Chapter 160 — Vasishta Explains that Ignorance is Limitless and Is Brahman; Description of Heaven and Hell; the Mind, an Aspect of the Body, Is Carried Forward in Rebirth

Valmiki related:—

As Bhasa (Vipaschit) was going on saying these things, the sun wished to put an end to his speech and proceeded with rapid strides to enlighten another world. Loud trumpets gave the alarm of the departing day and filled the air on all sides with their swelling sounds. All quarters of heaven seemed to echo their joy of the fanfare of victory.

King Dasharata gave Vipaschit many gifts of money, maidservants and houses. He bestowed on him many rich and royal presents worthy of kings. Then he rose from his seat. The king, Rama and Vasishta, having taken leave of the assembly, saluted one another in proper order, then returned to their respective homes. Then, having bathed and refreshed themselves, they passed the night in ease and rest. The next morning they returned to the assembly and sat in their respective seats.

Sage Vasishta resumed the subject of the previous discourse. He spoke his sweet words with such pleasure in his face as if the beautiful moon was shedding her ambrosial beams from her bright and cooling face.

Vasishta speaking:—

Let me tell you, O king, that despite all his efforts, Vipaschit has not been able to ascertain the limits, extent or true nature of ignorance. It is not an error of the mind that makes the unreal appear as real. The nature of ignorance, as long as it is unknown, appears to be eternal and endless. But being understood, it proves to be as nonexistent and as nothing as clear water in a mirage.

You have already heard, O wise monarch, the story of Bhasa, King Vipaschit. Now you shall hear of his liberation in his living state.

10 It is likely that he will become acquainted with truth from some or other source or discourse. Then he will be liberated in his lifetime by being freed from his ignorance. 11 Since this ignorance is ever accompanied with Consciousness of the Lord himself, it is for this very reason that unreality is falsely taken for the reality. 12 If this ignorance is an attribute of God, then it is nothing other than the same God. The unknown or mysterious nature is nothing other than the inscrutable nature of God.

13 This ignorance is infinite. It produces endless offshoots like the sprouts of spring. Some are tasteless and others tasty; some are delicious, while others are ripe and intoxicating. 14 Some grow like thorny plants and are all hollow inside and outside. Others are straight and herb-like, such as juicy sugarcane. 15 Some of are unfruitful and unprofitable. Others attract the heart by their untimely blossoming, which only predicts evil without any desirable good.

16 Ignorance has no form or shape except that of its shapeless bulk which fills all worlds. It is a long and broad mass of darkness infested by demons and devils. 17 All that is visible appears to our view in the clear sky like false light and phantoms in the open air, and like the linked and twisted specks of light curling about in the sky. In reality, they are only fallacies of our vision. 18 The various scenes stretched everywhere in empty space without any connecting link between them are like the many colored rainbows of heaven presented by falling rains that melt into empty air.

19 The universe resembles a river swollen with rains, all its worlds like countless waves of water with dirty and foaming froths floating everywhere, revolving planets like frightening currents and whirlpools. 20 The world is a vast and dreary desert forever exhibiting waters of mirage on its surface while, in reality, it is only a body of dust filled with the ashes of dead bodies.

21 As a man wandering in the fairyland of his dream finds no end to his journey, so have I been wandering forever in the land of my waking dream without finding any end to my travelling. 22 The web of desires that I have been fondly weaving for so long, at last proved to be fragile and frail. Hence men of firm minds learn in a short time to abandon their desires for any of the whole panoply of visible objects. 23 All those objects contained in the empty space of Consciousness are like precious germs safely stored in the container of the mind. By our misconception of them, they appear like visible objects placed in the open space of air.

24 Those worlds are like the celestial cities of the siddhas, the spiritual masters who are situated in the air and are quite invisible to us. Those who do appear to our view are nonentities, mere phantoms of our fancy. 25 The heavenly abodes of siddha godly souls appear to be overflowing with gold, precious gems and rubies, with rivers yielding pearls and fields of diamonds. They are abundant with food supplies and rivers running with clear and drinkable waters. 26 They are said to abound with honey and wine, with milk and curds, with butter and clarified butter also. There are streams of sweet drink and groups of celestial apsara nymphs. 27 There fruits and flowers grow in gardens in all seasons. Heavenly apsaras are always playing in the tree gardens. All sorts of gains and enjoyments readily attend on anyone’s immediate desire.

