Time Travel in Vedanta
THE APPEARANCE OF THE REALITY OF THE UNIVERSE
DEPENDS ON THE STRENGTH OF WILL OF CREATION
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.
HOW WAKEFULNESS AND DREAM ARE SIMILAR IN NATURE
AND OBJECTS ARE ONLY MENTAL IMAGES
1-2. The sage's son made the king sleep, united his subtle body with the gross one left in the hole, and then woke him up.
3. On regaining his senses, Mahasena found the whole world changed. The people, the river courses, the trees, the tanks, etc., were all different.
4-30. He was bewildered and asked the saint:
"O great one! How long have we spent seeing your world? This world looks different from the one I was accustomed to! "Thus asked, the sage's son said to Mahasena: 'Listen King, this is the world which we were in and left to see that within the hill. The same has undergone enormous changes owing to the long interval of time. We spent only one day looking round the hill region; the same interval counts for twelve thousand years in this land; and it has accordingly changed enormously. Look at the difference in the manners of the people and their languages. Such changes are natural. I have often noticed similar changes before. Look here! This is the Lord, my father in Samadhi. Here you stood before, praising my father and praying to him. There you see the hill in front of you.
"By this time, your brother's progeny has increased to thousands. What was Vanga, your country, with Sundara, your capital, is now a jungle infested with jackals and wild animals. There is now one Virabahu in your brother's line who has his capital Visala on the banks of the Kshipra in the country of Malwa; in your line, there is Susarma whose capital is Vardhana in the country of the Dravidas, on the banks of the Tambrabharani. Such is the course of the world which cannot remain the same even for a short time. For in this period, the hills, rivers, lakes, and the contour of the earth have altered. Mountains subside; plains heave high; deserts become fertile; plateaus change to sandy tracts; rocks decompose and become silt; clay hardens sometimes; cultivated farms become barren and barren lands are brought under tillage; precious stones become valueless and trinkets become invaluable; salt water becomes sweet and potable waters become brackish; some lands contain more people than cattle, others are infested with wild beasts; and yet others are invaded by venomous reptiles, insects and vermin. Such are some of the changes that happen on the earth in course of time. But there is no doubt that this is the same earth as we were in before."
Mahasena heard all that the sage's son said and fainted from the shock. Then being brought round by his companion, he was overcome by grief and mourned the loss of his royal brother and brother's son and of his own wife and children. After a short time, the sage's son assuaged his grief with wise words: "Being a sensible man, why do you mourn and at whose loss? A sensible man never does anything without a purpose, to act without discernment is childish. Think now, and tell me what loss grieves you and what purpose your grief will serve."
Asked thus, Mahasena, who was still inconsolable retorted: "Great sage that you are, can you not understand the cause of my sorrow? How is it that you seek the reason of my grief when I have lost my all? A man is generally sad when only one of his family dies. I have lost all my friends and relatives and you still ask me why I am sad."
31-48. The sage's son continued derisively. "King! tell me now. Is this lapse into sorrow a hereditary virtue? will it result in sin if you do not indulge in it on this occasion? Or do you hope to recover your loss by such grief? King! Think well and tell me what you gain by your sorrow. If you consider it irresistible, listen to what I say.
"Such loss is not fresh. Your forefathers have died before. Have you ever mourned their loss? If you say that it is because of blood relationship that it now causes your grief, were there not worms in the bodies of your parents, living on their nourishment? Why are they not your relatives and why does not their loss cause you sorrow? King, think! Who are you? Whose deaths are the cause of your present grief?
"Are you the body, or other than that? The body is simply a conglomerate of different substances. Harm to any one of the constituents is harm to the whole. There is no moment in which each of the components is not changing. But the excretions do not constitute a loss to the body.
"Those whom you called your brother and so on are mere bodies; the bodies are composed of earth; when lost, they return to earth; and earth resolves ultimately into energy. Where then is the loss?
"In fact you are not the body. You own the body and call it your own, just as you do a garment you happen to possess. Where lies the difference between your body and your garment? Have you any doubt regarding this conclusion? Being other than your own body, what relation is there between you and another body? Did you ever claim similar relationship, say with your brother's clothes? Why then mourn over the loss of bodies, which are in no way different from garments?
"You speak of 'my' body, 'my' eyes, 'my' life, 'my' mind and so on, I ask you now to tell me what precisely you are."
Being confronted thus, Mahasena began to think over the matter, and unable to solve the problem he asked leave to consider it carefully. Then he returned and said with all humility "Lord, I do not see who I am. I have considered the matter, and still I do not understand. My grief is only natural; I cannot account for it.
"Master, I seek your protection. Kindly tell me what it is. Every one is overpowered by grief when his relative dies. No one seems to know his own self; nor does one mourn all losses.
"I submit to you as your disciple. Please elucidate this matter to me."
Being thus requested, the sage's son spoke to Mahasena:
49. "King, listen! People are deluded by the illusion cast by Her Divine Majesty. They partake of misery that is due to the ignorance of their selves. Their misery is meaningless.
50. "As long as the ignorance of the self lasts, so long will there be misery.
