Chapter 91 — Description of Fire in Creation; Astral Travel

Vasishta related:—

Then I believed I was identical with light. I saw its various aspects in the luminous bodies of the sun and moon, in the planets and stars, and in fire and all shining objects.

This light by its own excellence becomes the light of the universe. It is as brilliant as the mighty monarch before whose all surveying sight the thievish darkness of night flies at a distance. This light, like a good prince, takes upon the likeness of lamps and reigns in the hearts of families and houses in a thousand shapes to drive off the thievish night and restore the properties of all before their sight. Being glad to lighten all worlds, it brightens the globes of the sun, moon and stars who with their rays and beams dispel afar the shade of night from the face of the skies. It dispels the darkness that bereaves all beings from their view of the beauties of nature.

It dispenses useful light which brings all to the sight of visible phenomena. It is an axe to the root of the black tree of night. It adds a purity and value to all things. It gives value to all metals and minerals and makes them so dear to mankind. It reveals all sorts of colors, such as white, red, black and others. It is light that causes colors like parents cause children. This light is in great favor with everyone upon this earth. Therefore it is protected with great fondness in all houses, just like they protect their children in homes with earthen walls.

I saw a slight light even in the darkness of hell. I saw it partly in the particles of dust which compose all bodies on the surface of the earth. 10 I saw light, the first and best of God’s works, to be eternally present in the homes of the celestials. I saw it as the lamp of the mansion of this world, which before had been a great deep of waters and darkness. 11 Light is the mirror of the celestial gods in all the quarters of heaven. Like the winds, it scatters the dust of frost from before the face of night. It is the essence of the luminous bodies of the sun, moon and fire, and the cause of the red and bright colors of the face of heaven. 12 It exposes grain fields to daylight and ripens their grain by dispelling darkness from the face of the earth. It washes the clear bowl of heaven and glitters on its dewy waters.

13 Because light gives existence and brings all things to view, it is said to be the younger brother of the transcendent light of Divine Consciousness. 14 The light of the sun revives the lotus bed of the actions of mortals and is the life of living beings on earth. It is the source of our sight of the forms of all things, just as the intellect is that of all our thoughts and perceptions. 15 Light decorates the face of the sky with numberless gems of shining stars. Sunlight divides the days, months, years and seasons in the course of time, and makes them appear like passing waves in the ocean of eternity. 16 This immense universe bears the appearance of the boundless ocean in which the sun and moon revolve like rolling waves over the scum of this muddy earth.

17 Light is the brilliance of gold and the color of all metals. It is the glitter of glass and gems, the flash of lightning, and the vigor of men in general. 18 It is moonshine in the nocturnal orb and the glittering of glancing eyelids. It is the brightness of a smiling face and the sweetness of tender and affectionate looks. 19 It gives significance to gestures of the face, arms, and eyes and the frowning of eyebrows. It adds a blush to maiden faces from the sense of their invincibility.

20 The heat of light makes the mighty spurn the world like bits of straw, break an enemy’s head with a slap, and strike the heart of a lion with awe. 21 This heat makes hardy and bold combatants fight each other with drawn and jangling swords, clad in armor clanking on their bodies. 22 It gives the gods their antagonism against the demons and makes the demonic races antagonistic to the gods. It gives vigor to all beings and causes plants to grow.

23 All these appeared to me like a mirage in a desert. I saw them like apparitions in my mind. This scene of the world was situated in the womb of emptiness. These scenes, O bright eyed Rama, appeared to me like an optical illusion. 24 Then I saw the glorious sun above, stretching his golden rays to all ten sides of the universe, flying like a garuda bird in the sky. I also saw this speck of the earth looking like a country estate surrounded by the walls of its mountains. 25 The sun turned about and lent his beams to the moon and to the undersea fire beneath the dark blue ocean. The sun himself stood like the great lamp of the world giving daylight on the stand of the meridian.

26 I saw the moon rising as the face of the sky, a lake of cooling and sweet nectar inside. Moonlight appeared like the soft and sweet smile of the dark goddess of night, and like the glow of the nightly stars. 27 The moon is compared to all beautiful objects in the world. The moon is companion of the evening star and the most beloved night object for women and the blue lotus.

28 I saw twinkling stars like clusters of flowers in the tree of the skies, delighting the eyes and faces. They appeared to me like flocks of butterflies flying in the fair field of the firmament. 29 I saw many shining gems washed away by waters, tossed about by the waving arms of the ocean. I saw many jewels in the hands of jewelers, balanced in their scales.

30 I looked into the undersea fire lying latent in the sea, and the currents moving silvery shrimp in whirlpools. I saw the golden rays of the sun shining like the filaments of flowers upon the waters, and I also saw lightning flashing among clouds. 31 I witnessed the auspicious sacrificial fire blazing with indescribable light. I noted its burning flame, splitting and cracking sacred wood with a crackling and clattering noise. 32 I saw the luster of gold and other metals and minerals, and I found how they are reduced to ashes like learned men overpowered by ignorant fools. 33 I observed the brightness of pearls, which gave them a place in the form of necklaces on women’s breasts, as on the necks and chests of men and demons, and of gandharva spirits and chiefs of men.

