Friday, October 21, 2011

Sage Vasishta's Response to Prajnapti's Questions

Sage Vasishta's Response to Prajnapti's Questions
[Yogavaasishta is an authoritative Advaitic scripture of about 32,000 verses divided into six chapters. The last chapter is Nirvana. It comes in two parts – Purva (Book I) and Uttara (Book II).  King Prajnapti, Ruler of the City Ilavati, raises many doubts about Creation and the world that appears to us. These are the sort of questions any one of us would like to ask. Sage Vasishta gives his answers from Sargas 204 to 210 in Book II of the sixth Chapter Nirvana. Presented here is an Extract (adopted with slight modifications) from a forthcoming Book – Yogavaasishta, Chapter VI: Nirvana - Book II by Shri K.V. Krishna Murthy, English Translation by Dr. Vemuri Ramesam. The Questions were posted on 23 Sept 2011.]

Part II: Sage Vasishta's Response to Prajnapti's Questions:

Vasishta:  Oh, King Prajnapti!  These are very interesting questions.  I may not answer your questions sequentially.  However, I shall explain all the points raised by you through a coherent and comprehensive response.  Please follow my presentation attentively.

You have an awareness of a thing ‘being’ present and also a thing ‘not being’ present.   If you carefully look at it, what you have in both cases is awareness.  Awareness is knowledge.

But knowledge has a peculiar quality.  It shows the things in the way it conceives them.  If it strongly feels that a thing ‘is’ there, it will be there.  If it feels strongly it ‘is not’ there, it will not be there.  A good example for this is the dreamscape.  The knowledge within you felt during the period of dreaming that the dream world existed.  Then the dream world attained beingness and showed up.  After a while, the knowledge within you felt that it was not there.  Immediately it disappears.  You call it as waking up.

We can infer from this that ‘is’ and ‘is not’ (a thing being present or not being present) are different forms of knowledge.  What really is in both the cases is knowledge or awareness.

Hence if the knowledge within you feels anywhere anytime that it has a body, there will be a body.  If it feels otherwise, there will not be a body.  When it feels the body is there, the knowledge thinks that it is the body.  It superimposes the qualities of the body on knowledge and the qualities of knowledge on the body.  This is how bodies are generated and maintained.
Your question was on how bodies could be produced in heaven and hell. You can understand that they are born by the process of superimposition by knowledge.

Here is an important point that you may take note of.  When I said knowledge, I do not mean the Supreme Knowledge of Brahman.  Pure Knowledge of Brahman is different from the knowledge that makes aware of your body and senses.  The quality of ‘knowing’ is a property of the knower.  In other words it is his nature.  It exists as an imagination.

Let us consider dreams as an example.  You think at the time of dreaming that you are witnessing some objects which are separate from you.  But the fact is you witness yourself!  That is to say that you are “awaring” yourself.  This sort of ‘knowing’ is your nature.
During your wakeful state also it works the same way.  Certain awareness within you takes the form of your body.  You do not have any body beyond this.  If you understood this clearly, it will answer the first seven of your questions.

In your next question you raised the issue of atheism.  The atheists opine that the body is responsible for awareness.  It implies that consciousness emanates from inert substance.  This is totally unacceptable.  But they come up with a counter question.  If a body is produced from Consciousness as we say, they ask why the body lacks the ability to be aware of things after death.   My answer is as follows:
You are Consciousness-Self.  The dream world originated from you.  Therefore, it has also to be conscious like you.  Why then the inert things like rocks and stones appear in the dream?  The only answer for this question is that you had certain thoughts at the beginning of the dream.  You witness some things that are sentient and some things that are insentient in your dream corresponding to those initial thoughts.  In other words, you yourself appear as inert substance at some places and as conscious substance at other places in the dreamscape based on your initial thoughts.  This is true from your own experience.

Because of the nature of the thought that occurred to Hiranyagarbha at the moment of the beginning of the creation, you find a dead body to be inert.  This is a finding that is only apparently so.  The fact is the entire world is Consciousness just like the total dreamscape is you yourself. What causes your body is also the same thing.  So the argument of the atheist does not stand to reason.  We do not, therefore, support it.

