Sage Vishwamitra – the Saga of Perseverance | May 5, 2021 | Bala Kandam Episode 20

Highlights from this discourse:

– Sadananda talks about the greatness of Sage Vishwamitra at King Janaka’s yagnashala.

– King Vishwamitra desires to possess Kamadhenu during his visit to Sage Vasishta. Why? What does he do to get Kamadhenu?

– King Vishwamitra’s realization in jnana after his various failed attempts to possess Kamadhenu.

– What does Sage Vishwamitra’s charitra teach us? Patience and perseverance in attaining a goal!

– How should our goal be – be it worldly or spiritual? Firm and not wavering! 

– A spiritual aspirant who wishes to attain Bhagavan should not be deterred by siddhis. What does the story of another Kaushika in Mahabarata teach us in this regard?

– Sage Vishwamitra’s penance reduces after cursing Sage Vasishta’s sons by trying to satisfy Trishanku’s request.

– Power attained through penance would sometimes trigger a person to do mischief when agitated. 

– Saint Thyagaraja beautifully quotes through his song that Rama bhakti is the prestigious post that one must strive for through their penance and not any other power.

– A person doing penance will often face hurdles – by people who would benefit through their power or by people in distress. They should not be distracted by these and must not stop until they attain their goal.

– Importance of Guru Krupa in guiding a disciple to attain jnana.

– Guru guides His disciples even after they attain siddhi. Sri Swamiji talks about such an incident from the life of Shantanandapuri Swamiji who was helped by his Guru Swami Purushotthamananda. 

– One must hold onto their Guru’s holy feet and not do a “pratikUla sankalpa” that would prevent their Guru from helping them progress spiritually.

– Dhruva’s penance was not disturbed only because of his Guru Sage Narada’s krupa.

– What is jnana, tapas and Brahmam? Brahmam is self, Jnana is becoming aware of oneself and tapas is something that is earned through practices like fasting, staying awake etc.

– Why do Jnanis do tapas? Not to attain siddhis but to control their mind!

– How can mind be controlled? By controlling food (eating less and eating satvik food) and by speaking less.

– Sage Vishwamitra moves to Vishala near the banks of river Pushkara to continue his penance.

– Story of another King Ambarisha who goes in search for a human willing to sacrifice himself for his yagna after the goat held for sacrifice flees. Why?

– King Ambarisha finds Shunashepa, son of a Sage Richika for sacrifice. Shunashepa’s story and the reason why he goes half-heartedly for sacrifice.

– Shunashepa’s story on how he finds Sage Vishwamitra and pleads to him to save both himself and the yagna. Do they get saved? What happens to Sage Vishwamitra’s penance?

– Sage Vishwamitra continues his tapas. Indra sends Menaka to disturb Sage Vishwamitra. Enamored by her beauty, he forgets his purpose. What happens then?

– Remembering his purpose again and realizing his mistake, Vishwamitra sends away Menaka and continues his tapas. Indra sends more obstacles.

– Vishwamitra gives up food finally to do a rigorous penance. What happens this time? What was his final test before Lord Brahma and Sage Vasishta calls him Brahmarishi?

– Awestruck by listening to the greatness of Sage Vishwamitra narrated by Sadananda, King Janaka approaches him to seek his blessings.

Read the translated transcript of the entire discourse below.

Listen to this Bala Kandam Episode 20 discourse (Tamil with English subtitles) on Global Organisation for Divinity Facebook page:

Complete transcript of Sri Swamiji’s live online Srimad Ramayana discourse – Bala Kandam Episode #20

Because of Shriyapati Bhagavan’s divine grace, we are experiencing the stories of Rama avatara everyday, as possible. As a gratitude to the blessing endowed on his family by Sage Vishwamitra, Sadananda (the son of Sage Gautama and Ahalya) narrates the charitra of Vishwamitra at King Janaka’s yagnashala.

He told about how Vishwamitra was a king and during that time when he was a king, how he went along with his chaturanga sainya (army comprising of elephants, chariots, cavalry and infantry) to get the darshan of Vasishta. When Vishwamitra was about to take leave after talking to Vasishta for a long time, Vasishta requested them to eat and then depart.

“A big army has come with me,” hesitated Vishwamitra. By praying to Kamadhenu, Vasishta was able to provide the food desired by Vishwamitra’s chaturanga army including the appropriate food for elephants, horses, etc.. by getting all of it again and again from Kamadhenu.

After everyone ate well, Vishwamitra started having a desire to possess Kamadhenu. At first, he asked Vasishta nicely. Then, he offered a lot of dana (donation/gifts) to Vasishta. Then, he threatened Vasishta. Then, he used force to pull Kamadhenu. Kamadhenu started screaming. When Kamadhenu surrendered to Vasishta, Vasishta replied helplessly to Kamadhenu, “What can I do? He [Vishwamitra] is a king. He is born in a family that has done great tapas. He has a big army.” Kamadhenu looked at Vasishta and said, “In the same way that you prayed to get food from my body to feed all of Vishwamitra’s army including elephants, horses and soldiers, please pray the same way to provide you with the soldiers from my body to defeat Vishwamitra.” After composing himself, Vasishta prayed, and a big army rose from Kamadhenu that destroyed all of Vishwamitra’s army including all the children of Vishwamitra.

