Translated by John Henry Richards
Sons and suchlike are able to free their fathers from debts, but no-one can free someone else from bondage.
The pain of something like a weight on the head can be removed by others, but the pain of things like hunger can be put an end to by no-one but oneself.
A sick man is seen to get better by taking the appropriate medicine — not through treatment undertaken by others.
Reality can be experienced only with the eye of understanding, not just by a scholar. What the moon is like must be seen with one’s own eyes. How can others do it for you?
Who but yourself can free you from the bonds of the fetters of things like ignorance, lust and the consequences of your actions — even in hundreds of thousands of years?
Liberation is achieved not by observances or by analysis, nor by deeds or learning, but only by the realisation of one’s oneness with God, and by no other means.
The beauty of a lute and skill in playing its cords can bring some pleasure to people but can hardly make you a king.
In the same way, speech alone, even a deluge of words, with scholarship and skill in commenting on the scriptures, may achieve some personal satisfaction but not liberation.
When the supreme reality is not understood, the study of the scriptures is useless, and study of the scriptures is useless when the supreme reality has been understood.
The tangle of words is a great forest which leads the mind off wandering about, so wise men should strive to get to know the truth about their own nature.
Except for the medicine of the knowledge of God, what use are Vedas, scriptures, mantras and such medicines when you have been bitten by the snake of ignorance?
An illness is not cured just by pronouncing the name of the medicine without drinking it, and you will not be liberated by just pronouncing the word God without direct experience.
How can one reach liberation by just pronouncing the word God without achieving the elimination of the visible universe and realising the truth about one’s own nature? It will just be a waste of speech.
One cannot become a king just by saying, “I am the king,” without defeating one’s enemies and taking possession of the country.
A buried treasure will not come out just by calling it, but needs a good map, digging, removal of obstructing stones and so on to get at it. In the same way the pure reality, hidden by the effects of Maya, cannot be achieved by just abusing it, but by instruction from a knower of God, reflection, meditation and so on.
So the wise should strive with all their ability for liberation from the bonds of change, as they would in the case of sickness and things like that.
The question you have asked today is a good one in the opinion of those learned in the scriptures, to the point and full of meaning. It needs to be understood by those seeking liberation.
Listen carefully to what I say, master. By hearing this you will be freed from the bonds of change.
The primary basis of liberation is held to be total dispassion for everything impermanent, and after that peacefulness, restraint, patience, and the complete renunciation of scriptural observances.
After that the practicant finds there comes listening, reflection on what one has heard, and long meditation on the truth. Then the wise man will experience the supreme non-dual state and come here and now to the bliss of Nirvana.
When you have heard me fully explain what you need to know about the discrimination between self and non-self, then bear it in mind.
72 ‒ 73
The body, constituted of marrow, bone, fat, flesh, ligament and skin, and composed of feet, legs, chest, arms, back and head, is the seat of the “I” and “mine” delusion, and is known as the physical body by the wise, while space, air, fire, water and earth are the subtle elements.
When these various elements are combined, they form the physical body, while in themselves they constitute the objects of the senses, the five types of sound and so on, for the enjoyment of the individual.
The ignorant who are bound to the senses by the strong, hardly breakable bonds of desire, are borne here and there, up and down, in the control of their own karmic impulses.
Deer, elephant, moth, fish and wasp, these five have all died from attachment by their own volition to one of the five senses, sound etc., so what about the man who is attached to all five!
The effect of the senses is more deadly than even that of a cobra. Their poison kills a man who only just looks at them with his eyes.
Only he who is free from the terrible hankering after the senses which is so hard to overcome is fit for liberation, and no-one else, not even if he is an expert in the six branches of scripture.
The shark of longing grasps those whose desire for liberation is only superficial by the throat as they try to cross the sea of samsara and drowns them halfway.
He who has killed the shark of the senses with the sword of firm dispassion can cross the sea of samsara without impediment.
Realise that death quickly waylays the senseless man who follows the uneven way of the senses, but that man achieves his purpose who follows the guidance of a true, compassionate guru. Know this as the truth.
If you really have a desire for liberation, avoid the senses from a great distance, as you would poison, and continually practice the nectar-like qualities of contentment, compassion, forbearance, honesty, calm and restraint.
He who neglects that which should be undertaken at all times, the liberation from the bonds created by beginningless ignorance, and gets stuck in pandering to the alien good of this body, is committing suicide by doing so.
He who seeks to know himself while pampering the body is crossing a river holding onto a crocodile in mistake for a log.
This infatuation with the body and such things is a great death for the seeker after liberation. He who has overcome this infatuation is worthy of liberation.
Overcome this great death of infatuation with such things as the body, wives and children. Sages who have overcome it go to the supreme realm of God.
This body is material and offensive, consisting of skin, flesh, blood, sinews, veins, fat, marrow and bones, and full of urine and excrement.
This material body, which arises from past action out of material elements formed by the combination of subtle elements, is the vehicle of sensation for the individual. This is the state of a waking person perceiving material objects.
The life force creates for itself, out of itself, material object of enjoyment by means of the external senses — such colourful things as flowers, perfumes, women, etc. That is why this has its fullest enjoyment in the waking state.
See this material body, all that the external existence of a man depends on, as just like the house of a house-dweller.
Birth, old age and death are inherent in the physical body, as are such conditions as a heavy build and childhood, while there are different circumstances like caste and occupation, all sorts of diseases, and various different types of treatment, like respect and contempt to bear with.
Ears, skin, eyes, nose and tongue are organs of sense, since they enable the experience of objects, while voice, hands, feet and bowels are organs of action through their inclination to activity.
The inner sense is known variously as mind, understanding, the sense of agency, or volition, depending on its particular function — mind as imagining and analysing, understanding as establishing the truth of a matter, the sense of responsibility from relating everything to oneself, and volition as seeking its own good.
The one vital breath (prana) takes the form of all the various breathings, exhalations and psychic currents and fields according to the various functions and characteristics, as do gold and water and such things.
The eight citadels of groups of five categories, starting respectively with speech, hearing, vital breath, ether, intelligence, ignorance desire and action, constitute what is known as the subtle body.
Hear that this higher body, also known as the subtle body, with its desires and its tendency to follow the course of causal conditioning, is derived from the undifferentiated elements, and is a beginningless superimposition, due to its ignorance, on the true self.
Sleep is a distinct state of the self in which it shines by itself alone, whereas in dreaming the mind itself assumes the sense of agency due to the various desires of the waking state, while the supreme self shines on, on its own, as pure consciousness, the witness of everything from anger and such things on, without being itself affected by any of the actions performed by the mind. Since it is unattached to action, it is not affected by anything done by its superimpositions.
The subtle body is the vehicle of all operations for the self, like an axe and so on for the carpenter. The self itself is pure consciousness, and, as such, remains unattached.
John Henry Richards was an Anglican clergyman who worked at several churches on the Castlemartin Peninsula in Wales. He died in 2017. For more information, see our main page about him.
This page was published on May 16, 2000 and last revised on May 27, 2017.