A Romance of Time and Space: The Story of Leela
– Prof P N Murthy (published in Bhavan’s Journal March 31,2009)
[from the Utpatti Prakarana (Book 3) of Yogavasishtam]
There was once a king named Padma. Loved by his people and feared by his foes, he was like cupid in grace and beauty. He had a delightful wife, called Leela, who was like goddess Rati serving her husband, giving him all pleasures.
One day while enjoying the company of her husband, she thought: ‘My beloved husband is more than my life to me. How can he be free from old age and continue to be young? How can I engage myself in dalliances of love with him without losing my youth for ages to come? I shall perform austerities and ‘tapas’ and try to liberate this king from death and old age. It is not possible to avoid death.’
She was depressed with the fear of separation from her husband and started thinking. ‘If death occurs to me before my husband’s, I shall be happy. If, on the other hand, my husband dies before me, I shall see that his ‘ pranas’ do not leave the precincts of the house. Then my husband will be roaming around in my palace. I shall be happy throughout my life being seen by my husband. From today, I shall start praying Goddess Saraswati to
grant me such a boon.’
Leela Devi started practising the vows of ‘triratra’ and ‘atiratra’ with strict discipline and worshipped Goddess Saraswati. The devotional perseverance pleased Goddess Saraswati. She appeared before the Queen and said, ‘My child, I am greatly pleased with your tapas and devotion to your husband. Ask and take from me any boon that you want.’
Overwhelmed by the kindness of the Goddess, Leela asked: ‘O, Mother mine, I want two boons, One, when my husband leaves his body, his Jivatma should not leave my palace precincts. Two, whenever I pray for your vision, you should appear before me.’ Goddess Saraswati blessed her and said ‘Be it so’ and left. The queen became ecstatic with joy.
After sometime, King Padma died. Seeing the lifeless body of her husband, Leela became grief stricken and prayed to Goddess Saraswati. The Goddess appeared and said: ‘My child cover the lifeless body of your husband with flowers and preserve it. The body will be preserved and not a single flower will wilt. His Jivatma will never leave the precincts of this palace.’
Queen Leela did as directed and after sometime, again invoked Mother Saraswati. She appeared and said, ‘My child, why are you grieving? Don’t you know that this world is an illusion, what do you want now?’
‘Mother, where is my husband now? How is he? I want to see him. I can’t live without him’.
‘My child, your wish can be realised only when the complete annihilation of thoughts and determinations is reached. You shall attain that state by my grace,’ saying this, she vanished. Queen Leela entered into ‘ nirvikalpa samadhi’ effortlessly and flew into the ‘Chidakasa’. There, she saw her husband seated on a majestic throne surrounded by kings.
Queen Leela, descended into that star-studded assembly of King Padma in her etheric form. The people in the hall could not see her and she moved about freely. The entire scene and scenario looked very familiar with the same servants, same kings, same decorations as in her palace. King Padma, however, looked like a teenager. Seeing all this, Leela felt a sense of sorrow and wondered whether all the people in the erstwhile kingdom of Padma were dead and so appeared here. She rose out of her Samadhi and summoned all her ministers to the assembly, to check whether they are alive. All came and bowed before her. She was taken
aback. To the ministers, who were surprised at this strange behaviour of their Queen, she said, ‘I am trying to console myself and so sought your company.’
She entered her inner chambers and sat by the side of the flowers covered, lifeless body of her husband. She thought: ‘Between the two worlds, which is the real world? I shall invoke Goddess Saraswati and ask her this question.’
She, then, invoked Goddess who appeared promptly before her. Leela asked: ‘I am bewildered. Which of the worlds is true?’
With an indulgent smile, Mother Saraswati replied: “O, my dear lady, both the worlds are either unreal or real according to our perception. Listen to your own story. You will get the needed clarification.
Somewhere in the infinite Chidakasa, there exists a hall of worldly existence known as ‘Bhuvana Mantapam’. In the corners of the hall, on the clay clouds of mountains, there are villages. In one such village, there lived a Brahmin Vasishta and his wife Arundhati. In all respects they both were like the famous couple of ancient times except in the level of mind, heart and consciousness.
Once, Vasishta was sitting on a grass-bed on the top of a hill nearby. Looking down he saw a king accompanied by a large entourage. The king came for hunting. Looking at the king and his opulence, the Brahmin thought, ‘Oh, how charming is kinghood with all prosperity and opulence, When will I become like him?’ This thought persisted in him while performing his Brahminic rites.
In course of time, Vasishta grew old and his body slided into decline. Arundhati recognized the signs of approaching death in her husband. She then prayed to me, like you, thus, ‘Devi, please grant me that the soul of my husband does not leave the house when he is dead.’
