Chapter 24 — Description of the Astral Journey

Vasishta continued:—

Thus ascending higher and higher, and by degrees reaching the highest station, they continued viewing the heavens with their hands clasped together.

They saw a vast expanse like a wide extended universal ocean, deep and translucent within, but soft with ethereal mildness. A cooling breeze infused heavenly delight. They dived into the vast ocean of emptiness, all delightful and pleasant. It gave them a delight far greater in its purity than what is derived from the company of the virtuous. They wandered about all sides of heaven under the beams of the full moon shining above them. They lingered under the clear vault of clouds covering the mountain tops of Meru, as if under the dome of a huge white washed building.

They roved by the regions of spiritual masters (siddhas, adepts) and male nature spirits (gandharvas). They breathed the charming fragrance of mandara garlands and, passing the lunar sphere, they inhaled the sweet scent exhaled by the breeze from that nectar-like lunar orb.

Tired and perspiring profusely, they bathed in the lakes of showering clouds filled with the blushing lotuses of lurid lightning flashing within them. They freely strolled at random on all sides, and alighted on the tops of high mountains like fluttering bees, appearing like filaments of the lotus-like earth below. They also roved under the vaults of some cloud fragments scattered by the winds, and raining like the cascade of the Ganges River, thinking them as shower bath-houses in the air. Then failing in their strength, they paused in many places with slow and slackened steps.

They saw emptiness full of great and wonderful works. 10 They saw what they had never seen before, the tremendous depth of the void that was not filled up by the myriads of worlds which kept revolving in it. 11 Over and over and higher and higher, they saw the celestial spheres filled with luminous orbs adorned with their ornamental stars wandering one above and around the other. 12 Huge mountainous bodies like Mount Meru moved about in empty space and emitted a reddish glare on all sides, like a flame of fire from within their bowels. 13 There were beautiful tablelands, like those of the Himalayas, with their pearly peaks of snow. There were mountains of gold spreading a golden color over the land. 14 In one place they saw mountains of emerald tinting the landscape with a lush green like a field of fresh grass. In other places they saw some dark cloud dimming the sight of the spectator and hiding the spectacle in dark blackness. 15 They saw also tracts of blue sapphire with vines of parijata flowers blooming like banners in the blue skies.

16 They saw the minds of spiritual masters (siddhas) in flight faster than the swift winds. They heard the vocal music of the songs of heavenly nymphs in their aerial abodes. 17 All the great bodies in the universe (the planetary system) were in continual motion. Spirits of the gods and demigods moved about unseen by one another. 18 Groups of spiritual beings, the kushmandas, rakshasas and pisachas, were seated in aerial circles at the borders. Winds and gales blew with full force in their ethereal course. 19 In some places they heard clouds roaring loudly, like the rumbling wheels of heavenly cars, and the noise of rapid stars resembled the blowing of pneumatic engines.

20 Half burnt masters, having flown too close to the sun, were flying from their burning cars under the solar rays. Solar embers were flung afar by the breath of the nostrils of their horses. 21 In some places they saw the rulers of men and lines of female nature spirits (apsaras) hurrying up and down the air. In others, they saw goddesses wandering amidst the smoky and fiery clouds in the firmament. 22 Here they saw some sparks of light falling like the jewels of celestial nymphs in their hurried flight to their respective spheres. There they saw the light spirits of lesser masters dwindling into darkness.

23 Flakes of mists were falling off from the clouds, as if by friction from the bodies of turbulent spirits rushing up and down the skies, and shrouded mountain sides like sheets of cloth. 24 Groups of cloud fragments were flying about in the air in the shapes of crows, owls and vultures.

They saw some monsters also, such as dakinis heaving their heads in the forms of huge surges in the cloudy ocean of the sky. 25 There were bodies of yoginis too, their faces resembling those of dogs, ravens, asses and camels, who were traversing the wide expanse of the heavens to no purpose. 26 There were masters and nature spirits sporting in pairs in the dark, smoky and ash colored clouds that spread the four quarters of the skies.

27 They saw the path of the planets (the zodiac) resounding loudly with the heavenly music of the spheres. They also saw the path of the lunar mansions that constantly marked the course of the two fortnights. 28 They saw the sons of gods moving about in the air and they viewed with wonder the celestial Ganges (the milky way) studded with stars and rolling with the speed of winds. 29 They saw gods wielding their thunderbolts, discuses, tridents, swords and missiles. They heard Narada and Tumburu singing in their aerial abodes on high.

