Chapter 21: The Secret of Accomplishment

1. After Parasurama heard this from Sri Dattatreya he felt as if released from the meshes of ignorance.

2-8. He again saluted Sri Datta and asked him with great devotion: "Lord! please tell me exactly how wisdom can be accomplished. I want to hear the essence of it in brief. The method should also be easy and at the same time efficient. Please also tell me the characteristics of the sages, so that I may readily recognise them. What is their state with or without the body? How can they be unattached though active? Kindly tell me all this."

Thus requested, the son of Atri spoke to him with pleasure: "Listen! Rama, I am now telling you the secret of accomplishment. Of all the requisites for wisdom, Divine Grace is the most important. He who has entirely surrendered himself to the Goddess is sure to gain wisdom readily. Rama! this is the best of all the methods.

9-17. "This method does not require other aids to reinforce its efficiency, as other methods do for accomplishing the end. There is a reason for it. Pure Intelligence illumining all has cast a veil of ignorance of Her own over all. Her true nature is evident only after removing this veil by discrimination. This is hard for those whose minds are directed outward; and it is easy, sure and quick for devotees engrossed in the Goddess of the Self to the exclusion of all else.

"An intense devotee, though endowed with only a little discipline of other kinds (e.g., dispassion), can readily understand the truth though only theoretically, and expound it to others. Such exposition helps him to imbue those ideas and so he absorbs the truth. This ultimately leads him to identify all individuals with Siva and he is no longer affected by pleasure or pain. All-round identification with Siva makes him the best of jnanis and a jivanmukta (emancipated here and now). Therefore bhakti yoga (way of devotion) is the best of all and excels all else.

18-24. "The characteristics of a Jnani are hard to understand, because they are inscrutable and inexpressible. For instance, a pandit cannot be adequately described except by his appearance, gait and dress because his feelings, depth of knowledge, etc., are known to himself alone; while the flavour of a particular dish cannot be exactly conveyed by word to one who has not tasted it; but a pandit can be understood only by another pandit by his method of expression. A bird alone can follow the track of another bird.

"There are of course some traits which are obvious, and others which are subtle and inscrutable. Those which are obvious are their speech, language, postures of meditation, signs of worship, dispassion, etc., which can however be imitated by non-sages.

25. "What are accomplishments to others to the accompaniment of dispassion, meditation, prayer, etc. remain natural to the sage whose mind is pure and unsophisticated.

26. "He whom honour and insult, loss or gain, cannot affect, is a sage of the best class.

27. "The best among sages can, without hesitation give complete answers on matters relating to Realisation and the sublimest truths.

28. "He seems to be spontaneously animated when discussing matters pertaining to jnana (realisation) and is never tired of their exposition.

29. "His nature is to remain without efforts. Contentment and purity abide in him. Even the most critical situations do not disturb his peace of mind.

30. "These are qualities which must be tried for oneself and verified; they are of no value as tests applied to others, for they may be genuine or spurious.

31. "An aspirant must first apply the tests to himself and always prove his own worth; he can then judge others.

32-33. "How can the repeated testing of oneself fail to improve one? Let one not spend one's time judging others; but let one judge oneself. Thus one becomes perfect.

34-38. "What have here been called the traits of a Jnani are meant for one's own use and not for testing others, because they admit of many modifications according to circumstances. For instance, a Jnani who has realised the Self with the least effort may continue in his old ways although his mind is unassailable. He looks like a man of the world for all practical purposes. How then can he be judged by others? Nevertheless, one Jnani will know another at sight just as an expert can appraise precious stones at a glance.

"The Jnanis of the lowest order behave like ignorant men in their care for their bodies.

39-54. "They have not attained Sahaja Samadhi (samadhi unbroken even while engaged in work, etc.). They are in the state of Perfection only when they are calm or composed. They have as much of the body-sense and enjoy pleasure and pain with as much zest as any animal when they are not engaged in the investigation of the Self.

"Though they are not always inquiring into the Self, yet there are periods of the perfect state owing to their previous practice and experience. All the same, they are emancipated because the animal-sense is only an aberration during interludes of imperfection and does not always leave any mark of them. Their aberration is similar to the ashy skeleton of a piece of burnt cloth which, though retaining the old shape, is useless. Again, the intervals of Realisation have an abiding effect on their lives, so that the world does not continue to enthral them as heretofore. A dye applied to the border of a cloth 'creeps' and shades the body of the cloth also.

