Chapter 213 — Rama’s Prior Learning under Vasishta

Vasishta continued:—

O Rama, the destroyer of your enemies, this same question which you asked me today, you asked me before when you were a student under my teaching. In a former age we had a spiritual discourse when you were my student in a certain forest. The present is only a repetition of a past life. The wheel of life rolls and revolves constantly from age to age. I sat there as your teacher and you sat before me as my student. You asked me this very same question with the gravity of your understanding.

The Student said, “Sage who knows all things, please remove my doubt and difficulty. What perishes and doesn’t perish in the final, great flood?”

The Teacher replied:—

My son, know that the traces of all things are utterly destroyed at the last deluge, just like your dreams disappear in your sound sleep. Hills and rocks on all ten sides of the earth are all destroyed without distinction. Nothing is left of the actions of men and the routine of their business. All beings are destroyed at the end, and the great void that is the receptacle of all bodies becomes a perfect void.

The gods Brahma, Vishnu, Indra, Rudra and others who are the prime causes of the causal agencies of this world all become extinct at the end of the world. No trace of them remains. All that remains is the great emptiness of Divine Consciousness which is ever existent without decay. This is known from the Divine Spirit who remains witness to both annihilations and regenerations of past and future worlds.

10 The Student said, “The entity never becomes a non-entity and the non-entity never becomes an entity. Therefore, tell me where the past world has gone when it disappears, and from where does the future world comes to existence?”

11 The Teacher replied:—

This world, my boy, is not wholly destroyed. It is quite true that nothing never becomes anything and anything never proceeds from a nothing. 12 That which is an entity in reality can never become a non-entity. How can that which is nonexistent of itself ever become a nothing and nonexistent afterwards? 13 Where is the water in a mirage? Where are the two seeming moons seen in the sky? Where are the delusive hairs found floating in the air, and when does a false conception prove to be true?

14 My son, know that all these phenomena are mere delusions without any reality. They appear like the cities and towns in our dreams. 15 They are liable to vanish from sight in the end, just like our dreams vanish upon waking, and just like our waking scenes vanish under the veil of sleep. 16 When we wake up, we do not know where the city of our dream has vanished. When the universe vanishes at its dissolution, we are equally ignorant about its location in the chaotic void.

17 The Student asked, “If the world is a nothing as you say, then sage, please tell me what is it that appears to us and disappears by turns? What is that empty intellect which presents this extensive view before us? How does the void present its reflection as the fullness of space and to what purpose?”

18 The Teacher replied:—

My boy, the empty sphere of consciousness shines with its transparency. Its reflection is called the world. It is nothing else but this. 19 It is the reflection of the widely extended substance of the great void of the intellect. This apparently material form is nothing other than the transparent form of that intellect.

20 The incorporeal Brahman, like all corporeal bodies, presents both a fair and a dark complexion. He also discloses himself sometimes and hides at another, which causes the creation and annihilation of the world. 21 The clarity of the Divine Spirit always remains the same and unaltered, whether before or after creation and its dissolution. It’s like a fountain of clear water that always remains clear even though it may or may not reflect the shadows of bordering trees.

22 As a man remains unchanged in his sleep, whether he is dreaming or enjoying deep sleep, so the Spirit continues unchanged in its intellect, whether it is in the act of creation or annihilation. 23 The ideal world appears to be calm and quiet in both the dream of the dreamer and his sound sleep. This visible world of ours is always viewed as calm in the tranquil spirit of the Lord and in the tranquil spirit of the contemplative saint.

24 Hence I do not recognize the existence of an emptiness or a sky anywhere that is independent of our soul. The same appears in the souls of others as it does in ours according to our view of it. 25 If we can perceive the light of our intellect even at the point of our death when the world disappears from us, then why should we not believe the same happens to others, that they also perceive the same intellectual light in their consciousness.

26 The Student said, “If such is the case, that others who are awake have the same view of the world as the dreamer has in his dream, then I believe that all those who are living have the same view of the world as those who are dying.”

