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Śiṣupāla – Redeeming Animosity

Says the peerless Tamil saint and poetess, Avvai, ‘செய்வன திருந்தச் செய்’ (seivana tirundas-sei), ‘do what you do, perfectly’. This adage is accurate in case of all human endeavors, and more so in the case of spiritual endeavors. No half-hearted attempt has ever been known to yield great results, and surprisingly, even animosity when directed at God whole-heartedly can result in a gratifying end. In short, complete absorption in an activity can result in the highest end, including in the earning of Divine grace.

This vital lesson in human endeavor is exemplified in the life of Śiṣupāla, the king of a kingdom called Cedi. In describing Śiṣupāla, Nammāzhvār states, “Śiṣupāla, who singed to the ears of all those who listened, with his unyielding expletives aimed at (Kṛṣṇa)”. The king of Cedi bore nothing but unmitigated animosity towards Kṛṣṇa. Wicked of deed and mean of spirit, Śiṣupāla was comrade of Rukmī. Rukmī was very keen that his lovely sister and the princess of Vidarbha, Rukmiṇī, should be given in marriage not to Kṛṣṇa, the cowherd, but to Śiṣupāla, the kṣatriya lord of the great kingdom of Cedi. Rukmiṇī however, would not hear of this. Her heart was consumed with the dark lord, and she surrendered unto the lord through an outpouring of her heart’s yearning in the form of a letter. Moved by Rukmiṇī’s love, Kṛṣṇa rushed to Vidarbha and carried her away, much to the chagrin of Rukmī, Śiṣupāla and all others who opposed the alliance. This blow to Śiṣupāla’s pride fanned his innate animosity towards Kṛṣṇa further, until it became all consuming. All Śiṣupāla could think about every waking moment, was how he would vanquish Kṛṣṇa.
His absorption in Kṛṣṇa became an unyielding constant, remaining in his conscious mind, every minute of every day, albeit murderous. In other words, he spent his lifetime, literally plotting to kill Kṛṣṇa. However, Śiṣupāla’s murderous intentions found no expression, for Kṛṣṇa’s valor was unmatched. The king of Cedi found himself met with disgrace every time he faced Kṛṣṇa in battle. The only expression Śiṣupāla could find for his pent up animosity, was verbal abuse.

In the court of Yudhiṣṭhira during the occasion of the Rājasūya-yāga soon after the war at Kurukṣetra, an argument broke out over who should be worshipped as the guest of honor. The Pāṇḍava, Sahadeva, rose and addressed the august gathering. He stated, “Acyuta must be honored, for he is the Supreme Being. His grace has resulted in the various activities we witness here today. If he is honored, all beings are honored, including ourselves”. Śiṣupāla who was amongst the gathering began shaking with rage. His eyes belying his murderous intentions, he said aloud for everyone to hear, “time is indeed powerful, for the wise are today swayed by the words of a mere boy. There are great men in this gathering today, who are worthy of worship of kings owing to their nobility and their learning. Why must the cowherd Kṛṣṇa who is a disgrace to his very family, be worshipped? He is as deserving of worship as a crow is deserving of the sacred offerings of sacrifices”. Dissatisfied with the expletives, Śiṣupāla continued in this vein, causing the members of the gathering great distress. People covered their ears, cringing from the unspeakable sin of denouncing the Supreme Being, and began walking away, afraid that the sin would accrue to them as well. The sons of the Pāṇḍavas took great offense to Śiṣupāla’s fulminations. Swords drawn ready to strike, they faced Śiṣupāla. The king of Cedi did not shy away from the challenge. He drew his sword and charged forth, his eyes aglow with fury and venom. The Supreme Lord knew that the moment for Śiṣupāla’s liberation was at hand. Recognizing that liberation could be Śiṣupāla’s only if his end were going to be at the hands of Kṛṣṇa, the lord flung his discus even before the sons of the Pāṇḍavas had a chance to strike. In a trice, the Sudarśana found its mark, and even as the gathering watched on, a glow emerged from the lifeless body of Śiṣupāla to merge in Kṛṣṇa.


Says the Śrīmadbhāgavatam in this regard,


जन्मत्रयानुगुणितवैरसंरब्धया धिया।
ध्यायंस्तन्मयतां यातो भावो हि भवकारणम्॥

janmatrayānuguṇitavairasaṁrabdhayā dhiyā|
dhyāyaṁstanmayatāṁ yāto bhāvo hi bhavakāraṇam||

With an intellect that had been addled by animosity that burgeoned over three births, he meditated (upon Kṛṣṇa) and merged (in Kṛṣṇa). Indeed, is the (consuming) sentiment (of the heart) the determinant of births.

Śrīmadbhāgavata, 10.74.46

In other words, the animosity Śiṣupāla harbored in his previous births, determined his present birth as Śiṣupāla, who was perfect in his animosity towards Kṛṣṇa, and it was that perfection of sentiment that resulted in his liberation.
Śiṣupāla was none other than Jaya, the attendant of the lord of Vaikuṇṭha, who had been cursed to assume three rākṣasic-births, and to attain the lord through animosity. Jaya was born first as Hiraṇyakaśipu and the lord as Nṛsimha slew him. He was next born as Rāvaṇa and the lord as Rāma vanquished him. He was finally born as Śiṣupāla and was slain by Kṛṣṇa to merge in the Supreme.
In the Viṣṇu-Purāṇa, sage Maitreya asks the great Parāśara why it is that Śiṣupāla alone merged in the lord, when Hiraṇyakaśipu and Rāvaṇa, though slain by the lord too, were forced to be reborn. Said Parāśara in response, “(even more than Hiraṇyakaśipu and Ravāṇa,) Śiṣupāla’s thoughts were constantly engrossed in the Supreme Being. He thus merged in the Supreme after death”. It is perfection in endeavor, in Śiṣupāla’s case animosity, that drew Divine grace upon him. Divine grace in turn resulted in liberation. Says Parāśara in the Viṣṇu-Purāṇa of Śiṣupāla’s complete absorption in his chosen endeavor of animosity,

शङ्खचक्रगदासिधरं अतिप्रौढवैरानुभावात्
अटन-भोजन-स्नानासन- शयनादिष्वशेषावस्थान्तरेषु
नैवापययावस्यात्मचेतसः॥

śaṅkhacakragadāsidharaṁ atiprauḍhavairānubhāvāt
aṭana-bhojana-snānāsana-śayanādiṣvaśeṣāvasthāntareṣu
naivāpayayāvasyātmacetasaḥ||

He, the bearer of the (famed) conch, discus, the mace and the sword, never left his (Śiṣupāla’s) thoughts, who was driven by unmitigated animosity, while he wandered about, ate, bathed, sat, reclined, or engaged in anything else.

Viṣṇu-Purāṇa, 4.15.8

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Pralaya – The End of Time

The word pralaya is comprised of the prefix ‘pra’ attached to the verbal root, ‘lī’, meaning ‘destruction’. The prefix acts as an intensifier in this case, and the word pralaya consequently means, absolute destruction. In philosophy and in religious literature, the term Pralaya is attached to the concept of destruction that invariably follows a cycle of creation, and is viewed more as a necessary reprieve from the drudgery of existence. However, the nature of this destruction or pralaya is horrifying. Before delving into the nature of pralaya, pralaya is in itself categorized into two kinds, naimittika-pralaya and prākṛta-pralaya.

