Chapter 20 — Bhushunda’s Survival of the Ends of Ages

Bhushunda continued:—

This world has existed in the previous kalpa in the very same state as it does at present. There is no variation in the formation or location of anything in any way. Therefore, O great sage, I am accustomed to look to the past and present with an equal eye. I will relate the events of my past life and bygone ages for your information as if they exist with me even now. Today, O great sage, I find the fruits of my past lives’ pious acts have rewarded me with your blessed presence in this, my humble cell. My nest, this tree branch, this kalpa tree, and I myself are all blessed by your propitious presence in this place. 5 Sage, consider to accept of this seat and this gift offered to you by a suppliant bird. Having purified us by your kind acceptance of our poor offerings, please command what other service we can render to you.

Vasishta said:—

Rama, after Bhushunda had again presented the seat and gift to me, I offered another request to him in these words. I said, “Tell me, O senior among birds, why don’t I see your brothers here? They must be equally old and strong in their bodies and intellects as you show yourself to be.”

Bhushunda answered and said:—

I am destined to remain here alone, O muni, to witness the continuous course of time and to count and recount the revolutions of ages as they reckon the succession of days and nights. During this length of time, I had the misfortune to witness all my younger brothers give up their mortal frames as trifling straw and find their rest in the blessed state. 10 O great sage, I have seen the very long lived, the very great indignant, the very strong, and very wise all be gorged in the unconscious bowels of bodiless death.

11 Vasishta said, “Say, O venerable father, how did you remain unmolested by the world-ending flood, the great storm which outstripped the winds in its velocity and bore the great bodies of the sun, moon and stars like jewels hanging about its neck. 12 Say, O primeval seer, how did you escape unscathed by the burning flame of solar rays which melted mountains and consumed forests in one all-devouring conflagration. 13 O venerable sage, how did you remain unfrozen under cold moonbeams that froze clear water into hard stone? How did you flee unhurt from the showers of hail which poured in profusion from great flood clouds? 14 Tell me, O ancient bird, why were you not crushed under snow that fell from flood clouds as thickly as huge trees felled by axes from the tops of high hills. 15 Say, why this kalpa tree, which rises higher than all other forests, was not broken down when all other trees on earth were leveled to the ground by the universal tornado?

16 Bhushunda replied:—

O brahmin, my station in the open and empty air is quite unsupported, without any solid or fixed support. It is either unnoticed or looked upon with disregard and contempt by all. My living and livelihood are the most despicable among all living beings. 17 Thus has the Lord of beings appointed these aerial beings to remain free from disease and death in these forests, or fly about in empty air in their aerial course. 18 O venerable sage, then how can any sorrow or sickness befall us here? We are born to be immortal and rove freely in open air. We are free from those pains and sorrows which take the birds bound in traps of their own desires, hopes and fears.

19 Sage, I have always placed my reliance on the peace and contentment of my soul. I never allow myself to fall into the error of taking the unsubstantial for substantial. 20 I am quite content with what simple nature requires and affords. I am entirely free from those cares and endeavors that are attended with pain. I live only to pass my time in this, my lonely lodging. 21 I neither wish to entirely wallow in my bodily enjoyments nor desire death to avoid the retribution of my acts. I live as long as I have to live and will die when death comes upon me.

22 I have seen the changeful states of mankind, witnessed many examples of the changing fortunes of human affairs, and thereby have banished all sorts of restlessness from my body and mind. 23 By the constant light of my internal spirit, I am kept from the sight of all sorrow and grief. From my seat on the height of this kalpa tree, I clearly see the course of the world and the changes of time. 24 Though the changes of days and nights are not visible on the high heights of our heavenly mountain, yet I am not ignorant of the changing fortunes of the times and events in the solar and lunar worlds rolling constantly below us. 25 Though my home in the cell of this kalpa tree is always illuminated by the light of gems inlaid in it, yet I can know the course of time by the respirations of my breath, which like a chronometer informs me of the regular course of time.

26 Knowing what is real from all that is unreal, I have refrained from pursuing unrealities and settled in my knowledge of the true reality. By forsaking its natural unsteadiness, my mind is practiced to rest at all times in its perfect peace and tranquility. 27 I am not led to the snare of false worldly affairs, nor frightened like earthly crows in our yearning after food by the hissings of men. 28 By the serene light of the supreme joy of our souls and by the virtue of the unalterable patience of my mind, I look into the errors and delusions of the world without falling in them myself.

29 Great sage, know that our minds remain calm even under the shock of those dangers and perils which ruffle the tempers and understandings of ordinary people, just as pure crystal remains unstained by the blackest colors that surround it. 30 The course of the world appears very smooth and pleasant upon first glance, but as one goes on in it and upon mature consideration, it proves to be frail, unsteady and false. 31 Thus all living beings are seen to pass away. Whether they return here again or not, nobody can tell. Then what is it that we must fear?

32 As the course of streams runs continually to the ocean, so the progress of life tends constantly to the depth of eternity. But I, who stands on the border of the great ocean of eternity, have escaped from being carried away by the current of time. 33 I neither cling to my life nor fling it away, but bear it as well as I may. I remain like airy orchids, lightly touching and unattached to their supporting tree.

34 Moreover, the good of the best sort of men who are beyond the reach of fear, sorrow and pain, like yourself, has set us free from all sorts of malady. 35 From the examples of such persons, my mind has become cold and unconcerned about the affairs of busy life. It is employed only in scanning truth and the true nature of things. 36 My soul find its rest in its unchangeable and unperturbed state. It has the fullness of its light and delight, just as the sea has its floodtide at the rising of the full moon upon its bosom.

37 Sage, I am as highly pleased at your presence here at this time as the Milky Ocean overflowed when it was churned by Mandara Mountain. 38 Sage, I do not account anything as more precious and more favorable than holy saints who have nothing to desire should take pains to pay their kind visit to my humble cell. 39 What do we gain from our enjoyments that are pleasant for the time being, then lose their zest the next moment? Only the company of the great and good gives the best gifts like the philosopher’s stone. 40 You sage, who is cool and grave in your nature, and soft, sweet and slow in your speech, are like the beneficent bee that sits and sips the juice from the flowers in the three worlds and converts it into the sweet balm of honey. 41 I think, O spiritual sage, that all my sins are removed at your blessed sight. The tree of my life is blessed with its best fruit of spiritual bliss which results from the society of the virtuous whose taste removes all diseases and dangers.