1 Vasishta resumed:—
Rama, let me tell you the story of a certain mendicant who fostered some desire in his mind and wandered through many migrations of his soul.
2 At one time, there lived a great mendicant who devoted his life to holy meditation and passed his days observing the rules of his mendicancy. 3 In the intensity of his samadhi, his mind was cleansed of all its desires and became assimilated in the object of its meditation, just as seawater changes in the form of waves.
4 Once he was sitting on his seat after finishing his meditation, about to discharge some sacred function of his order, when a thought chanced to pass over his clear mind. 5 He looked into the reflection of the thought that arose in his mind of itself: that for his pleasure, he should reflect upon the various conditions of common people and the different modes of their life. 6 With this thought, his mind passed from reflecting upon himself and his God to that of another person. He lost the calm composure of his mind, just like when the quiet sea is disturbed by a whirlpool.
7 He thought to become an ideal man and in an instant, he became the imagined person, Jivata by name. 8 Jivata, the ideal man, wandered about like a dreaming person through the walks of an imaginary city which he had raised in himself, just like a sleeping man dreams and builds houses in the sky. 9 Jivata drank his fill at pleasure, just like a giddy bee sips honey from lotus flowers. He became plump and hearty with his sports and enjoyed sound sleep from his lack of cares.
10 In his dream, Jivata saw himself in the form of a brahmin who was pleased with his studies and the discharge of his religious duties. As he thought of this within himself, he was transformed to that same state, just as in the space of a thought, a man transplants himself from one place to another. 11 One day the good brahmin, who was observant of his daily rituals, fell asleep into a deep trance. He dreamt he was doing the duties of the day, just as a seed hidden in a shell inwardly performs its act of vegetation. 12 In his dream, the same brahmin saw himself changed to a chieftain who ate and drank and slept as any other man in general.
13 The chief, in his own dream, thought himself to be a king who ruled over the earth extending to the horizon surrounded by all kinds of enjoyments, just as a vine is studded with flowers. 14 Once as this king felt himself at ease, he fell into a sound sleep free from all cares. He saw the future consequences of his actions, as effects are attached to a cause and as flowers issue from a tree. 15 He saw his soul assuming the form of a heavenly maid, just as a plant produces its flowers and fruit.
16 As this heavenly maid was lulled to sleep by her weariness and fatigue, she saw herself turn into a deer, as the calm ocean finds itself disturbed by whirling currents and waves. 17 This frightened fawn with unsteady eyes fell into a sound sleep and saw herself transformed into a creeping plant. 18 The crooked beasts of the field and the creeping plants of forest also have their sleep and dreams of their own nature. Their dreams are caused by what they saw and heard and felt in their waking states. 19 This vine came to be beautified with fruits, flowers and leaves forming a covered shelter for the seat of the floral goddess of the woods. 20 Hidden in the vine’s heart were its wishes, in the same manner as a seed conceals the would be tree. At last the vine, in its inner consciousness, saw itself full of frailty and failings. 21 It had remained long in its sleep and rest, but being disgusted with its drowsy dullness, the vine thought of being the fluttering bee that was its constant guest. Immediately it found itself changed to a fluttering bee.
22 The bee flew at pleasure over the tender and blossoming vines in the forest, landing on the petals of blooming lotuses like a fond lover courting his mistresses. 23 It wandered about the blossoms, blooming like brightening pearls in the air, and drank the flowers’ nectar-like juice like a lover sipping nectar from his beloved’s red lips. 24 The bee became captivated by the lotus of the lake and sat silent upon its thorny stalk on the water. For such is the fondness of fools, even for what is painful to them. 25 The lake was often infested by elephants who tore and trampled over the lotus beds, because the base take pleasure destroying God’s fair works. 26 The fond bee meets the fate of its fondled lotus and was crushed under the tusk of the elephant like rice is ground by teeth. 27 The little bee, seeing the big body and might of the elephant, took a fancy of being such. By imagining himself as so, he was instantly converted to the elephant of his imagination.
28 At last the elephant fell into a pit, deep and dry as the dried bed of a bay, just as a man falls into the profound and empty ocean of this world overcast by an impenetrable darkness. 29 The elephant became a favorite of the prince for defeating his enemies’ armies, and he routed about at random with his giddy might like lawless robbers wandering about at night. 30 Afterwards, the elephant fell under the sword of the enemy, his body pierced all over by their deadly arrows, as the haughty egoism of the living body drops down in the soul under the wound of right reason. 31 The dying elephant, having been accustomed to see swarms of bees fluttering over elephants’ trunks sipping the ichor exuding from them, long had cherished the desire of becoming a bee. So now he came to be a bee in reality.
32 The bee rambled at large among the flowery vines of the forest and again rested among the lotus beds of the lake, because it is hard for fools to get rid of their fond desires, though they are attended with danger and peril. 33 At last the playful bee was trampled down and crashed under the feet of an elephant, and, by its long association with one in the lake, become a goose. 34 The goose passed through many lives until it became gander sporting with the geese in the lake.
35 It came to pass that the gander fostered the idea of being the swan that serves as the vehicle of Brahma, just as the yolk of an egg fosters a feathered fowl. 36 As it was fostering this strong desire in itself, the gander grew old and diseased, like a piece of wood eaten by worms. Then as he died with his consciousness of being Brahma’s bird, in his next birth he was born as the great swan of that god. 37 The swan lived in the company of the wise and became enlightened from the views of worldly beings. He continued for ages in his disembodied liberation, caring for nothing in the future.