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Self, Potencies, Vestures

THE first cause of Freedom is declared to be an utter turning back from lust after unenduring things. Thereafter Restfulness, Control, Endurance; a perfect Renouncing of all acts that cling and stain.

Thereafter, the divine Word, a turning of the mind to it, a constant thinking on it by the pure one, long and uninterrupted.

Then ridding himself altogether of doubt, and reaching wisdom, even here he enjoys the bliss of Nirvâna.

Then the discerning between Self and not-Self that you must now awaken to, that I now declare, hearing it, lay hold on it within yourself.


(Verses 72--107)

Formed of the substances they call marrow, bone, fat, flesh, blood, skin and over-skin; fitted with greater and lesser limbs, feet, breast, trunk, arms, back, head; this is called the physical vesture by the wise--the vesture whose authority, as "I" and "my" is declared to be a delusion.

Then these are the refined elements: the ethereal, the upper air, the flaming, water, and earth.

These when mingled one with another become the physical elements, that are the causes of the physical vesture. The materials of them become the five sensuous things that are for the delight of the enjoyer--sounds and other things of sense.

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They who, fooled in these sensuous things, are bound by the wide noose of lust, hard to break asunder--they come and go, downwards and upwards on high, led by the swift messenger, their works.

Through the five sensuous things five creatures find dissolution to the five elements, each one bound by his own character: the deer, the elephant, the moth, the fish, the bee; what then of man, who is snared by all the five?

Sensuous things are keener to injure than the black snake's venom; poison slays only him who eats it, but these things slay only him who beholds them with his eyes.

He who is free from the great snare, so hard to be rid of, of longing after sensuous things, he indeed builds for Freedom, and not another, even though knowing the six philosophies.

Those who, only for a little while rid of lust, long to be free, and struggle to reach the shore of the world-ocean--the toothed beast of longing lust makes them sink half way, seizing them by the throat, and swiftly carrying them away.

By whom this toothed beast called sensuous things is slain by the sharp sword of true turning away from lust, he reaches the world-sea's shore without hindrance. He who, soul-destroyed, treads the rough path of sensuous things, death is his reward, like him who goes out on a luckless day. But he who goes onward, through the word of the good Teacher who is friendly to all beings, and himself well-controlled, he gains the fruit and the reward, and his reward is the Real.

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If the love of Freedom is yours, then put sensuous things far away from you, like poison. But love, as the food of the gods, serenity, pity, pardon, rectitude, peacefulness and self-control; love them and honor them forever.

He who every moment leaving undone what should be done--the freeing of himself from the bonds of beginningless unwisdom--devotes himself to the fattening of his body, that rightly exists for the good of the other powers, such a one thereby destroys himself.

He who seeks to behold the Self, although living to fatten his body, is going to cross the river, holding to a toothed beast, while thinking it a tree.

For this delusion for the body and its delights is a great death for him who longs for Freedom; the delusion by the overcoming of which he grows worthy of the dwelling-place of the free.

Destroy this great death, this infatuation for the body, wives and sons; conquering it, the pure ones reach the Pervader's supreme abode.

This faulty form, built up of skin and flesh, of blood and sinews, fat and marrow and bones, gross and full of impure elements;

Born of the fivefold physical elements through deeds done before, the physical place of enjoyment of the Self; its mode is waking life, whereby there arises experience of physical things.

Subservient to physical objects through the outer powers, with its various joys--flower-chaplets, sandal, lovers--the Life makes itself like this through the

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power of the Self; therefore this form is pre-eminent in waking life.

But know that this physical body wherein the whole circling life of the Spirit adheres, is but as the dwelling of the lord of the dwelling.

Birth and age and death are the fate of the physical and all the physical changes from childhood onward; of the physical body only are caste and grade with their many homes, and differences of worship and dishonor and great honor belong to it alone.

The powers of knowing--hearing, touch, sight, smell, taste--for apprehending sensuous things; the powers of doing--voice, hands, feet, the powers that put forth and generate--to effect deeds.

Then the inward activity: mind, soul, self-assertion, imagination, with their proper powers; mind, ever intending and doubting; soul, with its character of certainty as to things; self-assertion, that falsely attributes the notion of "I"; imagination, with its power of gathering itself together, and directing itself to its object.

These also are the life-breaths: the forward-life, the downward-life, the distributing-life, the uniting-life; heir activities and forms are different, as gold and water are different.

