Chapter 28 — Mutability of the World

Rama said:—

Whatever we see in the world, living or inert, are all as impermanent as things seen in a dream. The hollow desert that appears as the dried bed of a sea today will be found tomorrow to be a running flood from the accumulation of rainwater. What today is a mountain reaching the sky covered with extensive forests is in course of time leveled to the ground, and afterwards is dug into a pit. The body that today is clothed with garments of silk, decorated with garlands and fragrance, tomorrow is to be cast away naked into a ditch. What is seen to be a city today, busy with the bustle of various occupations, passes in the course of a few days into the condition of an uninhabited wilderness. The man who is very powerful today and presides over principalities, in a few days is reduced to a heap of ashes.

The very forest that is so formidable today, appearing as blue as the blue skies, with the passage of time turns into a city with its banners hoisted in the air. In time a formidable jungle of thick forests becomes a tableland like Mount Meru. Water becomes land and land becomes water. Thus the world with all its contents composed of wood, grass and water becomes something else in course of time.

10 Our boyhood and youth, bodies and possessions are all only transient things. They change from one state to another like the ever fluctuating waves of the ocean. 11 Our lives in this world are as unsteady as the flame of a lamp placed by the draft of an open window. The splendor of all objects in the three worlds is as flickering as the flash of lightning.

12 As a granary stored with heaps of grains is exhausted by its continued waste, so is the stock of life spent away by its repeated respirations.

13 The minds of man are as fluctuating as a flag waving in the air. They are filled with the dust of sin, indicating their wavering between the paths of heaven and hell. 14 The existence of this delusive world is like an actress on the stage, shuffling her vests as she trudges along in her dancing. 15 Its scenes are as changing and fascinating as those of a magic city. Its dealings are as bewitching and momentary as the glances of a juggling girl. 16 The stage of the world presents us with a scene of continued dancing, and the deceptive glances of her eyes resemble the fleeting flashes of lightning.

17 The days of great men, their glories and deeds, are retained only in our memories and in a short time, such must be with us also. 18 Many things are decaying and renewing day by day. In this ever-changing world there is no end to this accursed course of events. 19 Men degenerate into lower animals, and those again rise to humanity. Gods become no-gods. There is nothing that remains the same.

20 The sun’s rays reveal everything in light and it watches over the rotations of days and nights. Like time, it is a witness to the dissolution of all things. 21 The gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and all material productions are reduced to nothing, like an undersea fire that exists under the waters of the deep. 22 Heaven, earth, the air, the sky, the mountains, the rivers, and all the quarters of the globe are subject to destruction like dry fuel by the all-destroying fire of the last day.

23 Riches and relatives, friends, servants and wealth are of no pleasure to him who is in constant dread of death. 24 All these are delightful to a sensible man only so long as the monster of death does not appear before the eye of his mind. 25 We have prosperity at one moment, succeeded by adversity at another. We have health at one time, followed by sickness soon after. 26 What intelligent being is there who is not misled by these delusions of the world which show things other than what they are and serve to bewilder the mind?

27 The world is as varying as the face of the skies. One moment it is as black as dark clay, and the next it is bright with the golden colors of fair light. 28 It is now overcast by blue clouds resembling the blue lotuses of a lake. It roars loudly for a time and then suddenly is dumb and silent. 29 Now it is studded with stars, then glowing with the glory of the sun, then graced by the pleasant moonbeams, and finally no light at all. 30 Who is there so sedate and firm that he is not terrified at these sudden appearances and disappearances, at the momentary durations and final dissolution of worldly things? 31 What is the nature of this world in which we are overtaken by adversity at one moment and elated by prosperity at another, where one is born at one time and dies at another?

32 One that was something else before is born as a man in this life, then is changed to another state in course of a few days. Thus there is no being that remains steadily in the same state. 33 A pot is made of clay, and cloth is made of cotton, and they are still the same dull materials of which they are composed. Thus there is nothing new in this world that was not seen or known before. There is nothing that does not change its form. 34 The acts of creation and destruction, of diffusion, production and preservation follow one another like the revolutions of day and night appear to man.

35 Sometimes it happens that a weak man slays a hero, or one individual kills hundreds. So also a commoner becomes a noble man. Thus everything is changeful in this varying world. 36 These bodies of men are always changing their states and are like bodies of waters rising and falling in waves whipped by the motion of winds. 37 Boyhood lasts only a few days, then it is succeeded by youth which is as quickly followed by old age. If there is no identity for the same person, how can one rely on the uniformity of external objects?

38 The mind that gets delighted one moment, becomes dejected in the next, then assumes its equanimity at another is indeed as changeful as an actor. 39 The creator, who in his work of creation is ever turning one thing into another, is like a child who makes and breaks his doll without concern. 40 The actions of producing and harvesting, of feeding and destroying, come by turns to mankind like the rotation of day and night. 41 Neither adversity nor prosperity is of long duration with worldly people. They are ever subject to appearance and disappearance by turns.

42 Time is a skilful player and plays many parts with ease. But he is chiefly skilled in tragedy and he often plays his tragic part in the affairs of men. 43 All beings, according to their past good and bad deeds, are produced like fruit in the great forest of the universe. Time like a gust of wind blasts them day by day before their maturity.