Question 90: on desire and reincarnation

Saraswati deviThis long story is about Queen Leela and King Padma, with a twist on the ending. They lead an idyllic life, but as they age Leela fears he might die first, in which case her own life would be intolerable. So she does tapas to Goddess Saraswati and obtains the boon to have her husband’s spirit always with her. She and the goddess astral travel and time travel to see the couple’s prior life as simple brahmins, and the origin of her husband’s desire to possess the wealth of an empire. That desire manifests after King Padma dies and the queen and goddess see another reality in the deceased king’s mind. He is now King Viduratha ruling a vast empire with a second Leela as his wife, then battling his enemy King Sindhu. In the end, King Sindhu wins, King Viduratha is killed, King Padma is brought back to life in front of the two Leelas, and both Padma and the first Leela attain nirvana.

Question 90: Sir, you say that there is no cause of the universe and its objects, that is to say, there is no creator nor a primeval person. If that be so, then who sustains the inert and the sentient objects and who regulates or controls all these? If there is none to regulate, why are there variations in the intelligence and powers of jivas?

Answer: Ramji, the primeval jiva that you refer to is an aspect of Brahman that is always pure, omnipotent and self-independent. Brahman is free from the idea of the being of the universe, but because Brahman is omnipotent, and the primeval modification is its aspect, its power appears manifested as life; or, this modification appears as the universe. But in reality it is Brahman that manifests itself as the universe and nothing else has been created. It is the primeval modification only that has assumed variegated forms, and it is called Brahma (the reader must clearly distinguish between Brahman and Brahma) who with the power of ideation has created the universe and established an order or code, inclusive of virtue and vice.

It is according to this primeval idea that some are wise and powerful and some are ignorant and weak. The primeval order or nature conducts all things according to their roles. Just as the primordial life is ideational and formless, so the universe is of the nature of ideation and nothing else has been created. Just as a rope in darkness is sometimes perceived as a snake, even so the illusory universe is experienced as real on account of ignorance. It is one’s own idea that transforms a rope into a snake; so is the case of the perceptible universe that has not been created.

It is one’s ideation only that has assumed the form of a universe. This proves that there is nothing except the primeval ideation. The primeval ideation pertains to the primeval being. There is nothing except the primeval being, and all that is perceived is an illusion. Ramji, when after a prolonged discipline you develop contemplation of Atma, your delusion of the universe will disappear. Just as you cannot find darkness with a torch in your hand, so when you carry the torch of contemplation, your delusion will disappear. This delusion exists because of the modification or ideation in your mind, and certainly it is an aspect of the ideation. When this modification disappears or quiescence (non-ideation) is obtained, the delusion vanishes automatically.

This shows that Pure Consciousness is established in itself and nothing else exists. Ramji, just as the dream world is only mental (ideation), and has no independent existence, and is not experienced on waking up, so is this universe. When you awaken in Atma, your delusion will disappear and you will realise Brahman-shakti (the energy of Brahman) in diverse forms. Here I shall narrate to you an episode and as you understand it, all your doubts will disappear and you will realise the all-pervasiveness of Atma, and will attain the bliss. This episode illustrates the following four points:

(i) Expansion of ideation,
(ii) Power of ideation,
(iii) Experience of more time in a short interval, and
(iv) Experience of a short interval in long duration.

Queen Leela and King Padma

Once upon a time there ruled on this earth a king named Padma who was virtuous in all respects. His wife, Leela, was also a lady of merit and a suitable match for the king. Both loved each other immensely. Out of her love and devotion to her husband, Leela thought of performing a great sacrifice to earn immortality for her husband and thus she undertook penance and worshipped the goddess Saraswati and sought two boons viz, first, that the subtle body (the soul) of her husband should, after his death, stay in her palace and second, when she desired, she should have the vision of the goddess. The goddess granted her both the boons. In due course, the king was killed in a battle and his dead body was brought to the palace. The grief-stricken queen started moaning and crying. Just then the goddess appeared to her in a vision and commanded, “Do not grieve because the soul of your husband stays in peace in your palace as per the boon granted by me. Cover his body with flowers on all sides, and they will stay fresh until you meet your husband.” Leela felt consoled and did as she had been directed by the goddess. Sitting by the side of the body, she started meditating on the goddess.