I granted the boon. Vasishta died. His etheric form did not leave the ‘house-space’ as
desired by Arundhati. Vasishta became a king as per his desire. He is now your husband, King Padma. When Vasishta left his body, Arundhati becamed distressed looking at the lifeless body of Vasishta, became stiff in body and cast off her body.
Now Vasishta and Arundhati, were born as you and King Padma. You know the rest of the story. Tell me now, what is illusion, what is real?” Hearing this, Leela became wide-eyed with surprise. She then asked Devi: ‘Devi, how can it happen, the way you said, the Brahmin is in his house and we are in our palace inner chambers? My husband is in another world. How can that world be packed within our house? Can a bee in a lotus swallow the Meru mountain? Oh! Goddess of goddesses, please elaborate these things to clear my mind and thoughts.’
Devi Saraswati repled: ‘My child, yes, all this sounds untrue. But, the truth is what I said. The body of Vasishta is in his house, in his village. His Jivatma is seeing the huge empire in space with his etheric form. Vasishta’s soul is within the precincts of his own house in the enclosed Chidakasa and the sky, rivers, earth and mountains are in the same space like a bee in a lotus. The illusion of their existence is occurring like the illusion of hair in sky. Why are you, then, doubting the simple matter of a Vasishta’s house holding a world?’
Leela’s surprised increased. She reacted: ‘O, Parameswari, it is now only eight days since the Brahmin couple died. But, we are here since many years. How can then, what you say be possible?’
Devi Saraswati smiled and said: ‘My child, time and space are relative. It depends on where the Jivatma positions itself and perceives. All these are mental determinations.’ She then explained in great detail, creation, mind and the journey of the Jiva and the influence
of the mind on the journey. Hearing all that Leela exclaims, ‘Oh. Devi, I have witnessed the splendours enlightenment with the divine sight granted by you. I feel reposed. It was like witnessing the world with the effulgence of the morning Sun. Please, now take me to the
Devi Saraswati said, ‘I shall take you. But first become pure, freed from the visible things and adopt my pure, perfect, sacred, objectless consciousness-ether form. With this physical gross body we cannot travel to the subtle worlds. My body is pure ‘Sattwa’. It shines by the consciousness-form. And so, it can go anywhere and assume the form that is required by that particular world. With my grace, you are liberated. From now on the phenomenon of the world does not arise in you.
Your mind is firmly established in ‘Nirvikalpa Samadhi’. When you see something, you are now sure that you are seeing something, like a dream. Such internally awakened mind, can mix or unite with other minds across births and worlds and can travel freely across the worlds.’
Leela became happy and the two space-bodied ladies travelled into the vast spaces. After a while, the two ladies descended on to the house of Vasishta after crossing the Brahmanda fields. They entered the house which was filled with bereaved servants and relatives and the sons of Vasishta. Seeing all this, Leela willed thus: ‘May these people mine see me and Mother Saraswati as ordinary ladies.’ Then the people in the house saw the two ladies with luminous and graceful bodies. The eldest son duly offered his salutations and talked about the grief caused by the loss of his wonderful parents. Then Leela blessed ‘her son’. Her touch relieved him of all the grief. People were surprised at the power of the two ‘Vana Devatas’. After vanishing from the view of the people in the house, Leela asked Saraswati. ‘O, Devi, in this space of the house, the Brahmin became my husband. Here only he died and became a king. I became his queen. My king-husband
died here alone. I feel that we are not far from where my husband is after his death as king. Please grant that I can see him from here.’ Devi replied: “Yes, you can see. You have three husbands now. See all your other births.” Then Leela recollected eight hundred previous births and was amazed at the range of
forms assumed in all these births. Then conversing on the nature of creation of the worlds, the two ladies got out of the world they were visiting – the world in which Vasishta’s village was situated – and moved into the worlds in the house-space and the palace chamber-
Here Leela saw the will-conceived world of King padma, now called in this world, King Viduratha. There was a huge war going on. The two ladies went on to the battlefield which was filled with armies of the fighting kings.
Devi Saraswati and Leela saw this and Leela’s husband. After the first day’s battle, Leela’s husband conferred with his ministers and after that reclined on his bed for a little sleep.
The two ladies left their sky station and entered the palace chamber. When they entered, except for the king, the other ladies and men were lulled into sleep by a cool, fragrant breeze. The king woke up. Seeing the two ladies he was surprised. He collected himself, and with a smile got up from his bed, took a handful of flowers and offered them at their feet, sitting opposite to them in a lotus pose. Then Saraswati woke up the minister sleeping by the side. Saraswati asked, ‘O King,who are you? Who is your father? How were you born? How did you come here!’
