Translated by John Henry Richards
When the five sheaths have been removed, the supreme light shines forth, pure, eternally blissful, single in essence, and within.
To be free from bondage the wise man must practise discrimination between self and non-self. By that alone he will become full of joy, recognising himself as Being, Consciousness and Bliss.
Just as one separates a blade of grass from its sheaths, so by discriminating one’s true nature as internal, unattached and free from action, and abandoning all else, one is free and identified only with one’s true self.
This body is the product of food, and constitutes the material sheath. It depends on food and dies without it. It is a mass of skin, flesh, blood, bones and uncleanness. It is not fit to see as oneself, who is ever pure.
The body did not exist before birth, nor will it exist after death. It is born for a moment, its qualities are momentary, and it is inherently changing. It is not a single thing, but inert, and should be viewed like an earthen pot. How could it be one’s true self, which is the observer of changing phenomena?
Made up of arms and legs and so on, the body cannot be one’s true self as it can live on without various limbs, and other faculties persist without them. What is controlled cannot be the controller.
While the body of the observer is of a specific nature, behaviour and situation, it is clear that the nature of one’s true self is devoid of characteristics.
How could the body, which is a heap of bones, covered with flesh, full of filth and highly impure, be oneself, the featureless observer?
The deluded man makes the assumption that he is the mass of skin, flesh, fat bones and filth, while the man who is strong in discrimination knows himself as devoid of characteristics, the innate supreme Reality.
‘I am the body’ is the opinion of the fool. ‘I am body and soul’ is the view of the scholar, while for the great-souled, discriminating man, his inner knowledge is ‘I am God’.
Get rid of the opinion of yourself as this mass of skin, flesh, fat, bones and filth, foolish one, and make yourself instead the self of everything, the God beyond all thought, and enjoy supreme peace.
While the scholar does not overcome his sense of ‘I am this’ in the body and its faculties, there is no liberation for him, however much he may be learned in religion and philosophy.
Just as you have no self identification with your shadow-body, reflection-body, dream-body or imagination-body, so you should not have with the living body either.
Identification of oneself with the body is the seed of the pain of birth etc. in people attached to the unreal, so get rid of it with care. When this thought is eliminated, there is no more desire for rebirth.
The vital energy joined to the five activities forms the vitality sheath, by which the material sheath is filled, and engages in all these activities.
The Breath, being a product of the vital energy, is not one’s true nature either. Like the air, it enters and leaves the body, and knows neither its own or other people’s good or bad, dependent as it is on something else.
The faculty of knowledge and the mind itself constitute the mind-made sheath, the cause of such distinctions as ‘me’ and ‘mine’. It is strong and has the faculty of creating distinctions of perception etc., and works itself through the vitality sheath.
The mind-made fire burns the multiplicity of experience in the fuel of numerous desires of the senses presented as oblations in the form of sense objects by the five senses like five priests.
There is no such thing as ignorance beyond the thinking mind. Thought is itself ignorance, the cause of the bondage of becoming. When thought is eliminated, everything else is eliminated. When thought increases everything else increases.
In sleep which is devoid of actual experience, it is the mind alone which produces everything, the experiencer and everything else, by its own power, and in the waking state there is no difference. All this is the product of the mind.
In deep sleep when the thinking mind has gone into abeyance there is nothing, by every one’s experience, so man’s Samsara is a mind creation, and has no real existence.
Cloud is gathered by the wind, and is driven away by it too. Bondage is imagined by the mind, and liberation is imagined by it too.
By dwelling with desire on the body and other senses the mind binds a man like an animal with a rope, and the same mind liberates him from the bond by creating simple distaste for the senses as if they were poison.
Thus the mind is the cause of a man’s finding both bondage and liberation. When soiled with the attribute of desire it is the cause of bondage, and when clear of desire and ignorance it is the cause of liberation.