Finally, Vishwamitra was left all alone. After giving away the kingdom to one of his sons who did not come to the battle, Vishwamitra went to do tapas. Through his tapas, Vishwamitra got strong and tough astras (divine weapons) from Parameshwara Himself, and returned to fight Vasishta again.

The very first time the war was between Vishwamitra’s chaturanga army and the army that came from Kamadhenu. But now, it was just Vasishta on one side and Vishwamitra on the other. There were no armies. Vishwamitra started using all the astras he got from Parameshwara. Vasishta, shining brightly like fire, kept his Brahma dhandam in the front which made all of Vishwamitra’s astras, including the Brahmastra useless. Vishwamitra was thoroughly embarrassed. Hereafter, all I need to earn is only jnana and not astras or army, decided Vishwamitra and went to do tapas again.

The hurdles one might face when they start doing tapas is what Vishwamitra’s story tells us. I have told you it is not something to laugh at. Whenever someone tries to do dhyana, yoga or brahma vichara, or follows any path to attain Bhagavan, if he falls down, it is not something to laugh at, but something to feel pity about. Why? Because falling down (failing) is common. Success is rare and achieved only by one or two people. Falling down is only the most common. So, what right do we have to laugh at someone? Are we someone who has won over our senses or are we tapasvis? We don’t even know what tapas is! We don’t even know what brahma vicharam is! We don’t even know who Bhagavan is! So, such people don’t have any right to mock the history of such mahans. These are all pure and sacred stories. The reason for this is.

When a man has a goal to achieve, the one who is completely focused on the goal will not compromise halfway. He must be firm in his resolve. One who is clear that he wants only that (goal) and nothing less than that, will travel (the path) till he reaches the goal. One who has a goal but is not firm in his resolve (to achieve it) and is wavering, will compromise halfway with something small he gets midway. Let us not go up to liberation. For a worldly goal, right from childhood, a person organizes protests, leaves his homes for the cause, speaks to the public about it, and writes books on it.

Suddenly, when they are awarded a prestigious post, and are in a position to earn money, they get captivated by the wealth or by the title and leave their cause midway. The cause is now only in words and is no longer a true objective for them. It was true in the beginning though. When a person is working towards a cause, people celebrate him for undertaking the struggle. As a result, he becomes famous and gets awarded a prestigious post. The post gives him an opportunity to earn money. Then the thought to preserve the attained post comes. And the notion to safeguard the earned wealth comes. As a result, he is forced to compromise his goal in many ways. This is what happens in spiritual life as well.

In spiritual life, if one is fixed in his goal to attain Bhagavan or attain self-realization, then he will not get carried away by various small or big siddhis. He will disregard them and think, “I do not want these. This is not my goal. I have to attain the Lord.” Otherwise, he will get caught in the siddhis (small or big) and will move away from his purpose.

In Mahabharata, there is a story of another Kaushika. Once, a Maharishi called Kaushika was doing penance on the banks of a river, under a tree. What was his objective for doing the penance? Seeing Bhagavan and to become a “Brahma rishi”. One day, after completing his ablutions, he came back and sat under the tree. At that time, a crane came flying and sat on the tree. Poor crane! What does it know? Unknowingly, its droppings fell on the rishi. The rishi, who had just finished his ablutions and was about to start his penance, looked up at the crane (bird) and the crane burned to ashes.

Thinking that his penance had yielded fruit, the rishi was immensely pleased.
Why (was he pleased)? Because he was not firm or determined in his purpose. Feeling happy with the one or two powers earned halfway (shows) lack of firmness in resolve, in attaining the objective. “Did I do penance to burn a bird into ashes? Didn’t I do penance to attain Bhagavan?” “Alas! The poor bird got burned unnecessarily,” He should compassionately regret what happened. Or at least he should have viveka (spiritual discrimination) to see right from wrong, or he should have resolve towards his goal. Since he didn’t feel this way, what happened to him? He deviated from his purpose.

He left and reached the house of a pativrata lady, seeking alms. It took some time for the lady to bring the food. He glared at her. Immediately, the pativrata lady said, “Do you think I am also a crane?” The sage was shocked! He wondered, “I burned the crane that was on a tree in a forest far away from here. How did this lady know?”

Then, Mahabharata continues that the lady asked him to go ask Dharmavyada in the kingdom of Mithila. The reason I narrated the story was When people who are not firm in their goals start dhyana, or do Nama sankirtan to see Bhagavan, they eventually become more interested in knowing if others around them know how much japa and dhyana they are doing. They share that they saw Bhagavan in their dreams, or that He came in front of me, or that He was lying next to me, etc. These are all just attention-seeking behaviors. A true aspirant will not share such things nor will he feel proud about such things. [For one who is not a true aspirant]

Either, these must be illusions that he is not aware of or just something for him to be proud about. If they happen to [get siddhis] where they know the past or future, one cannot just get hold of them. Then they would simply forget their purpose of attaining Bhagavan or attaining jnana. If they slip and fall even for just these trivial siddhis, then when one advances to a higher state in their dhyana and start to perceive all the other heavenly planes (Devatalokas), they will be able to see Indra, Indra loka and all the other realms of existence like tapolokas etc. Things that are not visible to the naked eye, when seen through an instrument like a microscope, can be seen by us. Similarly through dhyana, the mind is able to focus deeply and one pointedly, through dhyana the mind becomes subtle, through dhyana the mind becomes sathvik. And in that sathvik state of the mind, a number of visions are apparent. But one should not slip or fall because of all that.

