Thursday, August 11, 2011

A universe inside a stone

I am intrigued by tales in which we find a universe inside a very small space, such as the space between subatomic particles. These give us a window into what physics is telling us about the nature of hidden dimensions, and they provide a context of understanding for dreams and visions in which we experience these realities directly.

In the vast Yogavasistha the sage Vasistha entertains and instructs the despondent Rama with a series of tales that include his first-hand account of his travel to and from a world of beauty and magic that he created in subatomic space.

At a certain time in his life, the sage recalled, he wished to leave the “busy world” behind and live in a quiet place “free from all imaginings, where I would be invisible to everyone.” Through “yoga and imagination” he created a little hut in a “far-distant corner of the space of emptiness” and lived there unmoving, in the lotus posture, meditating. A century passed in a flash.

In my meditation I saw the thousands of universes that are nested one within another, even inside the smallest atom of a stone.

He surfaced from meditation and heard the beautiful voice of a woman. He searched for her. “I went into the space of my mind and saw countless worlds, all unable to see one another.” After many years, he heard the sound of a lute, and followed to a beautiful young woman singing sweetly. She was a celestial magician [vidyadhari]. Vasistha wanted to know how she came to be here.

She told him her home was inside a tiny atom of a stone in a peak of the mountain called Lokaloka (World-Not-World) “which encircles the disks of the worlds on the outer rim of the universe”. She was the wife of an ascetic scholar who created her from his imagination but never consummated their marriage, because he was wholly given to his studies and meditation. As “the most beautiful woman in the world” she was frustrated. She flew to the sage to seek release for both of them.

She invited Vasistha to visit her world, and by magic, made it possible for him to fly with her to it. At the border of her realm, the sage could at first see nothing. She told him this was because he had become too remote from the worlds of manifestation. In order to see her “illusory” world of forms, he must recall his life experiences from before the time when he achieved full enlightenment. Vasistha went into trance and saw “as in a dream, a great stone and a whole universe inside it.”

In the world inside the stone, Vasistha met its creator. The creator opened his eyes and told him: “As you are to me, so I am to you; this is a mutual story. For a man who is dreaming becomes a man in another man’s dream.” The beautiful woman created an illusory world out of her own desires; now it would end. He withdrew his mind from external images, and the world collapsed in fire and flood, into stillness.

Vasistha looked at the stone again, “like a country boy standing at the door of a palace”:

Everywhere I looked, in every single atom of it, I saw a whole universe. Each of these worlds was different from the other; some had a few resemblances, some more, some no resemblance at all. Some were made entirely of rock, some of water, some of air. In one of them I saw Rama killing Ravana, and in another I saw Rama being defeated by Ravana. Then I understood that all of these worlds were the ideas of various people. Each person imagines his own world, and that becomes his world.

He went back to meditation in his hut in the corner of emptiness. His body was gone. In its place was a magician [siddha] seated in meditation.

Vasistha decided to stop imagining this place. As his mind fell “from the sky to the earth” the magician dropped from the hut that had ceased to exist, still in meditation, falling like a stone. Vasistha roused him with some difficulty, using rain and thunder and hail. They swapped life stories, become friends, and agreed to live together in a world of the magicians where each eventually found a congenial home.

Much to dream and reflect on here! We see how worlds are made by imagination and how what is conceived in the imagination takes on its own life. Vasistha creates a beautiful woman in a trance, and then she comes to him when he has emerged from his trance.

It seems that others can live in our self-created worlds. While some mental worlds ceased to exist when we cease to imagine them, others continue. The people we dream are dreaming about us. We have interesting doubles in the multiverse.

The incredibly large can be found within the incredibly small.

Parallel worlds coexist at every level of the cosmos.

Source: Yogavasistha 6.2.56-94. There is an elegant summary in Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty's Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities.


Savannah said...

Fabulous story! I have been fascinated by worlds within the smallest of particles ever since a dream of a bottle cap that seemed to contain the ocean and beyond (albeit no match for the multiverse in a rock!), and I love the notion that some worlds continue to exist independent of our individual imaginations.
A bit coincidentally, I only had scant recall of one dream last night, but its theme was the creation of worlds:
A friend shows me a plain white ceramic object with a square base holding a ceramic egg. I call it an egg timer though it holds no such ordinary timer mechanism. I watch it being pulled apart into several pieces and as the woman reassembles it she inserts a story. Later on I retell this scene to someone else, as if it were a dream. This time as I pull apart the timer and reassemble it, I use a fine paint brush to write words on each of the pieces in a clear solution that dries as a raised script of salt, considering whether it could be hard to read later on. I title the dream "the birth of a new world: diwali" and pause on the spelling, feeling it should read deewali.
I am staying tuned to October 26 this year, and thinking about the worlds and stories that want to be hatched by then...

Robert Moss said...

Savannah - I love the fresh take on the cosmic egg as something with a timer into which a dream creator can insert a story. As you probably know, India's version of the birth of the universe from a cosmic egg that is divided into parts (usually two). I would love to know what is written in the script that appears as salt. Salt is great for spiritual cleansing and recalls reality creation from a watery chaos - and is of course a necessity on breakfast eggs, macrocosmic or microcosmic.

If your dream were mine, and I compared it with the multiverse of the Yogavasistha (and with my own dreams of miniature worlds) I would think that the time of the Festival of Lights will be a good time to remake my world. That is, of course if we are able to stay in the universe in which Rama defeated Ravana, the demon-king. As Vasistha reminds us, there are parallel worlds where the battle went the other way, and in which, therefore, there is no Diwali.

Diana said...

Love this!

Robert Moss said...

Over at my online forum, a dreamer posted an interesting report of finding capsules inside a golden chalice at his bedside and understanding that if he used these the right way, he could incubate dreams that could change things for the better in the world. Vasistha's way would be the inverse: rather than ingesting a capsule, we get INSIDE one and change or make worlds from within a "bubble" world of dreaming.

nina said...
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Suzanne said...

Thank you for this Robert and all who have posted. Talk of stone and egg reminds me of my little egg stone that I sometimes place beneath my pillow and dream with. (I heard a curandera speak of how effective it is to dream with a stone). I kept returning to a time in my life when a different choice and a helpful mentor, would've taken me in another direction. It took me a while to realize that I could follow this other thread, and I began to see a parallel life, which worked out very well, and to visit it to see how the other "me" was doing. I met the same people but our relationships were different. I began to wonder if it was possible to bring the life paths together. It helped me to see how my choices had not always been wise or conscious in this life, but not to blame myself or anyone, and to know that I could start to move consciously towards the meeting point. It helped to clarify what is vital to my well-being as well, and how each life influences those around me.
I shall visit with the stone again (haven't for a while).Thanks for the reminder