Chapter 87 — Chudala, as the Brahmin boy, Criticizes Sikhidhwaja’s Withdrawal

Sikhidhwaja said:—

Sage, it appears to me that the hoarded merits of all my former lives have brought you to my presence here today, just as an unforeseen hurricane drives the waters of the sea on dry mountain tops. I reckon myself as highly blessed among the blessed today to be this favored by your presence and cooled by your speech like ambrosial dew from your lips. Never has more sensible speech touched and cooled my soul to such a degree as yours now. Therefore I consider your holy presence more precious to me than the gaining of a kingdom. The unrestrained delight which is felt free from self-interest and selfish motives is far superior to the self-restricted pleasure of sovereignty, which is delightful only once in imagination.

5 Vasishta said:—

As the king was uttering these praises, the brahmin boy Kumbha passed over them in silence and interrupted.

Chudala (as the Brahmin boy, Kumbha) said:—

Sage, please put a stop to your words. Give me an account of yourself as I have given mine to you. Tell me who you are and what you are doing on this lonely mountain. How long have you been living as a forester like this? What is your main object? Tell me the bare truth, because it is beyond the principles of an ascetic to utter anything but the plain truth.

Sikhidhwaja replied:—

Lord, as you are the offspring of a god, everything must be well known to you. The gods are fully acquainted with the secrets and circumstances of all people. I have very little to relate to you about me. My fear of the world has made me abandon it and make a home in this forest. You know this well, but I will briefly tell you the story.

10 I am Sikhidhwaja, the ruler of a country which I renounced a long time ago for a seat in the forest. Know, O knower of all truths, that my fears of this world’s traps and future reincarnations in it have driven me to retire in this wilderness. 11 This accursed world is nothing but repeated pain and pleasure and repeated life and death. I have undertaken spiritual austerities in these solitary woods in order to evade all this.

12 I wander about and perform my rigorous austerities without any rest. I allow myself no rest, but keep my vigils like a miser over his few possessions. 13 I am without effort or attempt, and so without any fruit or result also. I am lonely and so helpless. I am poor and therefore friendless also. Divine personage, I am wearing out in this forest like a withered tree eaten by worms. 14 I strictly observe all my sacred rites without fail, yet I fall from one sorrow into a sea of sorrows. I have grown too pensive. Even ambrosial nectar is unpleasant to me.

15 Chudala (as the boy, Kumbha) said:—

Once I had my great proginitor, Brahma, tell me which is the more useful and preferable for mankind: the observance of duties or their nonobservance for the sake of knowledge.

16 Brahma replied, “No doubt knowledge is the supreme good because it leads a man to understand the unity of God and the oneness of himself. But action has been inculcated in man from creation as his duty in life, both for pleasure and for passing his lifetime. 17 Let those who have not acquired their intellectual light and the sight of the soul be employed in their duties to their offspring and fellow creatures. Who that lacks a silk robe will go about naked instead of wrapping himself with a blanket or coarse cloth?”

18 “The ignorant who are moved by their desires and live upon their hopes meet with their objects as the reward of their action. The knowing and speculative theorist, having no desire in his mind or action of his body, meets with no reward of either. 19 An action without its object goes to nothing and for nothing, just as fruit-bearing plants wither and die without being properly watered. 20 As the effect of one season on plants is displaced by that of the succeeding season, so the fruit of an action is frustrated by the lack of desire. 21 As it is the nature of kusa grass never to bear fruit, although they bear flowers, so my son, no action can produce any fruit without a desire for the object.”

22 “A boy’s mind, possessed with the idea of a ghost in his mind, sees a ghost before him. A sick man having hypochondria of his illness is soon attacked by it. 23 Kusa grass presents its fair flowers to view without ever bearing fruit. In the same way, a speculative theorist meditates on the beauty of his theory without producing its results by the practice.”

24 Sikhidhwaja said:—

But it is said that all human desire is vain, and its accompanying egoism is a fallacy, and that they are the creatures of our ignorance, like our error of seeing a sea in the burning sands of a desert. 25 So it is to the sage whose ignorance is completely removed by his knowledge of all things as the Divine Spirit. Of course, such a man has no desire rising in his mind, just as the eyes of the wise see no sea of water in the sands.

26 A person is freed from his bonds of his disease and death by forsaking his desires. When his internal soul becomes as perfect as a god, he is exempt from future birth. 27 But generally, the human mind is filled with desires and only the learned few are exempt. Transcendental knowledge of the knowable one exempts the divinely wise from their rebirth in this mortal world.

28 Chudala (as the boy, Kumbha) replied:—

It is true, O kingly sage, that Brahma and other gods, as well as all wise sages, say that knowledge is the chief good. In spite of your knowledge of this, why do you remain in this state of gross ignorance?

29 What is the meaning of these pots and staffs, these wooden stools and those seats of kusa grass? Why is it, O king, that you delight in these false playthings of fools? 30 Why do you not employ your mind to inquire into the questions of what you are, how this world came to be, and how and when it will cease to exist? Instead of inquiring in these solemn truths, you pass your time in foolishness like the ignorant.

31 Why don’t you discuss the nature of bondage and liberation in the company of the learned, and pay your homage at their venerable feet? 32 O king, do you want to pass your life in painful austerities, like some insects finish their days boring holes in the stones in which they live? 33 You can easily obtain the delight you seek if you will only take yourself to the service of holy men and keep company with the tolerant and wise souls, arguing with them on spiritual subjects. 34 Or you may continue to remain in your cave in this forest, living on the simple food of holy men, forsaking the evil propensities of your mind, and living like an insect in a hole under the ground.

35 Vasishta related:—

Being thus awakened to sense by his wife, the divine boy, Sikhidhwaja melted into tears. His face bathed in water, he spoke to the lad.

36 Sikhidhwaja said:—

O divine child, after such a long time you awake me to my senses. Now I perceive that it was my weak-headedness that drove me from the society of respectable to this lonely forest. 37 Ah! I find that my mind is today cleansed of its endless sins, which has brought you to me to criticize my past misconduct. 38 O beautiful boy, from now on I consider you to be my teacher, my father, and my best friend forever. I acknowledge myself as your pupil, therefore I bow down at your feet and pray you to take pity on me. 39 Please admonish me now on the subject of divine knowledge, as you are best acquainted with it, and whereby I may be freed from all my sorrows and settled with perfect peace and bliss of my mind.

40 Initially you said that knowledge is the supreme bliss or supreme good of mankind. Now tell me. What is that knowledge which saves us from misery? Is it the knowledge of particulars that leads us to know the specials, or that of the general which brings as to the transcendental?

41 Chudala (as the boy, Kumbha) replied:—

I will tell you prince as much as I know and what may be best acceptable to you. It is best to not throw away my words in vain, like crowing ravens about a headless trunk. 42 Because words uttered in response to a person’s foolish questions are thrown in vain. Unheeded, they are as useless as eyesight in the dark.

43 Sikhidhwaja said:—

Sage, your words are as acceptable to me as the ordinances of the Vedas. Though you utter them without previous meditation, yet I have full faith in them.

44 Chudala (as the boy, Kumbha) replied:—

As a boy obeys the words of his father, knowing it to be pronounced for his certain good, so must you receive my words. 45 Believe that my advice is all only for your good. Hear them with proper attention. Listen to my words as you hear music, without inquiring into their reason or rhyme.

46 Let me tell you an interesting story of a certain person whose conduct and character in every way resembled yours, and who was brought back to his sense after long going astray. This is a tale to dispel the worldly cares and fears of the intelligent.