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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 of him."

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 gone.

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 cloud.

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 moon.  

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 heart.  

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 tree.  

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 crocodiles."

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 spontaneously?

(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 itself, spontaneously.

"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?"

NEXT:  Rajagriha

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 quest.   

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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