You brought up a new issue of substances with form and without form in your ninth question.  This question does not have a locus.  We have already said that the entire creation was of illusory origin and that there was no solid reason behind creation.

It is in your experience that Consciousness-Self appears as a dream when you are alive. Similarly, after death, Consciousness-Self appears as the higher world.  The unavoidable cycle of wakeful and dream states while living and higher worlds after death go on appearing till one obtains perfect Self-Knowledge.  The effects of good actions, donations, offerings to the dead etc. are also experienced as a part of this illusory cycle.  That is why we declare that scriptures are true only until one is liberated. There is nothing illogical in this proposition. This answers your last question.

The eleventh question of yours concerns the powers of performing miracles by Yogis.  These things happen as per the laws embedded in the initial thought pattern of Hiranyagarbha. That is to say that Hiranyagarbha must have wished for the transformation of things as per the curses and boons of Yogis and a few others.
We do not have to search far from the thought process of Hiranyagarbha to find the cause-effect relationships in the world.  Even the temporary appearance of this non-existent world and its later disappearance is also a part of Hiranyagarbha’s original thoughts.  A poetic way of saying it is: it is creation when Consciousness opens Its eyes; it is dissolution when It closes Its eyes.

King Prajnapti:  Maharishi! If the world appears because of Hiranyagarbha’s thoughts, why would it have to go through periods of dissolution?  When once he thinks of creating, the creation could as well stay put permanently!   

Vasishta:  Dear King!  You yourself conceived the dream world.  But it does not stay permanently.  Why?  It is so because of the nature of your thought.  No purpose is served by looking for the causes of such a thought.  Just as it is your nature in the case of your dreams, it is the nature of Hirnayagarbha’s thoughts to make the worlds disappear during deep sleep, dissolution and Nirvana.  Because of the same reason, fire is hot, water is cool and so on.  This answers your 14th question too.

At the cost of repetition let me say this.  The Ever Existent Pure Consciousness Itself appears as the world.  In other words, what truly exists and what apparently exists is the same.  
That is the nature of Pure Consciousness. You derive the attributes of creation based on this.  This will also bring necessary convergence to the Vedic statements referred by you in your 12th question.

You had several doubts about the results of performing austerities and meditation in your questions from 15th to 18th.  Before going into those issues, you need to know a few basics about piety and impiety. 
Boons and curses, merit and sin and so on work like mutually opposing forces.  The austerities performed by friends and foes also operate on the same principle.  If they are of equal strength, they cancel out each other.  Otherwise their algebraic sum will be the resultant effect.  Sometimes it may so happen that the opposing forces cannot cancel out one another.  Then the individual obtains two bodies in order to experience both the effects simultaneously.  The two bodies may be externally visible or only one of them visible to outsiders and the other visible only to him. 
In a case as described by you where a well-wisher prays for the longevity of an individual’s life and the enemy prays for immediate death, the individual may reap the benefit of his friend’s prayer in his normal body and go through the throes of death in another imaginary body in another imaginary place.

King Prajnapti:  My contention is that it is not possible to get even one body with a definite shape from the formless piety and impiety.  How can you say that not one but even two bodies can be obtained from such conceptual things?

Vasishta: Why two, depending on the situation, even a thousand bodies may be produced!  Are you alone not becoming battalions of armies fighting each other in your dream world?  How can you set any limiting condition of numbers on conceptually generated pure imaginary worlds?

King Prajnapti:  On one hand you argue that the entire world is an illusion.  On the other you argue that the curses and boons, higher worlds etc. are real.  This is very unreasonable!

Vasishta:  If you admit that the world is a mere fantasy, there is no argument!  Not only is this world, the higher world too is an illusion.  Actions, results of actions are also an illusion.  That is in fact the Ultimate Truth!  But your questions are not based on the final Truth.  Your questions are all based on the presumption that the world is real.  Therefore, I respond to you at the same level as if this world, the higher worlds and so on are real. 
Then you counter me saying how can there be so many mutual contradictions within it.  My reply is that the world is like a dream.  It is pure fantasy.  Hence anything may happen within it!  What I said is not untenable.  You will have no confusion if you see things from a correct perspective.