Naimittika-pralaya or elemental dissolution is the destruction of the three lower worlds of, Bhū, Bhuvaḥ and Suvaḥ, at the end of a thousand catruyugas. The Viṣṇu-Purāṇa states that at the end of a thousand caturyugas or at the end of Brahmā’s day, a complete dearth envelops the lower worlds, that lasts a hundred (mortal) years. As a consequence of famine, all created beings inhabiting these three worlds perish. The Supreme Being then assumes the nature of Rudra and enters the seven rays of the sun. He consumes all the water present in the three worlds and causes all the moisture to evaporate. Fed by the moisture, the seven rays of the sun manifest as seven mighty suns, radiating unimaginable heat. The burgeoning heat then sets the three worlds on fire, along with the nether world of Pātāla. This heat leaves the three worlds bereft of everything, and as dry as the shell of a tortoise. Rudra then becomes the scorching breath of Ādiśeṣa and reduces Pātāla and the three worlds to ashes. The eddying flames continue to blaze, heating up the Maharloka and causing the denizens of that world to resort to the higher world of Janaḥ. Rudra, after having thus consumed the lower worlds, heaves a sigh that is converted to enormous clouds that resemble elephants in size. Accompanied by strokes of lightning and claps of thunder, these cataclysmic clouds rain down showers in droplets the size of dice, until the fiery-wreath of cataclysm is put out. The shower accumulates to form a deluge, inundating Pātāla and the three worlds. The affected regions remain inundated and plunged in abysmal darkness for a hundred years, until the Supreme Being as Brahmā, awakens the next morning and creates the destroyed worlds all over again. In this naimittika-pralaya all of creation does not cease to exist. All of creation is reduced to non-existence in prākṛta-pralaya, and the phenomenon is explained as follows in the Viṣṇu-Purāṇa.

When famine and fire consume the three worlds and all seven nether worlds and when the will of the Supreme is to annihilate creation entirely, created beings and objects begin to disintegrate. All of creation is then broken down to the basic nature of the element of earth, which is smell. Smell is consumed in cataclysmic deluge. Water is reduced to its elemental nature, namely taste and is swallowed by cataclysmic fire. Form, the elemental nature of fire is put out by cataclysmic wind, which then is disintegrated to its elemental nature of touch. Touch is absorbed in ether and stands enveloping all that remains. Ether, the elemental property of which is sound, remains unembodied, until it is consumed by the great ‘I’ or ahaṅkāra. Ahaṅkāra which is essentially a combination of consciousness and darkness, is swallowed by mahat. Mahat, the innate nature of which is intelligence, is consumed in prakṛti. Prakṛti that is gross is sucked into its subtle form. The subtle form of prakṛti is then absorbed in the Supreme Spirit. All of creation, including the creator as Brahmā thus remain imperceptible until the cycle of creation is willed by the Supreme yet again. This prakṛti-pralaya or elemental dissolution takes place at the end of a time frame referred to as param, the lifespan of Brahmā. The Vedas state that after a period of abysmal darkness, the Supreme wills creation, and the process of creation that is the exact inverse of the process of pralaya described here, commences. The Viṣṇu-Purāṇa states that the period between prakṛti-pralaya and Śṛṣṭi (creation) is the time Śrīmannārāyaṇa closes his eyes in slumber. It is stated that creation is commenced and sustained during the waking hours of Nārāyaṇa and is stilled during his restful hours.

यदा जागर्ति विश्वात्मा तदा चेष्टते जगत्।
निमीलत्येतदखिलं योगशय्याशयेऽच्युते॥

yadā jāgarti viśvātmā tadā ceṣṭate jagat|
nimīlatyetadakhilaṁ yogaśayyāśaye’cyute||

When the Supreme Soul, the essence of creation, is awake, the universe functions. When Acyuta resorts to the (quietude) of mystic slumber, all of this (creation) is felled into stupor.

Viṣṇu-Purāṇa


To get a better understanding of the time frame of a caturyuga, please refer to our article entitled, Kāla – The Eternal Fabric of Creation.


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Dhruva – Fate too bows down to the brave

Often are we encountered with the caution that destiny has the last laugh. Man is proposed to be helpless against the tide of destiny; a mere puppet in the hands of the task master, karma. While it is undeniable that the consequences of deeds of the past hold sway over all created beings, it is not necessarily true that karma is insurmountable. By the grace of the Supreme, by the compassion of the guru, and in extraordinary cases, by arduous effort, fate too is made to bow before man. Simply put, the ill effects of past actions can be mitigated and even surmounted, with the right effort or divine grace, suggest the Purāṇas. Here is an instance of one such extraordinary individual, Dhruva.
Svāyambhuva Manu had two valiant and pious sons, Priyavrata and Uttānapāda. Uttānapāda had two wives, Suruci and Sunīti. Valiant and pious as Uttānapāda was, he had one flaw. He was biased towards Suruci, his older wife, and was under her sway most times. Once, Uttama, the son born to the king and Suruci, sat in the lap of his father in court and was being coddled by Uttānapāda. Dhruva, the son of Sunīti and Uttānapāda, all of five years, walked in at this juncture. As is understandable, Dhruva looked at Uttama and desired to be cuddled by his father similarly. Too young to understand the undercurrent of favoritism and envy that riddled the king and queen, the innocent child walked towards Uttānapāda, desirous of ascending his father’s lap. To his dismay, Dhruva was met with uncharitable words from his step-mother. Suruci said to the tender lad, “child, you harbor unsustainable hope. Sure, you are the son of the king. However, you were not fortunate enough to have been born of my womb, and none other than a son of my womb is worthy of this throne”.
Deeply saddened by the acrid words of Suruci and the apathy of a father who was a prisoner to his wife’s opinions, Dhruva rushed to the inner chamber of his mother. Sunīti looked upon the drooping face and moist eyes of her dear son and asked him what the matter was. In response Dhruva narrated what had happened, and to his dismay, found his mother not enraged but helpless. She said to Dhruva, her eyes filled with sadness, “son, Suruci’s words are indeed true. Remember always, my son, that fortune is in proportion to one’s merits. Suruci’s merits are far greater than mine, and she enjoys the favor of the king, as a result. You are the unfortunate son of my womb, and not the fruit of the womb of your father’s favorite queen, Suruci. Hence, Dhruva, be content with what you have. If however, Suruci’s words continue to bring you pain, act in such a manner as to accumulate religious merit. This will draw prosperity and happiness to you”.
Dhruva was not comforted by the words of his mother. He said to her, “mother, I shall ensure through assiduous effort, that I attain to a state where the entire world reveres me. Let Uttama enjoy the throne bestowed upon him by his father. I desire nothing other than what my own actions can earn me”. With these words, the tender boy of five left the city and resorted to the thickets of a forest.
In the woods, he came across the Saptarṣis, seated on deer-hide and engaged in penance. Surprised that a tender lad of four or five and one who was clearly of royal descent wandered into the forest, they asked him why he was there. Dhruva responded that he desired to attain to a state that none had so far succeeded in attaining. Astonished by the words of the tender lad, the sages suggested that Dhruva propitiate lord Viṣṇu, without whose grace, they stated, Dhruva’s endeavor could never be achieved. They then said to him, “child, the mind must first forsake all other desires. It must then be fixed unshakably on Viṣṇu, who is the indweller of all created beings. With such an unwavering mind, repeat the mantra ‘om namo Vāsudevāya śuddha- jñāna-svarīpiṇe’. The lord is bound to be pleased”.
Grateful for the advice and the mantra, Dhruva saluted the sages with reverence and proceeded to Madhuvana upon the banks of Yamunā. He engaged in penance with a singular heart. Days turned into months and Dhruva was consumed with contemplation of the Supreme. Called upon with such earnestness, the lord could scarce resist Dhruva. Soon, he took residence in the heart of Dhruva, and the earth began to labor under the weight of the matchless Dhruva. The devas were alarmed, and they tried in myriad ways to break Dhruva’s concentration. Failing to do so, they pleaded with lord Viṣṇu to answer Dhruva’s prayers so that he would desist from penance. The lord appeared before Dhruva as requested by the devas but found that his physical presence too was insufficient to disturb Dhruva’s absorption. Dhruva remained consumed in contemplation.
The lord unsealed his rosy lips and called out to Dhruva in his nectarine voice. He said, “son of Uttānapāda, arise. Behold, I stand before you, eager to grant you any boon of your desire”. Hearing these words, Dhruva slowly opened his eyes. Overwhelmed by the sight he beheld, Dhruva sought first to be blessed with the ability to eulogize the Incomprehensible Supreme, who stood before him, personified. Blessed with the knowledge-bestowing touch of the divine conch, Dhruva began glorifying the lord. Urged on further to seek a boon, Dhruva said, “Supreme One, you are the indweller of my heart and are thus no foreigner to my desire. I was told by my step-mother that I do not deserve the throne of my father. I seek therefore, a station superior to everything in creation”. Said the lord in response, “Dhruva, a station by your name shall be assigned to you, that shall rest above the three worlds. The sun, the moon, the stars, the planets and the station of the Saptarṣis too shall remain inferior to yours. You shall remain in power for a period of a Kalpa”. Thus, Dhruva not only pleased the lord with his efforts, but also rewrote the course of fate. Rightfully indeed is it stated,

