Chapter 116 — The King’s Companions Continue: Praise of Sky and Air as Metaphors for God; a Beautiful Valley; Men Are Dirtier than Dogs; Nasty Crows and Pleasing Cuckoos

The companions added:—

Look lord, the field of battle stretching to the bordering hills. Look at the heaps of shining weapons and the scattered forces of elephants, cavalry, infantry and chariots. Look at the slain and their slayers, combatants attacking their rivals, and how their dying souls are carried in heavenly cars by celestial apsara nymphs to heaven.

The victor finding his adversary defeated in war should not slay him unjustly unless he is justified to do so by the laws of warfare, like love making in youth. As health, wealth and prosperity are good for men when they are rightly gained, so it is right to fight for those by whom one is supported. When one kills his opposing rival in combat, without violation of the laws of warfare, he is justly styled a heavenly champion. Not so one who takes undue advantage of his enemy.

Behold there, the bold champion waving his sword as if he were swinging a blue lotus in his hand, casting a dark shadow of the evening dusk on the ground. Lakshmi would court such a hero for her wedlock. Look at those flourishing weapons, flaming like the flying embers of a wildfire in a mountain forest, or like the dreadful serpents of the sea dancing on land with hundreds of flashing hoods and heads. Look at the sky on one side, resembling the sea with its watery clouds, shining with strings of its stars on another. See how it is covered by dark clouds on one side and brightened by moonbeams on the other. Look at the sky filled with multitudes of revolving planets resembling the rolling chariots of warriors, crowded by multitudes of moving stars like soldiers on the battlefield. Yet the error of the ignorant is to think it an empty vacuum, an error which is hard for the wise to remove.

10 The sky — with its clouds spread all over, its fiery lightning, its thunderbolts that break down mountains, its starry display, and the battle of gods and demigods that took place in it — is still as mysterious in his nature as the solid minds of the wise whose magnitude no one can measure. 11 O wise man, you have been constantly observing the sun, moon, and all the planets and stars in the sky, together with all the luminous bodies of comets, meteors and lightning. Yet it is astonishing that your ignorance will not let you see the great god Narayana in it. 12 O dark blue sky brightened by moonlight, you retain your blackness like the black spots on the bright face of the moon. Such is the wonder with ignorant minds, that with all their enlightenment, they never get rid of their inner bias and prejudice.

13 Again the clear sky, full with endless worlds, is never contaminated by their faults, nor ever changed in its essential state. It resembles the vast and pure mind of the wise, full with its knowledge of all things and devoid of all their pollutions. 14 O profound sky, you are the receptacle of the most elevated objects of nature. You contain lofty clouds and trees and summits in your womb. You are the recipient of the sun, moon and the aerial spirits that move about in you. Yet you are inflamed by the flames of the fiery bodies that rise in you, to our great regret, in spite of your greatness, which helps them spread themselves high in heaven. 15 O sky, you are filled with pure and transparent light. You are great giving quarters to all the great and elevated objects of nature. But it is greatly to be pitied that the dark clouds, to whom you give room to rise under yourself, trouble us like base upstarts, throwing their hailstones at random. 16 Again O dark sky, you are the witness of all lights, just as the touchstone is the test of gold. You are a void in your essence, yet you support the substances of stars and planets of clouds and winds and all real existences at large. 17 You are the daylight at daytime, the purple red of evening, and turn black at night, yet remain devoid of all color of yourself. You exhibit all colors in yourself. Hence it is impossible even for the learned to understand correctly your nature and its convertible conditions. 18 As a helpless man can achieve his purposes through patient perseverance, so the empty sky has risen above all by means of its universal spread.

19 The sun persisting in his accustomed course rises to the vertical point in time, but unmoving straw and trees, dormant hills and places, and stagnant pools and ponds are ever lying low on the ground. 20 The night invests the sky with a dark dress, sprinkles fair moonlight over it like the cooling dust of camphor, and decorates it with stars like clusters of flowers. The day covers the sky with bright sunbeams. The seasons serve to cover it with clouds and snows and in the flashing attire of spring flowers. Thus Time is always busy decorating the heavenly paths of his lords, the sun and the moon, the two time keepers by day and night. 21 The sky, like a magnanimous mind, never changes the firmness of its nature, even though it is constantly assailed by disturbances of smoke and clouds of dust and darkness, of the rising and setting sun and moon and their dawns and dusks, and the coming together of stars and combats between gods and demons.

