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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======


Click on underlined words to open paragraph

Add the God Principle in our daily lives (1)

Gods and Demons (2)

Two Goats (3)


From Brhadaranyaka Upanisad

The Letters from the Lord of Death (5)

The Story of a Wallet (6)

Hypocrite (7)

Man with an umbrella(8)

Honesty (9)

Quarrel among the senses (10)

The Story of Rose 11)

Stone in the middle of the road (12)

Raikwa the Cart-driver (13)
Chandogya Upanishad

Letter from Lord Ram (14)

Doing Good 
The Story of King Rantideva  (15)
The Story of Sage Dadeechi  (16)
The Story of Mahabali  (17)
The Story of King Sibi  (18)

Satyakama, the Truth Seeker  (19)
Chandogya Upanishad

The story of Ushasti  (20)
Chandogya Upanishad

Life after death   (21)
Chandogya Upanishad

The Bold Beggar  (22)
Chandogya Upanishad

A String of Questions  (23)
Prashna Upanishad

Thus Spake Yajnavalkya  (24)
Brhadaranyaka Upanishad

Thus Spake Uddalaka Aruni  (25)
Chandogya Upanishad

Gargi, the Fair Questioner  (26)
Brahadaranyaka Upanishad

Balaki, the Vain  (27)
Brahadaranyaka Upanishad

Nachiketa, the Seeker  (28)
Katha Upanishad

Uma, the Golden Goddess (29)

The Four Varnas (30)
Brahadaranyaka Upanishad

Para and Apara vidya (31)
Chandogya Upanishad

The Message of the Guru (32)
Taittiriya Upanishad

The Five Sheaths (33)
Taittiriya Upanishad

The Bliss of Brahman (34)
Taittiriya Upanishad

Upanishadic Teaching (35)
Isha Upanishad


Add the God Principle in our daily lives (1)
The source of this inspiring story
from India is shrouded in antiquity.
Origins unknown.

(In the olden days when there were no motor
cars, people used to travel on horseback.)

One rich man owned 19 horses when he died. In his last will and teastament he had written that upon his death, half the horses he owned should go to his only son; one fourth to the village temple and one fifth to the faithful servant.

The village elders could not stop scratching their heads. How can they give half of the 19 horses to the son? You cannot cut up a horse. They puzzled over this dilemma for more than two weeks and then decided to send for a wise man who was living in a neighbouring village.

The wise man came riding on his horse and asked the villagers if he can be of any help to them. The village elders told him about the rich man's last will and testament which stated that half of the (19) horses must be given to his only son, one fourth must go to the temple and one fifth to the faithful servant.

The wise man said he will immediately solve their problem without any delay whatsoever. He had the 19 horses placed in a row standing next to one another. Then he added his own horse as the 20th horse. Now he went about giving half of the 20 horses – that is ten horses to the son. One fourth of 20- that is 5 horses were given to the temple committee. One fifth of twenty- that is 4 horses were given to the faithful servant. Ten plus five plus four made 19 horses. The remaining 20th horse was his own which he promptly mounted, spoke a few inspiring words, and rode back home.

The villagers were simply dumfounded, full of disbelief and filled with admiration. And the parting words of the wise man were inscribed in their hearts and minds which they greatly cherished and passed on to their succeeding generations till today.

The wise man said: In our daily lives, in our daily affairs, simply add God’s name and then go about facing the day’s happenings. Ever come across problems in life that are seemingly insurmountable? (Like the villagers, do we feel that such problems cannot be solved?).

The wise man continued: Add the God Principle in our daily lives and the problems will become lighter and eventually will disappear. In the manner of the ice which, with the addition of the heat principle will turn into water, and that will eventually evaporate as steam and disappear. And how do we add God’s name (God principle) in our daily lives? Through prayers, filled with true love and devotion with sincerity of purpose and dedication that only total faith can bring about. Meditation is a powerful means of directing the mind Godward.

But without true love and devotion entering into it, it remains like a boat without water. It is not difficult to push a boat that is floating in water, but extremely hard to drag the same boat on dry land. In the same way, if our life’s boat floats on the waters of true love and devotion, we can sail easily in it. The principle of love of God and devotion with total faith, (like water) makes easy the voyage of our lives. When the mind is pure and the heart full of simplicity and holiness, such a devotee becomes an instrument in the service of the Lord.

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Add the God Principle in our daily lives (2)

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Girish Gosh
Based on the writings of Swami Nikhilananda
Extracts from'The Disciples of Ramakrishna'

Girish Chandra Gosh was a born rebel against God, a sceptic, a Bohemian, a drunkard. He was the greatest Bengali dramatist of his time, the father of the modern Bengali stage. Like other young men he had imbibed all the vices of the West. He had plunged into a life of dissipation and had become convinced that religion was only a fraud. Materialistic philosophy he justified as enabling one to get at least a little fun out of life. But a series of reverses shocked him and he became eager to solve the riddle of life. He had heard people say that in spiritual life the help of a guru was imperative and that the guru was to be regarded as God himself.

But Girish was too well acquainted with human nature to see perfection in a man. His first meeting with Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa did not impress him at all. He returned home feeling as if he had seen a freak at a circus; for the Master (Sri Ramakrishna), in a semi-conscious mood, had inquired whether it was evening, though the lamps were burning in the room. But their paths often crossed, and Girish could not avoid further encounters. The Master attended a performance in Girish’s Star Theatre. On this occasion, too, Girish found nothing impressive about the Master.

One day, however, Girish happened to see the master dancing and singing with the devotees. He felt the contagion and wanted to join them, but restrained himself for fear of ridicule. Another day, Sri Ramakrishan was about to give him spiritual instruction, when Girish said: "I don’t want to listen to instructions. I have myself written many instructions. They are of no use to me. Please help me in a more tangible way if you can." This pleased the Master and he asked Girish to cultivate faith.

As time passed, Girish began to learn that the guru is the one who silently unfolds the disciple’s inner life. He became a steadfast devotee of the Master.

Girish often loaded the Master with insults, drank in his presence, and took liberties which astounded the other devotees. One night under the influence of liquor he abused the Master in the theatre hall in most indecent language. The enraged devotees were about to punish his insolence, but Sri Ramakrishna held them back and quietly returned to Dakshineshwar Temple. There again many devotees requested the Master not to go to Girish any more.

But there was one amongst the devotees, Ram Chandra Datta, who told the Master, "Sir, you will have to put up with this as well. He can only give what he has. The serpent king of the Bhagavata said to Lord Sri Krishna, ‘My Lord, you have given me poison, where shall I get nectar to give you?’ Similarly Girish has worshipped you with whatever you have given him."

Sri Ramakrishna simply smiled and said to the other devotees: "Just hear his words. Get me a coach (a horse drawn carriage). I shall go to Girish’s house today." Thus without caring about the objections of the devotees, Sri Ramakrishna went to the house of Girish and found him smitten with anguish and remorse. The kind and affectionate words of the Master banished all gloom from his mind and filled it with a flood of joy.

The Master knew that at heart Girish was tender, faithful and sincere. The Master would not allow Girish to give up the theatre. And when a devotee asked him to tell Girish to give up drinking, the Master sternly replied: "That is none of your business. He who has taken charge of him will look after him. Girish is a devotee of heroic type. I tell you, drinking will not affect him."

The Master knew that mere words could not induce a man to break deep-rooted habits, but that the silent influence of love worked miracles. Therefore he never asked Girish to give up alcohol, with the result that Girish himself eventually broke the habit. Sri Ramakrishna had strengthened Girish’s resolution by allowing him to feel that he was absolutely free.

One day in the course of a conversation Sri Ramakrishna told Girish that along with his work he must remember God at least in the morning and in the evening.(Add the God Principle in daily life)     He looked at Girish as if expecting a reply. "That is a very simple thing to do," Girish thought, "but I am a busy man with no fixed hours for food or sleep. I shall surely forget to remember God at those stated hours. So, how can I promise that?"

Sri Ramakrishna read his mind and said, "All right, if you cannot do that, then remember God before meals and at bed-time."

Girish was not willing to promise even that- such was the irregularity of his life, and besides he was by nature opposed to any hard and fast rule and the slightest restraint was galling to him. Sri Ramakrishna realised his perplexity and said finally, "So you are unwilling to agree to this even. All right, give me your power of attorney. Henceforth, I assume responsibility for you. You need not do anything."

Girish heaved a sigh of relief. He felt happy to think that Sri Ramakrishna had assumed his spiritual responsibilities. But poor Girish then could not realise that he also, on his part, had to give up his freedom and make of himself a puppet in Sri Ramakrishna’s hands.

The master began to discipline Girish according to this new attitude. One day Girish said about a trifling matter, "Yes, I shall do this."

"No, no!" the Master corrected him. "You must not speak in that egoistic manner. You should say, ‘God willing, I shall do it.’ " Girish understood. Thenceforth he tried to give up all idea of personal responsibility and surrender himself to the Divine Will. Girish understood that he had given up his freedom and had made himself the Master’s captive. Thenceforth he tried to give up all idea of personal responsibility and to become a willing instrument of the Divine Will. The sincerity of Girish in this respect was beyond comparison. His mind began to dwell constantly on Sri Ramakrishna. This unconscious meditation in time chastened Girish’s turbulent spirit.

During the last days of his life Girish used very often to utter the name of Sri Ramakrishna. His eyes and countenance radiant with a superb glow bespoke his inner illumination and his unswerving faith in the love and grace of his Master. Girish said to his brother-disciples, "I do not want anything else; only bless me that I may always remember him as the ocean of infinite love and compassion. The world is no longer a terror unto me. I have transcended all fear of death through his grace."

On the night before the day of his final exit from the world, Girish calmly uttered the name of Sri Ramakrishna thrice and prayed, "Lord, let me have peace; take me into thy bosom." So saying, the heroic devotee of Sri Ramakrishna closed his eyes for good and passed into the realm of eternal rest on Thursday, February 8, 1912.

[Note: The Master, Sri Ramakrishna had
passed away on Sunday, August 15, 1886.]

Related articles

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Gods and Demons (2)

This happened a long long time ago.

A little boy asked his father : "Daddy, what is the
difference between gods and demons?"

The father said to the little boy: "Son, I will organise a big banquet at our residence where I will invite both the gods and the demons. At the end of the banquet you will get your answer."

And the father sent out invitations to both the gods and the demons. On the appointed day, a most lavish banquet was organised and hundreds of gods and hundreds of demons arrived at the house.

The demons were an impatient lot, disorganised and noisy. They asked the host that they wanted VIP (very important person) treatment, and therefore wanted to have their food served first to the demons and the gods must eat last.

The host agreed to their request on one condition that the demons tie wooden planks to both hands when eating. The demons said that if the same condition was also applied to the gods as well then they had no objection to tying the wooden planks on both their hands when eating.

All the demons had wooden planks tied to both their hands and they immediately sat on the floor, seating one next to the other in one straight line. They were all very eager to be served with delicious food.

The first course of food arrived. It was the best smelling soup in a bowel with spoon. Now when the demons got spoons filled with the soup, they realised that they could not bend their hands to bring the spoons to their mouths. They tried to lift their hands over their heads and tilt the spoons with their mouths wide open. They got the soup falling in their eyes and all over the face and also on their expensive garments.

The demons got noisier, became angry and started swearing at the host. Some of the demons wanted to beat up the host. Some demons tried to restrain the other demons and they started fighting among themselves. The demons agreed that it was totally useless for them to remain at this banquet as it was not possible to eat the food without bending their hands. It was impossible to eat the food without messing up their beautiful and expensive garments. With angry words the demons left the banquet.

Now it was the turn of the gods to eat. The gods were of a peaceful nature. They also sat in a line on the floor. Both their hands were also tied with wooden planks. When the first course of food was served, which was the delicious soup, the gods first recited the food prayer. The gods realised that they could not bend their hands, and therefore it was impossible to eat the soup.

Each of the gods thought: "Never mind if I cannot eat the soup, but let me be of help to my fellow brother who is seated next to me."

The gods turned towards each other and started feeding each other. They thus enjoyed the most delicious soup. Then the next course of meal was served and they enjoyed that delicious meal. They went through five course meals and ate to their hearts content. They thanked the host, presented the host with gifts they had brought, and peacefully went back to their homes.

The son was observing all that happened. The father told him that a major difference between the gods and the demons was the difference in their attitude of ‘Giving’ and the attitude of ‘Taking.’ The demons thought only about their individual self-interest whereas the gods thought about selflessly serving others. When you open your heart and give selflessly, you receive also much more than you give.

[Note: Although this story relates to what happened a long long time ago, this is an eternal story. It relates to all ages and to our modern times as well. The following comments are by Sri A. Parthasarathy from his book ‘Vedanta Treatise’]

Easiest way of practising religion

By Sri A.Parthasarathy
From his book Vedanta Treatise

What is the easiest way of practising and bringing religion into our lives? There are two broad principles governing human action. The first of the two principles is based on the attitude of GIVING. The second is based on the attitude of TAKING.

If the attitude of TAKING prevails in a society you will find its members possessed with multifold selfish demands and desires. Consequently, there is struggle, stress and strain in that society with crimes, robbery, rapes, corruption, inconsiderate selfish behaviour, becoming prevalent at national, community, family and individual levels.

Let their attitude change to GIVING. Their demands and desires drop their selfishness. Harmony, peace and happiness will reign in that very same society. The dignity of human race is founded upon the principle of GIVING. Life is to give, not to take. One ought not to demand from society. Perhaps one's only right in the world is to give, to serve. To serve one and all. Serve the nation, serve the society, the family and yourself. This is the first of the elements of right living. We need to do service to maintain our proper spiritual well being. While the physical body resorts to service, the mind must embrace the world with love.

This is the second element of right living. All our emotions must be amalgamated into a mass of universal love. Our pleasures and pains are identical with those of our fellow creatures. This is true love. The feeling of true love arises from purity. Such purity of love upgrades us to greater spiritual heights.

Knowledge of Vedanta inculcates the elements of right living into our physical, mental and intellectual personalities. Our actions develop a spirit of true service. Our emotions get chastened with pure love. Our discrimination gains subtlety to distinguish between the higher and the lower aspects of life with the result that our attachment for the lower drops off. By maintaining these disciplines at the three levels of our personality, we live an ideal life.

From The Bhagavad Gita
Chapter 16, verses 6 & 7.

The Blessed Lord said:

There are only two types of people in this world, the one possessing
a divine nature and the other possessing a demoniac disposition.

Men possessing a demoniac disposition know not what is right activity
and what is right abstinence from activity. Hence they possess neither
purity (external or internal) nor good conduct nor even truthfulness.

[Related articles: "Demons" as explained in the Bhagavad Gita.
See Page 'Maya-Shakti-Prakriti'  < Click here]

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Two Goats (3)

[Stories, parables, fables etc., have a way of forcefully driving home the message. All nations and all religions use them. Children love them. Take for example the stories from the Panchtantra where animals talk and behave like humans and there are moral lessons attached to them. One such story we narrate here.]

A very very narrow bridge was improvised connecting two high mountain tops. The bridge was like a narrow wooden plank slung across the two mountain tops and had neither railings nor even ropes for protection. From the bridge, looking below, long way down, ran the treacherous rapids of a mighty river meandering through giant boulders.

One day, a mountain goat came along and wanted to go across the bridge to the other side of the mountain. The goat started walking over the narrow bridge. Mountain goats are sure-footed animals and are fearless mountain climbers.

At about the same time, another goat started crossing the bridge from the other end. The two goats came face to face in the middle of the bridge. The bridge being very narrow, the two goats could not go past one another. And there was no way the goats could make about turns. There was absolutely no possibility that the goats could turn back.

The second goat spoke arrogantly to the first goat: "You are obstructing my path. Get out of my way, you silly goat! I am in a hurry to go to the other side."

The first goat replied: "I was first to step on to the bridge and therefore I have the right to cross the bridge first."

The second goat retorted angrily: "I am the strongest goat around. I have never lost a fight with other goats. Look at my great big horns and think again. Either you quickly get out of my way or else…!"

The two goats started fighting. Their horns locked and it was indeed, a strange sight to behold. High up above on a narrow bridge two goats could not come to terms with each other. They threw caution overboard and as a result there ensued a battle between two fools. Both goats lost their balance and fell to their certain deaths.

After one week, by a strange co-incidence, two other goats started crossing the bridge from the opposite ends. One goat from this end of the bridge and the other goat from the other end. And the two goats met in the middle of the bridge.

The first goat spoke most politely: "I beg your pardon sir! It was too late when I realised that you were also crossing the bridge from the other end. Anyway, I am much younger than you are. I have been taught by my parents and by my teachers that I must respect my elders and that we should be gentle and kind to all creatures.

Furthermore, I remember the advice that when confronted with any problem, first offer a prayer to the Lord and seek His guidance. Problems and solutions always go together. Think of a bath-towel. If one end of the towel is where problems like to reside then the other end of the towel is where solutions reside. Both ends go together wherever the towel goes. Problems and solutions are inseparable. One has to merely search for the solution. I must first think about a clever solution."

The second goat said: "And what might that (solution) be?"

The first goat said: "Let me sit on this bridge with my head turned to one side so that you can slowly and carefully step over my back and cross over. I will then get up and be on my way."

Thus the two goats crossed the bridge safely.

