Chapter 27 — Leela Remembers Her Past Lives

Vasishta speaking:—

Then the two ladies disappeared from that place, leaving the brahmin family in their house in the mountainous village. The family exclaimed “We are highly favored by the woodland goddesses.” Then forgetting their grief, they returned to their domestic employments.

Then the ethereal goddess spoke to the aerial Leela, who stood fixed in the air over the brahmin’s house in a state of mute astonishment. They conversed with each other as familiarly as persons having the same thoughts and desires agree with each another in their views and acts, and as the dreamers of the same dream hold their mutual correspondence, like Usha and Anniruddha. Their conversation in their immaterial forms was of the same intellectual kind as we are conscious of in our dreams and imaginations.

Saraswati said, “Now you have fully known the knowable and you have become acquainted with whatever is visible and invisible. Such is the essence of Brahma. Say now, what more do you want to know?”

Leela said, “Tell me the reason why I was seen by my son, but wasn’t seen where the spirit of my departed lord is reigning over his realm.”

Saraswati replied, “Because then you were not perfect by your practice of meditation to have your wish fulfilled, nor had you lost your sense of duality which prevents perfection. He who has not known unity is not entitled to the acts and benefits of faith in the true God, as no one sitting in the sun can enjoy the coolness of shade.”

10 “You were not practiced to forget your identity as Leela. Nor had you learned that it is not your will, but the will of God that is always fulfilled. 11 Later you become pure desire and wished that your son might see you, whereby he was able to see you. 12 If you should return now to your husband and do the same, you will undoubtedly be successful in your desire.”

13 Leela said, “I see within the sphere of this dome (of my mind) that the holy brahmin has been my husband before. I also see that after he died, he became a ruler of the earth. 14 In my mind I see that spot of the earth, that city and his palace where I sat as his queen. 15 Within myself I see my lord reigning in that place, and I can even see how he died afterwards. 16 I see the glory of the ruler of so many countries on earth, and I also see the perfect frankness of his conduct throughout his life.”

17 “In the inner sky of my mind I see the worlds as they were placed in a casket, just like oil is contained within a mustard seed. 18 I see the bright orb of my husband ever wandering before me, and now I pray you to contrive some way to place me by his side.”

19 The goddess replied, “Tell me Leela, to which husband should you go? You have had and will have hundreds of them in your past and future lives, and now there are three of them confined in this earth. 20 The nearest of the three is the brahmin here who is reduced to ashes. The next is the king lying in state and covered with flowers in the inner apartment.”

21 “The third is now a reigning king on this earth and has been buffeting in the waves of error in the vast ocean of the world. 22 His intellect is darkened and disordered by the splashing waves of worldliness. His intelligence is perverted to stupidity. He is converted to a tortoise in the ocean of the world. 23 The management of his very many disordered state affairs has stultified him into a clumsy lout, and he is now fast asleep amidst the turmoil of business. 24 The strong chain of his thoughts has bound him to think that he is a lord, mighty and accomplished, and that he is happy and can enjoy his estates forever.”

25 “Now say, O excellent lady, to what husband do you wish to be led like the fragrance of one forest carried by the breeze to another?”

26 “Here you are in one place and they are in others in this vast universe. The states of their lives and manners differ widely from one another. 27 These orbs of light in the heaven, though they appear to be placed so near to us, are situated millions of leagues apart from one another and they carry the departed souls. 28 All these bodies are as empty as air, though they contain the great mountains Meru and Mandara in themselves.”

29 “All bodies are formed by a combination of atoms constantly proceeding from the Great Intellect, like particles of sunbeams over the universe. 30 The great and stupendous fabric of the world is no more than a quantity of paddy rice weighed in a balance. 31 As the spangled heavens appear like a forest full of brilliant gems, so the world appears to the contemplative mind as full of the glory of God and not composed of earth or other material bodies. 32 In the intelligent soul, it is Consciousness alone that shines in the form of world and not any material body that was never brought into being. 33 Like waves in a lake rise and set and rise again, so the rising and falling days and nights present these various scenes to our knowledge.”

