1 Vasishta continued:—
As my mind was turned from the sight of phenomena and employed in meditation of the only One, I found myself suddenly transported to my holy cell in the air. 2 There I lost the sight of my own body. I did not know where I was sitting. Suddenly the sacred person of a spiritual master, an aerial siddha saint, appeared sitting in front of me.
3 He sat in deep meditation, entranced in his thought of the Supreme Spirit. His appearance was as bright as the sun and his body shone like flaming fire. 4 He sat quiet and steadily in lotus posture, absorbed in meditation, having no idea of his body and no thought of anything in his mind. 5 His body was smeared with ash and his head was erect upon his shoulders. He sat quietly with great ease, his face bright and his posture stable. 6 The palms of both his hands were lifted up and set open below his navel. Their brightness caused his lotus petal heart to be as full blown as sunshine expands lotuses in lakes. 7 His eyelids were closed and his eyesight was weak in that he saw all phenomena only in one light of whiteness. His eyes seemed to be sleepy like closing petals of a lotus at the close of the day. 8 His mind was calm in all its thoughts, like the sides of the horizon in their stillness, and his soul was as unperturbed as the serene sky freed from a storm.
9 I could not see my own body, yet I could plainly see that of the saint placed before me. Then I reflected with the clear-sightedness of my discernment. 10 “I find this great and perfect siddha saint in this solitary part of the firmament and I believe him to be as absorbed in his meditation as I am at ease in this lonely spot. 11 It is very likely that this saint, being earnest in his desire for deep meditation and finding my secluded hut favorable, has come here of his own accord. 12 He thought that I had cast off my mortal body and because of his deep attention, could not perceive that I had returned to it. So he threw away what he thought was my dead body and took up residence in this hut of mine.”
13 Seeing the loss of my body here, I thought of going back to my own home (Saptarshi Mandalam, the world of the Seven Rishis). As I was attempting to go there, I renounced my attachment to the lonely hut. 14 This hut had dilapidated over time, leaving only an empty void. The saint who had taken my place inside also lost his place for lack of the hut and fell downward in his meditative mood. 15 Thus I lost that lonely hut together with the loss of my fond desire for it, just as an imaginary city vanishes with the dream and desire which presented it to view.
16 The meditative saint then fell down from it, like rain falling from a cloud, or winds blowing a small cloud in empty air, or like the moon traversing the sky. 17 He fell on the earth like a heavenly spirit falls to earth after the reward for his meritorious acts, and like an uprooted tree falls to the ground. 18 So when wishing for a stable life and home, we see both ending suddenly, as it happened to the falling siddha.
19 Seeing the falling siddha, I felt a kind of concern for him. In the flight of my mind, I came down from heaven in my spiritual form to that spot on earth where he had fallen. 20 He fell on the wings of air currents which conveyed him whirling like in a whirlwind beyond the limits of the seven continents and their seven-fold oceans, to a place known as the land of gold and the paradise of the gods. 21 He fell from the sky in the same lotus posture in which he had been sitting, his head and upper body erect owing to the upward motion of his prana and apana breaths. 22 Though hurled from such height and carried such distance, yet he did not wake from the mental inactivity of his samadhi, but fell down unconscious like a stone and as lightly as a bale of cotton.
23 I was greatly concerned for his sake and in my anxiety to waken him, I roared loudly from my place in the sky like a cloud, and I also showered a flood of rainwater on him. 24 I threw hailstones, flashing like lightning, to waken him. I succeeded to bring him to sense like clouds rouse the peacock in rainy season. 25 His body flushed and his eyes opened like a blooming flower. The drizzling rains enlivened his soul, as the driving rain makes the lotuses of lakes bloom.
26 Finding him awake and sitting before me, I cast my calm look upon him and very politely asked him about the prosperity of his spiritual concerns. 27 I said, “Tell me, O great sage, who are you? Where do you live and what do you do here? How is it that you are so unaware of your state, in spite of your fall from such a great distance?”
28 Being addressed by me in this manner, he looked steadfastly at me, then remembering his visit at my hut, he replied to me in a voice as sweet like that of a chataka cuckoo to loud sounding clouds. 29 The sagely siddha said, “You sage, shall have to wait awhile until I recollect myself and my former state. Then I will relate the latter incidents of my life.” 30 So saying he fell to the recollection of his past incidents, then having them in his memory, he related the particulars to me without any reserve, as if they happened that same day. 31 Then he spoke to me in a voice as soft and cooling as sandalwood paste and moonbeams. The words were as blameless and well spoken, pleasing to my ears and captivating of my soul.
