Wednesday, April 3, 2024

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.

1 comment:

Soul Transitions said...

I have always though that for every person, there is a different earth, a different world. This story is so expansive - a universe inside an atom of a stone. So much to contemplate here.