1 Rama said, “Tell me, O sage, where does our knowledge of the world as distinct from God come from? How is this difference removed and refuted?”
2 Vasishta replied:—
An ignorant man takes to his mind all that he sees with his eyes, and nothing that he does not see. He sees a tree with its outward branches and leaves, but does not know the root lying hidden from his sight. 3 A wise man sees a thing by the light of the scriptures and uses it accordingly. But an ignorant fool takes and grasps anything as he sees it without considering its hidden quality.
4 Be attentive to the dictates of the scriptures and intent upon acting according to their teaching. Remain like a silent sage and attend to my words which will be an ornament for your ears. 5 All these visible phenomena are false. They have no real existence. They appear like the flash of light in water and they are known by the name of ignorance. 6 Attend for a moment and for my sake to the meaning of the instruction which I am now going to give you. Knowing this as certain truth, rely upon it.
7 A question which naturally rises of itself in the mind is where did all these come from and what are they. You will come to know by your own reflection that all this is nothing and not in existence. 8 Whatever appears before you in the form of this world, and all its fixed and moveable objects, and also all things of every shape and kind, are altogether impermanent and vanish in time into nothing. 9 The continual wasting and division of the particles of things indicates their unavoidable extinction at last, just as water slowly flowing by drops from a pot make it entirely empty in a short time. 10 Thus all things are perishable, and as all of them are only parts of Brahman, it is agreed by those skilled in logic that Brahman is neither endless nor imperishable, nor even existent at this time.
11 This conceit of atheists is like the intoxication of wine. Atheism cannot overpower our theistic belief because we know phenomena as things in a dream that have no real substance. 12 The phenomenal world is perishable, but not the Spirit which is not matter or destructible. This is consistent with the doctrines of the scriptures, which mean no other.
13 Whether what is destroyed comes to revive again is utterly unknowable to us. All that we can say by our inferences is that the restorations are very much like the former ones. 14 It is impossible to believe that upon its dissolution, matter becomes emptiness. Again if there is an emptiness like before, then there could not have been a total dissolution. 15 If the theory of the identity of creation and dissolution be maintained, then the absence of causality and effect supports our belief that they are one and the same thing. 16 Emptiness being conceivable by us, we say that when everything is annihilated, everything is transformed or hidden in the womb of emptiness. If there is any other meaning to dissolution, let us know what it may be. 17 Whoever believes that things which are destroyed come to be restored again is either wrong to call them annihilated or must accept that others are produced to supply their place.
18 Where is there any causality or consequence in a tree, which is only a transformation of the seed in spite of the difference of its parts, such as the trunk, branches, leaves and fruit? 19 The seed is not inactive as a pot or picture, but exhibits its actions in the production of its flowers and fruit in their proper season. 20 Every system of philosophy maintains that there is no difference in the substance of things. This truth is also upheld in spirituality. Therefore there is no dispute about it. 21 Substance being considered to be an eternally inert form and of a plastic nature, it is understood to be of the essence of emptiness, both by right inference and evidence of scriptures.
22 Why the essential principle is unknown to us, and why we still have some notion of it, and how we realize that idea, are what I am now going to relate to you step by step.
23 All these visible spheres are annihilated at the final dissolution of the world. The great gods also become extinct, together with our minds and understandings and all the activities of nature. 24 The sky is also undefined and time shrinks into a divisible duration. The winds also disappear and fire blinds into chaotic confusion. 25 Darkness also disappears and water vanishes into nothing. All things to which you can apply words grow into nothing and become void in the end.
26 There remains the pure entity of conscious soul, completely unbounded by time or space, without beginning or end, decrease or waste, and entirely pure and perfect in its nature. 27 This one is unspeakable and indiscernible, imperceptible and inconceivable, without any name or attribute whatever. This is an utter void itself and yet the principle and receptacle of all beings and the source of all being and non-being. 28 It is not the air or the wind or understanding or any of its faculties. It is neither void nor nothingness. It is nothing and yet the source of everything. What can it be except transcendent emptiness?
29 It is only a notion in the conception of wise. Otherwise, no one can conceive or know anything about it. Whatever definition or description others apply only repeats the words of the Vedas. 30 It is not time or space, or the mind or soul, or any being or anything else that can be said. It is not in the midst or at the end of any space or side, nor is it anything we can ordinarily know. 31 This something is too translucent for common understanding, conceivable only by the greatest understandings by those who have retired from the world and attained the highest stage of yoga.
32 I have left out popular descriptions which the scriptures avoid. The expressions of the scriptures are displayed here like playful waves in the clear ocean. 33 There it is said that all beings are situated in the common receptacle of the great Brahman as the figures are exhibited in relief upon a massive stony pillar. 34 Thus all beings are situated and yet not situated in Brahman, who is the soul of and not the same with all, and who is in and without all existence.
35 Whatever be the nature of the Universal Soul, it is devoid of all attributes. In whatever manner it is viewed, it comes at last to mean the very same unity. 36 It is all and the soul of all, and being devoid of attributes, it is full of all attributes. In this manner it is viewed by all.
37 O intelligent Rama, as long as you do not feel the complete suspension of all your objects, you cannot be said to have reached the fullness of your knowledge, as indicated by your questions until then. 38 An enlightened man who has come to know the great glory of God has clear sightedness in his mind. He remains quiet seeing the inner being of his being. 39 Fallacies of “I”, “you” and “he”, the world and the three times are all lost in his sight of the great glory, just as many gold coins merge together in a lump of gold.
40 Gold produces various kinds of coins. These worlds and their contents are not produced as things of a different kind from the nature of God. 41 The detached soul always looks upon different bodies as contained within itself and remains in relation to this dualism of the world like gold is related to various kinds of ornaments that are produced from it.
42 It is inexpressible by the words implying space or time or any other thing, though it is the source and seat of them all. It comprehends everything, though it is nothing of itself. 43 All things are situated in Brahman like waves in the sea. All things are exhibited by him like pictures drawn by a painter. He is the substratum and substance of all, just as the clay of the pots which are made of it. 44 All things are contained in it. They are and they are not there at the same time, neither distinct nor indistinct from the same. They are ever of the same nature, equally pure and quiet as their origin.
45 The three worlds are contained in it, as uncarved images are concealed in wood, seen with joy even there by the future sculptor. 46 The images become seen when they are carved and manifest on the stone pillar. Otherwise the worlds remain in that soul, just as undisturbed waves lie calmly on the surface of the sea. 47 Divine Consciousness, like the sculptor, sees the worlds as divided and distinct when they are still undivided and indistinct before their creation. They appear to be shining and moving when they are dark and motionless on the outside. 48 In this Brahman there is a combination of atoms that composes these worlds and makes them shine so brightly when no particle has any light in itself.
49 The sky, air, time and all other objects said to be produced from the formless God are likewise formless of themselves. The Lord God is the soul of all, devoid of all qualities and change, without decay and everlasting, and named the most transcendent truth.