Chapter 50 — How the Soul Receives Sensations and the Objects of Senses

Rama said, “Sage, I have known whatever is to be known. I have seen all that is to be seen. I am filled with the ambrosial nectar of divine knowledge which you have kindly imparted to me. I see the world full with the fullness of Brahman. I know the fullness of God has produced this complete creation. The fullness of God fills the universe. Its size depends on the fullness of the all pervading deity.”

“With much fondness I would like to propose another question to improve my understanding. I hope you will not be angry but will instruct me like a kind father does his fondling boy.”

“We see that the organs of sense, such as ears, nose, eyes, mouth and touch, exist in all animals. 5 Why do the dead do not perceive the objects of their senses as well as the living? How is it that the dull organs perceive outer objects, like a pot and other phenomena, which are imperceptible to the inner heart, in spite of its natural sensitivity? The relation between outer objects and the organs is like that between magnet and iron which attract one another without coming into contact. But how can the small cavities of the organs be able to bring huge objects that surround us on all sides into the mind?”

“If you well know these secrets of nature, then please communicate them to me in a hundred ways in order to satisfy my curiosity.”

Vasishta answered:—

Now Rama, I tell you in brief that neither the organs nor the heart and mind, nor the pots and pictures are things in reality because it is impossible for anything to exist apart and independent of the pure and intelligent spirit of God.

10 Divine Consciousness, purer than air, takes the form of the mind by itself. Then it assumes its elemental form of the physical body and exhibits all things agreeably to the ideas engraved in the mind. 11 The same elements, stretched out into matter and nature, exhibit the whole universe as its ensemble, and the organs and their objects as its parts. 12 The mind takes the elemental form of its own nature and reflects itself in all the parts of nature in the forms of pots and all the rest of things.

13 Rama replied, “Tell me sage, what is the form of that elemental body that reflects itself in a thousand shapes on the face of the eight-fold elemental world, as it were, on the surface of a mirror?”

14 Vasishta replied:—

This elemental body, the seed of the world, is the Brahman without decay who is without beginning or end. Brahman is of the form of pure light and intellect, devoid of parts and attributes. 15 Brahman, being disposed to its desires, becomes the living soul. This being desirous of collecting all its desires and the parts of the body together, becomes the beating heart in the middle of all. 16 It becomes ego from the thought of its egoism. It is called the mind from its minding the many things in itself. It takes the name of understanding (buddhi) from its understanding (bodha) of things, and the name of sense from its sensation of external objects. 17 It thinks of taking a body and becomes the same body, just as a potter having the idea of a pot forms it in that manner. Such being the nature of the soul, being and doing all what it likes, it is therefore manifest in its eight different forms.

18 Consciousness is also called the eight-fold soul because it presides over each person’s eight-fold functions, such as those of perception, action, passion, witnessing all things, and the like, and also its inner consciousness and its power of vitality. 19 The living soul takes different forms at different times according to how it is employed in any one of these eight-fold functions, and also according to how it is moved by the various desires that arise by turns. 20 The eight-fold nature of the soul causes it to expand itself into the same form as it is led to by its varying desires at anytime. It is similar to a seed that shoots forth its leaves according to the quantity of water with which it is watered.

21 The soul forgets its intellectual nature and thinks it is a mortal and material being embodied in the form of a living creature or some inanimate being. It remains unaware of itself under the influence of its false belief. 22 In this way the living soul wanders about the world as if dragged back and forth by the rope of desire tied about its neck. Now it soars high and then it plunges below like a plank rising up and sinking below the waves and currents of the sea.

23 There are some who, being released from imprisonment in this world, come to know the Supreme Soul and attain that state which has neither beginning nor end. 24 There are others who, weary and worried by their many reincarnations after the lapse of much time, come to their knowledge of the soul and thereby obtain their state of final bliss. 25 In this way, O intelligent Rama, the living soul passes through many bodily forms. Now you shall hear how it comes to perceive the outer objects of pots and the like through the external organs of perception.

26 After consciousness takes the form of the living soul and the living soul has received its vitality, the action of the heart sends its feelings to the mind which is the sixth organ of the body. 27 As the living soul passes into the air, it comes in contact with external objects through the sense organs of the body. Then joining with consciousness it perceives external sensations within itself. 28 The union of the living soul with outer objects causes sensations and carries them to the mind. When the soul is defunct and the mind dormant, there is no perception of externals. 29 Whatever outer object is set in the open air, it casts its reflection on the subtle senses of living beings coming in contact with the living soul that feels the sensation. But if the soul has departed, the dead body has no life or feeling of anything in existence.

30 When the form of an object comes in contact with a person’s eyesight, it casts its picture on the eyes which is instantly conveyed to the inner soul. 31 The image cast on the retina is reflected to the clearer mirror of the soul, which perceives it by its contact with the reflection. Thus outer things come to the knowledge of the living soul.

32 Even babies can know what comes in touch with them, just as brutes and vegetables have the power of feeling the objects they touch. How then it is possible for the sensitive soul to be ignorant of its tangible objects? 33 The clear rays of eyesight that surround the soul present it with pictures of visible objects carried to the mind’s consciousness, whereby the soul comes to know. 34 The process is the same with the other senses, also, whether taste, smell, sound, or touch. The soul contacts through the mind and the sense organ. 35 Sound remaining in its receptacle of air passes into the cavity of the ear, and from there it enters the hollow space of the soul, giving it the sensation of its nature.

36 Rama said, “I see that reflections of things are cast in the mirror of the mind, like images of things carved on wood and slabs of stone. But tell me sage, how is the reflection of the image cast onto the mirror of the mind?”

37 Vasishta replied:—

O best of those who know spiritual wisdom, know that the gross images of the universal and particular souls which are reflected in the mirror of the mind are as false as the images of God and gods carved in stone and wood. 38 Rama, never rely on the substantiality of this false world. Know it to be a great vortex of whirling waters, and ourselves as the waves rolling upon it.

39 There is no limitation of space or time or any action in the boundless ocean of the infinity and eternity of God. You must know that your soul is identical with the Supreme which is everywhere and omnipresent. 40 Remain always with a calm and quiet mind, without addiction to anything in this world. Know the vanity of worldly pleasures and pains and go on with a contented mind wherever you will.