1 Vasishta asked, “What is called god Shiva? What is meant by Supreme Brahman? What is the meaning of soul and what is its difference from the Supreme Soul? 2 All that exists is the true entity and all else is non-entity. What is the emptiness that is nothing? What philosophy knows everything? Explain to me these differences, for you Lord know them all.”
3 The god Shiva replied:—
There exists one real being in itself which is without beginning or end and without any appearance or reflection of its own. This entity appears as a non entity because it is imperceptible to the physical senses.
4 Vasishta replied, “Lord, if this entity is not perceptible by the organs of sense and unknowable by understanding, then how, O ruler, is it to be known at all?
5 The god replied:—
A man who desires his salvation but sticks to his ignorance is a sage in name only. Such men are subjected to greater ignorance by the scriptures that guide them. 6 Let one ignorance remove another, as washerman cleanses one dirt by another (soap). 7 When the error of ignorance is removed by opposition of the other, then as a matter of course, the soul appears of itself to be seen. 8 A child dirties his fingers by rubbing one piece of charcoal against another, but cleans them by washing his hands. 9 As they examine both sides of a question in a learned discussion, and the truth comes out from amidst them both, so the knowledge of the soul appears from midst of the mist of ignorance.
10 When the soul perceives the soul and scans it by itself, and as it comes to know it in itself, it is said to get rid of its ignorance, which is then said to be utterly destroyed. 11 The paths of learning and the lectures of a teacher are not the proper means to the knowledge of the soul. One comes to know the unity of this thing by his own intuition. 12 All the teachers of scriptures place the soul among the bodily senses, but Brahma is situated beyond the senses and is known after the sense organs have been subdued. Something obtainable in the absence of something else can never be had in the presence of that other thing.
13 However, many things are used as causes for things which they do not cause at all, just as they use a teacher’s lectures as means to attain spiritual knowledge. 14 Of course, a course of lectures is calculated to throw light on the student’s knowledge of what can be known, but in matters of abstract knowledge and the invisible soul, it is the soul itself that must throw its own light. 15 No explanation of the scriptures and no lectures of the teacher are calculated to give light on spiritual knowledge, unless they are understood by the intuitive knowledge of the spirit itself. 16 Again, the soul is always learning and getting lectures, therefore both must combine with inquiry to bring us to the light of the soul. 17 Therefore a combination of book knowledge with the teacher’s instruction joined with the investigation of the inquirer is calculated to enlighten us on spiritual knowledge, just as the appearance of the day with the rising sun and waking world gives an impetus to the rise of daily duties.
18 After the physical senses and actions have subsided and the sensations of pain and pleasure have become imperceptible, we come to the knowledge of Shiva, otherwise known as the soul, the He that is (tat sat) and many other names. 19 This infinite entity has existed in its empty form, rarer than the ether, since this matter which fills space was not and existed only in its spiritual or ideal forms. 20 He is continually meditated upon by the good discernment of seekers of salvation, and he is variously represented by the pure minded and those of weakened minds.
21 There are others who are situated in the sight of and not far from the path of living liberation, who are employed in leading others to salvation and in the exposition of the scriptures. 22 Many thinking and learned men have used the words Brahma, Indra, Rudra and the names of the rulers of worlds for God in order to justify the doctrines of the Puranas, Vedas and Siddhantas. 23 Others have applied fictitious titles like consciousness or intellect (chit), Brahma, Shiva, the soul or spirit (atma), the Lord (isha), the Supreme Spirit and God (ishwara) to the nameless God that is apart and aloof from all. 24 Such is the truth of nature and of you also, called Shiva the blissful, which always confers all joy to the world and to you also. 25 The words Shiva, soul, supreme Brahman and others have been coined by the ancients to express the Supreme Being. Though they differ in sound, there is no difference in meaning or what they signify.
26 Know, O chief of sages, that wise men always adore this God whom we serve and to whom we return as the best and ultimate state of all.
27 Vasishta said, “Lord, please explain to me briefly how the ever existent God remains as nonexistent. How can God come into existence from its prior state of nonexistence?”
