by Swami Krishnananda
Now the great sage known as Bhujyuh rose from the audience. He was a descendant in the line of the sage Lahya.
Atha hainaṁ bhujyur lᾱhyᾱyaniḥ papraccha: yᾱj˝avalkya, iti hovᾱca: "Now listen, Yāj˝avalkya." Madreṣu carakᾱḥ paryavrajᾱma, te pata˝calasya kᾱpyasya gṛhᾱn aima: "In the country of the Madra's (Not Madras; it is another country called Madra), we were observing some vow and wandering about from place to place. We came to the house of a great Master by name Pata˝cala, of the line of Kapi (not Patanjali Maharishi of Yoga. He is also called Kāpya). Now, in the house of this Pata˝cala, we stayed for the night. In this house some peculiar thing happened in the night. The daughter of that Master was possessed by a spirit, the spirit of a Gandharva, and so she was speaking in a peculiar language, not her language but the language of the one who possessed her. We were wondering who was it that was possessing this lady. We then queried the spirit – 'Who are you? Who is it that is speaking?' Tasyᾱsīd duhitᾱ gandharvagṛhītᾱ; tam aprcchᾱma ko'sīti, so'bravīt: So, that person, that spirit answered. Sudhanvāṅgirasa iti: 'I am a Gandharva by the name Sudhanvan of the line of Aṅgiras.' 'Oh, I see! You are a Gandharva of a superphysical world. So, you should be possessing superphysical knowledge.' It was not an ordinary spirit of a dead person, but a celestial being possessing this human being. So, we put a question to that Gandharva. Taṁ yadᾱ lokᾱnᾱm antᾱn apṛcchᾱma, athainam abrῡma, kva pᾱrikṣitᾱ abhavann iti: We asked: 'What is the dimension of this whole creation, the whole world? Where are the Pārikṣitas, the descendants of Pārikṣit who performed the Aśvamedha Sacrifice? A person who performs an Aśvamedha Sacrifice reaches a very lofty region. Now, these Pārikṣitas were performers of that Sacrifice. Where are they at present? After the passing away from this world they must have gone to some region. What is that region?' Now answer this Yāj˝avalkya; I put you now the same question. I am not going to tell you what I heard from that Gandharva. Now I repeat the question to you. Tell me the dimensions of the world, and tell me where are the Pārikṣitas, the performers of the Aśvamedha Sacrifice, today. Kva pᾱrikṣitᾱ abhavan, sa tvᾱ pṛechᾱmi, yᾱj˝avalkya: I ask you the same question now. You answer me. Kva pᾱrikṣitᾱ abhavann iti: Where are the Pariksitas?"
This is a discussion about what may be called cosmic geography, something very peculiar, not easy to understand, because in Indian cosmological descriptions especially, enumerations are made such as may look very fantastic to the modern investigating mind, world in world and world to extensions incalculable by arithmetical numbers. Some of these descriptions you will find in the Fifth Skanda of the Śrimad Bhāgavata and in some of the other Purānas. The descriptions look fantastic because they cannot be comprehended by an ordinary calculating intellect which takes as reality only what is observable through empirical instruments, telescope, etc. So, a question of that kind was put and an answer of a similar type is given by Yāj˝avalkya.
