Chapter 31 — Rama’s Questions

Rama said:—

I have no trust in the durability of life which is as transient as a drop of water on the edge of a shaking leaf on a lofty tree, and as short as the cusp of the moon on Shiva’s forehead. I have no faith in the durability of life which is transient as the swelling in the pouch of a frog as it croaks in the meadow. Nor do I have any trust in the company of friends which is as dangerous as the treacherous traps of hunters.

What can we do under the misty cloud of errors that raise our tempestuous desires flashing forth in lightning bolts of ambition and bursting out in the thunder claps of selfishness? How shall we save ourselves from the temptations of our desires that dance around us like peacocks? How shall we save ourselves from the bustle of the world that breaks in on us as thickly as the blossoms of the kurchi plant? How can we fly from the clutches of cruel Fate who, like a cat in the twinkling of an eye, suddenly springs upon his prey and kills the living as if they were poor mice? To what expedient, what course, what reflections, and what refuge must we have recourse in order to avoid the unknown tracks of future lives?

There is nothing so trifling in this earth below or in the heavens above which you gifted men cannot raise to consequence. How can one relish this accursed, troublesome and vapid world unless he is infatuated by ignorance? It is the fusion of desires that produces the milky beverage of contentment and fills the earth with delights like spring adorns it with flowers.

10 Tell me, O sage, how the mist of our desires, which darkens the moon of our intellects, is to be dispelled from our minds to make it shine forth in its full brightness. 11 How are we to deal with this wilderness of the world, knowing well that it is destructive both of our present and future interests? 12 Who is there who moves about in this ocean of the earth and who is not buffeted by the waves of his passions and diseases, and by the currents of his enjoyments and prosperity?

13 Tell me, O best of sages, how one who has fallen into the furnace of this earth may escape unburned like mercury. 14 How can one be rid of the world when it is impossible for him to avoid dealing with it, in the same manner as it is impossible for aquatic animals to live without their native element? 15 Even our good deeds are not without affection and hatred, pleasure and pain, just like no flame is unaccompanied by its power of burning.

16 Without right reasoning, it is impossible to restrain the mind from thinking on worldly matters, so therefore deign to communicate to me the dictates of sound reason for my guidance. 17 Give me the best instruction for warding off miseries, either by confronting or renouncing the affairs of life. 18 Tell me about that man of enlightened understanding who attained the highest state of holiness and tranquility of his mind, and the deeds and manner by which he achieved the same. 19 Tell me, good sage, how the ancient saints fled out of the reach of misery so that I may learn the same to suppress my false conceptions. 20 Or, if there be no such knowledge in existence or, if there is, whether it is to be kept secret from to me.

21 Should I fail to attain that highest state of tranquility, then I must remain inactive and avoid my sense of egoism altogether. 22 I will refrain from eating and drinking even water, and from clothing myself. I will cease from all my actions of bathing and making my offerings, as also from my diet and the like. 23 I will attend to no duty, nor care about prosperity or calamity. I will be free from all desires except that of the abandonment of this body. 24 I must remain aloof from all fears, sympathies, selfish feelings and emulation, and continue to sit quietly as a figure in painting. 25 I will gradually do away with the inspiration and respiration of my breath and outward sensations until I part with this trifle, the seat all of troubles, this the so called body.

26 I do not belong to this body, nor does it belong to me, nor is anything else mine. I shall be null and void like a lamp without oil and abandon everything to do with this body.

27 Valmiki said:—

Then Rama, who was as lovely as the moon and whose mind was well filled with reasoning, became silent before the assemblage of eminent men, like a peacock, in awe, ceases his screaming before gathering clouds.