The subtle vesture they call the eightfold inner being made up thus: voice and the other four, hearing and the other four, ether and the other four, the forward life and the other four, soul and the other inward activities, unwisdom, desire, and action.

Hear now about this subtle vesture or form vesture,


born of elements not fivefolded; it is the place of gratification, the enjoyer of the fruits of deeds, the beginningless disguise of the Self, through lack of self-knowledge.

Dream-life is the mode of its expansion, where it shines with reflected light, through the traces of its own impressions; for in dream-life the knowing soul shines of itself through the many and varied mind-pictures made during waking-life.

Here the higher self shines of itself and rules, taking on the condition of doer, with pure thought as its disguise, an unaffected witness, nor is it stained by the actions, there done, as it is not attached to them, therefore it is not stained by actions, whatever they be, done by its disguise; let this form-vesture be the minister, doing the work of the conscious self, the real man, just as the tools do the carpenter's work; thus this self remains unattached.

Blindness or slowness or skill come from the goodness or badness of the eye; deafness and dumbness are of the ear and not of the Knower, the Self.

Up-breathing, down-breathing, yawning, sneezing, the forward moving of breath, and the outward moving--these are the doings of the life-breaths, say those who know these things; of the life-breaths, also, hunger and thirst are properties.

The inner activity dwells and shines in sight and the other powers in the body, through the false attribution of selfhood, as cause.

Self-assertion is to be known as the cause of this false attribution of selfhood, as doer and enjoyer; and

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through substance and the other two potencies, it reaches expansion in the three modes.

When sensuous things have affinity with it, it is happy; when the contrary, unhappy. So happiness and unhappiness are properties of this, and not of the Self which is perpetual bliss.

Sensuous things are dear for the sake of the self, and not for their own sake; and therefore the Self itself is dearest of all.

Hence the Self itself is perpetual bliss--not for it are happiness and unhappiness; as in dreamless life, where are no sensuous things, the Self that is bliss--is enjoyed, so in waking-life it is enjoyed through the word, through intuition, teaching and deduction.


(Verses 108--135)

The power of the supreme Master, that is called unmanifested, beginningless unwisdom whose very self is the three potencies, to be known through thought, by its workings--this is glamor (Mâyâ), whereby all this moving world is made to grow.

Neither being nor non-being nor of the self of both of these; neither divided nor undivided nor of the self of both of these; neither formed nor formless nor of the self of both of these--very wonderful and ineffable is its form.

To be destroyed by the awakening to the pure, secondless Eternal, as the serpent imagined in a rope, when the rope is seen; its potencies are called substance, force, and darkness; each of them known by their workings.

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[paragraph continues] The self of doing belongs to force, whose power is extension, whence the pre-existent activities issued; rage and all the changes of the mind that cause sorrow are ever its results.

Desire, wrath, greed, vanity, malice, self-assertion, jealousy, envy, are the terrible works of Force, its activities in man; therefore this is the cause of bondage.

Then enveloping is the power of Darkness, whereby a thing appears as something else; this is the cause of the circling birth and rebirth of the spirit, and the cause whereby extension is drawn forward.

Though a man be full of knowledge, learned, skillful, very subtle-sighted, if Darkness has wrapped him round, he sees not, though he be full of manifold instruction; he calls good that which is raised by error, and leans upon its properties, unlucky man that he is; great and hard to end is the enveloping power of Darkness.

Wrong thinking, contradictory thinking, fanciful thinking, confused thinking--these are its workings; this power of extension never leaves hold of one who has come into contact with it, but perpetually sends him this way and that.

Unwisdom, sluggishness, inertness, sloth, infatuation, folly, and things like these are of the potency of Darkness. Under the yoke of these he knows nothing at all, but remains as though asleep or like a post.

But the potency of substance is pure like water, and even though mixed with the other two, it builds for the true refuge; for it is a reflected spark of the Self, and lights up the inert like the sun.

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Of the potency of Substance when mixed the properties are self-respect, self-restraint, control, faith and love and the longing to be free, a godlike power and a turning back from the unreal.

Of the potency of substance altogether pure the properties are grace, direct perception of the Self, and perfect peace; exulting gladness, a resting on the Self supreme, whereby he reaches the essence of real bliss.

The unmanifest is characterized by these three potencies; it is the causal vesture of the Self; dreamless life is the mode where it lives freely, all the activities of the powers, and even of the knowing soul having sunk back into it.

