Chapter 3 — Valmiki Explains Desires & Describes Rama’s Pilgrimage to Bharadwaja

Bharadwaja said, “O brahmin, first tell me about Rama, then enlighten me by degrees with the knowledge of how to attain liberation in this life so that I may be happy forever.”

Valmiki replied:—

Know, holy saint, that the things seen in this world are deceiving, even as the blueness of the sky is an optical illusion. Therefore it is better to efface them in oblivion rather than to keep their memory. 3 All visible objects have no actual existence. We have no idea of them except through sensation. Inquire into these apprehensions and you will never find them as real. It is possible to attain this knowledge. It is fully expounded here. If you will listen attentively, you shall get at the truth and not otherwise.

The conception of this world is a mistake. Though we actually see it, it never exists. It appears in the same light, O sinless saint, as the different colors in the sky. The conviction that the objects we see do not exist of themselves leads to the removal of their impressions from the mind. Thus perfected, supreme and eternal bliss of self-extinction springs in the mind. Otherwise, there is no peace to be had for men like you, rolling in the depths of studies for thousands of years and unacquainted with true knowledge.

Complete abandonment of desires (vasana, mental conditioning) is called the best state of liberation (moksha) and is the only pure step towards happiness. The absence of desires leads to the extinction of mental actions, in the same manner as the absence of cold melts small particles of ice. 10 Our desires uphold our living bodies and bind us tightly to our bodily prison like ropes. These being loosened, the inner soul is liberated.

11 Mental conditioning is of two kinds: pure and impure. The impure ones cause reincarnation, while the pure ones serve to destroy it. 12 An impure desire is like a mist of ignorance, the stubborn feeling that one is the individual ego. The wise say that individual ego is the cause of rebirth. 13 A pure desire is like a parched seed that is incapable of bringing forth the germ of rebirth. It only supports the present body. 14 Pure desires, unattended with rebirth, reside in the bodies of men who are living-liberated. They are like unmoving wheels. 15 Those who have pure desires are not liable for rebirth. They are said to be knowing in all things that ought to be known. These are called the living-liberated and are of superior intelligence.

16 I will explain to you how the high minded Rama attained the state of liberation in life. Listen to this so that old age and death may not come upon you. 17 Hear, O highly intelligent Bharadwaja, the auspicious course and conduct of Rama’s life, whereby you will be able to understand everything at all times.

18 The lotus-eyed Rama, after coming out of his school, remained for many days at home in his diversions without anything to fear. 19 In the course of time he took the reins of the government and his people enjoyed all the bliss that absence of grief and disease could impart.

20 At one time, Rama’s mind, virtuous as he was, became anxious to see the different places of pilgrimage, cities and hermitages. 21 So with this view, Rama approached his father’s feet. He touched the nails of his toes like a swan lays hold of lotus buds. 22 “O my father,” he said, “my mind desires to see the different places of pilgrimage, temples of gods, forests and homes of men. 23 My lord, grant me this petition, as there is no petitioner of yours on earth whom you did ever dishonor.”

24 Thus solicited by Rama, the king consulted with Vasishta, and after much reflection granted him the first request that Rama ever made.

25 On a day of lucky stars, Rama set out on his journey with his two brothers, Lakshman and Satrughna, having his body adorned with auspicious marks, and having received the blessings pronounced on him by the priests. 26 He was also accompanied by a body of learned brahmins, chosen by Vasishta for the occasion, and by a select party of his associate princes.

27 He started from home on his pilgrimage after he received the blessings and embraces of his mothers. 28 As he went out of his city, the citizens welcomed him with the sounds of trumpets, while the bee-like fickle eyes of the city ladies were fixed upon his lotus-like face. 29 The beautiful hands of village women threw handfuls of fried paddy rice over his body, making him appear like the Himalayas covered with snow. 30 He dismissed the brahmins with honor and went on hearing the blessings of the people. He took a good look at the landscape around him, then proceeded towards the forest. 31 After making his holy ablutions and performing his asceticism and meditation (tapas), he continued distributing alms as he started from his palace and gradually passed the limits of Kosala.

32 He traveled and saw many rivers and their banks, visiting the shrines of gods, sacred forests and deserts, hills, seas and their shores far and remote from where men lived. 33 He saw the Mandakini River, bright as the moon, the Kalindi River, clear as the lotus, and also the following rivers: Sarasvati, Satadru, Chandrabhaga, Iravati, 34 Veni, Krishnaveni, Nirvindhya, Saraju, Charmanvati, Vitasta, Vipasa and Bahudaka. 35 He saw also the holy places of Prayaga, Naimisha, Dharmaranya, Gaya, Varanasi, Srigiri, Kedara, and Pushkara. 36 He saw Lake Manasa and the northern Mansaravara lakes, and many fiery lakes and springs, the Bada, the Vindhya range and the sea. 37 He saw the fiery pool of Jwalamukhi, the great shrine of Jagannatha, the fountain of Indradumna and many other reservoirs, rivers and lakes. 38 He visited the shrine of Kartikeya and the Gandaki River of salagramas, and also the sixty-four shrines sacred to Vishnu and Shiva. 39 He saw various wonders, the coasts of the four seas, the Vindhya range, the groves of Hara, and the boundary hills and level lands. 40 He visited the places of the great raja rishis and the Brahma rishis. He went wherever there was any auspicious sanctuary of the gods and brahmins. 41 The party, honoring Rama, travelled far and wide in company with his two brothers and traversed all the four quarters on the surface of the earth.

42 Honored by the gods, kinnaras and men, and having seen all the places on earth, Rama, the descendant of Raghu, returned home like Shiva returning to his own world (shivaloka).