Chapter 51 — One Becomes Many; Ignorance; Consciousness Precedes Sense; Scriptures & Agnostic Doctrines
1 Vasishta resumed:—
Rama, you have heard me tell you that even the lotus-born Brahma, who was born long before you, at first had no organs of sense. 2 Brahma, the collective agent of creation, was endowed with only consciousness to perform all his functions. All individual personalities are endowed with only their self-consciousness to discharge all their necessary duties. 3 The living soul, dwelling in its body in the mother’s womb, reflects on the actions of the senses and finds their proper organs supplied to its body immediately. 4 The senses and the organs of sense are forms of consciousness. This I have fully explained to you in the case of Brahma, who represents the collective body of all individual souls.
5 At first there was the pure consciousness in its collective form in the Divine Intellect. This afterwards came to be diffused in millions of individual souls from its sense of egoism. At first was the Divine Soul “the I am all that I am” and afterwards became many as expressed in the Vedic text eko’ham bahu syam (“I am one. May I be many”). 6 There is no stain in the pure universal, undivided and subjective Divine Spirit from being divided into the infinity of individual and objective souls because the universal and subjective unity is the innumerable objective individualities which it evolves of itself. 7 The objectivity of God does not imply his becoming either the thinking mind or the living soul, or his assuming an organic body or any elemental form. 8 He does not become the intelligible or the unintelligible. He is ever existent, appearing nonexistent to the ignorant. This is called the Supreme Soul which is beyond the comprehension of the mind and apprehension of the senses.
9 The living soul arises from Him, as well as the thinking mind. For explanation purposes, we can describe them like sparks emitted from fire. 10 From whatever source ignorance may have sprung, you have no need to inquire as to its cause. Taking ignorance as an illness, you should seek the remedy of reasoning for its cure. 11 After all forms of things and all false knowledge of particulars are removed from your mind there remains a knowledge of unity in which the whole firmament is lost, like a mountain concealed in an atom. 12 That in which all the actions and commotions of the world remain still and motionless, as if buried in dead silence and nothingness, is the surest rock of your rest after the bustle of worldly business.
13 The unreal, or the negative idea that we call ignorance, also has a form as insubstantial as it is nothing. Look at her and she becomes nothing. Touch her and she perishes and vanishes from sight. 14 Seek after her and what can you find but her nothingness? If by your efforts you can get anything of her, it is like water in a mirage. 15 Ignorance alone creates her reality. Her unreality appears as a reality and destroys the seeming reality at once.
16 Agnosticism imputes false attributes to the nature of God. The doctrine of agnostics is to misrepresent the Universal Spirit as having the forms of a living soul and a perishable body. 17 Now listen closely as I tell you that scriptures have been invented to propagate agnostic religion and belief in ignorance by setting up the living soul and other phenomena as God instead of the Supreme Spirit.
18 The scriptures are fond of representing Divine Consciousness in a visible form. People have stained the pure Spirit with many gross forms, such as the elemental and organic body which is enlivened by the vital Spirit dwelling in it. 19 Whatever they think a thing to be, they believe in that. They make truth out of an untruth and its reverse likewise, just as children make a devil of a doll and afterwards break it into nothing.
20 People take the frail body formed of the five elements as a reality and believe that the body’s organ openings are the locations where the sensing soul resides. 21 They believe the five-fold organs perceive the five-fold objects of the senses, which serve at best to represent objects in a different light from what they are, just as a seed produces leaves of various colors. 22 They reckon some as the internal senses, such as the faculties of the mind and the feelings of the heart, and others as external, such as the outer organs of action and sensation. They place their belief in whatever their souls and minds suggest to them to be either as false or true.
23 They believe the moonlight is hot or cold depending on how their outward perception feels. 24 The pungency of pepper and the emptiness of the sky are all according to one’s knowledge and perception of them. They do not belong to the nature of things. For sweet is sour to some, and sour is sweet to others. Many think the sky is empty, but it is found to be full of air by others who assert the dogma that nature abhors a vacuum.
25 People have made certain actions and rituals which are in common practice the articles of their creed, and they have built their faith of a future heaven on the observance of those usages. 26 The living soul, full of its desires, is led by two different impulses. One is its natural tendency to some particular action. The other is whatever some particular law or another directs. However, natural propensity gets the better of the other.
27 The soul produces all objective dualities from what is only the subjective unity, just as the sweet sugarcane produces candy and the clay of the earth forms water pots. 28 In these as well as in all other cases, the changes that take place in the forms of things all result from time and place and other circumstances, but nothing God produces in the universe has any relation to the nature of God. 29 As sugarcane produces its leaves and flowers from its own sap, so the living soul produces dualities from the essence of its own unity, which is the Supreme Soul itself. 30 It is God seated in all souls that views the dualities of a pot, picture, a cot and personal ego in itself, and so they appear to every individual soul in the world. 31 The living soul appears to assume the different forms of childhood, youth, and age at different times, just as a cloud in the sky appears as an exhalation, a watery cloud, and the sap of the earth and all its plants at the different times of the hot and rainy seasons of the year. 32 The living soul perceives all these changes as they are exhibited before it by the Supreme Soul in which they are all present. There is no being in the world who is able to alter this order of nature.
33 Even the sky, which is as clear as a looking glass and is spread all about and within everybody, is unable to represent all the various forms presented to the soul by the great Soul of souls. 34 The soul situated in the Universal Soul of Brahman shines as the living soul of living beings. But it amounts to a duality to impute even an incorporeal idea of ignorance to God because the nature of God is pure Consciousness which cannot admit an ignorant spirit. 35 Whatever is ordained to manifest in any manner is its nature and stamp (swabhava). Though such appearance is no reality, yet you can never undo what is ordained from the beginning.
