Chapter 23 — Story of Vasishta Meeting the Brahmin Manki in the Desert Seeking Rest in an Outcaste Village

Vasishta said:—

I have spoken on dispassion and renunciation of worldly desires. Therefore rise and go beyond the material world after the example of one Manki. Once there lived a brahmin named Manki who was applauded for his devotion and steadfastness to holy vows.

It happened at one time on some particular occasion that I was coming down from the vault of heaven upon an invitation from your grandfather Aja. As I wandered on the surface of the earth to reach your grandfather’s kingdom, I encountered a vast desert scorched by sunshine. It was a dreary waste without end, filled with burning sands and hidden by grey and fly dust, marked by a few scattered hamlets here and there. The extended waste, its unrestricted emptiness, howling winds, burning heat and light, seeming water in sand, and untraveled ground resting in peace appeared like the boundless and spotless immensity of Brahman. Its deceptive mirages upon sand, its dullness and empty space, and the mist hanging on all sides seemed as delusive as the appearance of illusion itself.

As I was wandering along this hollow and sandy wilderness, I saw a wayfarer idly walking before me and muttering to himself in the agony of his wearisome journey. The traveler said, “This powerful sun afflicts me with blazing beams as much as the company of evil-minded men annoy me. 10 Sunbeams pour down fire on earth and melt the core of my body and bones, just as they dry up leaves and ignite forest trees. 11 Therefore I must go to that distant hamlet for relief from this weary journey and recover my strength and spirits to continue my travel.” 12 So thinking, he was about to proceed towards the village where low caste Kiratas lived when I interrupted him.

13 Vasishta said:—

I salute you, O you passenger of the sandy desert. May all be well with you who is my fellow traveler on the way, looking so good and passionless. 14 O traveler of the lower earth who has long lived among men, and who has not found your rest, how is it that now you expect to have it in this remote village of mean people? 15 You can have no rest in the homes of vile people in that distant village which is mostly peopled by Pamara villains, just as thirst is not appeased but increased by drinking salty water. 16 Those huts and hamlets shelter cowardly cowherds and those who are afraid to walk in the paths of men, just as timid deer are adverse to wander beyond their own track. 17 They have no stir of reason or any flash of understanding or mental faculties in them. They are not afraid evil actions, but remain and move on like stone mills. 18 Their manliness consists in the emotions of their passions and affections and in exhibitions of the signs of their desire and aversion. They delight mostly in actions that appear pleasant at the moment. 19 As there are no rain clouds over dry and parched desert lands, so there is no shadow of pure and cooling knowledge stretched over the minds of these people.

20 Rather dwell like a snake in a dark cave, or remain like a blind worm in the center of a stone, or limp about as a lame deer in a barren desert, rather than mix in the company of these village people. 21 These rude rustics resemble poison mixed with honey. They are sweet to taste for a moment, but prove deadly at last. 22 These villainous villagers are as rude as rough winds that blow gusts of dust amidst shattered huts built with grass and dried leaves.

23 After I addressed the traveler in this way, he felt as glad as if he had been bathed in ambrosial showers.

24 The traveler said:—

Who are you sage? Your magnanimous soul seems to be full and perfect in yourself, full of the Divine Spirit. You look at the bustle of the world like a passer-by is unconcerned with the commotions of a village. 25 Have you drunk the ambrosial nectar of the gods that gave you the divine knowledge? Are infused with the spirit of the sovereign Viraj that is quite apart from the fullness of space it fills, quite full with its entire emptiness? 26 I see your soul is as empty yet as full as his, and as still and yet as moving as the Divine Spirit. It is all and not all what exists, something yet nothing. 27 It is quiet and fair, shining and yet unseen. It is inert and yet full of force and energy. It is inactive with all its activity and action.

28 Though now journeying on earth, you seem to range far above the skies. You are without support, though supported on a sound basis. 29 You are not stretched over objects, and yet no object exists without you. Your pure mind, like the beautiful moon, is full of the nectar beams of immortality. 30 You shine like the full moon without any of her digits or blackish spots. You are cooling like moonbeams, full of ambrosial juice as that watery planet. 31 I see the existence and nonexistence of the world depend upon your will and your intellect contains the revolving world, like the germ of a tree contains within it the would be fruit.

32 Sage, I am a brahmin descended from sage Sandilya. My name is Manki and I am intent on visiting places of pilgrimage. 33 I have made very long journeys and I have seen many holy places in my travels all about. After long time, I have turned my course to return to my native home. 34 But my mind is so sick and adverse to the world, that I hesitate to return home. I have seen the lives of men pass away from this world like flashes of lightening.

35 O sage, please give me a true account of yourself, as the minds of holy men are as deep and clear as clear lakes. 36 When great men like you show kindness at the first sight of someone as mean as I am, his heart is sure to glow with love and gratitude, just as lotus buds are blown. I am hopeful of your favor towards me. 37 Hence, sage, I hope that you will kindly remove the error which is born in me by my ignorance of the delusions of this tempting world.

38 Vasishta replied:—

 O wise man, I am Vasishta, the sage, saint and inhabitant of the ethereal region. I am traveling this way on an errand of sagely King Aja. 39 I tell you sage, do not be disheartened at your ignorance. You have already come onto the path of wisdom and you have very nearly gotten over the ocean of the world and arrived at the shore of transcendental knowledge. 40 I see that you have come to possess the invaluable treasure of indifference to worldly matters. This kind of speech and sentiments, and the calmness of disposition which you have displayed, can never proceed from a worldly person and indicates your high-mindedness.

41 A precious stone is polished by gently rubbing away its impurity. So the mind comes to its reasoning by rubbing off of the impurity of its prejudice. 42 Tell me what you desire to know and how you want to abandon the world. In my opinion, knowledge and abandonment are accomplished by practicing the teacher’s instructions and by questioning what he does not know or understand. 43 It is said that whoever has a mind to cross the doom of his soul’s reincarnation should possess good and pure desires in his mind, and an understanding inclined to reasoning under the direction of his spiritual guide. Such a person is truly entitled to attain to the state which is free from future sorrow and misery.