Monthly Archives: April 2024

Krishna Avatar, Part 48

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Once a brahmin priest, who was a scholar in Vedas and who exceled in penance and discipline visited the court of King Dhritarashtra. The king greeted him with respect and offered him a seat. 

While they were talking, the brahmin revealed that he had seen the Pandavas in the forest. He went on describing the details, explaining the hardship they were living under. Hearing about the condition of the Pandavas, Dhritarashtra’s heart ached and tears fell from his eyes. 

Brahmin priest (1)

The brahmin continued, saying that even with all the hardship, the eldest of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira, with his severe penance had acquired boons not only from the sages on this earth but also from the celestial beings. Bhima had gotten new physical strength and power as blessings from Lord Hanuman. Arjuna, because of his austere penance, received Pashupata Astra from Lord Shiva, and he also got incomparable weapons from Indra. 

The brahmin added that Nakula & Sachdeva along with Draupadi were stronger than ever before in their hearts & minds. He also mentioned how all the rishis and yogis were visiting them and, most of all, Krishna himself was visiting them quite often.

King Dhritarashtra (2)

Hearing all this from the brahmin, Dhritarashtra’s mood changed from sympathy to fear & worry. Karna and Shakuni also heard all this, along with Duryodhana. Duryodhana got angry and really wanted to humiliate and insult the Pandavas while in their unfortunate circumstances. He decided to get permission from his father to go witness the suffering of the Pandavas. This was something he had been wanting to do for a very long time. As he knew his father would not allow him to humiliate or insult the Pandavas, he had to devise an alternate plan.

Duryodhana told his father Dhritarashtra that they wanted to visit the village near the forest where the Pandavas lived. They were going to inspect a cow farm which belonged to the Hastinapura kingdom. As the King was afraid of them going so close to where the Pandavas lived, it took a lot of convincing to get the permission.

The three of them along with other Kauravas went to the forest. They brought men and women in fine clothing and jewelry, hoping that it would provoke the Pandavas and Draupadi. They first came across a serene stream and decided to refresh themselves by taking a bath in it. But they were not the only ones in the stream. There were some Gandharvas, celestial beings, including their chief Chitrasena, already there having a nice time. 

That was disturbing to the Kauravas. Duryodhana demanded that the Gandharvas leave. They ignored Duryodhana and refused to leave. So the Kauravas ended up fighting them, only to lose badly. Karna was insulted so much that he ran away. The Gandharvas defeated the Kauravas and imprisoned them, including the men and women who came along with them.

Chitrasena of the Gandharvas (3)

The Pandavas heard the news about Kauravas’ capture from the soldiers deserting the Kauravas. Bhima was so delighted to hear the news, thinking that the Gandharvas had done what he had been wanting to do so badly. But Yudhishthira advised Bhima and Arjuna to go save them, as it’s their dharma to be there for their family. 

So, the Pandavas gathered the Kaurava soldiers who had scattered and went to war with the Gandharvas. Chitrasena’s anger vanished as soon as he saw the Pandavas, especially Arjuna, his beloved student. He respected the Pandavas’ request to release their family members. Per their wish, Chitrasena released the Kauravas.

Yudhishthira advising Duryodhana (4)

Yudishthira advised Duryodhana to stop doing unkind acts in the future. He sent Duryodhana and the others back to Hastinapura, lovingly asking them to convey his best regards to the elders and other family members. Duryodhana was terribly humiliated by this incident and felt miserable. He was so angry.  He couldn’t accept that the Pandavas rescued him and his family from the Gandharvas. He didn’t want to live with this disgrace. But after Karna, Shakuni and the other brothers convinced him otherwise, they all returned to Hastinapura.

Later one day, when the Pandavas had gone out hunting, Jayadratha was on his way to Hastinapura and saw Draupadi in the forest. Jayadratha was the King of the Sindhu Kingdom, married to Duryodhana’s sister Dushala. Jayadratha was struck by the beauty of Draupadi. Not knowing who she was, he sent a soldier to inquire about her. After knowing who she was, he invited her to come live with him, mocking her situation with the Pandavas.

Draupadi being kidnapped by Jayadratha (5)

Draupadi was furious about this request and refused harshly, telling Jayadratha to leave the ashram immediately. Filled with lust, Jayadratha kidnapped her. He forcibly pulled her into his chariot and drove away. Draupadi screamed so loudly that those who were nearby heard the cry and ran to rescue her, but the chariot drove away fast. 

When the Pandavas reached the ashram, they heard about the incident from those who were nearby. They immediately went after Jayadratha. Jayadratha’s army was no match for the angry Pandavas. When Jayadratha saw Bhima and Arjuna approaching, he did his best to save his life by pushing Draupadi out of the chariot. Seeing this Bhima got furious and captured Jayadratha in no time. 

Jayadratha (6)

They took him to Yudhishthira. Yudhishthira asked Draupadi to decide the punishment for Jayadratha, reminding her that he was the husband of their cousin Dushala. Even though she was filled with rage and bitterness, Draupadi valued Yudhishthira’s comments and asked Jayadratha’s head to be shaved, leaving only a few clumps of hair. The punishment was carried out according to her wish and Jayadratha was let go to return to his kingdom.

Jayadratha was too ashamed to go home to his family and remained in the forest. He did intense austerities and meditation on Lord Shiva, seeking a boon to take revenge on the Pandavas. Pleased with his deep tapas, Lord Shiva appeared before Jayadratha. Jayadratha asked Lord Shiva to give him a boon to defeat the Pandavas and their army in a battle. 

