Chapter 47 — The First Step towards Liberation

Vasishta continued:—

Hear now the manner and measures a yogi adopts to obtain release from his heavy burden and troubles of the world. The seedling of discrimination springs first in the mind from contempt for the world. All good people take shelter under the wide stretching shade of this large tree, just as a weary and sunburned traveler rests under the cool shade of trees.

A wise man shuns the ignorant at a distance, just as the wayfarer casts aside sacrificial wood because the worshippers of gods observe only the ceremonious rites of holy ablutions, almsgivings, austerities and sacred oblations.

In his fair, just, polite and open behavior, and in his calm and pleasing countenance, a wise man resembles the fair moon with her ambrosial beams. He acts with sound wisdom and prudence, is polite and civil in his manners, is prompt in serving and obliging others, is holy in his conduct and humorous in his discourse. He is as clear, cold, soft and pleasing as fresh butter, and his company is delightful to people even at first encounter.

The deeds of wise men are as pure for mankind as the dews of moonbeams refresh and cool all of nature. No one sleeps so delighted on a bed of flowers, a flower garden devoid of fears, as he who rests secure in the company of reasonable and pious men. 10 The society of holy and wise men, like the pure waters of the heavenly river, serves to cleanse the sins and purify the minds of the sinful. 11 The society of the holy recluse and liberated men is as cooling as a house filled with ice and flowers. 12 The great delight which a holy sage feels in his heart is not to be enjoyed in the company of apsara fairies, gandharva spirits, the gods, or any ordinary human kind.

13 A pious devotee attains knowledge and clear understanding by continued performance of proper acts. Then the significance of the scriptures is reflected clearly in the tablet of his mind, just as the reflections of objects are seen in a mirror. 14 Good understanding moistened by the instruction of scriptures grows in the mind of a holy man, just as a plantain tree grows in the forest. 15 The mind cleared by good judgment retains the clear impression of everything in it, just as a mirror reflects the images of objects on its surface.

16 A wise man whose soul is purified by the association with holy men, and whose mind is cleansed with the washing of scriptural instruction, is like a sheet of linen cloth flaming with fire. 17 A holy saint shines with the brightness of his presence just like the sun does with his golden beams, diffusing a pure light all around the world. 18 A wise man follows the conduct of holy sages and the precepts of the scriptures to imitate and practice them himself. 19 Thus by degrees, a beginner becomes as good as the great objects of his imitation and as full of knowledge as the scriptures themselves. Having then put down all the enjoyments of life, he appears to come out of a prison by breaking down his chains and fetters.

20 He who has become accustomed to reducing his desires and enjoyments day by day resembles the crescent moon daily increasing in brightness. He enlightens his family just as the moon throws her luster over the stars about her. 21 A stingy miser is always as gloomy as the face of an eclipsed moon. He is never as smiling as the face of a liberal man, which is bright as the face of the moon when freed from eclipse. 22 The liberal man spurns the world as mere straw and becomes famous among the great for his generosity. He resembles the wish-fulfilling kalpa tree of paradise which yields the desired fruit to everybody. 23 Though one may feel some compunction in his mind at the willful abdication of his possessions, yet the wise man is happy with no property at all.

24 Anyone who comes to know what he was and how he now is may laugh at his prior acts, just as a low savage remembering his prior births and comparing them with his present laughs in disgust.

25 Even spiritual masters and holy saints look upon a yogi with wonder, full of esteem for him. They see him with delighted eyes like the moon rising over the earth. 26 A yogi, ever accustomed to despise all enjoyment and having attained right judgment, does not esteem anything that can be enjoyed in life, though it presents itself to him in the proper manner. 27 A holy man whose soul is raised and enlightened feels his former enjoyments to become as dull and tasteless as a luxuriant tree becomes dry and withered in autumn. 28 He resorts to the company of holy men for his greatest and lasting good, and becomes as sane and sound as a sick man becomes healthy by his abstinence and recourse to physicians. 29 Being then exulted in his mind, he dives into the deep sense of the scriptures like a big elephant plunging into a large lake of clear water.

30 It is the nature of virtuous men to deliver their neighbors from danger and calamity and to lead them to their well being and prosperity, just as the sun leads people to light. 31 A reasonable man is adverse to receiving anything from another and lives content with what is his own. 32 He hates to taste others’ delicacies because he is gratified by the nectar drink of contentment and prepares to abandon what he already possesses. 33 He is accustomed to give away his gold and money to beggars and beg his vegetarian food from others. By habitual practice of giving away whatever he has, he is even ready to part with the flesh of his body. 34 Truly a man of subdued mind and holy soul gets over the hidden traps of ignorance with as much ease as a running man leaps over a pothole.

35 A holy man accustomed to despise the acceptance of wealth from others learns speedily to neglect the possession of any wealth for himself. 36 Thus aversion to wealth and others’ possessions leads a wise and holy man by degrees to be adverse to retaining anything for himself. 37 There is no such trouble on this earth, nor any great pain in the torment of hell, as there is in the punishment of earning and accumulation of wealth. 38 Ah, how little are the money-making fools aware of the cares and troubles they have to undergo in their restless days and nights in their servitude for money. 39 All wealth is only lengthening sorrow. Prosperity brings adversity. All enjoyments are only ailments and thus every earthly good turns to its reverse.

40 One cannot have a distaste for sensual enjoyments as long he thinks on the objects of sense, or as long as he has any craving for riches, which are the springs of all evils and harms in human life. 41 He who has a taste for the highest heavenly bliss looks upon the world as a heap of straw, and riches as the fire that lights them ablaze. Avoid this fire and be cool and quiet. 42 The meaning of wealth is known as the source of all evils in the world and the cause of all wants and disorders and even of diseases and death. It is also the cause of oppression and plunder, of agitation and the like, and their consequent poverty and famine.

43 In this mortal world of death and diseases of living beings, there is only one elixir which gives perpetual health and life to man, and this is contentment. 44 The spring season is charming, and so are the gardens of paradise, moonbeams and celestial ladies, but all combine only in contentment which alone is capable of yielding all delights. 45 The contented soul is like a lake during rains when it is full and deep, clear and cooling as the nectar drink of the gods. 46 An honest man is strengthened by his contentment and flourishes with full joy like a flowering tree is covered with blossoms in flowering season.

47 As a poor ant, in its ceaseless search and hoarding of food, is likely to be crushed under the foot of every passerby, so a greedy and needy man is liable to be spurned for his constant wanderings after worthless gains and money. 48 A deformed and disfigured beggar is like a man plunged into a sea of troubles, buffeting in its waves without finding any support for rest or any prospect of ever reaching the shore. 49 Prosperity, like beauty, is as frail and fickle as the unstable waves of the ocean. What wise man can expect to find his reliance on prosperity or beauty, or have rest under the shade of the hood of a hideous serpent? 50 He who knows the pains that attend gaining, keeping and losing money, but still persists pursuing it, is no better than a brute and deserves to be shunned by the wise as unsociable. 51 He who cuts down the growing grass of his internal and external appetites from the field of his heart by the means of the sword of detachment, gets it prepared for reception of the seeds of divine knowledge.

52 Ignorant people take the world for a reality and wise men also conduct themselves under this supposition although they are well aware of its unreality. This is owing to their neglect of practicing what they are taught to believe.

53 The sum of the whole is that renunciation of the world leads men to the society of sages and study of the scriptures. Then by reliance on the holy precepts, one abandons his worldliness. At last, his firm dislike of the temporal leads him to seek his spiritual bliss.