साहसे श्रीः प्रतिवसति

sāhase śrīḥ prativasati

In (brave) endeavor rests good fortune

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Kāla – The Eternal Fabric of Creation

The Sanskrit word ‘Kāla’ has several connotations, each of which informs an aspect of the concept of time in the Bhāratīya tradition. To name a few connotations attached to the word Kāla – time, fate, death, the God of death, the color black. Most significant of these senses conveyed by the term Kāla, is the sense of time. Unlike in western understanding, time is not linear in the Bhāratīya tradition. Nor is it considered a reality. Time is considered an illusory concept that comes into existence when creation is in place, and is considered cyclic. In that, what is present today neither has a beginning nor an end. The beginning or birth is an illusion of creation, and the end or death is the disappearance from creation or verily the disappearance of creation itself. To put it in simple terms, time is a unit that measures the existence of all created objects. When created beings cease to exist, so does the unit that measures it. Just as all created beings are conceptualized as a reflection of the divine or a spark of the divine, so too is time. The Supreme Being thus becomes the unit that measures the span of each created being, which too in reality, are sparks of the very same divine. The Supreme Being also becomes the force (kāla as death) that causes the cessation of a created being, for it is his will that sustains creation. He is thus referred to as Kālakāla. Parāśara states in the Viṣṇu-Purāṇa,

कालस्वरूपं विष्णोश्च यन्मयोक्तं तवानघ।

kālasvarūpaṁ viṣṇośca yanmayoktaṁ tavānagha|

As I have stated earlier, Time is Viṣṇu himself.

Kāla, time, is set in motion with the appearance of the first being, Brahmā. The life span of this first creation then becomes a yardstick in the measurement of the life span of all creation. Brahmā is said to remain created for a period of a hundred years that is referred to as ‘param’. However, these hundred years are not comprised of what we popularly understand to be a year. A day in Brahmā’s life span is not the classic day known to us, that is made up of twenty-four hours. For the sake of better understanding – A day in Brahmā’s life is the duration during which the three worlds of Bhū, Bhuva and Suva are said to be sustained. Purāṇas state that these three worlds are destroyed when night falls upon Brahmā and sleep takes over. In other words, the hundred years spoken of as the life span of Brahmā, are, for want of a better expression, divine years. Let us now start with the basic unit of time in mortal terms and build up to ‘param’, the life span of Brahmā.

The time taken for the blinking of the eyes of a resting man is said to be a nimeśa or a mātrā. Fifteen nimeśas comprise a kāṣṭha. Thirty Kāṣṭhas make a kalā, and thirty kalās are said to make a muhūrta. Thirty muhūrtas constitute one day and one night of a mortal. Fifteen days are comprised in a fortnight and two fortnights or thirty days make a month. Six such months make an ayana (or the time taken by the sun to progress north or south of the ecliptic). Two ayanas comprise a year in the mortal world.

Uttarāyaṇa or the time taken by the sun to progress north is said to be the day of the devas or celestials, and dakṣiṇāyana or the six months taken by the sun to progress south, is said to be a night. In other words, approximately three hundred and sixty-five mortal days comprise a day in celestial terms. Twelve thousand celestial years make a caturyuga or a cycle of four epochs. A thousand such caturyugas constitute a day in the life span of Brahmā, and seventy-one caturyugas are collectively called a Manvantara, or the time when a particular divine entity under the title ‘Manu’, reigns. It must be borne in mind that, three lower worlds are destroyed and recreated with every new day in the life of Brahmā.

It is stated that the worlds of Bhū, Bhuva and Suva are consumed in fire when Brahmā falls asleep, and that the denizens of the next world, Maha, resort of the higher world of Janaloka, unable to bear the heat of annihilation. Brahmā then awakens the subsequent morning and creates the three lower worlds afresh. Brahmā’a life span is said to be a hundred years of such days. The hundred years are collectively known as a Param and are subdivided into two parārdhas (or half-paras). The first parārdha is called the Padma-kalpa, and the second parārdha is termed Varāha-kalpa. At the end of a Param, Brahmā too returns to the state of non-existence in what is termed the Mahāpralaya or absolute cataclysm. All fourteen worlds are reduced to the state of non-existence then. After a period of abysmal non-existence, it is stated in the Vedas that the Supreme wills for creation to take place all over again, and the cycle beginning from a nimeśa to the Param commences all over again. Thus, Kāla is both cyclic and an illusion in the Bhāratīya tradition and a reflection of the Supreme Being. It is also the eternal fabric upon which creation is sustained.

कालोऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत् प्रवृद्धो
लोकान् संहर्तुं इह प्रवृत्तः।

kālo’smi lokakṣayakṛt pravṛddho
lokān saṁhartuṁ iha pravṛttaḥ|

I am Kāla, the destroyer of the universe, risen. I have proceeded forth to consume all created beings (of the fourteen worlds).

Bhagavadgītā

कालमुहूर्तादिमयश्च कालो न यद्विभूतेः परिणामहेतुः।

अजन्मनाशस्य समस्तमूर्तेरनामयस्य सनातनस्य॥

kālamuhūrtādimayaśca kālo na yadvibhūteḥ pariṇāmahetuḥ|

ajanmanāśasya samastamūrteranāmayasya sanātanasya||

The birthless one who is beyond decay, is ancient, and is one personified as all (of creation). He is Kāla, comprised of moments, hours and years. It is by his prowess that change accrues to us.

– Viṣṇu-Purāṇa

Time as understood on earth

Time taken for the twinkling of the eyes = nimeṣa/1 mātrā
15 nimeṣas/mātrās = 1 kāṣṭha
30 kāṣṭhas = 1 kalī
30 kalās = 1 muhūrta (approximately 48 minutes in modern time)
30 muhūrtas = 1 day and 1 night (24 hours)
15X30 muhūrtas = 1 pakṣa (fortnight)
2 pakṣas = 1 māsa (month)
6 māsas = 1 ayana (time taken for a solstice)
2 ayanas = 1 samvatsara (year)

Time in celestial terms

1 samvatsara (in human terms) = 1 celestial day
365 celestial days = 1 celestial year3
12,000 celestial years = 1 caturyuga (cycle of four epochs)

Time with regard to Brahmā

1000 caturyugas = 1 day for Brahmā (approximately 1,598,700,000,000 mortal days, after which the three worlds of Bhū, Bhuvaḥ, Suvaḥ are destroyed)
365 Brahmā days = 1 Brahmā year
50 Brahmā years = 1 parārdha
2 parārdhas = lifespan of Brahmā
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Bhakti – What Can It Achieve?

The appropriate question to pose would be, ‘Bhakti – What can it NOT achieve?’ At the offset, what is Bhakti? Traditionally several explanations are offered to explain what comprises bhakti. Some state Bhakti is devotion to a personified Godhead, while others maintain that Supreme Wisdom must be defined as Bhakti. To put it in a nutshell, Bhakti is a consuming fire of the soul that takes several forms. In the great Yogic masters, it takes the form of yearning for union with a higher force. In the Karma-Yogī, Bhakti becomes inextricable dedication to his duty. In a devotee of a personal God, Bhakti becomes an all-consuming love for that beloved Godhead. Bhakti can be as simple as pure love for a friend and as profound as the yearning for one’s soul. No description is comprehensive and no description is entirely false. Ādi Śaṅkara says,

अङ्कोलं निजबीजसन्ततिरयस्कातोपलं सूचिका
साध्वी नैजविभुं लताक्षितिरुहं सिन्धुः सरिद्वल्लभम्।
प्राप्नोतीह यथा तथा पशुपतेः पादारविन्दद्वयं
चेतोवृत्तिरुपेत्य तिष्ठति सदा सा भक्तिरित्युच्यते॥

aṅkolaṁ nijabījasantatirayaskātopalaṁ sūcikā
sādhvī naijavibhuṁ latākṣitiruhaṁ sindhuḥ saridvallabham|
prāpnotīha yathā tathā paśupateḥ pādāravindadvayaṁ
cetovṛttirupetya tiṣṭhati sadā sā bhaktirityucyate||

Bhakti is a constant tug at the heart, drawing one towards the creator – much like the tug that inexplicably attaches the Aṅkola seed to its tree trunk, the tug that draws an iron needle to the magnet, the love that binds a noble wife to her beloved husband, the inexorable entwinement of a creeper and the tree it rests upon, the inevitable magnetism between the river and the sea.

– Śivānandalaharī, 61

1. It is believed that the seeds of the Aṅkola tree that are exposed from insects consuming the fruits, return to stick to the tree trunk when rains begin. The seeds then sprout around the tree and grow into separate trees at the base of the parent tree.

A glorious example of such a constant and undying love for the creator was personified by Kannapan. To the undiscerning, Kaṇṇappan was a hunter who was neither read in the scriptures nor given to any form of penance. The Bhāratīya tradition however, glorifies Kaṇṇappan as one amongst the sixty-three Tamil Śaivite saints.

In a small village called Uḍuppūr near modern day Kālahastī was a hunter-chieftan, Nāgan. His son was the valorous Tiṇṇan, a precious son begotten by the grace of Almighty, after many years of yearning on the part of the parents. Nāgan annointed him chief of the huntsmen tribe and Tiṇṇan set out along with a few others, for his first hunt as chief. In the thick of the forest, an engrossed Tiṇṇan was separated from his kinsmen, as he raced after a scurrying wild boar. He managed to catch up to the beast by foot of the hill and to shoot it down, when his eyes fell upon an exquisite Śiva-Liṅga. Tiṇṇan was smitten. One of the tribesmen alone, who had managed to keep pace with Tiṇṇan, stood there, a witness to the inexplicable love that welled up within Tiṇṇan. Unable to tear himself away from the Liṅgam, Tiṇṇan asks his tribesman to leave for Uḍuppūr and to inform his parents that he had decided to stay on in the forest.

Tiṇṇan became consumed with the Śiva-Liṅgam. To him, the Liṅgam was not just a phallic representation, but a living receptacle of his undying love. He conversed with the Liṅgam as he would with a comrade. He inquired of the Liṅgam, ‘are you hungry? Do not fret; I shall bring you the juiciest meal in a jiffy.’ He would leave in order to hunt prey and would return with freshly hunted meat in his hands, water from the river in his mouth, and wild flowers carried in the matted locks of his hair. He would offer the best portion of the meat to the Liṅgam, spit the water upon it as consecrated offering, and shower the Liṅgam with the wild flowers preserved in his matted locks.

A pious preist who had been worshipping the Liṅgam for long, once arrived when Tiṇṇan was away hunting, and was aghast at the sacrilege. He initially believed the meat had been scattered by wild beasts. When the priest found meat at the altar everyday, he became deeply pained. He bemoaned the sacrilege and pleaded with the Lord, ‘who has dared to defile thee thus?’ The Lord appeared in the dream of the priest and said to him, ‘do not mistake the offerings to be sacrileges against me. Th offerings are in fact an outpouring of unimaginable love and adulation. If you wish to see the extent of the devotion of my dear devotee, hide behind the bushes tomorrow and watch.’