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From The Brhadaranyaka Upanisad V,ii,1
Translated by Swami Madhavananda, Advaita Ashram
Abdridged [Note: Dama-Dana-Daya. The first two letters of each of these three words are the same ‘Da’.

Dama means Self Control. Dana means Give (Charity).
Daya means Compassion.]

Three classes of Prajapati’s sons lived a life of continence as students with their father Prajapati (the Creator)- the gods, men and demons. (Devas, manushyas and Asuras).

The gods on the completion of their term, said, "Please instruct us."

Prajapati told them the syllable ‘Da’ and asked, "Have you understood?"

The gods said: "Yes we have understood. You tell us to CONTROL OURSELVES."

Prajapati said: "Yes, you have understood".

Then the men said to Prajapati: "Please instruct us."

Prajapati told them the same syllable ‘Da’ and asked, "Have you understood?"

The men said: "Yes we have understood. You tell us to GIVE."

Prajapati said: "Yes, you have understood."

Then the demons (Asuras) said to Prajapati: "Please instruct us."

Prajapati told them the same syllable ‘Da’ and asked "Have you understood?"

The demons (Asuras) said: "yes we have understood. You tell us to HAVE COMPASSION."

Prajapati said: " Yes, you have understood."

That very thing is repeated by the heavenly voice, the cloud (through thunders) as ‘Da’, ‘Da’, ‘Da’ : Control yourselves, Give and Have Compassion. Therefore one should learn these three – Self Control, Charity and Compassion.

[Note: Swami Tatwananda, Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama, Kerala further explain this story]

The gods are the inhabitants of happy regions in the heavens. They gain those regions as their rewards for leading meritorious and virtuous lives. For them the pursuit of pleasure becomes the business of life. Unless they avail themselves of the superior opportunity available there to attain the knowledge of Brahman (Supreme Self), they would have dissipated all their acquired merits and virtues in the indulgence of the senses, and they would have to start again at the human level. For the gods, pleasures of the flesh (senses) was the temptation and the control of the senses was their ally.

Men are generally avaricious, selfish. Therefore Prajapati told them to have charitable heart. Give of their ability, time, wealth, service etc.

Demons (Asuras) are generally cruel and given to injuring others. They lack compassion and therefore the demons should learn about compassion and practice compassion (Daya).

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The Letters from the Lord of Death (5)

Paraphrased from the writings of
Swami Shivananda, The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

The assembly of gods once met and decided to appoint a man to the position of Lord of Death, the official title being Lord Yama. They selected the most righteous man for this post. His duty was to take (escort) man at the proper time (upon death) to the celestial regions.

A man by the name of Amrita, living on earth, thought to himself that the one thing he feared most was death. He hit upon a bright idea that if he befriended the Lord of Death, then may be death can be kept at a distance. Amrita practised austerities and concentrated his mind upon Lord Yama, the Lord of Death. Lord Yama was pleased and granted a vision to Amrita.

Lord Yama said: I know, by the aid of my divine powers, that you seek to befriend me. Your wish has come true. My presence is only available to those upon whose deaths my messengers or I take their souls to my domain. Those that are born must die and those who die will be born again. This is the eternal law. No one can escape death. Yet I grant you my vision while you are still living.

Amrita said: As a token of our friendship, I ask this favour of you. If death is inevitable, I ask that if I am to die, then at least let me know beforehand of the time when my end is to come so that I can make proper provision for my family before departure.

Lord Yama said: Sure, this is a simple matter. I shall certainly inform you beforehand. But as soon as you get the message, please set about making the preparations.

With these words Lord Yama, the Lord of Death, vanished.

Many years passed. Amrita’s hair began gradually to turn grey, but he was living happily with not a thought about the fear of death. His life was full of sensual pleasures and enjoyments. He did not look forward to receiving any correspondence from his friend, Lord Yama, and he was pleased that so far no letters had arrived from the Lord of Death.

Some more years passed by. By this time Amrita had lost most of his teeth. But he was living without any worries about death or dying. Still no letters had arrived from his friend, the Lord of Death.

As the years rolled by, Amrita’s eyesight became dimmer. Old age is catching up with me, he thought. But I am thankful that my friend has still not sent any letter addressed to me. I know that my friend, Lord Yama, always keeps his promise. He will surely send a message beforehand.

Some more years passed by. Amrita was now an old man who could not stand straight up. With his back bent forward, he could not walk without the support of a walking stick. His skin was all wrinkled. One day he suffered a stroke and became paralysed. People said his condition was very critical. But Amrita was still in a happy frame of mind. As long as his friend Lord Yama had not sent any letter, the thought of death and dying never entered his mind.

Then the inevitable happened. Lord Yama, the god of death, entered the room. Amrita was startled and his mind was seized with fear.

Lord Yama said: My friend, come now, you have suffered greatly. Today I have come to take you with me.

Amrita was trembling with extreme fear. He said: Alas, you have betrayed me. You have not kept your word. You did not send any letter to me. You have now come with your fearful form to take me away. Are you not ashamed to thus deceive a friend?

Lord Yama said: O man! You spent all your life in shameless sense indulgence. Now you cast aspersions on me, the Lord of justice. Pleasures and enjoyments made you blind. How then could you know the letters I sent you? Not one, but four letters did I send to you. But you heeded them not.

Amrita was greatly puzzled: Four letters did you say? But not one reached me. It is just possible that they may have gone astray in the post.

Lord Yama said: With all your cleverness you were fool enough to think that I would take up pen and paper to write letters to you. O deluded mortal! Time is my messenger who brought my messages to you. Now take your mind back in time and recollect, years ago, your hair turned grey. That was my first letter. You did not heed my message but blackened your hair with dye.

My second letter reached you when your teeth began to fall out. Then too, you took no warning, but got yourself a set of false teeth.

My third letter was sent to you when your eyesight failed.

The fourth message was when your body became paralysed.

Amrita said: Oh no! I have grievously erred. Unforgivable is my error. Yet once more I crave your indulgence, Lord Yama.

Lord Yama replied: Indulgence! What more indulgence is there for me to give? What use did you make of the priceless opportunity bestowed on you of the gift of this human birth? Sensual indulgence and drunkenness- with these you wasted your life. Wasting this precious human life, fie on you! Now you shamelessly ask for more time. Time for what?

Amrita said: O friend, remember our past friendship? Please recall those days now and bestow on me one more chance.

Lord Yama said: That friendship was of that time. Now it’s done. I come neither as friend nor as foe. I come as the dispenser of the granite law. This law is above love and above hatred. This law is just, true and impartial. No human servitor am I who for gifts or money would from duty’s path swerve. My course is straight and true to the end. I carry out the stern dictates of destiny. All mortals have to bend to my final mandate. This is the divine law. Now let us go.

Lord Yama, the god of death, puts the noose over the dying man’s neck. The man begins to gasp and then chokes. An agonised expression fills his face.

People said: Amrita is dead.

From The Mahabharata

"The wheel of life moves on. It is overwhelmed by decrepitude and grief, and it has diseases and calamities for its progeny. That wheel relates in time and place. Day and night are the rotations of that wheel. It is characterised by production and destruction going on ceaselessly. When one’s time comes, one cannot escape. There is none dear or hateful to time. Youth, beauty, life, possessions, health and the companionship of friends, all are unstable."  -The Mahabharata, Santi Parva


From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, Section CLXXV
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Addressing Yudhishthira, Bhishma relates the conversation between a Brahmana and his son.

The Son said: What should a wise man do, seeing that the period of human life is passing away so very quickly? Death is that by which the world is assailed. Decrepitude encompasses it. Those irresistible things that come and go away are the nights that are continually lessening the period of human life. When I know that Death tarries for none (but approaches steadily towards every creature), how can I pass my time without covering myself with the garb of knowledge?

When each succeeding night, passing away lessens the allotted period of one’s existence, the man of wisdom should regard the day to be fruitless. When death is approaching steadily who is there that would, like a fish in a shallow water, feel happy? Death comes to a man before his desires have been gratified. Death snatches away a person when he is engaged in plucking flowers and when his heart is otherwise set, like a tigress bearing away a ram. Do thou, this very day, accomplish that which is for thy good. Let not this Death come to thee.

Death drags its victims before their acts are accomplished. The acts of tomorrow should be done today, those of the afternoon in the forenoon. Death does not wait to see whether the acts of its victim have all been accomplished or not. Who knows that Death will not come to him even today? In prime of age one should betake oneself to the practice of virtue. Life is transitory. If virtue be practised, fame here and felicity hereafter will be the consequences.

Overwhelmed by ignorance, one is ready to exert oneself for sons and wives. Achieving virtuous or vicious acts, one brings them up and aggrandises them. Like a tiger bearing away a sleeping deer, Death snatches away a man addicted to the gratification of desires and engaged in the enjoyment of sons and animals. Before he has been able to pluck the flowers upon which he has set his heart, before he has been gratified by the acquisition of the objects of his desire, Death bears him away like a tiger bearing away its prey. Death overpowers a man while the latter is still in the midst of the happiness that accrues from the gratification of desire, and while still thinking ‘This has been done; this is to be done; this has been half-done.’ Death bears away the man, however designed according to his profession, attached to his field, his shop, or his home, before he has obtained the fruit of his acts

Death bears away the weak, the strong, the brave, the timid, the idiotic and the learned, before any of these obtains the fruits of his acts. When death, decrepitude, disease, and sorrow arising from diverse causes, are all residing in thy body, how is it that thou livest as if thou art perfectly hale? As soon as a creature is born, Decrepitude and Death pursue him for (effecting) his destruction. All living things, mobile and immobile, are affected by these two. The attachment that one feels for dwelling in villages and towns (in the midst of fellow men) is said to be the very mouth of Death. The forest, on the other hand, is regarded as the fold within which the senses may be penned. This is declared by the Srutis (scriptures). The attachment a person feels for dwelling in a village or town (in the midst of men) is like a cord that binds him effectually. They that are good break that cord and attain to emancipation, while they that are wicked do not succeed in breaking them. He who never injures living creatures by thought, word or deed, is never injured by such agencies as are destructive of life and property. Nothing can resist the messengers (Disease and Decrepitude) of Death when they advance except Truth which devour Untruth. In Truth is immortality.

For these reasons one should practise the vow of Truth; one should devote oneself to a union with Truth; one should accept Truth for one’s Veda; and restraining one’s senses, one should vanquish the Destroyer by Truth. Both immortality and Death are planted in the body. One comes to Death through ignorance and loss of judgment; while Immortality is achieved through Truth. I shall therefore, abstain from injury and seek to achieve Truth, and transgressing the sway of desire and wrath, regard pleasure and pain with an equal eye, and attaining tranquillity, avoid Death like an immortal. Upon the advent of that season when the sun will progress towards the north, I shall restraining my senses, set to the performance of the Santi-sacrifice, the Brahma-sacrifice, the Mind-sacrifice and the Work-sacrifice. How can one like me worship his Maker in animal-sacrifices involving cruelty, or sacrifices of the body, such as Pisachas only can perform and such as produce fruits that are transitory?

[Note: Santi is tranquillity. The Santi-sacrifice is the endeavour to practise self-denial in everything; in other words, to restrain all sorts of propensities or inclinations. The Brahma-sacrifice is reflection on truths laid down in the Upanishads. The Word-sacrifice consists in the silent recitation (japa) of the Pranava or Om (AUM), the initial mantra. The Mind-sacrifice is contemplation of the Supreme Soul. The Work-sacrifice consists in baths, cleanliness, and waiting upon preceptor.]

That person whose words, thoughts, penances, renunciation, and yoga meditation, all rest on Brahma, succeeds in earning the highest good. There is no eye that is equal to the eye of knowledge. There is no penance like that involved in Truth. There is no sorrow equal to (that involved in) attachment. There is no happiness (that which is obtainable from) renunciation.

From the writings of Swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

Old age like the dreaded tiger stands threatening at your door. Beauty fades, wrinkles appear on the face and mar the beauty, hairs become grey, teeth become shaky and fall, body bends forward. Knowledge of God is the only remedy to destroy birth, old age, death and disease.

Related articles:Death and Life

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The Story of a Wallet (6)
From 'Dipika'
A publication by Sri Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa

Once an old man was travelling by train on a pilgrimage to Brindavan. At night, whilst he was asleep, his wallet fell from his pocket. A co-passenger found it the next morning and enquired as to whom the wallet belonged. The old man said it was his. A picture of Sri Krishna inside the wallet was proof that the wallet really belonged to him.

The old man then began to relate the story of the wallet. He soon had a group of eager listeners around him. Lifting up the purse for all to see, the old man said: This purse has a long history behind it. My father gave it to me years ago when I was a mere schoolboy. I kept my little pocket money in it and also a photograph of my parents.

Years passed. I grew up and began studying at university. Like every youth, I became conscious of my appearance. I replaced my parents’ photograph with that of my own and I would look at it often. I had become my own admirer.

Then came marriage. Self-admiration gave way to the consciousness of a family. Out went my own picture and I replaced it with that of my wife’s. During the day I would open the wallet many times and gaze at the picture. All tiredness vanished and I would resume my work with enthusiasm.

Then came the birth of my first child. What a joy I experienced when I became a father! I would eagerly rush home after work to play with my little baby. Needless to say, my wife’s picture had already made way for the child’s.

The old man paused. Wiping his tearful eyes, he looked around and said in a sad voice: Friends, my parents passed away long ago. My wife too died five years ago. My son- my only son- is now married. He is too busy with his career and his family. He has no time for me. I now stand on the brink of death. I do not know what awaits me in future. Everything I loved, everything I considered my own, has left me.

A picture of Lord Krishna now occupies the place in my wallet. I know He will never leave me. I wish now that I had kept HIS picture with me right from the beginning! He alone is true; all others are just passing shadows.

Sri Sarada Devi, the holy mother, says: Don’t be afraid my child, these earthly ties are transitory. Today they seem to be the be-all and end-all of life, and tomorrow they vanish. Your real tie is with God. God is one’s very own. It is the eternal relationship. He is ever looking after you. Call on the Lord who pervades the entire universe. He will shower His blessings upon you.

From other sources:
Your wealth will remain on earth; your cattle will remain in the stables, Your wife will come till the entrance door, your relatives and friends will come till the cremation ground, your body will accompany you till the funeral pyre, but on the way beyond this life only your Karmas will accompany you.

Dhanaani Bhoomau Pashvascha Goshthe
Bharyaa Gruh Dwaare Swajan Smashaane
Dehschitaayaam Parlokmaarge
Karmaanu Go Gacchati Jeev Ek

From The Mahabharata

In the Divine plan, one day each union must end with separation.

In the Mahabharata, Bhishma said:

Develop this attitude based on wisdom:

I am alone. There is no one who is mine; nor do I belong to anyone. Even this body does not belong to me. These objects of the world are not mine; nor do they belong to others. Or, all things belong equally to all beings. Therefore there is no need for any mind to grieve over these.

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Renunciation and abandonment

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Hypocrite (7)

He who, restraining the organs of action, sits
thinking of the sense objects in mind, he of
deluded understanding is called a hypocrite.
- Bhagavad Gita Ch. 3, Verse 6

The five organs of action known as Karma Indriyas, are Vak (organ of speech), Pani (hands), Padam (feet), Upastha (genital), and Guda (anus). They are born of the Rajasic portion of the five tanmatras or subtle elements. Vak (speech) from the akasha tanmatra (space), Pani (hands) from the vayu tanmatra (air), Padam (feet) from the agni tanmatra (fire), Upasthan (genital) from Aapas tanmatra (water), and Guda (anus) from the prithivi tanmatra (earth). That man who, restraining the organs of action, sits revolving in his mind, thoughts regarding the objects of the senses is a man of sinful conduct. He is self-deluded. He is a veritable hypocrite.

The organs of action must be controlled. The thoughts should also be controlled. The mind should be firmly fixed on the Lord. Only then will you become a true Yogi. Only then will you attain to Self-realisation.
-Swami Shivananda, The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

Story of two Brahmacharis

In the olden days, a young woman was living with her 3-year-old son in a house near the banks of a river. In the hot summer season the waters of the river had receded and people would walk across knee-deep waters to cross the river. The woman left her house and went across the river to gather some wood from the countryside. When she came back to the river, to her horror, she saw the river in floods. Lots of heavy rains in the mountain regions caused the waters to make the river swell with water. The woman was worried about her 3-year-old son. He could wander around to the rapidly flowing waters of the river and can drown. The mother was getting hysterical with fear and worry.

Just then two young and well built Brahmacharis (celibate students) were passing by and the mother, crying and begging, asked the Brahmacharis to help her go across the river. She told them about her 3-year-old son left alone to play by the house.

The Brahmacharis remembered the strict rules that they should not touch any female, lest that could arouse desires. That they should not be in the company of any females.

One Brahmachari whose name was Harshananda, reminded himself of the strict rules and said he cannot help the young woman. The other Brahmachari whose name was Devananda, immediately carried the mother on his shoulders and started swimming across the strong currents of the river. He safely delivered the mother to the other side of the river and swam back.

The Brahmacharis resumed their journey towards the Ashram where they were staying with their Guru. Harshananda, who refused to help could not believe the breach of the strict regulations and was constantly harping on it, muttering and thinking about it all the way.

When they reached the Ashram, the Guru asked them how their day went. The irritated Brahmachari Harshananda immediately spoke out in strong condemnation about the behaviour of his companion. Then the Guru asked the other Brahmachari.

