Chapter 29 — Description of Leela’s Life as Arundhati; Description of Astral Travel in Space

Vasishta speaking:—

Then the two goddesses sat on a cooling village seat, much like the two states of joy and liberation meet in the tranquil spirit of the man knowing the Divine Spirit. By this time Leela had become personified to the form of pure consciousness through her knowledge of meditation. She had become a seer of the three times presenting themselves before her. She remembered the whole course of her past life and derived pleasure relating the events of her former life and death.

Leela said, “By your favor, O goddess, and by sight of this place, I recollect all that I did and thought of in my past life. Here I grew up to old age, and here I withered and become lean and thin as a skeleton.”

“I was a brahmani here and had my body scratched by dried sacrificial grass (kusa). I was the legal wife of my lord and producer of his race. I was employed milking cattle and churning curd. I had been mother of many sons and a kind hostess to my guests. I was devoted to the service of the gods, brahmins and good people, and rubbed my body with cow milk and ghee.”

“I cleaned the frying pans and boiling kettles of the house. I boiled food daily with a single bracelet of glass and one of conch-shell on my wrists. I served my father, mother, brother, daughters and sons-in-law with their daily meals. Working all day and night, my body was emaciated like that of a domestic servant. ‘Haste and hasten’ were the words I used to repeat to myself.”

10 “Being so busy, I was silly and ignorant. Although I was the wife of a brahmin, I never wondered, not even in a dream, about what I was and what was this world. 11 Fully engaged in the collection of fuel, cow-dung, and sacrificial wood and vegetables, I became emaciated in my body, which was wrapped in a worn out blanket.”

12 “I used to pick out worms from the ears of the milk cow, and was prompt to water the garden of greens with watering pots in hand. 13 Every day I used to go to the lake and get fresh green grass to feed my tender calves. I used to wash and clean the house every morning, and paint the doorway with the white tints of pasted and powdered rice (gundi). 14 I had to correct my servants with gentle rebukes and tell them to keep within their bounds like the waves in the rivers.”

15 “With my infirm body and ears shaking like dried tree leaves, and supporting myself on a stick, I lived here under the dread of old age.”

16 As she was speaking in this manner and walking with Saraswati about the village in the valley of the mountain, she was astonished to see her former seats of pleasure, and she showed them to the goddess. 17 “This was my flowery tree garden, decorated by these torn patala plants, and this was my garden alcove of flowering asokas. 18 This is the bank of the pond where the calves were loosely tied to the trees. This is my pet calf Karnika, which in my absence has refrained from eating the leaves. 19 This is my watering woman, now so weak and dirty in her appearance, her eyes daubed in tears from weeping these eight days in my absence.”

20 “This, O goddess, is the place where I used to eat and sit, and where I slept and walked. These are the places where I gave and received the things from my attendants. 21 This is my eldest son, Jyeshtha Sarma, weeping in the house. That is my milk cow, now grazing on the grassy plain in the forest.”

22 “I see this portico and these windows, once as dear to me as my own self, smeared with the dry powder of the spring Holi festival. 23 I see these pulpy gourds, planted with my own hands and dear to me as myself, now spreading themselves over the oven area. 24 I see my relatives wearing rudraksha beads, who before had been the bonds of my life, carrying fuel for fire, eyes tearing from the smoke. 25 I see that stony shore pelting its pebbles against force of the waves that baffle the beach, now covered by bushes. 26 The green meadows were full of leafy plants, dew drops on their tips. The plains were whitened from hailstones falling on them in showers. 27 The midday was covered by sunbeams, like a white mist of frost. The tree groves resounded with humming of bees fluttering about clustering flowers.”

28 “The blooming palasa, glowing like reddish coral, covered trees and land with heaps of crimson flowers. 29 Fruit was flowing in the village stream, carried from shore to shore, and rustic lads loudly jumbled together, eager to lay hold on them. 30 The cool shady beach of the stream was strewn with pebbles, washed and carried away by the current and covered by leaves falling from the trees.”

