Chapter 44 — The Story of Gadhi: His Tapas, Vishnu’s Boon, and His Death

Vasishta said:—

Rama, only government of the restless mind is able to destroy the delusion which causes the interminable reincarnations in this mortal world. There is no other means to this end. Listen attentively, O sinless Rama, to this story which I am going to relate to you in order to show you the intricacies of understanding the nature of worldly delusions.

In this land there is the large district of Kosala which is full of forests and fruitful trees, like gardens of wish-fulfilling kalpa trees, and abounding with minerals like Sumeru Mountain. There lived a learned brahmin named Gadhi who was intelligent and versed in the Vedas and an image of virtue. From his youth he continued with the calmness of his mind, abstracted from and indifferent to worldly affairs. He was a pure and unstained soul like the clear sky above.

Intent on some fixed purpose of his mind, he left the company of his friends and went to a forest to perform austere tapas. There he found a lake filled with full blown lotuses, the moon shining in the sky with scattered stars about her, all shedding their brightness like showers of rain. He went down into the lake and stood in the waters up to his neck. His body was below water and his head floated over it like a lotus. He stood upon his tapas, intent with a view to have the sight of Vishnu present before him.

Thus he passed full eight months, his body immersed in the water of the lake. His face was shriveled and wan, like the lotuses of his lake for lack of sunshine. 10 When he was emaciated by his austerities, his god Vishnu appeared before him like a dark cloud of rainy weather appearing over the parched earth of the hot season. 11 The Lord said, “Rise O brahmin from the water and receive your desired blessing of me. The tree of your tapas vow is now flowering with its expected fruit.”

12 The brahmin replied, “I bow to you, O my lord Vishnu! You are the receptacle of the three worlds and the reservoir of innumerable starry worlds which rise like lotuses in the lake of your heart, whereon you sit like a black bee. 13 My Lord, I want to see the spiritual delusion which you have ordained to blindfold this world and which is known as Vishnu Maya.”

14 Vasishta said:—

To this the god replied, “You shall truly behold this delusion, and get rid of it afterwards by virtue of your devotion in tapas.” Saying so, the god disappeared from his sight like a castle in the sky.

15 Vishnu being gone, the good brahmin got up from his watery bed like the fair and humid moon rises from the cool and white Milky Ocean. 16 He was glad in his soul at the sight of the lord of world. His heart was full blown with joy, like kumuda lotuses unfolding at the sight of the moon. 17 Then he passed some days in that forest, overjoyed in his mind by the sight of Vishnu, and employed himself in discharging his brahmin duties.

18 Once when he had been bathing in the lake covered with full-blown lotuses, he thought upon the words of Vishnu, like great sages reflecting upon the meanings of the Vedas. 19 Then, while discharging his priestly functions in the sacred water, he made his mental prayer to purge his sins. 20 As he was performing this act in the water, he chanced to forget his sacred prayers, became confused, and was drowned in deep water.

21 He thought that his body had fallen down like a mountain tree in the valley below by a blast of wind, and that his dead corpse was taken up and mourned over by his friends. 22 He thought that his vital breath had fled from his being and the limbs of his body were as motionless as sugar cane flattened by a hurricane. 23 He thought his face had faded away and grown as pale as the withered leaf of a tree, and that his body had turned to a carcass and was lying on the ground like a lotus bud torn from its stalk.

24 His eyeballs were as dull and dim as the stars are shorn of their beams with the morning. The ground seemed to be as dry to him, filled with flying dust everywhere, as if there was a drought. 25 He believed his dead body was beset all about by his kind friends, weeping upon it with sad and sorrowful faces, loudly lamenting and crying over it like birds upon trees. 26 He thought his faithful wife was sitting at his feet like a handsome lotus flower, weeping profusely with showers of tears from her lotus-like eyes like waters rushing through a broken embankment.

27 His sorrowing mother, with her loud wailing and mournful crying, was buzzing like a humming bee and holding her chin, newly overgrown with whiskers, in her tender hand. 28 His friends were sitting by his side with dejected looks, trickling tears dropping down their faces and cheeks. These washed his dead body like melting dew on withered leaves moisten the parent tree.

29 His body members ceased to befriend him, like strangers who decline to become friends for fear of future separation, or turning unfriendly ever afterwards in life. 30 The open lips leaving the teeth bare seemed to deride the vanity of human life, as the white and bony toothed ascetics and cynics do at unsteadiness of worldly events. 31 His mouth was speechless, like that of a devotee in meditation. His body was motionless, as if made of mud and clay. It slept to wake no more, like a sage absorbed in his meditation. 32 It remained quiet with lifted ears, as if to listen to the cries and wailings of the mourning friends in order to judge the degrees of their affection and grief for him.

33 Then the relatives raised their loud lamentations with sobbing and beating of breasts, swooning and rising and shedding floods of tears from their leaky eyes. 34 Afterwards the sorrowful relations removed the disgusting corpse with their bitter cries for its funeral, to never see it again in this passing world. 35 They bore the body to the funeral ground with its rotten flesh and entrails, daubed all over with mud and dust. They placed it on the ground strewn with unnumbered bones, skeletons, and dried and rotten carcasses.

36 Flights of flying vultures shaded the sunbeams on high and burning funeral pyres drove away the darkness below. The fearful glare of open mouthed jackals flashed on all sides like flames of living fire. 37 Ravens bathed in floods of blood and crows dipped their wings in it. Hungry birds tore at entrails and old vultures were trapped in the strings.

38 The friends of the dead burnt the corpse in the funeral flame and reduced it to ashes. The moisture of the body flew in fumes like the waters of the ocean evaporate from an undersea fire. 39 The burning wood of the funeral pyre consumed the dead body with load cracking noises. The dry fuel of the pile flashed in encompassing flames with curling smoke over them. 40 The devouring fire gnawed down the bones with crackling noise and filled the atmosphere with filthy stink and stench. It gorged up all that was soft or hard, like an elephant devouring reeds with the moisture contained in their cellular vessels.