by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar | 1896 | 137,618 words | ISBN-10: 818514141X | ISBN-13: 9788185141411

This page relates “the story of the great bali”, the 3rd part of chapter 5 of Laghu-yoga-vasistha (English translation). This ancient Sanskrit book contains epic legendry (similair to puranas and itihasa) and deals with the Advaita-vedanta (non-dual) branch of Indian philosophy. It is authored by sage (rishi) Valmiki and condensed (laghu) from an even larger work, forming a discourse between Vasistha (Vasishtha) and Rama. This part is included in the chapter “upashanti-prakarana”.

Part 3 - The Story of the Great Bali

Summary. Having in the previous story shown that the concentration of the mind from the visible upon the seer leads one to cognize his own Reality, the author illustrates through this story the fact that, through the performance in this world of Niṣkāma-Karma, even sensual bliss is transmuted into Brahmic bliss.

The heart of Pāvana became illumined with the Jñāna into which he was initiated by his brother, the Muni Puṇya, like the universe beaming with light at sunrise. Then both these Siddha-Puruṣas having attained Ātma-jñāna were living in that forest. Disporting themselves in diverse ways at their sweet will and pleasure, they passed a long time and at last reached that quiescent state of Videhamukti that state which a light attains to, when it is divested of its wick and ghee. Similarly is the fate of all Jīvas after they die in this world.

If one person in his many incarnations is related to all, where then is the necessity for loving or hating any? Therefore the best course is only to give up the load of excessive desires and not to enlarge them. If desires are allowed to grow, then they become the fuel for the fire of Chintana (or contemplation). With the passing away of the fuel of desires, the Saṃkalpas do also perish. This is perfectly a true statement (and not a mere theorizing).

Oh puissant Rāma, mount up the great car of Dhyeya-tyāga and behold, through the much eulogized transcendent spiritual vision, this paltry universe palpitating with excessive desires and then you will not lack anything. This state is the certain truth of Brahman that is without impurity, delusions or disease (of Ajñāna). If this state is attained without doubt, then persons will not be subject to delusions, though they are without much intelligence. Therefore, Oh Śrī Rāma, lead your life thus.

With the intimate friendship (or development) of good intelligence and nice discrimination, all pains will cease. Even though one may find an asylum in a person (who is a Guru), it is only through his own energy and will that he can destroy all pains arising from association with diverse objects and kinsman. Having labored hard through Vairāgya, Jñāna books and the noble good qualities of benevolence, etc., if your mind is made to lead the Ātmic life, then all pains will cease. Not even the happiness arising from all the collective wealth of the three worlds, will in any way bear comparison with the bliss of a mind that has reached Kaivalya (emancipation).

Like a shoe worn on the foot that is able to protect it wherever its wearer goes, so also the mind fills the whole universe with ambrosial bliss wherever it becomes all full. A mind filled with the ponderous non-desires will never sink into desires; but a mind filled with desires, will never have its grievances redressed completely. Compared to a desireless mind which yields pure thoughts as easily as Muni Agastya sipped[1] in one breath the waters of the ocean, even the full moon does not shine so bright; nor is the milky ocean yielding bliss so full; nor will the radiant face of Lakṣmī residing on the fragrant lotus bestow (upon her devotees) such a boon (as this desireless mind).

The ghost of desires will spoil the lustre of the pure mind, just as the clouds envelop the moon or the black stains tarnish a polished white mortared floor. Mokṣa means nothing but the destruction of the impurities of the mind which mind is developed only when all desires and fears of rebirth are destroyed. If this is not possible (viz., of controlling your desires, etc.), thou shalt, Oh Rāma, be able to attain Jñāna through the path followed by the great Bali through his intelligence. Such a course is beneficial.”

At which Rāma asked him to be enlightened as to the nature of that course. To which Vasiṣṭha of rare Tapas replied thus. “There once lived a matchless king of Asuras named Bali who reigned over Pātāla as an emperor over it. He made the whole word tremble underneath his potent arms and was able to overpower and humiliate even Īswara, Viṣṇu and others. He was the son of the noble Virocana and reigned powerfully for ten crores of years. Having ascended the topmost story of his palace teeming with windows and bedecked with gems brought from the Mahāmeru heights surrounded by guards, alone he gave vent to the following series of reflections with a mind disgusted with material pleasures and contemplating upon Saṃsāra (this mundane existence). Of what avail to me is this undisputed sovereignty of mine which has enabled me to enjoy for a long time the wealth of all these three incomparable worlds? When I begin to contemplate upon the pleasures of wealth which flit away at once, wherever and whosoever enjoyed in the past, I find I am but repeating the same actions as yesterday, yielding but momentary happiness. Enjoyed things do recur again. Things seen yesterday do again present themselves to-day. Ornaments worn with exultation yesterday, are again donned by us. And yet we find that even intelligent persons do not become disgusted with them and are not ashamed to enjoy them again and again. Like ignorant children that do taste again and again sweetmeats which impart sweetness for the time being, we are also afflicted, ignorant of the true path. Days, fortnights, months, years and yugas cycle again and again as formerly and nothing new crops up. In spite of the performance of all my duties, how have they in any way improved my life a whit? Through what shall I be able to come into the in dubitable possession of that, after which I shall be actionless? What is that path which will enable me to go higher up to ‘That’ which is free from the illusory sensual objects?”