51-52. "Just as a dreamer is foolishly alarmed at his own dreams or as a fool is deluded by the serpents created in a magic performance, so also the man ignorant of the Self is terrified.
53-55. "Just as the dreamer awakened from his fearful dream or the man attending the magic performance informed of the unreal nature of the magic creations, no longer fears them but ridicules another who does, so also one aware of the Self not only does not grieve but also laughs at another's grief. Therefore, O valiant hero, batter down this impregnable fortress of illusion and conquer your misery by realisation of the Self. In the meantime be discriminating and not so foolish."
56-58. After hearing the sage's son, Mahasena said, 'Master, your illustration is not to the point. Dream or magic is later realised to be illusory whereas this hard concrete universe is always real and purposeful. This is unassailed and persistent. How can it be compared to the evanescent dream?' Then the sage's son answered:
59. "Listen to what I say. Your opinion that the illustration is not to the point is a double delusion like a dream in a dream.
Note. - The commentary says that the first delusion is the idea of separateness of the universe from oneself and that the second is the idea that dream objects are an illusion in contradistinction to those seen while awake. This is compared to the illusion that a dreamer mistakes the dream-rope for a dream-serpent. (The dream is itself an illusion and the mistake is an illusion in the illusion).
60-70. "Consider the dream as a dreamer would and tell me whether the trees do not afford shade to the pedestrians, and bear fruits for the use of others. Is the dream realised to be untrue and evanescent in the dream itself?
"Do you mean to say that the dream is rendered false after waking from it? Is not the waking world similarly rendered false in your dream or deep sleep?
"Do you contend that the waking state is not so because there is continuity in it after you wake up? Is there no continuity in your dreams from day to day?
"If you say that it is not evident, tell me whether the continuity in the wakeful world is not broken up every moment of your life.
"Do you suggest that the hills, the seas and the earth itself are really permanent phenomena, in spite of the fact that their appearance is constantly changing? Is not the dream-world also similarly continuous with its earth, mountains, rivers, friends and relatives?
"Do you still doubt its abiding nature? Then extend the same reasoning to the nature of the wakeful world and know it to be equally evanescent.
"The ever-changing objects like the body, trees, rivers, and islands are easily found to be transitory. Even mountains are not immutable, for their contours change owing to the erosion of waterfalls and mountain torrents; ravages by men, boars and wild animals, insects; thunder; lightning and storms; and so on. You will observe similar change in the seas and on earth.
"Therefore I tell you that you should investigate the matter closely. (You will probably argue as follows:)
71-76. "Dream and wakefulness resemble each other in their discontinuous harmony (like a chain made up of links). There is no unbroken continuity in any object because every new appearance implies a later disappearance. But continuity cannot be denied in the fundamentals underlying the objects!
"Because a dream creation is obliterated and rendered false by present experience - what distinction will you draw between the fundamentals underlying the dream objects and the present objects?
"If you say that the dream is an illusion and its fundamentals are equally so, whereas the present creation is not so obliterated and its fundamentals must therefore be true, I ask you what illusion is. It is determined by the transitory nature, which is nothing but appearance to, and disappearance from, our senses.
"Is not everything obliterated in deep sleep? If you maintain however, that mutual contradiction is unreliable as evidence and so proves nothing, it amounts to saying that self-evident sight alone furnishes the best proof. Quite so, people like you do not have a true insight into the nature of things.
77-79. "Therefore, take my word for it, the present world is only similar to the dream world. Long periods pass in dreams also. Therefore, purposefulness and enduring nature are in every way similar to both states. Just as you are obviously aware in your waking state, so also you are in your dream state.
80. "These two states being so similar, why do you not mourn the loss of your dream relations?
81. "The wakeful universe appears so real to all only by force of habit. If the same be imagined vacuous it will melt away into the void.
82-83. "One starts imagining something; then contemplates it; and by continuous or repeated association resolves that it is true unless contradicted. In that way, the world appears real in the manner one is used to it. My world that you visited furnishes the proof thereof; come now, let us go round the hill and see."
85. Saying so, the sage's son took the king, and went round the hill and returned to the former spot.
86-87. Then he continued: "Look, O King! the circuit of the hill is hardly two miles and a half and yet you have seen a universe within it. Is it real or false? Is it a dream or otherwise? What has passed as a day in that land, has counted for twelve thousand years here, which is correct? Think, and tell me. Obviously you cannot distinguish this from a dream and cannot help concluding that the world is nothing but imagination. My world will disappear instantly if I cease contemplating it.
"Therefore convince yourself of the dream-like nature of the world and do not indulge in grief at your brother's death.
90. "Just as the dream creations are pictures moving on the mind screens, so also this world including yourself is the obverse of the picture depicted by pure intelligence and it is nothing more than an image in a mirror. See how you will feel after this conviction. Will you be elated by the accession of a dominion or depressed by the death of a relative in your dream?
91. "Realise that the Self is the self-contained mirror projecting and manifesting this world. The Self is pure unblemished consciousness. Be quick! Realise it quickly and gain transcendental happiness!"
Thus ends the Chapter on the Vision of the Hill City in Tripura Rahasya