34 Leela said, “So it is, O mother of mankind. I come to remember now that my present birth is of a royal kind, neither too pure nor gross in nature. 35 I, having descended from Brahma, have undergone a hundred and eight births and, after passing various states, I find myself still in existence.”

36 “I recollect, O goddess, that I was born before in another world, that I was the bride of a demigod (vidyadhara) and used to wander about as freely as a bee over flowers. 37 Being debased by my lack of moral restraint, I was born in this mortal world and became the mate of the king of the eagle-feathered tribe. 38 Having lived in the woods, then I was turned to a woodman’s mate, wearing a garment of leaves on my loins. 39 Growing fond of my life, I played wantonly about the forest and was changed into a guluncha plant, delighting the woods with my leafy palms and flowering eyes. 40 This small tree in a holy hermitage was held sacred by a group of saintly sages.”

“Then, after the woods were burnt down by a wildfire, I was regenerated into the form of an hermit’s child. 41 Here I was taught the formulas for removing the curse of womanhood, and I became a male in the person of the handsome prince of the land of Surashtra (Surat) where I reigned for a hundred years. 42 “Then, on account of my misconduct in the government, I was denounced to become a weasel covered with leprosy, living in the lowlands of Tali.”

43 “I remember, O goddess, how I became a bullock in Surat and how for full eight years I was goaded by thoughtless cowherd children in their merry sport. 44 I have in mind that when I was transformed into a bird, with what difficulty I broke the net that was laid by bird-catchers for my destruction. It was in the same manner as we release ourselves from the snares of sinful desires. 45 I remember with pleasure when as a bee I landed lightly on the leaflets of blossoms, sipped the honey of the blooming buds, dined on the pistils, and slept in the cups of lotus flowers. 46 In the form of an antelope I wandered about in pleasant woodlands and lawns with my exalted and branching horns and beautiful eyes, until I was killed by a hunter’s arrow. 47 I have been in the form of a fish, and I was lifted up by the waves of the sea above the surface of the water. I saw how a tortoise was killed by the blow of a club on the neck.”

48 “I was a tribal (chandala, outcaste) hunter once, wandering by the side of the Charmanvati (Chenab River). When tired of roaming, I used to quench my thirst with coconut water. 49 I also became a stork, delighting in lakes with my mate, filling the air with our sweet cries. 50 In another birth, I rambled about in groves of palm and tamara trees and fixed my eyes with amorous looks and glances upon my lover.”

51 “Next I was a fairy apsara with a form as bright as melted gold and features as beautiful as those of the lotus and lily in which the celestials used to take delight like bees and butterflies. 52 I remember being on earth, having decked myself in gold, pearls, rubies and other gems, and playing with my youthful consorts in pleasure gardens and groves, and on hills and mountains.”

53 “I also remember living long as a tortoise on the borders of a river, and to have been carried away by the waves, sometimes under a tree of vines over-hung with clusters of beautiful flowers, sometimes washed by waves into some wild cave. 54 I see how I acted the part of a goose covered by feathers, swimming on the high heaving waves on the surface of a lake. 55 Then, seeing a poor gnat hanging on the moving leaf of a cotton tree (salmali) branch, I became its associate and as contemptible a thing as itself. 56 I became an aquatic crane also, skimming playfully over waters gushing from hills, slightly kissing the crests of waves rising over the rapid torrent.”

57 “I remember also how I slighted the loves of amorous youths and spurned the lesser demigod (vidyadhara) children on the Gandha Madana and Mandara hills. 58 I remember likewise the pangs of a lovelorn lass as I lay pining in my bed strewn with the fragrance of camphor, and how I was decaying like the disc of the waning moon.”

59 “Thus I passed through many births in the wombs of higher and lower animals and found them all to be full of pain. My soul has run over the waves of the irresistible current of life, like a fleet antelope pacing its speed with the swiftness of the wind.”