Chapter 51 — The Story of Uddalaka: His Desire for Realization & the Cave

Vasishta said:—

O Rama, have no reliance or confidence in the course of the mind, which is sometimes continuous and sometimes momentary, now even and flat and then sharp and acute, and often as treacherous as the edge of a razor.

As the germ of consciousness sprouts in the field of the mind, O Rama who is a moral man, grow it by sprinkling the cold water of reason over its tender blades. As long as the body of this plant does not fade away in course of time or roll upon the ground as the decayed and dead body of man, so long should you hold it up upon the prop of reason

Knowing the truth of what I say and pondering on its deep meaning, you will get a delight in your innermost soul like a serpent-killing peacock is ravished at the deep roaring of rain clouds. Like sage Uddalaka, shake off your knowledge of fivefold materiality as the cause of all creation and accustom yourself to think more deeply with patient inquiry and reasoning on the prime cause of causes.

Rama asked, “Tell me sage, how did sage Uddalaka get rid of his thoughts of fivefold creation? How did he penetrate deeper into the original cause of all by the force and process of his reasoning?”

Vasishta replied:—

Rama, learn how sage Uddalaka of old rose higher from his investigation of fivefold matter to his inquiry into their cause, and how transcendent light dawned upon his mind.

In a spacious corner of this old house, the world, on the northwest side of this land, standing like a shed above surrounding rugged hills there was the high tableland of Gandhamadana, full of camphor trees that continuously shed the odors of their flowers and pistils on the ground. 10 This place was frequented by birds of many colors and filled with plants at various kinds. Wild beasts lived in its banks and it was filled with flowers shining smilingly over the woodland scene. 11 Some parts had bright swelling gems, and others blooming lotuses. Some parts were veiled by tufts of snow and others had crystal streams gliding like glassy mirrors. 12 Here on the elevated top of a big cliff of this hill, studded with sarala trees and strewn with flowers up to the heels and shaded by the cooling shade of lofty trees, 13 there lived the silent sage named Uddalaka, a youth of a great mind with a great sense of honor.

Uddalaka had not attained his maturity when he undertook his rigorous austerity. 14 When his intellect first developed, the light of reason dawned upon his mind and he awakened to noble aims and expectations instead of arriving at the state of rest and quietude. 15 In this manner he undertook austerities, religious studies and observed his holy rites and duties. The genius of right reason appeared before him, just as a new year presents itself before the face of the world. 16 Then he began to reflect in the following manner, sitting as he was in solitude, weary with thoughts and terrified at the ever-changing state of the world.

Uddalaka thinking:—

17 What is that best of gains which once obtained leaves nothing else required for our rest? What can be had which will lead us no more to reincarnate in this world? 18 When shall I find my permanent rest in the state of holy and transcendent thoughtlessness and remain above all the rest, like a cloud resting over the top of Sumeru Mountain or the polar star standing above the pole without changing its place?

19 When will my tumultuous desires of worldly increase and advancement merge in peaceful tranquility, just as loose, loud and noisy waves subside in the sea? 20 When will the calm and unstirred composure of my mind secretly smile within to reflect on how mankind desires to do this thing after they have done the other, which leads them interminably in the circuit of their misery? 21 When will my mind be loosened from its noose of desire? When shall I remain unattached to everything, like a dew drop on a lotus-leaf?

22 When shall I get over the boisterous sea of my unsteady desires by the raft of my good understanding? 23 When shall I laugh to scorn the foolish actions of worldly people as the silly play of children? 24 When will my mind get rid of its desires and dislikes and cease swinging back and forth in the cradle of its choices and fancies? When will my mind return to its steadiness, as a madman is calmed after the fit of his delirium has passed away?

25 When shall I receive my bright spiritual body and deride the course of the world? When shall I have my internal satisfaction, like the all knowing and all sufficient spirit of Virat (the Cosmic Being)? 26 When shall I obtain calm stillness with internal equanimity, my soul serene and indifferent to external objects, like the sea after its release from churning? 27 When shall I see the fixed scene of the world before me as a dream and keep myself aloof from it? 28 When shall I see the inner and outer worlds as a fixed picture in my imagination? When shall I meditate on the whole in the light of an intellectual system?

29 When shall I have calmness of mind and soul and become a perfectly intellectual being myself? When shall I have that supernatural light in me which enlightens the internal eye of those who are born blind? 30 When will the sunshine of my meditation show me the pure light of my intellect, whereby I may see objects at a distance as I perceive the parts of time in me? 31 When shall I be free from my exertion and inertness towards the objects of my desires and dislikes? When shall I get self-satisfaction in my state of self-illumination? 32 When will this long and dark night of my ignorance come to its end? It is infested by my faults fluttering like the foreboding birds of night and infected with frost withering the lotus of my heart.

33 When shall I become like a cold stone in a mountain cave and have the calm coolness of my mind in steady, unchanging samadhi? 34 When will the elephant of my pride, ever giddy with its greatness, become prey to the lion of right understanding? 35 When will the little forest birds build their nests of grass in my hair as I remain fixed in unalterable meditation, silence and samadhi? 36 When will the birds of the air rest fearlessly on my bosom, as they do on the tops of fixed rocks, upon finding me sitting transfixed in my meditation and as still as a rock?

37 Ah! When shall I pass over this lake of the world in which my desires and passions are like weeds and thorny brambles obstructing my passage to its borders of joy?

Vasishta speaking:—

38 Immersed in these and similar reflections, twice-born Uddalaka sat in meditation in the forest. 39 But as his silly, unsteady mind turned towards sensible objects in different ways, he did not obtain the state of attention which could render him happy. 40 Sometimes his monkey-mind turned away from leaning to external objects and eagerly pursued the realities of the internal world or intellectual truths. 41 At other times his unsteady mind departed from the intangible things of the inner, intellectual world and fondly returned to outer objects mixed with poison. 42 He often saw the sunlight of spirituality rising within himself, and as often he turned his mind away from that golden prospect to the sight of gross objects.

43 Leaving the soul in the gloom of internal darkness, the unrestrained mind flies as fast as a bird to the objects of sense outside. 44 Thus turning from the inner to the outer world, and then from this to that again, his mind found its rest in the space lying between the light of the one and darkness of the other. 45 Being thus perplexed in his mind, the meditative brahmin remained in his exalted cavern like a lofty tree shaken to and fro by a storm. 46 He continued in his meditation like a man’s attention is fixed upon an impending danger. His body shook to and fro, as if moved forward and backward by tiny waves splashing on the bank.

47 Thus unsettled in his mind, the sage wandered about the hill like the god of day makes his daily rounds in his lonely course about Lokaloka Mountain. 48 Wandering in this manner, he once saw a cave beyond the reach of all living beings. It was quiet and still as the liberated state of an anchorite. 49 It was not disturbed by winds or frequented by birds or beasts. It was unseen by gods or gandharvas and it was as bright as heaven. 50 It was covered with heaps of flowers and tender green grass. Being overlaid by a layer of moonstones, the floor of the cave seemed to be made of emerald.

51 It afforded cool and congenial shade, brightened by the mild light of the bright gems in its bosom. It looked like a secret haunt of woodland goddesses who chanced to play there. 52 The light of the gems spread over the ground was not too hot or too cold, but resembled the golden rays of the rising sun in autumn. 53 This cave appeared like a new bride decorated with flowers holding a garland in her hand, her face fading under the light of lamps ornamented with gems and fanned by the soft whistling of winds.

54 It was the abode of tranquility and the resting place of the lord of creation. It was charming by the variety of its blooming blossoms, and it was as soft and mild as the inside of a lotus.