22 The world is an old and decayed home of which the four directions are its walls, the sky its roof above, and the earth its ground floor below. The hills and mountains are its pillars and columns and cities and towns are its rooms and apartments. All the various classes of animal beings are like the ants of this home. 23 Time and action reside in this mansion from age to age. All its ample space presents the aspect of a smiling garden. Every day there is fear that it will be blown and blasted away, yet the wonder is how this frail flower last so longs and forever.

24 I think the air puts a stop to trees and hills growing taller for, though it does not actually restrain their growth, yet its influence, like the authority of noble men, puts a check to the rise of aspiring underlings. 25 O pity for that learning which calls air void and empty, seeing how the air contains millions of worlds in its bosom, producing and reducing countless beings in its boundless bosom. 26 We see all things born in air and return to it. Yet we see the madness of men who reckon the all containing and all pervading air is something different from God. 27 We see the works of creation continually being produced, existing and extinguishing in air, like sparks of fire. I believe this pure and sole air to be God, without beginning, middle or end, the universal source and end of all, without any other distinct cause. 28 Emptiness is the vast reservoir for the three worlds bearing the innumerable productions of nature in its vast space. I understand infinite emptiness as the body of Consciousness, that transcendent being in which this false conception of the world has its rise and fall.

29 There, in the woodlands on mountain tops, a solitary forester chants his charming strains amidst his woodland retreat, attracting the heart of a lonely passerby who lifts up his head to listen to the rapturous times. 30 Listen O lord, to the sweet music coming from the thick groves on that distant lofty mountain, emitted with the heart rending strains of lovelorn vidyadhari nymphs. See the lonely passerby whose lovesick heart, smitten by the sound, has neither the power to go forward or backward from the spot, or even utter a word. 31 I hear a lovelorn vidyadhari lady singing her love song in the woods of the hill, her sighs heaving and tears flowing profusely from her eyes. She sang saying, “Lord, I well remember the day when you led me home holding my chin and kissing me on the cheeks with your smiling face. Now the pleasing memory of that glad moment has left me deploring its loss for years.”

32 I heard her tale, O Lord, which the forester related to me when I passed by. He said, “Her former young lover was cursed by a relentless sage to become a tree for a dozen years. Since his ill fated change, she has been leaning on that tree singing her mournful song to it.” 33 Now observe the wonder. As I approached, the tree-like lover was released of his sad curse. Shedding a shower of flowers upon her, he changed his form and clasped her to his arms with his face smiling like his blooming flowers.

34 Hilltops are decorated with flowers like the heads of elephants are painted with white dye. The sky is whitened with stars and falling meteors, like a mountain summit is bleached with white frost and snow. 35 Behold, the beautiful stream of Cauvery River gliding along with a great number of fish swimming in its waters. Its noisy waves resound with the cries of shrill and clamorous cranes. See its banks covered with garments of flowers, its shores freely grazed by timid deer without any fear.

36 Look at Survela Hill, washed by the waves of the sea god Varuna. Its stones shine like gold under sunlight and sparkle like marine fires washed by waves. 37 Look at the homes of Ghosha shepherds at the foot of the mountain constantly shrouded by clouds. Behold the beauty of blossoming palasa and patala trees there. 38 Look at the plains, whitened by full-blown white flowers. See mandara trees with twining and flowering vines. Look at the banks crowded with cranes and peacocks. Look at those villages and the waterfalls, sounding like music from the mouths of mountain caves and forests, evoking joy among the happy inhabitants of the valley.

39 Here buzzing bees play around the new blown petals of plantain flowers, inspiring fond desire in the breasts of Pamara foresters. They enjoy a bliss in their rustic pastures and hidden hilly caverns which, I believe, is not attainable by the immortal gods in their celestial gardens. 40 Behold the black bees playing and swinging in their cradles of flowery vines of the forest, and the Pulinda forester singing to his beloved, his eyes fixed upon her face. Mark also the sportive Kirata, forgetting to kill the deer wandering beside his lonely cave. 41 Here a weary traveler is refreshed by the sweet scent of various full blown flowers, his body cooled by the fragrant pollen blown by the breeze from flowering vines.