"The middle class of jnanis are never deluded by their bodies. Delusion is the false identification of 'I' with the body; this never arises with the more advanced jnanis, namely the middle class among them. Identification of the Self with the body is attachment to the body. The middle class of jnanis are never attached to the body. Their minds are mostly dead because of their long practice and continued austerities. They are not engaged in work because they are entirely self-possessed. Just as a man moves or speaks in sleep without being aware of his actions, so also this class of yogi does enough work for his minimum requirements without being aware of it. Having transcended the world, he behaves like a drunken man. But he is aware of his actions. His body continues on account of his vasanas (predispositions) and destiny. Jnanis of the highest class do not identify the Self with the body but remain completely detached from their bodies. Their work is like that of a charioteer driving the chariot, who never identifies himself with the chariot. Similarly the jnani is not the body nor the actor; he is pure intelligence. Though entirely detached from action within, to the spectator he seems to be active. Her performs his part like an actor in a drama; and plays with the world as a parent does with a child.

55-56. "Of the two higher orders of jnanis, the one remains steadfast through his sustained practice and control of mind, whereas the other is so on account of the force of his discrimination and investigation. The difference lies in the merits of their intellect, I shall now relate to you a story in this connection.

57-79. "There was formerly a king by name Ratnangada ruling in the City of Amrita on the banks of the Vipasa. He had two sons Rukmangada and Hemangada - both wise and good and dearly loved of their father. Of them Rukmangada was well versed in the Sastras and Hemangada was a jnani of the highest order. On one occasion both of them went out on a hunting expedition into a dense forest, followed by their retinue. They accounted for many a deer, tigers, hares, bisons, etc., and being thoroughly exhausted, they rested beside a spring. Rukmangada was informed by some persons that there was a Brahmarakshas (a species of ghoulish spirit of a learned but degenerate Brahmin) close by, who was very learned, accustomed to challenge pandits for discussion, vanquish them and then eat them. Since Rukmangada loved learned disputations, he went with his brother to the ghoul and engaged him in argument. He was however defeated in the debate and so the ghoul caught hold of him to devour him. Seeing it, Hemangada said to the ghoul, 'O Brahmarakshas, do not eat him yet! I am his younger brother. Defeat me also in argument so that you may eat us both together.' The ghoul answered, I have long been without food. Let me first finish this long-wished for prey, and then I shall defeat you in debate and complete my meal with you. I hope to make a hearty meal of you both.

"Once I used to catch any passerby and eat him. A disciple of Vasishta, by name Devarata, once came this way and he cursed me, saying, 'May your mouth be burnt if you indulge in human prey any more.' I prayed to him with great humility and he condescended to modify his curse thus: 'You may eat such as are defeated by you in debate.' Since then I have been adhering to his words. I have now waited so long for prey that this is very dear to me. I shall deal with you after finishing this.'

'Saying so, he was about to eat the brother; but Hemangada again interceded, saying, 'O Brahmarakshas, I pray you kindly accede to my request. Tell me if you would relinquish my brother if other food were found for you. I will redeem my brother in that way if you will allow it.' But the ghoul replied, saying. 'Listen, King! there is no such price for redemption. I will not give him up. Does a man let his long wished for food slip away from his hold? However I shall tell you now a vow which I have taken. There are many questions deeply afflicting my mind. If you can answer them satisfactorily, I shall release your brother.' Then Hemangada asked the ghoul to mention the questions so that he might answer them. The ghoul then put him the following very subtle questions which I shall repeat to you, Parasurama! They are:

80. "What is more extensive than space and more subtle than the subtlest? What is its nature? Where does it abide? Tell me, Prince."

81. "Listen, Spirit! Abstract Intelligence is wider than space and subtler than the subtlest. Its nature is to glow and it abides as the Self."

82. "How can it be wider than space, being single? or how is it subtler than the subtlest? What is that glow? and what is that Self? Tell me, Prince."

83. "Listen, Spirit! Being the material cause of all, intelligence is extensive though single; being impalpable, it is subtle. Glowing obviously implies consciousness and that is the Self."

84. Spirit: "Where and how is Chit (Abstract Intelligence) to be realised and what is the effect?"

85. Prince: "The intellectual sheath must be probed for its realisation. One-pointed search for it reveals its existence. Rebirth is overcome by such realisation."

86. Spirit: "What is that sheath and what is concentration of mind? Again what is birth?"

87. Prince: "The intellectual sheath is the veil drawn over Pure Intelligence; it is inert by itself. One-pointedness is abiding as the Self. Birth is the false identification of the Self with the body."