Devananda said: I carried the mother across the river and forgot all about it but it seems my friend is still carrying the woman in his mind.

The Guru was pleased with Devananda who used his discrimination and helped the mother and spoke about the true meaning of hypocrisy as taught in the Bhagavad Gita.

Related articles:
Thought, speech & deed

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Man with an umbrella (8)


From The Bhagavad Gita
Chapter 17, verse 28

Whatever is sacrificed, given or performed, and whatever austerity is practised without faith, it is called ‘asat’, O Arjuna, it is naught here or hereafter (after death).

A long time ago, there was a severe draught in certain parts of India. One village in particular was caught up right in the middle of this draught belt. The economy of this village was entirely dependent on agricultural produce. Without rains, the villagers faced a bleak future, indeed. The extreme heat of the sun had dried up the rivers and the lakes. There was hardly any water left in the wells. The people were really desperate for water.

The villagers approached the village pundit (priest) and asked him to organise a prayer-for- rain meeting in the temple. The whole village turned out at this prayer meeting. One man was among the last group of people who arrived at the temple and every body with strange quizzical looks on their faces, was looking at this one man. This man was carrying an umbrella and he was the only man who brought his umbrella to this prayer meeting. No villager was ever seen carrying an umbrella outside of the rainy seasons. To the villagers, it was as strange as seeing a housewife going everyday to the vegetable market dressed in a bride’s costume! For it seemed unconventional to carry an umbrella when there was not one rain cloud in the sky.

The prayer meeting commenced and at the end of all the rituals and ceremonies, when people were about to leave the temple, they could not hold back their curiosity about the man and his umbrella.

‘Why was he carrying the umbrella?’ the people asked.

Upon being questioned, the man with the umbrella replied:

"The Lord will provide. He gives and He takes away. The Lord will surely answer our prayers for rain and I will need the umbrella for the rains".

The villagers laughed him off. Not one of the villagers could appreciate the absolute and sincere faith of the man with the umbrella. The scorching heat of the sun outside the temple was still fresh in their minds.

And then……..

Behold, a miracle took place. As the people were streaming out of the temple door and putting on their shoes, rain clouds appeared in the sky, the gentle breeze gave way to gusting winds, the pallor of the sky darkened and thunder and lightning heralded the coming of the rains. And a sudden downpour opened the eyes of the villagers. Their ridicule of the man with the umbrella changed to amazement, disbelief, and they now understood the intense faith of this man. All the villagers agreed that it was the sincere prayer of this one man with his total faith and devotion that the Lord simply had to answer.


The Lord listens to everyone who
approaches Him trustfully

From Autobiography of a Yogi (Chapter 15)
By Paramhansa Yogananda
Copyright Self-Realization Fellowship

Implicit Faith in the Lord
Sri Yukteswar was planning a religious procession. He asked me to lead the disciples across the town and beach of Puri. The festive day (summer solstice) dawned in intense heat.

“Guruji, how can I take the barefooted students over the fiery sands?” I asked despairingly.

“I will tell you a secret,” Master said. “The Lord shall send an umbrella of clouds: you all shall walk in comfort.”

I happily organized the procession; our group started from the ashram with a Satsang banner. Designed by Sri Yukteswar, it bore the symbol of the single eye, the telescopic gaze of intuition.

No sooner had we left the hermitage than the sky became filled with clouds as though by magic. To the accompaniment of astonished ejaculations from all observers, a light shower fell, cooling the city streets and the scorching sea shore.

The soothing drops descended during the two hours of the parade. The exact instant at which our group returned to the ashram, the clouds and rain disappeared.

“You see how God feels for us,” Master replied after I had expressed my gratitude. “The Lord responds to all and works for all. Just as He sent rain at my plea, so He fulfils any sincere desire of the devotee. Seldom do men realize how often God heeds their prayers. He is not partial to a few, but listens to everyone who approaches Him trustfully. His children should ever have implicit faith in the loving kindness of their Omnipresent Father.&rdquo

By Swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

Faith in God elevates the soul, purifies the heart and emotions, and leads to the vision of God. Faith is the soul of every religion. It creates new hopes and awakens in one the presence of God. Faith is the eye that sees the Lord, and the hand that clings to Him. Faith is power. Faith is strength. Faith is abundant energy. He who has faith is strong. He who doubts is weak. Strong faith precedes great actions.

Faith illumines the spiritual path, builds a bridge across the gulf of death, and takes one to the other shore of fearlessness and deathlessness.

True Faith

True faith must come from the heart. It must be rooted deep within the heart. The faith that comes from the mind only- what we might call mental faith- is not real and lasting. It is faith only when things go well. But when adverse conditions prevail, this kind of mental faith breaks down. It is not strong. It is a kind of faith with expectation.

Faith and self-surrender both mean the same thing. If there is faith in God, then one will have perfect surrender unto him. If one has surrendered to God, one will have perfect faith in Him.

Most of us have a faith and surrender that is tinged with some kind of selfishness and expectation of results. Our faith is not pure and taintless. As is our prayer, so is our faith. If the prayer is for petty things and rewards, the faith also will be weak and faltering. If the petty things and rewards are not granted by God, our faith soon evaporates. We lose faith in Him, and even go to the extent of turning against God.

A strong faith meets all tests, trials and challenges of life with courage, cheer and confidence. Such a faith has a true understanding and knowledge of God’s grace, knowing that what He does is for our good.

From the Bhagavad Gita
Translations and commentary by Swami Shivananda,
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh.

Threefold is the faith of the embodied, which is inherent in their nature-
the Satvic (pure), the Rajasic (passionate) and the Tamasic (dark).

Gita Ch. 17, verse 2

The faith of each is in accordance with his nature, O Arjuna.
The man consists of his faith. As a man’s faith is, so is he.
-Gita Ch. 17, verse 3

The Satvic or the pure men worship the gods; the Rajasik or the passionate worship the Yakshas (demi-gods) and the Rakshasas; the others (the Tamasic or the deluded people) worship the ghosts and the hosts of nature-spirits.
-Gita Ch. 17, verse 4 Commentary:

Those who are endowed with Satvic faith aim at the attainment of liberation. Those who are endowed with Rajasic faith run after inferior duties or worldly activities. Those whose faith is Tamasic are cruel. They kill animals for sacrifice. They invoke the spirits and talk with ghosts.

When faith is joined to Satva, it leads to salvation. When Rajas preponderates, it colours the faith and leads to various activities. When Tamas predominates, the faith results in darkness.

Faith is born of the individual nature, i.e., the samskaras or the latent impressions of virtuous and vicious actions which were performed in the past births and which manifested themselves at the time of death. In the subconscious mind or the chitta there is a reservoir of past impressions, which are revived through the operation of memory.

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Honesty (9)

A king in ancient times, by the name of Mahendra, was famous for his wisdom and righteousness. People in his kingdom were very happy because their great king ruled justly, and looked after the needs of his subjects.

Alas, each episode of happiness has its flipside also. The law of the opposites is relentless. Heat and cold, pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness; they revolve and put in an appearance in turn.

King Mahendra was also subject to the law of the opposites. The king had one regret. He had no children. The question about the successor to the throne was worrying the king. His ministers were becoming anxious because the king was advancing into old age and his subjects were also becoming unsure about their own future.

To solve the question about the successor to the throne, King Mahendra thought of looking for a person with good character. He announced throughout his kingdom that people were invited to the palace grounds and from amongst the people present a successor to the throne may be chosen.

People flocked to the palace on the appointed day. King Mahendra addressed the people and told them that he would hand out seeds to each person present. The seeds were to be planted and whoever brought back the best-grown and most colourful flowers would be chosen as the crown prince. A person that can take care of plants and make them prosper can also make the kingdom prosper.

The people took the seeds and went back home.

Some weeks later, people started bringing flowerpots with some amazing results. There were happy plants all over the palace grounds and the plants were displaying their bright smiles through their colourful flowers of great variety. Each pot plant was bearing the name of the owner written in big bold letters on a tag that was attached to the plant. Some of the ministers even appointed a team of judges to help select the winner on the appointed day.

One man, however, had not succeeded in growing any plant in his flowerpot. There was just the soil and not even a tiny plant in his flowerpot. When he brought his empty flowerpot to the palace grounds, people stared at him in disbelief. Some even ridiculed him. His flowerpot with no plant in it was drowned in a sea of colourful flowers. There was no plant to which he can fasten his nametag. He simply attached the tag to the side of the flowerpot.

The whole palace ground was turned into another Vrindavan
garden. There were rows upon rows of flowers of the most magnificent varieties that one ever saw and the colours were breathtaking. The judges thought amongst themselves that it would be a difficult task to choose the winner. Such was the enthusiasm of the people.

On the appointed day, the whole population turned up at the palace grounds. Speculations were rife as to which flowerpot would get chosen. The ministers looked at the judges and the judges again went into last minute consultations. The harbinger then announced the imminent arrival of his majesty, king Mahendra. There were loud cheers as the king entered the royal pavilion erected specially for this occasion. Long live the king! Long live the king! The people started singing in chorus. The king was then seated on his throne.

The king asked the ministers to brief him about the efforts of the people and the ministers told the king about the incredible variety of flowers that were brought back by the people. One minister announced to the people that his majesty had decided to walk amongst the plants to savour the wafting scents of the flowers and to behold the beauty of the colourful flowers.

Accompanied by his ministers and by the palace gardener, the king was walking and observing each flower pot and now and again made some comments about the spectacular colours and the pleasing aroma that permeated the palace grounds. Upon completing his tour, the king returned to the royal pavilion.

The final hour had arrived. The time for announcement about the successor to the throne was approaching by the minute. The king rose from his throne to address the people. There was a pin drop silence. People felt their heartbeats quicken. The expectations were very high and so were the high standards of the flowerpot entries. The ministers were looking at the judges who signalled that they were ready to announce their decision.

The king started to address the people. In a sombre tone, king Mahendra enquired about one failed entry where the flowerpot had only soil in it and asked its owner to come forward and explain to him. A man right at the back of the huge crowd raised his hand and started making his way towards the royal pavilion. He could hear people making caustic remarks about him. His ears were getting full with sarcasm and stinging words that were being tossed about by the people. An expression of timidity began to creep upon his countenance as he came face to face with his majesty, king Mahendra.

The king requested an explanation as to why his flowerpot had no plant. The man answered that he had tried his best, even adding more fertilizer and carefully watering the seeds, but that he was disappointed and sorry that he could not grow anything. The king stood up and told the people present that he had chosen his successor. It was none else than the man whose effort at growing flowering plant from the seeds that were given to him by the king was a total failure.

The people were incredulous and the ministers and the judges were dumbfounded. With a look full of puzzle on their faces, they awaited an explanation from the king. King Mahendra placed his hand upon the shoulder of the man that was chosen as his successor and spoke to the people.

The king said: I was looking for a man with character and I have found him. I had all the seeds roasted before I gave them out. This fact was kept a secret. It was not possible for any seeds to germinate. People who received the seeds from me bought other seeds for their flowerpots when they did not see any plants growing in their flowerpots. I was on the lookout for that honest person who would produce the correct results and when I saw that one flowerpot without any plant, at that moment I knew that I had found that honest man. The man with the strength of character displaying   purity of heart, fearlessness, straightforwardness, truthfulness, absence of crookedness.

The people were taken aback. The ministers and the judges stood there with their heads bowed in agreement. The minds of the people were filled with wonderment and satisfaction. A sense of authority prevailed when king Mahendra bestowed the title of the crown prince upon the man whose honesty won over the hearts of the people.

The king, who was learned and full of wisdom, concluded his address by saying that he was searching for a man, who possessed the Divine Wealth (Daivy Sampat), to become his successor.

The description of this Divine Wealth is given in the first three verses of the 16th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.

From the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 16.
Translated by Swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

Fearlessness, purity of heart, steadfastness in knowledge and Yoga, almsgiving, control of the senses, sacrifice, study of scriptures, austerity and straightforwardness.
-Gita, Ch.16, verse 1.

Harmlessness, truth, absence of anger, renunciation, peacefulness, absence of crookedness, compassion towards beings, uncovetousness, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness.
-Gita, Ch. 16, verse 2.

Vigour, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, absence of hatred, absence of pride- these belong to the one born of a divine state, O Arjuna.
- Gita, Ch. 16, verse 3.

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Divine Wealth - Daivi Sampat

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From the Chhandogya Upanishad XIII. v. 1
Translated by Professor D.S.Sarma

Quarrel among the senses  (10)

Once upon a time the senses quarrelled among themselves
as to who was superior, each saying: “I am superior, I am

They went to Prajapati, their father, and said: “Sir, who is the best of us?”

He replied: “He by whose departure the body looks the worst – he is the best of you.”

Speech then departed and, having stayed away for a year, returned and said: “How have you been able to live without me?”

They replied: “Like the dumb -not speaking, but breathing with the breath, seeing with the eye, hearing with the ear, and thinking with the mind. Thus we lived.” Then speech entered in.

The eye then departed and having stayed away for a year, returned and said: “How have you been able to live without me?” They replied: “Like the blind – not seeing, but breathing with the breath, speaking with the tongue, hearing with the ear and thinking with the mind. Thus we lived.” Then the eye entered in.

The ear then departed, and having stayed away for a year, returned and said: “How have you been able to live without me?” They replied: “Like the deaf – not hearing, but breathing with the breath, speaking with the tongue, seeing with the eye and thinking with the mind. Thus we lived.” Then the ear entered in.

The mind then departed and having stayed away for a year, returned and said: “How have you been able to live without me?” They replied: “Like children – not thinking, but breathing with the breath, speaking with the tongue, seeing with the eye and hearing with the ear. Thus we lived.” Then the mind entered in.

Now, when the breath was about to depart, tearing up the other senses, as a strong horse about to depart might tear up the pegs to which he is tethered, they gathered round him and said: “Sir, remain. You are the best of us, do not depart.”

Then speech said to him: “If I am the most prosperous, so are you the most prosperous.” The eye said to him: “If I am the firm basis, so are you the firm basis.” The ear said to him: “If I am success, so are you the success.” The mind said to him; “If I am the abode, so are you the abode.”

Hence these are not termed organs of speech or eyes or ears or minds. They are termed signs of life. For life itself becomes all these.

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The Story of Rose (11)

The irresistible story of Rose
Author unknown

Growing older is mandatory, growing up is optional

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know.
I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I’m 87 years old. Can I give you a hug?"
I laughed and enthusiastically responded,
"Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.

"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.
She jokingly replied, "I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel."
"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.
"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends.
Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk non-stop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.
Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she revelled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.

As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said,
"I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began: "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy and achieving success."
"You have to laugh and find humour every day."
"You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it!"
"There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change."
"Have no regrets. The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets."
She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose." She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

At the years end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be…..YOU!!

Remember, growing older is mandatory. Growing up is optional.
We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.
God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
If God brings you to it ... he will bring you through it. It’s better to try and fail, than fail to try.

"The Rose"

Some say love, it is a river,
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor,
That leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless, aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
And you, it's soul the seed.
It's a heart afraid of breaking,
That never learns to dance;
It's the dream, afraid of waking,
That never takes the chance;
Its the one who won't be taken,
Who cannot seem to give;
And the soul, afraid of dying,
That never learns to live.
When the night has been too lonely,
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong:
Just remember, in the winter,
Far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love
In the Spring, becomes the rose.


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Stone in the middle of the road (12)

There was a king who ruled his kingdom wisely. He spent his time trying to improve the lives of his subjects. One day the king decided to see for himself how people lived in his kingdom. Early one morning, dressed as an ordinary citizen, he secretly mounted his horse and rode into town. The citizens were still not out in the streets. The king stopped at one place where the dirt road was narrowing somewhat. He tied his horse by the side of the road and then dug a hole right in the middle of the road. Therein he placed a metal jar wrapped in a piece of cloth. Then the king brought a stone that was lying on the side of the road and placed it on the hole, completely covering the hole. The king then mounted his horse and went up a nearby hill. Hiding behind a tree, the king looked down at the stone in the middle of the road.

The Farmer

A farmer was the first to appear. He was driving his cart with fresh-produce for the vegetable market. He saw the stone in the middle of the road and thought to himself, “It looks like this stone has been lying here in the middle of the road for some time but the people here are not bothered about removing the stone to one side. Each person thinks only for himself. People here are so lazy!” And the farmer carefully drove past avoiding the stone.

The Policeman

A little while later, a policeman was seen walking down the road. He was looking smart in his impressive police-uniform. He was walking and looking at the headlines in the newspaper. He tripped by the stone and very nearly hit the ground. He thought about the carelessness of the people, spoke some angry words and went away.

The Milkmaid

Then a milkmaid came along, singing aloud to attract the attention of the residents in nearby houses. She had one milk container on her head and another she carried by her side. Making her way down the road, looking to the left and now looking to the right.

Her foot hit the stone and she lost balance. The milk container on her head fell to the ground spilling all the milk. The milkmaid said that the people of this town are so thoughtless. How can they leave such a big stone in the middle of the road and not worry about it? Don’t they know that people can get tripped by the stone! She collected her milk pot and went away.

