Chapter 117 — Description of a Lotus-Lake, Bees and Swans

The companions said:—

Behold there, O lord! The lotus lake on the tableland of the mountain reflects the sky in its bosom and resembles the pleasure pond of Kama. Behold there the beds of white, red and blue lotuses with their protruding stalks. Listen to the mingled sounds of water fowls playing there. See the full blown lotus standing on its stalk with its thousand petals and the royal swan resting on its petal. It is crowded by double streaked bees and birds of various kinds, as if it were the home of the lotus-seated Brahma himself.

Mists and fearful frost are everywhere. The red pollen of full blown flowers and lotuses have been flying all about. Bees and birds, giddy with the scents spread around, hum and warble their tunes and notes in the open air. Clouds are spread above like an aerial canopy. There is the lashing sound of the breaking waves beating against the shore. Here is the rumbling noise of humming bees contending with one another. Somewhere the silent waters are sleeping in the deep. Elsewhere the fair lotuses of the lake are lying hidden in the bushes. Pearly particles of water lull heat away from people. Wild beasts prowl on the bank overgrown with wild thickets. Waves wash the stones on the bank. The land appears like the clear sky on the earth. The bosom of the lake displays lightning flashes from the red clouds bearing flower pollen. One side is hidden by a dark rain cloud while the other side shows the variegated rays of the evening skies above it. There is a fragment of autumn cloud carried aloft by driving winds, appearing like a part of the sky supported upon air.

Waves of the lake rippling by gentle breeze and moist humming bees fluttering over a lotus lake make a noise all around like flowers falling from trees on the river bank. Large lotus leaves are waving like fans made of palm leaves, foaming froths puffing like the snowy chowry fans of princes. Buzzing bees and cooing cuckoos sing in praise of the lake which lies like a lord in the assembly of lotuses resembling the consorts of his harem. 10 Behold the chorus of black bees singing their charming chimes before him. The yellow pollen of lotus flowers scatter his waters with dust of gold. Yellowish froth float like fragments of its gold colored flowers. The flowery shrubs on the bank decorate the lake like its headdress. 11 The deep fountain, having beautiful lotuses on its bosom, enjoys their sweet fragrance like princes derive from an assembly of talented men in their courts.

12 The translucent lake, reflecting the clear autumn sky on its surface, resembles the mind of a wise man which is ever clear and composed with the light of the true scriptures. 13 The clear lake is little discernible in winter when the keen blasts have covered it with hoarfrost and converted its blueness to white. 14 So the world appears to the wise like a vast sheet of the glory of God. All these distinct forms of things, like waves on the sea, are lost at last in the bright element of Eternity.

15 Everyone should try to raise himself above the sea of error by his own effort. Or else he must continually whirl in the whirlpool of blunder, like all other ignorant men. 16 As the waters of wells, tanks, lakes and seas differ from one another in their quality, so men and women are different from each other in their respective dispositions.

17 Who can count the aquatic plants and lotuses growing in the lakes as plentifully as the passions and desires spring in the fountain of the human heart, carried away by the waves of accidents, or hurled into the whirlpool of perdition? 18 O the wonderful effect of bad company, that the lotus growing in the company of aquatic plants loses its fragrance in the waters and shows its thorny stalks to view. 19 The good qualities of a person, like those of the lotus, are lost in the company of vicious faults, just like the pores, hollowness and too fine and fragile fibers of the lotus stalks make them entirely useless to anybody. 20 But the lotus which adorns its native waters and fills the air with its fragrance is like a nobleman born with the noble qualities of a noble family, and whose virtues are impossible for Sesha, the hundred hooded serpent, also to describe. 21 What can equal the lotus in praise, which in the form of Lakshmi, rests on the bosom of Hari and graces his hand like a bouquet of flowers?

22 Both white and blue lotuses are esteemed for their quality of sweet scent, though they differ in their color. Hence one is sacred to the sun and the other to the moon. 23 The blooming beauty of a lotus bed cannot be compared to full blown flowers of the forest. Nor does a lotus lake bear compare with the starry heaven. They are to be compared with the comely and smiling face of a dancing girl in her entertainment.

