1 Valmiki related:—
Being thus asked by the chief of the sages with soothing words, Rama answered in a soft and graceful speech replete with good sense. 2 “O venerable sage, untutored though I am, I will tell you in truth all the particulars as you asked. For who would disobey the bidding of the wise?”
3 Since I was born in this my father’s palace, I have remained here, grown up, and received my education. 4 Then, O leader of sages, desiring to learn good customs, I set out to travel to holy places all over this sea-surrounded earth. 5 By this time, a series of reflections arose in my mind that shook my confidence in worldly objects. 6 I employed my mind to discriminate the nature of things, which gradually led me to discard all thoughts of sensual enjoyments.
7 What are worldly pleasures good for, and why do men multiply on earth? Men are born to die, and they die to be born again. 8 There is no stability in the tendencies of beings whether movable or immovable. They all tend to vice, decay and danger, and all our possessions become the grounds of our poverty.
9 All objects of sense are detached from each other like iron rods from one another. It is only imagination which attaches them to our minds. 10 It is the mind that pictures the existence of the world as a reality, but if we know the deceptiveness of the mind, we are safe from such deception. 11 If the world is an unreality, it is a pity that ignorant men should be allured by it, like deer tempted by a distant mirage of water. 12 We are sold by none, yet we are enslaved to the world. Knowing this well, we are spell-bound with riches, as if by the magic wand of Sambara. 13 What are the enjoyments in this essence but misery? Yet we are foolishly caught in its thoughts, like bees caught in honey.
14 Ah! After long, I perceive that we have insensibly fallen into errors, like senseless stags falling into caverns in the wilderness. 15 Of what use is royalty and these enjoyments to me? What am I and where do all these things come from? They are only vanities. Let them continue as such without any good or loss to anybody. 16 Reasoning in this manner, O holy brahmin, I came to be disgusted with the world, like a traveler in a desert.
17 Now tell me, O venerable sir, is this world is advancing to its dissolution, or continued reproduction, or is it in endless progression? 18 If there is any progress here, is it the appearance and disappearance by turns of old age and decease, and of prosperity and adversity? 19 See how the variety of our trifling enjoyments hastens our decay. They are like hurricanes shattering trees in the mountains. 20 Men continue in vain to breathe their vital breath like hollow bamboo wind-pipes having no sense. 21 The thought that consumes me like wildfire in the hollow of a withered tree is, “How is misery to be alleviated?”
22 The weight of worldly miseries sits heavy on my heart like a rock and obstructs the breathing of my lungs. I have a mind to weep, but I am prevented from shedding tears for fear of my people. 23 My tearless weeping and speechless mouth give no indication to anybody of my inner sorrow. My consciousness is silent witness to my solitude. 24 I wait to think on the positive and negative states, as a ruined man bewails to reflect on his former state of affluence. 25 I take prosperity to be a seducing cheat, for it deludes the mind, impairs good qualities, and spreads the net of our miseries. 26 To me, like one fallen into great difficulties, no riches, offspring, consorts or home affords any delight, but they seem to be misery.
27 Like a wild elephant in chains, I find no rest in my mind reflecting on the various evils of the world, and thinking on the causes of our frailties. 28 There are wicked passions prying at all times, under the dark mist of the night of our ignorance. There are hundreds of objects which, like so many cunning rogues, are about all men in broad daylight, lurking on all sides to rob us of our reason. What mighty champions can we delegate to fight with these other than our own knowledge of truth?