28 There a hundred suns are shining on one side and a thousand moons on another. Some inhabitants are dressed in gold and purple while others are drinking their fill of nectar. 29 There is a spontaneous darkness in one place and full sunshine in another, and an everlasting joy in some place. The siddhas, the perfected spirits with their light and ethereal bodies, are continually moving like a breeze from one place to another. 30 Some meet with birth and death at each moment, while others live to enjoy the everlasting joys of heaven. 31 There are magnificent palaces and great honors of all sorts. It is filled with the delights of all seasons and with whatever is desirable to the mind and delectable to the spirit.

32 But these desirable blessings attending upon the pious deeds of virtuous find no place in the quiet minds of the righteous. 33 There is nothing that is desirable to the soul which is devoted only to the contemplation of Brahman. Say therefore, O you unholy, of what good are all these blessings if they do not lead to divine bliss?

34 If in the beginning there was no creation at all owing to its lack of a creator, say then, what is this world, of what it is composed, and how did it come into existence? 35 If the world is not produced by any cause and is nothing in reality, then how does it appear to exist? The everlasting will of God manifests itself in the Divine Mind, just as we see the display of our rising thoughts and wishes in our mind. 36 O you simpletons, it is the same as how you or I or he comes to see our imaginary castles in the air. It is by the stretch of our imagination, or the liveliness or flights of our fancies.

37 He whose sole pursuit and object in life is divine bliss comes to attain that supreme bliss after he forsakes his mortal body. 38 Whoever pursues both heaven and heavenly bliss through his religious rites and sacrifices in this life afterwards acquires both. 39 The siddhas reign in the said manner, according to the thoughts in their minds, while the unholy are doomed to the torments of hell owing to the sinful thoughts of their minds. 40 Whatever one thinks upon, he feels the same in himself as long as he possesses his mortal body. After he loses his material body, he feels it in his mind, which is only a part of the body.

41 When a living person quits one body for another, he carries the same mind he previously had into the new body. He sees the same things in its thoughts which he was accustomed to look upon before. 42 A good conscience has all pleasing prospects before it. A corrupted soul meets with ghastly aspects on all sides. The lofty mind sees only ethereal shapes in its emptiness. 43 Only pure souls come to enjoy the sights of these siddha cities in the air. Impure spirits are subjected to suffer their torments in hell.

44 There is a continuous rotation of unwieldy grinding stones that crush vicious souls. The wicked are hurled into blind wells or dark pits out of which they can rise no more. 45 Some bodies are cast in frozen snow where they are frozen to stones. Many are thrown into the burning coals of devils, or led amidst the burning sands of trackless deserts. 46 Clouds drop living fire and skies pour forth fiery showers and red-hot bolts and arrows darted down from heaven. 47 Stones and maces and swords float on the running stream of the sky. They fall like cloud fragments upon the chests of the cursed, breaking them like strokes of chopping axes. 48 Hot iron hailstones and brimstones fall with a hissing sound. Weapons are hurled from engines with a loud tremendous noise. 49 Missiles and bolts and maces, together with pikes, clubs, swords and arrows fall in showers. Traps and nets and hammers and clubs strike by the hundreds.

50 Hot, burning sands bury the dead. Burning meteors fall like torches while large ravens devour dead bodies everywhere. 51 The dead are engulfed by blazing piles from which they can never get out, while darts and spears and bolts and arrows are piercing other bodies all about. 52 Hunger and dismay and excruciating pains torment in turn the bodies of dead unbelievers. Others are hurled down from high hills and heights onto rough and hard stones below. 53 Some wallow in blood and roll in pools of dirt, rotten flesh and disgusting pus. Others are crushed under stones and weapons and beneath the feet of horses and elephants. 54 Hungry vultures and owls pick and tear at dead bodies, their limbs and guts cut and scattered all over the ground.

55 This is how men are influenced by sacred writings and their thoughts of punishment for their guilt. They suffer, both in their bodies and minds, the same way in which they have their inner impressions. 56 Whatever form or figure appears in the emptiness of Intellect, or whatever is dreamt or thought of at anytime, the same holds fast the imagination and presents itself before the mirror of the mind of its own accord.