As Lord Shiva had already given a boon to Arjuna that he couldn’t be defeated, Shiva altered the boon that Jayadratha asked. Lord Shiva said that Jayadratha could resist the other four Pandava brothers for one day of the battle. With no other choice, Jayadratha accepted the boon and went home. After getting the boon, he forgot the fact that he was the one who wronged them in the first place. 

Duryodhana, inspired by Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya Yaj~na, always wanted to perform one himself. But the brahmins and the elders didn’t agree with his idea. So instead, he planned to do a different special yaj~na. All the rishis and sages visited the kingdom to attend this yajna. With Karna’s dedication and loyalty, Duryodhana successfully finished the yaj~na. At this ceremony, Karna made a promise to Duryodhana that he would kill Arjuna in war. He vowed to give up eating meat and alcohol until then. It is also believed this is when Karna took the vow of giving as well. By this, he became the benevolent King of the age.

Rishi Durvasa (7)

One fine day, Rishi Durvasa visited Hastinapura with his many disciples. Knowing the sage’s hot temper, Duryodhana didn’t want to be cursed, so he served Durvasa at his best to please him. The sage was delighted by Duryodhana’s service and asked him to request a boon. Duryodhana cunningly requested the sage to visit the Pandavas in the forest. Of course, the reason behind this request is that he was hoping that this was a great opportunity to bring downfall to the Pandavas. Knowing the sage’s temperament, Duryodhana was thinking it would be hard for the Pandavas to serve and satisfy the sage and his many disciples with their limited resources. 

Duryodhana also requested that the sage visit the Pandavas late in the afternoon. This was to make sure that Draupadi had taken care of everyone, so she would have nothing to offer to the sage and his disciples. The ill mind of Duryodhana was such that, instead of getting blessings from the sage, he was scheming to cause harm to others.  

Sage Durvasa agreed to Duryodhana’s request and promised to go visit the Pandavas and Draupadi in the near future.  Duryodhana was happy that his plot to bring downfall to the Pandavas was working.  He hoped that they would be severely cursed by Rishi Durvasa.

More to come…

  1. Brahmin priest
  2. King Dhritarashtra
  3. Chitrasena of the Gandharvas
  4. Yudhishthira advising Duryodhana
  5. Draupadi being kidnapped by Jayadratha
  6. Jayadratha
  7. Rishi Durvasa

Freedom From Worldly Fatigue

By Swami Prajñananda

I used to wish that I didn’t need to sleep. It seemed like such a waste of time.

And I did a pretty good job over the years of burning the candle at both ends. The most extreme of which was when I was part of a dance team that started practice at midnight. After practice I would walk home, get about three hours of sleep, wake up, go to work and then do it all again. Yeah, I only lasted a couple months on that schedule.

In retrospect, I can see that part of me was onto something with my lifestyle. I wanted to be awake. I couldn’t put words to it at the time, but it was a desire to know that my life was meaningful — that I was meaningful.

So I kept busy and poured myself into everything that I did. Unfortunately, the main thing I got from all this was exhaustion, called “shrama” in Sanskrit. Technically shrama means the fatigue that comes from worldliness.

What is worldliness? It is the focus and pouring of your energies into the world. When you do this without being based in your own inner depth, you drain yourself easily. You are not present in your body, but rather “out there” somewhere.

You may want to blame it on a busy day, but there is more going on. Truly, you drain yourself more with your mind than anything you can do with your body. For how many thoughts do you think in a day? Some research says the average is about 60,000 with 80% of those thoughts being negative.

Worldly exhaustion (1)

Unfortunately, everyone’s mind loves to dwell on painful memories and future worries, yours too. Each time you do, your own presence leaves your body and goes out with your thoughts. Not only is this painful, it is also draining. This is why we fall into bed at the end of the day exhausted. We’ve lost our own presence and have drained our own energy.

This is a big reason why people come, or should come, to an ashram. For “ashram” means without (“a-”) fatigue (“shrama”). When you come to an ashram, you begin to dissolve your lifetime’s worth of exhaustion (or perhaps from many lifetimes). You also learn how to live in a way as to not create more.

Yet this is not about escaping the world. No, that’s not it at all. In fact you don’t even have to physically go to an ashram. Rather, you can do the practices that the ashram recommends: poses, breathing, chanting, mantra, meditation and more. When you apply yourself to these practices, you learn how to live in your body in a whole new way. And this completely changes your experience of the world.

Instead of looking outward for what you think you need, or running away from what you think you don’t, you stay grounded inside. You are centered in your own presence, your own Self. This is truly what it means to be awake. This is described in the Shiva Sutras 1.8:

J~naana.m jaagrat

Knowledge is wakefulness

We usually think of knowledge as what you learn with your mind. But, this sutra describes a deeper knowing. It is the experience of your own presence, beyond your mind. This is your essence, the light of your own being.

When you ground into the inner infinity of your own light, it is called wakefulness. You are awake! When you are lost looking outward to the world to complete you, this is called darkness. You don’t know who you are. You are asleep even with your eyes open.

So how do you move from darkness to light? It is not something you do easily on your own. Otherwise, you would have done it by now. You need someone who can show you the way. Just like you needed someone to teach you how to tie your shoes, learn the ABC’s and ride a bike, you also need a teacher to show you how to move towards the light.

This is the literal translation of the Sanskrit word “Guru.” Guru is a compound word: “gu” means darkness and “ru” means light. The Guru is one who takes you from darkness to light. They give you an inner awakening, so you begin to shine from the inside out. You learn how to stay based in your own light and even to see the same light in the world.

Now, when you act, even when you think, you aren’t creating shrama. You aren’t draining your energy. For, the fact is, you are based in the source of energy itself. You can be a light onto the world. Living in joy and spreading that joy everywhere you go. If you like how this sounds, well, it’s time to wake up.