Meanwhile, moisture bearing winds wash the valley on all sides, rendering the place more delightful than the spotted disc of the moon. 42 Here are unceasing gliding of waters, the constant waving of palm trees, the dancing of blossom-bearing branches, and the shaking of the spreading vines in the air. A forest of lofty sala trees in the borders and clouds hanging over the foothills all combine to add a charm to this village of the valley, like that of gardens in the planet of the moon. 43 Lightning flashing, clouds roaring deeply, peacocks dancing merrily with loud shrieks and screams, and their trailing retinue displayed in the air decorate the valley with a variety of multicolored gems. 44 The bright moon appearing on one side and dark clouds rising like huge elephants on the other serve to adorn the village in the valley and the hills in its outskirts with a beauty unknown in the heavenly kingdom of Brahma

45 O, how I long to live in a mountain cave among the fragrant trees of beautiful Nandana forest, among the delightful groves of blooming santanaha blossoms where busy bees continually flutter over mandara and paribhadra groves. 46 O, our hearts are attracted by the cries of tender deer browsing green and delightful vegetation, and by blooming blossoms on hills and in valleys, as they are by the sight of the cities of mankind. 47 Look at that far off village in the valley where the waterfall appears like a column of clear crystals and peacocks merrily dance about the cascading waterfalls. 48 See how the happy peacocks and joyful vines, bending down under the burden of their blossoms, are dancing delightfully beside the swirling waters of the waterfall. 49 I believe the lusty god of desire, Kama, plays at his pleasure in this village of the valley protected by hills all around. He is playing with handsome green harita birds in green groves beside crystal lakes resounding with the sweet singing of water fowl.

50 O most prosperous and magnanimous raincloud lord who is the center of all virtues and the highest and gravest of men, you are like a towering mountain, mankind’s refuge from heat and the cause of their plenty. 51 O who bathes in holy waters, exalted above all earthly beings, choosing to live in hills and wildernesses like holy hermits, and who is silent like them from the pure holiness of your nature, you also appear fair when you are emptied of your waters in autumn. All this is good in you. But say, why do you rise in your fullness with lightning flashing in your face and thunder roaring in your breast, like lucky upstarts of low origin? 52 All good things being misplaced turn to badness, just as water ascending to the clouds turns to hoarfrost and cold ice. 53 O, wonder that drops distilled by clouds fill the earth with water, and that this water supports all beings and makes the poor grow with plenty of harvest.

54 Ignorant people are like dogs in their unsteadiness, impudence, impurity and wayfaring. Hence I know not whether the ignorant have derived their nature from dogs or these from them. 55 There are some people who, in spite of all their faults, are yet esteemed for certain qualities, just as some dogs are taken into favor because of their valor, contentment and faithfulness to their masters. 56 We see all worldly people like madmen pursuing worldliness, pushing in the paths of business at the sacrifice of their honor, and likely to tumble down with fatigue. I find them flying to and fro like trifling straw. I do not know whether their will, madness or stupidity has made them chose this foolish course.

57 Among brute creatures, the brave lion hears tremendous thunder claps without shuddering, while the cowardly dog trembles and shuts his eyes with fear at the sound. 58 I believe, O vile dog, that you have been taught to bark at your fellows and to wander about the streets by some arrogant and stupid fellow. 59 The Divine Creator, who has ordained varieties in all his works, has made the nasty breed of his daughter Sarama, the bitch of the gods, all equally filthy. These are the dogs that dig holes in dirt for their kennels, feed upon filth and carrion, copulate in public places, and carry an impure body everywhere.

60 “Who is there lower than you?” asks a man of his dog. To which the dog answers, “You, the silly man, is the lowest of all.” Dogs combine the best qualities of valor, fidelity and unshaken patience. These are hard to find among humans who grovel in the darkness of their ignorance amidst greater impurities and disasters. 61 A dog eats impure things and lives in impurity. He is content with what it gets, feeds upon dead bodies, and never hurts the living. Yet men are fond of throwing stones at dogs everywhere. Thus men make dogs playthings, contrary to the will of God.