The Merchants

Some merchants came down the road driving their horse-cart at high speed. One wheel of the cart hit the stone and some goods fell on to the road. Looking at the stone in the middle of the road, they said the people here are so useless. Who knows for how long this stone is lying in the middle of the road but no body takes any notice of it! No one takes the trouble to remove this stone from the middle of the road! Mumbling some swear words the merchants collected their goods and drove away.

The Brahmachari (student)

A newly qualified Brahmachari (student) came walking down the road. As soon as he saw the stone in the middle of the road, he remembered the lessons he was taught by his Guru (teacher). His Guru had taught him that his first duty is to himself. If ever his life was in danger, then he must try everything possible, to preserve his life. Higher than that is the duty to his family. If ever it became necessary to give up his life to save his family, then let it be so. Higher than that is his duty to the community. If he has to sacrifice his life, and sacrifice his family for the good of the community, then the interest of the community comes first. Higher than that is the duty to the nation. If it calls for the sacrifice from the individual, his family and his community for the good of the nation, then the interest of the nation takes precedence. Higher than that is the duty to the whole of humanity.

The Brahmachari immediately removed the stone from the middle of the road. There underneath the stone he saw this bundle wrapped in a cloth with a hand-written note fastened to the cloth. The note read:

“ This stone was placed here by your king. Whoever takes the trouble of removing the stone, thereby thinking about the good of the people, can keep this metal jar and its contents. And the king would like to meet this person.”

The Brahmachari opened the metal jar and was amazed to see that it was filled with gold coins. He was very pleased.

Next day the Brahmachari went to meet the king. The king could make out the good character of this Brahmachari. He was noble-minded and unselfish. The Brahmachari would give rather than take. A person with such charitable heart is a credit to the human race.

The king made the Brahmachari his chief minister who helped the king rule the kingdom for many a long years.

And the example set by the Brahmachari taught a valuable lesson to the citizens of this kingdom. They changed their attitude from ‘taking’ to ‘giving’. This attitude they applied in their personal life, family matters, community affairs, and in their national life. Now every body was so courteous, so very thoughtful and caring for the needs of others. The kingdom prospered and became a veritable heaven on earth.


Raikwa the Cart-driver (13)
From the Chandogya Upanishad
Paraphrased by Sri R.R.Diwakar

[Raikwa said that mere giving of gifts without spiritual knowledge could not bring the blessings of real happiness. Knowledge of the Spirit which is the creator of all gods, was necessary.]

In ancient times there was a king called Janusruti. He was ruling over a kingdom called Mahavarsha. He was known to be a good king, just and merciful to his subjects. He was particularly famous for his philanthropy and charities. He maintained numerous free feeding houses. He built many rest houses along the royal road. His generosity was on the lips of all.

He often felt proud that he was able to achieve so much in his lifetime. He thought that was the best way to accumulate religious merit and to get peace of mind. He believed that he was the greatest patron and that there was none else like him. He used to measure his merit by the amount of gifts and money he had distributed.

One evening after the day’s work, he was resting in the terrace of his palace. As he lay there under the sky, right above him two white swans were speeding fast to their roost. As they were chattering and gossiping, the king overheard them.

The male bird said to its mate:
“You blind bat! Do you not perceive the bright band of light that proceeds from the King Janusruti? Beware lest you cross the flaming light of his fame and get yourself burnt. You must know that today there is none so famous as he for abundant charities.”

The female bird laughed: “Why do you thus threaten me, dear? We are wanderers of the skies. We know more of the world than others. After all, is this king’s merit more than that of Raikwa, the cartman? The king is but mad after name and fame. It is these that drive him to action. With all his charities he is ever restless. He hankers after praise. Raikwa, sitting where he is, attracts to himself as it were, the merit of all around as a lake draws into itself the waters on the slopes. At peace with himself, he does what he ought to and what he can and thinks not of the morrow.”

Thus saying, the birds flit past and the shadows of the night closed on the sleepy earth. But the king who had listened to the conversation became very restless. Raikwa’s name began to haunt him. “I must find this man little known to fame but one who is at peace with himself and with the world,” he said with determination. As he slept, he thought of some speedy way of locating Raikwa.

At dawn, the birds began to sing the usual songs of praise to rouse the king from his sleep. But that morning, the king did not feel very happy over the customary eulogies. He became conscious that there were people greater than himself and that they deserved more praise than himself. The birds sang, “Rise ye, great king, the most generous and powerful one, giver of charities with a hundred hands, and patron of the seven worlds, rise, for now it is morning. Suppliants from the corners of the world await thy abundant gifts.”

But he stopped them from repeating the words. He admonished the singers, saying, “Waste not those epithets on me. There is one greater than myself, perhaps a hundredfold greater. Go ye to the limits of my kingdom and find him out. I shall not feel happy till I have met that great soul.”

The king’s servants, not a little surprised at this command, set out to seek Raikwa, the strange cartman, described by the king as a great soul. Some of his servants returned after a few days unable to find Raikwa. But the king was not satisfied and he asked them to seek him in a place where the knowers of Brahman (the Supreme Being), the possessors of spiritual knowledge, usually dwell. When the servants saw that the king would never be at ease till he had met the philosopher, they again went in search of Raikwa. They began to scour the villages of the kingdom of Mahavarsha. In one of the remote villages, a simple man, ostensibly a cart-driver, was shown to them. He was Raikwa.

With calmness writ large on his face and with infinite kindness in his eyes, there sat Raikwa (in the shade of his cart) near his small cottage. The servants wondered for a time: “What a fool is our king! He takes this bit of a man to be greater than himself! Certainly the king seems to have lost his head.” Thus they muttered to themselves. But they were helpless. They went back straight to the king and reported the matter. However ignorant his servants, the king knew the real worth of the man who sat under the cart.

As is the wont while going to see a great saint or a great soul, the king took numerous gifts with him. His generosity was all the more lavish on this occasion. He took along with him six hundred well-fed milch cattle with calves, gold coins, chariots with horses, and other lovely presents.

When the royal party arrived, Raikwa was at first surprised. But he divined the cause of the king’s visit, and saw that the king had come to him in search of spiritual truth and inner peace.

The king made obeisance and stood with folded hands in a reverent mood. He requested Raikwa to accept his humble gifts and direct him as regards the god that he should worship in order to attain real happiness. The cart-man philosopher, however, was not much enamoured of the rich gifts. He did not really welcome them. He said as if to rebuke a little, “O royal friend, why do you waste these precious things on me? All these and a hundred kingdoms cannot buy spiritual knowledge. It is not something that can be bartered and bought in a market. These trinkets that you have brought are worth nothing to me.”

The king felt a little hurt at this remark. But his respect for Raikwa increased a hundred-fold, when he saw his nonchalant attitude towards all material possessions. Disappointed and helpless for the time being, the king returned to his capital. But he had already come under the spell of Raikwa. The more he stayed away from him the more he felt bereaved. He used to hear numerous stories as to how, many a person with a sore heart went to Raikwa and came back consoled and calmed. The king decided to make one more attempt to draw out the philosopher. Once again he went in a humble and suppliant mood to the saint of the cart. He approached him and begged of him for knowledge as a favour.

Raikwa saw that the king was now ripe for a spiritual lesson and, therefore, welcomed him with warmth. The king then led Raikwa to his abode and treated him with utmost respect. They had a long and intimate talk about matters of the mind and things of the spirit.

Raikwa said: “Various are the gods that people worship as the highest deity. The sweeping wind, the flaming fire, the breathing vital force are worshipped as gods by many. But the Spirit, itself uncreated, creates all and supports them. The Spirit eats not anything, it does not stand in need of anything, and is self-supporting and self-satisfied. All belong to the Spirit. All are but instruments carrying out its will.

“O king! Have neither pride nor vanity for the charities that you dispense. Go thou, great king, to thy palace. Give but not with pride. Give generously but not with egotism. Give freely but not with an eye to fame. Give but not as something that is yours, but as something given to you by the Spirit for giving to others. He who sees this truth becomes a seer and to him nothing is wanting and he becomes the enjoyer of things.”

The king was extremely satisfied with these words of wisdom and experience that came from Raikwa. While departing he gave a thousand milch cattle, numerous gold coins and chariots, and his own daughter in marriage to Raikwa. All these Raikwa did not reject this time.

Thenceforth, the village came to be known as Raikwaparna, named after the philosopher of the cart.


Letter from Lord Ram (14)

Shavani went to her mailbox and there was only one letter. She picked it up and looked at it before opening, but then she looked at the envelope again. There was no stamp, no postmark, only her name and address.

She read the letter:

“Dear Shavani: I’m going to be in your neighbourhood Saturday afternoon and I'd like to stop by for a visit.

Love Always, Lord Ram”

Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. "Why would the Lord want to visit me? I'm nobody special. I don't have anything to offer."

With that thought, Shavani remembered her empty kitchen cabinets.

"Oh my goodness, I really don't have anything to offer. I'll have to run down to the store and buy something for dinner."

She reached for her purse and counted out its contents. Five dollars and forty cents.

"Well, I can get some bread and Veg, at least."

She threw on her coat and hurried out the door. A loaf of French bread, various vegetables, and a carton of milk, leaving Shavani with grand total of twelve cents to last her until Monday. Nonetheless, she felt good as she headed home, her meager offerings tucked under her arm.

"Hey lady, can you help us, lady?"

Shavani had been so absorbed in her dinner plans; she hadn't even noticed two figures huddled in the alleyway. A man and a woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags

"Look lady, I ain't got a job, ya know, and my wife and I have been living out here on the street, and, well, now it's getting cold and we're getting kind of hungry and, well, if you could help us. Lady, we’d really appreciate it."

Shavani looked at them both. They were dirty, they smelled bad and frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to.

"Bhai ji, I'd like to help you, but I'm a poor woman myself. All I have is a few vegetables, some bread and milk and I'm having an important guest for dinner tonight and I was planning on serving that to Him."

"Yeah, well, okay lady, I understand. Thanks anyway."

The man put his arm around the woman's shoulders, turned and headed back into the alley. As she watched them leave, Shavani felt a familiar twinge in her heart.

"Bhai ji, wait!"

The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them.

"Look, why don't you take this food. I'll figure out something else to serve my guest."

She handed the man her grocery bag.

"Thank you lady. Thank you very much!" "Yes, thank you!"

It was the man's wife, and Shavani could see now that she was shivering.

"You know, I've got another coat at home. Here, why don't you take this one.”

Shavani unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman's shoulders. Then smiling, she turned and walked back to the street...without her coat and with nothing to serve her guest.

"Thank you lady! Thank you very much!"

Shavani was chilled by the time she reached her front door, and worried too. The Lord was coming to visit and she didn't have anything to offer Him.

She fumbled through her purse for the door key. But as she did, she noticed another envelope in her mailbox.

"That's odd. The mailman doesn't usually come twice in one day."

She took the envelope out of the box and opened it.

She read the letter:

“Dear Shavani: It was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely meal. And thank you, too, for the beautiful coat.

Love Always Lord Ram”

The air was still cold, but even without her coat, Shavani no longer felt the cold. A thrill ran through her entire being and her eyes were filled with tears of joy.

From Bhagavad Gita Ch.18, verse 61
The Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings ===============

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Doing Good 

Click on underlined words to open paragraph


The Story of King Rantideva  (15)

The Story of Sage Dadeechi  (16)

The Story of Mahabali  (17)

The Story of King Sibi  (18)


Doing Good 
Vivekananda Kendra Patrika

Why do we do good work? Because it is a blessing to ourselves. Swami Vivekananda calls upon us to serve God in man, and gives the key to blessedness in the following words:

“We may all be perfectly sure that it will go on beautifully well without us, and we need not bother our heads wishing to help it. Yet, we must do good; the desire to do good is the highest motive power we have, if we know all the time that it is a privilege to help others. Do not stand on a high pedestal, and take five cents in your hand and say, ‘Here, my poor man,’ but be grateful that the poor man is there, so that by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world and thus become pure and perfect….

“No beggar whom we have helped has ever owed a single cent to us: we owe everything to him because he has allowed us to exercise our charity on him. It is entirely wrong to think that we have done, or can do, good to the world, to think that we have helped such and such people. It is a foolish thought, and all foolish thoughts bring misery. We think that we have helped some man and expect him to thank us, and because he does not, unhappiness comes to us. Why should we expect anything in return for what we do? Be grateful to the man you help, think of him as God. Is it not a great privilege to be allowed to worship God by helping our fellow men? If we were really unattached, we should escape all this vain expectation, and could cheerfully do good work in the world.”

The Story of King Rantideva (15) 
Srimad Bhagavatam
Paraphrased by K. Balasubrahmania
source 'Hindu Ideals'

During a period of devastating famine in his kingdom King Rantideva spent the whole of his wealth in feeding the hungry and the distressed. Deeply pained by the sufferings of his people and by way of atonement, the King undertook a fast for forty-eight days and did not take any food or even water during that period. On the forty-ninth day, when he was satisfied that almost all the hungry and the distressed in his kingdom had been well looked after, he decided to break his fast. Just as he was about to do so by taking a morsel of food and a cup of water he heard the piteous cry of a person of low caste (Pulkasa as he is called in the Purana), asking for water to quench his thirst. The King was then in the midst of his ministers and councillors. He stopped tasting the water placed before him and ordered that the cup be given to the Pulkasa. The people around him remonstrated strongly at this suicidal act on the part of the King. It was pointed out by them that it was too much on his part to take the risk of sacrificing his own life for the sake of a pulkasa after this long fast of nearly forty-eight days. Immediately afterwards the King began to take the morsel of food. Even for that food there came a guest at his doors. At this stage, Ranti Deva made the famous pronouncement recorded in fitting terms by Vyasa:

“I do not seek from the Supreme Lord the highest Bliss attended with the eight powers or siddhis. Nor do I care for apunarbhavam or cessation of the cycle of births and deaths. But my only desire is to be present in all beings, undergo suffering with them and serve them so that they may become free from misery.”

In the next verse he continues to say:

“Hunger, thirst, fatigue, loss of strength in limbs, distress, languor, grief, disappointment, delusion – all these undesirable features of my distressed soul have all disappeared upon my giving water to one who was suffering from acute thirst.”

The Trimurtis, the rulers of the three worlds, revealed themselves to him and praised his heroic sacrifice and infinite mercy for his suffering fellow men. There can be no higher or nobler humanitarian ideal than the one revealed by this episode. Not only did Ranti Deva seek to relieve the misery of his fellow-men, but he also desired to so identify himself with them and become a part of them so as to undergo their suffering and thereby share their miserable predicament.

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation (India), took hold of this great teaching of the Srimad Bhagavatam as the inspiring motto of his life. He inscribed this verse in front of the Sabarmati Ashram founded by him for the inspiration and guidance of his followers. The fundamental basis of the great national movement started by Mahatma Gandhi was suffering and sacrifice for the liberation of his countrymen from foreign yoke.

Three Basic Truths In This Story

This great utterance of Ranti Deva lays down three basic truths for the guidance of mankind:
  1. The paramount duty of relieving the suffering of others both for moral purification and for bettering the lot of our brethren.
  2. The doctrine of sharing the suffering of others both for moral purification and for lessening the burden of the sorrow.
  3. This duty of relieving the suffering of others is greater than that of working for one’s own salvation or the attainment of moksha or of siddhis or miraculous powers.


From the Rigveda:
That man really enjoys his food who feeds also the poor and the emaciated beggar that goes about oppressed by hunger. He will have plenty of wealth as a result of such philanthropic deeds and his charity will secure for him friends in times of need.


Sir Philip Sydney

The echo of Ranti Deva’s sacrifices we hear in the story told about the great English nobleman, Sir Philip Sydney, who, lying wounded in the battlefield, felt severe thirst on account of much loss of blood. He asked for a cup of water to quench his thirst. But finding another soldier in a similar distressing predicament by his side, Sir Philip offered the cup to the soldier instead of taking the water himself, saying: “Thy need is greater than mine.”

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The Story of Sage Dadeechi (16) 

There are two other episodes in the Srimad Bhagavatam that very clearly illustrate the great ideals of service and sacrifice for the sake of the poor and the suffering. One is the story of Sage Dadeechi, who was deeply engrossed in tapas (austerities). During that time, Deva Loka was under the throes of a great struggle against the invading Asuras (demons). To stem the tide of the invasion was the task of Indra, the ruler of Deva Loka.Though Indra fought many battles, he could not succeed in resisting the invasion. He was advised by the Rishis that if he could improvise a bow made out of back-bone of the great Muni (Sage) Dadeechi, he could acquire the necessary powers to fight his foes successfully and rescue Deva Loka from them. While every one was afraid to approach the great sage with such a request, Indra made bold to go and seek his help in the matter. He pleaded with him and put forward the reason for such an extraordinary request on his part by pointing out his own miserable condition and the predicament of the Devas. Veda Vyasa very wisely queries through the mouths of the Devas:

“Is there anything that persons who are full of compassion cannot forsake? Surely, the world is selfish and does not understand the distress of others.”

Dadeechi quickly reacted to these words of the Devas. He said:

“Impelled by compassion and possessed of this transient body, he who does not desire Dharma or fame is to be pitied even by non-sentient beings like trees.”

