Monthly Archives: July 2021

Krishna Avatar Part 22

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

The Pandavas had proved their excellence and superiority to the Kauravas once again by fulfilling Guru Drona’s wish.  The display of various martial skills and their distinctive noble qualities gained wide popularity, not only with the elders of the family but among the people of Hastinapura as well. 

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The good citizens of Hastinapura wanted Pandu’s eldest son Yudhishthira to be declared as Crown Prince.  His fine qualities of patience, benevolence, honesty and selflessness made him loved by all.  Since he was the eldest of all the princes, Bhishma advised Dhritarashtra to declare Yudhishthira as successor, and to crown him as, the prince first in line to the throne. 

This upset Dhritarashtra who was hoping for his son Duryodhana to be his successor.  But most of all, Duryodhana was deeply hurt by all this.  His dream of becoming Crown Prince was shattered.  Unable to tolerate it, burning with jealousy, he again began to plot against the Pandavas in order to safeguard the throne for himself.  Even though all his earlier conspiracies had failed miserably, he was not ready to give up his efforts.  So he laid out a plot with his brothers, his uncle Shakuni and his best friend Karna. 

He went straight to his father and met with him privately, saying, “Father, the people of Hastinapura have lost their minds.  They are not even respecting you or grandsire Bhishma.  They want to make Yudhishthira the successor.  Once Yudhishthira is crowned, that will be end of you and all of us Kauravas.  None of us will ever be kings, not even our children.” 

This made Dhritarashtra pause and think.  Still, he tried to convince Duryodhana, describing Yudhishthira as being like his own brother Pandu, who was very kind and loving.  Pandu would never have done anything unjust to the Kauravas, or to anyone for that matter.  Dhritarashtra also warned Duryodhana, saying that Pandu was loved by all, which was also the case with Yudhishthira.  It would be very hard to convince the people otherwise.  Fighting against all of them would never bring the victory Duryodhana was expecting. 

Duryodhana reminded his father that Grandsire Bhishma would be always loyal to the throne of Hastinapura, due to his great vow.  Thereby Bhishma would always support Dhritarashtra, as long as he was the king.  Dhritarashtra finally fell for his son’s plot against the Pandavas.  Dhritarashtra had a soft spot for his brother’s children, but his love for his own children often overshadowed that.  Because of this weakness, the love of his son Duryodhana, he often knowingly chose the wrong path. 

Duryodhana
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The annual festival held in Varanavata was a great opportunity to accomplish the plot.  Duryodhana asked his father to send the Pandavas, along with their mother Kunti, to participate in the annual festival.  His request seemed strange at first, but Duryodhana emphasized the importance of sending Yudhishthira in the capacity of the Crown Prince, in accordance with the custom.  He told his father that, while the Pandavas were away, he would try to convince those who supported the Pandavas and turn them into his allies.  If needed be, by bribing them, as the last resort.  Yet, Dhritarashtra was not giving in.  It took more convincing from all the accomplices of Duryodhana, before Dhritarashtra agreed to cooperate with the plot.

However, Duryodhana hatched a more dreadful plot with his brothers, his uncle Shakuni and his best friend Karna.  He approached Purochana, one of his ministers, for help.  Under the strict supervision of Purochana, a beautiful palace was built at Varanavata.  Its walls were made of lacquer, a highly flammable substance, while its roof was thatched so that it could catch fire at the slightest contact with a single spark of fire.  The plan was to burn the Pandavas while they were sleeping at night, so that nobody would suspect foul play.  Thus the death of the Pandavas would pass off as an accident. 

Hearing about Varanavata and the famous festival, the Pandavas were thrilled about visiting there.  With their mother Kunti, they left for Varanavata after being blessed by the elders and given well-wishes by the others.  The people of Hastinapura followed them as far as they could go and then returned home.

Even though Purochana managed to get the palace built, only by bribing the builders, the news of terrible plot somehow leaked out.  It reached Vidura’s ears.  Knowing about Duryodhana’s plot, Vidura had wisely taken into confidence a builder involved in the construction.  With his help, a secret tunnel was constructed as an escape path that led from the palace to an opening on the riverside.  The builder managed to finish the task of digging the tunnel so secretly that even Purochana did not know about the underground escapeway. 

