Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 2 - Chapter 15

Chapter XV

Bharata relates the story of Ribhu and Nidāgha. The latter, the pupil of the former, becomes a prince, and is visited by his preceptor, who explains to him the principles of unity, and departs.

PARĀŚARA continued:

Having terminated these remarks, the Brahman repeated to the silent and meditating prince a tale illustrative of the doctrines of unity:

"Listen, prince," he proceeded, "to what was formerly uttered by Ribhu, imparting holy knowledge to the Brahman Nidāgha:

Ribhu was a son of the supreme Brahmā, who, from his innate disposition, was of a holy character, and acquainted with true wisdom.

Nidāgha, the son of Pulastya, was his disciple; and to him Ribhu communicated willingly perfect knowledge, without doubting of his being fully confirmed in the doctrines of unity, when he had been thus instructed.

"The residence of Pulastya was at Vīranāgara, a large handsome city on the banks of the Devīkā river. In a beautiful grove adjoining to the stream the pupil of Ribhu, Nidāgha, conversant with devotional practices, abode.

When a thousand divine years had elapsed, Ribhu went to the city of Pulastya, to visit his disciple.

Standing at the doorway, at the end of a sacrifice to the Viśvadevas, he was seen by his scholar, who hastened to present him the usual offering, or Arghya, and conducted him into the house;

and when his hands and feet were washed, and he was seated, Nidāgha invited him respectfully to eat (when the following dialogue ensued):--

"Ribhu. 'Tell me, illustrious Brahman, what food there is in your house; for I am not fond of indifferent viands.'

"Nidāgha. 'There are cakes of meal, rice, barley, and pulse in the house; partake, venerable sir, of whichever best pleases you.'

"Ribhu. 'None of these do I like; give me rice boiled with sugar, wheaten cakes, and milk with curds and molasses.'

"Nidāgha. 'Ho dame, be quick, and prepare whatever is most delicate and sweet in the house, to feed our guest.'

Having thus spoken, the wife of Nidāgha, in obedience to her husband's commands, prepared sweet and savoury food, and set it before the Brahman;

and Nidāgha, having stood before him until he had eaten of the meal which he had desired, thus reverentially addressed him:--

"Nidāgha. 'Have you eaten sufficiently, and with pleasure, great Brahman? And has your mind received contentment from your food? Where is your present residence? Whither do you purpose going? And whence, holy sir, have you now come?'

"Ribhu. 'A hungry man, Brahman, should satisfy his needs first when he has finished his meal. Why should you inquire if my hunger has been appeased?

When the earthy element is parched by fire, then hunger is engendered; and thirst is produced when the moisture of the body has been absorbed (by internal or digestive heat).

Hunger and thirst are the functions of the body, and satisfaction must always be afforded me by that by which they are removed; for when hunger is no longer sensible, pleasure and contentment of mind are faculties of the intellect: ask their condition of the mind then, for man is not affected by them.

For your three other questions, Where I dwell? Whither I go? and Whence I come? Hear this reply:

Man (the soul of man) goes everywhere, and penetrates everywhere, like the ether; and is it rational to inquire where it is? Or whence or whither thou guest?

I neither am going nor coming, nor is my dwelling in any one place; nor art thou - thou; nor are others - others; nor am I - I.

If you wonder what reply I should make to your inquiry why I made any distinction between sweetened and unsweetened food, you shall hear my explanation:

What is there that is really sweet or not sweet to one eating a meal?

That which is sweet, is no longer so when it occasions the sense of repletion; and that which is not sweet, becomes sweet when a man (being very hungry) fancies that it is so.

What food is there of which the beginning, middle and end are equally grateful?

As a house built of clay is strengthened by fresh plaster, so is this earthly body supported by earthly particles; and barley, wheat, pulse, butter, oil, milk, curds, treacle, fruits, and the like, are composed of atoms of earth.

This therefore is to be understood by you, that the mind which properly judges of what is or is not sweet is impressed with the notion of identity, and that this effect of identity tends to liberation.'

"Having heard these words, conveying the substance of ultimate truth, Nidāgha fell at the feet of his visitor, and said:

'Show favour unto me, illustrious Brahman, and tell me who the one who has come here for my good is, and by whose words the infatuation of my mind is dissipated.'

To this, Ribhu answered:

'I am Ribhu, your preceptor, came here to tell you the true wisdom; and having declared to you what that is, I shall depart. Know this whole universe to be the one undivided nature of the supreme spirit, entitled Vāsudeva.'

Thus having spoken, and receiving the prostrate homage of Nidāgha, rendered with fervent faith, Ribhu went his way."