Being an Original Translation of Shankara's Vivekachudamani: The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom, 551 — Ed.
THE SERPENT'S SLOUGH
But the body he has left, like the cast-off slough of a snake, remains there, moved hither and thither by every wind of life. As a tree is carried down by a stream, and stranded on every shallow; so is his body carried along to one sensation after another.
Through the mind-pictures built up by works already entered on, the body of him who has reached freedom wanders among sensations, like an animal; but the adept himself dwells in silence, looking on, like the centre of a wheel, having neither doubts nor desires.
He no longer engages his powers in things of sense, nor needs to disengage them; for he stands in the character of observer only. He no longer looks at all to the personal reward of his acts; for his heart is full of exultation, drunk with the abounding essence of bliss.
Leaving the path of things known or unknown, he stands in the Self alone; like a god in presence is this most excellent knower of the Eternal.
Though still in life, yet ever free; his last aim reached; the most excellent knower of the Eternal, when his disguise falls off, becoming the Eternal, enters into the secondless Eternal.
Like a mimic, who has worn the disguises of well-being and ill, the most excellent knower of the Eternal was Brahma all the time, and no other.
The body of the sage who has become the Eternal, is consumed away, even before it has fallen to the ground — like a fresh leaf withered — by the fire of consciousness.
The sage who stands in the Eternal, the Self of being, ever full of the secondless bliss of the Self, has none of the hopes fitted to time and space that make for the formation of a body of skin, and flesh, subject to dissolution.
Putting off the body is not Freedom, any more than putting away one's staff and waterpot; but getting free from the knots of unwisdom in the heart, — that is Freedom, in very deed. [560.]
Whether its leaf fall in a running river, or on holy ground, prepared for sacred rites, what odds does it make to the tree for good or ill.
Like the loss of a leaf, or a flower, or a fruit, is the loss of the body, or powers, or vital breath, or mind; but the Self itself, ever one's own, formed of bliss, is like the tree and stands.
The divine saying declares the Self to be the assemblage of all consciousness; the real is the actor, and they speak only of the destruction of the disguise, — unwisdom.
THE SELF ENDURES.
Indestructible, verily, is the Self, — thus says the scripture of the Self, declaring that it is not destroyed when all its changing vestures are destroyed.
Stones, and trees, grass, and corn, and straw are consumed by fire, but the earth itself remains the same. So the body, powers, life, breath and mind and all things visible, are burned up by the fire of wisdom, leaving the being of the higher Self alone.
As the darkness, that is its opposite, is melted away in the radiance of the sun, so, indeed, all things visible are melted away in the Eternal.
As, when the jar is broken, the space in it becomes clear space, so, when the disguises melt away, the Eternal stands as the Eternal and the Self.
As milk poured in milk, oil in oil, water in water, becomes perfectly one, so the sage who knows the Self becomes one with the Self.
Thus reaching bodiless purity, mere Being, partless, the being of the Eternal, the sage returns to this world no more.
He whose forms born of unwisdom are burnt up by knowledge of oneness with the everlasting Self, since he has become the Eternal, how could he, being the Eternal, come to birth again? [570.]
Both bonds and the getting rid of them are works of glamor, and exist not really in the Self; they are like the presence of the imagined serpent, and its vanishing, in the rope which really does not change.
Binding and getting rid of bondage have to be spoken of, because of the existence, and yet the unreality, of enveloping by unwisdom. But there is no enveloping of the Eternal; it is not enveloped because nothing besides the Eternal exists to envelop it.
The binding and the getting rid of bondage are both mirages; the deluded attribute the work of thought to the thing itself; just as they attribute the cloud-born cutting off of vision to the sun; for the unchanging is secondless consciousness, free from every clinging stain.
The belief that bondage of the Real, is, and the belief that it has ceased, are both mere things of thought; not of the everlasting Real.
Therefore these two, glamor-built, bondage and the getting rid of bonds, exist not in the Real; the partless, changeless, peaceful; the unassailable, stainless; for what building-up could there be in the secondless, supreme reality, any more than in clear space?
There is no limiting, nor letting go, no binding nor gaining of success; there is neither the seeker of Freedom, nor the free: this, verily, is the ultimate truth.
This secret of secrets supreme, the perfect attainment, the perfection of the Self, has been shown to thee by me today; making thee as my new born child, freed from the sin of the iron age, all thought of desire gone, making towards Freedom.
Thus hearing the teacher's words and paying him due reverence, he went forth, free from his bondage, with the Master's consent.
And he, the Teacher, his mind bathed in the happy streams of Being, went forth to make the whole world clean, incessantly.
Thus, by this Discourse of Teacher and Pupil, the character of the Self is taught to those seeking Freedom, that they may be born to the joy of awakening.
Therefore let all those who put away and cast aside every sin of thought, who are sated with this world's joys, whose thoughts are full of peace, who delight in words of wisdom, who rule themselves, who long to be free, draw near to this teaching, which is dedicated to them.
To those who, on the road of birth and death, are sore stricken by the heat that the rays of the sun of pain pour down; who wander through this desert-world, in weariness and longing for water; this well-spring of wisdom, close at hand, is pointed out, to bring them joy, — the secondless Eternal. This Teaching of Shankara's, bringing Liberation, wins the victory for them.
Thus is ended THE CREST-JEWEL OF WISDOM, made by the ever-blessed SHANKARA, pupil at the holy feet of GOVINDA his Teacher, the supreme Swan, the Wanderer of the World.
1. We regret to state that Mr. Charles Johnston's article on "The Essence of the Teaching" which was announced to appear in this issue, was lost in the mail on its way to the printers. We therefore insert an original translation by him, the earlier parts of which have already appeared in The Oriental Department Papers, issued by the Theosophical Society in America — Ed. (return to text)
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