Chapter 19 — Story of a Former Vasishta & Arundhati

Vasishta relating the story of Leela, Saraswati speaking to Leela:—

In his age and attire, in his learning and wealth, and in all his actions and pursuits, this holy man was equal to his namesake, except in his profession. (The one being a secular man, and the other the priest of the royal family). His name was Vasishta.

His wife was Arundhati, fair as the moon and like the star of the same name visible from earth. She resembled her namesake, the priestess of the solar race, in her virtues and parts and in all things, except in her soul and body. She passed her time in true love and affection in the company of her husband, and she was his all in the world, with her sweet smiling face resembling a kumuda flower.

Once this holy man had been sitting under the shady sarala trees, on the tableland of his native hill, when he saw the ruler of the land passing below with his gaudy train. He was accompanied by all the members of the royal family and his troops and soldiers. They were going to a hunt with a clamor that resounded in the hills and forests. The white flapper fans shed a stream of moonlight, the lifted banners appeared like a moving forest, and the white umbrellas made a canopy of the sky. The air was filled with dust raised by the horses’ hoofs, and the lines of elephants with their high pavilion saddles seemed like moving towers that protect them from the heat of the sun and the hot winds. The loud uproar of the party, resembling the roaring of a whirlpool, made wild animals run on all sides. Shining gems and jewels were flashing all about on the bodies in the party.

10 The holy man saw this procession and thought to himself, “O how charming is royalty, filled with such splendor and prosperity! 11 Ah, how shall I become the monarch of all the ten sides, and have such a retinue of horse, elephants and foot soldiers, with a similar train of flags, flappers and blazing umbrellas? 12 When will the breeze gently blow the fragrance of kunda flowers and the powdered dust of lotuses to my bed-chamber to lull me and my consorts to sleep? 13 When shall I adorn the faces of my chamber maids with camphor and sandal paste, and enlighten the faces of the four quarters with my fair fame, like the moonbeams decorate the night?”

14 With these thoughts, the holy man determined that for the rest of his life, he would apply himself vigilantly to the rigid austerities of his religion. 15 At last, he was overtaken by infirmities which shattered his body, like the sleets of snowfall batter the blooming lotuses in the lake. 16 Seeing his approaching death, his faithful wife was fading away with fear, like a vine withers at the departure of spring for fear of the summer heat. 17 Arundhati then began to worship me, as you yourself have, in order to obtain the boon of immortality which is hard to be had.

18 She prayed, “Ordain, O goddess, that the spirit of my lord may not depart from this tomb after his death.” I granted her request.

19 After some time Vasishta the holy man died and his empty spirit remained in the emptiness of that home. 20 By virtue of the excessive desire and merit of acts in his former state of existence, this aerial spirit of the holy man assumed the shape of a mighty man on earth. 21 He became the victorious monarch of the three realms. By his might he subjugated the surface of the earth. By his valor he conquered the high mountains (of the gods). By his kind protection, the nether lands were under his sway. 22 He was like a raging fire to the forest of his enemies, and like the steadfast Mount Meru amidst the rushing winds of business on all sides. He was like the sun expanding the lotus-like hearts of the virtuous. To the eyes of women he was like the god Kama. 23 He was the model of all learning, and the all giving wish-fulfilling tree to his suitors. He was the footstool of great scholars. He was like the full moon shedding ambrosial beams of enlightened rule all around.

24 But after the holy brahmin had died, and his dead body had disappeared into the forms of elementary particles in air, and his airy spirit had rested in the aerial intellectual soul within the empty space of his house, 25 his holy brahmin widow, Arundhati, was pining away in her sorrow, and her heart was rent in twain like a dried pea pod. 26 She became a dead body like her husband. Her spirit, by shuffling off its mortal coil, resumed its subtle and immortal form in which it met the departed ghost of her husband. 27 She advanced to her lord as rapidly as a river runs to meet the sea below its level. She was as cheerful to join him as a cluster of flowers inhale the spring air.

28 The houses, lands and all the immovable properties and movable riches of this holy brahmin Vasishta still exist in that rocky village, and it has been only eight days since the souls of this loving pair were reunited in the hollow vault of their house.