Chapter 15 — Shukra Laments His Original Body; Behaving in the Physical Body

Vasishta said:—

Thus contemplating on the course of nature, these lovers of learning (Brighu, Shukra and Yama) moved with their spiritual bodies from the bank of the Samanga. They ascended into the sky and passed through the small openings in the clouds to the region of the spiritual masters, from where they descended to the lower world and arrived at the valley of Mandara. There, on a cliff of that mountain, Shukra saw the dried body of his former birth lying covered under dark and dewy leaves of trees.

He said, “Here is that shriveled body, O father, which you had nourished with many a dainty food. There is that body of mine that my wet-nurse had so fondly anointed with camphor, aromatic agalwood, and sandal paste. This body of mine was used to repose on cooling beds made with heaps of mandara flowers in the airy spots of Meru. This body of mine used to be so fondly caressed by heavenly ladies of time past. Now it is lying on the bare ground below to be bitten by creeping insects and worms. This body of mine that was accustomed to ramble in the garden plots of sandalwood now lies like a dried skeleton on a naked place. My body now lies impassive of the feelings of delight in the company of heavenly nymphs and withers away unconscious of the actions and passions of its mind. 10 Ah my pitiable body! How you rest here in peace, forgetful of your former delights in the different stages of life and unconscious of the thoughts of your past enjoyments and amusements. 11 O my body that has become a dead corpse dried by sunbeams. You have become so hideous in your skeleton frame as to frighten me. 12 I take fright to look upon this body in which I had taken so much pleasure before, now reduced to a skeleton. 13 I see ants creeping over that breast of mine which was formerly adorned with necklaces studded with starry gems. 14 Look at the remains of my body, now only a load of dry bones, but whose appearance of molten gold had attracted the hearts of beautiful women. 15 Behold the stags of the forest flying with fear at the sight of the wide open jaws and withered skin of my carcass, which with its horrid mouth frightens the timid fawns in the woods.”

16 “I see the cavity of the withered corpse’s belly is filled with sunshine, like the mind of man enlightened by knowledge. 17 My dried body, lying flat on a mountain stone, resembles the mind of the wise, abashed at the sense of its own unworthiness. 18 It seems to be emaciating itself like an ascetic sitting in a trance (samadhi) on the mountain, dead to the perceptions of color, sound, touch and taste, and free from all its desires and passions. 19 It is freed from the demon of the mind and is resting in its joy without any apprehension of the vicissitudes of fate and fortune, or fear of fall. 20 The joy that attends the body upon calming the demon mind is not to be had from possession of any vast dominion of the world.”

21 “See how happily this body is sleeping in this forest, free from all its doubts and desires in the world, liberated from the network of its fancies. 22 The restlessness of the apish mind disturbs and troubles the body and is hurled down by its excitation like a tall tree uprooted from its bottom. 23 This body, free from the impulses of the mischievous mind, is sleeping in its highest and perfect joy and is quite released from the jarring turmoil of the world clashing like the mingled roaring of lions and elephants fighting each other. 24 Every desire is a fever in the bosom, and the group of our errors is like the mist of autumn. Mankind has no release from these except by the dispassion of their minds.”

25 “They who have had the high-mindedness to lay hold on the tranquility of their minds have gone beyond the bounds of worldly enjoyments. 26 It is by my good fortune that I came to find this body of mine, resting in these woods without its troublesome mind, and freed from all its tribulations and feverish anxieties.”

27 Rama said, “Venerable sage who is versed in all knowledge, you have already described Shukra’s passing through many births in different shapes and feeling all their casualties of good and evil. 28 Why did he have so much regret for his body begotten by Bhrigu, in disregard of all his other bodies and the pains and pleasures which attended upon them?”

29 Vasishta answered:—

Rama, the other bodies of Shukra were merely the creations of his imagination, but that of Bhargava, the son of Bhrigu, was the actual one, produced by the merit of his earlier acts.

30 This was the first body with which he was born by the will of his maker, being first formed in the form of subtle air, then changed into the shape of wind. 31 This wind entered into the heart of Bhrigu in a flux for the vital and circulating breaths, and being joined in time with the semen, formed the germ of Shukra’s body. 32 The person Shukra received the brahmin sacraments and became his father’s associate until at last it was reduced to the form of a skeleton in course of a long time.

33 It was because this was the first body that Shukra obtained from Brahma the creator that he lamented so much for it. 34 Though dispassionate and devoid of desire as Shukra was, yet he sorrowed for his body, according to the nature of all being born of flesh.

35 This is the way of all flesh, whether it be the body of a wise or unwise man. This is the usual custom of the world, whether the person was mighty or not. 36 Those acquainted with the course of nature and those who are ignorant of it, like brutes and beasts, are equally subject to the course of the world, bound in the net of fate and liable to grief and sorrow. 37 The wise and the unwise are on an equal footing with respect to their nature and custom. Only the difference in desire distinguishes one from the other. The lack of desires or the bondage to desires is the cause of their liberation or bondage in this world. Lack of desires is the great aim that distinguishes the great from the mean-mindedness of the base.

38 As long as there is the body, there is the feeling of pleasure in pleasure and pain in pain. But the mind that is unattached to and unaffected by them makes itself show wisdom. 39 Even great souls are seen to feel happy in pleasure and become sorrowful in matters of pain, showing themselves as wise in their outward circumstances.

40 The shadow of the sun is seen to shake on water, but not so the fixed sun himself. So the wise are moved in worldly matters, though they are firm in their faith in God. 41 As the unmoved and fixed sun seems to move in his shadow on the wave, so the wise man who has rid himself of worldly concerns still behaves like the unwise in it. 42 He is free who has the freedom of his mind, although his body is held in bondage. But he labors in bondage whose mind is enslaved by error, though he is free in his body.

43 Feelings of the mind cause happiness, misery, liberty and bondage, just like the flames of fire cause light. 44 Therefore conform yourself with the custom of the society in your outward conduct, but remain indifferent to all worldly concerns in your inner mind. 45 Remain true to yourself by giving up your concerns in the world, but continue to discharge all your duties in this world by the acts of your body. 46 Take care of the inner sorrows, bodily diseases, and the dangerous whirlpools and pitfalls in the course of your life. Do not fall into the black hole of selfishness, which gives the soul its greatest anguish.

47 Mind, O lotus-eyed Rama, that you mix with nothing and let anything mix with you. Be of a purely enlightened nature and rest content in your inner soul. 48 Think in yourself the pure and holy spirit of Brahma, the Universal Soul and maker of all, the tranquil and uncreated All, and be happy forever.

49 If you can rescue yourself from the great gloom of the individual ego and arrive at the state of pure indifference to all objects, you will certainly become great in your mind and soul and be the object of universal veneration.