Chapter 9 — Janaka’s Reflections

Vasishta continued:—

Upon hearing these compositions of the spiritual masters, King Janaka was dejected in his mind, like a coward at the noise of a conflict. He returned towards home and traveled there in silence, like a stream gliding in its silent course under trees on the shore towards the bed of the distant ocean.

He left behind all his domestics in their respective rooms below, and ascended alone to the highest balcony, like the sun mounting the top of a mountain. There he saw flights of birds randomly flying in different directions. He thought how men hurried about in the same manner and mourned their deplorable conditions.

Janaka thinking to himself:—

Ah how miserable that I have to move about in the pitiable state of the restless mob that rolls about like a rolling stone, pushed backward and forward by another. I have a short span of endless duration allotted to my share of lifetime, yet I am a senseless fool to place my trust in the hope of its durability. The duration of my royal rule is short also as it is limited to my lifetime. How can I be secure of its continuance, like a thoughtless man?

I have an immortal soul lasting from before and to continue even after my present existence. The present life is destructible, yet I am a fool to rely upon it like a boy believing a painted moon to be real. Ah, what sorcerer has bewitched me by his magic wand to make me believe that I am not spell-bound at all! 10 What faith can I rely upon in this world which has nothing substantial or pleasant and nothing grand or real in it? Yet I do not know why the world deludes my mind.

11 What is far from me appears to be near by my sensation of the same, and that which is nearest to me appears to be farthest away. Knowing this I must abandon outer objects in order to see the inner soul.

12 This hurry of men in their pursuits is as impetuous and transient as the torrent of a whirlpool. It drops them in the depths of their dangers. It is not worth the pain it gives to the spirit. 13 Years, months, days and minutes revolve with the succession of our pains and pleasures. But these are all swallowed up by the repeated retinues of our misery.

14 I have well considered everything and found them all perishable and nothing durable or lasting. There is nothing to be found here worthy to be relied upon by the wise. 15 Those standing at the head of great men today are reduced low in the course of a few days. What worth is there in giddy and thoughtless greatness that is deserving of our respect?

16 I am bound to earth without a rope. I am soiled without any outward dirt. I am fallen though sitting in this building. O my soul, how you are destroyed while living! 17 From where has this causeless ignorance overpowered my intelligent soul? From where has this shadow covered my soul’s brightness like a dark cloud obscuring the sun? 18 Of what value are rich possessions and numerous relations to me when my soul is in despair, like children under the fear of ghosts and evil spirits? 19 How shall I place any reliance upon my sensual enjoyments which foreshadow death and disease? What dependence is there on my possessions which are filled only with anxieties and cares?

20 It matters not whether these friends, the feeders on my fortune, may last or leave me at once. My prosperity is only a bubble and a false appearance before me. 21 Men of greatest opulence, many good and great men and our best friends and kindest relatives, have gone by and now live in only our memory. 22 Where are the riches of the earth’s monarchs and where are Brahma’s former creations? The past has given way to the present and these are to be followed by the future. Therefore there is no reliance upon anything. 23 Many Indras have been swallowed up like bubbles in the ocean of eternity. Therefore expectation of longevity is ridiculous to the wise. 24 Millions of Brahmas have passed away and their productions have disappeared under endless successions. Kings of earth have fled like their ashes, reduced to dust. Then what is the confidence in my life and stability?

25 The world is only a dream by night. The body with its sense organs is only a misconception of the mind. If I place any credence in them, I am really to be blamed. 26 My conception of myself and perception of other things are false imaginations of my mind. My egoism has laid hold of me, like a demon seizing an idiot. 27 Fool that I am, seeing that I do not see how the span of my life is measured every moment by imperceptible instants of time, leaving only a small portion behind. 28 I see the juggler of time seizing Brahmas, Vishnus and Shivas and making playthings of them on his playground of the world, flinging them all about like balls.

29 I see days and nights constantly passing away without presenting me an opportunity to behold the true imperishable one. 30 The objects of sensual enjoyment lurk in the minds of men like cranes chattering in lakes. There is no likelihood of the true and best object in anyone’s mind.

31 We meet with one hardship after another and buffet in waves of endless miseries in this earth. Yet we are so shameless that we do not feel disgusted with them. 32 We see all the desirable objects to which we attach our thoughts are frail and perishing, yet we do not seek the imperishable one and our everlasting good in the equanimity of the soul.

33 Whatever we see as pleasant in the beginning, or in the middle, or in the end, and at all times are all unholy and subject to decay. 34 Whatever objects are dear to the hearts of men are all found to be subject to the changes of their rise and fall. 35 Ignorant people are everywhere inclined to evil acts. They grow day by day more hardened in their wicked practices. They repent every day for their sins, but never reprove themselves for the better. 36 Senseless men, being devoid of sense in their boyhood and heated by their passions in youth, are never the better for anything. In their latter days they are oppressed with the care of their families. In the end they are overcome by sorrow and remorse.