24 Blessed are bees that have all along enjoyed their lives reveling with the sweets of flowers without having anything else to care about. 25 Blessed are bees and cuckoos that feast upon the flavor of mango fruit and entertain themselves with the fragrance of their flowers. All others not so blessed are born only to bear the name of the species. 26 Bees filled with honey and giddy with the flavor of lotuses in the lake where they play laugh to scorn others of their tribe that led humble lives on the common powder of flowers. 27 The black bee buzzing to the lotus, living and playing in their company and sleeping in their honey cups at night, was in trouble at the approach of autumn, not knowing what flower to choose for its fare and rest. 28 A black bee sitting on an unopened flower bud looks like Andhaka placed over a trident by Shiva.

29 O you unsatisfied bee, ever wandering over hills and dales and sucking the sweets of all kinds of flowers, why do you still wander, unless it were for your restless discontent? 30 You soft bodied bee, raised on sweets and feeding upon pollen, it is better for you to resort to the lotuses of the lake than bruise your body in thorns and thistles. 31 O bumble bee, if stern winter deprives you of sweet flowing food and your fair diet of pollen, still you should repair like wise men do, as may suit your taste, and be congenial to your nature rather than be mean and debase yourself by attending upon the base and mean.

32 Look there, O lord, an assembly of milk-white swans swimming in the lake, feeding upon the silvery fibers of lotus stalks and making gurgling sounds as gravely as those who chant the Sama Veda. 33 Here the gander, pursuing geese sitting in their cradles of lotus bushes, thinks the clear lake to be the blue sky, and the lotus cradle as a cloud, and stops his pursuit. 34 Let nobody be so unfortunate, O lord, as this gander in pursuit of the shadows of geese.

35 The sweet music of the swan is unmatched by the crow or crane, although they are taught to learn it for many years in its society. 36 Although the swan and drake are both of the same kind, of like form and figure living upon the same sort of food, yet they differ widely from one another in their respective species and qualities. 37 The swan soaring in the sky, his snow white wings and feathers, appears like the hoary lotus sitting upon its stalk. Then it gladdens the minds of men, like the full moon with her icy beams. 38 The elevated stalks of lotuses, rising like the lofty stems of plantain trees, with lotuses sitting like the goddess Lakshmi upon them, afford delight only to swans and to no other bird.

39 Behold how the lake is adorned like a beautiful lady with waves like her waving bracelets, ripples like her necklaces, and aquatic plants and flowers as wreaths and garlands on her bosom. 40 Strings of fluttering bees are like streaks of black spots on her body. The swelling of cranes and storks are like the tinkling of her anklets and rippling waves are the glances of her eyes. 41 The lake is graced, like a lady, by young swans crying by her side as her young ones, looking up to the mountain as her lord for a fresh supply of fresh water from his flowing waterfall.

42 Don’t you, O harmless swan, reside with malicious water fowls and birds of prey in one and the same lake? It is better that you remain with your own kind who can help you in distress. 43 Look to your end, O silly bee, now so giddy with your drink of sweet honey, treading on the heads of elephants to sip and suck their flowing ichor and wandering at large among blooming lotuses. The winter of scarcity is fast approaching when you shall be forced to live upon dewdrops drizzling on blades of grass or dripping from stones. 44 O lord, the milk-white swan with wide stretched wings enters into the lotus bush to look after his young ones. On seeing him, they begin to cackle like a child seeing his father. The young ones said, “O father, it is all delusion, like a white pearl in silver and seeing an overcast of fog over his head at midday.”

45 The swan silently floats over the clear waters of the lake like the bright moon gently glides along the translucent atmosphere of the sky. As it passes through lotus beds, the swan’s wings bruise the blossoms, causing them to distil their fragrant fluid which is gulped by fish like the holy water of the Ganges.