This is a summary of an allegory told by “The Teacher” (Emperor Bharata reincarnated as a misfit outcast) to the King of Sindhu, Rahūgaṇa, from the 13th Chapter of the 5th Book of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. The text numbers of that chapter are included here.
1 – A “profit seeking merchant” (soul in avidyā) enters a “forest” (the world)
2 – Six rogues (senses & mind) act like his friends, but use up his resources to get what they want.
3 – A bower (home) is full of insects (bills, etc.) but somehow seems like a heavenly palace
4 – He searches the forest for better fruits (efforts to improve his home, etc.) but gets lost (gets confused and makes poor decisions).
5 – Without security, he seeks shelter of lone trees (undignified people) but always worries about the noises from owls (known enemies) and unseen things (unknown dangers).
6 – Desparate, he injures himself chasing mirages (false promises), and starts to envy what others have.
Sometimes he has to deal with forest fires (natural disasters).
Sometimes he has to deal with forest guardians (government) taking back what he has collected from the forest (taxes and fines).
7 – When that happens he falls down and looks dead (depression). But the ability to occasionally enter heavenly palaces (sex) within the forest revives him and keeps him going.
8 – He wants to climb a mountain (improve his status), but his feet suffer stepping on thorns and rocks (insults and obstacles in society). His ambition causes him pain, and he curses his own parents.
9 – Sometimes he gets swallowed by a python or bitten by a snake (hard and soft intoxication), in both cases becoming oblivious to the forest for a while. But in this obliviousness, she sometimes stumbles into a pit (makes big mistakes).
10 – He sees a honeycomb (something desireable) but the bees (the owners of desirable things) attack him when he tries to get it. Sometimes he manages to get some honey, but then he becomes the honey-owner and others come to steal it from him.
11 – When he can’t maintain his bower (home) well enough, he tries selling things to friends. They eventually feel cheated and become angry with him.
12 – But he cannot make enough money if he doesn’t cheat. He tries begging (living honestly) but cannot satisfy his needs that way.
13 – Returning to merchantilism, he depletes his friendships. And still, losses eat away his gains.
14 – He decides the gains are worth the loses – not realizing there is a way to get gains without loses.
15 – Even the most powerful people (warrior kings) in the forest soon fall dead, because they make war with each other, because they are selfish.
The only one who survives are the birds (intelligent phillosophers) who fly out of the forest by becoming selfless.
16 – The merchant, afraid of the forest lions (the dangers of life), tries to befriend the birds and learn from them how to fly.
But some birds (teachers) are swans (pure), while others are vultures (impure).
17 – Cheated by vultures, he gives up on birds and seeks the monkeys (religious), who help each other fulfill their desires.
18 – With them he feels elated. Becoming atticted to the elation, he slips back into selfishness and falls from the tree.
19 – Even if someone saves him, the pattern repeats.
So he is still in the forest till this day.
20 – Bharat tells Rahūgaṇa, “You are this merchant. Become like the swans who fly away.”
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