Chapter 24 — Manki Complains about Life to Vasishta

Vasishta said:—

Being thus approached by me, Manki fell at my feet. Then shedding tears of joy from both eyes, he spoke to me with due respect.

Manki said:—

O venerable sage, I have long been travelling in all ten sides of the earth, but I have never met a holy man like you who could remove the doubts arising in my mind. Sage, today I have gained the knowledge which is the chief good of a brahmin whose sacred body is more venerable and far more superior in birth and dignity than the bodies of all other beings in heaven and on earth.

But sage, I am sorry at heart to see the evils of this nether world. Repeated births and deaths and the continued rotations of pleasure and pain are all painful because they end in pain. Because pleasure leads to greater pain, it is better, O sage, to continue in one’s pain. The sequence of fleeting pleasures being only lasting pain, pleasure is to be considered as pain.

O friend, all pleasures are painful to me. My pains have become pleasurable at my advanced age when teeth and hair are falling with decay and my internal parts are also wearing out. My mind continually aspires to higher stations in life, but it fails to persevere in its holy course. The seedling of my salvation is suppressed by thorns and thistles of my evil and worldly desires. My mind is situated amidst its passions and affections within the covering of my body, just as the banyan tree stands amidst its falling leaves inside a rustic village. Desires fly like hungry vultures all over its body in search of their abominable sustenance. My wicked and crooked thoughts are like the brambles of creeping and thorny plants. My life is a weary and dreary maze, a dark and dismal night.

10 The world with all its people, without the moisture of true knowledge, is parched and dried up like withered plants, decaying day by day with constant cares, fast advancing towards its dissolution without being destroyed all at once. 11 All our present acts are drowned in those of our past lives and, like withered trees, bear no flower or fruit in our present life. Actions done with desire end with the gain of their transitory objects. 12 Our lives are wasted in our attachment to family and dependents. We are never employed to lead our souls across the ocean of the world. The desire of earthly enjoyments decay day by day and a dreadful eternity awaits us. 13 Our prosperity and possessions, whether they are more or less, are as harmful to our souls as the thorny and poisonous plants growing in the hollow caves of earth. We are attended with thoughts and cares causing fever heat in the soul and emaciating the body.

14 Fortune sometimes makes brave and fortunate people fail at the hands of foes, just as a man ardent with the desire for gems in his mind is tempted to catch naaga serpents lying in dark caves with shining gems on their hoods.

15 I am entirely inclined to give up the objects of sense. My mind is polluted by worldly desires and is all hollow within. I am abandoned and shunned by the wise like a dead sea with its troubled and muddy waters. 16 My mind turns about false vanities like rheumatic pains throughout the body. 17 Despite my innumerable deaths and although my mind is cleansed from the impurity of ignorance by reading scriptures and associating with good men, I am still hunting with sorrow after desired emptiness, just as the moon and stars with their power to remove darkness stand good in emptiness. 18 There is no end to the dark night of my ignorance when the gloomy apparition of my egoism has played out its part. I do not have knowledge which will destroy my ignorance, like a lion destroying a furious elephant, and burn down my actions like a fire burns straw. 19 The dark night of my earthly desire is not yet over, and the sun of my disgust of the world has not risen. I still believe the unreal as real and my mind wanders about like an elephant. 20 My senses continually tempt me. I know not what will be the end of these temptations which prevent even the wise from observing the precepts of the scriptures. 21 This lack of sight and disregard of the scriptures lead to our blindness by lighting our desires and by blinding our understanding.

22 Therefore sage, tell me. What am I to do in this difficulty? What may lead to my chief good? I am asking you to tell me. 23 It is said that the mist of our ignorance flies like clouds at the sight of wise men and with the purification of our desires. Now sage, confirm the truth of this saying of wise men by enlightening my understanding and giving peace to my mind.