Your 16th question was whether there would be a dozen moons in the sky if a dozen people meditate successfully wishing to be moons.  Suppose two people look at the moon.  Both of them think that they are seeing one and the same moon.  The entire world functions with such a belief.  This is plainly an unsupported assumption and is not the Truth. 
The fact is each person lives in his private world created by his own imagination.  He does not live in a world created by others.  Each to himself!  Though the worlds seem to merge into one another like a hand into a glove, two worlds are never the same.  Their skies are different and so also the moons.
So if a dozen people wish to become the moon, each will become a moon in his own imaginary world.  One will not appear in the sky of the other.  The dozen of them will thus become moons.  We discussed some of these things in the Story of Indavas.
Depending on the strength of his thoughts, each man would become the Hiranyagarbha of his world.  The Indavas did become like that.  You had asked why there should be only one Hiranyagarbha.  There is no particular significance whether it is one or many.  Each person’s world is his fantasy.  It is equivalent to a dream.  If you can understand this, you need not rise this question at all.

Your 17th question regarding the beautiful lady or the next question on the indolent king who wanted to rule the seven islands without leaving his home can also be resolved on the above basis.  The lazy man can create the islands in his imagination sitting right in his room. These matters were discussed in detail earlier in the Story of Leela.
My Dear King!  I covered with this all your questions.  As you may have observed, the underpinning argument for all my replies is that the visible world is just an imagined creation of the only One Thing that exists – Pure Consciousness.  This is the final Truth.  You can understand all the remaining things based on this fact.

King Prajnapti:  Great Sage!  I can appreciate very well what you said.  However, I still have a doubt.  According to you, the embodied entity Hiranyagarbha was born at the beginning of creation because of a thought.  But what we normally find in the world is that we need first a body in order that the consciousness in that body can start conceptualizing a world.  We do not find a consciousness without a body imagining things.  If we apply this observation to the first born Hiranyagarbha, he can begin to imagine the world only after he gets a body.  But a body cannot be there unless there is an imagination as you put it.  How does your theory resolve this conundrum?

Vasishta:  It is not valid to say that Consciousness originates from a body.  Consciousness is prior to creation.  Body is a thing created.  Body is a pure imagined entity.  What has come later cannot be the substrate for the first thing.  Hence it is incorrect to hold that Consciousness is dependent on the body.
You say that Consciousness is expressed only where there is a body and not otherwise.  It is not because Consciousness is absent at other places.  It is rather your inability to cognize Consciousness which is everywhere.  You classify certain objects of your dream as conscious and certain others as inert though it is entirely your Consciousness. It is because you are unable to recognize Consciousness in all the dream objects.  Everything that exists in the dream world or wakeful world, whether inert or conscious, is Consciousness.  Brahman is Consciousness. Hence there is no dependency of one over the other as everything is only One Consciousness.

King Prajnapti:  Sir, you hold that the body of the wakeful state is a form of Consciousness and so also the body in the dream state. Why do you then teach us that the wakeful state body is similar to the dream state body?

Vasishta:  It is just an expression used at the initial stages to make things simple for you to understand.   We have to find an illustration to teach you that the body that is seen, though visible, is unreal and it is none other than Brahman in its true substance.  Your dream body fits that example.  Your dream body is unreal even at the time you are able to see it.  From the substrate point of view, it is you yourself.  Thus there is a similarity between the wakeful state body and the dream state body.
Just as the dream state body in reality is you yourself, the true form of the wakeful state body is Brahman.  The dream body illustrates this point well.  That was all the intent; but it is not to say that the dream state body is different from the wakeful state body.
The Truth is that anything seen appears because of imagination. What appears because of imagination cannot be True.  Hence there is no wakeful state; there is no dream state; there is no deep sleep state; everything is a form of the Consciousness-Space.
If you know Pure Brahman as Pure Brahman, it is Nirvana.  If you do not, it is bondage.  This is the final message!

King Prajnapti:  Maharishi!  My doubts stand cleared by your benevolence!