Dadeechi thereupon quietly acceded to the request of Indra. By his powers of Yoga he gave up his life so that his backbone might be utilised for making the mighty bow, Vajrayudha. Dadeechi is considered in the Puranas as one of our earliest ancestors and he shines in this great country as the illustrious example of sacrifice for the sake of the liberation of the suffering from their distress. No sacrifice is too great for the noble-minded in this world. In fact, Dadeechi may be regarded as the starting point of the galaxy of saints that have adorned this great country.

The Story of Mahabali  (17)

In the same work (Srimad Bhagavatam), we have the thrilling episode of the famous King Mahabali. This king performed a great sacrifice in which he vowed to make generous gifts to all those who came and asked for anything from him. Lord Vishnu approached him in the guise of a dwarfish Brahmachari (celibate student) and asked for a gift of three feet of ground to be measured by his own diminutive feet. The preceptor of King Bali, Sukracharya, discovered who the Brahmachari was and for what purpose he was asking for such a gift. He tried to dissuade the King from his intended act of generosity. It was also pointed out by the Acharya that the Brahmachari would seize the place, the power and the wealth of the king and would hand them over to Indra. But the king stuck to his promise and propounded in the following weighty words the highest ideal of charity:

“Righteous men like Dadeechi and Sibi do good to other beings even at the expense of their own lives, which are difficult to abandon. Then what concern should there be about land and such other things? It is even common to see men who fight in the battlefield without turning their back, give up their life. But it is rare to see those who would make a gift to a deserving person.”

What is meant by this is that at the spur of the moment or in a fit of heroic anger a person may give up his life in the battlefield fighting the enemy. But in a calm moment in ordinary life he will not give up his wealth to a deserving person approaching him for help and assistance. Saying this, King Bali stuck to his promise in spite of the remonstrations of his preceptor, lost his entire kingdom and came to grief. Here again we have the instance of a person who pursued this glorious ideal of charity and sacrificed his all for the sake of it. In the historic pronouncement of King Bali quoted above, the King gives the example of Dadeechi and Sibi.

The Story of King Sibi  (18)

The story of king Sibi is a brilliant and thrilling one. It is found in the Mahabharata, Aranya parva, adhyayas 130-131.

To test the high character of Sibi, Indra assumed the form of a falcon and pursued a dove to kill it. In dire distress, the dove approached the King and asked for refuge. Moved by intense compassion Sibi readily promised succour. The falcon that pursued the dove came to King Sibi and remonstrated with him that it was pursuing the dove, which was its natural food. The falcon demanded that the King should hand over the dove. But the king said that he had given promise to the dove to save its life and therefore he was unable to accede to this demand. Thereupon the falcon asked King Sibi to give up a portion of his flesh, to be equal in weight to that of the dove for satisfying its own hunger. King Sibi readily agreed to do so and began to cut a portion of his thigh and weighed it in the balance against the dove. But the weight of the dove was greater. Thereupon, the King proceeded to cut other portions of the flesh from his body and weighed them in the balance. Still, it was found that the dove was heavier in weight. Finally, the King placed himself in the pan offering the flesh of his whole body to the falcon.

When this climax was reached, the falcon assumed its real form as Indra and praised the King for his heroic sacrifice for the sake of the dove and said: “Your fame will last so long as the world lasts.”

The story of King Sibi is unique in many respects. Not only do we find illustrated therein the unbounded love which a person should entertain towards all beings including birds and beasts, but also the paramount duty of protecting even at the risk of one’s own life for anybody who seeks refuge. This duty relates even to the beings other than one’s own kind like the bird in the story. Rightly as Indra said, the fame of King Sibi has been enshrined not only in our great epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata but also in the literatures of our other regional languages.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

Satyakama, the Truth Seeker (19)  
From Chandogya Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[Here is a young man eager to take the vow of a Brahmachari (celibate student) and go out in search of Reality. His only qualification is that he is truthful. That makes the guru or the preceptor accept the young stripling as his disciple. Thrown on his resources in a forest, he communes with nature and arrives at the truth. He goes into the jungle as a common cowherd and comes back as a man of knowledge. The touch of perfection, however, has to be given by the guru. That is the story of Santayana Kabala.]

“Dear mother, what is my gotra or lineage? I wish to go to a guru and offer to live with him as a brahmachari (celibate student),” said young Satyakama, one sweet morning to his mother.

He little knew how embarrassing that question was to her. However, she soon overcame her confusion. She knew that the claims of her child for knowledge were supreme. He was already grown up and to neglect those claims any further would be very culpable. She was well aware that the first thing any guru would ask her child would be his gotra and parentage.

“Young child,” she said, “to tell you the truth, I know not your gotra. While young and wandering as a housemaid here and there, I begot you. How then can I know? But I am certain of one thing and that is that your name is Satyakama and mine Jabala. Therefore go forth and tell your guru that you are Satyakama Jabala.”

The son agreed and took leave of the mother. He went in search of a teacher who would teach him what he wanted to know.

He approached Haaridrumata Gautama known for his wisdom. After a reverent bow Satyakama informed him of his intention to learn at his feet.

As expected, the first question the guru asked was about his gotra (lineage).

“What gotra, young lad?”

Satyakama said, “Sir, as I started on this journey of mine, I asked this question of my mother.” So saying he reported the whole conversation that had taken place between himself and his mother. He finally added, “Thus, here I am, sir, known as Satyakama Jabala.”

“Oh, brave and truthful child!” exclaimed the would be guru. “No one not born of a Brahmin would dare to tell such an unpleasant truth. Go therefore and bring samidhaa (sacrificial fuel) and I shall initiate you into brahamacharya. You have not departed from the truth, but clung fast to it, happen what may.”

After this conversation, there was the usual ceremony of initiation and satyakama was enrolled as a regular inmate of the Ashrama. The guru seemed to be a very hard taskmaster. One day he summoned Satyakama and put him in charge of four hundred lean, weak and poorly fed cows. He told the young disciple to take the whole lot to the forest and asked him not to return till they had become a herd of a thousand!

It was one of the duties of a disciple to serve the guru in the way that would best please him. So out went Satyakama as a cowherd, with his new charge and with a determination to carry out the guru’s orders.

He lived in the forest, looking after the cows and bulls. But his heart did not give up the yearning after truth, and even in the forest he made many friends all of whom had something to teach him; the friendly cows and bulls, the whispering trees and leaves, the singing birds, and the bubbling brooks, the sun, the moon and the stars.

Gazing from morn to night at the four quarters of the globe in the midst of the peace of the forest meadows he felt that all this must be part of a great reality. The friendly leader of the herd, an aged bull, whispered to him, “Yes, all these four corners of the earth are one aspect of Brahman (Supreme Reality.”

At night when the herd slept, as he lit his campfire and the flames danced, it talked to him. The stars and the moon in the vast dome overhead became his friends. They too told him that light and darkness, the solid earth beneath and the domed space above studded with stars were all part of Brahman (Supreme reality).

The morning sun kissing the dew-washed flowers, the midday sun drawing the sap from trees and plants, the evening clouds and rainbows reflecting the glory of the setting sun told him that the eye that sees all things, the life that pulsates in all things, the mind that wonders at beauty and asks endless questions, these too are part of Brahman. He heard of Brahman in the songs of the birds, felt the great presence in the cycle of seasons, and in the birth, the growth and decay of life around him. His mind slowly realised Brahman in touch, hearing, speech, sight and taste, in the beating of the heart, in waking and in dreams.

Then one day the leader of the herd came and told him, “We number over a thousand now. Take us to the Ashrama.”

By stages, the party reached the Ashrama. He went to the teacher and bowed to him respectfully. The teacher was extremely glad to see his dutiful disciple after that long span of time. He looked up and he had a pleasant surprise when he gazed at the brilliant face of young Satyakama.

“Dear young man, you look like one who has known Brahman (Supreme Reality). Who was it that taught you? Who is it that some agency other than the human has taught you this knowledge? For no one was with you in that wilderness except those dumb cattle and the dreary tumult of the forest,” said the teacher.

The young disciple said with utter humility, “It is you, sir, from whom I expect to learn yet fully of the much-coveted knowledge. I have heard that from teachers like

you alone can real knowledge be had. So I beseech you to favour me by completing the knowledge that I might have had by your grace through communion with nature.” The guru knew that the disciple was ripe and ready for receiving spiritual knowledge.

Satyakama stayed for some time more in the Ashrama. He had already learnt much. His guru gave the final touches with his voice of experience. Thus Satyakama succeeded in realizing his dream of acquiring full knowledge of Brahman, the ultimate Reality.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

The story of Ushasti (20) 
Chandogya Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[Like all ceremonies and rituals, the Vedic sacrifices later became mechanical and people performed them without knowing their real purpose. This story is one that illustrates this truth. One Ushasti visits a sacrifice and teaches the secret of sacrifices to the performers. Ushasti is very virtuous, straightforward and known for his knowledge and integrity.]

Once upon a time there lived in Ibhya, a village in the Kuru country, Ushasti Chakrayana with his wife. Though poor and simple, he was known to be very virtuous and learned on the Vedic lore.

It happened that once a dreadful famine swept the country and food became extremely scarce.

One day during that famine he went to the king of the village and begged food of him. The king was sitting with a handful of parched cereals and was eating them.

When asked for food, the king said most distressfully, “Respected sir, theses are the only ones I have and other food have I none. These have been rendered impure as I have been eating out of them.”

Ushasti said, ”Never mind, O king. Give me some out of them. They are welcome even if they are ceremonially impure!”

The king then gave him some cereals and offered him also some of the water that he had half drunk.

Ushati accepted the cereals, but refused the water and said, ”Thank you kind prince, for the food you have spared for me. But I do not want the impure water. I have enough of water with me. I am accepting the cereals half eaten by you because I would die of hunger if I did not take them from you now. But that is not the case regarding water. I am not suffering from scarcity of water.”

Ushasti then ate some cereals and took home to his wife what was left over. His wife however, had already secured a little food from somewhere and therefore she kept for the morrow the cereals given to her by her husband.

Next morning hungry Ushasti approached his wife and said to her, “If I get some food now, I can go and get some money from the king to buy food again. He seems to be performing some sacrifice and he will have to give me at least as much money as he is paying to his other priests.”

“Here then are the cereals that you gave me yesterday, dear,” said the wife to him.

Ushasti then ate the cereals and went happily to the place of sacrifice.

The sacrifice was being performed with all pomp and splendour. The king was the householder (yajamana) for whose benefit it was being performed. Then there were the different ritwiks or priests who carried out various functions in the sacrifice.

Ushasti went straight to the three principal priests and he accosted them one by one saying, “Do you know, learned priests, the god that presides over the particular function you are performing? If you do not know and still you keep on performing your function mechanically and in ignorance, your head will fall down from your shoulders. Beware.”

Obviously they did not know the answer. The yajamana was struck by the bold and straightforward attack against the priests. He said respectfully, “May I know, sir, who you are?”

Dear householder, I am known as one Ushasti Chakrayana,” replied Ushasti.

“Oh sir, we all sought after you and wished that you should preside over the sacrificial functions. But not having found you for long, we had to begin the sacrifice. Now that you are here, kindly lead the ceremonies.” Thus saying the yajamana entrusted the whole sacrifice to Ushasti.

Ushasti then took the three priests aside one by one and asked each of them questions which they could not answer. Then he told them about the presiding deities in the sacrifice and of their respective functions.

He said to the first priest, “Prana or the vital air is the presiding deity of your function. All these beings enter Prana and breathe it. If you perform the sacrifice without knowing this, great harm will befall you.”

Then he said to the second priest, “Aditya or the sun is the deity of your function in the sacrifice. All the beings sing high praises of him. If you perform your function without this knowledge, great harm would befall you.”

To the third priest he said, “Anna or food is the presiding deity of your function. All beings live by taking food. If you perform sacrifices without your knowing this, great is the harm that would befall you.”

Summing up, Ushasti said, “Prana is the essence of life, but Prana cannot live without anna or food and food depends upon the sun-god for its existence and growth. The sun god here on earth is represented by agni or fire. Agni can be satisfied only by offerings at the time of sacrifice.”

This is the meaning of sacrifice preached by Ushasti Chakrayana.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

Life after death (21)
From Chandogya Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[As a general rule, man has never reconciled himself to the idea of death as the cessation of the individual ego. In some form or other, different races of mankind have believed in some kind of continuity of life after death. Four questions on this subject have been answered by a prince in this story. There is also an attempt to explain the origin of life. That is the subject of the fifth question.]

Once upon a time a young Brahmin named Svetaketu went to the assembly of the Panchalas. His father had educated him at home and he was under the impression that he had completed his studies and that he knew everything that a Brahmin should know.

When he entered the assembly, discussions were going on, questions and answers were bandied about. It was usual to hold such an assembly at the time of a sacrifice or a similar ceremony.

Prince Pravahana, a Kshatriya, accosted the young newcomer, “Have you had full education young man?”

Svetaketu said with pride, “Yes, indeed!”

“Do you know where all these people go to from here after death?”

“No sir, I do not know.”

“Do you know how they return to this world again?”

“No sir, I do not know.”

“Do you know the two paths along which the dead travel and which are known as the Path of Light (Devayana) and the Path of Darkness (Pitryana)?”

“No sir, I do not know.”

“Do you know why the other world does not become overfull though so many continue to depart from this world and enter it?”

“No sir, I do not know.”

“Do you know how in the fifth stage elemental matter becomes the Purusha or the living person?”

“No sir, I do not know.”

“Then how dare you say that your education is complete? You do not seem to know anything of this important subject which concerns every one of us,” said the prince with some disparagement.

Svetaketu felt humiliated and thought he had been deceived into thinking that he was adequately educated. So he went straight to his father and said: “Father, you said my education was complete. But when Prince Pravahana asked me some five questions, believe me, I could not reply even one of them. How then did you say that I was sufficiently educated?” He then told his father the whole story about five questions and his discomfiture in the assembly of the Panchalas.

“Dear child,” replied the father, “I myself do not know the replies to the questions you have just mentioned. I do not know the reply to even one of them. If I had that knowledge, do you think that I would have ever withheld it from you?”

The father then went himself to the Prince to learn at his feet. He bowed to him respectfully and waited at his court.

Next morning when the Prince saw Svetaketu and his father, he said to the father respectfully, “Sir, I offer you wealth which is dear to all. You may demand as much as you please.”

The Brahmin said, “Great Prince, let the wealth remain with you. I do not want it at all. I want knowledge from you, I want you to talk with me as you talked with my child. I am thirsting for the knowledge of the other world.”

The Prince was pleased with the attitude of the Brahmin and requested him to stay at his court. He said, “Respected Brahmin, till now this knowledge has been traditionally known only to the Kshatriyas. It is only now and for the first time that I am imparting that knowledge to you, a Brahmin.

“I shall take up the last question first. There are, as it were, five yajnas or sacrifices, and as a result of those sacrifices it is that elemental matter is ultimately converted into life or into a person. There is the fire and the sun and elemental matter is the oblation offered to it. The result of this yajna is the production of Soma, the life giving juice. Then Soma is poured into Parjanya, the power that brings on rain. The result is rain itself. The rain is poured as an offering on the earth and food is the result. When food is offered to man and when he digests it the vital fluid called Reta (semen) is produced. When Reta enters the body of a woman the embryo is born and then a child. Thus is elemental matter converted into life after going through five stages.”

Then he gave answers to the other four questions. He said, “Since a man’s body is made up of the four elements, it is dissolved into those constituents after death. But the destiny of his soul depends upon his actions and his knowledge. If he has attained real spiritual knowledge he goes by Devayana, the Path of Light, and does not return to this earthly existence. His soul becomes immortal.

“But if he has led a life of desires and spent it in doing good deeds out of a desire for heaven, his soul goes by Pitryana, the Path of Darkness, to heaven, remains there till his merits are exhausted and then hurries back to this world and takes birth according to the general nature of his former actions.

“But if his is a life of sin and evil deeds and of wickedness, if he was all along engaged in stealing, drinking, killing and debauch or in associating with people occupied with these sinful acts (these are the five great sins) he forfeits his claim to both immortality and heaven. He is born and reborn here on earth and he goes through the cycle of lives of insects and worms and of vile vermin and suffers interminably.

“Thus of those who are born on earth, some pass on and away to the world of Brahman (Supreme Reality), from which there is no return. Some others go to heaven, stay there for a time and then return to the worldly existence. Numerous others are caught up in the ever-recurring cycle of birth and death, that is why the other world never becomes overfull. There is no such danger either!”

This is the knowledge of life, its origin, and of the destiny of the soul after death, This knowledge was given by Pravahana Jaivali, a Kshatriya Prince, to a Brahmin for the first time.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

The Bold Beggar (22) 
Chnadogya Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[In the Upanishads we often come across Rishis who are in search of truth, worshipping different gods, thinking them to be the highest ones. Some of them often by mistake sought the form rather than the spirit. But they were brought to reason by some incident or by someone’s advice. Here is a lesson taught by a brahmachari (celibate student) to two Rishis. He says, “You are worshipping the wind-god but you are ignoring the same god who pervades me also.”]

Once there lived two Rishis known as Shaunaka and Abhipratari. They were the worshippers of Vayu or the wind god. On a certain day at noon they were about to begin their lunch when there was a knock at the door. A young brahmachari (celibate student) who was hungry was at the door begging for alms.

“No boy, not at this hour” was the reply. The boy was not a stranger to such treatment. But he was not a little surprised when he faced such disappointment at the Ashrama of a Rishi. So he decided to cross swords and stuck on.

