Chapter 19 — On Family Relationships: the Story of Punya and Pavana

Vasishta continued:—

I will now give you an example on the subject, the story of two brothers born of a sage on the banks of Ganges where it flows in three directions. I have been talking about friends and enemies, so this wonderful tale from the past occurs to my mind. Hear this holy story.

On this continent of Asia, there a mountainous region surrounded by gardens and forests with the high Mount Mahendra rising above the rest. It touched the sky with its lofty peaks, and its wish-fulfilling kalpa tree spread its shadow over the hermits and kinnaras that took shelter beneath it. The place resounded with the sound of sages chanting the Sama Veda hymns as they passed from its caves and peaks to the region of Indra.

Fleecy clouds constantly drizzled rainwater from its thousand peaks, washing plants and flowers below. They appeared like tufts of hair hanging down from heaven to earth. The mountain echoed with the loud roars of impetuous eight-legged sharabhas, and with the thunder from the hollow mouths of its dark and deep clouds, like the world-destroying kalpa clouds. The thundering noise of its cascades falling from precipice to precipice into its caverns would make the loud crashing of ocean waves blush by comparison.

There, on a tableland upon the craggy top of the mountain, flowed the sacred stream of the heavenly Ganges for the ablution and drink of the hermits. 10 There, on the banks of the triple path river Ganges, was a shining mountain, sparkling like bright gold and decorated with blossoming trees.

11 There lived a sage named Dirghatapa who was a personification of meditation and a man of enlightened understanding. He had a noble mind and was accustomed to the austerities of tapas. 12 This sage was blessed with two children as beautiful as the full moon. They were named Punya (Meritorious) and Pavana (Holy) and they were as intelligent as the sons of Brihaspati who are known as the two Kachas. 13 Dirghatapa lived with his wife and their two sons on the bank of the river amid a grove of fruit trees.

14 In course of time, the two children arrived at the age of discretion. Punya, the elder of the two, was superior to the other in all his merits. 15 The younger boy, Pavana, was half awakened in his intellect, like the half blown lotus at the dawn of the day. His lack of intelligence kept him from knowing the truth and the certainty of his faith.

16 In the course of all destroying time, the sage came to complete a hundred years, and age and infirmity reduced the strength of his tall body and long life. 17 His vitality decrepit, he bade farewell to his desires in this world, so frail and full of a hundred fearful accidents to human life. 18 At last the old devotee Dirghatapa left his mortal frame in a cave of that mountain, like a bird quitting its old nest forever, or a water-bearer laying down the burden from his shoulders. 19 His spirit fled like the fragrance of a flower to that empty space which is ever tranquil, free from attributes and thought, and of the nature of pure consciousness.

20 The sage’s wife, finding his lifeless body lying on the ground, fell down upon it and remained motionless like a lotus flower plucked from its stalk. 21 She also was long accustomed to the practice of yoga, according to her husband’s instruction, so she also left her un-decayed body, like a bee flits from an un-faded flower into empty air. 22 Unseen by men, her soul followed her husband’s as the light of the stars disappears in the sky at the dawn of the day.

23 Seeing the death of both parents, the elder son Punya was busily employed in performing their funeral services, but the younger Pavana was deeply absorbed in grief at their loss. 24 Being overwhelmed by the sorrow in his mind, he wandered about in the woods. Not having the firmness of his elder brother, he continued to wail in his mourning. 25 The magnanimous Punya performed the funeral ceremonies of his parents, then went in search of his brother mourning in the woods.

26 Punya said:—

My boy, why is your soul overcast by the cloud of your grief? Why do you shed tears from your lotus-eyes as profusely as rain showers, only to render you blind? 27 Know, my intelligent boy, that both your father and mother have gone to their ultimate blissful state in the Supreme Spirit, called the state of salvation or liberation. 28 That is the last resort of all living beings and that is the blessed state of all self subdued souls. Then why mourn for them who have returned and are reunited with their own proper nature?

29 You vainly indulge yourself in false and fruitless grief. You are mourning for what is not to be mourned at all. 30 Neither is she your mother nor he your father. You are not the only son of them who have had numerous children in their repeated births. 31 You also have had thousands of fathers and mothers in your bygone births, in as much as there are many streams of running waters in every forest. 32 You are not the only son of they who have had innumerable sons before you. Generations of men have passed away like the currents of a running stream. 33 Our parents also had numberless children in their past lives, and the branches of human generation are as numerous as the innumerable flowers and fruit on trees. 34 The numbers of our friends and relatives in our repeated lives in this world have been as great as the innumerable flowers and fruit of a large tree in all its many seasons. 35 If we are to lament over the loss of our parents and children who are dead and gone, then why not also lament those we have lost and left behind in all our past lives?

36 It is all only a delusion, O my fortunate boy, that is presented before us in this illusive world. In truth, O my conscious child, we have nobody who we may call to be our real friends or positive enemies in this world. 37 In a true sense, there is no loss of anybody or anything in the world. It is only that they appear to exist and disappear, like the appearance of water in the dry desert.

38 The royal dignity that you may see, adorned with a stately umbrella and flapping fans, is only a dream that lasts a few days. 39 Consider these phenomena in their true light and, my boy, you will find that none of these nor ourselves nor anyone of us is to last forever. Therefore shun your error of the passing world from your mind forever.

40 That these are dead and gone and these others exist before us are only errors of our minds and creatures of our false notions and fond desires. There is no reality in them. 41 Our notions and desires paint and present these various changes before our sight, like sunshine presenting water in a mirage. So our fancies, working in the field of our ignorance, produce the false conceptions that roll on like currents in the eventful ocean of the world, bringing the waves of favorable and unfavorable events to us.