Chapter 109 — King Vipaschit Immolates Himself in Sacred Fire, Producing Four Copies

Vasishta continued:—

In the meanwhile, the assembled ministers advanced before the king, just as the sages of the past sought the help of celestial Indra when they were invaded by the Daitya demons. The ministers said, “Lord! We have consulted and determined that because the enemy is irresistible by any of the three means (peace, dissension, and bribe) they must be quelled by force or due punishment. When the proposal of friendship is of no avail and the offer of hostages also fails, it is useless to propose any other term for reconciliation.”

“Evil enemies who are base and barbarous from different countries and races, great in number and opulence, and acquainted with our weakness and weak parts are hardly conciliated by terms of peace or bribes of subsidy. Now there is no remedy against this insurrection other than showing our valor to the enemy. Wherefore let all our efforts be directed towards the strengthening of our gates and ramparts.”

“Give orders to our brave soldiers to rush out to the field and command the people to worship and implore the protection of the gods. Let the generals give the war alarm with loud sounding drums and trumpets. Let warriors be well armed and let them rush to the field. Order soldiers to rush upon the plains in all directions like dark flood clouds inundating the land. Let outstretched bows rattle in the air and bowstrings twang and clang all around. Let the shadows of curved bows hide the skies like clouds. Let bowstrings flash like flickering lightning in the air and the loud war whoops of soldiers sound like growling clouds above. Let flying darts and arrows fall like showers of rain and make combatants glare with sparkling gold rings in their ears.”

10 The king said, “All of you proceed to battle and promptly do all what is necessary on this occasion. I will follow you directly to the battlefield, after finishing my ablution and the adoration of the fire god Agni.”

11 In spite of the important affairs which waited on the king, yet he found a moment’s opportunity to bathe by pouring pots full of pure Ganges water upon himself, in the manner of a grove watered by a shower of rainwater. 12 Then he entered his fire temple and worshipped the holy fire with the reverence commanded in the scriptures. Then he began to reflect in the following manner.

King Vipaschit’s thoughts:—

13 I have led an untroubled and easy life, passing in pleasure and prosperity. I have kept the security of all the subjects of my realm stretching to the sea. 14 I have subdued the surface of the earth and reduced my enemies under my foot. I have filled the smiling land with plenty under the arc of the sky everywhere. 15 My fair fame shines in the sphere of heaven like clear and cooling moonbeams. The plant of my renown stretches to the three worlds like the three branches of the Ganges. 16 I have lavished my wealth upon friends and relatives and respectable brahmins in the same way as I have amassed treasures for myself. I quenched my thirst with the waters of coconuts growing on the edges of the four oceans. 17 My enemies trembled before me for fear of their lives. They groaned before me like croaking frogs with distended pouches. My rule extended over and marked the mountains situated in islands in distant seas.

18 I have wandered with bodies of spiritual masters over the nine regions beyond the visible horizon. I have rested on the tops of bordering mountains, like flying clouds that rest on mountain tops. 19 With my full knowing mind and my perfection in divine meditation, I have acquired my dominions entire and unimpaired through my goodwill for public welfare. 20 I have bound lawless rakshasa demons in strong chains. I have kept my cares for religious duties, and those for my treasures and personal enjoyments, within proper bounds without letting them clash with one another. 21 I have passed my lifetime in the uninterrupted discharge of my triple duties. I have enjoyed my life with great satisfaction and renown.

But now hoary old age has come upon me, like snow and frost fallen upon withered leaves and dried straw. 22 Now old age has come and blasted all my pleasures and efforts. After all this, these furious enemies have overpowered me and are eager for war. 23 They have poured upon me in vast numbers on all sides and victory is doubtful. Therefore it is better for me to offer myself as a sacrifice to the god of this burning fire, which is known to crown its worshipper with victory.

24 I will pluck this head of mine and make an offering of it to the fire god Agni as a fit fruit to offer, and say, “O fire god, I make here an offering of my head to you. 25 I give this offering, as I have ever before given my oblations to fire. Therefore accept this also, O god, if you are pleased with my former offerings. 26 Let the four vessels of your fiery furnace yield four forms of me with brilliant and strong bodies, like that of Narayana with his mighty arms. 27 Thus, with my four bodies, I will be able to meet my enemies on all four sides and be invulnerable like you, by keeping my thought and sight ever fixed in you.”

28 Vasishta continued:—

So saying, the king took hold of a dagger and separated his head from his body with one stroke, like children uses their nails to tear a lotus bud from its stalk. 29 As the head became an offering to the fire of dusky fumes, the headless trunk of the self-immolated sovereign also sprang and flew upon the burning furnace. 30 The sacred fire, fed with the fat and flesh of the royal carcass, yielded four such living bodies from amidst its burning flames. It is the nature of the good and great to make an instantaneous gift fourfold of what they receive in earnest.

31 The king sprang from the fire in his fourfold forms of royal appearance. These were as bright with light as the radiant body of Narayana when it first rose from the formless deep. 32 The king’s four bodies shone brightly, adorned with their inborn decorations of the royal crown and other ornaments and weapons. 33 They wore armor, crowns, helmets, bracelets and fittings for all and every part of the body. Necklaces and earrings hung upon them as they moved along. 34 All four princes were of equal forms and of similar shapes and sizes in all the parts of their bodies.

They were all seated on horseback, like so many Indras riding on their Uchaisrava horses. 35 They had long and ample quiver, full of arrows with golden shafts. Their heavy bows and bowstrings were equally long and strong with the god of war. 36 They also rode on elephants and steeds and were mounted on their chariots and other vehicles in their warfare. They were alike impregnable by the arms of the enemy, both themselves as well as the vehicles they rode.

37 They sprang from the pit of the sacred fire, nourished by the offerings poured on it, like flames from an undersea fire rise in the ocean. 38 Their flowery bodies on jeweled horses shone light on all sides like four smiling faces of the moon. Their good figures looked like Lord Vishnu, as if they have come out from fire and water.