Every form of outward perceiving has come to rest, the knowing soul becomes latent in the Self from which it springs; the name of this is dreamless life, wherein he says "I know nothing at all of the noise of the moving world."

The body, powers, life-breaths, mind, self-assertion, all changes, sensuous things, happiness, unhappiness, the ether and all the elements, the whole world up to the unmanifest--this is not Self.

Glamor and every work of glamor from the world-soul to the body, know this as unreal, as not the Self, built up of the mirage of the desert.

But I shall declare to you the own being of the Self supreme, knowing which a man, freed from his bonds, reaches the lonely purity.

There is a certain selfhood wherein the sense of "I" forever rests; who witnesses the three modes of being, who is other than the five veils; who is the only knower

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in waking, dreaming, dreamlessness; of all the activities of the knowing soul, whether good or bad--this is the "I";

Who of himself beholds all; whom none beholds; who kindles to consciousness the knowing soul and all the powers; whom none kindles to consciousness; by whom all this is filled; whom no other fills; who is the shining light within this all; after whose shining all else shines;

By whose nearness only body and powers and mind and soul do their work each in his own field, as though sent by the Self;

Because the own nature of this is eternal wakefulness, self-assertion, the body and all the powers, and happiness and unhappiness are beheld by it, just as an earthen pot is beheld. This inner Self, the ancient Spirit, is everlasting, partless, immediately experienced happiness; ever of one nature, pure waking knowledge, sent forth by whom Voice and the life-breaths move.

Here, verily, in the substantial Self, in the bidden place of the soul, this steady shining begins to shine like the dawn; then the shining shines forth as the noonday sun, making all this world to shine by its inherent light; knower of all the changing moods of mind and inward powers; of all the acts done by body, powers, life-breaths; present in them as fire in iron, strives not nor changes at all.

This is not born nor dies nor grows, nor does it fade or change forever; even when this form has melted away, it no more melts than the air in a jar.

Alike stranger to forming and deforming; of its own

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being, pure wakefulness; both being and non-being is this, besides it there is nothing else; this shines unchanging, this Supreme Self gleams in waking, dream and dreamlessness as "I," present as the witness of the knowing soul.


(Verses 136--153)

Then, holding firmly mind, with knowing soul at rest, know your self within yourself face to face saying, "This am I" The life-ocean, whose waves are birth and dying, is shoreless; cross over it, fulfilling the end of being, resting firm in the Eternal.

Thinking things not self are "I"--this is bondage for a man; this, arising from unwisdom, is the cause of falling into the weariness of birth and dying; this is the cause that he feeds and anoints and guards this form, thinking it the Self; the unreal, real; wrapping himself in sensuous things as a silk-worm in his own threads.

The thought that what is not That is That grows up in the fool through darkness; because no discernment is there, it wells up, as the thought that a rope is a snake; thereupon a mighty multitude of fatuities fall on him who accepts this error, for he who grasps the unreal is bound; mark this, my companion.

By the power of wakefulness, partless, external, secondless, the Self wells up with its endless lordship; but this enveloping power wraps it round, born of Darkness, as the dragon of eclipse envelops the rayed sun.

When the real Self with its stainless light recedes, a

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man thinking "this body is I," calls it the Self; then by lust and hate and all the potencies of bondage, the great power of Force that they call extension greatly afflicts him.

Torn by the gnawing of the toothed beast of great delusion; wandered from the Self, accepting every changing mood of mind as himself, through this potency, in the shoreless ocean of birth and death, full of the poison of sensuous things, sinking and rising, he wanders, mean-minded, despicable-minded.

As a line of clouds, born of the sun's strong shining, expands before the sun and hides it from sight, so self-assertion, that has come into being through the Self, expands before the Self and hides it from sight. As when on an evil day the lord of day is swallowed up in thick, dark clouds, an ice-cold hurricane of wind, very terrible, afflicts the clouds in turns; so when the Self is enveloped in impenetrable Darkness, the keen power of extension drives with many afflictions the man whose soul is deluded.

From those two powers a man's bondage comes; deluded by them he errs, thinking the body is the Self.

Of the plant of birth and death, the seed is Darkness, the sprout is the thought that body is Self, the shoot is rage, the sap is deeds, the body is the stem, the life-breaths are the branches, the tops are the bodily powers, sensuous things are the flowers, sorrow is the fruit, born of varied deeds and manifold; and the Life is the bird that eats the fruit.