31 “There I see the altar of my house, so beautifully decorated with flowering vines, clusters of fruits and flowers hanging over its windows. 32 Here lived my husband, whose life in its aerial form has fled to the sky and became lord of the earth reaching the surrounding seas. 33 I remember how he had fostered the fond wish of obtaining royal dignity, and how ardently he looked forward to its attainment. 34 I see, O goddess, his royal dignity of eight days, which had seemed to be so long in duration.”

35 “I see the soul of my husband in the same form as his kingly state residing in the empty space of this house, invisible to all like the air in the sky, and like the odors borne by the winds. 36 It is in this empty space that his soul is contained within the form of a thumb that contains in its bosom the whole extent of my lord’s realm stretching thousands of leagues in its circumference. 37 I also see the spacious kingdom of my lord in the space of my consciousness which, by the miraculous power of God called illusion (maya), makes room for thousands of mountains.”

38 “O Goddess, now I wish to see the earthly city of my lord again. Let us therefore turn our course that way, as no place is distant to the resolute.”

39 Vasishta said:—

Having said so, Leela bowed down to Saraswati and entered the shrine. Then, like a bird, she flew into the air with the goddess. 40 It was a region devoid of darkness and as fair as a sea of moonlight. Then it became as blue as the body of Narayana and as bright as the back of a locust. 41 They passed above the regions of the clouds and winds, then beyond the spheres of the orbits of the sun and moon. 42 They passed beyond the path of the north star and the limits of the circuits of the sadhya deities, spiritual masters, and other celestial beings. 43 From there they ascended to the higher heavens of Brahma and the Tushita divinities, then upward to the sphere of Golaka (the zodiac), and from there to the world of Shiva and to the sphere of the departed souls of the dead.

44 Passing beyond the spheres of embodied living beings and of the bodiless souls of the dead, they proceeded far and farther to the unknown regions of empty space. 45 Having passed the ethereal sphere, they saw nothing there except the sun, moon and the stars shining below them. 46 There was only a deep darkness to be seen, filling the whole void of space and appearing like the basin of the waters of universal deluge, and as compact as the impenetrable cavity of a rock.

47 Leela said, “Tell me, O goddess! What happened to the light of the sun and other stars? Where did this darkness, dense like a fist, come from?”

48 The goddess replied, “You have arrived at a place so remote from the spheres of heaven that the light of the stars can never reach it. 49 Just like one at the bottom of a deep dark pit is unable to see the light of a firefly flitting over it, so sunlight is invisible to one behind the great belt of heaven.”

50 Leela said, “Such a great distance we have come! The great luminary of the sun appears as small as an atom below. 51 Tell me mother, what sort of a place lies beyond this region, and how can we get there after traversing this gloomy expanse?”

52 Saraswati said, “Behind this is the great pole of the universe that is scattered with innumerable nebular stars like particles of dust.”

53 Vasishta said:—

As they were talking in this manner, they glided imperceptibly to that pole, like a bee saunters over a solitary hut on the height of a mountain. 54 They were at no pains to come down from that precipice, as there is no pain to effect what must certainly come to pass, even though it appears difficult at first.

55 They saw the system of the universe laid naked to their sight, just as a bold navigator beholds a world exposed to his view beyond the wide expanse of waters. 56 They saw the watery expanse to be ten times greater than the earth and enveloping like the crust of a walnut. 57 Then there is a latent heat that is ten times as great as the water, and the surrounding air is as much greater than the water, and then the all encompassing space of which there is no end.

58 There is no beginning, middle or end to that infinite space. It produces nothing, like a barren woman of her offspring. 59 It is only an extended expanse, infinite, calm and without beginning, middle or end, situated in the Supreme Spirit. 60 Its immensity is as immeasurable as a stone flung with full force from its top. It is impossible for a garuda bird, flying with all his might at full speed over the course of an entire kalpa age, to reach from one end to the other .