Chapter 12: The Illusory Universe

1. Even after listening to Dattatreya patiently, Parasurama was still perplexed and asked:

2. "O Lord, what you have said so far about the Universe is the truth.

3. "Even so, how is it that it appears to be real to me and to others who are both intelligent and shrewd?

4. "Why does it continue to seem to be real to me even though I have heard you say otherwise? Please prove to me its unreality and remove my present illusion."

5. Thus requested, Dattatreya, the great sage, began to explain the cause of the illusion which makes one believe the world to be real.

6. "Listen, Rama! This illusion is very old, being no other than the deep-rooted ignorance which mistakes one thing for another.

7. "See how the true Self has been ignored and the body has become identified with the Self. Consider this foul body comprised of blood and bones beside that unblemished, pure intelligence!

8. "Even the gross body becomes mistaken for crystal-clear consciousness by mere force of habit.

9. "So also the universe has repeatedly been taken to be real so that it now looks as if it were actually real. The remedy lies in a change of outlook.

10. "The world becomes for one whatever one is accustomed to think it. This is borne out by the realisation of yogis of the objects of their long contemplation.

11-12. "I shall illustrate this point by an ancient and wonderful incident. There is a very holy town, Sundara, in the country of Vanga. Here once lived a very wise and famous king, Susena by name. His younger brother, Mahasena, was his loyal and dutiful subject.

13. " The king ruled his kingdom so well that all his subjects loved him. On one occasion he performed the horse-sacrifice.

Note. - This sacrifice can be performed only by the most powerful kings. A horse chosen and dedicated for sacrifice is allowed to roam wherever it pleases. The sacrificer or his lieutenant or group of lieutenants, follows the horse at a distance. The horse is a challenge to the kings in whose country it roams, so that battles are fought until the horse is successfully brought back and the sacrifice performed.

14. "All the most valiant princes followed the horse with a great army.

15. "Their course was victorious until they reached the banks of the Irrawaddy.

16. "They were so elated that they passed by the peacefully sitting royal sage, Gana, without saluting him.

17. "Gana's son noticed the insult to his father and was exasperated. He caught the sacrificial horse and fought the heroes guarding it.

18-23. "They surrounded him on all sides but he together with the horse entered a hill, Ganda, before their eyes. Noticing his disappearance in the hill, the invaders attacked the hill. The sage's son re-appeared with a huge army, fought the enemy, defeated them and destroyed Susena's army. He took many prisoners of war, including all the princes and then re-entered the hill. A few followers who escaped fled to Susena and told him everything. Susena was surprised and said to his brother

24-30. "Brother! go to the place of the sage, Gana. Remember that penance doers are wonderfully powerful and cannot be conquered even by gods. Therefore take care to please him so that you may be allowed to bring back the princes and the horse in time for the sacrifice which is fast approaching. Pride before sages will always be humbled. If enraged, they reduce the world to ashes. Approach him with respect so that our object may be fulfilled.

"Mahasena obeyed and immediately started on his errand. He arrived at Gana's hermitage and found the sage seated peacefully like a rock, with his senses, mind and intellect under perfect control. The sage, who was immersed in the Self, looked like a calm sea whose waves of thought had quieted down. Mahasena spontaneously fell prostrate before the sage and began to sing his praises, and here he remained for three days in reverential attitude.

31-46. "The sage's son who had been watching the new visitor was pleased, and coming to him said, - I am pleased with the respect you show for my father, tell me what I can do for you and I will do it at once. I am the son of this great Gana, the unique hermit. Prince, listen to me. This is not the time for my father to speak. He is now in Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi and will come out of it only after twelve years, of which five have already passed and seven yet remain.

"Tell me now what you desire from him and I will do it for you. Do not underestimate me and think that I am only a headstrong youth not worthy of my father. There is nothing impossible for yogis engaged in penance."

"After hearing him, Mahasena, being wise, saluted him with clasped hands and said: 'Oh child of the sage! If you mean to fulfil my desire I want to make a short request to your wise father when he has come out of his samadhi. Kindly help me to that end if you please.' After he had thus requested, the sage's son replied: 'King, your request is hard to grant. Having promised fulfilment of your desire, I cannot now go back on my word. I must now ask you to wait an hour and a half and watch my yogic power. This, my father, is now in transcendental peace. Who can wake him up by external efforts? Wait! I shall do it forthwith by means of subtle yoga.'

"Saying so, he sat down, withdrew his senses, united the in-going and out-going breaths, exhaled air and stopped motionless for a short time; in this way he entered the mind of the sage and after agitating it, re-entered his own body. Immediately the sage came to his senses and found Mahasena in front of him, prostrating and praising him. He thought for a moment taking in the whole situation by his extraordinary powers.