This bondage to what is not Self, rooted in unwisdom, innate, made manifest without beginning or end, gives

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life to the falling torrent of sorrow, of birth and death, of sickness and old age.

Not by weapons nor arms, not by storm nor fire nor by a myriad deeds can this be cut off, without the sword of discernment and knowledge, very sharp and bright, through the grace of the guiding power.

He who is single-minded, fixed on the word divine, his steadfast fulfilment of duty will make the knowing soul within him pure; to him whose knowing soul is pure, a knowing of the Self supreme shall come; and through this knowledge of the Self supreme he shall destroy this circle of birth and death and its root together.


(Verses 148--154)

The Self, wrapped up in the five vestures beginning with the vesture formed of food, which are brought into being by its own power, does not shine forth, as the water in the pond, covered by a veil of green scum.

When the green scum is taken away, immediately the water shines forth pure, taking away thirst and heat, straightway becoming a source of great joy to man.

When the five vestures have been stripped off, the Self shines forth pure, the one essence of eternal bliss, beheld within, supreme, self-luminous.

Discernment is to be made between the Self and what is not Self by the wise man seeking freedom from bondage; through this he enters into joy, knowing the Self which is being, consciousness, bliss.

As the reed from the tiger grass, so separating from the congeries of things visible the hidden Self within,

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which is detached, not involved in actions, and dissolving all in the Self, he who stands thus, has attained liberation.


(Verses 154--164)

The food-formed vesture is this body, which comes into being through food, which lives by food, which perishes without food.

It is formed of cuticle, skin, flesh, blood, bone, water; this is not worthy to be the Self, eternally pure.

The Self was before birth or death, and now is; how can it be born for the moment, fleeting, unstable of nature, not unified, inert, beheld like a jar? For the Self is the witness of all changes of form.

The body has hands and feet, not the Self; though bodiless, yet because it is the Life, because its power is indestructible, it is controller, not controlled.

Since the Self is witness of the body, its character, its acts, its states, therefore the Self must be of other nature than the body.

A mass of wretchedness, clad in flesh, full of impurity and evil, how can this body be the knower? The Self is of other nature.

Of this compound of skin, flesh, fat, bone and water, the man of deluded mind thinks, "This is I"; but he who is possessed of judgment knows that his true Self is of other character, is nature transcendental.

The mind of the dullard thinks of the body, "This is I"; he who is more learned thinks, "This is I," of the body and the separate self; but he who has attained

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discernment and is wise knows the true Self saying, "I am the Eternal."

Therefore, O thou of mind deluded, put away the thought that this body is the Self, this compound of skin, flesh, fat, bone and water; discern the universal Self, the Eternal, changeless, and enjoy supreme peace.

So long as the man of learning abandons not the thought, founded on delusion, that "This is I," regarding the unenduring body and its powers, so long there is no hope for his liberation, though he possess the knowledge of the Vedânta and its sciences.

As thou hast no thought that "This is the Self," regarding the body's shadow, or the reflected form, or the body seen in dream, or the shape imagined in the mind, so let not this thought exist regarding the living body.

The thought that the body is the Self, in the minds of men who discern not the real, is the seed from which spring birth and death and sorrow; therefore slay thou this thought with strong effort, for when thou hast abandoned this thought the longing for rebirth will cease.


(Verses 165--166)

The breath-formed vesture is formed by the life-breath determined by the five powers of action; through its power the food-formed vesture, guided by the Self and sustained by food, moves in all bodily acts.

Nor is this breath-formed vesture the Self, since it is formed of the vital airs, coming and going like the wind, moving within and without; since it can in no

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wise discern between right and wrong, between oneself and another, but is ever dependent.


(Verses 167--183)

The mind-formed vesture is formed of the powers of perception and the mind; it is the cause of the distinction between the notions of "mine" and "I"; it is active in making a distinction of names and numbers; as more potent, it pervades and dominates the former vesture.

The fire of the mind-formed vesture, fed by the five powers of perception, as though by five sacrificial priests, with objects of sense like streams of melted butter, blazing with the fuel of manifold sense-impressions, sets the personality aflame.

For there is no unwisdom, except in the mind, for the mind is unwisdom, the cause of the bondage to life; when this is destroyed, all is destroyed; when this dominates, the world dominates.

In dream, devoid of substance, it emanates a world of experiencer and things experienced, which is all mind; so in waking consciousness, there is no difference, it is all the domination of the mind.