At midnight the goddess appeared again in a vision and said, “O gracious lady, all that you see is a delusion. Do not despair assuming that as real but try to be in peace.” Leela asked the goddess where her husband was, what had happened to him and also requested for a meeting with him. The goddess then explained to her, “There are three types of akash (space), viz bhootakash (elemental space), chittakash (mental space) and chidakash (knowledge space). Bhootakash is sustained by chittakash, and chittakash is sustained by chidakash. Having abandoned bhootakash, your husband is now staying in chittakash. Because chittakash is sustained by chidakash, so when you attain to chidakash you will experience the entire cosmos, that is, you will experience all creations as shadows in chidakash. On attaining the chidakash, you will see your husband and the entire world. The cognitive potency in the consciousness transmigrates from one place to another in an instant; underlying this power is the experiential state and this is the chidakash. When you have abandoned all ideations, what remains thereafter is the chidakash. When you attain to the chidakash, you will see your husband. Chittakash transmigrates from place to place and never attains quiescence. Bhootakash is the earth where all mortal frames rest. When the universe is non-existent, what remains thereafter is chidakash and this is the supreme state that is attained after prolonged discipline.

O Leela, I grant that you will soon attain to this state, that is, your mind will achieve quiescence and you will be free from ideation.”

O Ramji, saying so the goddess disappeared. Abandoning the body-ego and the individual consciousness, the queen attained quiescence or the non-ideational state and then, like a bird, she flew into chidakash where she could see the king and his capital (where he ruled under the name King Viduratha). There she saw everything exactly as these had existed while the king was in his gross state in his capital on the earth. She was amazed. Soon she saw some messengers rushing to the court to inform the king of an invasion on all sides by some other kings and beseech him for appropriate protection. Instantly the generals were summoned and a counter offensive was ordered by the king. The queen was amazed to see that the environments of the king were identical to those when he lived on the earth. “Is it that only the king has died, or has his capital too died and transmigrated along with him?” she asked herself. The bewildered queen descended from chidakash to her palace. Even though it was midnight, she summoned the court and verified that all the objects and the people she had just seen in the court of the king in the heavens also existed in her capital.

Overtaken with amazement, she came to where the dead body of her husband was resting and tried to meditate on the goddess. Instantly she had the goddess in her vision. After due obeisance and apologies, she enquired of the goddess what was the nature of the two worlds of the king — one that she saw in the heaven and the other that existed here — and which of the two was real and which was unreal. The goddess said that she would answer these questions later. And then Leela submitted, “I understand that the world we live in is without a cause, or it is an aspect of the ideation, whereas the universe of my husband existing in the heaven has a cause. Because the latter is established in the void, it implies that the void is the cause of the heaven.”

The goddess replied, “As is the cause, so is the effect. As you say the void is the cause of the heaven, and void is nothing, then it is proved that heaven too is nothing. That which has the real as the cause is also real. The real cannot be transformed into the unreal and vice versa. Thus, the universe of your husband in the heaven is similar to this one, or heaven too is an ideation.” Leela argued, “The effect can be distinct from the cause. Just as a lump of clay cannot store water, but when it is converted into a jar, it can hold water, even so the cause can be distinct from the effect.”

The goddess replied, “The effect can be different from the cause only when there is a supportive factor or something to assume a form. But how can the effect be different from the cause in the absence of a supportive force ? The universe being experienced by your husband is without a cause, because his subtle body is like space where there is neither the material cause i.e. the articles to constitute that, nor the efficient cause or anybody to constitute that, hence the universe of your husband is without a cause. If this universe were made by anyone, we could have accepted its cause, but as this universe is without earth and other elements, and is an aspect of the void — just an ideation — it is without a cause.”

The queen then asked if the ideation of memory was the cause of that universe.

The goddess replied, “Memory is no substance; it is another name for ideation, and that is an aspect of space or of the mind. Memory has no independent power, it is just a reflection or an illusion.” Leela said, “If memory is just an ideation or space, then this universe too wherein you and I live, must be a form of ideation.” The goddess replied, “Now you understand rightly. I, you, this, that and the entire universe is a void (a formless space). It is experienced on account of an illusion, but has not been created. How can the memory of the universe that is unreal be real ?” The queen enquired, “How did my husband who was in a subtle and formless state acquire a body or a form and how did he experience the universe ?”