So now what we have been seeing in Sage Vishvamitra’s charithram is how each person comes to disturb his penance. We saw Trishanku’s story. Trishanku is adamant that he should go to Swargaloka in his physical body. What could Vishvamitra have done? He could have said, “Leave it, don’t be so stubborn!”, or he could have said, “Your Guru himself said it is not possible, so let it go.”

But the fact that Vasishta himself could not do something actually excited him and he thought, “I will do something that my Guru cannot do!” So what happened? He ended up cursing Sage Vasishta’s sons, and then in today’s story he is going to curse his own sons. When one happens to get agitated while performing penance, the power attained due to penance would sometimes trigger them to do mischief. A person who has a stick in his hand can never remain silent, he would keep hitting here and there with the stick. Similarly a man with a knife will be using his knife to strike things around him.

There is a story that is often told, once there was a Maharishi who had a cow. In order to take care of the cow, he would cut grass with a small pen knife. Slowly with the knife he started cutting everything around him and ended up hurting and stabbing people who came along. Likewise when one attains power through penance, one would get tempted to threaten people with it.

Saint Thyagaraja, in a raga called Salagabhairavi, sings “padhavi nI sadbhaktiyu kalguTE.” He asks Lord Rama, “Rama what is the greatest position? Is it having abundant wealth? Is it the companionship which one has with many kingly men?” asking thus he says, “japa tapAdi aNimAdi siddhulachE jagamula nEchuTa adi padavA”, many people do japa, tapa, attain ashta maha siddhis like animal, etc. and threaten the people in all the three worlds, is this like attaining any kind of prestigious post?

These charitrams that we are looking at right now very aptly fit the message that Saint Thyagaraja mentions in this charanam. Performing severe austere penance, “jagamula nEchuTa adi padavA,” they are threatening people in all the three worlds… is this some great status to be attained? Saying all this, he should also then answer as to what is ultimately that great status right?

Finally he concludes the kirtan by saying, only Rama bhakti is that permanent prestigious post.

First, when we start our spiritual sadhana (japa) , who will come to disturb us when we are trying to attain our goal of attaining brahmam? Like I said yesterday, those who have 4 Benz cars, and feel that is not enough, I need 4 Audi cars. Such people will come. They are leading a very happy comfortable life, there is no cause for any misery, but they would desire more luxury and happiness beyond what they have now. For such people however, even if they are blessed with more, they would come seeking again not because of their genuine affection for you but only because of the attachment they have to your power. If they realise that they don’t have that power, they will go searching for someone else who has that power, because they don’t have real affection, but only are attracted by your siddhis.

Next, when we do dhyana or japa, the obstacle that we will face is.. someone will be in distress, and will ask you to help them overcome the trouble. Isn’t helping someone out of their problem, compassion on our part? How can that be wrong?

Let’s say there is a boy in a house who is studying medicine. He has completed about one or two years of his MBBS course and his ambition is to study further and do research further. While he is preparing for the examination, because his neighbors knew that he was studying medicine, someone tells him, “A family member at home is not feeling well. Can you please see him?” Or, “Next door neighbor is not keeping well, can you please see him?”. Is it right or wrong for him to go when someone calls him like this? In all fairness, it is wrong. Because his ambition is to study further. It is certainly a situation where he can help. But there are doctors outside. There are people who have completed their education. They can go to them.

It is not right to disturb someone who is pursuing a higher goal. When he serves one and all, after completing his education, he will be able to do it with more expertise, clarity and knowledge of various aspects. It is not right to do service in a half-baked manner too, isn’t it?

Similarly, those who are proceeding in the path of penance, have a different goal. They are to attain something else. It does not mean that they do not have compassion on others, if they do not help others. But the act of blessing that they do half-way through (their penance), will not only bring down their siddhi but also may lead to disastrous consequences for the benefactor. Because jnanis know whether to give someone something or not. They know that even an act of benevolence on their part may put him in danger. They know all these.

Only because he knew all this, Vasishta did not bless Trishanku. Viswamithra blessed him without knowing all that, and sees Trishanku is stuck hanging upside down till today. This is just obstinacy and is not feasible. “yAm vandha kAriyam ArAindhu aruLElOr empAvAi” is how they do it. Some people do certain things through Tantrika.

In Vasishta Guha, there was a mahatma named Shantanandapuri Swamiji. He was the disciple of Swami Purushotthamananda. Swami Purushotthamananda was a direct disciple of Rakhal. Rakhal is the direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Shantanandapuri Swamiji has recorded some incidents that happened in his life. While he was working (before taking up sanyasa), his Guru Swami Purushotthamananda attained siddhi. But still when he was doing dhyana or chanting, Swami Purushotthamananda would appear and converse with him; give darshan to him; communicate with him.

When Shantanandapuri Swamiji was busy working on something, some of his friends told him that there was a saint nearby and called him to go along and see him. Since he was interested in matters like these, he went to see that saint. The saint spoke with him. When he was ready to leave, the saint gave him two mangoes as a prasad. After he got home, he decided to do his dhyana and later eat the mangoes. He sat down to do the dhyana of his Guru, Swami Purushothamananda. As he did the dhyana, Swami Purushotthamananda appeared. He said “Don’t eat those mangoes. Do not give to others. Smash them.” Shantanandapuri Swamiji did not understand the reason. Swami Purushotthamananda disappeared. Whatever Guru says is always right. So he smashed those mangoes.

