1 Rama said, “Please sage, tell me the wonderful story of King Bhagiratha and how he succeeded bringing down the heavenly Ganges River on the earth below.”
2 Vasishta replied:—
King Bhagiratha was a person of outstanding virtues. He was distinguished as a crowning mark over all countries of this earth and its seas. 3 All his suitors received their desired boons, even without asking. Their hearts were as happy at the sight of his moon-bright face as if they were gazing upon a precious and brilliant gem. 4 His charities were always profusely lavished upon all good people for their maintenance and support. He carefully collected even things of small worth, prizing them as if they were gems. 5 He was bright in his person, like blazing fire without smoke, and never weak, even when he was tired from attending to his duties. He drove away poverty from the homes of men, just as the rising sun dispels the darkness of night from within their houses. 6 All around him he spread the brightness of his courage like burning fire scattering its sparks. He burned like the blazing midday sun to those who were hostile towards him.
7 Yet he was gentle and soft in the society of wise men, cooling their hearts with his cooling speech. He shone amidst the learned like the moonstone glistens under moonlight. 8 He decorated the world with the triple strands of the sacred thread by stretching out the three streams of the Ganges along the three regions of heaven, earth and hell. 9 He filled the ocean, dried up by sage Agastya, with the waters of Ganges, just as a generous man satisfies a greedy beggar with unbounded generosity. 10 This benefactor of mankind took up his ancestors from the infernal region and led them to the heaven of Brahma by way of the sacred Ganges. 11 By his unfailing perseverance, he overcame numerous obstacles and troubles, alternating in his propitiations of the gods Brahma and Shiva and the sage Jahnu, in order to change the course of the heavenly river.
12 Even though he was still in the vigor of his youth, he seemed to feel the decay of age coming quickly upon him. He was constantly thinking about the miseries of human life. 13 His mental reflections on the vanities of the world produced a philosophical apathy in him. This cold heartedness in the prime of his youth was like a tender sprout suddenly shooting forth in a barren desert. 14 In his private moments, the king thought about the impropriety of his worldly conduct. He reflected on the daily duties of life in the following silent monologue.
15 “I see days and nights returning in endless succession, one after the other. Repeating the same acts of giving and taking, and tasting the same enjoyments, have all grown tiresome and tasteless to me. 16 I think that the only thing worth seeking and doing is that which, being obtained and done, leaves nothing else to desire or do in this passing life of troubles and cares. 17 It is shameful for a conscious person to be employed in the same round of business every day. Is it not laughable to be doing and undoing the same thing day after day like silly children?”
18 Being troubled with the world and afraid of the consequences of his worldly course, Bhagiratha silently went to the solitary cell of his teacher Tritala. Bhagiratha spoke to him in the following manner. 19 “My Lord, I am completely tired and disgusted with the long course of my worldly career. I find it all to be hollow and empty within and a vast wilderness without. 20 Tell me, lord. How can I get over the miseries of this world? How can I free myself from my fear of death and disease and from the chains of errors and passions to which I am so tightly bound?”
21 Tritala replied, “It is through the continued evenness of one’s disposition, the uninterrupted joyfulness of his soul, knowledge of the knowable true one, and by self sufficiency in everything. 22 By these means a man is released from misery, his worldly bonds are relaxed, his doubts are dispelled, and all his actions tend to his wellbeing in both worlds.”
23 “That which is called the knowable is the pure soul of the nature of consciousness. It is always present in everything in all places and is eternal.”
24 Bhagiratha replied, “O great sage, I know that the pure conscious soul is perfectly calm and tranquil, incapable of decay and devoid of all attributes and qualities. The pure soul is not the embodied spirit, nor the animal soul, nor the indwelling principle that is the material body. 25 Sage, I cannot understand how I can be that consciousness when I am so full of errors. If I am the identical soul, why does it not manifest in me as the pure Divine Soul itself?”
26 Tritala replied, “Only through knowledge can the mind know the truly knowable one in the sphere of one’s own consciousness. Then the animal soul finds itself to be the all-pervading spirit and is released from future birth and reincarnation. 27 Our lack of attachment to earthly relations, whether our wives, children or other domestic concerns, together with the self-control of our minds, regardless whether confronted with what is advantageous or disadvantageous to us, serve to widen the sphere of our souls and realize their universality.”
28 “What also widens the scope of the soul is the union of our souls with the Supreme Spirit and our continual communion with God, as well as our seclusion from society and remaining in retirement. 29 Our true knowledge is said to be the continued knowledge of spirituality and insight into the sense of the unity and identity of God. Everything else is mere ignorance and false knowledge. 30 The only remedy for our sickness of worldliness is the abatement of our love and hatred. The extinction of our egoistic feelings leads to the knowledge of truth.”
31 Bhagiratha responded, “Tell me, O reverend sage, how is it possible for anybody to get rid of his egoism? It is deeply rooted in our nature and has grown as big with our bodies as the lofty trees on mountain tops.”
32 Tritala replied, “All egoistic feelings subside of themselves with the abandonment of worldly desires. This is accomplished with very great effort by exercising the virtues of self-denial and self-control, and by the expansion of our souls to universal benevolence. 33 We have been subject to the rule of our small egos for so long that we lack the courage to break down the painful prison house of shame at our poverty, and we fear being exposed to other’s ridicule. 34 Therefore, if you can renounce all your worldly possessions and remain unmoved in your mind, then you may get rid of your ego and attain the state of supreme bliss.”
35 “If you can remain deprived of all honors and titles, freed from the fear of falling into poverty, devoid of every effort to attain, poor and powerless among horrible enemies, living in contemptible beggary among them, without egoistic pride of mind or vanity of the body, in utter destitution of all, then you are greater than the greatest.”