Sa hovᾱca, uvᾱca vai saḥ vai saḥ agacchan vai te tad yatrᾱśva-medha-yᾱjino gacchantīti: "Hear Bhujyu," answers Yāj˝avalkya. "You ask me where the Pārikṣitas, the descendants of Pārikṣit have gone. I tell you, they have reached those regions which are to be reached by the performers of the Aśvamedha Sacrifice. That is the region they have gone to. This is what the Gandharva must have told you." Kva nv aśva-medha-yᾱjino gacchantīti: "But where do these Aśvamedha Yajins go? You are saying that they have gone to those regions which are to be reached by the performers of the sacrifice – Aśvamedha, but where is that place? Can you give a description of that area, of the terminus which they have reached?" Now, something comes which is not easy to understand. Dvᾱtriṁśataṁ vai deva-ratha-ahnyᾱny ayaṁ lokaḥ, taṁ samantaṁ pṛthivī dvis tᾱvat paryeti: "This world is of the extent of thirty-two times of the dimension which is covered by the chariot of the sun." What is the area which is influenced by the movement of the sun? That region is what can be regarded as this world. It is some very vast extent, indeed. You cannot imagine what is that area which is influenced by the movement of the sun, because it is an astronomical feat to think even of such an extent which covers up all the physical areas connected with the influence of the sun. Dvᾱtriṁśataṁ vai deva-ratha-ahnyᾱny ayaṁ lokaḥ: "This world which I am speaking of and about which I am going to tell you is thirty-two times larger than this area which is covered by the movement of the chariot of the sun. And that earth portion which is thirty-two times larger than the location of the jurisdiction of the sun's movement is covered by the earth principle – taṁ samantaṁ pṛthivī dvis tᾱvat paryeti." Double that extent is covered by the principle of the earth. So the earth, according to him, does not mean only this little globe on which we are living. It is a very vast area covered by the earth element itself. Tᾱṁ samantam pṛthivīm dvis tᾱvat samudraḥ paryeti: "There is a cosmic ocean, which extends beyond this earth principle, and the extent of that ocean is double the extent of that earth principle which I have described to you earlier, which in turn is double the extent referred to as that belonging to the sun." Now, this is perhaps going almost to the borderland of the cosmos. We have gone so far. It is so wide – dvis tᾱvat samudraḥ paryeti, tad yᾱvati kṣurasya dhᾱrᾱ, yᾱvad vᾱ makṣikᾱyᾱḥ pattram, tᾱvᾱn antareṇᾱkᾱśaḥ; tᾱn indraḥ suparṇo bhῡtvᾱ vᾱyave prᾱyacchat: "After reaching that tremendous distance, you will reach what can be called the borderland of the cosmos. The two halves of the Brahmanda, or the Cosmic Egg join, as it were, at that particular part." The juncture is so subtle that you will not be able to know where it is. It is stated here in the Upaniṣhad, "It is so fine as to be compared to the edge of a fine razor or the thickness of the wing of a fly." Very thin indeed. You cannot even know that it is there. When the soul reaches that borderland of the cosmos, Agnī takes possession of it. It is difficult to reach such a noble height. According to some interpretators of this passage, (here the word Indra is used, not Agnī. And Indra does not really mean Agnī) it is God Himself appearing in one form and not as Agnī – suparṇo bhῡtvᾱ vᾱyave prᾱyacchat. God Himself takes one particular shape and transfers the soul to a higher region which is called Vāyu here. And the commentators say that here Vāyu means the Cosmic Vāyu – Hiraṇyagarbha Prāṇa. That region of Hiraṇyagarbha is reached by the help of this Supernormal being called Indra who takes possession of the soul at that particular spot. Some such discussion occurs in the Chhāndogya Upaniṣhad also where we are told that some superhuman being (Atimānava Puruṣha) comes and guides the soul along the path to liberation. Tᾱn vᾱyur ᾱtmani dhitvᾱ tatrᾱgamayad, yatrᾱśva-medha-yᾱjino'bhavann iti. Now Hiraṇyagarbha Prāṇa holds the soul within itself, and then transfers it to the higher region of Īshvara Himself. Evam iva vai sa vᾱyum eva praśaśaṁsa: Yāj˝avalkya says: "Is this the answer you received from that Gandharva who possessed the daughter of Pata˝cala?" "Yes; this is the answer I received. You are telling me the same thing." Sa vᾱyum eva praśaśaṁsa, tasmᾱd vᾱyur eva vyaṣṭiḥ, vᾱyuḥ samaṣṭiḥ: á"This Vāyu that we are speaking of here, the Divine Vital Force, is individual as well as cosmic. Vyaṣti is individual; Samaṣti is cosmic. It is both. It is working through an individual and also operating in the universe as Hiraṇyagarbha, Sūtra-Ātman, or Cosmic Prāṇa. Apa punar mṛtyuṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda. If you know this secret, you will cross over mortality. If this Vāyu that is the topmost region reached by the performers of the Aśvamedha Sacrifice and which has been reached by the Pārikṣitas the descendants of Pārikṣit; if this Supreme Universal energy is realised and known, one transcends death – apa punar mṛtyuṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda. If this realisation could come to anybody, one would reach the same destination which the Pārikṣitas reached." When this answer was given by Yāj˝avalkya, the questioner Bhujyuh kept quiet and occupied his seat – tato ha bhujyur lᾱhyᾱyanir upararᾱma.
If you want to know more about this kind of geography, read the Fifth Skanda of Śrimad Bhāgavata Purāṇa. In the Fifth Skanda of Śrimad Bhāgavata Purāṇa, you will find more interesting details connected with this subject.