Instead of the king, the minister started to respond to the questions, ‘O Devis, my Lord King is Viduratha, born in Ikshvaku dynasty, seventy years ago. Due to the demise of his father, Viduratha became king at the age of ten. He is a great King ruling this land, according to the dharma laid by ancestors.’
Devi Saraswati touched the head of the king (Viduratha) with her hand and said, ‘O King, recollect your earlier birth.’ Viduratha’s heart then opened with the touch of Devi. His earlier life came to his memory. His kingship, abandoning of both, kingdom and life, the story of Leela, and her association with Devi Saraswati – all came to light. He was amazed and exclaimed, “Oh, what a maya is this world. O Devis, I was dead only for a day. In this body, I have spent seventy years. I can remember, my grandfather, great grandfather and my life here. Amazing!’
Devi Saraswati replied with a bewitching smile, ‘O King, you were Brahmin Vasishta in the birth previous to the recent one. Your wife Leela in the previous birth was, Arundhati. You were dead eight days ago in that village. Then you and Arundhati became King Padma and Queen Leela. Then, you were dead a day ago. Your lifeless body is in that palace chamber. This world of yours is in the palace-chamber space which is again in the Brahmin house’s space. Your Jivatma was worshipping me. Your mental process was variously active in that palace-space (enclosed in the house-space). You were entertaining the illusory musings, ‘I am born here. My dynasty is Ikshvaku, and so on. At the time of your death as King Padma, all thoughts arose in you. These luminous thoughts arise by themselves in the heart like a sequence of vortices, one following the other. Sometimes in this mixed flows of plenitude of creations, a time comes when an individual self has his moment of death in all its brilliance. This is all the play of the Supreme. You were now Viduratha, the King Padma who rose from Vasishta. This universe is a dream. Just as you are real to me, you are to the others and others are to you. This is a system of dream sequences.’
Viduratha implored Devi Saraswati, ‘Mother, I would like to take my earlier body leaving this body. My mother, show me the way. I would like my minister, and the girl, the present wife of mine, to follow me.’
Saraswati, being pleased with the beseeching tone said: ‘O King, be it so. Without any hesitation, take your Kingdom and rule that as King Padma. For that, you should die inthis battle. You will then get your old kingdom back. Your present wife and minister will follow you in their airy bodies.’ Viduratha got a frantic message from the battlefield and left saying, ‘O Devis, pardon me. I am going to the battlefield.’
When Leela saw the wife of Viduratha, she was surprised. ‘O Devi, what a surprise, she looks exactly like me. She is as I was in my body, how is that? Looking at the minister and others, the soldiers, the vehicles and everything else, I feel that I am in my old kingdom. All these, look like a reflection in a mirror. How is that?’
‘My child, world appears the way it is perceived. The extension and length of space and time and the multiplicity are not born of matter. The present form of your husband is as per the perceptions he held at the time of his death. Similar is the case with the minister and the maid. He wanted his wife to be like you, Leela. So, everything looks the same to you and this Leela looks exactly like you.’
Devi Saraswati said to the second Leela-wife of Viduratha, “O Leela, your husband Viduratha will die in this battle. He will then discard this body and will become King Padma when he enters the palace chambers. ‘ The second Leela was stunned by the words of Saraswati and implored her thus, ‘O Devi, I worship Saraswati regularly. Please give me a boon out of compassion. O Devi, wherever my husband (Viduratha) goes after leaving his body, I would like to go with him as his wife with this body.’
Devi Saraswati blessed her and said, ‘Be it so.’ Meanwhile, they heard that Viduratha was losing the battle. Then Leela (Viduratha’s wife) asked Saraswati, ‘O Devi, how is it my husband is not winning even though you, Goddess Saraswati is very happy with his
‘My child, I cannot give victory to Viduratha because of his devotion to me. Viduratha will have to die and his rival will win. I abide in people, the way they understand me at a given point of time. I give one the fruits he desires, depending on the way he worships and wants
for a thing.’
She then turned to King Padma, and said, ‘Live happily with the two Leelas and rule your kingdom as earlier.’
Thus King Padma listened to the story of his death and revival. He resumed his duties as king and lived, enjoying his rebirth with two Leelas and ruled his kingdom for eight thousand years observing all rules of Dharma. With their intense desire for liberation, they became liberated, equipped with the Supreme Knowledge.
Sage Vasishta said to Rama, ‘O Rama, I have narrated the above sacred story of Leela, to rid you of the faulty perception that this world exists in splendor. Sentient consciousness settles in whatever mould it desires to be and throws itself with abandon with all creative conditions as long as it is not restrained. A false light of consciousness-ether manifests, as this world. Consciousness-ether alone abides severally as tiny atoms in its pure Self.
When such a holistic perception gets established, it is clear that all is Maya. And even, Maya does not exist ultimately.’