He addressed the owner once more. “Respected sir, may I know which god you worship?”

One of the Rishis said, “You seem to be very impertinent. Well, my deity is Vayu, the wind god. He is also called Prana.”

“Then you must be knowing that the world takes shape in Prana and merges in it at the end. You must also be knowing that Prana pervades all that is visible and invisible,” said the brahmachari.”

The Rishi said, “Why not? We do know it. You are telling us nothing new.”

“For whom, sirs, have you cooked this food? May I know?” was the next question.

“Of course, for the deity that we worship. For whom else can it be?” came the ready reply.

“If Prana pervades the universe, he pervades me also who am but a part of the universe. It is he who pulsates in this hungry body that is standing before you begging for a few morsels!”

“Yes, what you speak is the truth.”

“Then, dear Rishi, in denying food to me you deny food to the Prana in me. Thus you are denying food to the deity for whom you have prepared it!” said the boy pointedly.

The Rishis felt ashamed, and then respectfully invited the brahmachari for meals. Then they served him with food along with themselves. They realized that they were obsessed with the form while it was the spirit that really mattered.

Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

A String of Questions (23)  
Prashnaa Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[Six questions about the essential truth, in which one is more advanced than the other, have been asked and answered in one of the Upanishads. The Upanishad itself therefore goes by the name of “The Upanishad of Questions.” The questions begin with the gross and the known and then dive deeper into the subtle and the unknown. The seer of the Upanishad ultimately explains the nature of the Spirit and then of consciousness in man. He describes the Purusha or the person who co-ordinates all consciousness.
Here is a typical picture of the enquiries of those times and the way they went about seeking after truth.]

A band of six youthful seekers after truth bent upon knowing Brahman started on a journey in search of a guru. Sukesha, Satyakama, Gargya, Ashwalyana, Bhargava and Kabandhi went along and reached the famous hermitage of the sage Pippalada.

“He would certainly answer satisfactorily all our questions,” they thought.

As the guru sat there calm and collected on his simple seat of straw, all the six approached him with the symbolic bits of fuel in their hands for lighting the sacrificial fire signifying that they went to him as disciples to light the torch of knowledge.

The sage welcomed them with a gentle and loving smile. He asked them to stay in the Ashrama for a year with faith, doing tapas or austerities and penance and conducting themselves as brahmacharis (celibate students or those who follow a certain discipline while seeking Brahman or the Supreme Spirit.) He added, “While staying here you may question me without any reserve. Whatever I know about the problems that agitate you, I shall gladly lay before you.”

As they stayed along and became the inmates of the Ashrama one day at question hour after the daily prayers, Kabandhi put the first question: “Whence is all this that is visible?”

Pippalada said, “The Lord of Creation willed to create. He concentrated and contemplated- performed tapas. Out of such tapas or concentration of power was born a duet or couple, matter and energy. He was confident that primary creation would further create for him the varied universe he wanted to create. All that has visible or invisible form is matter. All that informs and inspires matter is energy. The sun and the moon, the day and the night, the bright fortnight and the dark one, are all twins. Between them they create the whole universe- the sun energizes the universe as he rises in the east, resplendent and bright as burnished gold with millions of rays shooting across infinite space. They who create anything follow the discipline of the Lord of Creation. Those who do penance, conduct themselves as brahmacharis, and have truth in them attain the world of Brahman. There, in that world, is no evil, nor untruth, nor deception of any kind.

After some days, one evening, when all the disciples were sitting round the Master, Bhargava asked the next question. It had been realised that creation came from Prajapati and that the living being was the crown of creation. But then which are the gods or forces that support creation and the living beings? Which power gives the animal its superiority over other things? Which is the power that is predominant? That was the next question.

Pippalada said, “Well, various are the replies that men give to this question. There is, they say, space, air, fire, water, earth, and the mind. All these powers support the body and make it possible for it to carry on its functions. But Prana, the principle that makes breathing possible, the vital force, claims pre-eminence, and says that it supports the body by carrying on all activity. The other powers, however, did not verily believe in this claim of Prana. But Prana proved its claim. Once it went out of the body and lo! Every other power had to follow, and the body lay motionless. Prana is like the queen bee and when it leaves the hive it is notice to the others to quit instantly. In fact, the vital force is the source of all energy and movement. Everything is controlled by Prana.”

This explanation led to the next question as to whence comes this Prana, how it enters the body, in what ways and places it disposes itself in the body and how it departs, how it supports the inner and outer structure of the body. This question was asked by Ashwalayana.

In answer to this, Pippalada said, “You are now going deeper and asking subtler questions. But since you are a votary of truth I shall try to satisfy you to the utmost possible extent. Who else but the Spirit can be the source of Prana? Prana pervades the whole body, and like a king orders about the other vital forces, namely, Apana, Udana, Vyana and Samana, to take their positions in the different parts of the body. Prana itself resides in the mouth and the nostrils. In the heart resides the Atman or the soul. Prana departs through the Udana way and goes to deserving worlds. The sun is the embodiment of external Prana, which supports the whole physical world. The Prana in the body supports the body from inside.

The universe was created by Prajapati by the concentration of sheer will-force. The universe is supported by Prana, and the living being who is the crown of creation, is also supported by Prana or the vital air. Prana itself in its turn is born of Atman or the principle of consciousness. We have come so far. This naturally takes us to the next question asked by Gargya about the functions of consciousness.

“In this living person, who sleeps and who keeps awake? Which god or power witnesses dreams? Who is it that enjoys and who is it that suffers? And in whom do all these powers of consciousness stand firm in co-ordination?”

Pipplalada, ever ready to satisfy the curiosity of his favourite disciples, said, “Like the rays of the rising and setting sun, these powers of consciousness are centred in the mind. While asleep, the person sees not, hears not, speaks not. In fact, he is innocent of all consciousness. It is only the vital fires that are awake and keep the person living. They bring him back to consciousness after daily taking him to Brahman (supreme Reality) as it were, during deep sleep.

“When not fully asleep, the person enjoys his wishes or desires in a dream state. He goes through the same experiences that he has already undergone during waking hours. Sometimes, he sees things unseen, hears things unheard and experiences things never before experienced. When completely devoid of waking consciousness, he enjoys sound sleep and is happy. Then like the birds roosting in their nests in some tree, all his powers are merged in the great Atman (soul). The subject as well as the object, the ear as well as sound, the eye as well as all that is seen, all are one with the Atman. That Atman, that Spirit, is the seer, the hearer, the thinker, and does all possible things. He is like pure consciousness. He is the Person and is the eternal Spirit beyond everything. He is body-less and shadow-less. He is white and brilliant. One who knows this Atman enjoys the eternal blissful state.”

After the description of the eternal Atman or the Supreme Spirit, the next question that arises is about the realisation and attainment of this Atman. What are the means, what is the sadhana or the spiritual discipline for attaining that end?

Satyakama therefore asked the fifth question about sadhana or the means.

“What world does a man attain if he contemplates on the great mystic symbol AUM?” The Muni (sage) analysed the symbol and explained to his disciples the various states attainable by Upasana or devotional worship of AUM. He says, “AUM is made up of three syllables. The first syllable represents the worship and praise of various powers according to the Rig Veda. The result is prosperity on earth. The second represents the performance of rituals according to the Yajur Veda. The result is the attainment of heaven and a return to this earth after one’s accumulated merits are exhausted. The third represents the meditation on the Supreme Spirit according to the Sama Veda. That, the integral meditation, is the path of eternity. One who follows that purely spiritual path without any desire for fruit becomes as free and light as a serpent that has just thrown off its slough. He is borne on the wings of Sama music to the world of the Supreme Spirit. The wise always choose that path, however long and weary it might be. For it is the best.”

The last question was put in a rather peculiar manner. Sukesha said, “Gurudeva, the prince Hiranyagarbha came to me and asked me if I knew the Purusha or the person with sixteen parts or kalas. I said, ‘I know not and if I knew how could I keep it away from you? He who tells a lie runs the risk of being scorched root and branch. I dare not tell a lie.’ The prince went away disappointed. I now therefore ask you the question as to who is that ‘person’?”

The sage was practically at the end of his labours. This was the last question coming from his clever disciple.

He said, “It is in this body that the ‘person’ resides. The sixteen kalas or parts exist in this person alone. Prana or vital air, faith, space, air, light, water, earth, sense, mind, food, physical force, penance, mantra or the potent word, action, worlds and name are the sixteen kalas or parts of an individual. When rivers merge in the ocean they lose their separate name and identity. So too do these parts lose all name and form when merged in the person. Then what exists is the one person and not the many parts as such. The essence of that person is the spirit itself. There is no knowledge greater than this.”

Thus rounded off Pippalad Muni. The expectations of the disciples were fulfilled and they took leave of the guru to pursue their own careers in the light of the knowledge that they had received from him.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

Thus Spake Yajnavalkya (24)

Brhadaranyaka Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[Wealth can buy convenience and comfort but not inner peace which alone is really worthy of possession. There is a poise of consciousness where one realises that ‘One’ alone exists without any second or any ‘other’. That is a poise beyond all dualities. The attainment of that stage alone gives real final peace and the go-by to all doubts. That is the lesson taught by the Rishi (sage) here to his wife Maitreyi. The classic conversation between this extremely loving pair is admittedly very sweet and eloquent. Passages from it are often quoted. The beautiful story occurs in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad.]

The great seer Yajnavalkya had two wives, Maitreyi and Katyayani. Of them Maitreyi was a real seeker after truth. She was a brahmavadini, one who discusses the Brahman (the Supreme Spirit), and meditates upon it. Katyayani was, like all other ordinary women, attached to worldly things and busy with household affairs.

After leading a householder’s life for years, the Rishi Yajnavalkya thought of changing the mode of his life and of taking to Sannyasa or the fourth stage in life which is one of complete and final renunciation of the world.

He therefore called Maitreyi to his side one day and said to her, “I am thinking of renouncing the world. I want to be a sannyasi, I wish to detach myself completely from all affairs. I shall leave this home and go to some forest resort. I think it desirable to partition this property between you two before I depart.

Spiritual minded Maitreyi said, “Dear one, you are talking of property and its partition. But what would it avail me even if the whole world full of wealth were mine own? Would it make me immortal and take me beyond all sorrow and suffering?”

The sage replied. “No dear, not at all. Your life would be as comfortable as material means and wealth can make it. There is no hope of immortality through wealth.”

Maitreyi then said, “What then have I to do with things that do not give me what I really want? I want to be immortal. I want that which would give me ‘life eternal’. Therefore I would urge you to teach me that spiritual knowledge which I believe you possess, rather than talk to me about things material. I hanker after that knowledge and I spurn everything else as dirt.”

The Rishi felt elated at this spiritual hunger of his dear wife. He took her by his side and endearingly said to her, “You are so dear to me, Maitreyi. You have asked me something that is nearest to my heart. I shall teach you as much as I know of it. Listen to me attentively and meditate constantly upon it.”

He continues, “Dear one, we find in this world that the husband is pleased with his wife and the wife is pleased with her husband. They please each other and love each other not merely because they are in the relation of husband and wife. The husband is not loved for his own sake nor is the wife for her own sake. They both love each other because they find their own ‘selves’ in each other. They are satisfied with each other because each of them identifies the other with his or her own self. So it is the self (one’s own soul) that is loved and not any other thing. The children are dear to us not for their own sake, not because they are merely children, nor because they are our children, but because we find our own selves in them. Wealth and cattle and all beings around us are dear to us not because they are themselves, but because we find our own selves extended in them or because we can find our own selves in them or through them. The gods and the worlds are dear to us not for their own sake. We do not love them by themselves nor because they are what they are but because we hope to find and realize our own self, the Atman, through them or by their help. Above all, we love the Vedas, we study them, but it is not for their sake. We love them because we believe that they would lead us to the knowledge of the spirit in us. It is thus for the sake of one’s inner soul, the inner self of things, or the Atman that man loves all other things. That is the uppermost motive of our love for things.

“That spirit, that inner soul of things, is the one thing that really deserves to be seen, to be heard of, to be thought about and meditated upon. O dear Maitreyi, when that spirit, that great self, is seen, heard, thought about, meditated upon and known. The knowledge of the Atman includes the knowledge of all other things. It supersedes all other knowledge. This Atman is the first and the last of things. All this that is visible and invisible is the Atman. When that Atman is known, all else is known.

“When a big drum is being beaten, we cannot catch hold of the waves of sound that vibrate from it. But certainly when we hold and possess the drum itself, we control the sound as well. So too, when the Veena or the stringed musical instrument is being played upon, the numerous tunes that emerge from it are intangible and cannot be caught hold of. But certainly when we get hold of the instrument itself we can control the tunes and play upon it at will. So too can we know the essence of the multifarious world in all its wild variety only when we know the Atman, the inner soul of things that pervades all things.

“When fire is being lighted with wet fuel, clouds of thick smoke emerge and spread in all directions. So too from this Being of beings, like unto its very breath, do issue out the Vedas, the Puranas or old traditions, the histories, the arts and sutras or axioms and numerous expositions.

“Just as the sea is the one repository of all waters on earth and all waters run to the sea, just as all touch is known by the skin, all smell by the nose, all forms are seen by the eye, all sound is heard by the ear, all ideas are conceived by the mind, so too is the spirit the only one repository of all things, towards which all things rush as to a final resting place. All things are known by the spirit and the spirit alone has the power to know all things.

“The spirit is complete and perfect in itself. It has neither an inside nor an outside. It is full of itself and is in the nature of self-luminous consciousness.

“Some say that the spirit in man is no more after his death and the conscious self vanishes once for all.”

At this stage Maitreyi very eagerly put in, “Dear one, I am very anxious to know about this mystery. You must enlighten me and lead me beyond all ignorance and false knowledge.”

The sage continued, “I am not feeding you on false notions, my dear. The soul is imperishable. It is unborn and deathless. It exists by itself and its life is continuous without a break. The spirit being one and indivisible, when it ceases to be in an individualized body, it becomes free from individual limitations. Then it is One and Alone. Where there are two, there is a possibility of one seeing the other, hearing the other, speaking to the other, thinking of the other and so on. This possibility occurs only when there are two things or more, but not when there is only One thing. Dear Maitreyi, when the spirit alone, one and indivisible, one without a second, exists, who is to see whom and by what means, who is to hear what and by what sense, who is to touch whom and by what hand- where all is one homogeneous existence, who is to cognize whom? In such a condition, the ‘ONE’ exists without the other. That is the Atman, the unknowable, the deathless one. He is the knower of all; how then can we know Him and by what means?”

This is the knowledge of the one Atman, taught by the sage Yajnavalkya to Maitreyi, his wife, on the eve of his departure to the forest for leading a life of perfect renunciation.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

Thus Spake Uddalaka Aruni (25)
Chandogya Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[Though Yajnavalkya seems by far to be the most dominant personality in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Aruni’s power of exposition in the Chandogya Upanishad is very refreshing. He is easily the most brilliant Rishi (sage) in the Chandogya Upanishad. By a number of homely illustrations he conveys to his son the subtle knowledge of the Atman (soul) and impresses upon him the fact that, in essence, he too is the Atman. “That thou art” is the burden of his talk. The affectionate father repeats it at the end of each of his illustrations the through his pregnant phrase he preaches the gospel of the one God, transcendant and immanent in all things.]

“No idiot has yet been born in our line nor has any in our family neglected the study of the Vedas. So, young soul, go to a gurukula, be a brahmachari and learn the Vedas.” The sage Uddalaka Aruni thus addressed his young son Svetaketu when he attained the proper age to go to a preceptor for study.

The dutiful son obeyed his father. After studying all the Vedas for twelve long years at the feet of his guru, he came home. When the father saw him, he could at once perceive that his son had become a man of learning but that he had missed spiritual training and teaching. Instead of humility he had developed conceit and instead of peace, there was turmoil in his mind.

One day the father said to him, “Dear child, did you not ask your guru to teach you that mystic wisdom which is the key to all other knowledge, to all other thought, and that wisdom which unfolds the Unknown to man?”

Svetaketu was not a little surprised when he was thus accosted by his father. He instinctively felt that something was lacking in his own education. So he said to his father, “Dear father, what is that wondrous knowledge that you speak of? Do teach me that yourself. Obviously my guru did not know the knowledge you refer to, otherwise he would not have failed to impart it to me.”

“Dear child, it is something like this. You know that these earthen pots and toys are made of clay. Once you understand the essential nature of the clay of which these are all made, you know and understand all these things also. Then all these are mere forms and names of forms that the clay has assumed. The essence of them all, the thing that matters is the clay. So too, if you understand the nature of a particular metal, everything that is made of that metal is known to you. The various things that are made of that metal are then mere names and forms. What matters is the metal and its nature. Take the various things made of steel such as a sword, a razor, a knife, a needle. When you know the nature of steel, all these are but names and forms which that steel assumes. What matters is the steel and your knowledge of it. That is the essential truth. All else is mere verbiage. So you should get to know the essence of things, the one thing that underlies this vast and multitudinous mass of name and form.

“In the beginning of things there was pure Being, one without a second. It willed that it should become many. Then it manifested itself in many forms, such as light, liquid, solid and so on. This rich variety of things came into existence by permutation and

combination of these forms. Then life appeared, and among the living beings, man with his varied powers and functions.”

