I-consciousness, Worlds And Brahman

Shri Vijay Pargaonkar, a frequent contributor at this site, recently drew my attention to the teaching of Sage Vasishta towards the end of the 32,000 verse-strong Yogavasishta. I wish to share the following extract from the teaching as it has a relevance to the discussions going on at another thread.


Vasishta:   Rama, there are essentially two types of (…) worlds.  They are the Stable and the Mobile worlds.  The Stable worlds are: Mahah, Janah, Tapah, Satya etc.  They are located far away from us.

स यदि पितृलोककामो भवति सङ्कल्पादेवास्य पितरः समुत्तिष्ठन्ति तेन पितृलोकेन सम्पन्नो महीयते ॥                    – VIII-ii-1, छान्दोग्य

sa yadi pitRilokakAmo bhavati saMkalpAdevasyapiraH samuttiShTanti tena pitRilokena saMpannomahIyate.       — VIII-ii-1, chAndogya upanishad.

(Meaning:  If a worshipper of a God with attributes (with a form) desires to go to the world of ancestors (PitR loka), his ancestors will welcome him as per his thoughts.  He will reach the world of the ancestors).

Thus declare Chandogya and a few other Upanishads.  These are the conceptual worlds.  They keep moving like wind along with the individual to wherever he goes.  Hence these are termed Mobile worlds.

All these worlds are produced because of the intentions of some one or the other.  If a person pursues Yoga practices meticulously with a strong desire, his desire takes a form and condenses as a world.  People like you generate worlds during your dreams.  But you are unable to concretize them.  It can be done if you have an intense determination.

Because of the buildup of the intentions of several people, stable worlds like Satya and others took shape.  The intentions of individual Yogis also produce worlds but these stick around those Yogis.  That is all the difference.

Those who perform virtuous deeds (meritorious acts) access Heavenly worlds with ease.  They move around and live long in those worlds as freely as we do in this world. Those who enter into Heavenly worlds through Yoga will find it a bit hard to live in those worlds.  These Yogis return to earth sooner.

One can achieve the Stable or Mobile worlds using the power of Yoga. One can also enter the dream worlds of others by yogic practices. You can also see any world by a focused practice.  But there is no particular purpose served by these painstaking practices and achievements.  Whatever may be the world, it is conceptually generated.  It is an illusory world!  What truly exists is Pure Brahman.  All of the worlds do not matter for one who attains the Supreme Brahman.

Rama, what I said here may appear a bit contrary to what other Sages say.  Some of them may say that those worlds are real like the earth.  Others may totally deny their existence.

इत्थमस्तु यदिवान्यथास्तु वा मैवभूद्भवतु को त्र संभ्रमः |

मुञ्च फल्गुणि फले फलग्रहं बुद्धवानसि कृतं परिश्रमैः  ||

itthamastu yadivAnyathAstu vA maivabhUdbhavatu ko’tra saMbhamaH |

munca phalguNi phale phalagrahaM buddhavAnasi kRitaM parishramaH ||

–  uttara bhAga, nirvana prakaraNa, yogavAsiShTa, sarga 211, shloka 30, yogavAsiShTa.

(Meaning:  Let the worlds be illusory or let them not be.  Let them exist or not exist.  What do we care?  You have worked real hard.  You understood the Self-Knowledge.  Do not pay attention to these pedestrian yogic accomplishments.  Simply ignore them).

The final carry home message is that what exists is the Supreme Brahman alone.  The Collective form of I-consciousness viz. Hiranyagarbha is superimposed on Brahman by illusion. The world is superimposed on Hiranyagarbha.  Separate individuals are superimposed on the world.  These imagined layers of superimposition go on and on.  Anything that is perceived is nothing but a changelessly-changed form of Brahman.  The word ‘changeless-change’ is also a concept.  It is not the last word.

Even to say this much is too much!

“What-Is,”  is Brahman.

And That is the essence of Vedanta.

Rama:  Who is it that fantasizes?  The Supreme Brahman is the only one existing prior to any of the fantasy or creation.  Therefore, it must be the Supreme Brahman who fantasizes.  It is a pure unpolluted substance which is immutable.  How is it then possible to propose that Brahman imagines I-consciousness etc. on Itself for some of the time and stays as It is at other times?

Vasishta:  What you say is absolutely correct!

But when a thing has to be explained, it is necessary to explain it from the perspective from which the question arises.  The point of view of the questioner has to be the starting position.  That is inevitable.

We have already talked about three points of view – the Absolute stance from the position of Knowledge; the empirical stance from the position of ignorance; and the mixed view.  The empirical stance from ignorance is based on the belief that the world is real.  The Absolute stance from the position of Knowledge is based on Truth that the world has no beingness at all.  The mixed viewpoint begins with an acceptance of the reality of the world.  Problems with such a view are discovered later.  The discovery triggers a process of Self inquiry.