Next day, when he went to get the saint’s darshan, he asked, “Did you eat those fruits?” “No.” “Why did you not?” He explained what happened. The person then said “Your Guru is very great. When someone comes to me with a disease, I transfer the sin that resulted in the disease into a fruit. I just give it away to the innocent people that come by. Yesterday I had transferred the sin that caused a disease into two fruits. I was waiting for someone and gave it to you when you came. Your Guru realized that. That is why, we should not mistake someone to be a mahathma and go to him. There are so many pitfalls there too.

Hence, until attaining self-realization, one should not be distracted by anything. Until that point of attaining jnana, if you should remain without getting distracted, you should just do one thing. That is to hold on to the Guru’s holy feet tightly. One should not make a pratikUla sankalpam either. One might love his Guru dearly. The Guru might also love him dearly too. But he would not progress in spiritual life. Why? Because he has some defects in him. The defects that he has will be a block for his meditation. He would have prayed to his Guru mentally that the Guru should not know his defects. The Guru will also behave as though he doesn’t know about his defects and hence the disciple will not progress at all. This is known as pratikUla sankalpam (non-conducive vow/intention/prayer). We need to give the Guru the freedom to guide the devotee or conduct his life in the way that he (the Guru) wants to. So we should not have any vow or prayer that would hinder the flow of the grace from the Guru.

When many disciples came to meet Sri Ramakrishna, if any of them cried to him saying that they experienced some siddhis, Ramakrishna would make it all disappear magically.

Similarly, Dhruva did intense penance. His penance was not hindered by any obstacle verily because of his Guru, Sage Narada’s immense grace. Guru Kripa is verily the one that will make a disciple reach his end goal without any obstacle and without falling from the path.

In today’s charithram, we are going to see how one is going to come and attain Vishwamithra for his difficulty. So what is tapas? What is jnana? There is a difference between Tapas and Jnana. Jnana is your own property and it is your very Self. You are always a personification of Atma (AtmasvarUpa). Brahmam is something not to be earned. It is not something that will come to you suddenly from the sky. Brahmam is something that cannot be felt by a change of chemistry in your body. It is always present (sva siddham). It is your real Self. But you are not aware of it. You need to become aware of it.

It is beautifully said in Vedanta that if an old man is searching for his spectacles. “Where are my spectacles? Where are my spectacles?” The grandson comes running and says, “Oh Grandpa, you are wearing it!” The grandfather says, “Oh is it here? I totally forgot.” This is what Jnana is. You possess something and when you keep searching for it due to your forgetfulness, the Guru comes and shows it to you. You are searching somewhere. It is verily You, he says.

Jnana Marga is attaining that knowledge naturally. Tapas (penance) means earning some mantra siddhi and yoga siddhi by adhering to practices such as steadfast fasting, staying awake, etc. Tapas is not natural and is obtained by earning it. It is something to be possessed. If one is educated, it means he has earned that intellectual knowledge as a possession. If one has earned a lot of wealth, then it means he possesses that wealth. If he is in a big position, then it means he possesses that position. Tapas is also to be possessed. Tapas is not something that is naturally there. It is not one’s real self. Money leads to spending, and positions will also come down. Similarly tapas also leads to spending. Tapas is not eternal.

Jnanis who go in the path to attain Brahmam, sometimes do fasting and are always awake, etc. But here their goal is not to attain siddhis, but they are unable to control their mind. So they go in search of ways to control their mind and ponder ways to weaken the senses. They look out for such ways and only because of that they undergo fasting. Their intention is to not achieve any ultimate purpose by fasting. Not to attain any good merits. Similarly, their goal is not to attain any siddhi. If I eat salty, sour and spicy foods, my mind is filled with bad thoughts. If I eat satvik food, then these kinds of bad thoughts do not rise in my mind, they say.

Although there are many ways to control the mind, one of the best ways mentioned in Vedanta is to eat less food and satvik food. Limited food and satvik food. Because there is a relationship between the mind and the food. Those who want to control his mind should control his tongue. Only by controlling the tongue, the mind gets controlled.. There are 2 ways of controlling the tongue – One is [through] food and the other one is [through] speech. One should not speak at all.

As thoughts keep rising and rising, one would feel like speaking with someone and if there is no one to listen, then he would keep speaking to himself! One would keep grumbling! Even that should not be done! Otherwise, they will send voice messages as there is this need to talk..all that is insane. It should be controlled at least a bit. The mind should be controlled. Mind should be controlled naturally and in a calm way and not otherwise.

Likewise, now the penance that Viswamitra is undergoing, although it is with the goal to attain Brahma Jnana, he is doing the penance with great fierceness. He saw that Trishanku came. Sometimes, we get this feeling, “This place is not conducive. Let us go to some other place” We do feel like that right. In Mahabharata, it is told frequently that if you don’t have peace in your heart, try changing your place. With change in place, we can get peace of mind.

So, there are few people who have come along with Viswamitra. Also, he had come with his chief queen, he had children and there are some indwellers of the ashram He says, “We did penance here. Trishanku came and spoiled our penance. Let us leave this place and go elsewhere”, saying so, he proceeds towards the west. There is a place called “VishAlAyAm”, near the banks of river Pushkara. Sitting on that river bank, again he started a severe penance, with greater persistence, ”tapa ugram”…

He was doing a severe penance. With great fierceness.”tapa ugram durAdarsham” “tEpE mUla phalAshaNa:”eating only tubers and roots, he started to do a very severe penance. It is at this time, in the Ikshvaku dynasty, like Trishanku, there was another King called Ambarisha. This is not the Ambarisha mentioned in Bhagavatam. This is a different Ambarisha.