During the time of dreamlessness, when mind has become latent, nothing at all of manifestation remains; therefore man's circle of birth and death is built by mind, and has no permanent reality.

By the wind a cloud is collected, by the wind it is driven away again; by mind bondage is built up, by mind is built also liberation.

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Building up desire for the body and all objects, it binds the man thereby as an ox by a cord; afterwards leading him to turn from them like poison, that same mind, verily, sets him free from bondage.

Therefore mind is the cause of man's bondage, and in turn of his liberation; when darkened by the powers of passion it is the cause of bondage, and when pure of passion and darkness it is the cause of liberation.

Where discernment and dispassion are dominant, gaining purity, the mind makes for liberation; therefore let the wise man who seeks liberation strengthen these two in himself as the first step.

Mind is the name of the mighty tiger that hunts in the forest glades of sensuous things; let not the wise go thither, who seek liberation.

Mind moulds all sensuous things through the earthly body and the subtle body of him who experiences; mind ceaselessly shapes the differences of body, of color, of condition, of race, as fruits caused by the acts of the potencies.

Mind, beclouding the detached, pure consciousness, binding it with the cords of the body, the powers, the life-breaths, as "I" and "my," ceaselessly strays among the fruits of experience caused by its own activities.

Man's circle of birth and death comes through the fault of attributing reality to the unreal, but this false attribution is built up by mind; this is the effective cause of birth and death and sorrow for him who has the faults of passion and darkness and is without discernment.

Therefore the wise who know the truth have declared

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that mind is unwisdom, through which the whole world, verily, is swept about, as cloud belts by the wind.

Therefore purification of the mind should be undertaken with strong effort by him who seeks liberation; when the mind has been purified, liberation comes like fruit into his hand.

Through the sole power of liberation uprooting desire for sensuous things, and ridding himself of all bondage to works, he who through faith in the Real stands firm in the teaching, shakes off the very essence of passion from the understanding.

The mind-formed vesture cannot be the higher Self, since it has beginning and end, waxing and waning; by causing sensuous things, it is the very essence of pain; that which is itself seen cannot be the Seer.


(Verses 184--197)

The intelligence, together with the powers of intelligence, makes the intelligence-formed vesture, whose distinguishing character is actorship; it is the cause of man's circle of birth and death.

The power which is a reflected beam of pure Consciousness, called the understanding, is a mode of abstract Nature; it possesses wisdom and creative power; it thereby focuses the idea of "I" in the body and its powers.

This "I," beginningless in time, is the separate self, it is the initiator of all undertakings; this, impelled by previous imprints, works all works both holy and unholy, and forms their fruits.

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Passing through varying births it gains experience, now descending, now ascending; of this intelligence-formed vesture, waking, dream and dreamlessness are the fields where it experiences pleasure and pain.

By constantly attributing to itself the body, state, condition, duties and works, thinking, "These are mine," this intelligence-formed vesture, brightly shining because it stands closest to the higher Self, becomes the vesture of the Self, and, thinking itself to be the Self, wanders in the circle of birth and death.

This, formed of intelligence, is the light that shines in the vital breaths, in the heart; the Self who stands forever wears this vesture as actor and experiencer.

The Self, assuming the limitation of the intelligence, self-deluded by the error of the intelligence, though it is the universal Self, yet views itself as separate from the Self; as the potter views the jars as separate from the clay.

Through the force of its union with the vesture, the higher Self takes on the character of the vesture and assumes its nature, as fire, which is without form, takes on the varying forms of the iron, even though the Self is for ever by nature uniform and supreme.


Whether by delusion or otherwise, the higher Self appears as the separate self; but, since the vesture is beginningless, there is no conceivable end of the beginningless.

Therefore existence as the separate self must be eternal, nor can the circle of birth and death have an

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end; how then can there be liberation? Master, tell me this.


Well hast thou asked, O wise one! Therefore rightly bear! A false imagination created by error is not conclusive proof.

Only through delusion can there be an association with objects, of that which is without attachment, without action, without form; it is like the association of blueness with the sky.

The appearance as the separate self, of the Self, the Seer, who is without qualities, without form; essential wisdom and bliss, arises through the delusion of the understanding; it is not real; when the delusion passes, it exists no longer, having no substantial reality.

Its existence, which is brought into being through false perception, because of delusion, lasts only so long as the error lasts; as the serpent in the rope endures only as long as the delusion; when the delusion ceases, there is no serpent.

Next: The Witness