The goddess said, “Both the worlds are illusory. Had this world been real, its memory also would have been real. In this world, that has been created in an atom of this illusory ideation in the supreme chidakash, there lived a brahmin (priest) named Vasishtha. He was highly religious. but had not yet acquired much wisdom. Arundhati was the name of his wife. Once, while this brahmin was seated on the top of a hillock, he chanced to see a charming royal couple on safari in the jungle. Instantly Vasishtha brahmin was seized with a desire that he and his wife too might become a princely people like that royal couple. This desire or ideation to enjoy a princely life continued to grow stronger and stronger in his mind, Soon his end approached. Realising this, Arundhati, like you, worshipped me and obtained a boon that the soul of her husband, after his death, should stay in her house only; and it happened accordingly. As a result of the previous strong ideation of a princely life, the brahmin visualised that he was a great monarch, Arundhati, too, passed away and was united with her husband.

Leela! Now listen further that only eight days have passed since the brahmin died and then he became King Padma and you who were once Arundhati, are his spouse. The sky, earth, hills, oceans and the three planes that you are visualising are located in a corner of the brahmin’s house. Only eight days have passed since your death, and your family has not yet finished the last rites there, and here you have ruled and enjoyed yourself for sixty thousand years. I have narrated to you the details of your birth. All this manifestation is illusory. The world you are perceiving is a delusion arising from an illusion. Truly, nothing has been created. The world being not real, how can its memory be real?”

Continuing her enquiries, Leela said, “O gracious goddess, I dare not call your words untrue, yet I am puzzled by your statement that the soul or jiva of that brahmin stayed in the house where you and l are staying and that all this vast expanse, including hills, rivers, etc before us, is located just in a corner in the brahmin’s house. How is it possible ? It is like saying that a huge tusker (elephant) is tied to a mustard seed; both these appear equally impossible.”

Explaining further, the goddess said, “O Leela, I have not told you untruth for my words can never deviate from the truth. All these events are just like the experience of the vast expanse of three planes by a person in a dream state who, after the dream, finds himself lying in his bed and the three planes vanished. Death, too, is like this. The subtle body of the jiva is transformed into space at the place where he dies, and thereafter he experiences a universe according to the strength of his desire and will. This universe is established in his individual consciousness according to his tendencies, desires and ideations, and is experienced with various names and forms. Like an image seen in a mirror, the universe is perceived in individual consciousness; it is just chittakash.

Since the chittakash is located in the house, the universe, too, is there in the house of Vasishtha brahmin. Consider the universe a dreamland which, in fact, has not been created. Just as a person dreams in a dream and has a further dream in that dream, so this illusion of the universe, too, has appeared to you. This world is an aspect of Atma. Where there is consciousness – the universe also exists, because the universe is in the nature of Atma. The illusory universe is experienced as a reality. As the modification is in the consciousness, so is the universe experienced, because the latter is just an expansion or a manifestation of the ideation. Therefore abandoning ideation of the unreal universe you should always be established in Atma.”

Not convinced with the explanation, the queen submitted, “Only eight days have passed since Vasishtha brahmin died, and here we have spent full sixty thousand years during that very spell. I fail to grasp all this.”

The goddess replied, “O Leela, as l have already explained to you how vast space is experienced within a limited space on account of the ideation, so is a long time experienced within a short duration. I, you and all else that you are seeing, are an illusion. When a jiva leaves his body he becomes unconscious, and as his consciousness is revived after some time, he experiences a body, a family, his age; and thus a universe presents itself before him. All this is just ideational and he experiences long duration within a short duration and a continuing flux etc., because the universe is a modification or ideation in the consciousness.

The nature and the content of the universe depend upon the nature of the modification. Just as there is the experience of seer-seeing-sight in a dream so is the universe experienced in the potency of Atma due to the ideation. The universe has never been created and it is all an illusion. There is no distinction between the universe in a dream, that in the heavens and the one we are experiencing presently. All are illusory and appear real on account of the ideation. It is all experiential and void, and is of the nature of chidakash. The illusion is very powerful and can do anything. Like King Harishchandra who had an experience of twelve years in one night, you, too, have experienced a long span of time within a short duration. Just as non-existing things appear real in a dream, so does this universe appear real due to an illusion; in fact, nothing exists except Brahman. He who knows thus, does not experience anything except Atma.

“O Leela, what you call memory, is also unreal. Memory has two causes—experience and mind—and both are unreal. The experience of one‘s own death in a dream is not real and this experience of death occurs on account of such an ideation in the mind. This indicates that memory in the mind is unreal. Secondly, the objects experienced in a dream cannot be procured on recalling them in the waking state. Thus experiential memory, too, is unreal.”

The experiential world is without a cause and whatever is experienced or perceived is Brahman — the pure consciousness. Neither the present universe nor the one of King Viduratha is real. Both are ideational. O Leela, as is the nature of firm ideation, so is the experiential universe, and there one has the experience of long time within a short span of time.”