This Ambarisha does a yagna. This is a charithra that happened in Treta yuga. When we listen to these stories, we must not compare it to the matters of the present yuga. Why? The details that I tell today will not apply to the things that prevailed hundred years back. Hundred years back, girls were married at the ages of five or six. Boys were married at the age of 12. Will this suit the current age? Will it suit the lifestyle? Everything has changed.

In the villages, the rivers had surplus water. Would the people of those days, a hundred years back, ever believe, if told that, sometime later, water will be purchased in a bottle? “What? Purchase water with money?” They wouldn’t have believed. It wouldn’t fit. But it is happening. Every house had cows giving milk (in olden days). If they were told that in the future people would buy milk in plastic packets, Would they believe it? Rice is something that was stored in heaps. Would they believe it if we say that it is now being bought in 5 or 10 kilo bags? How was their way of dressing, their lifestyle? We all have changed. If within the last one hundred years itself, when so much has changed, then, where is this?

This charithra is that which happened in Krita yuga, Treta Yuga. So we cannot take it. In Ramayana, the most important thing that we need to take in, is Rama guna. That alone is to be considered. So King Ambarisha does a yagna.

It was a practice at that period of time to use an animal’s flesh for the yaga. This is not prevalent now. When they were not looking, the animal – in this case a goat – ran away. So all the brahmanas, Vedic scholars, who had come for the yaga look at the king and tell him, “This is a great danger! Something bad is going to happen to you because of this. Indra is going to get angry with you.” “Apart from that, people are all also going to make fun of you that a king is doing a yaga sincerely…” “…but he is not able to take care of even a little goat that is tied to a post…” “…how can he take care of his subjects properly?” “Indra will get angry because of this. The yagna will stop halfway, and great difficulties will arise for you.” “Go somewhere and somehow find a man to be sacrificed as a prayaschittam for this,” they said.

Just as in Jada Bharata charitra they took Jada Bharata as a sacrifice for Kali, these people said go bring a human from somewhere. What will he do? Ambarisha ran. He got scared. The yagna will stop halfway. Indra will get angry. Then he didn’t know what more would happen. Because if a yagna is started and if that yagna is incomplete and stops midway, or if the yagna is done wrongly… if it is not done properly, then the yajaman who is conducting the yagna, which is Ambarisha here, will become a brahmarakshas (horrifying disembodied spirit). So he got very scared.

Who will give a man to sacrifice? The man has to be brought willingly. He cannot be brought by deception. This is a yagna right? So truth is only important here. So Ambarisha goes to a town called Bhrugutunge. In that town called Bhrugutunge there is a maharishi called Richika who is living there with his wife and is performing tapas. He is one who practices his austerities and rituals in right earnest.

The king goes up slowly to him. He prostrates to the Rishi and humbly speaks to him for a while. Sage Richika asks him, what do you need? ” Ambarisha says, “I have a prayer for you. Do you have a lot of children?”…..”Yes I do,” says the sage. “I am doing a yagna. In the yagna, I tied a baby goat to a post.” “It ran away.” “All those who are doing the yaga, all the learned Vedic scholars are saying that in place of the goat, a man is now needed” “Else, they say, a great mishap will happen. Who can I go ask for this?

You are the compassionate one.” “Please you must somehow bless me. Please do not refuse.” “If you like, I will give you a thousand healthy cows that give fresh milk.” “What should I do in return?” asked the rishi. “You must give me your son,” said the king. Sage Richika thought for a while. na aham jyEshTam nara srEshTa vikrINIyAm kathanchana “My eldest son is the one who has to do all the karma (rites) for me.” “I am very fond of my eldest son. He always behaves affectionately towards me.” “I am not ready to give my eldest son,” he said. He didn’t say he would not give any of his sons. He only said, “I love my eldest son a lot. Tomorrow after I die, he only has to do all the last rites for me.” “Only if he does the rites, I will be able to go to good lokas. So, I will certainly not give, my eldest son.”

After saying this, he turned to look at his wife. When she heard him say this, she got scared. “mamApi dayitam vidhi kanishTham sunakam nrpa” she said. “I have a youngest son called Sunaka. I will certainly not give my youngest son.” There was a middle son, a poor thing. He stood there looking at his parents. His father was fond of the eldest son. The mother was fond of the youngest child. Because they both said this, this boy felt sad and forlorn that no one was fond of him… So that boy went on his own to the father and said, “You decided not to give away your eldest son and mother decided not to give the youngest so I feel that you both have no love for me and let me be useful in some way for you!

The king has decided to give 1000 cows and you please accept that, at least that way I will be useful for you both!” They decided not to give their eldest son and their youngest son.. [so] this middle child started off.. What was his name? Shunashepa was his name.. Shunashepa travelled with King Ambarisha in his chariot.. He knew that his life was going to end and he was not in full acceptance of giving away his life, But why did Shunashepa agree to go with the king? “His father also didn’t like and so his mother didn’t like so why should I stay there?” thinking so he started off in frustration and dejection.