By achieving the purity of an habitual discrimination and dispassion, the mind is inclined to liberation, so the wise seeker after liberation should first develop these.
A great tiger known as the mind lives in the forest of the senses, so pious seekers after liberation should not go there.
The mind continually presents endless coarse or subtle sense experiences for a person — all the differences of physique, caste, state and birth, and the fruits resulting from attributes and actions.
The mind continually confuses that which is by nature unattached, binding it with the fetters of body, senses and faculties so that it thinks in terms of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ in the experiences he is achieving.
Man’s Samsara is due to the error of additions (to his true nature), and it is from the mind’s imagination that the bondage of these additions comes. This is the cause of the pain of birth and so on for the man without discrimination who is filled with desire and ignorance.
That is why the wise who have experienced reality call the mind ignorance, for it is by that that everything is driven, like a mass of clouds by the wind.
So the mind must be earnestly purified by the seeker after liberation. Once it is purified, the fruit of liberation comes easily to hand.
Completely rooting out desire for the senses and abandoning all activity by one-pointed devotion to liberation, he who is established with true faith in study etc., purges away the passion from his understanding.
What is mind-made cannot be one’s true nature, because it is changeable, having a beginning and an end, because it is subject to pain, and because it is itself an object. The knower cannot be seen as an object of consciousness.
The intellect along with its faculties, its activities and its characteristic of seeing itself as the agent, constitutes the knowledge sheath which is the cause of man’s samsara.
Intellectual knowledge which as a function is a distant reflection of pure consciousness, is a natural faculty. It continually creates the awareness ‘I exist’, and strongly identifies itself with the body, its faculties and so on.
This sense of self is from beginningless time. As the person it is the agent of all relative occupations. Through its proclivities from the past it performs good and bad actions, and bears their fruit.
After experiencing them it is born in all sorts of different wombs, and progresses up and down in life, the experiencer of the knowledge-created states of waking, sleeping etc., and of pleasure and pain.
It always sees as its own such things as the body, and its circumstances, states, duties, actions and functions. The knowledge sheath is very impressive owing to its inherent affinity to the supreme self, which, identifying itself with the superimposition, experiences samsara because of this illusion.
This knowledge-created light shines among the faculties of the heart, and the true self, although itself motionless, becomes the actor and the experiencer while identified with this superimposition.
Allied to the intellect, just a part of itself, although the true self of everything, and beyond the limitations of such an existence, it identifies itself with this illusory self — as if clay were to identify itself with earthen jars.
In conjunction with such additional qualities, the supreme self seems to manifest the same characteristics, just as the undifferentiated fire seems to take on the qualities of the iron it heats.
Whether it is by mistake or for some other reason that the supreme self has become a living being, the identification is beginningless, and there can be no end to what has no beginning.
So the state of a living being is going to be a continual samsara, and there can be no liberation for it. Can you explain this to me?
You have asked the right question, wise one, so now listen. The mistaken imagination of illusion is not a reality.
Outside of illusion no attachment can come about for what is by nature unattached, actionless and formless, as in the case of blueness and space (the sky).
Existence as a living being, due to the mistaken intellect identifying itself with its own light, the inner joy of understanding, beyond qualities and beyond activity does not really exist, so when the illusion ceases, it does too, having no real existence of its own.
So long as the illusion exists, it too has existence, created by the confusion of misunderstanding, in the same way that a rope seems to be a snake so long as the illusion persists. When the illusion comes to an end, so does the snake.
Ignorance and its effects are seen as beginningless until with the arising of insight, ignorance and its effects are destroyed along with its root, even if beginningless, like dreams on awaking from sleep. Even if beginningless this world of appearances is not eternal — like something originally non-existent.
Even if beginningless, something originally non-existent is seen to come to an end. In the same way the living organism which is thought to belong to oneself through its identification with the intellect, does not really exist. On the other hand, the true self is quite distinct from it, and the identification of oneself with the intellect is due to misunderstanding.
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.