34 I saw the firefly with which women adorn their foreheads with bright spots, but which are trod upon as worthless by ignorant passers. Hence the value of things depends on their situation and not their real worth. 35 I saw flickering lightning in unmoving clouds and fickle shrimp gliding upon the waters of the calm ocean. I also heard the harsh noise of whirlpools in the quiet and noiseless sea and marked how restlessness consorted with calmness. 36 Sometimes I saw soft flower petals used as lamps to light bridal beds in inner apartments.

37 Being then exhausted like an extinguished lamp, I became as dark as black pigment and slept silently in my own cell, like a tortoise with its limbs contracted. 38 Being tired with my travel throughout the universe at the kalpanta end of the world, I remained fixed among the dark clouds of heaven, like the elephant of Indra living there in company with his lightning. 39 At the end when the worlds were dissolved and waters absorbed by the undersea fires, I kept myself dancing in the ethereal space, which is devoid of its waters.

40 Sometimes I was carried on high by burning fire with its teeth of sparks and flaming arms, its flying fumes resembling the disheveled hairs on its head. 41 The fire burnt down straw-built houses, fed upon animal bodies, and consumed the eight kinds of wood ordained in sacrificial rites. 42 I saw sparks of fire emitted from the red hot iron hammered by the strokes of blacksmiths. They were rising and flying about like golden brickbats to hit the hammerer.

43 In another place I saw the whole universe lying invisible for ages in the womb of a stony, cosmic egg.

44 Rama said, “Tell me sage. How did you feel confined in the stone? Was it was pleasure or pain to you and the rest of beings?”

45 Vasishta replied:—

A man falls into sleep with the dullness of his senses, yet he has his airy intellect fully awake in him. In the same way that outward unconsciousness is filled with intellectual consciousness. 46 The great Brahman awakens the soul when the body lies as unconscious as the dull earth. So the sleeping man remaining in his lethargic state has his internal soul full with the Divine Spirit.

47 Because the earthly or physical body of man is truly a falsity without reality, it appears like a visual phantom to the sight of the spectator. But in reality it is one with unchanged spirit of God. 48 Knowing this certain truth, whoever views these all as an undivided whole sees the five elements as one essence, and the subjective and the objective as the same. 49 Having assimilated myself into the pure spirit of Brahman, I viewed all things in and as Brahman because there is none beside Brahma that is or can be or do anything from nothing. 50 When I saw all these visible phenomena as manifestations of the same Brahman, then I left myself also situated in the state of Brahman himself. 51 On the other hand, when I reflected myself as combined with the fivefold material elements, I found myself reduced to my dull nature, incapable of intellectual reflection and the conception of my higher nature. 52 I thought as if I was asleep in spite of my power of reasoning intellect. Being thus overtaken by my sleepy unconsciousness, how could I think of anything of a transcendental nature?

53 He whose soul is awakened by knowledge loses the sense of his physical body and raises himself to his spiritual form by means of his purer understanding. 54 A man having his sentient and spiritual body, either in the form of a minute particle or larger size as one may wish, remains perfectly liberated from the chains of his body and his bondage in this world. 55 With his intelligent and spiritual body, a man is able enter the impenetrable heart of a hard stone, or to rise to heaven above or descend to the regions below.

56 Hence, O Rama, having my intelligent and subtle body, I did all that I told you with my essence of infinite understanding. 57 In my entrance into the hard stone and my passages up and down the high heaven and the nether world, I experienced no difficulty anywhere. 58 With my subtle and intelligent body, I passed everywhere and felt everything as I used to do with my physical body.

59 A person going of his own accord in one direction and wishing to go in another immediately finds himself then and there by means of his spiritual body. 60 Know this spiritual and subtle body to be no other than your understanding. Now through your own intelligence you can well perceive yourself to be of that imperishable form. 61 Thinking one’s self as empty Consciousness abiding in the sun and all visible objects, the spiritually minded person comes to know the existence of only his self. All else beside himself is nothing.

62 But how is it possible to see the visible world as nonexistent? The answer is that it appears as real as the unreal dream to the sleeping person, but vanishes into nothing upon his waking. Reliance on the nonexistent world is the belief of ignorant man in falsehoods. This reliance is confirmed by habit, although it is not relied upon by others who know the truth. 63 This reliance is as vain as the vanity of our desires and the falsity of our aerial castle building, all of which are as false as the marks of waves left on the sands of beaches, or the marking of anything with charcoal, which is neither lasting nor perceptible to anybody.

64 We see woodlands blooming with full blown flowers and blossoms. But these sights are as deluding as the sparks of fire presenting the appearance of a flower garden in fireworks. 65 These fireworks, prepared with so much labor, burst suddenly at the slight touch of fire, then are blown away as soon as the prosperity of cheats.

66 Rama, I saw the growth of the world to be as false and fleeting as the appearance of light in particles of dust. All these appearing like so many things of themselves are in fact nothing other than the appearances of hills and cities in the emptiness of the mind in our dreams at sleep.