1 Rama said, “Tell me sage, when a wise and liberated man is endowed with spiritual light and bliss and his mind is freed from all earthly cares, why does he not abandon all earthly affairs?
2 Vasishta replied:—
Observing or avoiding all ritual and pious acts are the same and of no avail to a truly enlightened man who is indifferent to anything of good or evil. 3 There is nothing in this frail world that may be desirable to a man of right understanding, nor anything of positive evil that deserves to be avoided or loathed. 4 A wise man derives no positive or permanent good from doing of any act prescribed by custom or usage. Nor does he lose anything by neglecting them. Therefore, it is best for him to stand in the middle course and act according to the common rules of society and his country.
5 As long as there is life in the body, it is called a living body and it has its motion. Therefore measure your movements according to the breaths of your life, neither accelerate nor slacken them beyond their just measure. 6 If it is the same for anyone to walk one way or the other to his journey’s end, yet it is much better to walk by the beaten path rather than taking a strange and unknown way. 7 Whatever action is done at anytime with humility and mild disposition, and with a calm frankness of the mind, is always held as perfectly pure and humble in its nature and is never blamed in any manner.
8 We have seen many wise, learned and farsighted men conduct themselves very honorably and blamelessly in this world full of faults and pitfalls, harassed by traps and snares on every way. 9 Everyone is employed with perfect composure discharging the duties of the particular sphere in which he is placed. Some begin their lives as a householder, ascending gradually to state of living liberation. 10 There are many wise and well discerning kings and princes, like yourself and others sitting in this assembly, who are vigilantly occupied ruling their respective states without attachment and without desire of reaping any reward, but simply as a disinterested discharge of duty.
11 Some follow customs from the true sense of the Vedas and take their food from what is left after their daily offerings to the sacrificial fire. 12 All men belonging to any of the four castes are employed observing their respective rites and duties, and in the acts of worship of the gods, and in their meditations with different ends and views. 13 Some men of magnanimous minds and higher aims of future liberation have renounced all ritual acts and remain with their spiritual knowledge of the only one, inactive like ignorant people.
14 Some are seen sitting silently and insensitive in deep and unbroken meditation in dreary and dismal deserts where even deer and other wild beasts do not traverse, and in other distant and lovely solitude where no trace of a human beings is ever seen, not even in a dream. 15 Some are found living in some sacred place of pilgrimage where they perform their acts for future rewards. Others are known to rest in some holy hermitage or sacred shrine of saints, there passing their lives quite unknown to other men practicing renunciation and detachment. 16 Many are seen to leave their own houses and quit their native countries to avoid the hatred and scorn of their fellow countrymen. They go to other lands where they settle as strangers. 17 There are many who, being dissatisfied with their families, forsake their company and desert their homes. They wander about as wanderers from forest to forest, over hills and valleys, and cities and towns, without settling anywhere.
18 Many travel to the great city of Benares, the holy city of Prayaga, the sacred shrine of Badarikasrama, and visit other holy hills and cities. 19 Many rest in the holy places at Salagrama, the sacred cave in Kalapagrama, the holy city of Mathura, and the sacred hill at Kalinjar. 20 See the number of pilgrims thronging in the woodlands on Mahendra Mountains, upon tablelands of Gandha Madana hills. See also the pilgrims on the plains of Dardura Hills and upon the level lands of Sahya Mountains. 21 See pilgrims thronging on the crags of the Vindhyan range, and those dwelling in the hollows of the Malaya Mountains. See them living in the happy groves of Kailash and in the caves of Rikshavata Mountains. 22 In these and many other holy places and mountains, you will find a great many hermits and far-sighted devotees dwelling in peace, wholly devoted to their holy meditation.
23 Some have deserted their prescribed duties and become renunciant monks. Those who are Brahmacharins strictly observe the law and their sacred rites. Those who have faith in Buddha are apostates forsaking the holy faith, becoming fanatics in their practices. 24 Some have left their native homes and others have left their native lands altogether. Some have settled homes in some place and others lead their nomadic lives from place to place. 25 Among these, O Rama, those who live in the nether or hell regions of this world are known as Daitya demons.
26 Some have clear understanding and are well acquainted with the civil laws of their society. Some have enlightened understanding. Others are acquainted with the past and have foresight into the future. 27 Some have unenlightened understanding, always in suspense with suspicion in their minds. They are addicted to vice, unable to govern themselves, and always under the government of others. 28 Some are half-enlightened, proud with all of their knowledge of truth, so they break away from observing customary duties and therefore are not yet an esoteric yogi or spiritualist. 29 Thus among these great multitudes of men crossing the vast ocean of life, everyone is striving to attain according to his different aim and object.
30 But one does not cross the impassable gulf of this world by confining himself at home, or remaining in his native country, or going to a hermitage or living in some solitary forest, or observing customary duties, or practicing painful austerities. 31 No dependence on righteous acts or forsaking them, or observing customary usages, or any attainment of great powers can be of any use to save a person from the troubles of the world. 32 Only one’s self-control is the means to salvation. The man whose mind is not attached or tied down to anything in this world is said to have passed over it.
33 It makes no difference what a man does or neglects, or the righteous deeds of his religion and society, provided he keeps a humble mind and is never attached to anything. Such a man is considered a sage and is saved from having to return to this world of suffering. 34 The man who does nothing righteous or unrighteous in life, but has his mind fixed upon this earth and is attached to earthly objects, is considered a hypocrite and is destined to revisit this earth in repeated births. 35 Our minds are like nasty flies prone to fly about and suck upon the sores of worldly pleasures. It is hard for us to deter them, as it is impossible for us to kill them all at once to attain salvation.
36 Sometimes it happens by good fortune that a person’s mind of itself turns towards perfection. By a flash of inner light, he comes to see the presence of the Divine Spirit in his own soul. 37 The mind, being enlightened by the flash of spiritual light in the soul, becomes enrapt at the sight and loses all earthly attachment. It is unified with the Supreme Unity.
38 Being unmindful of everything and conscious of yourself as a particle of infinite emptiness, remain perfectly happy with yourself in the everlasting bliss of your soul. 39 Being filled with knowledge of transcendental truth and devoid of the faults and frailties of your nature, have the magnanimity of your soul with equanimity of mind and elevation of your spirit. Thus, O support of Raghu’s royal race, remain without sorrow or fear of death and rebirth. Be as holy as the holy of holies.
40 Know the clear state of the most holy Brahman is quite clear of all the grossness and foulness of nature, free from all the qualities and properties that are attributed to him. He is beyond our conception and above the reach of our thought. He is uncreated and ever existent of himself, manifest in his home of our intellect. Knowing him as yourself, remain quite free and fearless forever.
41 There is nothing more that can be gathered on this subject from the use of any more words. Nothing remains to be communicated to you for instruction in divine knowledge. You are roused, O Rama, to your full knowledge of the essential doctrines of divinity. You have become aware of whatever is knowable and hidden in nature.
42 Valmiki says:—
After the chief of sages had said this much, he saw Rama rapt in ecstasy and lacking mental efforts. The entire assembly sat fixed in meditation. They were all entranced in their reveries and meditations upon the mysterious nature of God like humming bees ramble over lotus petals with their soft and silent murmur and revel upon the sweetness of the flowers’ honey cups.