30 They saw the region of the clouds, where there were huge bodies of clouds mute as paintings and pouring forth floods of rain as in the great deluge. 31 In one place they saw a dark cloud, as high as the mountain-king Himalaya, slowly moving in the air, and at others, clouds of a golden color like the setting sun. 32 In one place there were flimsy sheets of clouds, as are said to hover on the peaks of Rishya range; and at another a cloud like the calm blue bed of the sea.

33 Tufts of grass were seen in some places, as if blown up by winds and floating in the stream of air. In other places, swarms of butterflies with glossy coats and wings were seen. 34 In some place, there was a cloud of dust raised by wind appearing like a lake on the top of a mountain.

35 The matris were seen in one place, dancing naked in giddy circles, and in another, great yoginis sat as if forever giddy with intoxication. 36 In one place there were circles of holy men sitting in their calm meditation, and in others, pious saints who had cast away their worldly cares. 37 There was a conclave of celestial singers composed of heavenly nymphs, kinnaras and gandharvas in one place, and some quiet towns and cities situated at others. 38 There were the cities of Brahma and Rudra full with their people, and the city of illusion (maya) with its increasing population.

39 There were crystal lakes in some places and stagnant pools at others; and lakes with masters seated by them, and others hugged by the rising moon. 40 They saw the sun rising in one part and the darkness of night veiling the others; the evening casting its shadow on one, and the dusky mists of dusk obscuring the other. 41 There were hoary clouds of winter in some places, and those of rain in others; somewhere they appeared as tracts of land and at another as a sheet of water.

42 Bodies of gods and demigods wandered from one side to the other; some from east to west, and others from north to south. 43 There were mountains heaving their heads thousands of miles high, and there were valleys and caves covered in eternal darkness. 44 In one place there was a vast inextinguishable fire, like that of the blazing sun, and in another, a thick frost covering the moonlight.

45 Somewhere there was a great city flourishing with groves and trees, and at another big temples of gods leveled to the ground by the might of demons.

46 In some place there was a streak of light from a falling meteor in the sky; in another the blaze of a comet with its thousand fiery tails in the air. 47 In one place there was a lucky planet, rising in view with its full orb; in another there spread the gloom of night, and full sunshine in another. 48 Here the clouds were roaring, and there they were dumb and mute. Here were the high blasts driving the clouds in air, and there the gentle breeze dropping clusters of flowers on the ground. 49 Sometimes the sky was clear and fair without a cloud in it, as transparent as the soul of a wise man delighted with the knowledge of truth.

50 The empty region of the celestial gods was so full with the dewy beams of the silvery moon that it appeared like a shower of rain and raised the loud croaking of the frogs below. 51 Flocks of peacocks and goldfinches fluttering about in one place, and vehicles of the goddesses and celestial girls (vidyadharis) thronged in another.

52 A number of peacocks of Kartikeya (Subramanyan) were seen dancing amidst the clouds, and a flight of greenish parrots was seen in the sky appearing as a green plain. 53 Dwarfish clouds were moving like the stout buffaloes of Yama, and others in the form of horses were grazing on the grassy meadows of clouds. 54 Cities of the gods and demons appeared with their towers on high. Distinct towns and hills were seen separated by distances as if detached from one another by driving winds.

55 In some place, gigantic bhairavas were dancing with their mountainous bodies; and at another, great garudas were flying like winged mountains in the air. 56 Huge mountains were tossed about by the blowing of winds; and the castles of the nature spirits (gandharvas) were rising and falling with the celestial nymphs in them.

57 There were some clouds rising on high, and some appearing like rolling mountains in the sky that were crushing forests below. In one place the sky appeared like a clear lake abounding in lotuses. 58 Moonbeams shone brightly in one spot, and sweet cooling breezes blew softly in another. Hot sultry winds were blowing in some place, singeing the forest on mountainous clouds.

59 There was a dead silence in one spot caused by perfect calmness of the breeze; while another spot presented a scene of a hundred peaks rising on a mountain-like cloud. 60 In one place raining clouds roared loudly in their fury; and in another a furious battle was waging in the clouds between the gods and demons.

61 In some place geese were seen gabbling in the lotus lake of the sky, inviting the ganders by their loud cackling cries. 62 Forms of fishes, crocodiles and alligators were seen flying in the air as if they had been transformed into aerial beings by the holy waters of the Ganges of their birth. 63 Somewhere, as the sun went down the horizon, they saw the dark shadow of the earth eclipse the moon; then they saw the shadow of the moon eclipse the sun. 64 They saw a magical flower garden, exhaling its fragrance in the air and strewing the floor of heaven with a profusion of flowers, scattered by showers of morning dews.

65 They saw all beings contained in the three worlds flying in the air, like a swarm of gnats in the hollow of a fig tree. Then the two excellent ladies stopped their astral journey, intent upon revisiting the earth.