1 Rama said, “Sage, tell me about the nature of the living soul. How does it assume its different forms? Tell me also, what is its original form and what forms does it take at different times and places?”
2 Vasishta replied:—
The infinite consciousness of God, which fills all space and vacuum, takes of its own will a subtle and minute form called by the name of Intellect. This is expressed by the term living soul (jiva). 3 Its original form is neither that of a minute atom nor a bulky mass. It is neither an empty void nor anything having solidity. It is the pure intellect with consciousness of itself. It is omnipresent and it is called the living soul.
4 It is the minutest of the minute and the hugest of the huge. It is nothing at all, and yet the all which the learned call the living soul. 5 Know it as identical with the nature, property and quality of any and every object that exists anywhere. It is the light and soul of all existence. It is identical with all by its absorbing the knowledge of everything in itself.
6 Whatever this soul thinks in any manner of anything at any place or time, it immediately becomes that by its notion thereof. 7 The soul possesses the power of thinking, just as air has its force in the winds. The soul’s thoughts are directed by its knowledge of things and not by the guidance of anyone, like children creating the appearance of ghosts.
8 As the existent air appears to be nonexistent without the motion of the wind, so the living soul which desists from its function of thinking is said to be extinct in the Supreme Deity.
9 The living soul is misled to think of its individuality as the ego by the density or dullness of its intellect. It supposes itself to be confined within a limited space of place and time and within the limited powers of action and understanding. 10 Being thus circumscribed by time and space, and endowed with substance and properties of action and the like, it assumes to itself an unreal form or body with the belief of it being a sober reality. 11 Then it thinks itself to be enclosed in an ideal atom, just as one sees his own unreal death in a dream.
12 Just as in a dream of the mind one finds his physical features changed to another form, so the soul in its state of ignorance forgets its intellectual nature and becomes the same nature and form as it constantly thinks upon. 13 Thinking itself to be transformed into a gross and material form, such as that of Viraj the macrocosm, it views itself as bright and spotted as the moon with the black spot upon it. 14 Then, in its body resembling the moon, it finds the sudden union of the five senses of perception appearing of themselves within. 15 Then these five senses are found to have the five organs of sensation for their inlets, by which the soul perceives the sensation of their respective objects.
16 Then the Purusha, or First Male power known as Viraj, manifests himself in five other forms said to be parts of his body. These are the sun, the sides, water, air, and the land, which are the objects of the five senses. He then becomes endless forms according to the infinite objects of his knowledge. Thus he is manifested in his objective forms, but remains quite unknown to us in his subjective or causal form which is unchangeable without decay.
17 At first he sprang up from the Supreme Being as its mental energy or the mind. He was manifest in the form of the calm and clear sky with the splendor of eternal delight. 18 He was not of the five elemental form, but the soul of the five elements. He is called the Viraj Purusha, the macrocosm of the world, and the Supreme Lord of all. 19 He rises spontaneously of himself, then subsides in himself. He expands his own essence all over the universe, and at last contracts the whole in himself. 20 He arose in a moment with his power of volition and with all his desires in himself. He rises of his own will at first and after lasting long in himself, dissolves again in himself.
21 He is the same with the mind of God. He is the great body of the material world. His body is called the container of the eight elementary principles, and also the spiritual form. 22 He is the subtle and gross air manifest as the sky, but invisible as subtle ether. He is both within and without everything, and is yet nothing in himself. 23 His body consists of eight members, namely the five senses, the mind, the living principle and egoism, together with the different states of their being and not being. 24 He (in the form of Brahma) first sang the four Vedas with his four mouths. He determined the meanings of words and it was he who established the rules of conduct which remain in fashion to this time. 25 The high and boundless heaven is the crown of his head and the lower earth is the footstool of his feet. The unbounded sky is his large belly and the whole universe is the temple over his body. 26 The multitudes of worlds all about are the members of his body.
The waters of seas are the blood of the scars upon his body. The mountains are his muscles and the rivers and streams are the veins and arteries of his body. 27 The seas are his blood vessels and the islands are the bonds round his persons. His arms are the sides of the sky and the stars are the hairs on his body. 28 The forty-nine winds are its vital airs. The orb of the sun is its eyeball while its heat is the fiery bile inside its belly. 29 The lunar orb is the sheath of his life and its cooling beams are the humid humors of his body. His mind is the receptacle of his desires and the core of his soul is the ambrosia of his immortality. 30 He is the root of the tree of the body and the seed of the forest of actions. He is the source of all existence.
He is cooling moonlight diffusing delight to all beings by the healing beams of that balmy moon planet Oshadhisa (lord of medicinal herbs). 31 The scriptures say that the moon is the lord of life, the cause of the body and thoughts and actions of all living beings. 32 It is from this moonlike Viraj which contains all vitality in himself that all other living beings in the universe take their rise. Hence the moon is the container of life, mind, action and the sweet ambrosia of all living beings.
33 The will or desire of Viraj produced the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva from himself. All the celestial deities and demons are the miraculous creations of his mind. 34 It is the wonderful nature of intelligent Consciousness that whatever it thinks upon in its form of an infinitesimal atom, the same appears immediately before it in its gigantic form and size.
35 Rama, know that the entire universe is seat of the soul of Viraj and that the five elements compose the five component parts of his body. 36 Viraj shines as the collective or Universal Soul of the world in the bright orb of the moon. He diffuses light and life to all individuals by spreading moonbeams which produce vegetable food for the support and sustenance of living beings. 37 The plants supply animal bodies with their sustenance and thereby produce the life of living beings. They also produce the mind which becomes the cause of the actions and future births by the mind’s efforts towards the same.
38 In this manner a thousand Virajes and hundreds of mahakalpa periods have passed away. There are many such still existing and yet to appear, with varieties of customs and manners of peoples in different ages and climates. 39 The first and best and supremely blessed Viraj Purusha resides in the manner in which we conceive him, indistinct in his essence from the state of transcendent divinity, his huge body extending beyond the limits of space and time.