As he was travelling in the chariot, the peak afternoon sun shone brightly and because of the hot sun, King Ambarisha stopped the chariot in a place to refresh themselves and drink water.. And which place did he stop? Coincidentally that place was Pushkara. It was the river beds of Vishala.. This boy loitered around that place.. Ambarisha trusted the fact that this boy was a truthful person and so he would not escape. As this boy was walking… [He saw]

There, Sage Vishwamitra was meditating and shone with tejas. He fell at Sage Vishwamitra’s feet and like a child he cried inconsolably. Seeing him, somehow [this boy] could not control his tears and cried inconsolably. Seeing him crying, Sage Vishwamitra asked him, “Why are you crying?” If some face problems, at first they will not be able to explain the problem and will keep crying. Only after they cry and get consoled will they be able to explain their problem slowly… Similarly, seeing Vishwamitra, he cried inconsolably and not only that, he sat on the lap of Vishwamitra and cried. “Why are you crying? Who are you? What do you want?” asked the Sage.

Slowly after he cooled down, [he spoke,] “The King from Ikshvaku dynasty, Ambarisha, who is over there with his chariot… approached my father to give his child for a sacrifice.. So my father said that he will never give his eldest son as the eldest was his favorite.. And my mother said that she will not give the youngest one as the youngest was her favorite.. So I feel that no one likes me.. Let them have some use having me, thinking so I came out of the house.. I came on my own only and the king gave 1000 cows in return.. I came in a haste but now I am very worried about my life.. I am very afraid that I am going to die.. You are kripAlu, dayAlu and you should somehow protect me! You should not leave me, the one who has surrendered unto you! At the same time, I am a righteous person and a truthful person so I will put forward another prayer as well.. So by protecting me, the king’s sacrifice should also not be hindered! Ambarisha brought me with a lot of faith and so the sacrifice should also not be hindered in any way without angering Indra, the sacrifice should be completed properly!”

Vishwamitra saw him and said, “Don’t worry! When you have taken refuge unto me then I will not leave you, I will somehow protect you! Your parents dared to offer you, didn’t they? Should I not dare to do that? My sons are so great that they will listen immediately to my words! A son, if he listens to his fathers words, will be blessed with punya loka. They know all that.” Having told this, he called his sons. After explaining the boy’s story, Vishwamitra said, “Instead of him one of you go.” His sons got angry. They told Vishwamitra, “Are you a father? The story you tell is very nice! To save someone else’s son you are sending your own son. Is it fair?” Saying so they scolded Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra thought his sons were steadfast in truth and dharma, and that they would listen to their father’s words. But they didn’t listen. He got angry. If one gets angry and also has tapas with him, see the consequences.

First he vowed to do a sabha pooja and put a spell on his Guru Vasishta’s 100 sons. Now he gave the same curse to his sons. Here he says, “You all shall attain the same state as Vasishta’s sons.” For how many years? “For 1000 years.” He cursed his own children! That is why before doing dhyana or tapas, one should practise yama, niyama, have satvik food and do dhyana with chitta shuddhi (pure mind). If one does without chitta shuddhi then he’ll end up cursing someone or the other. And ultimately the result will be you lose everything you have. You may have thousands of enemies. Will you curse all of them? What is the benefit of destroying him? Are you doing penance for that? Therefore, what did he do now?

He has to save this child. He says, “All right, come with me. I asked my children. But they did not listen to me. But still I will not abandon you.” I will keep up my word. I’ll teach you two mantras. They will take you near the pillar and then they will apply sandal paste on you and put red clothes on you. At that time, unbeknownst to anyone, chant these mantras and you will be protected. He blessed that child in this manner. And the child started off from there. Ambarisha took him from there. In the yagna shala, the child was tied to a pillar. At the particular time, sandal paste was applied, garlands and red clothes were put on him. Immediately he chanted the two mantras taught by Vishwamitra. Indra appeared before him. It was a mantra that praises Indra immensely. Indra said, “When this child has praised me in such a manner, he should not be killed. Release him.” Ambarisha asked,”Yagna?”. Indra said, “That is also completed.” The child had asked for a boon, “I should be protected and the yaga of the yajamana (here Ambarisha) should also be completed.” So, due to the two mantras taught by Vishwamitra both were fulfilled..

Then in the same Pushkara kshetra… First, Trishanku, though he was already well off, he had a wrong desire. He wanted to go to heaven with a physical body. Vishwamitra blessed that and his penance diminished. Now what happened? One wanted relief from a difficulty. His penance reduced for that itself. In between this, he also got angry. He cursed his own sons. His penance diminished because he gave a curse. When this happened he thought, “Alas! What is this?” Again he composed himself and again did penance for 1000 years. After he did penance for 1000 years Brahma came and said, “subaihi karmabhi.. tvam rishihi”. Scared that Vishwamitra might ask for something else next, Brahma ran off from there.

First he said ‘Rajarishi’, now he said ‘Rishi’. He (Brahma) is not telling more than that. He (Vishwamitra) did not know what to do. So he did more penance. When he continued his penance suddenly, Menaka came to the forest area where he was residing. The two incidents before this highlight the obstacles that come in the way of a person doing dhyAna. This is shown beautifully in Vishwamitra’s life. The first obstacle is in the form of a person who upon knowing that you are doing japa/dhyAna, approaches you for material comforts. The other obstacle is in the form of a person who approaches you for relief from suffering. Vishwamitra has now crossed both these. These are external obstacles.

