Om, salutation to that Reality from whom all beings proceed, by whom they are manifest, upon whom they depend, and in whom they become extinct. He is the knower, the knowledge and all that is to be known. He is the seer, the act of seeing, and all that is to be seen. He is the actor, the cause and the effect, therefore salutation to He who is all knowledge himself.
One Sutikshna, a brahmin whose mind was full of questions, went to the hermitage of Agastya and respectfully asked the sage, “O great sage! Tell me, in your opinion, whether liberation results from a man’s acts or his knowledge or both?”
Agastya replied: — As the birds fly in the air with both wings, so the highest state of emancipation is attained through both knowledge and acts. Neither our acts nor knowledge alone produces liberation, but both together are the means.
But it is neither by acts or riches, nor by means of children that one obtains his liberation. It is solely by self-denial that the great souls taste the ambrosia (of emancipation).
One fallen in this boundless ocean of the world may enjoy the bliss of liberation by the magnanimity of his soul. He shall not come across grief or destitution, but shall remain ever satisfied by being freed from the fever of anxiety.
In heaven there is ample reward for merit, conferring perfect bliss (to all); but it is the degree of merit that leads one to higher heavens. By moderate virtue, one is certainly entitled to a middle station. Virtue of an inferior order leads a person to a lower position. But one’s virtue is destroyed by impatience at the excellence of his betters, by haughtiness to his equals, and by joy at the inferiority of others. When one’s virtue is thus destroyed, he must enter the abode of mortals. These and the like are the effects of good and evil in heaven.
Know that the things seen in this world are deceiving, even as the blueness of the sky is an optical illusion. Therefore it is better to efface them in oblivion rather than to keep their memory. All visible objects have no actual existence. We have no idea of them except through sensation.
The conviction that the objects we see do not exist of themselves leads to the removal of their impressions from the mind. Thus perfected, supreme and eternal bliss of self-extinction springs in the mind. Otherwise, there is no peace to be had for men like you, rolling in the depths of studies for thousands of years and unacquainted with true knowledge.
Complete abandonment of desires (vasana, mental conditioning) is called the best state of liberation (moksha) and is the only pure step towards happiness. The absence of desires leads to the extinction of mental actions, in the same manner as the absence of cold melts small particles of ice. Our desires uphold our living bodies and bind us tightly to our bodily prison like ropes. These being loosened, the inner soul is liberated.
Mental conditioning is of two kinds: pure and impure. The impure ones cause reincarnation, while the pure ones serve to destroy it. An impure desire is like a mist of ignorance, the stubborn feeling that one is the individual ego. The wise say that individual ego is the cause of rebirth. A pure desire is like a parched seed that is incapable of bringing forth the germ of rebirth. It only supports the present body. Pure desires, unattended with rebirth, reside in the bodies of men who are living liberated.
Even the smallest service, if done in good time, appears to be much, and the best service is of no avail if done out of season.
Afterwards King Dasharata asked Vasishta, the best of speakers and well informed in all matters, as to why Rama was so sorrowful. Sage Vasishta thought over the matter and said, “There is, O king, a cause for Rama’s sadness, but you need not be anxious about it. Wise men never entertain the fluctuations of anger or grief, or a lengthened delight from frivolous causes, just as the great elements of the world do not change their states unless it were for the sake of some new production.”
Excerpts from “Yoga Vasishta” by Sage Valmiki, translated by Vihari Lala Mitra