Chapter 1 — The Midday Ritual

Vasishta said:—

Rama, now hear me propose to you the subject of quietude or rest, which follows that of existence and sustenance of the universe. This knowledge will lead you to nirvana, final extinction.

Valmiki says:—

As Vasishta was delivering his holy words, the assembly of the princes remained as still as the stars in the clear sky of an autumn night. Listening princes, looking with muted gaze at the venerable sage amidst the assembly, resembled the unmoving lotuses looking at the bright sun from their breathless beds. Harem princesses forgot their joy at hearing the sermon of the sage. Their minds became as cool and quiet as in the long absence of their consorts. Ladies fanning with fans in their hands remained as still as a flock of flapping geese resting on a lotus bed, and the jingling of gems and jewels on their arms ceased like the chirping of birds on the trees at night. The princes who heard these doctrines sat reflecting on their hidden meanings, their index fingers to the tips of their noses in thoughtfulness. Others pondered on their deep sense by laying fingers on their lips.

Rama’s face flushed like the blushing lotus in the morning and it brightened by casting away its melancholy, as the sun shines by dispelling the darkness of night. King of kings Dasharata felt as delighted hearing the lectures of Vasishta as a peacock is gladdened by the roar of rain clouds.

Sarana, the king’s minister, removed his unstable monkey mind from his state affairs and applied it intensely to attend to the teachings of the sage. 10 Lakshman, who was well versed in all learning, shone as a digit (one-twelfth phase) of the bright crescent moon with the internal light of Vasishta’s instructions, and the radiance of his spiritual knowledge. 11 Satrughna, the subduer of his enemies, was so full of delight in his heart at the teaching of the sage that his face glowed with joy, like the full moon with all her digits. 12 The other good ministers, whose minds were absorbed in the cares of state affairs, were set at ease by the friendly admonition of the sage. They glowed in their hearts like lotus buds expanded by sunbeams. 13 All the other chiefs and sages present in that assembly had the gems of their hearts cleansed of their impurity by Vasishta’s preaching. Their minds glowed with fervor from his impressive speech.

14 At this instant the loud sound of conch shells arose resembling the full swell of the sounding ocean and the deep and deafening roar of summer clouds. The conch sound filled the roof of the sky and announced the time of midday service. 15 The loud uproar of the shells drowned out the sage’s feeble voice, just as the high sounding roar of rain clouds puts down the notes of the sweet cuckoo. 16 The muni stopped his breath and stopped speaking because it is vain to speak where it is not heeded or heard.

17 Hearing the midday shout, the sage stopped for a moment. After the noisy confusion was over he addressed Rama and said:—

18 Rama, thus far I have delivered to you my daily lecture for this day. I will resume it next morning and tell you all that I have to say on the subject. 19 It is ordained for the twice born classes (dvijas, the three upper castes) to attend to their religious duties at midday. The lecture does not require us to swerve from discharging our noonday services at this time. 20 Rise therefore, O fortunate Rama, and perform your sacred ablutions and divine services with which you are well acquainted and give your alms and charities also as they are ordained by law.

21 Saying so, the sage rose from his seat with the king and his courtiers. He resembled the sun or moon rising from the eastern mountain with their retinue of stars. 22 Their rising made the whole assembly rise after them, like a gentle breeze moving a bed of lotuses with the black eyes of black bees sitting upon them. 23 The assembled princes rose up with their crowned heads and marched with their long and massive arms like a body of big elephants from the Vindhyan Hills with their clumsy legs. 24 As they pushed up and down in their hurry, the jewels on their bodies rubbed against each other and displayed with a blaze like that of reddened clouds at the setting sun. 25 The jingling of gems on crowns resembled the humming of bees and the flashing reflections from crowns spread various colors of the rainbow around.

26 The beauties in the court hall, resembling tender vines and holding fans like clusters of blossoms in their leaf-like palms, formed a forest of beauties about the elephantine forms of the brave princes. 27 The hall reflected the glints of blazing bracelets and looked as if it was strewn with the dust of mandara flowers blown away by the winds. 28 There were crystal tanks of pure water mixed with ice and powdered camphor. The landscape around was whitened by kusa grass and the flowers of autumn. 29 Gems hanging from princes’ head-dresses cast a reddish color over the hollow dome of the hall, making it appear like the evening twilight that precedes the shade of night which puts an end to the daily works of men. 30 The fair faces of fairy ladies were like lotuses floating on the watery luster of the strings of pearls hanging upon them. They resembled lines of bees fluttering about lotuses. The anklets at their feet emitted a ringing sound like the humming of bees.

31 The large assemblage of princes arose amid the assembled crowds of men and presented a scene never seen before by the admiring people. 32 The rulers of the earth bowed down lowly before their sovereign and departed from his presence and the royal palace in large bodies, like waves of the sea, glistening like rainbows by the light of their shining ornaments.

33 The chief minister Sumantra and others who were best acquainted with royal etiquette prostrated themselves before their king and the holy sage, then took their way towards the holy stream to perform their sacred ablutions. 34 The rishis Vamadeva, Vishwamitra and others stood in the presence of Vasishta and waited for his leave to make their departure. 35 King Dasharata honored the sages one by one, and then left them to attend to his own business. 36 Citizens returned to the city, and foresters retired to their forests. The aerial beings flew in the air, and all went to their respective homes in anticipation of rejoining the assembly the next morning.

37 The venerable Vishwamitra, being invited by the king and Vasishta, stayed and passed the night at Vasishta’s home. 38 Vasishta was honored by all the princes, sages and great brahmins, and adored by Rama and the other princes of King Dasharata’s royal family. 39 Then Vasishta proceeded to his hermitage, with the obeisance of the assembled crowd on all sides, and followed by a large retinue just as the god Brahma is accompanied by bodies of celestials. 40 He then gave leave to Rama and his brother princes, and to all his companions and followers, to return to their homes from his hermitage in the woods. 41 He bade farewell to the aerial, earthly and underground beings that kept him company with their formal praise of his merits. Then entering his house, he performed his brahmin rites with a dutiful disposition.