The Story of Veetahavya


Sri Swami Sivananda

This article is a chapter from the book Stories From Yoga Vasishtha.

“Now I shall tell you another path that leads to Moksha. O valiant Rama! listen to it with rapt attention. A great Tapaswin, named Veetahavya, formerly dwelt in the Vindhya hills. In course of time, he grew dissatisfied with the ritual acts, which serve only to bewilder men and which are the causes of the diseases and difficulties of men. He gave up the practice of making his offerings to fire. He wanted to attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi. He built a hut of leaves with the branches of plantain trees. He spread in it his seat of deerskin. He sat there in the Padmasana posture with his legs crossed upon each other and placed his two hands on his two heels. He closed his eyes. He gradually withdrew the mind from the external objects, rendered it steady, and eventually controlled it firmly in his heart.

“He reflected within himself thus: ‘I controlled my mind but it is again agitated by Prana. It floats in the air like a dried leaf tossed by the wind. It impels the external organs as a charioteer drives his horses and is propelled by them in turn to their different objects. It runs from one object to another, just as a monkey jumps from one tree to another. I try to stop its course, but it runs towards objects. It pursues them with avidity and eagerness. The five organs of knowledge are mere avenues of the mind. I am the seer. I am the silent witness.

“ ‘O, my wicked and wretched organs, why do you in vain entangle yourself in miseries and troubles? Why are you so senseless as to roll on restlessly? I am pure Consciousness. I kept company with the mind and the senses and so I had my downfall. The all-knowing soul knows well the eyes and ears, but these organs cannot know the internal soul. Knowledge will never come in close contact with the organs. They are like Brahmins and outcastes, the cat and rat, the mongoose and cobra. O mind! why do you wander about aimlessly like a strolling street-dog? O perverted intelligence! you have mistaken this perishable body for the immortal Self through Ahamkara. Do not confound the “I” with the body and objects. Annihilate the sense of separateness that arises from the delusion of Ahamkara. O mind! just as darkness vanishes before the sun, so also you will disappear soon through spiritual enquiry. O mind! you have decided now to tread the path of Truth and start Atmic enquiry. The present course is really a laudable one. You will soon enjoy the eternal bliss of the soul.’

“Through this enquiry, Veetahavya firmly controlled the mind, the senses and the Prana. He gazed at the tip of the nose. His body became motionless. His breathing stopped. He then passed three hundred years in Samadhi as if it was a moment. Even the loud roaring of lions, the dreadful noise of thunder, and the shouting of hunters could not wake him up from his Samadhi. His body was buried up to his shoulders under sand which was heaped upon him by the floods. Awaking from his Samadhi, he found that his body was buried under the sand. There was no free motion of Prana. Therefore, there was no motion in the body. He entered the mind and found that he had spent a hundred years as a Tapaswin on the slopes of the Kailas hills, then as a Vidyadhara for another hundred years, as Devendra in Devaloka for five Yugas, then as Ganesha, the son of Shiva. Through the divine vision, Veetahavya was able to observe the events of his former lives. He had knowledge of the three periods of time—the past, present and future.

“Veetahavya wanted to lift his body out of the heap of sand in which it was buried. He went to the sun with his subtle body  in order to call Pingala to remove the sand that was accumulated around his body. Pingala entered the Vindhya grove in the form of a cloud. The cloud assumed the form of a big elephant. This elephant removed the earth and sand. Pingala then went back to his original abode. The subtle body of the Muni entered the gross body and vivified it. The Muni took a bath and worshipped the sun. Afterwards he passed some time on the banks of the river. He had no attraction for worldly objects. He possessed self-restraint, benevolence, love, compassion, serenity, mercy, contentment, kindness, wisdom and internal bliss.

“Veetahavya soliloquised thus: ‘Till now, I have been controlling all my senses. Now I will enter into Nirvikalpa Samadhi and remain as immovable as a rock. I will merge myself in the ocean of bliss or Absolute Consciousness. I will abide in my soul. I shall be like one who is in deep sleep. I will be dead to the world. I will have no consciousness of the world. Though in deep sleep, I shall be like one awake in this world. I will be fully conscious of my own Swaroopa. I will have perfect awareness. I will enjoy the bliss of Turiya wherein there is no heterogeneity.. I will drink the homogeneous essence of Brahman.’

“Having reflected thus, he sat in meditation. He was in Samadhi for six days and nights. He enjoyed the eternal bliss of the Soul and became a Jivanmukta. He freed himself from the round of births and deaths, and the pairs of opposites.

“He now wanted to attain the state of Videhamukti (disembodied salvation). He entered a mountain cave, sat in Padmasana and reflected within himself thus: ‘O desires! I take leave of you now. I enjoyed the material pleasures through you. I have become desireless now and enjoy peace. O anger! you helped me in protecting me from wicked people. I bid you goodbye. I have attained peace of mind now. I have found out all your tricks. O enjoyment! I bid you farewell. You tempted me to taste your bitter pleasures in countless births and transmigrations. Enough, enough of all the play I had with thee in this world. O sensual pleasures! I bid adieu to thee. You have deluded me for a very long time. I am now above your reach. You made me forget my real Satchidananda nature. O pain! thou art my savior. You have opened my eyes. You are a blessing to me in disguise. You have revealed to me the eternal bliss of the Soul. But for thee, I would never have attempted to attain the summum bonum of life. Thou hast led me to the enquiry of the Atman and the practice of meditation and Samadhi. O body! my old and intimate friend, I abandon thee now. I pay my due respects to thee. Though you gave me a lot of pain, yet I crossed this ocean of Samsara only with your help. O greed! I now have contentment. I do not want any worldly gain. I have acquired the supreme wealth of Moksha. I have obtained the highest gain. I bid you farewell. O attachment and passion! do not trouble me any more. I have acquired Vairagya and purity. I bow to thee, O my sweet cave, thou art my associate in my practice of meditation. Thou wert the only refuge for me when I was tired of the noise of this tumultuous world. O my staff! I had found my best friend in you for relieving my fatigue. You were the support of my aged body. O my vital Pranas! I next bid you farewell, you kept company with me through all my various births. O virtuous deeds! I salute you again and again. Through your help only was I saved from doing wrong deeds and attained the final emancipation quickly. O brothers and friends! I take leave of you all now. May you all be happy! May you all attain the final beatitude!’

“He gently uttered the Pranava which dispelled all sensual objects and Sankalpas. He meditated on Om. Darkness vanished and light appeared. His heart was bright. He then remained fixed as a rock in the Jagrat-Sushupti state. He attained the state of Turiya. He became the Absolute Chit. He became the Absolute Sat. He became the Void of atheists, the Para Brahman of Brahmavadins, the Purusha of the Sankhyas, the Isa of Yogis, the Shiva of Saivites, the Kala of Kalavadins, and the Madhyama of the Madhyamikas.

“He became That, which is known by the sages, which pervades all, which illumines all lights, which is the one and the many, which is the final conclusion of all Shastras, which is the support and substratum for the world. He lived for twenty thousand years in this exalted state and roamed throughout the world happily. Eventually he was absorbed in the light of lights and attained Videhamukti or disembodied liberation.”

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