More Advaita in the Vishnu Purana

Book 2, Chapter 15 of the Vishnu Purana


Parasara continued -  Having terminated these remarks(the episode of 
Jada Bharata in the Vishnu Purana), the Brahman(Bharata) repeated
to the silent and meditating prince a tale illustrative of the doctrines
of Unity. "Listen, prince, to what was formerly uttered by Ribhu, imparting
holy knowledge to the Brahman Nidagha. Ribhu, who was a son of Brahma, was, from
his innate disposition, a holy character, and acquainted with true wisdom. 
Nidagha, the son of Pulastya, was his disciple; and to him Ribhu communicated 
willingly perfect knowledge, not doubting of his being fully confirmed in the 
doctrines of unity, when he had been thus instructed.

The residence of Pulastya was at Viranagara, a large handsome city on the 
banks of the Devika river. In a beautiful grove adjoining to the stream the 
pupil of Ribhu, Nidagha, conversant with devotional practises, abode. When a 
thousand divine years had passed, Ribhu went to the city of Pulastya, to visit 
his disciple. Standing at the doorway, at the end of a sacrifice to the 
Visvadevas, 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, Nidagha invited him respectfully to eat.

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

Nidagha-" There are cakes of rice, barley, 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."

Nidagha(to his wife)-" Be quick and prepare whatever is most delicate and sweet 
in the house, to feed our guest."

Having thus spoken, the wife of Nidagha, in obedience to her husband's commands,
prepared sweet and savory food, and set it before the Brahman; and Nidagha, 
having stood before him until he had eaten of the meal he had desired, thus 
reverentially addressed him,"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 propose going? And whence, holy sir, have
you now come?"

Ribhu-"Must the needs of a hungry man be satisfied when he has finished his 
meal? Why do you enquire 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. Hunger and thirst are the functions of 
the body, and satisfaction must always be achieved by that by which they are 
removed. When hunger is no longer sensible, pleasure and contentment of the mind
are faculties of the intellect. But man is not affected by the mind. For your 
other three questions: Where do I dwell? Whither do I go? and Whence do I come? 
hear this reply. Man(the soul of man) goes everywhere, and penetrates 
everywhere, like the ether; and is it rational to enquire where it is? Or whence 
or whither you go? 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 enquiry 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 sweet when it occassions 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 that first, middle and last is equally grateful?

{ a note here : among Tamil Vaishnavites, a very common name is "Aaravamudam". 
I heard from a Vaishnavite that nowhere in the Vedas is such a beautiful name 
given to Vishnu. It means, in Tamil, "That nectar which you can never have 
enough of". Basically, anything sweet, taken in excess, is found to have 
undesirable taste, but you can never have enough of Bhakti.}

 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, Nidagha 
fell at the feet of his visitor, and said,"Show favor unto me, illustrious 
Brahman, and tell me who it is that for my good had come hither, and by whose 
words the infatuation of my mind is dissipated."

Ribhu answered,"I am Ribhu, your preceptor, come here to communicate to you 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 
Vasudeva." Thus having spoken, and receiving the prostrate homage of Nidagha, 
rendered with fervent faith, Ribhu went his way."

After the expiration of another thousand years, Ribhu again went to the city 
where Nidagha dwelt, to instruct him further in true wisdom. When he arrived 
near the town, he beheld a prince entering into it, with a splendid retinue; and 
his pupil Nidagha standing afar off, avoiding the crowd; his throat shrivelled 
with starvation, and bearing from the thicket fuel and holy grass. Ribhu 
approached him, and saluting him reverentially (as if he were a stranger) 
demanded why he was standing in such a retired spot. Nidagha replied,"There is a 
great crowd of people attending the entrance of the king into the town, and I am 
here standing to avoid it." "Tell me, excellent Brahman", said Ribhu,"for I 
believe thou art wise, who here is the king and who is any other man." "The 
king", answered Nidagha,"is he who is seated on the fierce and stately elephant, 
vast as a mountain peak; the others are his attendants." "You have shown me, 
Observed Ribhu,"at one time,the king and the elephant, without noticing any 
particular character by which they are to be distinguished. Tell me, venerable 
sir, is there any difference between them? For I am desirous to know which is 
here the elephant, and which the king." "The elephant", answered Nidagha,"is 
underneath; the king above him. Who is not aware, Brahman, of the relation 
between that which bears and that which is borne?" To this Ribhu rejoined,"Still 
explain to me, according to what I know of it, this matter: what is meant by the 
word `underneath' and what is it that is termed `above'?"  As soon as he had 
uttered this, Nidagha jumped upon Ribhu, and said,"Here is my answer to the 
question you have asked : I am above, like the Raja; you are underneath, like 
the elephant. This example, Brahman, is intended for your information." "Very 
well, said Ribhu,"you, it seems, are as it were the Raja, and I am like the 
elephant; but come now, do tell me which of us two is `you'; which is `I'."

When Nidagha heard these words, he immediately fell at the feet of the stranger 
and said,"Of a surety thou art my saintly preceptor Ribhu; the mind of no other 
person is so fully imbued with the doctrines of unity as that of my teacher, and 
hence I know that thou art he." To this Ribhu replied,"I am your preceptor by 
name Ribhu, who, pleased with the dutiful attention he has received, has come to 
Nidagha to give him instruction : for this purpose have I briefly intimated to 
you the divine truth, the essence of which is the non-duality of all." Having 
thus spoken to Nidagha, the Brahman Ribhu went away, leaving his disciple 
profoundly impressed, by his instructions, with belief in unity. He beheld all 
beings thenceforth as the same with himself, and, perfect in holy knowledge, 
obtained final liberation.

In like manner do thou, Oh king, who knows what duty is, regarding equally 
friend or foe, consider yourself as one with all that exists in the world. Even 
as the same sky is apparently diversified as white or blue, so Soul, which is in 
Truth but one, appears to erroneous vision distinct in different persons. That 
One, which here is all things, is Achyuta(Vishnu); than whom there is none 
other. He is I; He is Thou; he is All; this universe is his form. Abandon the 
error of distinction."

Parasara continued - The king, being thus instructed, opened his eyes to truth, 
and abandoned the notion of distinct existence: whilst the Brahman, who, through 
the recollection of his former lives, had acquired perfect knowledge, obtained 
now exemption from future birth. Whoever narrates(or types!) or listens to the 
lessons inculcated in the dialogue between Bharata and the king, has his mind 
enlightened, mistakes not the future of individuality, and in the course of his 
migrations becomes fitted for ultimate emancipation."