Chapter 53 — Knowing the Nature of Brahman is Nirvana

Rama said, “How is there consciousness in conscious beings? How is there durability in time? How is vacuum a perfect void? How does inertness abide in dull material substances? How does fluctuation reside in air, and what is the state of things in the future, and those that are now absent? How does motion reside in moving things, and how do plastic bodies receive their forms? From where comes the difference of different things and the infinity of infinite natures? How is there visibility in what is visible, and how does the creation of created things come to take place?

Tell me, O most eloquent brahmin, all these things one by one. Explain them from the first to last in such a way that they may be intelligible to the lowest understanding.

Vasishta replied:—

That endless great emptiness is known as the great and solid consciousness. This cannot be known other than as a tranquil and self-existent unity. The gods Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and others are reduced to their origin at the last dissolution of the world and there remains only that pure source from where they have sprung. There is no cause to be assigned to this prime cause of all who is also the seed of matter and form, as well as of delusion, ignorance and error.

The original cause is quite transparent and tranquil, having no beginning or end. Subtle ether itself is dense and solid in comparison with its rarity. It is not proper to call it nonexistent when it has an intellectual body, nor can it properly be called an existent being when it is completely calm and quiet. 10 The form of that being is as inconceivable as the idea of that little space of time which lies in middle of our thought of the length of a thousand miles, which the mind’s eye sees in a moment. 11 A yogi, unconscious to the false and delusive desires and sights of objects that intrude upon internal mind and external vision, sees the transient flash of that light in his meditation, just as he wakes amidst the gloom of midnight. 12 A man who sits with quiet calmness of mind without any joy or grief comes to feel the vibration of that spirit in himself, just as he perceives the fluctuation of his own mind.

13 That which is the spring of creation is the source of all plant life and that also is the form of the Lord. 14 He is the cause of the world which is seen to exist in him in all its varieties of fearful forms and shapes, all of which is a manifestation of himself. 15 These having no actual or real cause are no real productions or actual existences. Therefore there is no formal world or a duality coexistent with the spiritual unity. 16 That which has no cause can have no possible existence. The eternal ideas of God cannot be otherwise than mere ideal shapes.

17 Emptiness has no beginning or end and is no cause of the world. Brahman is formless, but the empty sky which presents a visible appearance cannot be the form of the formless and invisible Brahman. 18 Therefore he is that in which the form of the world appears to exist. Hence the Lord himself appears as that which is situated in the emptiness of his consciousness. 19 The world being of the nature of the intellectual Brahman, is of the same intellectual kind with him, though our error shows it otherwise.

20 This whole world springs from that whole intellect and it exists in its entirety in that entire one. The completeness of that is displayed in the totality of this. The completeness of creation depends upon the perfection of its cause.

21 The nirvana of sages is to know that one who is ever even and quiet, who has neither rise nor fall or any form of likeness, but remains in its translucent unity like the vast sky, and is the everlasting all, combining reality and unreality together in its unity.