Recently, there’s been some action here and on some related blogs on Past Lives. In the post on Self Effort, I referred to reading the Yog Vasishta. In the story of Lila, Vasishta touches on the subject of past lives and death in a way I thought illuminating.
The gist of the story of Lila is that a holy man has a dream of being a king. His wife asks the goddess Saraswati not to let his spirit leave the house on his death. This is granted. But the spirit lives another long life within that circumstance as a king. In other words, a dream within a dream. Each life is but a dream so the possibilities are endless. The story repeats itself, with the queen requesting the same and the king going on to live another life as another king. When the second king dies, with the assistance of the goddess, he returns to the life of the dead first king and reanimates him for a further life. As they say, the path of action is unfathomable.
In the story, the goddess Saraswati says:
“Hence, when you find no immediate cause for an effect, then surely the cause existed in the past – memory. Memory is like space, empty. All creation here is an effect of that emptiness – and hence the creation is empty too. Even as the birth of your husband is an illusory product of memory, I see all this as the illusory and unreal effect of imagination.”
I explore this concept of memory in Deep Memory and elsewhere.
Saraswati goes on to say:
“Death is but waking from a dream. Birth which arises from a wish is no more real than the wish, like waves in a mirage!”
“There is no essential difference between the experiences of this world and those of another – all this being the thought-forms in the infinite consciousness. They are like two waves in the same ocean. Since the worlds were never created, they will never cease to be: such is the law. Their real nature is consciousness.”
This is why enlightenment is referred to as awakening. Just as when we awake from dream state and see it was a dream, so too when we awaken spiritually, we see that ‘waking state’ was just a dream. Dreams within dreams within dreams.
“The self-projections of the jivas [souls] dwelling in those universes gave them their forms and nature. Because of the essential nature of this infinite consciousness, all these keep arising and again arising, and by their own thought-force, return to a state of tranquility…”
She and Lila have a tour of creation. Lila sees she’s had 800 lives.
In explanation, Vasishta says:
“Immediately after death, the state in which it may be said that one is neither here nor there…that state is known as pradhana or the material or inert state of consciousness. It is this which is responsible both for memory and its absence, and therefore for the next birth.
When the ethereal nature becomes awakened, and when in its consciousness the ego-sense manifests itself, it gives rise to…all the rest of the material needed for physical birth and existence.”
“When the idea ‘I am a body’ becomes deeply ingrained, this same ethereal body develops the physical characteristics of a body – like the eyes, etc – though all this happens only like vibrations or movements in air.”
The battle in the 2nd kings life includes bombing, missiles, etc. with elemental power. Technology we’re unaware of.
“One cannot say that either is real, or unreal, but one can only say that their substratum alone is real.”
Saraswati goes on to describe 3 kinds of humans:
“the fool, one who is practicing…meditation, and the yogi. The two latter types…abandon the body…and depart at their sweet will and pleasure. But the fool who has not practiced…, being at the mercy of forces outside himself, experiences great anguish at the approach of death.”
“when life-breath [prana] ceases, the body is said to be ‘dead’ or ‘inert’. The life-breath returns to its source – air – and consciousness freed from memory and tendencies remains as the self.
That atomic ethereal particle which is possessed of these memories and tendencies is known as the jiva; and it remains there itself, in the space where the body is. And they refer to it as ‘preta’ (departed soul). That jiva now abandons its ideas and what it had been seeing till then, and perceives other things as in dreaming…
After a momentary lapse of consciousness, the jiva begins to fancy that it sees another body, another world, and another life-span” This may be human, celestial, or other.
Vasishta goes on to explain:
“…whatever one thinks within oneself in his own intelligence, that alone is experienced by him. Even as nectar is experienced as poison by him who fancies it as poison. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends depending on ones inner attitude.”
“The world is nothing but a mere vibration of consciousness in space. …It is like a marvelous dream of a person who is awake.”
As to the question of why people agree on the same objective facts. “That is because the intelligence of all the jivas is based upon the one infinite consciousness.” We can also say the individual dream occurs within the group dream, within the dream of the universe, within the dream of creation. All within consciousness.
This is the value of becoming self-aware. Awareness includes all things and nothing is lost to illusion.
PS – The translation is by Swami Venkatesananda. While I don’t agree with all of the way it’s been interpreted, it is one of the best. If you are interested in the book, it’s available from Amazon.ca