Chapter 196 — Realization Cannot Be Obtained from Scriptures; Story of the Wood-Cutters and the Philosopher’s Stone

Valmiki relates:—

After the lotus-eyed Rama, had said these words, he fell into a trance and remained silent, his mind reposing in the state of supreme bliss. He felt supremely blessed resting in the Supreme Spirit. Then, awaking after a while from his holy trance, he pensively asked a question of his sagely teacher.

Rama asked:—

O venerable sage who dispels my doubts like clear autumn scatters dark clouds, a doubt which has so long troubled my heart has at last quite been set to rest. I find this knowledge to be the best and greatest of all, capable of saving me from the noisy ocean of this world. It transcends all other doctrines which are mere words to trap the careless minds of men.

If all this is certainly the same Brahman and our consciousness of him, then O venerable sage, he must be unspeakable and inexpressible in words, even by the most learned and wisest of men. Remaining in meditation of the knowable one, without any desire in our minds for any earthly good, we are able to attain consciousness of our highest bliss which is unattainable by learning and inexpressible in words. How can this certain and unchanging state of bliss be obtained from the dogmas of the scriptures which are at variance with each other and are employed in listing of categories? We can gain no true knowledge from the doctrines of different scriptures. At best they only contradict one another. Therefore it is vain to expect any benefit from scriptures that are at based upon mere theories of our pretended leaders.

Therefore, O venerable sage, tell me whether it is of any good for us to learn the doctrines of the scriptures or attend to the teaching of our preceptors?

10 Vasishta replied:—

So it is, O mighty armed Rama, that the scriptures are not the means to divine knowledge. Scriptures are profuse with words; divine knowledge is beyond the reach of words. 11 Yet hear me tell you, O best of Raghu’s race, how the dictates of the scriptures and the lectures of your teachers are of some help towards improving your understanding.

12 There lived in a certain place some wood-cutters who had always been unfortunate and miserable in their lives. They wasted and faded away in their poverty, like trees withering in summer heat. 13 Extreme poverty made them cover themselves with patched up rags. They were emaciated in their despair, like fading lotus flowers lacking water. 14 Dried out by famine and despairing for their lives, their only thought was how to fill their bellies. 15 In this state of distress and despondence, only one thought shone in their minds: to cut wood day by day, take it for sale as fuel in town, and live upon the income. 16 Thus determined, they went to the forest to cut down wood, because any plan made in distress is best used to preserve life. 17 Thus they continued daily to go to the forest to cut wood, bring it to town for sale, and fill their bellies and support their bodies with the proceeds.

18 It happened that the outskirts of the forest where they went were full of woods with loads of treasure consisting of gold and precious gems lying hidden under the trees and exposed to view. 19 Then it turned out that some of the wood-cutters happened by their good luck to discover the brilliant gems which they took to their homes. 20 Others saw valuable sandalwood trees, some saw beautiful flowers in some place, and some found fruit trees somewhere, all of which they took and sold for their food and livelihood. 21 Some men of dull understanding neglected all these goods and kept collecting blocks of wood which they carried to edge of the forest where they sold then at very low prices. 22 Among all these woodmen employed cutting wood, some by their good luck happened to find some precious gems which set them at ease for every care.

23 Thus amongst all who had been working in the same field of labor, some happened to obtain their desired reward: the philosopher’s gem (chintamani) which converts all things to gold. 24 Having obtained the desirable gem, which bestowed all blessings of wealth and prosperity, they became preeminently happy with their fortune and remained quite content in the same woods. 25 So the seekers and sellers of worthless wooden blocks, having gained the bountiful gem of their heart’s desire, remained happily with themselves, like gods dwelling in harmony in heaven. 26 Thus the Kirata woodmen, having obtained the best gain of what is the core and foundation of every good in the land, remained quiet and contented in themselves. They passed their days without any fear or grief enjoying their everlasting mental peace and bliss.

27 This world is comparable to the wilderness. All its busy people are like the laboring Kirata foresters, daily working and suffering in their hard work for the sake of their daily bread. Some are happy to find the precious treasure of true knowledge, which gives them the real bliss of life and lasting peace of mind.