Chapter 2 — Lack of Choice Means No Responsibility for Actions

Vasishta continued:—

Do not think of unity or duality but remain quite calm and quiet in your spirit and as cold hearted as damp mud. The worlds are still with the unmoving spirit of the divinity working in them. The mind with its understanding, egoism and all its thoughts is full of the Divine Spirit in its diverse forms. Time and its motion and all sound, force and action, together with all modes of existence are only manifestations of Divine Essence.

Divine Spirit has the form of jelly-like mud (i.e., it is plastic in nature) showing all things, forms and colors, and the mind and all its functions also, upon its own mold of endless shapes and types beyond the comprehension of men. Divine Essence forms the patterns, forms and shapes of all things, together with the measurements of space and time and the position of all the quarters and regions of the earth and heavens, all formed out of its own substance like on a mold of clay. So all things existent or nonexistent are the products and derivations of the formative mud and mold of the Divine Spirit.

Remain indifferent about the essence of your egoism and selfishness, which is nothing other than that of the Supreme Spirit. Live unconcerned with everything, like a dumb insect inside a stone.

Rama asked, “Sage, if a wise and God knowing man lacks the false knowledge of egoism and selfishness, then how is it that the abandonment and renunciation of his duties will impose any guilt or evil upon him, and his full observance of them is attended with any degree of merit or reward?”

Vasishta replied:—

I also will ask you one question, O sinless Rama, and you should answer it soon if you understand well what is rightly meant by the term duty and that of activity. Tell me, what is the root of action and how far does it extend? Is action destructible at last or not, and how is it totally destroyed at the end?

Rama asked:—

Why sage, whatever is destructible must be destroyed by rooting it out all together, and not by chopping off branches. 10 The acts of merit and demerit are both to be destroyed together with their results of good and evil. This is done by eradicating and eliminating them altogether.

11 Hear me tell you, sage, about the roots of our deeds. By the rooting them out, our actions are wholly eradicated, never to grow forth anymore. 12 I think, O sage, that this body of ours is the tree of our action that has grown in the great garden of this worlds surrounded with twining vines of various kinds. 13 Our past acts are the seeds of this tree, and our happiness and sorrow are the fruit that cover it. It is green with the vegetation of youth for a while, and it smiles with its white blossoms of grey hairs and the pale complexion of old age. 14 Destructive death lurks about this tree of the body every moment, just as the light-legged monkey climbs over trees to break them down. It is overwhelmed in the womb of sleep, just as a tree is overwhelmed under the mists of winter. Its flitting dreams are like the falling leaves of trees. 15 Old age is the autumn of life and decaying wishes are like the withered leaves. Wife and family are as thick as grass in the wilderness of the world.

16 The reddish palms and soles of the hands and feet, and the other reddish parts of the body, resemble the reddening leaves of this tree which are continually moving in the air with the marks of slender lines upon them. 17 Little reddish fingers with their flesh and bones, covered by thin skin and moving in the air, are like the tender shoots of the tree of the human body. 18 Soft and shining nails, set in rows with their rounded forms and sharpened ends, are like the moon-bright buds of flowers with their painted heads.

19 This tree of the body is the growth of the ripened seed of the past acts of men. The organs of action are the knotty and crooked roots of this tree. 20 These organs of action are supported by the bony members of the body and nourished by the sap of human food. They are fostered by our desires, resembling the core and blood of the body. 21 Again, the organs of sense supply those of action with their power of movement, or else the body with the lightness of all its members from head to foot would not be moved to action without the sensation of their motion. 22 Though the five organs of sense grow apart at great distances from one another, like so many branches of this tree of the body, yet they are moved by the desire of the heart which supplies them with their sap.

23 The mind is the great trunk of this tree which comprehends the three worlds in it. It is swollen with the sap that it draws through its five-fold organs of sense, just as the stem of a tree grows with the juice it draws by the cellular fibers of its roots. 24 The living soul is the root of the mind, and having intellect ingrained, it is always busy with its thoughts which have the same intellect for their root. But the root of all these is the one great cause of all. 25 The intellect is the great Brahman which has no cause of itself. Having no designation or termination, it is truth from the purity of its essence.

26 The consciousness of ourselves as personal ego is the root of all our actions. The internal thought of our personal entity is the root of our energy and gives impulse to all our actions. 27 It is our perception, O sage, which is said to be the source and root of our actions and whenever there is this principle in the mind, it causes the body to grow in the form of the big salmali tree. 28 When this perception, otherwise called consciousness, is accompanied with thoughts of ego and personality, it becomes the seed of action. Otherwise, mere consciousness of the Self is the state of the Supreme Soul.

29 So also when consciousness is accompanied with its power of intellectual reasoning, it becomes the source and seed of action. Otherwise, it is calm and quiet because that is the nature of the Supreme Soul. 30 Therefore the knowledge of one’s personality is the cause of his action, and this causality of action, as I have said, is quite in conformity with your teachings to me.

31 Vasishta said:—

Thus Rama, action with discernment is based on the knowledge of one’s personality. Therefore it is impossible to avoid activity as long as the mind is situated in the body and has the knowledge of its personality. 32 Whoever thinks of anything sees the same both within as well as outside of himself. Whether it is in reality or not, still the mind is possessed with a mental fabrication of it.

33 Again whoever thinks of nothing truly escapes from the error of mistaking a mental fabrication for reality. But at present we are not going to discuss whether the reality is a falsity, or the falsity of anything is a sober reality.

34 This thinking principle presents the shadow of something within us and passes under various names like will, desire, mind and its purpose. 35 The mind resides in the bodies of both rational and irrational beings, and in their waking and sleeping states. Therefore, it is impossible to get rid of the mind by anybody at anytime. 36 So long as the mind is busy with its thoughts, neither silence nor inactivity of a living body amounts to refraining from action. Only the unawareness of the meaning of the word action amounts to one’s postponement from acts. 37 Freedom to choose either to do or not to do anything is meant to make one’s action. Therefore, by avoiding your choice in the doing of an act you avoid it altogether. Otherwise there is no other means to avoid an agent’s responsibility for his own acts.

38 Nobody is deemed to be the doer of an act who does not do it by his deliberate choice. Knowledge of the unreality of the world also leads to ignoring all action. 39 Ignoring the existence of the world is renunciation of it. Renunciation of all associations and connections is the same as one’s liberation from them. Knowledge of the knowable One necessarily includes knowledge of all that is to be known. 40 There being no such thing as production, there is no knowledge of anything whatever that is produced. Therefore abandon your eagerness to know the knowable forms and seek knowledge of the only invisible One.

41 There is no knowing whatever of the nature and actions of the quiescent spirit of Brahman. Its action is only the reasoning of its consciousness which evolves itself in the form of an infinite emptiness.

42 The learned well know the teaching of the Vedanta, that “utter unconsciousness is liberation.” Hence no one is exempt from action as long as he lives with his conscious body. 43 Those who regard action as their duty are never released from their subjection to the root of action. This root is the desire mind’s consciousness of its own actions.

44 It is impossible, O Rama, to destroy this bodiless consciousness without the weapon of good understanding. It lies so very deep in the mind that it continually nourishes the roots of action. 45 When we can nourish the seed of bodiless consciousness by our great efforts, then we should be able to destroy bodiless consciousness using the same weapon, effort. 46 In the same manner, we also can destroy the tree of the world with its roots and branches.

47 Only one exists which has no sensation and has the form of endless emptiness. That unintelligible empty form and pure intelligence is the core and substance of all existence.