62 Look there, at the crow flying with the offerings left for the Shivalinga on the farther bank. There it is, in clear sight telling its story to everyone, saying; “Behold me on high, with my degrading sin of stealing from the altars of the gods.” 63 You croaking crow who crows so harshly and treads the marshy lake, no wonder you annoy us with your cries that drown out the sweet buzz of humming bees. 64 We see the greedy crow ravenously devouring dirty filth in preference to the sweet lotus stalk. No wonder that from long habituated taste, some would prefer sour to sweet.

65 A white crow, sitting in a bush of white lotus flowers and their snowy filaments, was at first taken for a swan or a heron, but as it began to pick up worms, it came to be known as a crow. 66 It is difficult to distinguish a crow from cuckoos, both having similar dark feathers, unless the one makes itself known by giving out its own vocal sound. 67 The crow sitting on a forest tree, a mound of clay or a tall building looks on all sides for its prey, just as a nightly thief climbs a chaitta tree and sits watching the ways of people.

68 It is impossible for a crow to live with cranes and storks by the side of a lake that abounds in lotus flowers diffusing their somber pollen all about. 69 For shame that the noisy crow should have a seat on the soft lotus bed in company with silent swans and play his disgraceful tricks among them. 70 You crow who cries with the sound of a grating saw, say, where have you lost your former reserve today? Why do you brood over the young cuckoo, whose sweetness of voice you can never attain and who you can not retain as your young?

71 On seeing a dark crow sitting like a black goose in a bed of white lotuses, crowing aloud with delight at that place, a person said to him, “It is better for you, O clamorous crow, to use your cracking voice to grab the ears of those who are not tired of splitting others’ heads with their crafty words.”

72 It is good that the cunning keep company with the cunning, like a crow and a crab meeting at a pool, or a crow joining with an owl in a tree. The two rogues, though seemingly familiar, will not fail to frustrate each another by their natural hatred. 73 The cuckoo associating with the crow and resembling him in figure and color is distinguished by his sweet notes, just as a learned man makes himself known in the society of the ignorant by his speech. 74 A blossoming branch is well able to bear the cuckoo plundering its flowers, but it will not suffer the association of crows and cranes, and cocks and vultures upon its twigs.

75 How delightfully do people listen to the sweet notes of the cuckoo uniting separated lovers. But who can tolerate listening to the jarring cries of the crow or the hooting of the owl without disgust? 76 When the sweet notes of the young kokila nightingale serve to entertain the ears of listeners with the glad tidings of spring season, the grating cry of the crow immediately intrudes upon their ears, demanding the melodious cuckoo to be its foster child. 77 Why and what have you been cooing so long, O you tender cuckoo, with so much joy and joy in that distant grove? Behold, your pleasant spring season is too soon over with its fading flowers. Behold the stern winter approaching fast to blast blossoming trees with its icy breath, bidding you hide your head in your nest.

78 A separated mistress seeing a sweet kokila nightingale pour forth his notes to the tender blossoms of the spring season thus addressed to him saying, “Say, O sweet cuckoo, who taught you to say that spring season is for you and your enjoyment? This is truly a sorrowful lie you told me. Instead of saying ‘It is mine and yours’, you are enjoying your companion.”

79 The cuckoo sitting silent in an assemblage of crows, appears as one of them in its form and color of its feathers. The graceful gait of the cuckoo makes it known from the rest, as the wise man is marked in the company of fools. Hence everybody is respected by his inner talents and outward behavior more than by outer form and feathers. 80 O brother kokila nightingale, you coo so sweetly but in vain when there is none to appreciate its value. Therefore, when flocks of crows are crying so loudly and when it is time for dew to fall and not spring flowers, it is far better that you sit quietly in your secluded concealment under shady leaves. 81 It is a wonder that a young cuckoo forsakes its mother for a fostering crow that begins to prick it with its bills and claws.

As I reflect on these, I find the young cuckoo growing into the likeness of its mother. Hence I conclude that the nature of a person prevails over his training.