RAMA: Holy sir, there are some who rest in self-knowledge, who are enlightened and yet engage themselves in activities, and there are others who isolate themselves and practice contemplation (samadhi). Of these, who is the better?

VASISTHA: O Rama, that is samadhi (contemplation or meditation) in which one realizes the objects of the senses as not-self and thus enjoys inner calmness and tranquility at all times. Having realized that the objects are related only to the mind, and therefore constantly resting in inner peace, some are engaged in activity, while others live in isolation. Both of them enjoy the bliss of contemplation. If the mind is free from all notions and distraction, he is enlightened and he is in unbroken samadhi. Whether he is engaged in activity or he lives in isolation in a forest, in enlightenment there is no distinction. The mind which is free from conditioning is not tainted even while it is engaged in activity. The non-action of the mind is known as quiescence (samadhana). It is total freedom, it is blessedness.

The difference between contemplation and its absence is indicated by whether or not there is movement of thought in the mind. Hence make the mind unconditioned. The unconditioned mind is firm, and that in itself is meditation, freedom and peace eternal. The conditioned mind is the source of sorrow. The unconditioned mind is a non-actor and attains to the supreme state of enlightenment. Hence one should work to remove all mental conditioning. That is known as contemplation or samadhi in which all the desires and hopes concerning the world have ceased, which is free from sorrow, fear and desire, and by which the self rests in itself.

Mentally renounce all false identification of the self with objects here and then live where you like, either at home or in a mountain cave. To the householder whose mind has attained utter quiescence, his house itself is the forest. If the mind is at peace and if there is no ego-sense, even cities are as void. On the other hand, forests are like cities to him whose heart is full of desires and other evils. The distractions of the mind subside in deep sleep; enlightenment attains enlightenment. Do as you please.

O Rama, infinite consciousness becomes aware of the pungency of the chilli; this gives rise to ego-sense, with all its differentiation in time and space. Infinite consciousness becomes aware of the savor in salt, and that gives rise to the ego-sense with all the differentiation which seems to exist in time and space. Infinite consciousness becomes aware of the sweetness in sugarcane, and thereby arises the awareness of its particular characteristic. Similarly, infinite consciousness, being the indwelling omnipresence, becomes aware of the nature of rock, a mountain, a tree, water and space, and thus self-consciousness of individuality arises.

Thus the natural combination of atomic particles and molecules (which is indwelt by consciousness) apparently acts as a dividing wall, giving rise to the divisions of 'I’, ’you’, etc., and these then appear to be outside of consciousness as its object. In fact, all these are but reflections in the consciousness which, becoming aware of them within itself, bestows upon them their apparent individuality. Consciousness tastes itself, the awareness being not different from consciousness, and that appears to give rise to the ego-sense, nothing else. The crystal of this infinite consciousness reflects its own light of consciousness which is present in all these combinations of atomic particles, and they then gain an apparent self-consciousness and think ’I am’ etc.

In reality, because the inner awareness in all these combinations is not different from infinite consciousness, there is no subject—object relationship between them: hence one does not experience the other, gain the other, or change or modify the other. O Rama, all that I have said above is but a play of words to help your comprehension: there is no such thing as ’I’ or ’the world’ (the combination of atomic particles, etc.). There is neither mind, nor an object of knowledge, nor the world-illusion. Just as water acquires the appearance of a whirlpool with a personality of its own, consciousness seems to give the appearance of ’I’ etc., within itself. But consciousness is consciousness only, whether it thinks of itself as lord Siva or as a little jiva! All this diversity of ’I’, ’you’, etc., and of the material substances, arises for the satisfaction of the ignorant. Whatever the ignorant person imagines in infinite consciousness, that alone he sees. In the light of awareness, life is seen as consciousness; when it is regarded as life, life appears to be no more than life! There is in reality no essential distinction between life and consciousness. In the same way, there is no real and essential distinction between the individual (jiva) and the cosmic being (Siva). Know all this to be undivided and indivisible infinite consciousness.