The next morning, the priest did as the Lord had instructed him to, and watched with horror, as Tiṇṇan offered meat and spat water unpon the Śiva-Liṅgam. Tiṇṇan began entreating the Lord with loving words. He said, ‘Eat, my Lord. This is the delicious meat of the forehead of a plump wild boar. I can assure you it is delicious because I tasted it first’. As he entreated the Lord thus, blood began trickling down the left eye of the Liṅgam. Tiṇṇan was alarmed. He rushed towards the Liṅgam and tried to wipe the eye with his garment. He then rushed into the forest and brought medicinal herbs to apply to the bleeding eye. When the the bleeding did not abate, he pulled out an arrow and gouged out his left eye. He then placed the eye as a replacement for the diseased eye of the Lord. Much to Tiṇṇana’s delight, the bleeding ceased immediately and Tiṇṇan danced in joy. Within a few seconds however, the other eye of the Lord began bleeding. Tiṇṇan was not fazed. He rejoiced on the other hand, for he had another eye to offer. He placed his left foot (along with the sandals) upon the eye of the lord so that he would be able find the spot when he was blind. He drew out an arrow from his quiver and readied himself to gouge his right eye out, when the Lord burst forth from the Liṅgam with the words, ‘halt Kaṇṇappa; halt. You are henceforth Kaṇṇappan’.

Glorifying Kaṇṇappan and the power of such love, Ādi Śaṅkara says,

मार्गावर्तितपादुका पशुपतेरङ्गस्य कूर्चायते
गण्डूषाम्बुनिषेचनं पुररिपोर्दिव्याभिषेकायते।
किञ्चिद्भक्षितमांसशेषकवलं नव्योपहारायते
भक्तिः किं न करोत्यहो वनचरो भक्तावतंसायते॥

mārgāvartitapādukā paśupateraṅgasya kūrcāyate
gaṇḍūṣāmbuniṣecanaṁ puraripordivyābhiṣekāyate|
kiñcidbhakṣitamāṁsaśeṣakavalaṁ navyopahārāyate
bhaktiḥ kiṁ na karotyaho vanacaro bhaktāvataṁsāyate||

A pair of sandals that walks the streets became the crown of the Lord. Water spat from the mouth became verily (waters offerd in) ceremonial bathing. A morsel of meat that was offered after it had been tasted was transformed to a freshly-prepared consecrated offering, and an uncouth forest dweller was transformed into a crestjewel amongst devotees. What indeed is beyond the reach of Bhakti?!

– Śivānandalaharī, 63

2. The one who placed his healthy eye upon the diseased eye of the Lord.

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Persistence and yearning – Yoga for today’s man

Much has been said of the need for mindful living, and for the need for detachment from materialism. In today’s world that is suffused with both unimaginable pleasures and unthinkable pressures, how feasible is it to lead a life of detachment and mindfulness? Are we all capable of realizing who we truly are, and of what truly comprise the essentials of life? In this fast paced world where every noble act is impeded by a lack of deeper faith or by a lack of true dedication, can man escape the clutches of materialism? Is modern man capable of dedicating himself to a higher cause, or is he capable of sustaining such a monumental effort as seeking liberation? Is he capable of withdrawing from this world into a forest as is described in ancient texts, and is that the only way to attain liberation?

The answer to that quandary lies in persistence, and in recognizing what true Yoga (union with a higher force) is. Great achievements, even that of true wisdom, does not fructify overnight. Sustained effort and the desire to see the task through, are the two pillars upon which triumph sits. The Yogasūtras of the great Patañjali state that triumph (in liberation) rests on practice and the yearning to achieve the desired end.

Retiring from day to day life and seeking the tranquility of forests in order to seek union with a higher self is not the only way to achieve liberation. The Śrīmadbhāgavata-purāna speaks of a character called Jaḍa-Bharata, who is a classic example of what sustained effort can achieve, and of the fact that retirement into the forest alone does not guarantee liberation.

Bharata was born the son of a great Yogī and king, Ṛṣabhadeva. The great yogī retired from worldly living, to the forest, in order to dedicate himself to penance. As he took leave, he instructed his sons in divine wisdom, and anointed Bharata the king of the land. He instructed them, ‘If one gives up the mortal coils with dedication to the omniscient, all pervading Ātma; the guru; me, your father; with tolerance of the twins of opposing experiences such as sorrow and happiness; with control over the senses; and with the deepest longing for the highest truth, He attains to that truth.’ Bharata treated these words as gospel truth. He led a life of purity and righteousness. He ruled over his land with kindness, fairness and dedication. He treated his duties as service to the Almighty and carried them out like they were a form of worship. In other words, he was a true karmayogi, to whom work was worship. This attitude cleansed him of all dross and made him an ideal seeker of true wisdom.

When it was time for him to step down as king, he left the burden of the kingdom to his son and retired to the forest, in order to spend the remainder of his days in contemplation of the Supreme. One fine day, Bharata was seated upon the banks of a river, engrossed in worshipping the sun when the most piteous cries reached his ears. Across the river, on the opposite bank, was a pregnant deer terrified by the majestic roars of an approaching lion. The helpless deer, too exhausted to dart away from the preying lion, fell into the waters, crying out piteously. The terror she experienced from the roars of the lion caused her to deliver the fawn in the river. Bharata was moved by the helpless fawn, who struggled to survive besides the dead mother. He dove into the water to rescue the fawn, and brought the young one to his hermitage. He tended to the motherless fawn and raised it with great care. Slowly, compassion turned to attachment, and attachment to obsession. As his end drew near, Bharata could scarcely think of anything other than the deer. He shed his mortal coils contemplating the deer, and was hence born a deer in his next birth.

This deer however, was unique for its samskāra (roots). It did not mingle with the other deer, nor did it hanker for food like a normal animal. The yogic practices he had indulged in, in his previous birth as Bharata, was not futile. Even though a deer, he lived with the realization that obsession over anything is detrimental. The maturity of his consciousness grew with every passing day, for he reminded himself every day of the essential truth of creation – that there is nothing other the Supreme that is eternal. He shed his mortal coils in the sacred river Gaṇḍakī, when it was time. Even through his birth as a deer, his desire for liberation was strong. This deep yearning led him to a new birth that would help him realize his goal of liberation.

He was now born the son of Aṅgira, a devout man. The small steps he had taken over the past two births had made him a perfectly realized soul. His identification with the Supreme was so perfect, he could not differentiate between people, between the good and the bad, or between pain and pleasure. He readily agreed to undertake any task he was entrusted with, for he did not find anything demeaning. He was given to silence, was pleasant, serene, and so untouched by the world around, he was referred to as ‘jaḍa’ – the inanimate! He was so engrossed in experiencing the divine in everything, He did not bother to defend himself when a band of dacoits carried him away to offer as human sacrifice. He wore the same calm as he did upon the breezy fields, when a man drew his sword to chop off Bharata’s head as an offering to Kālī. He was perfectly realized owing to the small steps he had taken consistently, and owing to lifetimes of yearning for realization. Goddess Kālī could not stand by and watch as the dacoits offered a realized soul as human sacrifice. She burst out of the image to slay all the dacoits and preserved Bharata so he would enlighten men who approached him.

Even in today’s fast-paced and ruthless world, man still has hope for realization and bliss. All he needs to do is persevere in his chosen path, with the deepest longing for wisdom.

नेहाभिक्रमनाशोऽस्ति प्रत्यवायो न विद्यते।
स्वल्पमप्यस्य धर्मस्य त्रायते महतो भयात्॥

nehābhikramanāśo’sti pratyavāyo na vidyate|
svalpamapyasya dharmasya trāyate mahato bhayāt||

There is no destruction to even an iota of effort made (towards realization), nor is there any impediment to such an effort. The smallest of advancement along the path (of self-knowledge) can deliver man from great calamity.

