Chapter 49 — Changes in the World Are no Changes; Ignorance Does Not Exist

Rama said, “Sage, if there is no change in the immutable spirit of God, then how do these various changes constantly appear to occur in this world?”

Vasishta replied:—

Listen Rama. The alteration of a thing that does not revert to its former state is called its change.

Change occurs in the example of milk converted to curds or butter. It never becomes pure milk again. Milk converts to curds, but curds never revert to their former state of milk. Such is the nature of change in the state of things. But such change can never affect the great God who remains the same through the first, intermediate and last states of things. There is no change in the immutable Brahman such as with milk or with any other thing.

Brahman, having no beginning or end, has no age or stage of life assigned to him. 5 Attributing any state of beginning or end to eternal God is the false imputation of ignorance and error. There can be no change in the changeless one. Brahman is not our consciousness or the object of our consciousness. He is as unconnected with us as our soul and intellect are. He is only known to us by the word.

A thing is said to be the same if it is the same in the beginning and end. The difference that takes place in form is only a mist of error and is not taken into account by the wise. Only the soul remains the same with itself, both in the beginning, middle and end of it, and in all places and times. The soul never changes with changes of the body or mind and therefore forms the identity of the person. The soul, formless and identical with itself, forms the personality and individuality of a being. Because it is not subject to any pattern or mutation at anytime, it constitutes the essential identity of everybody.

10 Rama replied, “If the Divine Soul is always the same and perfectly pure in itself, from where does the error of change come? What is the cause of the ignorance that shows these changes to us?”

11 Vasishta replied:—

The concept of Brahman implies that He is all that is, what was, and what will be in future, that he is without change, beginning or end, and that there is no ignorance in him. 12 The intended meaning of the word Brahman does not include anything that is nonexistent or the negative idea of ignorance. 13 You and I, this earth and sky, the world and all its sides, together with the elements of fire and others, are all the everlasting and infinite Brahman. Within Brahman there is not the slightest misunderstanding. 14 Ignorance (avidya) is only a name and an error. It is another word for unreality. Rama, you can never call something a reality which never exists of itself.

15 Rama said, “Why sage, you yourself talked about ignorance in the chapter on Tranquility (Upasama, Book 5) and told me to know all these as products of error.”

16 Vasishta answered:—

Rama, all this time you have been immersed in your ignorance. At last you have come to your right understanding by your own reasoning.

17 It is the practice of pundits and men of learning to use words like ignorance, living soul and the like in order to awaken the unenlightened to their enlightenment. 18 So long as the mind is not awakened to the knowledge of truth, it remains in the darkness of error forever, even though it may travel a hundred miles. 19 When the living soul is awakened to its right sense by the force of reason, it learns to unite itself to the Supreme Soul. Without the guidance of reason, the living soul is successful in nothing despite all its efforts. 20 He who tells a vile, unenlightened man that all this world is the great Brahman himself does no more than communicate his sorrows to the headless trunk of a tree. 21 A fool is brought to his senses by reasoning, and the wise man knows the truth from the nature of the subject. The ignorant never learn wisdom without the persuasion of reason. 22 You have been unwise for so long relying upon your own judgment. But being guided by me, you are now awakened to truth.

23 I am Brahman, you are Brahman, and the visible world is Brahman himself. Know this truth and nothing else, and do as you please. 24 God is inconceivable. No conception of God can be true. The visible world is all that is known of him. Know him as the One and the Infinite and you will not be misled into error.

25 Rama, whether when you are sitting or walking, waking or sleeping, constantly think in yourself that you are this Supreme Spirit which is of the form of light and intelligence and pervades all things. 26 Rama, if you are without your individual ego and selfishness, and if you are intelligent and honest, then be as universal and tranquil as Brahman himself who is equally situated in all things. 27 Know your self as the pure consciousness situated as one in all, without beginning or end, the essence of light, and the most transcendent of all being.

28 What you call Brahman or the Universal Soul or the fourth, transcendent state, know that they are all the same as matter and nature. It is the inseparable One in all, just as clay is the essential substance of a thousand water pots. 29 Nature is not different from the nature of the soul, just as the clay is no other than the pot itself. The divine essence is like the clay, and the Divine Spirit extends as the inner matter of all things.

30 The soul has its pulsation like the spinning of the whirlpool. This force is named matter (prakriti) and it is nothing other than an effort of the spirit. 31 As the different words pulsation and vibration mean the same thing, so the soul and nature express the same substance and are not different in their essence. 32 Mere ignorance makes their difference which is removed by their knowledge, just as sheer ignorance represents a snake in the rope which is soon removed by knowledge of their nature.

33 As the seed of imagination falls in the field of the intellect, it shoots forth in the sprout of the mind, which becomes the germ of the wide spreading tree of the universe. 34 The seed of false imagination, scorched by the flames of spiritual knowledge, will be unable to vegetate though it be sprinkled with the water of fond desire. 35 If you do not sow the seed of imagination in the soil of your intellect, you will stop the germination of the plants of pain and pleasure in the field of your mind.

36 Rama, you have come to know the truth. You must forsake your false conception of such a thing as ignorance or error existing in the world. Know that there is no duality in the unity of God. Being full with the knowledge of one Supreme Soul, you must repudiate your ideas of pain or pleasure in anything here below. Pain turns to pleasure and pleasure to pain. Know them both as unreal as they are vain.