Chapter 100 — Refutation of Atheism, Material Determination

Rama asked, “Please tell me, sage, what are your arguments for relieving the miseries of this world against the position of others who are attached to it? They say that a living being is happy as long as the fear of death is out of his view, and there is no reappearance of the dead who are reduced to ashes.”

Vasishta replied:—

Whatever certain belief one has, he finds it in his consciousness. That he feels and conceives accordingly is a truth well known to all mankind. As the sky is firm, quiet and omnipresent, so also is the omnipresence of Consciousness. They are considered to form a duality by the ignorant dualist, while the wise take them as the one and same thing from the impossibility of conceiving the coexistence of two things from eternity.

It is wrong to suppose the existence of a chaos before creation began. That would be assigning another cause to creation when it has proceeded from Brahman, who is without cause and is diffused in his creation. Those who do not acknowledge the meaning of the Vedas and the final great dissolution are known as men without a revelation and religion. We consider such men to be like dead. We agree with those whose minds are settled in the undisputed belief of the scriptures, that all this is Brahman or the varied God himself. As our consciousness is ever awake in our minds without any intermission, so Brahman that constitutes our consciousness is ever wakeful in us, whether the body lasts or not.

If our perceptions produce our consciousness, then man must be very miserable indeed because the sense of a feeling, other than that of the ever blissful state of the soul, is what actually makes us so. 10 Knowing the universe to be the splendor of intellectual emptiness, you cannot suppose the knowledge of anything, or attach the feeling of any pleasure or pain to an empty nothing. 11 Hence men who are quite certain and conscious of the entirety and pure unity of the soul can never find feelings of sorrow or grief arising in any way, like the dust of earth rising to the sky filling its sphere with foulness.

12 Whether the consciousness of unity is true or not in all men, yet the common notion of it, even in the minds of children, cannot be discarded as untrue. 13 The body is not the soul or any other thing of which we have any conception. Consciousness is everything and the world is as consciousness conceives it to be. 14 Whether it is true or not, yet we have the conception of our bodies by means of this. It gives us conceptions of all things in earth, water, and heaven independent of their material forms, as we see the aerial forms of things in our dreams. 15 Whether our consciousness is a real entity or not, yet it is this power which is called the conscious soul. Whatever is the conviction of this power, the same is received as positive truth by all.

16 The authority of all the scriptures rests upon the proof of consciousness. The truth which is generally arrived at by all must be acknowledged as quite certain in my opinion also. 17 Therefore the consciousness of atheists, corrupted by their misunderstanding but later purified by right reasoning, likewise produces good results. 18 But a perverted conscience or corrupt understanding is never reproved by any means, whether by performance of pious acts at anytime or place, or by study of Vedas, or by pursuit of other things. 19 Errors of understanding reoccur in an unprincipled man as often as they are corrected from time to time. Say therefore, what other means can there be to preserve our consciousness from fallacy?

20 Self-consciousness is the soul of man. In proportion to its firmness or weakness, the happiness or misery of man increases or decreases accordingly. 21 If there is no consciousness in men, including those who are conscious of the Divine Essence and are sought by the pious for their liberation from the bonds of the world, then this world would appear like a lifeless, dumb block of stone, or a dark and dreary desert. 22 The knowledge of nature or gross materialism which rises in the mind of man because of his lack of self-consciousness is like the dark ignorance one has in his sleep.

23 Rama asked, “Sage, what about the atheist who denies the end of the ten sides of heaven, who does not believe in the destruction of the world, but believes only in what exists without thought of what does not exist, 24 who does not perceive the perfect wisdom displayed throughout the universe, but sees only whatever is visible, without knowing their destruction? 25 Tell me sage, what are their arguments about relieving the evils of the world? Remove my doubts to increase of my knowledge in this important truth.”

26 Vasishta replied:—

I have already given my reply to your question regarding the nonbelievers. Now hear me reply with regard to your second question touching the salvation of the soul.

