and water in the production of the germ of creation is the main creed of all creeds.

79 I am that intellect of Brahma which is inherent in all things as their productive power. I am that soul which causes the sweetness of honey and the bitterness of nimba fruits. 80 I am that Divine Consciousness which inheres alike in all flavors, which is devoid of pain and pleasure, and which I perceive in my mind by my consciousness. 81 I am the consciousness of Brahman without decay. I consider my gain and loss in an equal light of detachment while I view this earth, sky, sun and moon displayed before my eyes in all their glory. 82 I am that pure and serenely bright Brahman whose glory is displayed alike in all of these, and which I see shining vividly before me whether I am awake or asleep, dreaming or in deep sleep. 83 I am that Brahman who is without beginning or end, who is known by his four-fold essences, and who is ever indestructible and without decay. He resides in the souls of men through all their reincarnations like sweetness in sugarcane. 84 I am that intellect of Brahman which, like sunshine, equally pervades in the form of transparent light in and above all created beings. 85 I am that all pervasive intellect of Brahman which, like charming moonlight, fills the whole universe, and which we feel and taste in our hearts as the delicious drink of nectar. 86 I am that intellect of Brahman which extends undivided over the whole and all parts of the universe, and which embraces all existence as the moving clouds of heaven encompasses the sky.