1 Rama said:—
O greatest of sages, please give me the best treasures of knowledge, like the wood-cutter obtained his precious treasure of the philosopher’s stone, whereby I may attain the full, perfect and indubitable knowledge of all things.
2 Vasishta replied:—
The woodmen I mentioned symbolize all mankind in general. Their great poverty that I have described refers to the extreme ignorance of men which is the cause of all their miseries. 3 The great forest where they live is the vast wilderness of knowledge which humans have to traverse under the guidance of their teachers and scriptures. Their labor cutting and selling wood for daily food is the hard struggle of humans throughout their lifetimes for their simple food and support.
4 Men who are not craving or employed in business, yet desire to enjoy life, are those who devote themselves to acquire learning. 5 Those who earn a living teaching and dependent on others for their support become successful acquiring learning by their practice of teachings and diligent study habits. 6 The wood-cutters initially sought worthless wood but in the end obtained valuable gems. In the same way, men pursuing their studies for a small maintenance and self support, in the end succeed in gaining divine knowledge.
7 There are some skeptics who say derisively that there is no good to be derived from studying books. But in the end, even they turn out to be true believers. 8 Worldly men devoted to achieving the fruits in this life and acquainted with the objects of mental and spiritual truths, come distrustfully to listen to the doctrines of the scriptures. But in the end, they become fully convinced of their truths. 9 Men are led many ways by the different doctrines of different scriptures and by their different desires and inclinations. But at last they meet in the same path of glory, like the wood-cutters and their treasure gem.
10 He who is not inclined to injure others but goes on in his own beaten course is called an upright man. His judgment is sought and followed by everyone. 11 Men ignorant of truth earn their living and are doubtful of the benefits of righteous conduct or the study of the scriptures. 12 But men persisting in righteousness gain both their livelihood and liberation, just as the honest woodmen obtained their wood as well as the gems, and in the same place. 13 Among the woodmen, some obtained sandalwood, some gained precious gems, while others found some common metals. A great number found only the wood of the forest trees. 14 Some of us gain the objects of our desire and some acquire riches or deeds of virtue and merit. Others obtain their liberation and attain skill in the scriptures.
15 Know, O Rama, that the scriptures deal only with instructions to acquire the triple blessings of livelihood, riches and virtue. They give no direction for knowing the Supreme One who is inexpressible in words. 16 Words and their meanings serve only to express the intelligible objects which they signify, such as the seasons signify the fruits and flowers which they bear. But knowledge of the Supreme Being is derived from one’s intuition and is felt only in our consciousness.
17 The scriptures state that Divine knowledge transcends the knowledge of all other things, and that the brilliance of the Divine Person surpasses the brightness of all objects, just as the beauty of the female body excels the luster of the brightest gems. 18 Transcendental knowledge of God cannot be derived from the doctrines of the scriptures, or from the teachings of our preceptors. We can never know the unknowable one through gifts and charities, or by divine service and religious observances. 19 These and other acts and rites are falsely said to be the causes of divine knowledge, which can never be attained by them.
Now listen to me, O Rama, and I will tell you the way to your rest in the Supreme Soul. 20 The study of the scriptures serves, of course, to purify the mind from vulgar errors and prejudices. But the lack of desire or aversion to worldly enjoyments makes the mind look within itself where it clearly sees the image of God shining. 21 Scripture establishes right understanding instead of ignorance, and this right reasoning serves to drive away all gross errors from the mind. 22 Scriptures or learning principally and initially serves to cleanse the mirror of the mind from its impurity of errors, then it purifies the person of its possessor by the force of its doctrines.
23 As the rising sun casts his image spontaneously upon the dark surface of the ocean, so the light of the scriptures and learning of its own accord sheds the bright light of truth in the minds of ignorant. 24 As the sun enlightens all objects by his presence, so the light of learning by its gracious appearance illuminates the dark understanding of the illiterate. 25 In this manner there is an intimate relation between learning derived from the scriptures and the mind of the man who desires his liberation, in as much as scriptures alone afford the knowledge of the otherwise unknowable one to our minds.
26 As the sight of the sun and the ocean shows us the blue waters of the one turning to a bright expanse by the rays of the other, so the scriptures and their doctrines show the enlightenment of human intellect by means of the other. 27 As children play with pebbles, rubbing them together in water and having their hands cleaned of dirt, so discussions of the scriptures and refuting disagreeable opinions clear minds of their errors. 28 It is in this way that learned men, by refutation of offensive and hateful doctrines, clear minds of doubts and questions. They become perfected in forming right principles and ascertaining truth from falsehood.
29 The scriptures are the distilled sweetness of holy texts. They infuse the sweet healing ointment of true knowledge into the mind. They are as full of sweetness as the sugarcane oozes with its sweet juice which is so delicious to taste. 30 As the rays of sunlight falling on the walls of houses become perceptible to us through the organ of sight, so the light of spiritual knowledge pierces the souls of men through hearing the scriptures through the organ of hearing. 31 Learning acquired to obtain the triple good of this world, namely virtue, wealth and the objects of our desire, is no learning at all without the knowledge of the scriptures leading to our liberation. Much learning, both in theory and practice, is worth nothing without the salvation of our souls. 32 The best learning gives us the knowledge of truth. True knowledge causes our mental evenness in all states of our being. That is called perfect equanimity and it produces our trance in waking.
33 Thus all these blessings are obtained from learning the scriptures. Therefore let everyone devote himself to the study of the scriptures with all diligence. 34 Hence, O Rama, know that the study of the scriptures and meditation upon their hidden meanings, together with one’s attendance on his teacher and listening to his lectures and counsel, as well by equanimity and observing vows and discipline, a man can attain supreme bliss in the everlasting God, who is beyond all worldly things and is the supreme Lord God of all.