Chapter 195 — Vasishta Tests Rama: Why Didn’t God Create the World?

Vasishta said:—

Bravo Rama! You are awakened to light and enlightened in your understanding. The words you have spoken are calculated to destroy the darkness of ignorant minds and rejoice the hearts of wise.

These phenomena that appear so very bright to our sight lose their glowing brightness with our lack of desire and disregard of them. Knowledge of this truth is attended with peace and tranquility, and liberation and calmness. As we suppress our imagination of phenomena, all these imaginary sights vanish from our view like lack of movement in winds reduces them to one common and calm air.

An enlightened man remaining unmoved as a stone or moving quietly in his conduct in life is truly said to have his clear liberation. Look at yogis like ourselves, O Rama, who have attained this state of liberation, have been cleansed of all our iniquities, and are now set at quiet rest, even while we are engaged in our worldly affairs. Know that the great gods Brahma, Vishnu and others are situated in this state of quiet and freedom. They remain as pure intelligences even while discharging the offices of their divinity.

O Rama, attain the enlightenment of holy sages and remain as still as a stone like ourselves.

Rama said:—

I see this world as a formless void situated in the infinite emptiness of Brahma. It is an uncreated and insubstantial nothing. With all its visibility, it is an invisible nothing. It is like the appearance of water in a mirage or a whirlpool in the ocean. Its glare is like the glitter of gold in dust or the sands on a beach in sunshine.

10 Vasishta said:—

Rama, if you have become so enlightened and intelligent, then I will tell you more for the enlightenment of your understanding. Let me ask you some questions so that your answers will remove my doubts.

11 Tell me, how can the world be a nothing when it shines so very brightly all about and above our heads? How can all these things be nonexistent which are so resplendent to sight and always perceptible to our senses?

12 Rama said:—

The world was never created in the beginning, nor was anything ever produced at anytime. It is therefore as nonexistent as the offspring of a barren woman. It is only a creation of our imagination. 13 There is no result without its cause and nothing comes from nothing. What can be the cause of the world when it is a nothing, a production of only our error? 14 The immutable and everlasting deity cannot be the creator without changing itself to a finite form. Therefore how can God be the cause of these frail and finite forms?

15 It is the unknown and nameless Brahman that shows himself as the cause of the world which proceeds from him and is his very self. The word “world” does not bear any other sense.

16 The first intelligence called the god Brahma arises from and abides for a little while as that unknown and nameless category of the Universal Spirit which we call the conscious soul with a spiritual body. 17 Then it suddenly comes to see the luminaries of the sun and moon and the heavenly hosts rising in the infinity of the Divine Mind. It thinks a small moment to be a long year in its reverie of a dream. 18 Then it perceives the ideas of space and time and their divisions and motions. The whole universe appears to its sight in the vast immensity of emptiness. 19 Upon completion of the false world in this manner, its false contriver, the self-styled Brahma, is employed wandering all over the world as his creation.

20 So each living soul, deluded by its mistaken conception of the world as a positive reality, traverses up and down and all about creation, repeatedly wandering in its false world. 21 Although the events of life take place according to the wishes of the soul, yet these are mere accidents of chance. It is a mistake to think they are permanent results of fixed laws. 22 Because it is as wrong to suppose the substantiality of the world and the permanency of the events, just like it is wrong to grant the birth of a child born of a barren woman and feeding it with the powder of pulverized air.

23 Nothing can be positively affirmed or denied regarding the existence of the world except that whatever it is, it is nothing other than the diffusion of the all pervasive spirit of the Eternal One. 24 The world is as clear as the transparent atmosphere and as solid as the density of a rock. It is as mute and still as a stone and quite indestructible in its nature. 25 The world is originally an idea from the ideas of the Eternal Mind. Then it is spiritual from the permeation of the all pervading spirit of Viraj. Thus what appears to us as a solid body is a mere void.

26 Thus Brahma being the great void and its fullness, where is there any other thing such as the world in it? The whole is a dead calm like death, a void devoid of beginning or end. 27 As waves continuously heave and dive in the bosom of the waters of the deep, and as the waves are not distinct from the waters, so the worlds continuously rolling in the breast of the empty Brahman are nothing other than the very same essence of Brahman himself.

28 The few who are versed in their superior and esoteric knowledge, as well as in the inferior or exoteric knowledge, live as long as they live then dive at last into this Supreme, like drops of water mix into the sea. 29 The exoteric phenomena of the world abides in the esoteric ideal of Brahman and is of the same transcendent nature as the Divine Mind. For it is never possible for the gross, changing and transitional nature to exist in the pure, unchanged and quiet state of God. 30 If one knows the nature of dream to be false and a mirage as a fallacy, how can he ever believe them to be realities? Anyone who knows visible nature to be of the nature of Brahman can never ever take it to be dull and gross material substance. 31 An enlightened sage who has esoteric knowledge of the world and reflects its spiritual sense cannot be misled to see it in its gross material light. A holy man who tastes ambrosia is never inclined to drink impure wine.

32 He who remains in nirvana meditation by turning his view away from the sight of the visible towards mental examination of his self, and who represses his mind from the thoughts of thinkable objects, is truly seated in the tranquility of the Supreme Spirit.

33 Vasishta asked:—

If visible creation is situated in Brahman, their cause and origin, then why not consider creation to be substance and God its cause, like the sprout of a plant is situated in its seed?

