This chapter is taken from The Silent Power – Selections from The Mountain Path and The Call Divine, Part III On Miscellaneous Topics
An elderly gentleman, formerly a co-worker with B. V. Narasimhaswami and author of some Visishtadvaita work, visited the place for the first time. He asked about rebirths, if it is possible for the linga sarira (subtle body) to get dissolved and be reborn two years after death.
M.: Yes. Surely. Not only can one be reborn, one may be twenty or forty or even seventy years old in the new body though only two years after death.
Sri Bhagavan cited Lila’s story from Yoga Vasishta. (Talk No.129)
There was a reference to reincarnation. Reincarnation of Shanti Devi tallies with the human standards of time whereas the latest case reported of a boy of seven is different. The boy is seven years now. He recalls his past births. Enquiries go to show that the previous body was given up 10 months ago.
The question arises how the matter stood for six years and two months previous to the death of the former body. Did the soul occupy two bodies at the same time?
Sri Bhagavan pointed out that the seven years is according to the boy and the ten months is according to the observer. The difference is due to these two different upadhis (mental states). The boy’s experience extending to seven years has been calculated by the observer to cover only 10 months of his own time. Sri Bhagavan again referred to Lila’s story in yoga Vasishta. (Talk No.261)
Once there was a king by the name of Padma, who was wealthy and wise. He had a beautiful wife called Lila who was devoted to her husband.Once she thought, “My Husband is dearer to me than my life. He is young and prosperous. How to make him remain forever young and deathless?”
She consulted learned pandits of the court. They advised her,”All successful accomplishments are attained by religious austerity, repetition of mantras and self-control, but immortality can not be obtained on any account.”
Having heard thus from the learned Brahmins, she reflected, “In case I have to die before my husband, freed from all agony, I shall happily rest in the Self and in case he precedes me then his soul should not go out of this room. I shall worship the Goddess Sarasvati and ask for boons.”
Having resolved thus the queen, without telling her husband, performed severe austerities as laid down in the scriptures.
Goddess Sarasvati was pleased by the queen’s austerities. She appeared and said, “Ask for any boon and it shall be granted,”Overjoyed Lila sang hymns of praise to the Goddess, and asked for two boons,” When my husband dies, the soul of my husband, should remain here. Whenever I pray to you, give me your vision.” Accordingly, the Goddess granted both the boons.
After several years Lila’s husband passed away. The bereaved queen placed her husband’s corpse in a bed of flowers as instructed by the Goddess. In great distress she asked the Goddess,”Where does my husband reside? What does he do? What is his state at present? Lead me to him. I cannot live without him.”
The Goddess taught Lila about Brahman (the Supreme Spirit or Ultimate Reality) and narrated the existence of various planes penetrating one another and existing quite unperceived by the inhabitants of other planes. She also taught her the method of seeing and visiting the various worlds interpenetrating one’s own. Lila abandoned her own body, and the Goddess took her to the world of her husband’s in which she saw him in an assembly of kings. She was surprised to see him sitting on a throne, now looking very young. Lila asked the Goddess for an explanation. She was told about the delusion of creation. The Goddess spoke as follows:
“Once there lived a virtuous Brahmin named Vasishta. His wife was Arundhati who equaled him in all respects. Once he saw the king passing by with his retinue and thought, ‘Kingship is indeed delightful, blessed with all good fortune. I wish that I were a king.’
“Vasishtha’s death was impending and knowing this, his wife took refuge in me. Like you, she prayed to me, ‘ May the soul of my dead husband not depart from this place.’ I granted her prayer. The poor Brahmin died, his wife, Arundhati, being unable to bear the pangs of separation from her husband, burnt herself along with the body of her husband.” Sarasvati told Lila that all that had happened only a week ago, and that the Brahmin pair had been born as herself (Lila) and her husband, King Padma, in the world where he had just died after having lived a long life, leaving Lila alone. Lila did not believe this story, because the couple had died recently, whereas Lila and Padma were born years before. Lila asked the Goddess whether one soul can occupy two bodies simultaneously. Saraswati explained that the two frames of reference were different and that a person’s strong sankalpa (determination or aspiration) can manifest as humans.
The Goddess then took Lila to that world, and made her verify the story from a son of the deceased pair. Through meditation, she remembered all her previous births since her origin from the Creator. Lila lamented, “Alas! Today I have remembered hundreds of my previous births. Indeed, I have wandered much in various kinds of wombs.”
Both Lila and Sarasvati returned to the present world of the king, who was called Viduratha, and found him in his 70th year. His wife was also named Lila (let us call her Lila II). Lila and Saraswati manifested themselves before the king in his private apartment and mysteriously reminded him of his previous existence as Padma. He entertained a desire to be Padma again. His present wife, Lila II, propitiated Sarasvati to confer a boon upon her to be the wife of Vidurtha even in his next life.
After a short time, there was a war in which King Viduratha was killed. His soul, which was present, throughout, in the room where the corpse of Padma was lying, reentered the dead body. And lo! The soul rose again as King Padma, who found standing before him his two wives, namely, Lila I and Lila II. “Let all sorrows end and let there be endless happiness.” So saying the Goddess blessed them and disappeared.
Finally, all three of them- Lila, the second Lila and the King- were liberated while still alive, and in due course, became one with the Absolute by the grace of the Goddess.