Chapter Nine: Friendly Persuasion
The two envoys, the counselor and the priest, goaded into action by the
scourge of royal tears, departed for that forest with a will born of the desire
to please, like two noble horses that feel the sting of the crop.
Accompanied by their entourage, they wearily arrived at last at the ashram where
they dismissed the royal retinue, and in a fittingly sober manner entered the
abode of Bhargava.
After greeting the brahmin rishi respectfully, and honoured reverentially by him
in turn, they sat themselves down and got right down to business -- they told
Bhargava why they had come: "Your honour, we two are only the lowly
servants of the king of the Ikshwaku Kshatriyas, a brave, observant and renowned
man. I am a less-than-perfect student of sacred learning and he, a
mere consultant. His son however, is a Jayanta to his Indra, and they say
he came here to escape the fear of old age and death, and we have come because
He answered, "The long-armed prince did indeed come here, and not as a
total beginner, either. He seemed to think that our type of dharma
practice only brings us back again, so he left almost immediately and set off in
his search for liberation to see Arada."
Then they understood the situation and, bidding the brahmin farewell, weary
though they were, the two went on tirelessly towards the place the prince had
As they were going along the way, they noticed him sitting like a king right
there by the side of the road at the foot of a tree. Even without his
ornaments he was still radiantly beautiful, like the sun under a canopy of
Leaving their chariot, the family priest and the counselor approached the prince
just like holy Aurvaseya and Vamadeva when they went to see Rama while he
was in the forest.
They bowed low, like Shukra and Angiras paying homage to Indra in heaven, and he
returned the courtesy. Then having asked his permission, they sat down
near him, that banner of the Sakyas, and at that moment they seemed like the two
stars of Punarvasu in conjunction with the
The priest addressed the glowing prince at the foot of that tree just as
Brihaspati had addressed Indra's son Gayanta under the heavenly Parakata tree:
"Prince, think for a moment what the weeping king said to you as he lay
prostrate with sorrow from that arrow you had shot into his
He said, "I know you are bent on the religious life, and I am convinced
that you have not changed your mind, but I am consumed with anguish at your
going at such an inopportune time. You may feel that duty calls, but
surely you can see where true duty lies, for the swollen stream of sorrow is
sweeping me away like a torrent eroding the riverbanks.
"Just as extreme kinds of weather wreak havoc with the land and its
creatures, so this grief is wearing us down and tearing us to bits -- it's too
much -- there's sun, wind, rain and now, lightning.
"Reap all the benefits of your worldly existence for a while yet; then in
due time, go to the forest at the stage recommended in the Shastras. Don't
disregard your unhappy family for as you know, all-encompassing compassion is at
the very core of religion."
"Religion is not only developed in forest retreats, for a dedicated
person can become accomplished even in the city. Meditation,
self-discipline and effort are the true means to the practice of dharma, and the
forest environment and other outward accoutrements are only there to give
support to those lacking in conviction.
"Liberation has been attained even by householders; even by those Indras
among men who lived in the lap of luxury with diadems dangling strings of pearls
down to their shoulders and whose plentiful decorations tangle in their
bracelets. Some examples are: Bali the king of Rakshasas, and the innocent
child Dhruva who became the Pole Star; Vagbhava, Ashadha and Amydeva, and Ganaka
king of the Vidyas, and also King Senagita's son with his wish-fulfilling
All those great kings were householders, yet well skilled in practices for
the gaining of merit leading to ultimate bliss. You too can do as they did
and combine royal magnificence with the control of the mind.
(And you will remember that the king at that time continued,) "I myself
would like -- but only after you have been crowned king, consecrated with
the holy water and I have embraced you still wet with that sacred water as you
sit in your new estate shaded by the royal umbrella -- to go off in that joyful
mood to a hermitage in the woods."
"That is exactly what the king said to you though his words were
interrupted by his tears. Surely having heard it, for the sake of what he
holds most dear you will return his affection and accede to his wishes.
"The king of the Sakyas is drowning in a deep sea of sorrow rocked by waves
of trouble that emanate from you, and only you can save this man who is as
helpless and friendless as a drowning ox.
"You have often heard that Bhishma who sprang from Ganga's womb, and Rama
the son of Bhrigu both did what would please their fathers, so surely you would
also wish to do your father's will.
"Also consider the queen, the one who brought you up and who has not yet
gone to join Agastya in the afterlife. Won't you think of how she feels,
for now she is grieving endlessly like some doting cow that has lost her calf?
"Surely you will revive your wife by letting her see you again, for
she feels as though she is a widow whose husband is still alive somewhere.