The queen enquired, “How can I see the universe where the brahmin had died just eight days ago?”

The goddess replied, “The universe is created in chidakash and when you attain to that chidakash through yogic practices, you will experience that universe. It has been created in the ideation of someone else and when you develop, through yogic practices, the capability to enter the ideations of others, you will experience the universes of their ideations. You must attain to the subtle state in order to visualise the universes in the ideations of others, which, too, are subtle. Only the subtle can know the subtle. Presently, you are seized with the conviction of the gross body, so you must abandon the illusion of the gross body and be established in the subtle power that is chidakash. When you are able to achieve the quiescence of chitta and abandon identification with the gross body, and realise through yogic practices the subtle state by stabilising in Atma, then you can reach wherever you like and see whatever you like, as I am able to do. When, with these practices you are detached from the gross body and are firmly established in the subtle state, your feelings of the gross will disappear, and then you will need no effort to go anywhere and see anything on the three planes.”

Leela enquired, “If the non-dual Atma is all—pervasive, what is this ideation that deludes everybody ?”

The goddess replied, “O Leela, just as a snake in a rope, or ornaments in gold are not distinct entities, so the ideation is no distinct entity in the non-dual Atma; it is Atma only established in itself. All names and forms experienced in Atma are just an illusion.”

“If there is nothing else except Atma,” asked Leela, “why have I been wandering all this time?”

“O Leela,” replied the goddess, “your wandering is due to non-contemplation and illusion; it will disappear with right thinking, and then you will visualise Atma. Contemplation and non-contemplation, or wisdom and ignorance, are developed within you and these are your states. When you contemplate (with wisdom), your illusion of ignorance will be dispelled. Just as the illusion of a snake vanishes with the awareness of the rope, so the illusion of the gross vanishes with the realisation of Atma. When the non-existence of the universe is realised and perfect detachment developed, and when one is firmly established in the Self, then Atma is realised. Perfect detachment results in the elimination of desires and this is followed by quiescence. You should, therefore, undertake practice of Atma so that your illusion of the universe vanishes.

“All the embodied beings you see, are like dream objects. On waking up you do not accept them as true and their memory also is not retained. When you go beyond the feelings of the gross, you do not experience this body. As soon as the true self is realised, the feeling or memory of the gross body vanishes. With the cessation of desire the waking body also vanishes. Such a jiva is liberated (free from birth again). He, who is overtly participating in the normal routine, but is without a desire within, is a jiva of the turiya state (the state wherein the individual self is united with the Universal Self), for he is always established in the Truth. When the individual attains to this state, he can reach anywhere according to his will. This is the subtle state. No power can be realised without abandoning the sense of the gross and realisation of the subtle self. When the subtle state is realised, one can know the universes of other people’s ideations. The Atmic state cannot be attained as a result of a boon or a curse; this wisdom is realised with spiritual discipline or practice. The entire world is just ideational. The experience of the gross is a result of the firm practice of the ideation, that is, ignorance, and that strengthens the desire of the world and arouses experiences of various faults such as birth and death, etc. In reality, there is nothing like birth and death. When you practise firmly the Atmic state, your fear of birth and death will vanish and you will attain the supreme Atmic state.”

“O gracious goddess”, submitted Leela, “You are so benevolent that you have granted me this knowledge. Now do kindly tell me the discipline or the practice that helps in the attainment of the Atmic state.”

“The practice of spiritual disciplines that lead to the realisation of Brahman”, replied the goddess, “envisages:

(i) Constant remembrance of Atma,
(ii) Utterance of Atma,
(iii) contemplation of Atma or of the Self,
(iv) Remembrance of Atma with the movements of breath, and
(v) Reflection on the Atmic state.

All these exercises together constitute spiritual disciplines that lead to the realisation of Brahman. Methodical contemplation of the precept obtained from sages and scriptures is contemplation of Atma (ie., spiritual inquiry.) To describe or explain Atma to others is account of your life. The exchange of spiritual experiences or discussion in a small group is sharing knowledge of Atma. Methodical remembrance of the guru mantra granted to one with yogic regulation of the breath is said to be Remembrance of Atma. Perceiving and accepting nothing but Atma is contemplation on the Atma. To always remain firmly established in all these processes is the spiritual discipline and practice that leads to realisation of Brahman. Those whose thinking is saturated with detachment and who are ever inclined towards Atmic bliss, are the great men called Brahm-abhyasi, the practitioners and seekers of Brahman. One can also practise through holy company (satsang) and contemplation of the scriptures, and this is reinforced further with striving. When one is firmly established in such practice, he attains Atma.

