Chapter 172 — There Is no Memory; All Thoughts Are Memories

Vasishta continued:—

The world is devoid of any material element, whether the earth or others. I believe the first creator to be only the Mind, the fruitful tree of desires. The word mind derives from the act of minding. Afterwards it came to be used as a name for the thinking power, just like the whirling of waters loaned its name to a whirlpool. The mind’s connection with Consciousness gives its understanding and other faculties. Otherwise, it would be as blank as empty air, which would have no dust were it not for the earth underneath it. The mind is neither the body nor the heart, not the senses or desires, nor does the mind even have any of these. Though these are commonly attributed to the mind, yet in its true sense, it is devoid of all properties.

How can memory be the cause that reproduces the world? If the creator Brahma is liberated or extinct with the extinction of the world, how could he have retained his memory of it? The new creator of the new world could not possibly have any memory of what he did not know. Holy and liberated souls have no bodies or memories. The passing currents of rivers do not return or whirl back, like the whirlpools of some. If a liberated soul has any body at all, owing to the memory of his former state, it must be an unearthly and immaterial body, still and rarefied like an imaginary form.

Our imagination presents an imaginary mountain to the mind’s eye. Such is the air-drawn body of the all encompassing Viraj presented to us without any earthly form. Therefore there is no such thing as memory whatsoever at any time. It is merely built upon popular belief and not upon the reason of wise men.

10 Rama asked, “O inspired sage, explain why there was no memory in the first creator Prajapati. He must have remembered the creation of a first kalpa or learnt it by his inspiration.”

11 Vasishta replied:—

The preexistence of memory is possible in the outward or visible world which admits of cause and effect. But can there be memory when there is no such world, only mere emptiness? 12 There is nothing visible here, from the highest heaven to the lowest pit. If everything is only a nothing, then what is memory and what use is it? 13 The thought of a prior, absent world is called its memory. But when there never was and never will be any visible world, how can you think of its memory, even in fancy? 14 The complete absence of phenomena at all times makes it identical with the invisible Brahman himself. This being the truth, tell me. How can you fancy the memory of anything? 15 Therefore the prime creator can have no memory of a prior existence, nor could he have any bodily form as he is in the form of a spirit with only pure intelligence.

16 We should remember the past from our present state, that we are mortal beings undergoing repeated reincarnations. We should not bring other persons and things to our memories, as others think it to mean. 17 Memory (smriti) means the retention of past things in our mind. But what can we remember when nothing was or is or shall ever be? 18 All this stupendous fabric is the Supreme Brahman itself. He remains as immovable as a mountain, without beginning, middle or end. What then is the memory or presence of it?

19 The Lord being the Universal Soul is the soul or essence of all things, shining like the luster of empty Consciousness. Outwardly he is quite calm, as I may say, he is resting in our memory. 20 So the memory of the Lord is as he is seen in the light of nature. Hence the habitual meditation on the Lord corresponds with the contemplation of external nature. 21 Whatever is known to us is nature, that is the object of our meditation. Hence the appearance of anything in the mind is called to its memory.

22 If anything that is absent or nonexistent appears before our sight, like the false appearance of water in a mirage, that is also the case with our misleading memory. 23 Again, any prejudice rooted in the minds of men that appears as correct by long habit of thinking it as such, this also passes for memory. 24 Any sudden accident or passing event that strikes the mind for a moment also passes also under the name of memory, even though it may or may not happen anymore. 25 An idea rises of itself in the mind and by being fostered for any length of time, becomes impressed upon it. Anything else that resembles it passes for an object of our memory. 26 Anything passes for an object of memory, like the movement of air by means of a fan. 27 Again, whatever occurs in the mind, like parts of a whole subject, is also called its memory, just like any part of the body is also called the body.

28 There are also many mental fabrications that arise of themselves before the mind, like magic shows appearing before our sight. If the memories of these be called memory, then say, what truth or reliance is there in it? 29 Consider how this faculty of memory is very imperfect and false to man. There is no visible creation at all. Therefore its memory is altogether meaningless. 30 The world is only a display of the density or volume of the Divine Consciousness. It is reflected at present as a visible object in the minds of the ignorant who have given them the name of memory, which in reality is nothing at all.

31 I cannot tell you how to obtain liberation, nor do I know what it means. However, to clear the doubt of the questioner, I will now tell you something about it.

32 Until there is an end to the sight of the visible, an oblivion to the memories of past events, and a cessation of ignorance and delusion, liberation is hard to be attained. 33 The ignorant have a belief in things quite unknown to us. They can never conceive whatever is imperceptible to their senses. 34 The enlightened are unacquainted with the gross errors that lurk in the darkness of ignorant minds, just as the ever shining sun knows nothing of what passes in the gloom of night.

35 Whatever likeness of anything appears to be impressed in the mirror of the mind, that is the result of habitual thoughts. The impression of anything studied or stored in the mind is called memory. 36 But when these glaring impressions in the imagination are rubbed out of the mind like the colors of a painting, nothing remains of any color or tinge of the mistaken world, such as in the clear minds of the learned.

37 A mirage shows the appearance of water which is a mere delusion and never true. So is the dream that shows this creation to view, which is no more real than a false vision. 38 Empty Consciousness contains creation and shows its representation in ourselves. Thus the world only appears in the emptiness of the Consciousness and not anything as fallen or detached from it. 39 The Supreme Soul shows this form in itself and makes its unreality appear as a reality to us. Though this form was manifested at the beginning, yet it is nothing more than the display of an unreality.

40 Tell me. Where does this world with all its pleasant and unpleasant things come from? It is never anything of a plastic form. It is not an appearance proceeding from memory. 41 The world has no cause in the beginning. It appears as the very form of the Supreme. It is only to our sorrow that we regard its visible form or search for our liberation. 42 Both of these views are wrong and tend to our bondage in the world. The view of the world’s emptiness in the emptiness of Consciousness is the only means to our release and liberation from it.

43 The only way to obtain liberation in this world is to regard the apparent world in its empty form, situated in the emptiness of Consciousness, identical with the true form or spirit of God, and undetached in its essence from the divine essence. 44 The only means for our release from the bondage of this world is to see visible bodies, such as those of the sun, moon, and mountains, and the invisible bodies, such as space, time, and other ideal objects, in the empty space of Divine Consciousness. 45 The only way to our emancipation from temporal bondage is to see the same spirit situated or dwelling in the recess of Consciousness, identical with its own notion of itself and bearing resemblance to the nature of the dream which proceeds from its essence.

46 How can any earthly or other elemental body have its place in the spirit of God which is not of the earth or any other element? It shines of itself in itself as the quiet void of Consciousness. 47 How and from where could the earth and other elements proceed in the beginning unless they were inherent and contemporary with the divine essence, just like the many objects of our dream arise from our own nature? 48 Afterwards these creations of the spirit are named the earth and the like and considered as material objects. But say, how could spiritual emanations assume such corporal and tangible forms either by pure memory or by creating forms?

49 The world is not the production of our error. It is not a representation of our delusion or a magic show. It is not the permeation of the spirit throughout all nature. It is the very essence of the same deity itself. 50 It is the divinity Brahman itself that shines in the form of this wonderful world. It is the very same unity which appears to manifest, and yet is so very obscure and mysterious to us. All that is visible is only pure light, the serene clarity of open air which glows bright then dims by turns, the changes of light and darkness being creation and destruction.