Vidura
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Vidura alerted the Pandavas well in advance, even before they started off on their journey.  As he was unable to meet the Pandavas privately, Vidura tactfully, in the presence of the Kauravas, warned the Pandavas about the imminent danger in an indirect way.  On his going away blessings to Yudhishthira and the others, He said some cryptic words, “A weapon not made of steel or any other material element can be more than sharp to kill an enemy.  He who knows this is never killed.  The substance that devastates a forest and helps with the cold cannot hurt a rat, which shelters itself in a hole or a porcupine which burrows in the earth.  The wise man knows his bearings by looking at the stars.”

Vidura’s tactical way of passing the message worked.   Yudhishthira understood its meaning, knowing the means to escape the danger, which was imminent.  This message made Kunti and her sons sad, that Duryodhana had started his plots to kill them again.  All their happiness about going to Varanavata’s famous festival disappeared. 

When Pandavas reached Varanavata, they acted as if they knew nothing about the plot.  They attended the fair regularly, while spending most of the daytime hunting in the forest.  This was to get familiar with the surroundings.  At nightfall, they returned to the palace.  They slept in the tunnel itself and not inside the palace.  They did it in such a way that nobody knew they were not inside the palace at night.  They kept close watch on the activities of Purochana. 

Purochana was fully confident of the success of Duryodhana’s evil plan.  Duryodhana was equally sure that the Pandavas would not be able to escape, and thus would never return back to Hastinapura. 

On the last day of the fair, the Pandavas and Kunti performed a special puja and yaj~na, and gave away alms to the poor.  That was the night Purochana had been waiting for, to set the fire to kill the Pandavas.  It was a moonless dark night.  Anticipating the plot, the Pandavas were alert and fully armed.

With a view to having an upper hand, Bheema got up at midnight.  He set fire to the palace at different locations.  He wanted to kill Duryodhana’s accomplices and weaken his enemy’s strength.  Bheema escaped through the tunnel, along with his brothers and mother Kunti.  In no time the palace was engulfed in horrible flames and reduced to ashes. 

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Unfortunately, a poor woman about the age of Kunti had attended the feeding ceremony that morning, along with her five adult sons.  She stayed in the palace that night, as she didn’t have any other place to stay, so she and her sons, along with Purochana himself, were killed in the fire.  Purochana had gotten caught in the fire when Bheema beat him to setting the palace on fire.

The Pandavas escaped through the underground tunnel and reached the riverbank of Ganga.  Vidura had arranged for a boat for them, so when they came to the riverbank they found a boatman waiting for them, ready to ferry them across the river.  They boarded the boat and safely landed on the other bank of the Ganga. 

When the news about the catastrophe reached Hastinapura, the kingdom was hit by shock waves.  Both Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana were pleased, relieved and extremely delighted in their hearts, outwardly they pretended to be very sorrowful and in grief.  They were sure that the path to the throne was now clear for Duryodhana.  Bhishma and other like-minded royal dignitaries were shocked at the sad happening.  Their sorrow was indescribable indeed.

Duryodhana rushed to Varanavata.  There he found burned bodies of a woman and five men.  The death of Purochana surprised him, as it was he who was to set fire to the house.  Duryodhana wondered why Purochana couldn’t save himself.  Unfortunately, the burnt woman was the homeless woman with her five sons, who had sought refuge in the palace.  After his survey, Duryodhana declared a state of mourning in the kingdom, returning to Hastinapura. 

Outwardly Dhritarashtra and the Kauravas acted grief-struck, but in their hearts they were feeling ecstatic.  They thought that the road was now clear, that all the hurdles in Duryodhana’s way to the throne had been taken care of.  Grandsire Bhishma and other ministers were in state of shock and their sadness was beyond words.  They were not in the mindset to suspect any foul play.  Only Vidura knew the actual story, but didn’t say anything to anyone, leaving it to the Pandavas to emerge when they wished to.  Though he knew they survived the fire, he didn’t know their whereabouts after they landed on the other side of Ganga.

