Chapter 108 — Story from Another World of a Besieged King (Vipaschit)

Rama asked, “He whose mind is bound by ignorance to the bright vividness of visible phenomena sees the perceptible scenes of thoughts as mere idle dreams, as imaginary as empty air. Now, O sage, please tell me again about the nature and manner of this ignorance of the true nature of things as thoughts. To what extent and how long does this ignorance of the spiritual bind a man?”

Vasishta replied:—

Know Rama, that those who are infatuated by their ignorance think this earth and the elementary bodies are as everlasting as they believe Brahman to be. Now, O Rama, listen to a story on this subject.

In some corner of infinite space there is another world with its three worlds of upper, middle and lower regions, like here in this world. In that other world there is a piece of land as beautiful as our own called the plateau level land, where all beings had their free range. In a city of that place there ruled a king well known for his learning who passed his time in the company of the learned men of his court.

He shone as handsome as a swan in a lake of lotuses and as bright as the moon among the stars. He was as dignified as Mount Meru among mountains and he presided over his council as its president. The strain of poets fell short reciting his praises, and he was a firm patron of poets and bards, like a mountain supports those seeking refuge. The prosperity of his valor flourished day by day and stretched its luster to all sides of the earth, just as the blooming beauty of lotus blossoms, under the early beams of the rising sun, fills the landscape with delight every morning.

10 That respectable king of brahmin faith adored Agni as the lord of the gods with his full faith and did not recognize any other god as equal to Agni. 11 He was surrounded by a conquering army consisting of cavalry, elephants and foot soldiers. He was surrounded by his councilors like the sea is surrounded by its whirlpools and rolling waters. 12 His vast and unflinching forces were employed in the protection of the four boundaries of his realm, just as the four seas serve to surround the earth on all its four sides. 13 His capital was like the hub of a wheel, the central point of the whole circle of his kingdom. He was as invincible a victor of his foes as the irresistible discus of Vishnu.

14 Once a shrewd messenger appeared to the king from the eastern borders of his state. The messenger approached the king in haste and delivered a secret message that was not pleasing to him. 15 “Lord, may your realm be never detached, which is bound fast by your arms as a cow is tied to a tree or post. But hear me tell you something which requires your consideration. 16 Your chieftain in the east is snatched away from his post by the relentless hand of a fever. He seems to have gone to the regions of death, to conquer, as it were, the god Yama at your command.”

17 “Then as your chief in the south proceeded to quell the borderers in that region, he was attacked by hostile forces who poured upon him from the east and west and he was killed by the enemy. 18 Upon his death, the chieftain of the west proceeded with his army to seize those provinces from the hands of the enemy. 19 On his way he was met by the combined forces of the hostile princes of the east and south who put him to death.”

20 Vasishta continued:—

As he was relating in this manner, another messenger driven by his haste entered the palace with the great a rush of a flood’s current. 21 He said, “O lord, the general of your forces on the north is overpowered by a stronger enemy and is defeated and driven from his post, like an embankment broken down and carried away by rushing waters.”

22 Hearing so, the king thought it useless to waste time and leaving his royal apartment, he commanded as follows. 23 “Summon the princes and chiefs and the generals and ministers to appear here immediately in their full armor. Open up the arsenal and get out the destructive weapons. 24 Put your armor of metal link plates on your bodies. Set the infantry on foot, number the regiments, and select the best warriors. 25 Appoint the leaders of the forces and send the messengers all around.” Thus said the king in haste, and such was the royal command.

26 Then the watchman appeared before the king and lowly bending down his head, he sorrowfully expressed, “Lord, the chieftain of the north is waiting at the gate and expects like the lotus to come to your sun-like sight.”

27 The king answered, “Go quickly and bring him to my presence so that I may learn from his report the genuine events of that quarter.” 28 Thus ordered, the watchman introduced the northern chief to the royal presence. The chief bowed down before his royal lord, who saw the chieftain in the following condition.

29 His entire body, every part of it, was full of wounds and scars. He breathed hard, spouted out blood, and supported himself with difficulty. 30 With due obeisance and faltering breath and voice, his limbs contorted, he delivered this hasty message to his sovereign. 31 The chieftain said, “My lord, the three chiefs of the other three quarters, with numerous forces under them, have already gone to the realms of Yama (death) in their attempt to conquer enemies at your command. 32 Then the clansmen, finding my weakness defending your realms alone on this side, assembled in large numbers and poured upon me with all their strength. 33 With great difficulty I have very narrowly escaped from them to this palace, all gory and gasping for life as you see. I implore you to punish the rebels who are not invincible before your might.”

34 Vasishta continued:—

As the yet alive and wounded chieftain was telling his painful story to the king in this way, there suddenly appeared another person entering the palace after him who spoke to the king in the following manner. 35 “O sovereign of men, the hostile armies of your enemies, like the shaking leaves of trees, have all surrounded the outskirts of your kingdom in great numbers on all its four sides. 36 The enemy has surrounded our lands like a chain of rocks. They are blazing all about with their waving swords and spears, and with the flashing of their forest-like maces and lances. 37 The bodies of their soldiers, with flags flying and weapons shaking on them, appear like chariots moving upon the ground. Their rolling war cars seem like sweeping cities all about. 38 Their uplifted arms appear like forests of fleshy trees rising in the sky. The loud sounding phalanx of big elephants seemed like huge bodies of rainy clouds roaring on high.”

39 “The ground seems to rise and sink with the bounding and bending of their snorting horses. They give the land an appearance of the sea, sounding harshly under lashing winds. 40 The land is moistened and whitened by the thickening froth fallen from the mouths of horses, bearing resemblance to the foaming sea, full with its salt spray. 41 Groups of shining armor and weapons in the field resemble the warlike array of clouds in the sky and are like huge surging waves rising upon the surface of the sea, troubled by the gusts of the deluge.”

42 “The weapons on their bodies, their armor and crowns, shine with a flash that equals the flame and fire of your valor. 43 Their battle array, in the forms of circling crocodiles and long stretching whales, resemble the waves of the sea that toss these marine animals upon the shore. 44 Columns of their lancers are advancing with one accord against us, flashing with furious rage and fire, uttering and muttering their abusive insults to us.”

45 “It is for this purpose that I have come to report these things to my lord, so that you will consider proceeding in battle array to the borders and drive these insurgents like weeds from the outskirts. 46 Now my lord, I take leave of you, with my bow and arrows and club and sword as I came, and leave the rest to your best discretion.”

47 Vasishta added:—

Saying so, and bowing lowly to his lord, the messenger immediately went out, like waves of the sea disappear after making a gurgling noise.

48 Upon this, the king with his honorable ministers, his knights and attendants and servants, together with his cavalry and charioteers, men and women and all the citizens at large were struck with terror. The sentinels of the palace trembled with fear as they shouldered their arms and held their weapons, which resembled a forest of trees shaken by a hurricane.