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.

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 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? 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.

yadrccha-labha-santusto
dvandvatito vimatsarah
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 then tells her of his conversation with Vadanya and how he is in love with Suprabha. Uttara then admits that she was asked to test his resolve by Vadanya. He takes her leave and then marries the lady he loved.

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Your Cheating Mind Will Tell On You

“And try to sleep
But sleep won’t come
The whole night through
Your cheatin’ heart
Will tell on you”

Remember this song by Hank Williams?

That was my case last night. But before you think that was because of someone or me cheating- that wasn’t the case but yeah, my mind cheated on me. So much for my mindfulness(pun intended).

It all started when my husband surprised me with a tunic he shopped from Shoppers Stop. When he gave it to me, my mind was all over my face.

I couldn’t understand how this caught his attention and that will remain a mystery I’ll never figure out. The cloth is beautiful but the cut isn’t for me. To make it easier for you to understand let me post a picture of the tunic from the web. And if you are wondering how I looked, pretty much the same with the curls. Only that the model is more beautiful than I.

rhesonSo when I asked why this out of all the other interesting pieces from Rheson brand, he responded with, ‘I thought this would be a nice change to your collection.’ And that settled it.

I did not say a word after that but poor guy, he didn’t understand what ticked me off. He was more than happy to have it exchanged.

But with that, I know, it would put a stop to all the future surprises. Why would I want that? So I decided to keep it and unconsciously my mind should have battered around ways of pairings it with jackets or belts to add some definition.

I didn’t even notice it thinking as I went by completing the work that I had on hand. And then I remember retiring to bed and sleeping. And suddenly I wake up feeling thirsty and with that, the thoughts over that dress come back. I noticed my mind thinking of the many ways of wearing it. Can you imagine me watching this whole chatter in the head and the mind unwilling to sleep? I tossed around and tried to reason it out, nothing worked for a while.

That’s why I said, “so much for my mindfulness!” My cheating mind clearly bypassed my notice and thought so much around the tunic that the minute it was awakened it went back to that very thing.

This is what it does best, when we aren’t noticing- taking us on a ride 😉 Last night through the chatter I remembered a verse from Gita- Dhyayato Vishayan Pumsaha Sangasteshoopajayate(Chapter 2, 62).

Truly, those early seekers who became our teachers were so right about the mind. And today being Guru poornima, we could take a minute to remember all the teachers who selflessly shared their wisdom. Can we?

What is “Ashubh” acc to Krishna?

I was watching this Netflix’s documentary “Wild Wild Country”. And While I was on it, I could also see the judging mind. It was busy pointing fingers sometimes at the protagonist and other times at the secondary characters.

Are you aware of your judging mind?

It happens so fast that we barely notice it. Many a time, we don’t even realize we are doing so. But if we took notice, we’d be more open-minded and less opinionated. So dogmatic and biased are our thoughts that if we miss it during its baking process then it would be too late to discern its dark side.

Not only are we quick to judge others but if you observe what attracts us to news, television, series or movies is the dark side. We do not want it in our lives but we sure are interested in people who have witnessed it at close quarters.

On the other hand, I think it is the way of the mind to enrich its own knowledge by also learning from others experiences. But unfortunately, all our learnings are filtered and are dependent upon our current values. So if a teaching is not in agreement with our values at the moment then it barely gets registered. And slowly but steadily, unaware of this judging mind, we will fall among those boring people who could only see the world in black and white, good and bad.

But do we really know what’s bad?

If we were to ask Sri Krishna then according to him it is not our business to judge anything here. The whole truth is somewhere in between the good and the bad.

His idea of Ashubh or bad is being bound by our own actions(KARMABANDHAH)-Bhagavat Gita, chapter 4 Shlok 16th.

He says “we all suffer from this bondage” If we aren’t a karma yogi then we are perpetually stuck in the vicious cycle of cause-effect. It is never ending like Maya, the goddess of illusion and also is indestructible like the Truth.

So the next time when someone would ask you to have a Sankalp(vow) before you act then visualize yourself going round and round in the cycle of cause and effect.

Then what are we to do? A karma yogi would look at the situation at hand and do what is necessary.  Knowing very well that it is not him in the doing and neither are the results his.

It is absurd to think that we alone are responsible for a thing/situation. Everything here is nothing but a ripple-effect. Before a thing landed on your lap it has been transformed by multiple lives already. So it is not your doing alone that has created something here. So we should back off and stop being arrogant by owning the results to the actions 🙂

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Haven’t we heard about the butterfly effect?

Srimad Bhagavat Gita Chapter 12 , 17

Yo na hṛiṣhyati na dveṣhṭi na śhochati na kāṅkṣhati
Shubhāśhubha-parityāgī bhaktimān yaḥ sa me priyaḥ//

Image: Internet

Web Of Illusion

There was this story from a book by Sudha Murthy that I was reading which was thought-provoking. While reading this, it also reminded me of a shloka from the Gita which addressed the same problem wherein  Krishna acknowledges that it is indeed difficult to overcome his web of illusion(Maya) unless we surrender our mind unto him/Truth.

When this comes from the God himself, it just goes to reinforce the gravity required when dealing with his illusion which is spun by none other than God himself. This should break the shackles of ignorance of knowing it all. The idea of ‘knowing it all’ is itself rutted in avidya, isn’t it?