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On the other side of Ganga, Kunti and the Pandavas landed with a sigh and a deep breath.  They thanked the boatman and disappeared into the jungle.  At that point, they knew that Duryodhana was never going to let them live in harmony.  At Kunti’s request, they decided they would sacrifice the throne for their mother’s peace of mind.

We had started to talk about the Kuru family, including the Pandavas and Kauravas, some time ago.  It was after Krishna and Balarama had rushed to Hastinapura, having heard that their cousins from the Kuru family were in great danger.  This was the incident that brought them to Hastinapura. 

The Inner Boost

By Swami Prajñananda

When I was a little girl, my dad would put me up on his shoulders. I loved to be lifted  up in the air. At the fair one summer, he boosted me up in the night sky.  I soared above the crowds.  I wanted to stay there forever in timeless suspension.  But what goes up must come down.  And so I did.

As I grew, I got too big to be boosted up.  So, I tried to boost myself up.  Oh, how I wanted to soar.  And sometimes I did.  Yet, it seemed that gravity would always have its way as I came back down to “reality” every time.

My world changed though when I found my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  I got boosted in a whole new way.  This time the boost was an inner boost.  I discovered that the heights I’d looked for on the outside were just as vast on the inside.  In fact, I realized that I had always sought the inner expanse.

It’s like when you climb a mountain.  You get to the top and look out at the view. You see the vastness on the outside, which then triggers the feeling of the vastness within.  When I received the inner boost, I was given a superpower.  I no longer needed to climb a mountain to access the vastness inside.  How does the Guru do this?  Gurudevi’s Guru, Swami Muktananda, describes this boost:

“Make friends with him who lifts you up to his own height, who releases you from the snare of name and form, and makes you as free as himself. “

-Swami Muktananda, Mukteshwari, p. 181

A true Guru lifts you up to his or her own height.  This height describes not how tall they are but rather their spiritual greatness.  The Masters in this lineage are spiritual giants.  They are completely free within.  And they have the ability to free those who come to them.  

What are they freeing you from?  Muktananda says it is from “the snare of name and form.”  Does that mean you won’t have a name?  And you won’t have a body?  No.  It means while you still have a name and body, you are not limited by them.  

The way that you interact with the world is through name and form. You have names for everything you see.  And if you don’t have a name for it, you can simply look it up on the Internet.  Your mind categorizes everything by giving it a name. This is quite necessary so that you can participate in the world.  Yet your mind uses names to limit you.

On a more neutral level, your mind gives you names to define who you are.  For example, you are a daughter or a son, a mother or a father, a teacher or student, a gardener, a baker, an athlete, a reader.  These words name the things that you do and the relationships that you have. Yet, you are more than any of those names can describe.

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In a more harmful way, your mind names your doubts and fears: I am not smart enough; I am not pretty or handsome enough; I am not charming enough; I am not good enough.  Your mind can name all the things that make you feel small.  Yet you are not small at all.  The names are small, but you are more than the names.  You are the vastness that you discover inside.  You are that vastness and even more.

But what about form?  Muktananda tells you to make friends with one who releases you from the snare of name and form.  You don’t let go of form; rather, you let go of the snare of form.  How does form snare you?  Through the belief that you are your body.  Yes, you have a body and how magnificent it is.  As a human being you can do so much with your body.  And it can be a trap.  When you think that you are your body, you are then limited by what your body can do.  And you know what?  Your body can only do so much.

And then, there is your focus on the other forms of the world. You compare them to yourself.  You question whether you measure up.  You think that you want them, or you want to avoid them.  In this way, you get completely lost in form.

A true Guru releases you from the snare of both name and form.  Gurudevi guides you in finding the more that you are.  A true Guru lifts you up to her own height by giving you inner freedom.  This freedom is the freedom she found within herself.  This freedom is the freedom her Guru gave her.  This freedom is your own freedom.  All you need to do is discover it, inside.  How?  By making friends with the Guru.  You make friends with the Guru by doing the practices she gives you.  Ah, that means you must do more yoga!