“The seekers of Brahman may be classified into three categories – high, medium, and those still engaged in their practices. Those who have attained the true cognition and have firm faith in the non-existence of the universe are disciples of the high order. Those who understand non-existence of the universe but have not yet attained the true cognition, and are still engaged in practice, are seekers of the medium quality. Those in the third category perceive the world but aspire for realising its non-existence. O Leela, I have explained to you the various disciplines and if you follow these, you will soon attain the supreme state.”

(Narrating this anecdote, Sri Vasishtha exhorted Sri Ramachandra to awaken as did Leela with the grace of the goddess, and then he continued his explanation.)

O Ramji, like the horns of a hare, the universe is non-existent. That which did not exist in the beginning, and is not sustained in the end, but which is experienced in between, must be understood as unreal. O Ramji, following the instructions of the goddess, Leela realised the non-existence of her body and of the universe, became introvert and flew into space along with the goddess. With her subtle body established in chidakash she crossed the solar and stellar regions, and reached the universe where she had unique experiences. At places there was no sun and elsewhere there was no moonlight. Somewhere the astral bodies were seen floating and there were also the scenes of creation and of dissolution. Passing through various regions, the goddess and Leela returned to the place where the brahmin had died, and there they saw the descendants of Leela of her previous birth mourning her death.

Here Leela desired that her descendants should have their vision. Due to her strong wish, backed by her intense penances, the descendants had the vision of the goddess and Leela. Leela’s former son Jyeshta Shanna and others worshipped them and sought their grace in the calamity that had befallen them after the death of their parents. Leela blessed them and thus they felt consoled and were relieved of their grief.

(Interrupting Sri Vasishtha, Rama asked, “Why didn’t Leela appear in her previous form, before Jyeshta Sharma and the family?” Sri Vasishtha continued with the answer.)

Ramji, the ideation arising in pure consciousness is, in fact, of the nature of space or void and is without name and form. Because of their delusion, the ignorant persons experience bodies with names and forms. Just as on account of his illusion, a child perceives a ghost in his shadow, so does an ignorant person perceive the universe in the ideation. The one who is wise has no ideation of the universe; rather he or she perceives only pure consciousness everywhere. Thus, Leela had lost all attachments, and so she did not appear before Jyeshta Sharma as his mother. Just as all traces of darkness dissipate with the rising of the sun, so had the ignorance and illusion of Leela disappeared when she attained wisdom and realised all as pure consciousness. She blessed Jyeshta Sharma because such is the nature of sages and saints.

The goddess and Leela then disappeared from there and soared high into skies. They talked about various things, as persons do in dreams. Addressing Leela the goddess said, “You have known whatever is worth knowing and you have seen whatever is worth seeing. Ask me anything if you so wish.” And then Leela asked, “When I visited my husband King Viduratha, he could not see me. How could Jyeshta Sharma see me because of my will ?” The goddess said, “When you visited Viduratha, you had not attained to the state of the non-dual. Now you have realised Atma and achieved this will, so Jyeshta Sharma and others could see you. In case you go again to Viduratha and desire to appear before him, he will see you.”

“Now I have no desire and shall act as you will order,” replied Leela.

The goddess then said, “Leela, you had innumerable births and husbands, and I can take you to anyone of them as you desire. The universe that you believe to be before you, appears near to you because of the chidakash. But relatively, it is millions of miles away. Just as in a dream the experiential consciousness manifests itself as the universe, so also the potency of Atma manifests itself as earth, elements, objects, etc. In reality, the potency of Atma is established in itself ; nothing else has been created.”

And then Leela humbly submitted to the goddess, “By your grace I have attained to the Atmic state and am free from all ideations and have no desire.

Ramji, all embodiments are the forms of consciousness. Because of the firm practice of the gross, the subtle is not experienced. The individual consciousness is like a mirror; as is the firm ideation, so is the reflection in the consciousness. He who realises the non-existence of the gross, does not experience the grossness of body, but he who is firmly established in the gross does not experience the subtle body. Experience is the result of firm conviction in the mind; nothing is experienced otherwise. As is the ideation in consciousness, so is the form experienced. Whatever is experienced with a name and a form is primarily a natural creation of Atma and is without a cause. When a person forgets his primeval form—the Atma—he experiences the variegated universe.


Rajput King and Queen
Rajput King and Queen