Bhagavadgītā, 2.40

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Pride – The Undoing Of Man

Pride is accepted in the Bhāratīya tradition as one of the six foes of mankind, that impede the blossoming of wisdom. Wisdom may be defined as awareness of the true-self, and pride is one of its greatest undoing, because pride leads man to identify with power that is fleeting and therefore false. Here is an anecdote from Śrīmadvālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa that elaborates how pride keeps one from doing the right thing for the right reasons.

In the Raghuvamśa was born the illustrious king Bhagīratha, who had heard from his very childhood, that sixty-thousand of his ancestors had been reduced to a pile of ashes due to a curse. He had also heard that it is the waters of the heavenly Gaṅgā alone that can liberate them. Bhagīratha decided to undertake the herculean task of liberating his ancestors. He commissioned his trusted ministers to safeguard his kingdom while he undertook penance in the forest. He performed mind-boggling penance to win the grace of Lord Brahmā, who revealed to Bhagīratha that he should please Gaṅgā with his penance. He then set out to perform the most austere of penance to win the grace of Gaṅgā.

Pleased with his penance, Gaṅgā appeared before the king and asked him what he desired. He said, ‘Devī, it is by your grace that my ancestors can be redeemed from the pile of ashes they have been reduced to. Please descend upon earth and deliver my ancestors from the hell they are in.’ Gaṅgā prided herself on being the most pristine river, and a river who was worshipped by the great sages and celestials. She found it unacceptable to flow down to earth, even if it meant her presence upon earth would benefit millions of souls. She said to Bhagīratha, ‘king, I am untouched by sweat and dirt. I am worshipped by gods. If I descend upon earth, I will be sullied by the sins of mankind’. Bhagāratha responded, ‘O’ Gaṅga, it is true that you will be the waters men wash their sins off in. However, you will also be the waters that the great sages of earth will revere as Viṣṇupadodbhavā (born of the feet of Lord Viṣṇu). These great sages who are dear to Lord Viṣṇu, will take a dip in your waters, crying out the Divine Name of the Lord with ecstasy. If you desire the association of these liberated souls, please accede to descend upon earth’.

Gaṅgā agreed to descend upon earth, but warned Bhagīratha that the earth was incapable of bearing the velocity of her descent. She advised him to earn the grace of Lord Śiva, for she said, ‘he alone is capable of bearing the burden of my swift descent’. Bhagīratha did as advised and earned the blessing of Lord Śiva. The compassionate Lord agreed to break Gaṅga’s fall by bearing her upon his head as she descended. He shook loose his matted tresses and stood majestically, his face turned skyward, awaiting the waters that would liberate millions of souls.

Gaṅgā looked down from heaven at the Lord standing there, His tresses swaying in the wind, and was suddenly smitten with pride. Her heart darkened with the venom of arrogance. She mused to herself, ‘I am Gaṅgā, the heavenly river. I am of immense power and inconceivable speed. I shall descend with all my might, that Śiva too is swept away into the nether world.’ The omniscient Lord recognized the dark shadow of pride that seized the heart of Gaṅgā. A playful smile danced upon his lips as she began her ominous descent. He bound her in the unending depths of his matted locks, along with her pride, in a trice! Gaṅgā was trapped. She found herself incapable of emerging from his locks, try as she may.

The velocity of her waves were no match for the will of the Supreme. Her pride which lead her to desire establishing her power over the welfare of sixty-thousand suffering souls, was shattered. Her pride which made her believe she was the most powerful was shattered. Her pride that she was the one blessing Bhagīratha too was destroyed, when he interceded on her behalf. He pleaded with Lord Śiva that he release her from his mighty tresses so that she could liberate his ancestors. Upon the words of Bhagīratha, Lord Śiva released a portion of the heavenly river to flow through his matted locks. Rid of the venom of pride that blinded her to the opportunity of service to mankind, Gaṅga now followed Bhagīratha to fulfil her duty. Bhagīratha became a father to her in some sense, for he opened her eyes to the nobility of her calling. She became known as Bhāgīrathī, the daughter of Bhagīratha. Humility embraces her, and she shone upon the matted tresses of the compassionate Lord like a diamond.
Devī Gaṅgā is worthy of our adulations not only because she is the heavenly river who is capable of destroying all our sins with her waters, but also because she has enacted this līlā in order to teach mankind the value of humility.

तिष्ठतां तपसि पुण्यमासृजन्सम्पदोऽनुगुणयन्सुखैषिणाम्।
योगिनां परिणमन्विमुक्तये केन नास्तु विनयः सतां प्रियः॥

tiṣṭhatāṁ tapasi puṇyamāsṛjansampado’nuguṇayansukhaiṣiṇām|
yogināṁ pariṇamanvimuktaye kena nāstu vinayaḥ satāṁ priyaḥ||

To which noble soul is humility not valuable; add as it does to the merit of the austere, the riches of those seeking luxury, and to the ease of liberation of the detached.

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Madālasā – An exemplary mother

The role of a mother is unquestionably the most significant in the life of a human being. Modern psychology elaborates how a healthy childhood results in a child growing up to be a secure, responsible and valuable member of society. It also documents that most pathologies arise from early, dysfunctional dynamics between a child and its primary caregiver, in most cases the mother. The influence a mother can have over the mental and emotional development of a child is enormous and, in most cases, indelible. In the eyes of the child, the mother is his or her primary model. What the mother says, does and believes, the child imbibes organically. The Śanti-parvā of the Mahabharata states the there is no guru greater than the mother. The Mārkaṇḍeya-purāṇa elaborates the anecdote of Madālasa, considered by many to be an exemplary mother.

Madālasā was the daughter of the Gandharva king, Viśvāvasu. She was stunningly beautiful, most virtuous and highly evolved spiritually. Once, an asura named Pātālaketu kidnaps her from her garden. Ṛtadhvaja, a prince of the illustrious Raghuvamśa rushes to her rescue. She falls in love with the prince and ends up marrying him. In due course of time the king sheds his mortal coils and Ṛtadhvaja ascends the throne. Soon a son is born to Ṛtadhvaja and Madālasa. The delighted king names the son Vikrānta. The citizens of the kingdom are pleased with the name, the queen however, seems amused; she laughs. When asked why she was amused, Madālasa responds, ‘lord, I see no sense in a name being given to the birthless soul to begin with, especially not the name ‘Vikrānta’. The word ‘Vikrānta’ means one who marches forth (and conquers). The soul is omnipresent and all pervading. How then does it march forth, lord? I am hence amused by the name.’

The newborn babe opens its eyes and began to wail. Madālasa begins singing a lullaby to soothe the distressed child. Only, this was no ordinary lullaby sung by a worldly mother. This song was replete with Vedic wisdom.