88. Spirit: "Why is that Abstract Intelligence which is ever shining not realised? What is the means by which it can be realised? Why did birth take place at all?"

89. Prince: "Ignorance is the cause of non-realisation. Self realises the Self; there is no external aid possible. Birth originated through the sense of doership."

90. Spirit: "What is that ignorance of which you speak? What is again the Self? Whose is the sense of doership?"

91. Prince: "Ignorance is the sense of separateness from consciousness and false identification with the nonself. As for the Self, the question must be referred to the Self in you. The ego or the 'I-thought' is the root of action.

92. Spirit: "By what means is ignorance to be destroyed? How is the means acquired? What leads to such means?"

93. Prince: "Investigation cuts at the root of ignorance. Dispassion develops investigation. Disgust of the pleasures of life generates dispassion towards them."

94. Spirit: "What is investigation, dispassion or disgust in pleasures?"

95. Prince: "Investigation is analysis conducted within oneself, discriminating the non-self from the Self, stimulated by a stern, strong and sincere desire to realise the Self. Dispassion is non-attachment to surroundings. This results if the misery consequent on attachment is kept in mind."

96. Spirit: "What is the root cause of the whole series of these requirements?"

97. Prince: "Divine Grace is the root cause of all that is good. Devotion to God alone can bring down His Grace. This devotion is produced and developed by association with the wise. That is the prime cause of all."

98. Spirit: "Who is that God? What is devotion to Him? Who are the wise?"

99. Prince: "God is the master of the Cosmos. Devotion is unwavering love for Him. The wise are those who abide in Supreme Peace and melt with love for all."

100. Spirit: "Who is always in the grip of fear, Who of misery, Who of poverty?"

101. Prince: "Fear holds a man possessed of enormous wealth; misery, of large family; and poverty, of insatiable desires."

102. Spirit: "Who is fearless? Who is free from misery? Who is never needy?"

103. Prince: "The man with no attachments is free from fear; the one with controlled mind is free from misery; the Self-realised man is never needy."

104. Spirit: "Who is he that passes men's understanding and is visible though without a body? What is the action of the inactive?"

105. Prince: "The man emancipated here and now passes men's understanding; he is seen though he does not identify himself with the body; his actions are those of the inactive."

106. Spirit: "What is real? What is unreal? What is inappropriate? Answer these questions and redeem your brother."

107. Prince: "The subject (i.e., the Self) is real; the object (i.e., the non-self) is unreal; worldly transactions are inappropriate.

"I have now answered your questions. Please release my brother at once."

108. "When the Prince had finished, the ghoul released Rukmangada with pleasure and himself appeared metamorphosed as a Brahmin.

109. "Seeing the figure of the Brahmin full of courage and tapas (penance), the two princes asked him who he was.

110-112. "'I was formerly a Brahmin of Magadha. My name is Vasuman. I was famous for my learning and known as an invincible debater. I was proud of myself and sought the assembly of those learned pandits who collected in my country under royal patronage. There was among them a great saint, perfect in wisdom and entirely Self-possessed. He was known as Ashtaka. I went there for love of debate. Though I was a mere logician, I argued against his statement on Self-Realisation, by sheer force of logic. He backed his arguments by profuse quotations from the holy scriptures. Since I was out to win laurels, I continued to refute him. Finding me incorrigible, he kept silent. However, one of his disciples, descendant of Kasyapa lineage, was enraged at my audacity and cursed me before the king, saying: 'You chip of a Brahmin! How dare you refute my Master without first understanding his statements? May you at once become a ghoul and remain so for a long time."

"'I shook with fear at the imprecation and took refuge at the feet of the sage Ashtaka. Being always Self-possessed, he took pity on me though I had figured as his opponent just before; and he modified his disciple's curse by pronouncing an end to it as follows: 'May you resume your old shape as soon as a wise man furnishes appropriate answers to all the questions which were raised here by you, answered by me but refuted by your polemics'.

"O Prince! You have now released me from that curse. I therefore consider you as the best among men, knowing all that pertains to life here and beyond."

"The princes were astonished at that story of his life.

123-124. "The Brahmin asked Hemangada further questions and became further enlightened. Then the princes returned to their city after saluting the Brahmin.

"I have now told you everything, O Bhargava!"

Thus ends the chapter on the Episode of the Ghoul in Tripura Rahasya.