Chapter 22 — The Meaning of Knowledge; the Wise and the Not Wise

Vasishta resumed:—

The truly wise man, by his knowledge of the knowable One, has placed his reliance in Him, has set his mind to its pristine purity by cleansing it from its worldly propensities, and has no faith in the merit of acts. The truly wise are the learned who know all kinds of learning and yet are employed in acts with indifference to everything. The heart of a truly wise man is detached from all his acts and efforts, and his mind is unaffected, calm and quiet at all times.

The true meaning of the word knowledge is the sense of one’s liberation from the doom of birth and death. The art of earning food and clothing is only the practice of cunning fellows. He is called a wise man who, although engaged in mundane transactions, remains without any desire or expectation and continues with a heart as vacant as empty air. The accidents of life come to pass without any direct cause and to no purpose. What was neither present nor expected comes to take place of its own accord. The appearance or disappearance of an event or accident proceeds from causes quite unknown to us, and these afterwards become causes of the effects they produce.

Who can tell what is the cause for rabbits to lack horns or the appearance of water in the mirage? They cannot be found out or seen. Those who explore the cause for rabbits to lack horns may well expect to embrace the necks of the sons and grandsons of a barren woman.

10 The cause of the appearance of unreal phenomena of the world is nothing other than our lack of right sight which presents these phantoms to our view, and which disappear at a glance of our rational vision. 11 The living soul appears as the Supreme Spirit when it is seen by the sight of our blind intellect, but no sooner does the light of Divine Consciousness dawn in our minds, than the living or animal soul shrinks into nothing. 12 The unconscious Supreme Soul becomes awakened to the state of the living soul, just as the potential mango of winter becomes the positive mango in spring. 13 The intellect awakened becomes the living soul which, in its long course of its living, becomes worn out with age and toil and passes into many births in many kinds of beings.

14 Wise men who possess their intellectual sight look within themselves in the recesses of their hearts and minds without looking at what is visible outside, and without thinking of anything or making any effort whatever. They move on with the even course of their destiny like water flowing on its course to the ocean of eternity. 15 They who have come to the light of their transcendent vision fix their sight on brighter views beyond the sphere of phenomena and discern the invisible exposed to their view. 16 They who have vision of transcendent light, owing to their heedlessness of everything in this world, have slow and silent motion like that of a hidden water course. 17 They who are regardless of phenomena and are thoughtless of the world’s affairs are like those who are disentangled from their snares. They are truly wise who occupy themselves with their business as freely as the airs of heaven gently play and move the leaves of trees. 18 Those who have seen the transcendent light across the dizzy scenes of mortal life are not restricted to the course of this world, just as sailors are not restricted to shallow and narrow pools and streams.

19 They who are slaves to their desires are bound to the bondage of works ordained by law and scriptures. Thus they pass their lives in utter ignorance of truth. 20 The bodily senses fall upon carnal pleasures like vultures pouncing upon rotten dead flesh. Therefore curb and retract desires with diligence and fix your mind to meditate on the state of Brahman and the soul.

21 Know that Brahman is not without creation, just as no gold is without its form and reflection, but keep yourself clear from thoughts of creation and reflection and confine your mind to the meditation of Brahman filled with perfect bliss. 22 Know Brahman is as inscrutable as the face of the universe is indiscernible in the darkness of the chaotic state at the end of a yuga age when there is no appearance of anything and no distinction of conduct and manners, 23 and the elements of production in the consciousness of divine nature are in their quiescent agitation in the Divine Spirit, like the movements of flimsy vapors in the darkness of an immovable and wide spreading cloud.

24 As water particles are in motion in a still pond, so are the changing thoughts in the changeless soul, and so are the motions of elemental bodies in the unchanging essence and nature of God. 25 As the universal and undivided sky and space take the names of the different quarters of heaven, so indivisible Brahman, being one and same with creation, is understood as distinct and different from it.

26 The world contains egoism as the ego contains the world. One contains the other, just as the covering layers of the plantain tree contain and are contained under one another.

27 The living soul (jiva), being possessed of egoism, sees its internal world through the openings of the organs of sense which seem to be lying without it. In the same manner, mountains look upon lakes issuing out of its caves as if they were outward things. 28 So when the living soul makes the mistake of seeing itself, it is like taking a bar of gold for an ornament which is to be made of it. 29 Hence they who are acquainted with the soul and are liberated in their lifetime never think themselves as born or living or dying at anytime. 30 Those who are awakened to the sight of the soul are employed in the actions of life without looking at them, like a householder discharges his domestic duties while his mind is fixed on the milk pot in the cow stall.

