The Sage Meets The Seductress

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. Well, 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.

Mahabharata itself is replete with instances of great men trying not to loose their Yogic state each time the fire of need aroused. Just off the top of my head, I do remember reading 2 stories on sage Viswamitra willing to steal Dog’s meat to keep himself alive and Guru Ashtavakra being seduced by a beautiful woman.

Now did they mention these stories to belittle them or for us to judge 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 seekers to strike a BALANCE endowed with TOTAL Knowledge, both of the Unchanging Purusha and that of Changing World. With that knowledge, the pair of opposites/Dvandas can be transcended as it exposes their transitory nature  in comparison to the Unchanging one. And Bhagavad Gita assures the seekers that free of Dualities and striking a Balance will never get them entangled in their actions. They will be a YOGI.

dvandvatito vimatsarah
samah siddhav asiddhau ca
krtvapi na nibadhyate//4,22

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.

The others are all BHOGI, who are drawn away from their own self. Their mind will wander in Vishayas and will have to partake guilt, shame and pain.

So here it is, the story shared by Bhishma to Yudhishtra about the Sage Ashtavakra meeting the Seductress Uttara.

Ashtavakra decides to marry Suprabha, daughter of the sage Vadanya. He expresses 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 journey and reaches the abode of Lord Shiva to seek his blessings. He continues his journey and at last reaches his destination. There, he is greeted by 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. For a moment, he is displaced from his state and his mind runs forth to engage with the celestial nymph. But Ashtavakra, being a yogi established in his Self comes back to his senses. As he then prepares to leave she begs him to stay back and marry her Looking at the youthful attractive body of Uttara, the sage replies,

“You make thirst more thirsty, add flames to desire. O you vibrantly
youthful one, goddess, you are the dazzling light of  the
secret thoughts’ abode. … raising storms with your breath, you are an
intoxicating festival. But it is you who also have brought me to realize my resolve to marry Subrabha…Hence You are my friend. for I see the same SELF exhilarating through this youthful body of yours .”

Ashtavakra very humbly declines her offer and informs her the reason for his visit. He tells her his conversation with Vadanya and about his marriage with Suprabha. Uttara then admits that she was asked to test his resolve by Vadanya. She blesses him, following which Ashtavakra returns to marry Suprabha, as per Mahabharata Anushasanaparva Chapter 19.