She crooned sweetly,

शुद्धोऽसि रे तात न तेऽस्ति नाम कृतं हि तत्कल्पनयाधुनैव।
पञ्चात्मकं देहमिदं न तेऽस्ति त्वं वास्य रे रोदिषि कस्य हेतोः॥

śuddho’si re tāta na te’sti nāma kṛtaṁ hi tatkalpanayādhunaiva|
pañcātmakaṁ dehamidaṁ na te’sti tvaṁ vāsya re rodiṣi kasya hetoḥ||

Child, you are pure and unattached. This name attached to you had only just been given to you; it is but a dream. This body that is comprised of the five elements is not yours; you are but a traveller (in the vehicle called human frame). Why then do you cry?

Mārkaṇḍeya-purāṇa, 23.11

तातेति किञ्चित् तनयेति किञ्चिद्दवेति किञ्चिद्दयितेति किञ्चित्।
ममेति किञ्चिन्नममेति किञ्चित् त्वं भूतसङ्घं बहुधा मा लपेथा॥

tāteti kiñcit tanayeti kiñciddaveti kiñciddayiteti kiñcit|
mameti kiñcinnamameti kiñcit tvaṁ bhūtasaṅghaṁ bahudhā mā lapethā||

Sometimes one is referred to as the father, sometimes the son, sometimes the husband, sometimes the lover. One is celebrated as kin sometimes and considered a stranger at other times. These titles arise due to the false identification with the body, and fall not prey to such illusions.

Mārkaṇḍeya-purāṇa, 23.15

Vikrānta grows from babyhood to youth, listening to the wise words of his mother. A sense of detachment for the materialistic world and an affinity for a higher purpose grows along with him. He evinces no desire for the life of a householder. Yet another son is soon born to Madālasā, and the king names him Subāhu, again, much to the amusement of the queen. Subāhu too follows in the footsteps of his brother, imbibing the spiritual values his mother feeds him from the cradle. A third brother, Śatrumardana is born to the royal couple, and he too turns out to be like his other brothers. All three sons retire to the forest seeking liberation.

When a fourth son is born, Ṛtadhvaja urges Madālasā to name him, and she names him Alarka. As Madālasā sets about instructing Alarka in Vedic wisdom, Ṛtadhvaja pleads with her to not initiate him in the path of renunciation. He says to her, ‘raise him in such a manner that he is of use in this world too. Having served mankind, let him then be liberated.’ She accedes to the request. She looks at the newborn baby and says to him, ‘son, grow up to delight my lord. Attend with care to deeds that yield fruit in this world and the next. Child, you are indeed blessed, for you shall rule the earth for long, and shall bring wealth and peace to all. Having thus served mankind, you shall be liberated.’

She continues,

सदा मुरारिं हृदि चिन्तयेथा तद्ध्यानतो त्वं षडरीञ्जयेथाः।
मायाप्रबोधेन निवारयेथा ह्यनित्यतामेव विचिन्तयेथाः॥

sadā murāriṁ hṛdi cintayethā taddhyānato tvaṁ ṣaḍarīñjayethāḥ|
māyāprabodhena nivārayethā hyanityatāmeva vicintayethāḥ||

Meditate ceaselessly on the Lord, Murāri, that you may rise above the six foes of man. Escape the clutches of māyā with discrimination, and ever remember the transient nature of (human life).

Mārkaṇḍeya-purāṇa, 23.58

बालो मनो नन्दय बान्धवानां गुरोस्तथाज्ञाकरणैः कुमार।
स्त्रीणां युवा सत्कुलभूषणानां वृद्धो वने वत्स वनेचराणाम्॥

bālo mano nandaya bāndhavānāṁ gurostathājñākaraṇaiḥ kumāra|
strīṇāṁ yuvā satkulabhūṣaṇānāṁ vṛddho vane vatsa vanecarāṇām||

Delight kith and kin as a child, dear son, and rejoice your parents by obeying them in adolescence. Fill noble women with joy in your youth and resorting to the forest, serve the hermits as your life nears its end.

Mārkaṇḍeya-purāṇa, 23.61

Alarka grows up to be an exemplary king of the Raghuvamśa who worshipped truth above everything else. The Valmīki-Rāmāyaṇa states that Alarka gouged his eyes out and offered them to a blind boy because he had promised to give the boy anything he sought. Not only had Madālasā raised three perfect renunciants, she had also raised the perfect man in Alarka.

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Significance of a Guru

Learning any skill is contingent upon us finding a guide who is capable of taking us under their wings, and inspiring us to find the truth we seek. In the world of spirituality where lesson that are learned are not physical but metaphysical, not tangible but intangible, the role of the guide becomes even more significant. In the spiritual path, a disciple is often times unaware of what he wants, and is therefore incapable of achieving his end without the grace of an able guide. Traditionally, two terms are attached to such a guide – ‘Guru’ and ‘Ācārya’. Tradition defines the two as follows –

गुशब्दस्त्वन्धकारः स्याद्रुशब्दस्तन्निरोधकः।
अन्धकारनिरोधित्वाद्गुरुरित्यभिधीयते॥

guśabdastvandhakāraḥ syādruśabdastannirodhakaḥ|
andhakāranirodhitvādgururityabhidhīyate||

The Letter ‘gu’ denotes darkness of ignorance, and the letter ‘ru’, its defier. He who stall the march of ignorance is called a ‘Guru’.

आचिनोति हि शास्त्राणि आचारे स्तापयत्यपि।
स्वयमाचरते यस्मातमाचार्यं प्रचक्षते॥

ācinoti hi śāstrāṇi ācāre stāpayatyapi|
svayamācarate yasmātamācāryaṁ pracakṣate||

An Ācārya is one who incessantly engages with the scriptures, ever lives by the dictates of the scriptures, and inspires the disciple to live by them as well.

Rāmānujācārya was one such exemplary Ācārya. In Uraiyūr, a town neighboring the sacred kṣetra of Śrīraṅgam, lived a wrestler named Dhanurdāsar. He was a wrestler in the King’s court and was married to the lovely Ponnāciyār. His immense might, wealth and glory notwithstanding, he was enslaved by the loveliness of his wife. One day, he accompanied his wife to Śrīraṅgam. With one hand he held aloft a parasol to protect his wife from the scorching sun, and with the other, he spread out a carpet for the delicate feet of his wife to tread on. Swami Rāmājunan happened to notice this, as he proceeded along the road along with his disciples. He was taken aback that a man would be so enamoured with a woman. He chuckled aloud for Dhanurdāsar to hear.

Dhanurdāsar was oblivious to the reaction of the world around. His eyes were peeled to the darting eyes of his gorgeous wife. Swami Rāmānuja was moved to compassion. The Yatirāja (king amongst ascetics) approached Dhanurdāsar of his own accord and asked him, “you are a mighty wrestler, well-renowned and wealthy. Why do you enslave yourself thus, dear man?” Dhanurdāsar responded, “of what use is my might, revered sire? I have nothing in my arsenal that can match the might of my wife’s arching brows and the sharp shafts of her darting eyes! In reality, there is nothing upon this earth that can rival her dancing eyes.” Swami Rāmānujan recognized just how firmly the shackles of materialism bound Dhanurdāsar. He smiled indulgently and said, “what if I were to show you a pair of eyes that far exceed in loveliness, the eyes of your wife?” Without a second thought Dhanurdāsar said, “that is impossible”. Swami Rāmānujan responded, “what if I did?” An intrigued Dhanurdāsar responded, “I shall concede defeat in that case, and surrender to you as your slave.”