Then in order to find out that path, which leads to that Principle which is indestructible and alien to objects, he reflected deeply in his mind and then with full-blown eyes under well-knit brows, he was beside himself with joy at the solution that instantaneously flashed in his mind and then burst out with the following words:

‘Formerly I enquired of my father, the omniscient Virocana in this very spot and about this very point. He then explained to me the manner in which I can remove my doubts. I questioned my father thus: ‘What is that in comparable state where all the illusions of pleasures and pains and other heterogeneities fade away? What is that state where the mind’s delusions will wear away? What is that state where all desires are eradicated to their root? Please enlighten me with answers to these questions. Again what is that quiescent state which is free from desires and mental despondencies? What is that state which is permeated right through by Absolute bliss? Please, Oh thou, who hast cognized the Supreme, throw light upon the means by which I can free myself from the pains and excruciating doubts I am suffering from.’

To which my father replied: ‘ listen to my words. there is a beautiful country which is illimitable, all-pervading and without any precincts. That is the source from which all mundane eggs arise and into which all are absorbed. In this country, there exist neither the grand five elements, nor hills, nor forests, nor holy places, nor the pure Devas, nor the other ancient souls. Great Luminosity is the name of the king existing therein alone. He is omniscient, all-pervading, the cause of all and stainlessly quiescent and all full. He is Silence itself. He will without fail cause all acts to be performed through the minister appointed by him. The moment the minister thought of a thing, such an idea, though non-existent, arose instantaneously as a tangible thing; it, though existent, disappeared as mysteriously. This minister has not the power to enjoy anything through his own right; nor does he know anything through himself. As he acts always in concert with the king, he is able to do all things. Though the minister does all acts in the presence of the king, yet the latter is always alone.’ So said the father to his son.

At which the son heard with an exulting heart all that his father had told him and then questioned him thus: ‘What is the nature of the resplendent country which is without mental disease and all-pervading? What are the means by which it can be reached? Through what can it be attained? Who is the imperishable king in that country? And who the minister? And who is that potent king with his minister that cannot be controlled by my puissant arms which brought under my subjection, as if in sport, all the earths in this universe?’

To which the father was pleased to reply thus ‘Who will be able to over-step the rigorous law of the speedy and powerful minister? Even should countless hosts of Devas and Asuras league together to over-power him, they will never be able to do so. Even though such rare weapons as discus, spear and others be hurled at him, their powers will be deadened like flowers aimed at a stone. When overpowered by the king, the minister will pay obeisance to him. Otherwise one can more easily move the mountains of Mahāmeru than this person. He will never be completely subdued otherwise than through an intelligence of much experience and skill. If you long to get at the minister, he will hiss at you like an angry serpent and burn you. In order to remove the doubts under which you are laboring, I now proceed to state what the king, his minister, country, etc., do symbolize. The country in the story aforementioned, stands for the incomparable and eternal Mokṣa. The king mentioned therein is the Ātmic Reality inseparable from Mokṣa and shining with the lustre of a stainless gem. The creation of his, viz., minister typifies the mind (or intelligence). The real supreme skill lies in the thorough eradication of sensual pleasures and the complete development of Vairāgya. When the mind is overpowered by non-desires, then it resembles a rutting elephant caged within a Khedda.

Persons unacquainted with the true Jñāna-books, maintain that out of the four parts into which they divide (the actions of) mind (or time), two parts should be devoted to sensual objects, a quarter, to a study of Jñāna-books and the remaining quarter, to the worship of the really blessed Ācārya; and that if so done, Jñāna will shine in them after the removal of the darkness of Ajñāna. But the partially knowing maintain that if, out of the four parts above-mentioned, one should devote two parts to the contemplation and worship of Ācārya, a quarter to the meditation upon the truths contained in Jñāna-books and the residue in the actions of the organs, Jñāna will prevail in him so as to cognize the Supreme Truth; while the third class, viz., persons of full Jñāna affirm that Mokṣa will be easily attained by those who, dividing the mind into four parts, devote it to the four purposes of a study of the Jñāna-books treating of the path of Ātmic Reality, of non-desires, of self-cognition and of the pursuit of the path of the worship of Ācāryas. May you through your excessive intelligence and enquiry always master Ātmic worship and the subjugation ot desires simultaneously. Through a determined subjugation of desires, Ātmic enquiry is induced; and this Ātmic enquiry breeds again renunciation of desires. They are both mutually dependent upon one another, like the full ocean and the clouds. Having earned, in proper ways, wealth for relieving one’s kindred and others without violating the rules and observances of a country, one should through that wealth resort to the wise of rare Sattvaguna and there attain their Vairāgya through which he should develop Ātmic enquiry. When thus he is illumined with true Jṇāna through Ātmic enquiry, then Mokṣa is attained.’

