Brahmā’s Exploration of the Top of the Column of Splendour
1Nandikeśvara said: Then proceeding along the Column of Fire, Brahmā flew up speedily in the sky that has no support.
2As he flew up rapidly the excess (of clouds) hit by the fluttering wings became scattered as though dispelled by winds.
3Flying rapidly to a great height, he could not be seen clearly by the eyes. Only a very (vertical) long line was seen in the sky.
4The Māyāmarāla (i.e. Brahmā who by his Māyā assumed the form of a swan) near the Column of Refulgence appealed like the moon going along and near the evening clouds.
5At the outset he went beyond the path of the birds, then beyond the path of the clouds, thereafter the path of the aerial chariots, and then the orbit of the stars.
6This bird in disguise (i.e. Brahmā) rapidly crossed all those lofty abodes of the luminaries going upwards.
7The speed of wind and mind of very subtle nature, shape and size was kept down (i.e. surpassed) by that swan while going.
8The higher up he flew with the weary wings, the higher and higher appeared the Column of Refulgence.
9After going beyond the seven pathways of the seven categories of winds he was dismayed much as he saw the Column burning and breaking through the semi-spheroidal top of the Cosmic Egg (and still higher up).
10-14aHe thought thus: ‘How will it be possible for me to stand in front of Hari who might have seen the root? (Proud of his success) Śauri (i.e. Viṣṇu) will not cease to keep his head turned away (from me) in a crooked manner. Of what avail are my vital airs, though they be of long duration, since I have not fulfilled my vow? What shall be the proper thing to do now? What should be done? What help is there? I wish to deceive Viṣṇu. Who will help me? I am not at all capable of defeating my opponent through a straightforward course. One who cannot use a straightforward means should fraudulently surpass the opponent. Indeed honour is an asset unto great men.’ So thought Brahmā and became agitated in his mind. At that time something bright and pure was seen in the sky not very far away.
14b-17Brahmā began to doubt like this: ‘Is this the outline of the moon? But how can it come here? Or is it a lotus stalk? That is in the river. How can it be in the sky?’ While he was doubting thus, it came very near. It was recognized as a Ketakī leaf (Pandamus odoratissimus) by the Lotus-born Lord. Though it was an old one it had much fragrance because of its inherent power. Brahmā caught hold of that Ketakī bunch. The moment it was caught it became alive and conscious. It spoke.
18Ketaka said: Oh, why do you catch hold of me? Leave me off. I am inclined to take rest after having flown through the sky a hundred thousand years.
19Nandīśa said: On seeing his fatigue increasing in that manner, Brahmā became grieved. The Lotus-born Lord thought with a disappointed mind.
20-21Since his vow had remained unfulfilled, he even stooped to despicable means: ‘Where is this Mass of Refulgence that has filled up the entire space in between heaven and earth? Where am I whose manliness has been finished (i.e. humiliated) in the course of this test? My wings seem to be breaking. The eyes have become blinded. All the limbs appear to be crumbling down. I seem to fall down headlong.
22Of what use is much talk on other topics? My vital breath appears (as if) coming out along with the wind exhaled now.
23Let this knot of excessive pride snap and be dispelled from my mind. Let that unhealthy rivalry with Viṣṇu be terminated quickly.
24-27This Fiery Column it as lofty as it was ever before. In girth it is far more than the intervening space between heaven and earth. Neither Nārāyaṇa nor I can be the cause thereof. The possibility of the other Suras—the chief of whom is Mahendra—being so is still remote. I have no strength to fly up beyond this place, so I return.’ So decided Brāhmā within his mind. With some surprise he asked (the Ketaka Leaf): “Who are you? Whence are you coming?” That Ketakī Leaf replied to Brahmā:
28“I have (all along) been a bunch of Ketakī leaves. At the bidding of Śiva I remained on the head of Śaṃbhu of the form of the Column of Refulgence. I am sentient and conscious.
29-30I have come down from there with a desire to stay in the terrestrial world.” On hearing these words of the Ketaka Bunch, the Lotus-born Lord got some relief. He asked it (i.e. Ketaka Bunch): “You do tell me how far is the top of the Column of Refulgence from here.”