After listening to all this the son said, “Father, all this is very interesting. Excuse me for a question. Where does a man go when he sleeps?”

Uddalaka replied, “When a man sleeps he becomes for the time being one with the Spirit or one with the one eternal Being. He is merged in himself as it were. A man’s mind is like a beast tied to a peg by a long rope. It turns round and round the peg but cannot get away. So too does the mind turn round the prana or the vital power in the body but cannot leave the body. When a man is about to die, his power of speech is merged in his mind, his mind is absorbed in the prana, the prana is again in its turn merged in light and this light merges in the power beyond. That power is subtle. It pervades the universe. That is the truth. That is the Spirit. That thou art, O Svetakatu!”

The son again said, “I am not fully satisfied. Tell me more of this great wisdom, so that I can understand.”

“Dear child, bees bring tiny particles or droplets of honey from various flowers and store it in the hive. Once in the hive, do the droplets know from which flower they came? Need they know it? So too all these beings when they merge in the ocean of Being, they know not whence they came. They lose all individuality. Whether it is a lion, a tiger, a mouse or a worm before merging, all become one when they have once merged in the ocean of consciousness. That in which all these merge is the One Being. That is subtle. It pervades everything. It is the Spirit or Atman or Pure Consciousness. That thou art, O Svetaketu!

“Dear child, various rivers from the four quarters flow into the vast seas. They all become one with the seas. Can you then make out the waters of the various rivers? No. So is the case with these various beings when they merge in the One Being. That thou art, O Svetaketu!

“If you strike a tree at the root, or in the middle or at the top, some sap oozes out but the tree still lives. If you cut off a branch here and there from the tree, that branch fades and dies away but the tree still lives on. Thus that which is deprived of its life dies but life does not die. The power by which life lives eternally is the Spirit. That thou art, O Svetaketu!”

Svetaketu listened to all this very attentively but he was still at a loss to know as to how to comprehend the intangible Atman. So he asked his father, “how to know this subtle thing, dear father? Tell me that.”

Then Uddalaka thought of a simple device. He pointed out to a big Banyan tree and asked his son to bring a ripe fruit from that tree. When he brought the small red berry-like fruit, he told his son, “Split it into two, dear child.”

“Here you are. I have split it into two.”

“What do you find there?”

“Innumerable tiny seeds of course, and what else can these be?”

“Well, take one of those tiny seeds and split it again.”

“Yes, here it is. I have split a seed.”

“What do you find there?”

“Why, nothing at all.”

“O dear child! This big tree cannot come out of nothing. Only you cannot see that subtle something in the seed from which springs forth this mighty tree. That is the power, that is the spirit unseen which pervades everywhere and everything. Have faith. It is that spirit which is at the root of all existence. That thou art, O Svetaketu!”

“This is something very baffling, father. But how on earth can I realize it, even if I merely know it?”

Uddalaka said, “Just do one thing. Take a few crystals of salt and put them into a bowl of water while you go to sleep and bring to me in the morning.”

The obedient son did as he was told and next the morning took the bowl to his father.

The father said, “Dear son, take out the salt please.”

Svetaketu felt exasperated and said, “Father, what do you mean? How is it possible to take out that salt?”

“All right. Then just taste the water on the surface. How does it taste?”

“It is saltish and is bound to be so.”

“Take the water in the middle and at the bottom and tell me how it tastes.”

“Well, that too is saltish and is bound to be so.”

“My dear child, do understand now that the Spirit I spoke of pervades all existence like the salt in this water in the bowl. That is the Subtle Spirit. That thou art, dear Svetaketu!”

“Dear father, how to go about all this? It looks so simple and yet is so very difficult!”

Uddalaka said, “Now I shall tell you how to go about trying to realize the Spirit. Suppose we blindfold a man and lead him into an unknown forest away from his usual residence. What would he do? How would he try to find his home? As soon as he is left to himself, he would just remove the cover from his eyes. Then he would wander about inquiring for the region from which he was taken away. He would go from village to village and ultimately he would come across someone who would lead him in the right direction. Thus would he reach his home. That is the way to find out the spiritual home from which we have all strayed into the wilderness. The Spirit is

the one reality towards which we have all to direct our steps. That thou art, O Svetaketu!”

Thus spake Uddalaka Aruni in the Chandogya Upanishad.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

Gargi, the Fair Questioner
Brahadaranyaka  Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[It is significant that ladies also took part some times in the debates and discussions that took place at the time of Vedic sacrifices. In one such debate Gargi Vachaknavi ranged herself against the great patriarch Yajnavalkya. She had to acknowledge defeat. Ultimately Yajnavalkya proved equal to all who discussed with him and carried away the prize of a thousand cows from King Janaka.]

King Janaka of Videha performed a great sacrifice. He gave gifts to all very generously on that occasion. He loved to see important questions discussed in his presence. So he caused one thousand good cows to be collected in the yard with gold pieces tied to their horns. This was within sight of the great assembly that had met there for the sacrifice. Then he announced, “He who can defeat all others in debate can take away this coveted prize of a thousand cows.” This was a tempting prize no doubt. Hundreds of learned men who had assembled there began to look at one another. But when none had the daring to go forward and even touch the cows, Yajnavalkya, the famous sage who was there in the assembly, had the audacity to step forth and ask one of his disciples to march off with the cows! Each one of the learned that were present there saw the prize slipping out of his grasp. But who could challenge the famous Yajnavalkya?

Aswala, king Janak’s high priest, got up in a rage and asked, “Answer me, O Yajnavalkya, how dare you assume that you are the foremost among all the seekers after knowledge and appropriate the prize to yourself! Do you know Brahman (the Supreme Spirit)?”

The sage was, however, unmoved. He calmly replied, “No, good sir, I bow to him who is the knower of Brahman. But I am a poor Brahmin and need the cows badly.”

Aswala was not silenced by the rebuff. He asked, “Then tell me, how does a householder conquer death?”

“By worshipping the god Agni (fire) and through the support of Yani,” replied Yajnavalkya.

Aswala persisted. He asked Yajnavalkya the details of sacrifices to various gods who bestow different boons. He questioned the sage about ceremonies and rituals, the proper verses to be recited and the rites to be performed. The sage answered all the queries, calmly and correctly. All of Aswala’s learning could not defeat the sage.
By now, however, a few more had gathered courage. Several learned Brahmins came forward to ask various questions on the Vedas and the sacrifices. One asked where king Parikshit was. Yajnavalkya told him that he was in the heaven allotted to those who performed the Ashwamedha sacrifice. Another asked the sage what the Atman (soul) was? The sage replied, “Atman is not known by my telling you, nor by your learning from me. He is all-pervading, without beginning and without end. He is known only by the true seeker, through meditation and self-realization.”

Thus was the debate waxing and waning and the sage was calmly answering all questions, when out stepped a fair Brahmin girl to contest the prize. She was Gargi Vachaknavi. She asked, “All known things are made of and pervaded by elementary matter. Can you tell me, O sage, by what that elementary matter is made and pervaded?”

“By space,” replied Yajnavalkya.

She asked, “By what is space pervaded?”

“By Brahmaloka,” replied the sage.

“Then by what is Brahmaloka pervaded?” she continued.

At this Yajnavalkya lost his temper. “Do not ask silly questions for the sake of asking. Shut up or your head will fall from your shoulders.” Gargi retired abashed.

As the debate progressed she again gathered courage. The Brahmins marvelled at the young woman who could thus challenge in contest the well-known sage. But Gargi had now questions worthy of the sage’s learning: “Here are two questions,” she said and stood like the brave bowmen of Kashi and Videha with arrows strung to their bows. “Tell me, if you can, O sage! What is it that is beyond the heavens and below the earth, yet between the heavens and earth too- that which is past, present and future?”

The learned Brahmins held their breaths. They were wondering what the reply could be.

“By akasha, by space, the all pervading, that is past, present and future,” replied the sage.

“And what is it that is finer than Akasha, that pervades the space itself?” asked Gargi.

The men gathered were surprised at the persistence of the fair questioner. But Yajnavalkya calmly replied, “By the all-Supreme Spirit, the creator and supporter of all things, the all-pervading, and the immanent without beginning and without end. This Spirit is the innermost reality in the heart of man beyond pain and old age.”

At this Gargi admitted her defeat and addressing the assembly said, “None of us can win the debate against this great sage. He is the master of spiritual knowledge.”

The debate should have rightly ended here. While the assembly acknowledged the mastery of the sage, they also admired the courage and learning of fair Gargi. But a few young men did come forward with petty questions, which Yajnavalkya answered and twitted the ambitious novices. Lastly the sage said, “I shall be glad to answer more questions. I am here to reply to your satisfaction.” But he had already answered questions big and small and all were silent. He was the undisputed victor in the great debate.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

Balaki, the Vain
Brahadaranyaka  Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[It is the principle of the Intelligence that is the source of all things. This fact has been emphasized in this short story of Balaki and Ajatashatru. Balaki was a vain and empty-headed young man and he was taught a lesson by the learned prince Ajatashatru.]

A young man called Balaki belonging to the family of Garga was full of vanity. He thought he knew everything. He was desirous of getting some money. So he went to Prince Ajatashatru. The prince was quite courteous to him.

Balaki offered to teach the prince the knowledge of Brahman (the Supreme Spirit). For this offer the prince gave him a thousand cows and said, “This is but a poor gift. I am not rich enough to give you as generously as king Janak does.”

Balaki was still more puffed up when he was in sight of such a rich gift. He said, “I shall tell you about Brahman, the highest Reality.”

But when he opened his lips Ajatashatru could see how shallow he was. Balaki began to tell him that the person in the sun was Brahman or the highest Reality. Ajatashatru refused to accept this statement saying, “He is at the most the king of all beings but certainly not the highest Reality.”

Balaki felt browbeaten but again said, “The person in the moon is the Brahman.” The prince again told him that that was not so.

In this manner Balaki went on proposing that the person in the lightning, in the sky, in the wind, etc. was Brahman. Each time the prince put Balaki right by correcting his statement. Thus he rendered Balaki speechless.

Finally Balaki in desperation said, “The person that is in ourselves is the Brahman. One should worship Him as such.”

The prince rejected this teaching also and said, “One who looks upon the person in himself as Brahman becomes self-regarding and nothing more. Therefore that is not Brahman at all.”

At this Balaki collapsed and said in humility, “I know things only so far. Now please teach me yourself the right knowledge. I am anxious to know the truth from you.”

The prince was a Kshatriya and Balaki a Brahmin by birth. The prince therefore said, “It is rather unusual that a Brahmin should approach a Kshatriya for spiritual knowledge. It is a reverse process. But that does not matter. I shall tell you what I know of it.”

He then took Balaki by the hand and led him to a man who was in deep sleep. He called upon the sleeping man by his name, “O Somaraja, get up please.” But there was no response. Then he patted the sleeping Somaraja by the hand and he awoke.

The prince then asked Balaki,  "Do you know where this sleeping man had gone during sleep? Who was it that had slept and who was active?” Balaki was innocent of all this knowledge. He had no reply to give.

The prince then told him, “It was the principle of intelligence in Somarara that was sleeping or absent for the time being. His body was living and active and the vital powers were acting all the while. The Intelligence (Vijnana) in him had withdrawn all his powers of consciousness from the various parts of the body and was taking rest in the empty space or vacuum (akasha) in the heart. At such a time all the powers are, as it were, withdrawn from active service and stand suspended. When that intelligence roams about in the dreamland, all these powers of hearing, seeing, etc. are with that intelligence. During dreams the intelligence assumes different roles- it may be of a king, or a Brahmin or a hunter. But all these powers follow him just as the servants of a king follow him when he is out on tour.

“When the man is in deep sleep his intelligence is not cognizant of any outside thing nor of any dream. It withdraws at that time all its powers from the seventy-two thousand nerve centres in the body and takes rest in a vacuum in the heart. He sleeps then like a great king or a noted Brahmin or like a young boy free of all care and worry. He is then full of pure joy. When the man awakes, his intelligence returns and begins its activities as before.

“This principle of intelligence is really the Brahman. Verily like the gossamer web that spins out of a spider’s body or like the sparks that spring and fly from fire, the innumerable things in the world, the vital powers, worlds, gods, all beings come out of this first principle of Intelligence which is Brahman or Atman.”

Humbled Balaki listened with rapt attention to this discourse by Ajatashatru and shed all his vanity and conceit.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

Nachiketa, the Seeker (28)
Katha Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[Yama is the lord of the underworld. It is his duty to see that people are rightly judged. He sits in judgment on the actions of all living beings. A young seeker after truth dares go to this god of death for knowing the truth about the nature of the human soul and its destiny. By persistent questioning and by a simple naivete all his own, he persuades Yama to part with the mystic knowledge about the soul and the Supreme Spirit. What is more, he elicits from Yama the full course of the pathway to the realization of the great truth. It is this pathway that later developed into the more scientific Yoga school of Patanjali. This story describes the adventure of young Nachiketa.]

“To the god of death do I give you away,” said the angry father Vajasravas to young Nachiketa when he insisted upon his being gifted away during a sacrifice.

Vajasravas was a very ambitious householder and he thought of performing some sacrifice that would bring him name and fame. Of the many sacrifices that were current in those days, Vishwajit (that which conquers the world) was one such sacrifice. The price that the performer of this sacrifice had to pay was very heavy. He was expected to give away all his property.

Vajasravas decided upon performing this sacrifice rather than any other and gave away all his property to the Brahmins. But poor man, he had not much of it and many a lean and barren and limbless cows also formed part of his scanty offerings.

His young son, who was but a stripling, observed all this and was convinced that his father’s ambition had overshot the mark. But he had great faith in himself and he believed that by offering himself up he would be rescuing his father from a calumny and from the joyless world that would otherwise be his lot. So he went to his father and placed himself at his disposal as if he too was part of his property.

“Dear father, to whom, to what god would you give me in this great sacrifice that you are performing?” said the son in simple faith.

His father did not heed the request. He was not in a mood to treat his son as chattel. He was preoccupied with other details of the sacrifice. But his son Nachiketa was persistent. He repeated his question. Still the father cared not. Then he repeated the question for the third time. The father was angry at the impertinence of his child and said in a huff, “Go thou, to the god of death do I give thee away. Pester me not any further.”

Young Nachiketa wondered at this strange reply from his father. He knew that his father had blurted out in this manner in a fit of temper. He felt that he himself was not in the wrong, and yet his father had chosen to be angry. He was conscious that he was not below the mark compared to other boys, but he wondered as to how he would be useful to Yama, if he went to him. He consoled himself saying that like the grain does a man ripen and like the grain does he fall to the ground and then again is he reborn. So may it happen with himself if he went to Yama, thought he.

True to his word and true to the angry command of his father, Nachiketa went to the lord of death. Yama was absent from his home that was at the gate of the worlds. He waited at Yama’s door for three long days without food. When Yama returned he was surprised to see a young Brahmin fasting on his doorsteps. He knew that a fasting Brahmin at his door boded no good to himself, the owner of the house. So he immediately ordered for water and other usual offerings for his guest. He invited Nachiketa to a seat near him and requested him to ask for three boons, one for each of the three days of the fast.

His own father’s pacification was Nachiketa’s first consideration. So he said to the lord of death, “Grateful beyond measure am I, great god, for the boons that you have offered. Let my father feel like one whose will is done. Let him be of good cheer and let your anger be pacified. Let him welcome me as before when I return from you. Let this be the first of the boons.”

Lord Yama immediately said, “This will happen. Your father will be pleased to see you returning from the very jaws of death. He will sleep in peace having overcome all anger.”

While asking for the second boon Nachiketa said, “I learn that there is no fear in heaven. Nor are you, who destroy life, to be found there. Nor does old age afflict people in that happy place. Free from the pangs of hunger and thirst and free from sorrow, people enjoy life there without any let or hindrance. I am full of faith and I deserve to know that world. Therefore, O Yama, give that knowledge. This I ask of you as the second boon.”

Yama was very much pleased with Nachiketa’s question. He gave him the full knowledge of a certain sacrifice. He taught him how to perform that sacrifice correctly and told him that one who performs that sacrifice would go to heaven and enjoy life there. He further told him that that particular yajna or sacrifice would from then onwards be known in the world by Nachiketa’s name. The fire used in that sacrifice would also be named after him. After imparting that knowledge to him, Yama called upon him to ask for the third and last boon.

“When man dies, some say he lives after death, while others say he does not. This is yet a matter which is in dispute and which is much discussed. I would like to learn definitely from you the truth about the matter. This is the third boon I ask,”said Nachiketa naively.

Yama was not a little disconcerted at this great question from the young questioner. He tried to dissuade Nachiketa from asking that difficult question. But he failed to do so. On the other hand, he whetted Nachiketa’s curiosity the more by withholding a ready reply.

“Young seeker, why not choose some other boon? Even the gods have not come to know about it. Nor is it easy to understand this subject. It is too subtle a matter. Please relieve me of the burden of answering this difficult question. Why press me hard?” pleaded Yama.

Nachiketa insisted, “Rightly said, lord Yama. If what you say is true, who else is there so competent as you to solve this problem? You deal in life and death and none can know the destiny of the human soul so well as you. Nor do I see any other boon as good as this.”

Yama tried again to tempt him out of the question by offering other gifts, but the young man persisted.