47-49. "Perfectly peaceful and cheerful in mind, he beckoned to his son and said to him: 'Boy, do not repeat this fault. Wrath wrecks penance. Penance is only possible and can progress without obstruction because the king protects yogis. To interfere with a sacrifice is always reprehensible and never to be countenanced by the good. Be a good boy and return the horse and the princes immediately. Do it at once so that the sacrifice may be performed at the appointed hour.'

50. "Directed thus, the sage's son was immediately appeased. He went into the hill, returned with the horse and the princes and released them with pleasure.

51-53. "Mahasena sent the princes with the horse to the town. He was surprised at what he saw and saluting the sage asked him respectfully: "Lord, please tell me how the horse and the princes were concealed in the hill." Then the sage replied:

54-66. "Listen, O King, I was formerly an emperor ruling the empire bounded by the seas. After a long while the Grace of God descended on me and I grew disgusted with the world as being but trash in the light of consciousness within. I abdicated the kingdom in favour of my sons and retired into this forest. My wife, being dutiful, accompanied me here. Several years were passed in our penance and austerities. Once my wife embraced me and this son was born to her when I was in samadhi. She brought me to my senses, left the babe with me and died. This boy was brought up by me with love and care. When he grew up, he heard that I had once been a king; he wished to be one also and besought me to grant his prayer. I initiated him in yoga which he practised with such success that he was able by the force of his will to create a world of his own in this hill which he is now ruling. The horse and princes were kept there. I have now told you the secret of that hill." After hearing it Mahasena asked again:

67. "I have with great interest heard your wonderful account of this hill. I want to see it. Can you grant my prayer?"

68. "Being so requested, the sage commanded his son saying: 'Boy! show him round the place and satisfy him.'

69. "Having said thus, the sage again lapsed into samadhi; and his son went away with the king.

70. "The sage's son entered the hill without trouble and disappeared, but Mahasena was not able to enter. So he called out for the sage's son.

71. "He too called out to the king, from the interior of the hill. Then he came out of it and said to the king:

72-74. "O King, this hill cannot be penetrated with the slender yogic powers that you possess. You will find it too dense. Nevertheless you must be taken into it as my father ordered. Now, leave your gross body in this hole covered with bushes; enter the hill with your mental sheath along with me.' The king could not do it and asked:

75. "Tell me, saint, how I am to throw off this body. If I do it forcibly, I shall die.

76. "The saint smiled at this and said: 'You do not seem to know yoga. Well, close your eyes.'

77. "The king closed his eyes; the saint forthwith entered into him, took the other's subtle body and left the gross body in the hole.

78. "Then by his yogic power the saint entered the hill with this subtle body snatched from the other which was filled with the desire of seeing the empire within the bowels of the hill.

79. "Once inside he roused up the sleeping individual to dream. The latter now found himself held by the saint in the wide expanse of ether.

Note. - The ativahika sarira (astral body), exhaustively treated in Yoga Vasishta.

80-82. "He was alarmed on looking in all directions and requested the saint, 'Do not forsake me lest I should perish in this illimitable space.' The saint laughed at his terror and said, 'I shall never forsake you. Be assured of it. Now look round at everything and have no fear.'

83-95. "The king took courage and looked all round. He saw the sky above, enveloped in the darkness of night and shining with stars. He ascended there and looked down below; he came to the region of the moon and was benumbed with cold. Protected by the saint, he went up to the Sun and was scorched by its rays. Again tended by the saint, he was refreshed and saw the whole region a counterpart of the Heaven. He went up to the summits of the Himalayas with the saint and was shown the whole region and also the earth. Again endowed with powerful eye-sight, he was able to see far-off lands and discovered other worlds besides this one. In the distant worlds there was darkness prevailing in some places; the earth was gold in some; there were oceans and island continents traversed by rivers and mountains; there were the heavens peopled by Indra and the Gods, the asuras, human beings, the rakshasas and other races of celestials. He also found that the saint had divided himself as Brahman in Satyaloka, as Vishnu in Vaikunta, and as Siva in Kailasa while all the time he remained as his original-self the king ruling in the present world. The king was struck with wonder on seeing the yogic power of the saint. The sage's son said to him: 'This sightseeing has lasted only a single day according to the standards prevailing here, whereas twelve thousand years have passed by in the world you are used to. So let us return to my father.'

96. "Saying so, he helped the other to come out of the hill to this outer world."

Thus ends the Chapter XII on sight-seeing in the Ganda Hill in Tripura Rahasya.