12. Yoga Vashisht, How To Live
Truth and Faith, my Pride.
Sri Ram was the eldest son of King Dasarath and was the rightful heir to the throne of his father's kingdom. His step-mother, Kaikeyi, however had another plan, one which she had held for many years.
Once when the King was sick, Kaikeyi acted as his nurse and as a reward, for so faithfully caring for him, the King told her she could ask three boons of him; could ask for whatever she wanted.
Upon being told that, Kaikeyi immediately asked the King to marry her. He did this at once and asked what her other boon might be. To which she replied, "at a future date I shall ask you." To this the king readily agreed, never dreaming what could be in her mind.
She then bore a son whom she named Bharath.
Years passed and the King being old in years, decided to retire and according to his wish everything was in readiness for Sri Ram to take the duty of ruling.
But as Kaikeyi wanted her own son, instead of Sri Ram to be King, she reminded her husband (the King) of his promised boon. She then requested him, to exile Sri Ram for twelve years. This was a surprise to the King, as he and the people wished that Sri Ram should rule, so he refused her request.
Sri Ram, desirous that his father should keep his promise to Kaikeyi, voluntarily went into banishment. This was much against his father's and the people's will, but Sri Ram made it quite clear that this was the best course, and started on his exile. His wife, Sita, who stands above all women, in the hearts of every Hindu, followed him; also his brother Lashman.
When his step-brother, Bharath, who was not home at the time, learned from Kaikeyi, how she had procured the crown for him, he cried, "O, cruel and unjust woman, you have sent my brother into exile. I shall never wear the crown and from now on, do not call me son."
Good Bharath loved his step-brother and at once set out to the country to find him, to try and persuade him to return to his home and rule over the kingdom. His cruel mother sent a message to Ram, saying, "Bharath is coming to kill you,"—that, being another trick against her son.
After a long and hard search Bharath found Sri Ram. Running with outstretched arms to greet Sri Ram, Bharath clung to him, like a child clinging to his mother. He cried uncontrollably and begged Sri Ram to return and rule the country, but he refused to do this and asked his step brother to rule instead.
Bharath, in tears, appealed to Sri Ram to come home and said to him, "Our father, who could not stand the separation has passed away, and I shall never wear the crown, never, never." But Sri Ram sent his brother home to rule in his stead.
Bharath ruled the country for twelve years, but never wore the crown nor sat on the throne, always placing a picture of Sri Ram there.
A very learned Priest of that time, Jabali, by name, went to see Sri Ram, hoping to persuade him to give up his exile and come home to accept the throne and rule over the people, who still grieved for him.
What passed between Sri Ram and the Priest is a long story but I would like to share Sri Ram's answer with my readers.
"When thus the unbelieving priest,
His subtle lies to vent had ceased,
Then Rama made this wise reply,
Unmoved by all his sophistry.
Thou would’st that I should cast aside
Good faith and truth,—my joy and pride,—
That I may present good secure,
And flee the ills I now endure.
Thou would’st persuade me not to dread
The pains that wait the wicked dead;
Thou would’st that men should all despise,—
With scorn reject as silly lies,—
The earnest words of all who teach
A future life, and duty preach.
Thy words, I know, are kindly meant,
But thou hast failed in thine intent.
As wholesome words at first they sound,
But proved, are false and noxious found.
A show of right they have, but tried,
They cannot reason's test abide.
Believe me, all the good and wise
That foolish, wilful, man despise,
From virtue's path aside who turns,
And all restraints impatient spurns.
By conduct only men we know,
As pure and noble, vile and low;
Their natures we can only test,
As acts those natures manifest.
Should I the sacred books despise,
And act as thou dost now advise,—
Would I not all the world delude
By seeming noble, pure, and good,
'While I was vicious, vile, and base,
A blot upon the royal race?
If virtues garb assuming, I
Should virtue by my deeds deny,
Should lead a base and vicious life,
With order, law, and right at strife,
How could I, leading men astray,
By such a course, from wisdom's way,
Aught else but condemnation stern
From righteous men and sages earn?
By such a course should I not miss
Both present joy, and heavenly bliss?
The kings their subjects' weal who seek
Should never fail the truth to speak;
Whatever promise once they make,
Though tempted, they should never break.
The good examples rulers give
Direct their people how to live;
For common mortals watch the great,
And all their doings imitate.
A righteous King will rule by truth,
And temper, too, his acts with ruth.
When truth abides its guiding law,
Then kingly sway is free from flaw.
Both gods and holy Seers delight,
In those who practice truth and right;
Though such on earth no bliss attain,
The highest future good they gain.
Good faith and truth are virtue's root;
From them abundant blessings shoot.
Truth rules supreme on earth, and nought
Surpassing truth can e’er be thought.
All holy rites, all acts austere,
The sacred books which men revere,—
Which duty's laws and forms disclose,—
These books themselves on truth repose.
Why should I then be led astray
My sire's command to disobey?
No fancied good, no dazzling lure,
My sense of right shall e’er obscure,
Or tempt me under foot to tread
My sacred promise to the dead.
From book of J. Muir; Metrical Translations From Sanskrit writers.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Title Page and Front Matter
- Sri Ram, the Truth Seeker
- How the Wise Ought to Live
- How Suka Attained Highest State of Bliss
- The Way to Blessed Liberation
- Creation of the Universe
- Queen Chundalai, The Great Yogin
- The Great Egoist—Bali'
- King Janak
- How Suragho, the King of Hunters, attained realization of self'
- The Long-Lived Yogi and the Secret of His Longevity
- The Goal of the Yogi and Levitation'
- How to Live
- India's message to other Countries
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