She's like the swan separated from her mate or a female elephant in the forest
deserted by her companion.
"Your only son, a little child, does not deserve all that distress and
sorrow. Please put an end to Rahula's sad situation in which everyone
around him is in mourning. Only you can save that full moon from the
eclipsing grip of Rahu! He is burning in a fire of anguish caused by
your absence, and the mourning of others adds fresh fuel to that fire whose
smoke is sighs and whose flame, despair. He wanders through the women's
quarters and the whole town just hoping to catch a glimpse of you, his father.
The Bodhisattva, whose nature was perfection, after listening to the family
priest, reflected for a moment in an appreciation of the virtue there and then
uttered this gentle reply:
"I know the king loves me very well, especially as he often displays the
fatherly love that he has for me. Yet it is knowing exactly that which
makes me so concerned by sickness, old age, and death, for I (like he, and you)
will inevitably be forced to leave my parents.
"Who would not wish to see his dear family especially if an inevitable
cruel separation did not exist? But even after we go through the pain of
parting once, that separation will come again, and it is for that reason that I
am abandoning my father, however loving he may be.
"But I do not think that you ought to consider that I am the cause
of the king's grief, for even in the midst of dream-like unions (with other
people) he is still afflicted by thoughts of future separation.
"You know that what I say is true, for (as priest to this family) you have
seen the pattern develop over and over again. It is neither the son, nor
the family that is the cause of sorrow; that sorrow is only caused by ignorance.
The time of parting is inevitable and it is fixed in the course of time for all
beings; it is as if we were only travelers who have joined a caravan on the road
somewhere. But what wise person would actively embark on a situation
leading to the cherishing of sorrow, for even though we love being among family,
we will lose them in the end?
"Leaving his family somewhere else, he comes here, and having stolen away
from them in this world, off he goes again. They say that our lot
is: "Once you've gone away, now go somewhere else." How can a
serious yogin accomplish anything by holding that view?
"From the moment we leave the womb, death is an inevitability. So
(ask him) why, in your affection for your son, have you called my departure to
the forest bad timing?
"There can be talk of "bad timing" when we speak of worldly
objectives -- time indeed may be described as an inseparable aspect of all
things; it is time that drags the world into all its various seasons, but any
time is fine for attaining that most praise-worthy bliss.
"That the king wants to leave his kingdom to me is a noble idea and
one suited to such a father, but it would be as improper for me to accept it as
for a sick man who, out of greed, accepts food that is bad for him.
"How can it be right for a wise man to accept a royal post, for royalty is
truly home to Illusion where we experience anxiety, passion, and weariness and
can have no life of our own since we are always at the service of others?
"To me, that golden palace seems to be on fire; the daintiest dish seems
contaminated with poison, and that lotus pond, my chambers, are infested with
Having heard the king's son's speech -- well-intentioned, and demonstrating a
firm grasp of human psychology and a genuine detachment, and logical too, and
also profound, the counselor then responded:
"Your resolution is an excellent one and in itself, not a bad one, but it
is only unfit at
this present time. It could not be considered the right thing to do, loving duty
as you do, to leave your father suffering in his old age.
"Surely you have not thoroughly thought this thing through, or you perhaps
do not have a good grasp of what is meant by the words, "duty" or
"wealth and pleasure" when you can abandon them for such an
unpredictable end as you have in mind.
"Again, some say that there is rebirth, but many also assert with
confidence that there is no such thing, and since the matter is debatable, you
would do better to enjoy the good fortune that you already have at hand.
"If there is such a thing as karma then in the hereafter we will enjoy
ourselves as circumstances then allow us to, but if there is nothing beyond this
life, then we are all assured liberation without any effort at all.
"Some people say there is a future life, but they do not think that there
is any possibility of liberation for they consider that just as fire is hot by
nature or that water is a liquid, they maintain that we conform to certain
types, all with their own special eternal nature.
"Some others maintain that all things arise from fundamentally inherent
properties, some good and others evil that either exist or do not, and since all
this world is spontaneously arisen, then any effort of ours is in vain.
"Since the action of the senses is fixed, and so too the agreeableness or
the disagreeableness of outward objects,-then for that which is united to old
age and pains, what effort can avail to alter it? Does it not all arise
(The elements each have their properties:) fire is quenched by water, and causes
water to evaporate; and the body's elements acting together are united in one
body and there we are!