28 The god Shiva replied:—
Know that the meaning of the word Brahma and other names for God are related only to our consciousness. Though God is as clear as the sky and as minute as an atom, God contains the great bulk of Mount Meru. 29 Although this is unintelligible to us, far beyond our conception or comprehension, yet it becomes intelligible when we think of God in the form of our consciousness. 30 By taking it objectively, it becomes intelligible to us like our own individual ego. By thinking on its personality, we have the same idea as one has of a wild elephant from seeing one in a dream. 31 These ideas of God’s ego and personality, being limited by time and space, consequently give rise to many aerial forms as attendants upon God. 32 Among these is the entity called the living spirit (jiva), with its vibration and respiration, in the form of a pencil of air.
33 After the power of vitality is established and has come into force, there follows the faculty of understanding which at first remains in utter ignorance. 34 It is followed by the faculties of hearing, action and perceptions, all of which operate inward by without their development into outward organs. 35 All these powers uniting together lead to the excitement of memory, which soon exhibits itself in the form of the mind, the tree of desires. 36 What the learned call the spiritual body is the inner power of God in the form of the conscious soul, seeing the Divine Soul in itself.
37 Afterwards the powers in the mind arise which develop themselves in the outer organs, although their powers may be wanting in them. 38 These are the essences of air and motion, and of feeling also, together with the senses of touch and heat emitted by the eyes. 39 There are the essences of color, water and taste also, and likewise the essences of smell and flavor too. 40 There are the essences of earth and gold, and the essences of thick mass, and also the essences of time and space, all of which are without form and shape. 41 The spiritual body contains all these essences in itself as its component parts, just as the seed of a fruit contains in its cell the leaves and germ of the future tree. 42 This spiritual body contains the eight elementary senses. Therefore it is also called the astral body (puryashtaka, subtle or minute body). These elementary senses afterwards develop into the organs of sense. 43 The primary or spiritual body which is formed in this manner is actually nobody at all because it is devoid of understanding, intellect, senses and consciousness. 44 It is only the Supreme Being which contains the essence of the soul, just as the sea contains clear waters.
45 The soul possesses its consciousness and knowledge. Everything else is dull and inert matter viewed by the soul like a fairyland in a dream. 46 Shiva can be known by consciousness and knowledge, and what cannot be known by consciousness and knowledge can be nothing at all.
47 The Supreme Soul sees all things within itself as parts of itself. He beholds particles of his atomic self formed into innumerable bodies. 48 These bodies increased in bulk, became big bodies, and bore the marks of the organs upon them. 49 Then it became in the form of a man from his thought of being so. This soon grew up in its size of a full grown man, 50 and this is how our bodies appear to us in our living state, like a fairyland appearing in a dream.
51 Vasishta said, “I see how appearance of the human body resembles the vision of a fairyland in a dream. I also see the miseries awaiting human life in this world. Now tell me, my lord. How is all this misery to be removed from the world?”
52 The god Shiva replied:—
All human sorrow is the result of desires and belief in the reality of the world. The entire world must be known to be as unreal as the waves of water seen in a mirage. 53 For what good or use is desire? Why should a dreaming man be deluded to drink the show of water in the mirage?
54 The viewer of truth, freed from his views of personal ego and objective reality, who has abandoned deluded and delusive thoughts and in the utter absence of all worldly thoughts from his mind, truly beholds the true existence of God in his presence. 55 Where there is no desirer or desire or the desired object, but only the thought of the one unity, all error and misery are an end. 56 He whose mind is free of the true and false imaginary demons of common and imaginary error and is settled in the thought of one unity alone, sees nothing but the unity before him.
57 Desires of the mind arise like demons in the midway sky. Thoughts of the world wander about the sphere of the mind like numerous worlds revolving in the sky. Hence there is no peace of the soul unless these desires and thought subside.
58 It is useless to counsel a man towards wisdom if he is elated by his own personal ego and deluded by the waters of the mirage of this fleeting world. 59 Wise men should advise only the prudent and not throw their instruction away to children who wander in error and are shunned by good people. To give good counsel to the ignorant is like offering a fair daughter in marriage to the apparition of a man seen in a dream.