Next, there are internal obstacles. For a man, things like wealth, status, position, fame etc are invisible things.. The obstacles that are much nearer to him are lust, anger, fear, hatred and ego – these are our own possessions! They are very near to us and never relinquish us.

If we think about this further, man is always chasing money in his life. Our ashram goshala has many cows in it. Does the cow run after money? Does it even know what money is? Do goats know what money is? Do lions know about money? This shows that ‘money’ is a man-made creation. Cows don’t worry about bank balance, nor do goats! Except human beings, no other creature has the concept of money. Next, do animals worry about owning a house? No, they don’t.. Some animals live in burrows and others build nests.. The concept of a ‘house’ is special to mankind.

Similarly, … ….do goats, cows, elephants or lions, desire for a position and run for elections? They don’t have the concept of position. Next, do animals desire fame? They don’t. Do goats or cows know when they were born? No. Do they have a horoscope of their time of birth? No! Do they worry about what will happen tomorrow in their lives? No! Animals take birth, live and die. Most living creatures fight amongst each other when they get food. That is natural. Cows lock their horns. Goats butt each other. Dogs fight with each other. When there is a threat to life, they run. That’s all. If, amongst the pack, a dog/elephant is dominant, and another animal tries to dominate the pack, it gets chased away by the dominant animal. These are the traits natural to animals.

Things like lust, anger etc are specific to human beings.. When we give instructions like “wear a tilak on your forehead, wear clean clothes”, some say, “Why this importance to external symbols? What’s so important about how we look? Is it not enough if we are pure within?” But outer appearance does matter. How can we say external appearance does matter? Suppose you go to a place. There we see that the traditional lamps have been lit, we can hear the melody of veena; a puja has been performed with fragrant flowers like the parijaata. Constant Nama kirtana and puja are being done there, hence there is peace prevailing there. This peace is not something you got from within you. You get this peace due to the external circumstances in that place. This means that external appearance does matter! As soon as we go to that place, we can sense a divine presence.

A man goes to the Lord, and makes a prayer. The prayer is not successful. Again, he prays. Again it fails, and again he prays. Though his prayers are not granted despite his repeated efforts, he still approaches the Lord. Is he a fool? Or is he weak minded? Why does he repeatedly come back to God? God did not grant any of his prayers. Yet, when he comes to the sanctum of the Lord, he experiences an inexplicable peace. That sense of peace draws him to the Lord repeatedly, even though his prayers are unanswered. It is because of this inexplicable peace that he gets, that he keeps returning to the Lord.

Similarly, an external environment affects a person. A man goes to the cinema to watch a horror film. When a frightening sound plays in the movie, it causes fear in him. It’s just a sound right? He is the one who bought a ticket to see that movie. It’s just a story right? They are making the movie for the sake of money right? Knowingly, fear grips. If it is a ghost movie, he gets frightened to sleep alone. He even fears when a curtain moves. He gives money and earns fear. It is just outside, why should you fear? You are afraid. You go to a movie which features tragedy. Everybody cries emotionally from start to end of the movie, then you also cry. It is outside only. Then, it means the outside factors affect you. We should be careful with outside elements.

That is why [to practice sadhana], we should go for isolation, somewhere where nobody can reach you like mountains, caves, sea coasts. This is how Mahans go about. Because, they do not believe in themselves. The one who thinks “I will manage everything myself. Nobody can harm me.” is a fool. He has a wrong estimate about himself. This is the nature of the world. This is an illusion (maya). Even Mahan’s fear of it. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who is the incarnation of God Himself, had to cry day and night and do severe practices (sadhanas). If that was the case, then what to ask about a normal human (jeevas)?

So, what he did was, he started a severe penance again. Now, Menaka came. She was so beautiful. He fell for her beauty. “gandharva vasha:” He fell to Manmatha. When he fell, what happened was.. Because he was enamored and not in his senses, he initially thought, this is the fruit of my tapas! Who will get such a beautiful woman? Who can see her? He started to speak with her slowly, played with her, roamed about with her, went walking with her. Both were joyful. How long? For 10 years. Out of 1000 years of penance, they were joyfully together for 10 years. He lived a family life with Menaka for 10 years. Usually we get exhausted with something after a while, right. Such a state comes. When he was exhausted, he awakened. By then, he did not feel like cursing Menaka. What will she do? How can I curse her for my fault? Being such a great sage, “prAnjalim”, he folded his palms in reverence before her. apsarasam mEnakAm prAnjalim. He told her, “Mother! I have committed a blunder. I should not blame you.” “It is not your fault; I was unable to control my mind.” Then he speaks in a sweet voice – apsarasam mEnakAm prAnjalim. It is not your mistake. I was faulty. I was unable to control my mind.” “So, don’t worry about this in your mind. You please leave now.” “I cannot live with you anymore. I want to do penance.” So, he convinced Menaka and sent her back. He didn’t get angry with her.

Now, by whom was Menaka sent? She was directed by Indra. The thing is, outward disturbances were Trishanku and Shunashepa. Next, the inward distraction is caused by lust; there came Menaka. Vishwamitra decided to move to some other place, as there are obstructions here.

