I can still hear my husband(in my head) cautioning me on the title of this post, he thinks it is contentious for such a blog. I answered him, saying, “This is not a made-up story; in fact, I borrowed it from the great epic Mahabharatam. So how can this title be controversial?” He is my in-house editor, you see! 🙂
But you know what? I think for our early ancestors, no topic of human need was either discountenanced or controversial. Every basic human need was explored carefully before they declared that indulgence in any NEED beyond the BALANCE point could turn even something pleasurable into a painful experience.
The real seekers don’t care about being judged. Neither do they deny themselves nor shy away from any basic need. Be that be sex, hunger or thirst.
Mahabharata itself is replete with instances of great men trying to keep them safe when the fire of need aroused. Just off the top of my head, I do remember reading 2 stories on Sage Viswamitra willing to eat Dog’s meat to keep his body alive and the Guru Ashtavakra smitten with a beautiful woman.
Now did they mention these stories to belittle them? No. It was put there for all of us see that they were just like us, battling the same emotions and yet striking a balance.
Those snippets from their lives had encouraged many to achieve that BALANCE by looking into the eye of any distraction that came their way. By doing that they understood that pair of opposites/dualities/Dvandas can all be transcended because they are just so trivial and momentary compared to their own self. And that is why, Bhagavat Gita says “Dvandva-Atitah”, meaning Transcend the Dualities(4,22) and you will stay put in Yoga.
samah siddhav asiddhau ca
krtvapi na nibadhyate//
He who is satisfied with gain which comes of its own accord, who is free from duality and does not envy, who is steady both in success and failure, is never entangled, although performing actions.
Now, this is why I am so much in love with the Vedic literature. It explores every aspect of human personality and looks at none with disgust. You have to learn to look everything with the same eye to keep your mind in place. And that comes with the knowledge of things that can draw you away from your own self. Else the mind will take you wherever it goes and you will have to partake in its guilt and pain.
So here it is, the story shared by Bhishma to Yudishtra about the Sage Ashtavakra meeting the Seductress Uttara.
Ashtavakra decides to marry Suprabha, daughter of the sage Vadanya. He conveyes his desire to Vadanya, who decides to test Ashtavakra.
Vadanya then asks Ashtavakra to proceed north to Kailash, greet Shiva and Parvati, and then go further north to visit the abode of the damsels, stirajya, and to speak with their ruler, Uttara. On the return, Vadanya promises to marry his daughter to Ashtavakra.
Ashtavakra sets forth and reaches the Himalayas, there he meets the King Kuber. He stays there for a year, watching the dance of the apsaras, and Kuber was both surprised by this Sage’s unusual behaviour and was equally happy to serve him.
Almost after a year with Kuber, he decides to continue his journer after meeting Lord Shiva. Atlast he reaches his destination and is greeted with seven beautiful women. He couldn’t but admire those beautiful beings but then takes control and asks for Uttara.
Uttara welcomes him and she tries her best to engage him in discussion revolving around love and erotica. Ashtavakra then prepares to leave but she begs him to stay back and marry her. Ashtavakra declines her offer but she tries in every way to seduce him.
Ashtavakra slowly moves away and tells her of his conversation with Vadanya and how he is in love with Suprabha. To that Uttara smiles and reveals that she was asked to test his resolve. She blesses him and wishes him happiness.