27 O best of men, Rama, you have said that the human soul is made of consciousness alone. 28 This intelligence is indestructible, so it is not destroyed with the destruction of the body. It is joined with the Divine Consciousness without fail. If the (subtle) body is indestructible, then there is no cause for sorrow at its temporary loss.

29 Intelligence is said to be divided into various parts in the souls of men and the different parts of their bodies. If it is so, then intelligence is destroyed with the destruction of individual souls and the physical body. 30 The self-conscious soul that is liberated in the living state does not have to return to earth after death. But consciousness which is not purified by divine knowledge cannot be freed from its reincarnation. 31 Those who deny the existence of consciousness are doomed to the gross ignorance of stones for this disbelief. 32 As the knowledge of sensible objects keeps the mind in utter darkness, so the death of such persons is calculated as their final bliss because they no longer have to feel or see the visible world anymore. 33 Men of pure understandings who have lost the sense of their corporeality are never to be reborn on earth anymore. But those of dull understandings become like gross physical bodies immersed in impenetrable darkness. 34 To intellectual philosophers who view the world as an aerial city in his dream, the world presents its aspect as a phantom and nothing else.

35 There are some who maintain the stability and others who assert the frailty of the world and everything else. But what do they gain by these opinions? The knowledge of either does not increase human happiness or lessen mortal misery. 36 The stability or instability of the greatest or least of things makes no difference in any of them whatever. They are all like the radiating rays of the intellect, though they appear as extended bodies to the ignorant.

37 Those who hold that the essence of consciousness is unlimited, but unconsciousness is limited, and maintain the permanence of the one and the impermanence of the other, talk mere nonsense like the babbling of children. 38 They are the best and most venerable of men who know the body to be the product of and encompassed by the intellect. They are the meanest among mankind who believe the intellect to be the product and offspring of the body.

39 Consciousness (personified as Hiranyagarbha or Brahma the Divine Spirit) is distributed into the souls of all living beings. The infinite space of emptiness is like a network or curtain in which all animals live, flying within its ample expanse like gnats and flies, rising up and sinking below or moving about like shoals of fish in an endless ocean. 40 As this Universal Soul thinks of creating various species, so it conceives them within itself, like seeds conceive future plants in themselves which later develop. 41 Whatever a living being thinks of or conceives, the same quickly springs forth from it, and this truth is known even to children.

42 As vapors fly in the air and waters roll in the ocean, forming whirlpools and waves of various kinds, so the lives of living beings are continually floating in the vacuum of Divine Consciousness. 43 As the emptiness of Consciousness presents the sight of a city to a man in his dream, so the world presents its variegated aspects since its first creation to the sight of the day dreaming man. 44 There were no supporting causes of material bodies at the first formation of the world. It rose spontaneously of itself as the empty sights appear in our dream. 45 As in a city seen in dream, its houses and their apartments, come to appear gradually to sight, so the dream becomes enlarged and expanded and divided by degrees to our vision.

46 All this creation is only the emptiness of Consciousness. There is no duality or variety in it. It is one even plane of intellect, like the open sky, without any spot or place attached to it. 47 The moonlight of Consciousness diffuses its coolness on all sides and gladdens the souls of all beings. It scatters the beams of reasoning intellect all around, and casts its reflections in the image of the world. 48 The world, as it is now visible to us, lies forever in the mind of God in the same empty state as it was before its creation. It is to be reduced to nothing upon its final destruction. It is the twinkling, or the opening and closing of the intellectual eye, that this empty shadow of the world appears and disappears amidst the universal vacuum of the Divine Mind. 49 Whoever views this world in any light, it appears to him in the same manner. As the world depends only upon Consciousness, it is shown in various forms according to the fancy of its observers.

50 The minds of the intelligent are as pure as the clear sphere of the summer sky. Pure hearted and holy people think themselves as nothing other than their intellects, or only as intellectual beings. 51 These pious and holy people are free from ignorance and the faults of society. They share the gifts of fortune as it falls to them by the common lot of mankind. They continue in the conduct of their worldly affairs like some working machine.