37 Here entrance and exit are both accompanied by pain and sorrow. Here every state of life is contaminated by its opposite. Everything is unsubstantial in this seemingly substantial world, yet the ignorant rely on its unreal substantiality.

38 The real good here, derived by means of painful austerities, are the arduous sacrifices for the consecration of a king (rajasuya), the one-year horse-wandering ceremony (asvamedha), and others for the attainment of heaven. Yet even heaven has no reality and lasts for only a small portion of a kalpa as compared with eternity. 39 What is this heaven and where is it situated, whether below or above us or in this nether world, where its residents are not overtaken by multitudes of locust-like evils?

40 We have serpents creeping in the cells of our hearts and we have bodies filled with the brambles of diseases and dangers, and we do not know how to destroy them. 41 I see good mixed with evil and pain abiding with pleasure. There is sorrow seated on top of joy. I do not know where to go for help. 42 I see the earth full of common people constantly being born and dying in multitudes, but I find few honest and righteous men in it.

43 These beautiful forms of women, their eyes like lotuses, the gracefulness of their allurements, and their charming smiles, are soon made to fade and die away. 44 Of what value am I among these mighty beings who, at the twinkling of their eyes, have created and destroyed the world, yet have succumbed to death at last?

45 You are constantly in search of what is more pleasant and lasting than others, but never seek after that highest prosperity which is beyond all your earthly cares. 46 What is this great prosperity in which you take so much delight? It is only a mere vexation of your spirit which proves this vanity to be only your calamity. 47 Again, what are these adversities which you fear so much? They may be the source of your true prosperity by setting you free from earthly disturbances and leading you to future joy.

48 The mind is broken to pieces by its fears, like fragments of the moon floating on the waves of this ocean of the world. Its selfishness has tossed it to and fro, and when this world is rid, it is set at perfect ease.

49 There is an unavoidable fate activating our worldly affairs and accidents. Therefore it is impudent to welcome some as good and to avoid others as evil. 50 We are prone to things that are pleasant to sight, but they have a mortal flame in them that consumes us like poor moths in flames; bright to see but fatal to feel. 51 It is better to roll in the continuous flames of hellfire to which one is accustomed than to rise and fall repeatedly in the furnace of this world, like from the frying pan into the fire.

52 The wise say this world is a boundless ocean of grief. Then how can anybody who has fallen here expect any happiness here? 53 Those who have fallen and not been altogether drowned in sorrow think their lesser sorrows are light and delight, like one condemned to be beheaded is glad to escape with a light punishment.

The world appears to have been created by accident, even as a coconut might appear to have fallen because a crow coincidentally happens to land on the tree that same moment.

54 I have become the vilest of the vile and resemble a block of wood or stone. There is no difference between me and an ignorant clown who never has had a thought of eternal concern in his head. 55 The great tree of the world, with its many branches, twigs and fruit, has sprung from the mind and is rooted in it. 56 It is the conception of the world in my mind that causes its existence and presents its appearance before me.

Now I will try to efface this conception from my mind and forget this world altogether. 57 I will no longer allow myself to be deluded like monkeys with the forms of things that I know are not real, only changing and fleeting ideas. 58 I have woven and stretched out the web of my desires and gathered only sorrows and sorrows. I fell into and fled from the snare of my own making, and I am now resolved to take my rest in the soul. 59 I have wailed and bitterly wept a great deal thinking of the depravity and loss of my soul. Henceforth I will cease to lament, thinking that I am not utterly lost.

60 I am now awakened, and I am happy to learn who is robbing my soul. It is my own mind, and this I am determined to kill because it has for so long deprived me of the inestimable treasure of my soul. 61 For so long my mind was at large like a loose and unstrung pearl. Now will I pierce it with the needle of reason and string it with the virtues of self control and subjection to wisdom. 62 The cold icicle of my mind will melt from the solar heat of reason. My mind will be confined in the endless meditation of its Eternal Maker.

63 I am now awakened to my spiritual knowledge, like these holy masters, saints and sages. I will now pursue my spiritual inquiries for the contentment of my soul. 64 Having now found my long lost soul, I will continue to look upon its pure light with joy in my lonely retirement. I will remain quiet and still in contemplation of my soul, like a motionless cloud in autumn. 65 Having cast away the false belief of my corporeality and that these possessions and properties are mine, and having subdued my mighty enemy the mind by my force, I will attain the tranquility of my soul with the help of my reason.