36 As a golden ornament presents the joint aspects of its reality and unreality at the same time, so are all things only combinations of the real and unreal in their substantial essence and outward appearance. But both of these dissolve at last in the Divine Spirit, just as a gold ornament is melted down to liquid gold in a crucible. 37 Divine Consciousness being all pervasive by reason of its intellectuality is also diffused over the human mind, just as the gold of an ornament settles and remains dull in the crucible.
38 The heart, having the passive nature of dull intellectuality, receives fleeting impressions from the active mind and takes the form that it feels strongly impressed upon it at the time. 39 The soul assumes many shapes at different times according to the ever changing prospects that various desires always present. 40 Likewise, the body takes different forms according to its inner thoughts and feelings, just as a city seen in a dream varies considerably from what is seen with open eyes. So we shape our future forms by the even course of our minds.
41 As a dream presents the shadows of things that disappear on our waking, so these living bodies that we see all about must vanish into nothing upon their death. 42 What is unreal is doomed to perish, and those who die are destined to be born again. The living soul takes another form in another body, just as it sees itself in a dream. 43 This body does not become another, though it may change from young to aged in course of time, because the natural form of a person retains its identity in every stage of life through which it has to pass.
44 In his dream, a man sees all that he has seen or heard or thought of at anytime. The whole world being incorporated in the state of dreaming, the living soul becomes the knower of all that is knowable in his dream. 45 That which a man has not seen awake, but is known to him only by name, can never be seen in dream, such as the pure soul and the intellect of God. 46 The living soul sees in its dreams the objects that it has seen before. The intellectual part of the soul also sees many things that were unknown to it.
47 Subdue your former desires and propensities by your present, courageous efforts. Exert your utmost to change your habitual misconduct in favor of your future good behavior. 48 You can never subdue your senses or prevent your reincarnation without gaining your liberation. Without liberation, you must continue to rise and plunge in the stream of life forever. 49 The imagination of your mind causes the body to understand your soul to be like a shark and the desire of your soul like a ghost that lays hold of children in the dark.
50 The mind, understanding and personal ego, joined with the five elements, form the body composed of the eight-fold subtle properties. 51 The bodiless or intellectual soul is finer than empty air. The air is its great tree, and the body is its mountain.
52 One devoid of passions and affections and exempt from all the conditions of life is entitled to liberation. He remains in a state of profound deep sleep in which gross objects and the desires of life lie wiped out and buried forever. 53 The state of dreaming is one in which the dreamer is conscious of his body and self-existence. The dreamer has to wander about or remain fixed in some place until his attainment of final liberation. Such is the state of living beings and plants. 54 Sometimes the sleeping, and often the dreaming person, have to carry movable bodies (ativahika) with them until they obtain their final emancipation from life. 55 When some ominous dream awakens the sleeping soul from mental inactivity, it awakens to a fire created by its own misery. 56 The state of unmoving minerals, including even that of a fixed branch of the wish-fulfilling kalpa tree, exhibits no sign of intelligence, only gross dullness. 57 When dull, deep sleep (susupta) is interrupted by some dream, the dreamer is led to the miseries of life in this world. But he who awakes from his trance with full consciousness finds the perfect joy of the fourth (turiya) state open fully to his view.
58 The living soul finds liberation by means of its intelligence. It is also through intelligence that the soul recognizes its spirituality, just as copper, cleansed of its rust by some acid, assumes the brightness of pure gold. 59 A living soul obtains two kinds of liberation through its intelligence. One is called emancipation from life and the other is known as release from the burden of the body (deha mukta). 60 Emancipation from life means the attainment of the fourth state of perfection. Intelligence means the enlightenment of the soul, which is obtainable by cultivation of understanding. 61 The soul acquainted with scriptures and knowing the Supreme Spirit in itself becomes full of God. The ignorant soul sees only horrors rising before it, like the ghosts of his troublesome dreams.
62 Horrors arising in man’s heart serve only to disturb his inner peace. There is nothing in the heart of man other than a particle of Divine Consciousness. 63 Men are truly subjected to misery if they see God in any light other than the divine light that shines in the soul of man, and if they do not understand that there is no other light.
64 Look at the world whenever you will and you will find it full of illusion everywhere, just as you find nothing in a pot full of foul water except dirty sediments. 65 In the same manner you see the atoms of human souls, full with the vanities of this world. Vanities are from the chains of man’s worldly desires. Men are released by breaking those bonds of desire. 66 The soul sleeps under the spell of its desires and sees those objects in its dream. After desires are dispersed, the soul wakes to the state of turiya joy.
The spell of gross desire extends over all animate and inanimate creation. 67 The desires of superior beings are of a pure nature. Those of intermediate natures are less pure. The desires of inferior beings are of a gross nature, and there are others without desires such as pots and blocks of wood or stone.
68 The living soul becomes united with an outer object when one perceives and the other is the object of perception. Both, namely the inner soul and the outer object, being pervaded by the all pervasive Intellect of God, become one and the same with God, the common receptacle of all. 69 Hence the belief in separate perceiver, perception, and the object of perception is as false as water in a mirage. There is nothing we can shun or grasp as desirable or disgusting when they are all the same in the sight of God. 70 All things internal or external manifest as parts of the one universal and intellectual Soul. All worlds are only the manifestations of Divine Consciousness. It is vain to attribute any difference to them. All of us are displayed in Consciousness which forever contains the inner and outer worlds.
71 As the ocean is a calm expanse of water after its waves subside, reflecting the sky clearly, so it is that after we lose sight of the diversities presented to our superficial view, the entire universe appears as the reflection of one glorious and everlasting God.