"The very first step in understanding what this is all about is giving up the concept of an active, volitional 'I' as a separate entity and accepting the passive role of perceiving and functioning as a process." - Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The story of the great forest

Sage Vasishtha

O Rama, whatever might have been the origin of the mind and whatever it might be, one should constantly direct it towards liberation through self-effort. The pure mind is free from latent tendencies, and therefore it attains self-knowledge. Since the entire universe is contained within the mind, the notions of bondage and liberation are also within it. In this connection there is a legend. Listen to it attentively.

There was a great forest, so large that millions of square miles were like the space within an atom, in it. In it there was just one person who had a thousand arms and limbs. He was forever restless. He had a mace in his hands with which he beat himself and, afraid of the beating, he ran away in panic. He fell into a blind well. He came out of it, again beat himself and again ran away in panic, this time into a forest. He came out of it, again beat himself and again ran away in panic, this time into a banana grove. Though there was no other being to fear, he wept and cried aloud in fear. He kept running as before, beating himself as before.

I witnessed all this intuitively and with the power of my will I restrained him for a moment. I asked him, "Who are you?" But, he was sorely distressed and called me his enemy and wept aloud and then laughed aloud. Then he began to abandon his body - limb by limb.

Immediately after this, I saw another person running like the first one, beating himself, weeping and wailing. When I similarly restrained him he began to abuse me and ran away intent on his own way of life. Like this I came across several persons. Some listened to my words and abandoned their previous way of life and became enlightened. Some others ignored me and even held me in contempt. Some others even refused to come out of the blind well or the dense forest.

Such is the great forest, O Rama: no one finds a resting place in it, whatever be the mode of life they may adopt. This great forest is not far away, nor is that strange man in a strange land! This world itself is the forest. It is a great void, but this void is seen only in the light of enquiry. This light of enquiry is the "I" in the parable. This wisdom is accepted by some and rejected by others, who continue to suffer. They who accept it are enlightened.

The person with the thousand arms is the mind with countless manifestations. This mind punishes itself by its own latent tendencies and restlessly wanders in this world. The blind well is the hell and the banana grove is the heaven.  The dense forest is the life of a worldly man. The mind now wanders into hell, now into heaven and now into the world of human beings.

Though the light of self-knowledge shines in every heart, yet one wanders in this world driven by one's own latent desires. And, the mind itself intensifies this sorrow and goads one to go around in circles. By its own whims and fancies, thoughts and hopes, it binds itself. When it is visited by sorrow it despairs and becomes restless.

When one who gains wisdom preserves it for a long time and persists in the practice of enquiry, he does not experience sorrow. An uncontrolled mind is the source of sorrow; when it is thoroughly understood, the sorrow vanishes like mist at sunrise.

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सर्वभूताधिवासं यद्भूतेषु च वसत्यपि।
सर्वानुग्राहकत्वेन तद्स्म्यहं वासुदेवः॥

That in whom reside all beings and who resides in all beings,
who is the giver of grace to all, the Supreme Soul of the universe, the limitless being:
I AM THAT. -- Amritabindu Upanishad