Chapter 48 — Story of Dasura; He Receives Agni’s Boon to Live Treetop

Vasishta continued:—

All worldly men who are engaged in various activities and who are perverted in their understanding with desires of wealth and enjoyments, can never learn the truth until they get rid of their worldliness. Only he who has cultivated his understanding and subdued his sensual organs can perceive the errors of the world, as one knows a bel fruit held in his hand.

Any rational being who properly sees the errors of the world will forsake his delusion of egoism, like a snake casts off his skin. Thus, being unaware of his selfishness, he has no more to be born. He is like a fried grain that can never germinate, though it be sown in the field and lie there forever.

It is pitiful that ignorant men take so much pains for the preservation of their bodies, which are ever subject to diseases and dangers and are liable to perish today or tomorrow, all at the expense of their souls. Therefore, O Rama, do not take so much care for the dull body like the ignorant, but regard only for the welfare of your soul.

Rama said, “Tell me sage, the story of Dasura which illustrates the visionary and air-drawn form of this rotating universe, all hollow within.”

Vasishta replied:—

Hear me repeat for you, O Rama, the story of Dasura. It is an illustration of the delusive form of the world, which is no more than the built-in-the-air utopia of our brains.

On the surface of this land there is the great and wealthy province of Magadha which is full of flower trees of all kinds. 10 There is a forest of wide extending kadamba groves, which was the pleasant playground of charming birds of various sorts and colors. 11 Here the wide fields were full of corns and grains, the edges of the land were filled with groves and trees, and stream banks were filled with blooming lotuses and water lilies. 12 The groves resounded with the melodious strains of country girls, and the plains were filled with blades of blossoms bedewed by the nightly frost and appearing as arrows of the god of love.

13 Here at the foot of a mountain, decked with karnikara flowers and beset by rows of plantain plants and kadamba trees, was a secluded spot overgrown with moss and shrubs. 14 It was sprinkled over with the reddish dust of crimson flowers carried by the winds, and was resonant to the warbling of water fowls singing in unison with the melodious strains of aquatic cranes. 15 On a sacred hill overhanging that spot, there rose a kadamba tree crowded by birds of various kinds. There on it dwelt a holy sage of great austerity.

16 He was known by the name of Dasura. He was engaged in austere penance, sitting on a branch of his kadamba tree with his exalted soul, devoid of passions.

17 Rama said, “I want to know, O sage, from where and how did that hermit come to dwell in that forest, and why was he sitting on that tall kadamba tree?”

18 Vasishta replied:—

His father was the renowned sage Sharaloma, who lived on the same mountain and resembled the great Brahma in his abstract meditation. 19 Like Kacha, the only child of Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods, Dasura was the only son of Sahraloma. From his boyhood, he and his father came to dwell in the forest. 20 Sharaloma lived many years in this way until he left his mortal frame for his heavenly abode, as a bird quits its nest to fly into the air.

21 Dasura, being left alone in that lonely forest, wept bitterly and lamented over the loss of his father with wailing as loud as the shrieks of a heron upon separation from its mate. 22 Being deprived of both his parents, he was full of sorrow and grief in his mind. He began to fade away like the lotus blossom in winter. 23 He was seen in this sad plight by the woodland god of that forest who, taking compassion on the forlorn youth, approached him unseen and said in an audible voice, 24 “O sagely son of the sage! Why do you weep like the ignorant? Why are you so dejected, knowing the instability of worldly things?”

25 “In this frail world everything is unstable. The course of nature is for all things to be born, live, then perish into nothingness. 26 Whatever is seen here, from the great Brahma down to the meanest object, is all doomed to perish beyond a doubt. 27 Therefore do not wail at the death of your father, but know that like the rising and falling sun, everything is destined to its rise and fall.”

28 Hearing this audible voice, the youth wiped his eyes red hot with weeping and held his silence like the screaming peacock at the loud sound of the clouds. 29 He got up and devoutly performed the funeral ceremonies for his father, then set his mind to the success of his steady devotion.

30 He engaged in austerities according to brahmin law and discharged his ceremonial rites according to the old Vedic Srauta ritual to accomplish his sundry vows. 31 But not knowing the knowable (Brahman), his mind could not find rest in his ceremonial acts or find purity on the surface of the stainless earth. 32 Not knowing that the world was full with Divine Spirit and the holiness of the earth is in every place, he thought the ground polluted and did not find his rest anywhere. 33 Therefore, of his own accord, he made a vow to sit on the branch of a tree, which he believed was untainted with the pollution of the earth.

34 He thought, “I will perform my austerities on these branching trees and repose myself like birds and woodland spirits on the branches and leaves of trees.” 35 Thus sitting on high, he lit a burning fire underneath him and he was going to offer oblations of living flesh on it by paring bits of his shoulder blade (mixed with blood).

36 Agni, the god of fire, thought in himself that because fire is the mouth through which the gods receive their food, the offering of a brahmin’s flesh would completely burn down their faces. 37 Thinking so, the god of fire appeared before him in his full blaze, like the bright sun appears before the lord of speech, Brihaspati (Jupiter). 38 Agni uttered gently saying, “Young brahmin, accept your desired boon from me, as a shopkeeper takes out his treasure from the safe in which it is deposited.”

39 Being thus approached by the god, the brahmin boy saluted him with a laudatory hymn. After adoring him with suitable offerings of flowers, the boy addressed him in the following manner. 40 “Lord, I find no holy place upon earth. It is full of inequity and sinful beings. Therefore I pray that you make the tops of trees the only places where I live.”

41 Being so asked by the brahmin boy, the god pronounced, “Be it so,” from his flaming mouth, and vanished from sight. 42 As the god disappeared from before him, like daylight from the face of the lotus flower, the son of the sage was fully satisfied with his desired boon. His face shone like the full moon. 43 Conscious of the success of his desire, his gladdened countenance brightened with his blooming smiles, just as the white lotus, as soon as it perceives the smiling moonbeams falling upon it, blushes with its smiling petals.