Swami Rāmānujan lead Dhanurdāsar straight to the sanctum sanctorum of Śrīraṅganātha. He stood Dhanurdāsar before the Lord and said to him, “behold, Dhanurdāsa, at the pair of lotus-eyes that is unparalleled in its excellence”. The Ācārya had not only recognized what Dhanurdāsar needed, but was willing to go the extra mile in reaching Dhanurdāsar to the destination he did not even know existed. Moreover, he blessed Dhanurdāsa with the vision required to behold the loveliness that was the eyes of the Supreme Lord. Dhanurdāsa’s eyes were now able to grasp the ethereal beauty of the Lord. He stood transfixed in what he beheld before him. As promised, he conceded defeat and surrendered at the lotus-feet of Swami Rāmānujan. Ponnāciyār too recognized the worth of such an Ācārya and surrendered along with her husband. The grateful couple renounced all their wealth and belongings, and moved to Śrīraṅgam so that they may serve the compassionate Ācārya, who has blessed them with the vision to differentiate the eternal truth from fleeting samsāra (materialism). Dhanurdāsar served Swami Rāmānujan with such care that he did not sleep on many occasions. He became Pillai-Uraṅgā-Villidāsar (he who did not sleep) from then. The grace of the Ācārya had transformed him from one who was deep asleep with ignorance to one who was ever wakeful to the Supreme Truth.

गुरौ न प्राप्यते यत्तन्नान्यत्रापि हि लभ्यते।
गुरुप्रसादात्सर्वं तु प्राप्नोत्येव न संशयः॥

gurau na prāpyate yattannānyatrāpi hi labhyate|
guruprasādātsarvaṁ tu prāpnotyeva na saṁśayaḥ||

That which is not found in the Guru, is found nowhere else. One can achieve everything by the grace of the Guru is beyond a shred of doubt.

Skāndapurāṇa

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Arrogance – Lack of True Perception

Much is spoken of arrogance and about how man is best served when arrogance is given up. What exactly is arrogance and why must it be eschewed? In simple terms, arrogance may be summarized as the false perception of one’s superiority that is combined with the inability to acknowledge quality in others. In a single swoop, the arrogant misjudge their abilities as well as those of the others. Yogic texts pin arrogance down to a single lacuna – namely the non-identification with the higher self or the Supreme. In other words, when one fails to identify with one’s true self, he or she also fails to recognize that all of creation is but a reflection of the Divine Spark.
Running parallel to the non-identification with the Supreme is the identification with the fleeting, which results in man mistaking the ephemeral for the eternal. Arrogance originates from the misconception that man’s possessions are eternal, when in reality they are temporary. Man believes that the knowledge he seemingly possesses, the wealth that is his for the time-being, or the prowess of his limbs are his eternally. He prides himself as unparalleled, and is swept off his feet, little realizing that all he possesses is but fleeting in nature. This ignorance results in arrogance, and translates to cruelty and pettiness in deeds and demeanor. Unless arrogance is quelled, man cannot rise to the summit of perfection, for perfection lies in the recognition of a higher self.
Avatāras descend in order to establish order and to provide man with an exemplar of a perfect life. In their infinite compassion, avatāras enact līlās that explicate to man, how life situations are to be dealt with. Though above attributes and desires, avatāras adorn them in līlās in order to teach man how to rise above them. One such līlā described in the Śivamahāpurāṇa elaborates how the Supreme Lord extinguishes arrogance and helps identify the essential unity in creation. It must be borne in mind here, that avatāras enact līlās and do not identify with materialistic emotions and desires.
At the beginning of creation, Lord Viṣṇu and Lord Brahmā found themselves in an argument over who was superior. Lord Brahmā proclaimed, ‘The Vedas proclaim me to be the self-born Supreme. I am the essence of the universe and its creator.’ Lord Viṣṇu countered, ‘There is no creator, sustainer or annihilator superior to me. I am the supreme light, the all-pervasive Supreme that lies within each atom of creation.’ As they battled on thus for superiority, a liṅgam of blinding brilliance appeared between them. The endless column of light was so spectacular in its appearance, both Lord Brahmā and Lord Viṣṇu were struck with wonder. They decided to put the liṅgam to the test. Lord Viṣṇu assumed the form of a wild boar and set out to find the base of the liṅgam, while Lord Brahmā assumed the form of a swan and soared up, seeking to identify the end of the liṅgam. Thousands of cosmic years rolled by, and yet neither succeeded in the task they set out to complete. Exhausted and humbled, Lord Brahmā and Lord Viṣṇu began glorifying the liṅgam thus, ‘O Supreme One, we are ignorant of Thy true form. Accept our supplication and reveal Thyself.’
Pleased with the eulogy, the Supreme One made Himself visible to Lord Brahmā and Lord Viṣṇu. The two were delighted to behold the saguṇa (attributes) of the nirguṇa (attributeless) Brahman. The Supreme One them crafted the four Vedas from His breath and handed them over to Lord Viṣṇu. He said to Lord Brahmā, ‘unite with the aspect of Prakṛti known as Girādevī (Goddess of speech) and engage in creation.’ Turning to Lord Viṣṇu said the Lord, ‘Take the aspect of Prakṛti called Lakṣmī as your consort and sustain the universe. I, as Rudra, shall resort to the aspect of Prakṛti called Kālī and shall attend to the noble deed of annihilation. It is I who am known by the names of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra owing to the three kinds of actions I engage in during creation, sustenance and annihilation. The wise recognize that (I am like) a single sheet of gold that produces various ornaments, but is essentially the same. A single lump of clay produces various pots. Celestials endowed with superior intellect as yourselves must recognize the underlying reality of all creation.’

यदैकस्या मृदो भेदे नानापात्राणि वस्तुतः।
कारणस्यैव कार्ये च सन्निधानं निदर्शनम्॥

yadaikasyā mṛdo bhede nānāpātrāṇi vastutaḥ|
kāraṇasyaiva kārye ca sannidhānaṁ nidarśanam||

Śivamahāpurāṇam, Sṛṣṭi-khaṇḍa, 9.36

ज्ञातव्यं बुधवर्यैश्च निर्मलज्ञानिभिः सुरैः।
एवं ज्ञात्वा भवद्भ्यां तु न दृश्यं भेद कारणम्॥

jñātavyaṁ budhavaryaiśca nirmalajñānibhiḥ suraiḥ|

evaṁ jñātvā bhavadbhyāṁ tu na dṛśyaṁ bheda kāraṇam||

Śivamahāpurāṇam, Sṛṣṭi-khaṇḍa, 9.37

With these words, the Supreme One rendered himself invisible. Lord Brahmā and Lord Viṣṇu recognized their folly in giving in to pride and arguing who was superior. They recognized themselves to be but a reflection of the Supreme, created by His sheer will, and resorted to their respective realms with humility and wisdom.