An embryo in the womb is produced composed of hands, feet, belly, back, and
head, and it also gets a soul, but the wise teach that all that happens by
"Who causes the sharpness of the thorn? or the various natures of beasts
and birds? All nature arose spontaneously. Since, looking at it that
way, there is no acting out of desire, how can there be such a thing as will?
"Others say that creation results from the will of the Lord, Ishvara.
If that's true, what need is there of any effort by a conscious soul? And if that's
the case, then the First Cause of activity is also the Cause of cessation.
"Some say that the Arising of being and the Destruction of being are both
initiated by the Soul, but then they also say that while manifestation arises
without effort, attainment of liberation requires effort.
"A man fulfills his obligation to his ancestors by begetting children, to
the saints by sacred learning, and to the gods by performing sacrifices.
He is born with these three debts, so when he's fulfilled them, he is free -- he
has attained liberation.
"In the following of that series of rules, the wise promise liberation to
one who applies himself, but no matter how eager and energetic one may be, he
will eventually tire.
"Therefore, gentle youth, if you love liberation, follow the prescribed
rule correctly. In that way, you will attain it, and the king's grief will
come to an end.
"And as for thinking that if you return from the forest to your home, your
meditation on the evils of existence need come to an end, do not worry, my son,
for sage kings of olden times also returned from the forests to their houses.
"King Ambarisha though he had been in the forest, went back to the city to
be surrounded by his children, and Rama, seeing the earth oppressed by the base,
returned to rule once more.
"So too the blind king Dyumatsena of the Salvas, went with his son from
the forest to his city; and Smrti Amtideva, after he had become a
Brahmarshi received his crown from the sage Vasishtha.
"Such men as those -- illustrious and virtuous -- left their forests to
return to their homes. Therefore it cannot be a sin to return from retreat
to one's home, even if it's only from a sense of duty."
Having heard the affectionate and loyal words of the minister acting as the
king's eye, and still firm in his resolve, the king's son gave an interesting
reply, omitting nothing, all logically and patiently.
"The doubt about whether anything exists or not cannot be solved for me by
another person's words. I am determined to test the truth for myself
by means of asceticism and by meditation.
"I cannot accept any theory which depends on unknown quantities and which
continues to be the object of controversy involving a hundred different
suppositions. What wise man would go by what someone else believes? That
would be the blind leading the blind!
"But even if I cannot discern the truth, if we must choose between doing
something good and something that is evil, we should be set on the good.
And also, anything done in vain when it is done earnestly is still worthwhile,
but it is not worth much to someone who does it joylessly -- even if that work
involves discovery of the truth.
"Moreover, since Sanatana Dharma -- "sacred tradition"-- is
uncertain, one can only rely on the words of those who are trustworthy, and
'trustworthiness' means someone who does not have any faults, for only a
person like that will never speak an untruth.
"And as for your suggestion, using the situations of Bhima and the others,
that I should return home: They are not good examples of the dutiful; how
can you mention as examples those who have broken their vows?
"Though the sun may fall to earth, or Mount Himavat lose its solidity,
I will never go home as a man of the world with my senses
tuned only to external objects and minus the knowledge of Truth.
"With my purpose unfulfilled, I swear I would rather enter a blazing fire
than my own home." Those were the words he used as he proudly
affirmed his intention, and getting to his feet as he said them, he turned and
completely disinterestedly, he continued on his way.
Then the minister and the brahmin, both full of tears at having heard his firm
determination, followed him for awhile with downcast expressions until, overcome
with sorrow, out of necessity they slowly returned to the city.
Out of their love for the prince and their devotion to the king, they headed
home but they often stopped to look back. For although they could not
actually see him, neither did they entirely lose sight of him, since he seemed
to shine in his own splendour like the sun which is totally beyond reach.
They arranged for some faithful emissaries in disguise to keep track of the
doings of the Supreme Refuge, and then went on with faltering steps saying to
each other, "How will we ever approach the king who is longing for his dear
son, and be able to look him in the face?"
Punarvasu: This is a reference to the
lunar asterism or constellation called Punarvasu (punar means again,
vasu means prosperous.) It signifies the comfortable life,
for it is associated with Aditi, goddess of abundance whose symbol is a quiver
of arrows representing her various resources or powers. However, in
the opinion of astrologers, anyone
whose chart displays this configuration is prepared to leave home to fulfill a
NB. Kâli, Târâ, Sundari, Bhuvanâ, Bhairavi, Chandi,
Dhűmâ, Bhagalâ, Mâtangi, and Kamalâ are the Dasha
Mahavidyas, or Ten Methods of Knowing (or, Attainment) of
theist Hinduism. They are also considered goddesses,
and so are depicted as such.
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