On Rational Inquiry
Reasoning serves to destroy the false apparitions of errors which present themselves to the minds of children like ghosts in the night sky. Men torment themselves with the false imaginations of their own minds. Only reason can drive away this deeply rooted apparition from the mind.
Know that the fruit of the high tree of reason is the even, unobstructed, interminable and independent happiness called perfect detachment (kaivalya). When a saint has reached his perfection by means of the elixir of judgment seated in his mind, he neither desires for more nor leaves (what he has). A mind relying on that state of equanimity and perceiving the clear light has neither its fall nor elevation, but enjoys its inward expansion like that of vacuum forever.
One unconcerned with the world neither gives nor receives anything, nor feels himself elated or depressed at any event, but views everything as an indifferent spectator. He is neither numbingly cold nor does he dwell on anything internally or externally. He is not inactive or merged in activity. He slights the loss of anything and lives content with what he has. He is neither depressed nor elevated, but remains as full as the sea.
Men with their minds illuminated by the light of reason are like travelers acquainted with their way. They are not liable to pitfalls of constant danger and misery. It is by means of reason that one comes to the knowledge of truth, and by means of truth that he gets peace of mind, and it is tranquility of mind that dispels the misery of men.
Now Rama, take delight in such acts as may be productive of utility to the world, and whereby you may arrive to perfection. Weigh all things with the clear eye of reason, which will make you blessed forever.
Those who are happy with their prosperity of contentment and possess the calm repose of their souls are like holy saints. They think a kingdom no better than a bit of rotten straw.
Whoever retains a contented mind amidst all the affairs of the world is never disturbed or dejected in adverse circumstances, O Rama.
Abandonment of unfruitful desires, and calmness in those desires that are obtained, feeling no pain and having no sense of pleasure, constitute what is called contentment.
Until the mind can enjoy contentment rising of itself spontaneously in the soul, troubles will continue to grow like briars and brambles in a bog. The mind cooled by calm contentment and purified by the light of philosophy is always in its full bloom like a lotus under sunbeams.
An ungoverned mind, subject to desires and devoid of contentment, does not receive the light of knowledge, like a soiled mirror takes no reflection of the face. A man whose mind is always bright with the sunshine of contentment does not shrivel like a lotus in the dark night of ignorance. A man devoid of diseases and anxieties, whose mind is content though he be thoroughly poor, enjoys the happiness of a supreme ruler.
On the Company of the Virtuous
It is the tree of virtuous company (satsanga) that produces the fresh blossom of discrimination which, being cherished by men with great souls, yields its fruit of prosperity. The society of the learned makes solitude appear as company, and the evil of death as good as a festivity, and converts a difficulty to ease. Know that the society of the virtuous is the best way to improve understanding, destroy the tree of ignorance, and remove all our mental diseases. Whoever has bathed in the cold, clear stream of good company does not need the merit derived from acts of charity, pilgrimage, austerity or sacrifice.
Contentment is reckoned to be the best gain, good company the right course, reasoning the true knowledge, and remaining undisturbed the highest bliss. These are the four surest means to break off the shackles of the world, and whoever is practiced in these has surely passed over the false waters of terrestrial sea. Learn, O best of the intelligent, that the practice of any one of these pure virtues leads to a habit of all four. Every one of these separately is a leader to the others. Therefore apply yourself diligently to one of these for your success in getting them all.
As soon as one of these virtues is strengthened and made fruitful in you, it will serve to weaken the force of the faults of your uncontrollable mind. The cultivation of virtues leads to their full growth and the suppression of vice, but the fostering of vice will lead to the increase of vices and the suppression of good qualities.
Knowledge in Practice – Good Conduct
The mind is a wilderness of errors in which the stream of our desires flows with full force between its two banks of good and evil where we hold our stand. Know, O high-minded Rama, that one’s own disposition is like a rapid current that must not be permitted to bear him away (to the perilous coast).
They are called intelligent who know the cause and effect of things. Men of unfettered minds look upon the appearance and disappearance of every atomic world as the fluctuating wave of the sea. They neither grieve at unwished-for occurrences nor pine for their wished-for chances. Knowing well all accidents are the consequences of their actions, they remain as unconscious as trees.
Having finished its journey through the world and performed its duties here, the soul assumes a calmness like that of the unbreakably hard column of the sky reflecting the images of the tumultuous world (without changing itself). It rejoices exceedingly at being delivered from the innumerable snares of the world, and it becomes as light as air by being freed from its desire of looking after endless objects. The soul that takes no notice of any cause or effect or doing, or what is to be avoided or accepted, is said to be disembodied though encumbered with a body, and to become unworldly in its worldly state.
We have by our reasoning well weighed the verbosity of our opinionative adversaries and never set aside the holy sayings of the Vedas, even when they are at variance with the opinions of our families. O Rama, we have stored in our minds the truths resulting from the unanimous voice of all the scriptures, whereby it will be evident that we have attained the object of our belief, apart from the fabricated systems of heretical scriptures.
Let the wise continue their inquiries until they obtain their internal peace and until they arrive at the fourth stage (turiya) of joy known by its name of indestructible tranquility. Whoever has attained this fourth state of tranquil joy, whether he is alive or not, or a house-holder or an ascetic, has really passed beyond the limits of the ocean of the world. Such a man remains steady at his place like the calm sea undisturbed by Mandara Mountain, whether he has performed his duties according to the scriptures and codes of ethics or not.
You can derive happiness from your own observations at any place and time, as you can from your association with the good whenever it is available. This is an optional rule.
As learning produces the qualities of quiet and the like, so do these qualities give rise to learning. Thus they serve to grow each other, just as lake and lotuses contribute to their mutual benefit. Learning is produced by right conduct as good conduct results from learning. Thus wisdom (learning, right knowledge) and morality (good conduct & attitudes) are natural helps to one another. Unless one practices wisdom and good conduct in an equal degree, he will never be successful in either of them.
Excerpts from “Yoga Vasishta” by Sage Valmiki, translated by Vihari Lala Mitra