Chapter 22 — The Story of Mahabali, the Benevolent King of Demons, and His Father Virochana

Vasishta said:—

O Rama who is the bright moon of Raghu’s race, you should also follow the example of Bali in acquiring wisdom by self-discernment.

Rama said, “Venerable sage who is acquainted with all natures, it is by your favor that I have gained all that is worth gaining in my heart, and that is our final rest in the purest state of infinite bliss. O sage, it is by your favor that my mind is freed from the great delusion of my many desires, just as the autumn sky is cleared of the rainy season clouds. My soul is at rest and as cold as a stone. It is filled with the ambrosial nectar of divine knowledge and its holy light. I find myself resting in perfect bliss and as illumined as the queen of the stars rising in her full light in the evening.

O you dispeller of my doubts who resembles the clear autumn sky that clears the clouds of the rainy season, I am never full or satisfied with all your holy teachings. For the advancement of my knowledge, tell me how Bali came to know transcendental truth. Explain it fully unto me, as holy saints reserve nothing from their humble students.

Vasishta replied:—

O Rama, pay attention to the interesting story of Bali. Your attention to it will give you knowledge of the endless, everlasting and unvarying truth.

In a particular part in the womb below this earth there is a place called the infernal region. It is peopled by milk-white goddesses born in the sweet water of the Milky Ocean. They are of the race of demons and they filled every gap and chasm of this place with their offspring. 10 In some places it was peopled by huge serpents with a hundred and thousand heads that hissed loudly with their parted and forked tongues and long fangs. 11 In other places there were mountainous bodies of demons walking in lofty strides, seemingly able to fling worlds like candy and devour them. 12 In another place there were big elephants holding up the earth on their raised trunks and supporting islands on their strong, long tusks. 13 In other places there were ghosts and devils making hideous shrieks and noise. There were groups of hellish bodies and putrid carcasses of ghostly shapes.

14 Concealed in the dark womb of the nether world depths were rich mines of gems and metals reaching to the seventh and lowest layer the infernal regions.

15 Another part of this place was sanctified by the dust of the lotus-like feet of the divine sage Kapila who was adored by gods and demigods who prostrated their exalted heads at his holy feet. 16 Another part of it was presided by the god Shiva in his form of a golden Shivalinga which was worshipped by lady demons with abundant offerings and merry revelries.

17 Bali, the son of Virochana, ruled in this place as the king of demons. He supported the burden of his kingdom on the pillars of the demons’ mighty arms. 18 He forced the gods, the supernatural vidyadharas, the serpents, and even the king of the gods to serve at his feet like his vassal retinue, and they were glad to serve him as their lord. 19 He was protected by Vishnu who contains the shining worlds in the treasure of his belly (brahmanda), and who is the preserver of all embodied beings, and the support of the sovereigns of the earth.

20 The name Bali struck terror in the heart of Airavata, the elephant that bears Indra, making his cheeks fade with fear, just as the sound of a peacock petrifies the insides of serpents. 21 The intense heat of his valor dried up the waters of the sevenfold oceans of the earth and turned them into seven dry beds, as under the fire of the universal conflagration. 22 But the smoke of his sacrificial fire was like a charm supplying people with water. It caused the rains to fall as profusely from above as the seas below contain waters from above. 23 His frown made the high heads of mountains stoop low to the ground and caused the lofty skies to lower with water, like the high branches of trees when overloaded with fruit.

24 This mighty monarch, after he had made an easy conquest of all the treasures and luxuries of the world, ruled over the demons for myriads of years. 25 Thus he lived for many ages that glided on like the course of a river rolling about in whirlpools. He witnessed the constant flux and reflux of generations of gods, demons and men in the three worlds.

At last, the king of the demons felt a distaste for all the enjoyments of life that he had tasted to excess. He also felt an uneasiness amidst the variety of his pleasures. 27 He retired to the farthest polar mount of Meru. There, sitting on a ledge of one of its shining heights, he reflected on the state of this world and the vanity of mortal life.

Bali thinking to himself:—

28 How much longer shall I have to rule over this world with my untiring labor? How much more must I remain to roam about the triple world in my successive reincarnations? 29 Of what use is it to me to have this unrivaled sovereignty, which is a wonder in the three worlds. Of what good is it for me to enjoy this abundant luxury, so charming to the senses? 30 Of what permanent delight are all these pleasures to me? They are pleasant only for the present short time and within a moment they are sure to lose all their taste and my zest for them.

31 There is the same rotation of days and nights in unvarying succession, and the same acts repeated day after day. To continue in the same unvaried course of life for a great length of time is rather shameful and in no way pleasant to anyone. 32 The same embraces of our beloved and eating the same food day by day are amusements fit only for playful children. They are disgraceful and disgusting to great minds.

33 What man of taste will not be disgusted to taste the same sweets that he has tasted over and over again and which have become vapid and tasteless today? What sensible man can continue in the same course without feelings of shame and remorse? 34 The revolving days and nights bring the same revolution of duties. I imagine this constant repetition of the same acts is as ridiculous to the wise as chewing ground meat. 35 The actions of men are like those of waves that rise to fall, then rise again to subside in the waters. 36 Repetition of the same act is the occupation of mad men. A wise man would be laughed at if he kept repeating the same sound, like children conjugating a verb in all its moods, tenses and inflexions.

37 What action is there that once completed does not reoccur, but crowns its actor with his full success all at once? 38 Or if this bustle of the world were for a short duration only, yet what is the good that we can derive from engaging in this commotion? 39 The course of actions is as interminable as the ceaseless repetition of boyish sports. It is hollow harping on the same string. The more the string is played, the more it reverberates its hollow sound.

40 I see no such gain from any of our actions. I see nothing that being once gained may prevent our further efforts. 41 What can our actions bring beside the objects of sense gratification? They cannot bring about anything that is imperishable.

Vasishta speaking:—

Saying so, Bali fell into a trance (samadhi) of his profound meditation. 42 Then, coming to himself, he thought, “Ah! I remember now what I had heard from my father.” So thinking he stretched his eyebrows and gave expression to what he thought in his mind.

Bali thinking to himself:—

43 I had asked my father Virochana, who was versed in spiritual knowledge and acquainted with the manners of the people of former and later ages, 44 “What is that ultimate state of being where all our pains and pleasures cease to exist, and after its attainment we have no more to wander about the world or pass through repeated reincarnations? 45 What is that final state towards which all our endeavors are directed, where our minds are freed from their error, and where, after all our wanderings and reincarnations, we obtain our full rest? 46 What is that best of gains which gives full satisfaction to the cravings of the soul? What is that glorious object whose sight transcends all other objects of vision?”

47 “All those various luxuries and superfluities of the world are in no way conducive to our real happiness because they mislead the mind to error and corrupt the souls of even the wisest of men. 48 Therefore, O father, show me that state of imperishable joy whereby I may attain everlasting repose and tranquility.”

49 I remember my father was sitting under the shade of the wish-fulfilling kalpa tree of paradise, whose flowers were fairer far than the bright moonbeams covered the ground all around. He spoke to me in his sweet mellifluous accents the following speech, for the purpose of removing my error.