Chapter 162 — Vasishta on Ignorance; the Folly of Worshipping Form

Vasishta continued:—

All objects are convertible according to the conceptions of the empty intellect, so the entire universe is supposed to be seated in the hollow mind. Therefore both the outer sights of things and the inner thoughts of their forms are all only ideal images in the empty mind. The world is only a dream and the form of an ideal city in the mind has nothing substantial to it. Therefore it is a quiet emptiness in itself, without having any diversity whatsoever.

The uniform display of Consciousness appears to us with many forms. Consciousness sees this variety, though not subjective to the soul, within itself, just as we see the fairyland of our dream rising within ourselves. This world appeared in the beginning like the aerial castle of a dream in the emptiness of Consciousness. It was a mere reflection of the Divine Mind. Though it had the form of a false shadow, it remained substantive to the Supreme Spirit.

The knowing sage well knows this mystery, which is mysterious to the unknowing ignorant. The word “creation” bears the sense of both reality and unreality. Both the knowing sage and the unknowing agnostic acknowledge the reality of creation, but neither can understand how it exists or communicate to the other their correct conception of it. They both know the meaning of the word “creation” in their own minds. One has the sense of stability ever wakeful in their minds, and the other has the sense of its unsteadiness always waking in them. So they resemble the sober and drunken men who see the world in its steady and shaking states.

As the liquid waters in a river constantly rise in restless waves, so the rolling worlds push forward into being in the vast expanse of the Divine Mind. These creations which are not of the nature of the intellect still have their seats in Consciousness, like the thoughts that rise and fall in it. Though these are invisible in their nature, they appear as visible things, like the fair objects and fairy cities in our dreams. 10 The spreading shadow of Divine Consciousness passes under the name of the world. This which is formless in itself appears as having a form, like the shadow of anything else.

11 It is a gross error to take the insubstantial shadow for a substantial body, just as it is a gross error to suppose the empty shadow of a ghost to be an embodied being. 12 The world is as unreal as an imaginary city and as false as a string of raindrops. Then why do you rely upon an unreality which is known from the experiences of both ignorant and knowing men? 13 Therefore, the words used to express this thing and that are mere empty sounds, like those emitted splitting block of wood, or those heard when waves crash or winds blow. The air conveys the empty sound into the open emptiness of the sky. But they are all unreal and meaningless and bear only a conventional sense with which it has no connection whatsoever. 14 The light of the Lord reflects itself in his creation. The reflection of his edict reverberates through the whole. In reality there is no sound or substance that is heard or seen in the universe.

15 Whatever shines or exists here is the transcendent reality of the Lord. Otherwise there is nothing that could appear at first without its cause. 16 Therefore, from the distinctions of words and things, know that the one is all in all and remain as quiet and calm as the indefinite and infinite emptiness itself. 17 Forsake the fickleness of your mind through the calm resting of your soul, the purity of your understanding, and by the even course of your disposition, because a fickle soul is troublesome in life.

18 It is one’s own self who is a friend or enemy to himself. If one will not try to guard and save himself by his own self, there is no one else to do it for him. 19 Get over the ocean of the world while you are young. Make your good understanding the ferry boat that carries your body safely to the other shore. 20 Do what is good for you today. Why defer till tomorrow? You can do nothing in old age when your body becomes a burden to you. 21 Know youth is like old age if it is filled with learning. Consider infirmity as death itself in your lifetime. Youth is truly the life of the living, provided it is filled with knowledge (buddhi).

22 Having obtained your life in this living world, which is as transient as fleeting lightning, you must try to derive the essence from this dirty earth by availing yourself of the benefit of good scriptures and the company of the wise. 23 Woe to the ignorant who will not seek their salvation in life, who are sinking in the pits of mud, and who never strive to lift themselves above the mire.

24 The ignorant rustic is afraid at the sight of earthen images of ghosts and bows down to them, something those who are acquainted with the meaning of the word ghost would never do. 25 Those who see God in an idol or in his visible creation are misled to think it is their god and worship it as such. Those who know the true meaning of the term never worship any visible object.

26 As things in motion come to rest, the visible disappears from the sight of learned men who are acquainted with their true meaning, 27 just as the sights in a dream, seeming to be true while dreaming, disperse upon waking and the realization of their unreal nature. 28 So this world, conceived as something existing in the emptiness of understanding, in the end melts into empty air upon our knowledge of its intellectual nature.

29 This living world is like a wilderness burning with the fires of various evils that are attendant on life. Here we are exposed like weak antelopes living upon our precarious sustenance. Here we are governed by our uncontrollable minds and restless passions and senses of our bodies. All these need to be subdued in order to obtain liberation from repeated births and deaths.