34 Rama said:—

The sprout does seem to be situated in the seed, but as it is produced from the same essence, the sprout appears to be the same substance as the seed. 35 If the world as it appears to us is inherent in Brahman, then it must be of the same essence and nature as Brahman. These being eternal and imperishable in Brahman, then the world also has to be so. 36 We have never seen or heard that any finite, material or perishable thing has ever proceeded from an infinite, formless and imperishable cause. 37 It is impossible for a formless thing to remain in any form whatsoever, just as it is never possible for an atom to contain a mountain in its bosom.

38 Only an idiot would say that the stupendous world with its gigantic form abides in the formless abyss of Brahman, like bright gems are contained in the hollow of a box. 39 It is inappropriate for anybody to say that the transcendent and tranquil God supports the material and moving world upon it, or that a physical body is an imperishable thing.

40 Our perception of the world having a form is no proof of its reality because there is no truth whatsoever to the many curious forms that present themselves in our dreams. 41 It is an unprecedented dream that presents the sight of the world of which we had no innate or preconceived idea. By comparison, our usual dreams are commonly known to be the reproduced representations of our former impressions and perceptions, the results of our memories. 42 It is not a daydream, as some would have it, because night dreams disappear in the daytime. But how does a dreamer of his own funeral at night come to see himself alive upon waking in the day? 43 Others again maintain that no bodiless things can appear in our dream because we dream only of certain bodies. But this belief has no truth in it, since we often dream of and see the apparitions of bodiless ghosts both by day and night.

44 Therefore the world is not as false as a dream, only an impression settled like a dream in our very conscious soul. The formless deity manifests itself in the various forms of this world to our understanding. 45 As only our consciousness remains despite the forms and other things appearing to us in dreams as we sleep, so Brahman remains solely in himself in the form of the world that we see. God being wholly free and apart from all can not have any accompaniment.

46 There is nothing that is either existent or nonexistent in him because we have no conception of him ourselves, nor can we form any concept of him. 47 What is this nameless thing that we cannot know in our understanding? It is known in our consciousness, but whether it exists or not, we know nothing. 48 It is a nonexistence appearing as existent and an existence seeming to be nonexistent. All things are quietly manifest in it at all times and in all forms. 49 It is the development of Brahma in Brahman, just as the sky evolves in emptiness. Nothing can be found to fill the emptiness of Brahman except Brahman himself.

50 Therefore I, my seeing, and my sight of the world are all mere fallacy. Only the calm and quiet extension of Divine Consciousness fills the infinite emptiness of his own spirit, and nothing beside. 51 As the aerial castle of our imagination has no building or reality in it, so this world is only a calm and quiet emptiness, an unfailing vacant idea. 52 It is a boundless space full with the essence of the Supreme Spirit. It is without beginning or end, wholly inscrutable in its nature, and quite calm and quiet in its aspect.

53 I have known my own state to be without birth or death, as calm and quiet as that of the unborn and immortal Brahman himself. I have come to know that I am as formless and indefinable as the Supreme Soul. 54 I have now given expression to all that I find impressed in my consciousness, just as whatever is contained in a seed comes to sprout out of it.

55 I only know what I have in my consciousness, and nothing about unity or duality, because the question of unity and duality arises only from imagination. 56 All these knowing and living liberated men, liberated from the burden of life by their knowledge of truth, are silently sitting here devoid of all their earthly cares, like empty air in infinite emptiness. 57 All efforts of mixing with the busy commotion of the world are at an end. They are sitting here as quiet and silent as a mute and motionless picture on the wall, engraved on the bright regions in their minds. 58 They are as still as statues carved in rock, or as people described in fairy tales living in the city that Sambara built in the air.

59 This world truly is a phantom appearing in our dream of creation. It is a structure without any foundation, a figure intangible to our touch. Where then is its reality? 60 The blinded ignorant see the world as a positive reality. The keen-sighted sage finds the world to be a negative nothing. He sees it in the light of Brahman and a manifestation of Brahman, as still as the calm air resting in the quiet emptiness of that transcendent spirit. 61 All these existences, with their moving and unmoving beings, and ourselves also, are mere void and vacant nullities in the knowledge of the discerning and philosophic mind.

62 I am void and so are you. We and the world beside are only mere blanks. The intellect is a void also, and by doing all the different voids in itself, it forms the immense intellectual vacuum which is the sole object of our adoration. 63 Being thus seated with my knowledge of the infinite emptiness of Brahman, I take you also, O you best of two-footed beings, as indistinct from the knowable one, who is one and same with the all comprehending void, and so I make my obeisance to you.

64 This world rises and sets by turns from the all comprehensiveness of empty consciousness. It is as clear as transparent air and has no other cause except the vibration of consciousness. 65 This knowledge of the nature of Brahman is beyond all other existences and above the reach of all scriptures. By attaining this state of transcendentalism, one becomes as pure and superfine as empty air. 66 There is no self, my feet or hands, or this pot or anything else that I perceive, which has any material existence. All is air and empty and insubstantial as air. Knowing this, let us turn ourselves to our subtle intellects only.

67 Sage, you have shown me the nothingness of the world and the vanity of all worldly things. The truth of this doctrine is evident in the light of our spiritual knowledge, in defiance of the clever arguments of our opponents. 68 The agnostic philosopher who upsets the silent sage with his clever arguments can never expect to see the light of spiritual knowledge shining upon him. 69 The being who is beyond our perception and conception, without any designation or indication, can be only known in our consciousness of him and not by any kind of reasoning or argument. 70 The being who is without any attribute, sight or symbol of his nature is purely empty and entirely inconceivable by us except by means of our spiritual understanding.