Daivī hyeṣhā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā
Mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te// 7.14

Anyways, let’s get to the story. Will try to make it as short as possible.

So, it begins with Sage Narada being reprimanded by Brahma for poking his nose in common man’s business and advising them to become a sage like him.

Brahma thought this wasn’t right as Narada had no understanding of mortal life. However, this didn’t go quite well with Narada and therefore he approached his mentor Vishnu for some advice.

As always Vishnu had that mischievous smile on him which Narada couldn’t understand. While Narada went about explaining his stance, he was interrupted by Vishnu for a glass of water. Now he didn’t have any water left in his kamandalam so Vishnu advised him to fetch some from the nearest lake.

While Narada dipped the pot into the lake, he saw a series of white steps below the surface of the water and he couldn’t resist going down the stairs. He went deep under the water and came across a beautiful maiden.

Their eyes met and they got talking. They had a lot in common and what swept him off was her deep devotion towards Vishnu. By the end of it, he had fallen in love with her and they got married.

Decades went by, and Narada became the father of sixty children. Life was utterly blissful. But one day, a terrible storm destroyed all that he cherished. One by one, he saw all his children die before him. He and his wife wept bitterly at their helplessness.

Suddenly, a big wave emerged and his wife was swept away by it too. Still holding on to a tree he cried and remembered Vishnu and chanted with all that he had.

And then he felt someone tapping on his shoulder. He opened his eyes and found Vishnu with the same mischievous smile. Narada couldn’t understand where the storm disappeared and still sobbing he told Vishnu what went by.

Vishnu chuckled. Then he finally admitted that he was the one who created that Maya for Narada. For Narada had never tasted attachment-he absolutely had no understanding of the illness(attachment) and yet he advised medication(detachment) to the common man.

So, Vishnu said to Narada that if an accomplished sage like him can get caught in this web of illusion, then how hard it is for the men to stay detached.

Web of Illusion

So, that is the story and poor Narada had to go through all that to understand what it means to lose whatever he gained here living. The only way out for Narada or for anybody is total surrender. The moral of the story is to remind us of the impermanence and to seek refuge in him who is busy spinning 🙂

As much as we think we understand Maya- it further fools us into believing that we are in full control. Just like the storm, it comes from nowhere and hijacks our mind into illusions of fantasy. Without any difficulty, it can keep us occupied with it for decades together.

We all have an experience of how our thoughtless state can be swept into a never-ending wreck of drama with a simple idea of either raga(love) or dvesha(hatred). I am sure no one is devoid of this experience. I believe from this experience should arise the knowledge that Vidya and avidya are two faces of the same coin. If we understand one, we will eventually understand the other.

His Symbols and Our Interpretations

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The world is full of symbols. However you decode them so is your life. Spirituality is not free of concepts. Now is there a right way of decoding it. Have we ever questioned this to ourselves? What we do in the name of religion is it the right way to reach the Ultimate reality “The God”? Or are we doing it according to our beliefs and convenience?

Are we the one to show the light to the One who lightens our whole World inside out?

Are we the one to feed the One who feeds the whole World?

Are we the one to quench the thirst of the One who fills the rivers and water bodies?

Are these not symbols to understand the sookshmaarth. Are we not literally translating and thereby failing to understand the deep meaning of the symbols. Bhagavet Gita shlok 26 in Chapter 9 says

Patram Pushpam Palam Toyam

Yo Me Bhaktya Prayacchati

Tad Aham Bhaktyupahrtam

Ashnami Prayatatmanah

Literal Translation is: He who offers me a leaf, flower, fruit or water with love/devotion. I accept that offering of such pure hearted souls.

We call God the ultimate truth for a reason. He is not like us entangled in the gunas .He is beyond it and equating him to the beings obsessed over the sensory objects is CRIMINAL.

Gita says Ishwara sarva bhutanam Hrd-dese rjuna Tisthatithe If God is in everything then why would he ask for anything from here. There is nothing that is not him in this universe. Then what is he intending to communicate by this verse. That is where Tatva Jnanis like Shankaracharya, to name one has defined this beautifully.

Patram—the Leaf, our wavering MIND

Pushpam—-the flower, our blossomed Intellect

Phalam—-the fruit, our fruits of actions (both levels: physical and mental)

Thoyam—the water, our Chittam

He is asking us to surrender that wavering mind, intellect, karma phalam and chittam to him. Since you are a part of the supreme Reality, he is asking us to connect to him. Now that makes sense, if you do not get the leaf, fruits or water it is okay. But you are in control of your subtle body and that is what you can offer to him.

So, the symbol or concepts that were brought to existence is to remind us of our Real Identity. When we light the lamp, it is to remind us to shun that ignorance and to bring knowledge or light to be one with the Truth. When we offer water, it is to remind us that as water takes the form of the vessel it is in. So can your chittam take the form of GOD(devoid of thoughts..Silence is his language). Offering flowers symbolises the Buddhi devoid of Aham Aakaram.

If we revisit our practices to understanding God, we might end up understanding Us. The only reason we all look up to “he” is to attain peace and to silence that blabbering head. We can do that and that is what Vyasa Maharishi is trying to teach us in this Divine conversation between Krishna (Consciousness) and Arjuna (Mind).