Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Shiva in the Yoga Vasistha

In the early days, when the so-called Vedic age was at its peak, great Maharishis orally imparted their wisdom unto their disciples. For a long time, these teachings were memorized by the pupils and passed on to their own disciples, but not in written form. However, a time arose (traditionally speaking the beginning of Kaliyuga) when teachings were being forgotten and had to be committed to writing for the sake of posterity.

At such a time, these original teachings of the Maharishis were recorded in the form of conversations, discussions, and question-and-answer sessions (cf, many of the early Upanishads). As the centuries passed, this format of writing became so popular and venerated that gurus could no longer impart their original teachings in an independent manner, but had to record it in the form of a dialog from remote antiquity, spoken by a great authority for it to be accepted. Hence the narration format became immensely important and popular. Most post-Vedic texts are, therefore, presented as narrations.

If the narrator were not a great sage from remote antiquity, it had to be a greater Guru yet. So, who better to have narrate than the Guru of all gurus, the original Teacher, the primal Guru, the One from whom all traditions descend, Shiva, the personified Lord Himself, the highest Reality? Such is the case in hundreds of holy books including most of the Agama-Tantras.

Below is an excerpt from the Yoga Vasistha, an important text of non-dualism from pre-Shankaran times. Although it is presented as a narration between Lord Rama and Sage Vasistha, the part below is presented as a teaching from Shiva for added emphasis and authority.

The teaching below is on the Self, the only existence, the only reality. The core teaching is that the Consciousness is the ground of all reality – a teaching that is common to all non-dualist schools of thought (Vedantic and Shaivite). Shaivite non-dual schools of thought would additionally say that this Consciousness (Chit), call it Brahman (Parabrahma) or Paramashiva, apart from being the ultimate Truth (Sat), Light (Prakasha), Knowledge (Jnana), and Bliss (Ananda), is never still, but brimming of self-reflective activity (Vimarsha). In that sense, the nature of the phenomenal world cannot be considered unreal, but as the self-reflective activity of Paramashiva.


Shiva said:

There being only empty consciousness in existence, beyond all limits, it is impossible for an intelligible object to exist anywhere which may continue to all eternity. That which shines of itself is the self-shining Being. It is the Self, the spontaneous agitation of that Being, which has stretched out the universe. Thus the world appears like a city in dream before the conscious soul. This soul is only a form of empty consciousness and this world is only a baseless fabric.

It is altogether impossible for any perceptible phenomena to exist anywhere except in the empty sphere of consciousness. Creation is whatever shone forth in the beginning in the plenitude of Divine Consciousness. Therefore this world which shows itself in the form of a fairyland in dream is only an appearance in the empty sphere of Consciousness. It cannot be any other in reality.

Consciousness is human speech and the cosmos that supports the world.

Consciousness becomes the soul and the living principle. It forms the chain of created beings. Tell me, what else could know all things in the beginning and even before creation of the universe, except the consciousness which saw and exhibited everything in heaven and earth as contained in itself?

The words “sky”, “firmament” and the “emptiness” of Brahman and the world all apply to consciousness, just like the words “tree” and “tree” mean the same thing. And as both dreams and desires arise in us by our delusion, so only our illusion in the empty space of consciousness makes us perceive the existence of an outer world.

Our empty consciousness shows the sight of the external world in our dream. The same thing shows us the world in our waking dream. It is not possible for a city in a dream to be seen anywhere except in the hollow space of our consciousness.  In the same way, it is impossible for the waking dream of the world to be shown anywhere except in the emptiness of consciousness.

As it is not possible for anything that can be thought of to exist anywhere except in the thinking mind, so it is impossible for this thinkable world to exist in any place other than the Divine Mind. The triple world rose of itself at the will and in the empty space of Supreme Consciousness, like a dream rising and setting in the mind, and not as anything other than Supreme Consciousness or any duality beside Supreme Consciousness.

As one sees the diverse appearances of pots and paintings in his dream, all lying within the hollowness of his mind, so at the beginning of creation, the world appears of itself in the emptiness of Divine Consciousness. As there is no substantiality of anything in the fairyland of one’s dreams except his pure consciousness of the objects, so there is no substantiality of anything seen in this triple world, except our consciousness of them.

Whatever is visible to sight, and all that exists or does not exist in the present, past or future, and all space, time and mind are nothing other than appearances in the empty consciousness of Brahman. Brahman is truly the God of whom I have spoken. Only He is supreme in its transcendental sense. He is all and unbounded and includes me, you and the endless world in Himself.

The bodies of all created beings, whether yours, mine, or others, and of all in this world are all full with the consciousness of the Supreme Soul and no other. As there is nothing, O sage, except the bodies produced from the empty consciousness of Brahman resembling images produced in the fairyland of one’s dream, so there is no form or figure in this world other than what was made in the beginning of creation.

Yoga Vasistha, Book VI [Part I] Chap 30:133-151

[Shiva continues:]

O most intelligent sage, know that the God we adore is the true God, the receptacle of the three worlds, the Supreme Spirit and no other. He is Shiva, the joy, who is above the ranks of all other Gods and beyond all of men’s fictions and fictitious images. He is accompanied with all desires and is the enjoyer of neither all or any part of the production of His will. He is full of imaginations of all things, but is neither the all nor any one of the objects in his mind.

He encompasses all space and time, and is neither divided nor circumscribed by either. He manifests all events and things, and is nothing except the image of pure Consciousness Himself.  He is undivided consciousness situated in the heart of everything. He produces and absorbs everything in himself.

Know Brahman is situated between existence and inexistence. It is He who [is] called God, the Supreme Soul, the transcendental, TAT SAT, and the syllable AUM. By his nature of immensity, He spreads alike in all space. Being the great Consciousness himself, He is said to be transcendent and the Supreme Being. He remains as All in all places, just as sap circulates through the bodies of plants. The great soul of the Supreme Being similarly extends as the common entity of all things.

Yoga Vasistha, Book VI [Part I] Chap 31: 10-16

Aham Brahmasmi ~ Shivo'ham. 

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