32 The siddha said:—
Now I come to know you, sage. I greet you with reverence and beg you to pardon my intrusion, as it is the nature of the good to forgive others’ faults. 33 Know me, O sage, to have long enjoyed the sweets of the gardens of the gods in the form of a butterfly, like a bee sucking honey from lotus flowers in a lake. 34 I fluttered over a running stream and found it swelling with sounding waves at pleasure. Then seeing it whirling with horrid whirlpools, I began to reflect with sorrow in my mind. 35 Such is the sight of the troubles in this ocean of the world. The sight overwhelms me with sorrow and grief. I have become like a thirsty and grieving swallow that wails aloud at a lack of rainwater.
36 I find my chief delight consists in consciousness. I perceive no pleasure in worldly enjoyments. Therefore I must rely only upon my intellectual speculations and abide without any anxiety in the unclouded sphere of my spiritual bliss. 37 I see there is no real pleasure here, only what is derived from our sensations of the sensible objects. I find no lasting delight in these, that I should depend upon them. 38 All this is either the emptiness or fabrications of the intellect. Why should I be deluded by these false appearances, as a madman or a deluded mind is apt to do?
39 The phenomena of the senses are like poison that causes unconsciousness, like women delude men and provoke their passions. All sweets are only bitter and all pleasures are only a sort of pleasing pain. 40 This body which is subject to sickness and decay, its mind as fickle as a shrimp, is hourly watched by relentless death, just as an old crane lurks after swimming fish for his prey. 41 The frail body, being subject to instant extinction, is like a bubble of water in the ocean of eternity. It also resembles the flame of a lamp burning brightly before us but which can be extinguished in a moment.
42 What is life other than a stream of water running between the two shores of birth and death? It flows with the currents of passing joys and grief, swells with the waves of incidents, and whirls with the whirlpools of dangers and difficulties. 43 It is muddied by the pleasures of youth and whitened with the hoary froths of old age. It casually emits a few bursting bubbles of joy and gladness which float for a fleeting moment. 44 It runs with the rapid torrent of custom making a harsh noise of current choices. It is overcast by the roaring clouds of envy and anger and overflows the earth in its liquid form. 45 The expression stream of life is as pleasing to the ear as the expression stream of water is soothing to the soul. But its waters are constantly boiling with the heat of the triple sorrows and abounding with whirlpools of illusion and greed that carry us up and down for ever more.
46 The course of the world is like that of a river which carries away present things on its back and brings with its current what was unforeseen and unexpected. It is thus full of these events. 47 All that was present before us is lost and carried away. It is vain to regret their loss. Whatever was never thought of before comes to pass. But what reliance can we have on any of them?
48 The waters of all the rivers on earth continually pass away and are filled in turn from their sources. But the water of life in the river of the body, once gone, is never replenished from any source. 49 Changes in fortune are constantly turning like a potter’s wheel over the destinies of people, affecting some person or another at every moment in this ocean of the world. 50 A thousand thieves and enemies of our estate are constantly wandering about to rob us of our properties, and nothing helps whether we sleep or wake to ward them off.
51 The particles of our lives are wasting and falling off every moment. Yet it is a wonder that nobody is aware of the loss of the days of his life, as long as he has only a little while to live. 52 The present day is reckoned as ours, but it soon passes like previous past ones. Ignorant of the flight of days, nobody thinks about the duration of his life until he comes to meet with his death. 53 We have lived long to eat and drink, to move about from place to place, and to travel in foreign lands and woods. We have felt and seen all sorts of happiness and sorrow. Say what more is there that we can expect to have for our share?
54 Having well known the pain and pleasure of grief and joy and experienced their changes and the reverses of fortune, I am fully impressed with the idea of the impermanence of all things and therefore keep from seeking anything. 55 I have enjoyed all enjoyments and seen their impermanence everywhere. Yet I found no satisfaction or distaste for anything, nor felt my cool renunciation for them anywhere.
56 I wandered on the tops of high hills and travelled in the airy regions on the summits of Mount Meru. I travelled to the cities of many rulers of men, but met with nothing of any real good to me anywhere. 57 I saw the same woody trees, the same kind of earthly cities, and the same sort of fleshy animal bodies everywhere. I found them all frail and transitory, full of pain and misery as never to be liked. 58 I saw that no riches or friends, and no relatives or enjoyments of life were able to preserve anyone from the clutches of death. 59 Man passes away as soon as rainwater glides down mountain glades. He is carried away by the hand of death as quickly as a heap of hollow ash is blown away by the wind.
60 No enjoyment is desirable to me. The attraction of prosperity has no charm for me when I find my life is as transient as the passing glance of a loving woman. 61 How and where and whose help shall we seek, O sage, when we see a hundred evils and imminent death hanging over our heads every day? 62 Our lives are as frail as falling leaves upon the withered woods of our bodies. The moisture they used to derive is soon dried up and exhausted. 63 I passed my life in vain desires and expectations and derived nothing that is of any intrinsic good or profit to me.
64 My delusion is at last removed and I see it is useless to carry the burden of my body any longer. I find it better to place no reliance upon it rather than lowering ourselves by depending on it. 65 All prosperity is only adversity because of its transitory and illusive nature. Therefore the wise, accounting it as such, place no reliance on the vanities of this world.