31 As the god Viraj is situated with his moonlike appearance in the heart of the universal frame, so the living soul resides in the heart of every individual body like a little or large dew drop, according to the smallness or bigness of the physical body. 32 This false and frail body is believed to be a solid reality because of its tripartite figure and is mistaken for the ego and soul because of the consciousness displayed and dwelling in it. 33 The living soul is confined like a silkworm in the cell of its own making (karma-kosha) by acts of its past life. The living soul resides with its egoism in the seed of its parents like fragrance in the honey cups of flowers.

34 Egoism residing in the seminal seed spreads its consciousness throughout the body from head to foot, like moonbeams scattered throughout the universe. 35 The soul stretches out the fluid of its intelligence through the openings of its organs of sense. This being carried to the sides through the medium of air, extends all over the three worlds like vapor and smoke cover the face of the sky.

36 The body is full of consciousness, both in its inner and outer parts, but the cave of the heart is where our desires and egoism are deeply seated. 37 The living soul is made up of only its desires. Desires soon come out from within the heart and appear on the outside in a person’s outer conduct. 38 The error of egoism can never be suppressed by any means other than one being inattentive to himself and his awareness of the fullness of divine presence in his calm and quiet soul.

39 Though dwelling on your present thoughts, yet you must rely upon your reflection of the empty Brahman by the speedy suppression of your egoism by degrees and your self-control. 40 They who know the soul manage themselves here without fostering their earthly thoughts. They remain like silent images of wood, without looking at or thinking of anything at all. 41 He who has fewer earthly thoughts is said to be liberated in the world. Though living in it, he is as clear and free in his mind as the open air.

42 Egoism breeds in the heart and grows into intelligence circulating throughout the whole body from head to foot, like the sunbeams that pervade the sphere of heaven. 43 Ego becomes the sight of the eyes, the taste of the tongue, and hearing in the ears. Then the five senses, being fastened to the desires in the heart, plunge the ego into the sea of sensuality. 44 Thus omnipresent consciousness loses its purity and becomes the mind employed with one or other of the senses, just as the common moisture of the earth grows the sprout in spring.

45 He who thinks on the various objects of the senses without knowing their unreality and the reality of the only One, and who does not endeavor for his liberation here, has no end of troubles in this life. 46 That man reigns as an emperor who is content with any kind of food and clothing and with any sort of bed anywhere, 47 who with all his desires of the heart is indifferent to all the outward objects of desire, who with his vacant mind is full with his soul, and being as empty vacuum is filled with the breath of life, 48 who whether he is sitting or sleeping, or going anywhere or remaining unmoved, continues as quiet as in his sleeping state, and though stirred by anyone, he is not awakened from his slumber of nirvana in which his mind and its thoughts are all drowned and have become extinct.

49 Consciousness is common to all. It resides in each heart like fragrance in flowers and flavor in fruit. 50 Self-consciousness makes an individual person. The extinction of self-consciousness is said to form the wide world all about, but being confined to one’s self, it eliminates the sight of the world from view. 51 Be unconscious of the objects on earth and remain unconscious of all your prosperity and affluence. If you wish to be happy forever, make your heart as hard as impenetrable as stone.

52 O righteous Rama, convert the feeling of your heart to unfeeling and make your body and mind as unconscious as the hardest stone. 53 Of all the positive and negative acts of the unwise and wise men, there is nothing that makes such a marked difference between them as those proceeding from the desire of the unwise and the lack of desire of the wise. 54 The result of the desired actions of the unwise is the world stretched out before them, while the result of acts done without desire by the wise serves to put an end to the world before them.

55 All that which is visible is destructible, and that which is destroyed come to be renewed to life, but that which is neither destroyed nor resuscitated is you, your very soul. 56 The knowledge of the world’s existence is without foundation. Though it is thought to exist, it is not found to be so in reality. It is like water in a mirage.

57 The right knowledge of things removes the thought of egoism from the mind, and though a thing may be thought of in the mind, yet it takes no deep root in the heart, just as a burnt seed does not sprout in the ground. 58 The man who does his duties or not, but remains passionless and thoughtless and free from frailty, has his rest in the soul and his nirvana is always attendant upon him. 59 Those who are saintly remain calm and quiet through their control of the mind and by suppression of desires for enjoyments. But those who are weakened in their natures have a mine of evils in their hearts.

60 The wise soul is distinguishable from others by its brightness, full of light like a cloudless sky. The same soul is alike in all, but in the ignorant the soul appears as dim as evening twilight. 61 As a man sees the light of heaven coming from a great distance and filling the space around him, so the light of the Supreme Soul fills and reaches all. 62 The infinite and invisible consciousness, as wonderful as the clear sky, conceives and displays this wonderful world within the infinity of its own emptiness.

63 To the learned and unerring, those who have gotten rid of the error of the world and rest in their everlasting tranquility, the world appears like a consumed and extinguished lamp. To all common people, the world appears to be placed in the air by the will of God for the enjoyment of all.