Any teaching is done from this viewpoint. In fact, the various viewpoints pertain to the realm of the individual (jIva) desirous of knowing the Truth. Pure Brahman shines gloriously with Self-effulgence all by Itself or appears as the world under Its own illumination without a reference to any of the viewpoints.

The statement that “the word ‘changeless-change’ is a concoction” is made from the Absolute point of view.  The statement that “a succession of imaginary layers is superimposed on Brahman” is made from the mixed viewpoint.  If this core issue is imbibed clearly, you will see that there is no difference between Brahman and the world just as there is no difference between wind and movement.  Your question will then lose its locus.

Rama:  Well said Teacher!  Thank you.

Perhaps I interrupted you when you were dwelling on the issue of the string of illusory creations superimposed on Brahman.  Do you like to take it to its logical conclusion? 

Vasishta:  No, there is nothing new to be added.  I-consciousness or ego arises first.  After that come the five fundamental elements.  The space-time divisions follow suit.  The conceptualization progressively enlarges.  We cannot for sure say that that is the only way. It is Brahman that superimposes ‘individuality’ (jIvatva) on Itself and looks at the world.  It obtains the Knowledge of Truth by Itself and remains as It is!

[Note:  Here ends the Sarga 212.]

(Adopted from: p: 294-297 in Yogavasishta, Part – VI, Book II of Nirvana (Liberation), Shri Kuppa V. Krishna Murthy, English rendering by Dr.  Vemuri Ramesam,  2013, pp: 356).

5 thoughts on “I-consciousness, Worlds And Brahman

  1. Hi Ramesam, thank you for quoting from this great work of Shri Kuppa V. Krishna Murthy (suitable for advanced seekers only).

    “The empirical stance from ignorance is based on the belief that the world is real. The Absolute stance from the position of Knowledge is based on Truth that the world has no beingness at all. The mixed viewpoint begins with an acceptance of the reality of the world. Problems with such a view are discovered later. The discovery triggers a process of Self inquiry.

    Any teaching is done from this viewpoint. In fact, the various viewpoints pertain to the realm of the individual (jIva) desirous of knowing the Truth.”

    This is the grandness of the teaching of Advaita Vedanta – that it includes the phenomenal level. Teaching Western students interested in Advaita, though, one always needs to clearly point out from which stance one is talking. Otherwise the teaching results in confusion.

    • Hi Sitara,

      Nice to see you active again at the Site after a period of “tUShNIMbhAva” (being silent) observed by you.

      Many thanks for adding the caveat “suitable for advanced seekers only” which is quite appropriate. I know you are fully aware of its implication. Some readers may, however, not be clear about who is an advanced student and therefore, please permit me to add a couple of lines.

      The word ”advanced,” does not imply acquiring more intricate and more complex ‘knowledge.’ It does not also mean an enhanced ability for quick recall from memory or better skills or refer to astuteness in debate as we normally consider in subjects like physics or medicine or even carpentry.

      In Vedanta, IMO, it may indicate the fact that the seeker has completed the ‘shravaNa’ and ‘manana’ phases (theory and some praxis) and is in nididhyAsana but still has some questions on abiding unswervingly as brahman because there is a body that he has to care for. This fact is symbolically brought out in Yogavasishta by Sage Valmiki by adding the second part of the sixth chapter comprising 9,500 verses (from which the current Extract is drawn) even after the teaching is completed in the preceding 22,500 verses. The second part of the sixth chapter is about how to “deal with everyday problems faced by an embodied jIvanmukta, his conduct in daily life and the steps he can take to stay uninterruptedly as brahman.”

      Secondly, permit me to say that, from the few years of experience/exposure I have, I did not notice much difference between the seekers in the West and say in India. If at all, I find that the seekers in the West are at an advantage, being much less burdened by (i) the sort of cultural baggage and belief structures which they have to dislodge and (ii)terminological litigiousness which they have to “unlearn” !


      • Hi Ramesam,

        agree with everything you say except for the last paragraph. But I think that you might agree with me that both, Western as well as Indian students, have their respective cultural baggage that can come in the way of progress. In my own teaching I again and again find how deeply rooted Western cultural ideas and belief structures are and how efficiently they can prevent the seeker from Self realization.

        Interesting what you say about terminological litigiousness. This definitely is not the problem of the seekers I know. But more often than not this is simply because of lack of viveka/logical cogitation and not because of understanding.

        • Agreed about the cultural baggage of all, no matter where they are born and raised. However, I don’t see a correlation between ideas and belief structures preventing Self Realization. Self Realization is part of this structure and hence, another concept that beliefs are built around. This is just an example of the western mind borrowing from the eastern mind. It is a way of talking to yourself and generating more experience, more conceptualization for the so-called seeker, person, being, what have you.

          I like Ramesam’s phrase of terminological litigiousness. I got it immediately. 🙂

  2. Excellent stuff, Ramsam! Thank you for posting that – I really ought to try to find the time to tackle Vasishtha properly (I have only read the version with a ‘daily extract’ to date.)

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