Thus did my father enlighten me before. Through divine grace, I have been able to remember now all that my father told me and attain Jñāna thereby. Having been freed from the longing after enjoyment and coming into the possession of the wealth of non-desires, I have been rendered cool with supreme bliss, through the ambrosia of the quiescence of mind. Oh, I have been in complete ignorance of this, my present blissful enjoyment for so long a period. How shall I describe it in words? This is the state where all thoughts are absorbed and where all persons suffering from the effects of pleasures and pains do find an end of all their sufferings. This is the state reached by all those who lead their lives in Ātma. This is the glory of all-quiescence.

Having meditated within himself thus, he began to cogitate in his mind over the questions: ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is my real nature?’ Then he reflected for a moment and concluded that if he should invoke and salute his guru Śukrācārya (Venus) who had cognized the Reality and having enquired of him, should meditate upon the truth, then all Ajñāna would cease. Therefore with closed eyes[2] and true affection, he meditated intently upon his Guru. Thereupon Sukrācārya, whose form was the true Sachidananda Ākāśa only, appeared before Bali wishing to attain Ātma. With an enraptured heart, the king saluted him and having worshipped him with a handful of precious gems and good flowers said the following: ‘Please deign to hear my words prompted by the advent of thy grace and bless me accordingly. What is there now? What is there beyond? What is that which is limited? Who am I who speaks? Who are you who hears? What is this stable universe? Please favor me with adequate replies so as to remove all my doubts.

Having heard all things, he analysed them and explained them clearly to the king in the following manner: “I came here, on my way to speedily journey to Devaloka containing the immortal Kalpa tree. Of what avail is it to waste my time in unnecessary words? In fine, I have to tell you thus. All the manifestations here before us are Jñāna only; all that are now external to us (or above our present perception) are Jñāna only; that which is conditioned is Jñāna; that which is not conditioned is Jñāna also; I that speak am Jñāna; you that hear are Jñāna only; and all the universe is nothing but the all-full Jñāna only. This in brief is the Truth. Being impressed with this firm conclusion in your mind, may you meditate upon the one Reality of Jñāna with the intelligence that is requisite for it. If without any modifications of the mind, you cognize and perceive it, then you will attain your goal of the supreme state. Now have the Sapta-Ṛṣis of rare Tapas entered newly upon a divine mission (or into a new state). Therefore we shall pass.’ So saying Śukra retired.

Thereafter, the king fell to meditating upon the universe and became convinced of the truth of the words of his Ācārya exclaiming thus: ‘This supreme earth is no other than Jñāna; the three Lokas are Jñāna; my real nature is Jñāna; all the ordained Karmas are Jñāna only. I have now become that resplendent Brahmic One which shines in its real nature, devoid of the visible things and the visual. I have now become that all-full Principle which, being of the nature of Jñāna without any objects to bind it, pervades all objects at one and the same time and is the quiescent Jñāna-Ākāśa and intelligence, itself.’ Then contemplating upon (or uttering) Prāṇava (Oṃ) mentally which is the real significance of the Absolute-Jñāna, he entered trance-like into Dhyāna (meditative) state and then freed from Saṃkalpas, karmas, the three kinds of desires (for wife, sons and wealth), doubts, contemplation, intelligence and objects as well as their substratum the knower, he was statue-like in Samādhi for a long period. Thus did the Emperor Bali remain immobile like the light of a lamp in a windless place. And since he shone as the Absolute Sat without the stains of love and hatred and with a replete mind, such a state can best be likened to a clear sky in the autumnal season, when no clouds mantle it.

When the Emperor passed thus his days in Samādhi, the courtiers serving under him repaired to the topmost story of the king’s mansion in search of him There they found him in Nirvikalpa Samādhi. After a long time, he awoke and began to perform the regal duties with a mind free from desires and egoism. Through his stainless mind, he was never flurried in adversity or prosperity; neither did he sink nor swim amidst pleasures or pains. Thus was he with an equal eye over all.

However unlimited were the armies of good and bad thoughts that cropped up unceasingly in his mind, however countless were the objects, imaginary and real that manifested themselves before him, yet he was able to control them all in one centre. So also, shall you, Oh Rāma, pinion your mind, roving amidst the pleasures of this world and the higher, in the centre of your heart. In whatever places your mind totters like a child and sinks into sensual objects, from that place shall the mind have to be lifted up to the partless Jñāna and be made to attain it. Having reduced this to a regular practice, may you bind this terrible elephant of mind so as to be untrammelled by pains and enable it to reach Mokṣa through discrimination.

Footnotes and references:


When Indra wanted to conquer his enemy Vṛttra who was screening himself in the waters of the ocean, Agastya sipped the whole waters at one sip.


Here Sukrācārya was summoned by Bali by mental will.

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