On moving from place to place, he reached the northern hill regions. He does a very severe penance with a resolution not to get deceived this time. He intensifies his tapas. Deva loka is in tremors because of his tapas. Everyone approaches Brahma and requests him to pacify Vishwamitra. By the tapas he did after Menaka left Brahma appeared before him. On seeing him, Brahma said “rishi mukhyatvam mahatvam dadAmi” “You are a mahatma. You have become the most important one among the rishis.” Vishwamitra asks Brahma “Say to me that ‘You are a Brahma Rishi’” Brahma says, “I can’t say that. Just to please you, I can’t give that title The title will lose its respect.” Vishwamitra questions back, “Why can’t you call me so?” Brahma replies, “You have not conquered your senses.” “You have not won over your senses. So that title can’t be given to you” saying thus he left.

Once again he (Vishwamitra) does tapas. This time Indra called Rambha and asked her to go. She at first feared to go, since he was doing intense tapas. “He might curse me. So I won’t go” said Rambha. But Indra insisted that she go “You have to go. We are in Deva loka only for this purpose. So you should go,” said Indra. Rambha too cursing her fate left to meet him (Vishwamitra). Rambha came and he saw her. For a moment his mind got disturbed. But the next moment he gathered himself and thought to himself “Indra first sent Menaka and brought me down Next he has sent Rambha”. He looked at Rambha with anger. Manmatha was sitting in Rambha’s heart to seduce him. But on seeing Vishwamitra with rage, whether Rambha ran out or not, Manmathan ran away first. “What if he curses me” thought Manmatha and ran away. Not knowing what to do, Rambha stood there like a stone.

“dashavarshasahasrANi shailI st hAsya i” said Vishwamithra. “May you stand here as a stone, for ten thousand years,” cursed Vishwamitra.

Now, he tried not to get trapped in lust He got caught in anger instead. He should have actually been cautious and said “You may leave” on seeing Rambha And carried on with his japa. But what happened here was, he thought “Have you come to entice me?” on seeing her he got angry. Now what is happening here.. He does tapas for 10000 years, and goes down because of lust. Again he does tapas for 10000 years. It goes down because of anger.

Now this time his tapas is reduced because of anger He feels helpless and the next time he controlled and held his breath he resolved not to take any food. He lifted up his leg and hands. people seeing him couldn’t say if he was standing on land or standing in air. He started such a rigorous tapas He made one prayer on his tapo-balam “I am not going to have any food. I am going to hold my breath inside me for sometime. I am going to do rigorous tapas While doing this tapas, because of not having any food and Since I am going to stand in a single place (for a long time). May no harm be inflicted upon my body. “nahi me tapyamAnasya kshayam yAsyanti mUrtayaH” prays Vishwamitra. “Because of no food, the body shouldn’t fall down, or any other animals (in the forest) shouldn’t eat my body. Without any harm to the body, may I complete this tapas” thinks Vishwamithra.

Without having food for a long time, smoke started to emerge from his head. A fire like pralaya-agni started to come out. Deva loka started trembling when he came out his tapas, he regained his worldly consciousness, he felt hungry. On one leaf, he took some food and started eating. Indra came at that time Vishwamitra had to be tested, to see if he had won over his senses or not. So Indra came in the disguise of one who had studied the Vedas. And asked him “It has been many days, I haven’t eaten any food. Can you please give me this food?” Vishwamitra too gave away that food to him happily. After giving away that food, he didn’t get angry or feel sad or didn’t worry about that situation. Immediately Brahma called him “brahmarshi svAgataM te astu” “tapasA sma sutoshitAH” “I am very happy with your tapas” You have become a ‘Brahma Rishi’” (said Brahma).

But Vishwamitra didn’t leave it there. He said “You saying it, is not enough” “Please bring Vasishta here. He should call me Brahma Rishi They brought Vasishta and Vasishta said “brahmarishihi tvaM na sandehaH” Vasishta said “You are a ‘Brahma RIshi’ indeed.” What is the final test for a Brahma Rishi? It is food. Seems like a man gets angry the most, only because of food. When one is made to sit in front of the plate to have food And later, if you ask him to get up (without serving), it angers him the most.

So, is Menaka a test or Rambha a test Or Trishanku a test? Finally, food is only the test! When one with severe hunger starts eating, and if someone interrupts him, that is when he would burst out with rage “I myself have just sat down to have food. From where have you come” But even at that situation, he (Vishwamithra) being patient is like a final exam to him. Since he passed that final exam, Vasishta said “brahmarishihi tvaM na sandehaH” He felt happy.

If there is a yagna taking place, during the free time in-between Puranas are to be heard. So during the yagna conducted by Janaka, Sadananda telling Vishwamithra’s story was considered as listening to Puranas during the yagna. Janaka was listening to it. Rama and Lakshmana were listening to it. Many rishis had gathered for that yagna. They all were listening to it. They all were in awe. And looked at Vishwamitra. He was sitting there silently with humility. Everyone was awestruck looking at Vishwamithra. Janaka approached Vishwamithra and said, “Please cast your divine sight on me.” Vishwamitra asked “What? Why?” Janaka replies, “Just by your mere glance, all my sins would be washed away. Just by your glance I will attain merits (punya). Such a tapasvi you are.” Rama is astonished. Lakshmana is astonished. All the rithviks there are startled. Janaka circumambulates Vishwamitra And prostrates unto Vishwamithra. “I wish to know more about you, and listen more about you. I wish to spend more time with you. But it is already dusk. I have to go take a bath. May we listen to more stories tomorrow morning,” said Janaka and left to take a bath in the river that evening.

Janakikanthasmaranam Jai jai Ram Ram!
Sathgurunath Maharajki Jai!

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare |
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare ||

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