66 Men are sometimes led by the directions and prohibitions of the scriptures, like objects carried by rising and falling waters. 67 The poisonous air of worldliness contaminates the sweet scent of reason in the mind of man. Worldliness is harmful to a person like a caterpillar in a flower bud corrodes the future flower. 68 The vanities of the world are usually taken for realities, as all other unrealities in nature are commonly taken for actualities. 69 Men are moving about with their bodies upon earth with as much haste as rivers running to the seas. Thus the great mass of mankind here is seen in pursuit of the sensible objects of desires.
70 The desires of our hearts run to their objects with the speed of arrows flying from an archer’s bow. But they never return to their seat in the heart or the bowstring, like ungrateful friends forsaking us in our adversity. 71 Our friends are our enemies, like blasts of wind that blow us away. All our relations are our bonds and chains and our riches are only causes of our poverty. 72 Our pleasures cause our pains and prosperity is the source of adversity. All enjoyments are sufferings and in the end all fondness tends towards distaste and dislike. 73 All prosperity and adversity tend only to our temporary joy and misery. Our life is only a prelude to our extinction. All these are the display of our unavoidable delusion.
74 As time glides on, its shows a man various sights of joy and misery. The poor creature lives only to see the loss of his friends and to complain at his hapless and helpless longevity. 75 Enjoyment of pleasures is like playing with the fangs of a deadly serpent. They kill you as soon as you touch them and they disappear from your sight whenever you look at them.
76 Life is spent without any attempt to attain that perfect state which is obtained without any pain or struggle. Instead, life is employed every day in the hardships of acquiring perishable, worthless things. 77 Men bound to their carnal desires are exposed every moment to shame and the insults of the rich, like wild elephants tied with strong chains at their feet. 78 Our fortunes and favorites are not only as frail and fickle as passing waves and bubbles, they also are deadly like the fangs of a snake. Who is there so silly as to take rest under the shadow of the hood of enraged serpent?
79 Granted, the objects of desire are pleasing and the gifts of prosperity are very charming. Still, what are they and this life other than the fickle glances of a mistress’ eyes? 80 Those who enjoy pleasures now must come to feel them quite tasteless at the end and fall into the hell-pit at last. 81 I take no delight in riches worshipped only by the vulgar, always subject to disputes, earned with labor, kept with great care, and yet as unstable as the winds. 82 Fortune which is so favorable for a while, turns to misfortune in a moment. She is very charming to her possessor, but she is as fickle by nature as the fleeting flash of lightning. 83 Riches are like flatterers, very flattering at first and as long as they last, but as fleeting as those deceitful cheats who mock us upon their loss. 84 The blessings of health, wealth and youth are as impermanent as the fleeting shadows of autumn clouds. The enjoyments of sensual pleasures are destructive at the end.
85 Say, who has remained the same to the end of his journey in this world, even among the great? The lives of men are as fleeting as dew drops trickling on the edges of tree leaves. 86 Our bodies decay in time, our hair turns grey with age, and teeth fall off. All things in the world wear out except our desires which know no decrease or decay. 87 Carnal enjoyments, like wild beasts, end up decaying us in the forest of the body. But the poison plant of our desire growing in that forest is always flourishing.
88 Our boyhood passes as quickly as our infancy and our youth passes as quickly as our boyish days. Here there is an equal impermanence seen in both the comparison and the object compared. 89 Life melts away as quickly as water trickling out of our palms. Like the current of a river, it never returns to its source. 90 The body passes away as hurriedly as a hurricane sweeps in the air. It vanishes even before we see it, like a wave or a cloud, or as fast as the flame of a lamp.
91 I have found unpleasantness in what I thought to be very pleasant, and found the unsteadiness of what I believed to be steady. I have known the unreality of what I took to be real and hence I have become distrustful and disgusted of the world. 92 The ease and rest that attend the soul and the cool detachment of the mind can never be obtained in any enjoyment that the upper or nether world can ever give anybody. 93 I find the pleasurable objects of my senses still allure me to their trap, just as a fruit or flower entices the foolish bee to fall upon it.
94 Now after a long time, I am quite released from my selfish egoism. My mind has become indifferent to the desire of future rewards and heavenly bliss. 95 I have long found rest in my solitary bliss of emptiness. I have come here, like you, to this ethereal cell. 96 Afterwards I learned that this cell belonged to you. But I never thought that you would return to it. 97 I saw a lifeless body and thought it to be the frame of a spiritual master and saint who, having left his mortal body, became absorbed in his nirvana.
98 Sage, what I have just told you is my story. I am seated here as I am and you can do whatever you may like with me. 99 Until a spiritual master sees all things in his mind and considers them well in his clear judgment, he is incapable of seeing the past, present and future in his clairvoyance, even though he be as perfect as the nature of the lotus-born Brahma himself.