27 The Teacher replied:—

So it is, O my intelligent lad. The world does not appear in its real form because it appears as a reality to ordinary perception. 28 In reality, the world does not appear and is nothing. There is nothing in the world that has any reality to it. It is a mere reflection of the intellect, and there can be no reality in our false sight of it. 29 It is apparent and seems to be everywhere always, but it does not exist in any way anywhere or at anytime. 30 Because it is both the real and unreal form of Brahman, it is both a reality and an unreality. Being an intellectual void, it is never destroyed.

31 The empty entity of Supreme Consciousness exhibits the phenomena of creation and its destruction. If we have any degree of concern for it, it is only for our misery. We are unaffected if we remain altogether unconcerned with its casualties. 32 All these appearances exist everywhere at all times in the same manner as they appear to the ignorant. But in truth, they appear nowhere in any manner or at anytime to the wise and learned.

33 The same being appears as a god in one place and a pot in another. Here he is seen as a hill and there as a stream or valley. He is a tree here, a shrub there, and spreading grass in another. He is the moving and movable somewhere and the unmoving and unmovable elsewhere. He is fire and all other elements everywhere. 34 He is entity and nonentity, both emptiness and solidity. He is action and duration, and earth and sky likewise. He is the being and not being and their growth and their destruction. He is good as well as the evil that attends on one and prohibits another. 35 There is nothing that is not he who, though one, is always all things in all places. He is in and out of everything and extends along the beginning, middle and end of all things. He is eternity and duration and the three divisions of time also. 36 He is all and exists in all things and in all places and times. Yet he is not the all and does not exist with anything at anytime or place.

Vasishta speaking:—

37 Rama, know now that Brahman is the Universal Soul. He is all in all places and times. Because Brahman is the conscious soul, he exhibits all things to our consciousness like images in our dreams or the creatures of our imagination.

38 The maker of a material world must have a material body. The framer of the woody trees must have a wooden frame. But the Lord God of all has no material body or shape. 39 Some make a mountain god the lord of all. Some even make and worship a human figure as the supreme god. 40 Some make a picture the lord and maker of all. Others make some image and worship it as the great god of all. 41 But there is only one Supreme Being who is the maker, supporter and the Lord God of all others. He is without beginning or end. The spirit of Lord Brahman upholds and supports all others. 42 A straw-made image or an earthen pot is attributed with divine powers and is represented to be the most high. So the formless God is shown in frail images made and destroyed by human hands.

43 An outward object is made the actor and enjoyer of acts. The wise know only consciousness to be the active and passive agent of all actions. 44 The truly wise acknowledge no active or passive agent of creation, although many among the wise recognize one God as the only actor and enjoyer of all. 45 All these views may be probable and may very well apply to the most High, the sole object of all these theories, because there is nothing which can be positively affirmed or denied of Him. 46 All these believers see and manifest God as they desire in the empty space of their intellects, and by viewing the whole world in themselves, they remain without decay at all times. 47 All that is visible, all laws and prohibitions, and all desires and designs of men are confined within men as ideas. Hence those who are true to their faith and firm in the observance of their duties and performance of their acts, by seeing all of creation within themselves, truly are of the nature of the Divine Soul.

48 This same doctrine was taught to you before, when you had been a student under my tutelage. But as you could not fully comprehend it then, you are condemned to another birth to learn it from me again.

49 The world represents a long, dark and dreary winter night, yet is also presents the pure light of knowledge, shining with the serene and cooling beams of the autumn moon.

Now, O Rama, as you are improved by pure intelligence, shake off the impurity of dull ignorance and continue to discharge your duties as they have descended upon you and your royal race. 50 Remain released from your attachment to all things of this temporal world. Rely solely upon the one supreme and Universal Soul whose pure nature is perceptible throughout all nature. Be as clear as the transparent sky with the peace of your mind and delight of your soul. Learn to rule your realm with justice and impartiality.