Chapter 83 — Queen Chudala’s Powers, the King’s Ignorance, and the Story of the Miserly Kirata

Vasishta continued:—

Thus Queen Chudala possessed the powers of contracting and expanding herself into any form, and she became expert in these by her continued practice. She made aerial journeys and navigated at pleasure over the expanse of waters. She moved on the surface of the earth just as the River Ganges glides on her silent course. She dwelt in the bosom of her lord like Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, abiding in the heart of Vishnu. With her mind she could travel in a moment over every city and country on the earth.

This fairy lady flew in the air and flashed like lightning with the flashes of her twinkling eyes. She passed like a shadow over the earth, just as a body of clouds passes over a range of mountains. 5 She passed without any hazard through grass and wood, stones and clods of earth, and through fire and water and air and vacuum like a thread passing through the hole of a heart. She lightly skimmed over mountain peaks and pried through the regions of the rulers of all sides of heaven. She penetrated into the cavities of the empty womb of emptiness and had a pleasant trip wherever she directed her flight.

She conversed freely with all living beings, whether they move or lie on the ground as the beasts of earth or crawl upon it like snakes and insects. She talked with savage pisacha tribes and communicated with men, demigods and the immortal gods.

She tried much to communicate her knowledge to her ignorant husband, but he was in no way capable of receiving her spiritual instruction. He understood her only as his young princess, the mistress of his house, skilled only in the arts of attraction and being a housewife. 10 All this time the king remained ignorant of the qualifications of Queen Chudala. He did not know that she had progressed in spiritual science like a young student proficient in the different branches of learning. 11 Also, she was reserved showing her complete learning to her unenlightened husband, just as a brahmin declines to show his secret rites to a vile, low caste shudra.

12 Rama asked, “Sage, if it was impossible for a seer of complete wisdom to communicate her knowledge to her husband Sikhidhwaja, with all her efforts to enlighten him on the subject, then how can it be possible for others to be conversant in spiritual knowledge by any other means?”

13 Vasishta answered:—

Rama, the only way of gaining instruction is through obedience to the rule of attending to the precepts of the teacher, joined with the intelligence of the pupil. 14 Neither hearing a sermon nor observing any religious rite is of any value towards the knowledge of the soul unless one employs his own soul to have the light of the Supreme Soul shine upon it. Only spirit can know spirit, just as only a serpent can trace out the path of another serpent.

15 Rama replied, “If such is the course of the world, that we can learn nothing without the instruction of our teachers, then tell me, O sage! How can the precepts of the wise lead to our spiritual knowledge?”

16 Vasishta replied:—

Rama, listen as I tell you a story to this effect. There lived an old Kirata of the past who was miserly in his conduct as he was rich in his possessions of wealth and grain. He dwelt with his family by the side of the Vindhya woods, like a poor brahmin living apart from his friends and relations.

17 One time, as he happened to pass by his native forest, he dropped a single chowry shell from his purse. It fell in a shrub and was lost under the grass. 18 He ran on every side, beating the bush for three days to find his lost chowry shell, impelled by his stinginess to leave no fallen leaf unturned. 19 As he searched and turned about, he turned thoughts in his mind, thinking, “Ah! this single chowry shell would make four by its commerce, and that would bring me eight in time, and this would make a hundred and a thousand, and more and more by repetition, so I have lost a treasure in this.” 20 Thus, over and over he counted the gains he would gain, sighing as often at the loss he had suffered and ignoring the rustic peasantry of his foolish cheapness.

21 At the end of the third day he came across a rich jewel, as brilliant as the bright moon, which by a thousand fold compensated for the loss of his worthless chowry shell. 22 He happily returned home with his great gain, highly delighted with the thought of keeping poverty away from his door forever. 23 The Kirata was quite satisfied with his unexpected gain of great treasure while searching for his worthless chowry shell. He passed his days without any care or fear of the changeful world.

24 So the student, in search of worldly knowledge, comes to obtain spiritual knowledge from his teacher. The student’s quest of temporal learning is only a trifle compared to his eternal concern.

25 O sinless Rama, it is impossible to attain divine knowledge merely through a teacher’s lectures because the lord is beyond the perception of senses. God can not be expressed by or known from the words of the instructor’s mouth. 26 Yet it is also true that without the guidance of the spiritual guide, it is impossible to attain spiritual knowledge. No one can gain a rich gem without his search after a chowry shell, like the miserly Kirata. 27 As the search for a chowry shell resulted in the gain of a jewel, so our attendance on the secular instructions of the teacher becomes an indirect cause to our acquisition of the invaluable treasure of spiritual knowledge.

28 Rama, look at these wonderful events of nature that bring about results different from what we were pursuing. 29 It often comes to pass that our attempts are attended with another result from what should have happened. Therefore, it is better for us to remain indifferent with regard to the results of our acts.