“Ask for sons and grandsons that would live the full span of hundred years. Ask for numerous cattle, elephants, horses and gold. Ask for ample land and you may even ask for life that may last as long as you desire. You may ask for any other boon that you deem equal to this. You may rule this wide world as long as you desire and I shall give you the power to enjoy all possible pleasures on earth. You are free to ask me frankly for the fulfilment of all desires that are usually difficult of fulfilment in the world of mortals. These beautiful damsels with chariots and musical instruments going about here are hardly ever seen by men. But at my behest, they will all attend on you and serve you. But do not, for god’s sake ask me anything about life after death,” said Yama.

This offer was a fresh temptation in the way of Nachiketa. But he was firm in mind. He therefore brushed aside this temptation and said, “All these that you mention are but temporary and ephemeral things, living but for a short time. Do they not corrupt and enfeeble the senses? This life after all is but a brief one and therefore I shall have none of these things that you generously offer. These chariots and these dancing girls, I leave to you. Not by wealth or pleasure alone is the human soul satisfied. And after all, we would get this wealth when we have once seen you and we would live on as long as you choose and as long as you rule. I do not wish to concern myself with all these things.

It is that knowledge alone which is worth asking for from you. What fool of a man would indulge in mere dance and song and wish to live long merely like an animal when once he has known the true nature of life and when once he has come in touch with you who never become old and who are immortal! Therefore, O Yamaraj, tell me about that life after death which even the gods are still in doubt. I shall not choose any boon other than this- the solution of this mystery of mysteries.”

When Yama found that his disciple was staking everything on this question, he became helpless. Yet he was pleased. He saw that young Nachiketa deserved to know the highest truth. He had faith, sincerity, purity, simplicity of mind, tenacity of purpose, freedom from temptations and above all an intense desire to know the truth and realize it in his own life.

Yama said, "Dear and wise child, two paths always lie open before a man, the path of Sreya or of good deeds, and the path of Preya or of pleasure. He who follows the former achieves the goal while he who follows the path of pleasure perishes. The wise always choose the right path. You have spurned the path of sensual pleasures and have chosen the path of the spirit that brings permanent good to you. Pleasures did not, could not tempt you. Ignorant fools who know not that there is the other world of immortal bliss, are caught again and again in my net. The wise, however, are few and they follow the other path. It is no doubt a subtle and difficult path. The knowledge of t is so rare. Rare also are those who inquire after it and it is only those who have realized it that can impart it to others. By intellect and logic alone this truth cannot be known. You have risen above every temptation and now you deserve to know the highest truth.

“The wise man attains this ancient knowledge of the immanence of the spirit that pervades all things by meditation on the inner self and he goes beyond joy and sorrow. The truth lies beyond the dualities of life like pleasures and pain, success and failure, beyond all relativity. The Vedas or the sacred books and the various penances aim at it. Great sadhakas try to attain it by the discipline of brahmacharya (celibate disciplines). The mystic symbol of that truth of truths is AUM.

“That Supreme Spirit is eternal; is not born and does not die. It is the pure and the immaculate Being. It is unborn and immortal and dies not at the passing away of the body. One who is desireless and one who has gone beyond sorrow can have a vision of this truth through his purified senses and mind.

“This Spirit cannot be known by teaching nor can it be grasped by the intellect, nor can it be acquired by vast learning. It is by the grace of the Spirit alone that one can be blessed with its knowledge though all these do help the process.

“One who has not abstained from bad deeds and one whose mind is not calm and composed cannot hope to know the truth.

“The human body is like a chariot and the soul is the charioteer. The senses are the horses and the sense-objects are the roads along which they travel. The wise people who know the truth say that the soul is the enjoyer through the senses and the mind. An unrestrained mind without understanding cannot control the senses which would then be like uncontrolled horses. A restrained mind with good understanding can control the senses like a good charioteer who keeps his horses well in hand. And unrestrained mind cannot concentrate and cannot keep itself pure; cannot attain the goal. One with an unrestrained mind is caught up in the cycle of birth and death. One with a controlled mind can attain a place whence there is not return.

“Few are they who look into themselves and try to find and realise the Atman or the Great Spirit. Since at the time of creation, the spirit went forth outward, the senses and the mind have a tendency to be engaged with the external world. He who looks into himself sees that the soul is the witness of both the dream state and the waking state. It is only through the power of the spirit that the senses can function. One who realises this goes beyond all sorrows.

“ It is the great Atman from whom the sun and the moon and all things take their birth. In that Atman do all find their final rest and fulfilment. This Atman is everywhere, here as well as in the other worlds. He is one and indivisible. He who sees more than the One here goes from death to death. One who realises unitary life integrally is saved and he becomes immortal.

“That alone is the real Atman who is awake in those who are sleeping, shaping things as he likes in dreams. That power resides in the pure consciousness which is Brahman (Supreme Spirit) and in that Brahman are all the worlds centred. Like fire that assumes innumerable shapes and forms according to the objects that it burns, the one Atman that is at the centre in the heart of all things appears differently in different objects. The sun who is like the eye of the universe is not affected by the impurities of the universe. So too the inner Atman stands unaffected by the sins and the sorrows of the world.

“He, the great Atman, the arch-controller, is the inner essence of all beings. It is he who shapes the One into many. Those wise and brave men who see him and realize him in their souls – it is their joy that is eternal and not that of others.

“He is the One eternal among the fleeting many, He is the life in the living. He is the one who fulfils the desires of many and all. Those wise men who see Him and realise Him in their inner selves- it is their joy that is eternal and not that of others.

“As we observe things, we see first the objects of our senses. But our senses are subtler than the objects as it is our senses that see those objects. But the primary elements are subtler than our senses since our senses are made of those primary elements. The mind is superior and subtler than the elements as it is the mind that perceives the elements. The power of understanding is superior to the mind as it has the power of discrimination. The soul is greater and subtler than the power of understanding as the soul is but a part and a fraction of that Great Soul. But the Unmanifest is greater and vaster than even the Great Soul that manifests. But Purusha, the Supreme Person, is far greater than the manifest and the unmanifest, as it is the synthesis of both and contains both integrally. There is nothing subtler, greater and superior to that Purusha, which is the final word in existence and being. That is the final goal of all.

“He pervades all beings secretly and is not manifestly seen. He can be perceived or felt only by subtler seers through their one-pointed power of understanding.

“There is a way by which we can approach that Purusha. The wise who want to have a vision of that great Reality should merge the powers of speech, etc. in the mind, that mind in the power of understanding, that power again into the great Soul, and that again into the infinitely peaceful Spirit.

“When the five senses and their power of perception along with the mind are stilled and when the power of understanding is held in suspense- that is the supreme condition of human consciousness. That is called the Yoga condition or perfect concentration and communion. That is the steady stilling of the senses and holding them there. Then the man is free from objective and fleeting ideas. Such a pure condition of consciousness cannot be realized by the powers of speech or by the power of sight or by the mind. It can be realized only through faith and by intuition, purified by long practice and strict discipline. When all desires have vanished from the mind and all doubts have been cleared, a man becomes immortal.

“That great immanence is speechless and touchless and formless and deathless. It can neither be tasted nor smelt. It has neither beginning nor end. It is smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest. It is the great truth, the greatest Reality and one who knows this goes beyond death.

“Arise, awake, approach the worthy ones and learn to realise the truth. Narrow is the path and difficult to tread, sharp like the edge of a razor. But success is sure to those who dare and do.”

This is the highest knowledge and the Yogic pathway to it, as taught by Yama to Nachiketa, the ideal seeker after truth.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

Uma, the Golden Goddess (29)
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[At whose desire does the mind function, who puts first the vital force into motion? This has been an eternal question. “The Brahman or the transcendent and immanent Spirit,” answers the Rishi (sage) the seer of the Kenopanishad. It is neither seen by the eye nor heard by the ear. Nor does the mind know it. The Spirit, on the other hand, is the seer of the eye, the hearer of the ear, and the knower of the mind. It is through the power of all this all-pervasive Spirit that everything else functions. It is beyond the reach of the senses and can only be felt like a mighty presence through intuition. It is that Spirit which is real God and not the many gods that people worship.

This is the teaching of the Kenopanishad and has been embodied in the allegory of Uma, the goddess of spiritual wisdom.]

It was the question hour. One evening while the sun hung in the west and shadow chased shadow in a race to envelope the world with darkness, a Rishi was sitting under a tree in his ashrama with a group of young disciples around him. Everything there was simple and chaste as behoved the dwelling of the saint, known for his life of contemplation and good work. The evening prayers were just over and the youths came out with their questions.

Man is by nature inquisitive. He is never satisfied by that which is apparent to him. He wants to probe into the unknown and the beyond. Is this all? Is there nothing behind the visible body and the invisible mind? Thus the questioning mind goes on and on digging deeper into the realm of consciousness till curtain after curtain lifts and he has a vision of the ultimate reality or Brahman.

“At whose behest does the mind run towards its objects? Who bids first the vital powers to act? And at whose desire does the eye, the ear, and the power of speech function?”

This was a pretty formidable array of questions. The Rishi of the Kenopanishad said calmly, “The power that inspires all these is One and indivisible. It is behind and beyond all that functions visibly. It hears the ear, sees the eye, and knows the mind. Neither our senses nor the mind fully grasp the Reality. They all move and act through the power that pervades all existence. That fountainhead of all energy is the real God and what people worship as so many gods are but mere reflections. He who knows and realises this truth enjoys immortality. Here and now in this life is the opportunity to know this great truth, otherwise a great chance is lost for ever.”

“Who then is so fortunate as to realise this truth that you speak of and extol? And how to know that one is in possession of this truth of truths?” was the next question.

“Well spoken,” said the Rishi. “Not he who says ‘I know’ knows it. He knows little. But the humble seeker who begins by saying ‘I know not’ knows the truth in the course of time. It gradually illumines his mind like the rising sun. When once realised, the Spirit is ever present to him through all the four states of his consciousness. His soul grows from strength to strength and his realisation of the immaculate presence blesses him with immortal life.”

The sage then looked at the faces of some of his disciples and could see that they had not grasped the full significance of what he said. So he narrated an allegory to illustrate his teaching that evening.

“My young friends,” he began, “you have heard of the conflict between the gods and the demons. Once upon a time the gods won in a certain battle against the demons. It was through the good offices of Brahma (the Creator). But due to ignorance they appropriated the credit to themselves, and became proud and elated. They thought, ‘Verily this victory is ours and this glory too.’

“Brahma came to know of this. He thought of teaching them a lesson and of making them realise their limitations. When they were in the midst of their rejoicings, he suddenly appeared in their presence. But how could they know him, blinded as they were by egoism and by empty vanity? They saw that some wonderful being was before them but they could not recognize it. They then thought seriously of knowing it by some means. They deputed Agni, the lord of Fire, also known as the omniscient one, to investigate into the matter.

“Agni approached the strange being. Brahma queried, ‘Who are thou?’

‘Why I am the famous Agni, otherwise known as the all-knowing one.’

‘If such is your name and fame, may I know what power you possess?’

‘Well I can burn all that is on the face of this earth and in the sky and everything that is in the seven worlds.’

“Brahma put before him a dry blade of grass and said, ‘Bravo, mighty one, burn this blade of grass and oblige.’

“Agni tried with all his might to burn it up. But he could not even singe it! He felt ashamed and went back to the gods and confessed his inability to know as to who the strange being was.

“Vayu the wind-god was next requested to go and find out who it was that had defied the attempts of Agni. Vayu went with great confidence and thought that he would succeed.

“When he approached Brahma, he was asked, ‘Who are thou?’

‘I am well known as the god of winds. I am also known as the god that sweeps through the vast skies!’

‘What power characterizes you?’ was the next question by Brahma.

‘I can take away all that fills the earth by a mighty sweep,’ said Vayu.

‘Here you are.’ So saying Brahma laid before him a piece of straw and asked him to blow it off.

“Vayu tried his best but could not move it by even a hair’s breadth. He too retired and informed his colleagues that it was beyond him to know the strange person.

“The gods then appealed to Indra, their king. ‘Oh wealthy one, see if you can comprehend this unique person that has defied two of us.’

“Indra, the powerful lord of the gods, agreed. He approached the Being but before he could contact him, Brahma had disappeared and in the self-same place stood a charming woman. It was Uma, the goddess of spiritual knowledge, lavishly laden with gold.

“Indra made bold to ask of her, ‘Who was that awe-inspiring person who stood there long in the same place as you stand now?’

“Uma said, ‘Know ye, little minds, that it was Brahma. It was he who won the victory for you, the victory over the demons. Take pride in him who won you victory.’

“When Indra realized that it was Brahma that had appeared to them, he went to his friends and told them the truth. They all realized their folly and gloried in the knowledge of the Supreme Spirit.

“Like a flash of lightning across the clouded skies, in the twinkling of an eye, the vision of Brahma illumines our consciousness. Just as the mind rushes to its favourite objects and remembers them again and again, we must run after and catch the fleeting glimpses of Reality and contemplate upon them. That Reality alone is really adorable in the world. For, the Supreme God, Brahma and the ultimate Reality are the same.”

Rounding off, the sage said, “This is the knowledge of Brahman, the transcendental and immanent reality. Truth is the very body and abode of Brahman. All knowledge is its limb; penance, self-control and good work its support.”

Pleased with their guru’s way of teaching, and beaming with joy, the disciples dispersed to their respective resting places to reflect on what they had learnt.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

The Four Varnas (30)
Brahadaranyaka  Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[The fourfold division of Hindu society into Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra seems to be quite ancient. The Rg Veda mentions the division and says that these emerged from the different parts of the body of the Virata Purusha or the primeval mighty being. It is clear that originally the division was functional and not hereditary. Here is an explanation of that system given in an allegorical manner. It is said here that society is complete and perfect on account of the existence of all these four divisions but much more so on account of the law which binds all and which all ought to obey.]

The Creator Prajapati first created the god Brahma. He represented Intelligence. But the Creator was not satisfied with that only. He felt that he should create other gods also if creation were to be a complete manifestation of the various powers in him. He created the Kshatriya gods, Indra, Varuna, Soma, Rudra, Parjanya, Yama and others. They were the embodiments of power, valour, brilliance, fearlessness, the tendency to govern, and such other qualities.

But the Creator was not satisfied even with these new gods. He saw that there was still something wanting in creation. So he created the Vaisya gods, the eight Vasus, Aditya, the Maruts and so on.

But then he saw that the society of gods he wanted to evolve was not yet complete. So he added Pusan to the creation. He represents the Sudra principle, namely, manual labour and service.

Even this did not satisfy the Creator. He therefore created Dharma or the Law that binds all, that keeps all in their own places and strengthens all who act according to it. Those who do not follow the Law fall away, however strong they might be. Those who follow the law are stronger than the strongest because they adhere to the law. He who speaks the law speaks the truth. He, who speaks the truth, speaks the law. Truth and the Law are one.

Corresponding to this creation of his in the heavens, Prajapati created human society also on the same pattern and laid down the law for all the four Varnas. The law lays down the functions of the four pillars of the social system. Those who follow the law and perform their functions accordingly have nothing to fear. They are stronger than the strongest and they are bound to be happier than the happiest.

Intelligence, sacrifice, disinterested service are the characteristics of the Brahmins. Valour, chivalry, forgiveness, ability to rule are the characteristics of the Kshatriyas. Trade, co-operation, agriculture and distribution of material wealth are the characteristics of the Vaisyas. Ungrudging manual labour and service are the characteristics of the Sudras.

To choose our functions according to our powers and to attune our powers to the functions that we take up, is the only way to follow the Law and maintain social harmony.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

Para and Apara vidya (31))
(pronounced paraa and aparaa vidyaa)
Chandogya Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[There are two categories of knowledge, declares the Rishi of Mundaka Upanishad- knowledge of the world and knowledge of the inner world, material knowledge (apara vidya) and spiritual knowledge (para vidya). The same thing has again been taken up in the Chandogya Upanishad by sage Narada Muni and Sanatkumara. In fact both ought to be acquired and both are equally important. Nor are they mutually exclusive. One is incomplete without the other. This has been very strongly emphasized by the Isa Upanishad.]

“The higher (para) and the lower knowledge (apara), or the knowledge of the spirit and the knowledge of matter, both ought to be acquired, so say those who know Brahman (Supreme Spirit),” declared the sage Angirasa to Saunaka when the latter approached him as a disciple.

All the Vedas, grammar, philosophy, astronomy, astrology and all such knowledge falls in the category of apara or lower learning. That knowledge by which Brahman (Supreme Soul) is known, that by which, the unseen and the unknown, the one eternal all-pervasive Being is known, is the para or higher learning.

Narada once approached the sage Sanatkumara and requested him to show the path of knowledge. Sanatkumara said, “Let me first know what you have already learnt. I shall then teach you something further than that.”

Narada then said, “Sir, I have learnt the Rg-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda, history and traditional stories which are together called the fifth Veda, the method of remembering and repeating the Vedas, the technique of Shraddha ceremony, grammar, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, science of augury, jugglery, logic, ethics, information about different gods who represent different forces or powers, science of animals, science of war, and so on. But, Sir, I feel that I merely know the Mantras or potent words but I do not know the Atman or the soul or the spirit of things. I have heard from men like you that he who knows the Atman goes beyond all sorrow. Sir, I am full of sorrow and grief and remorse. I hope and believe that you will be able to lead me out of all these by favouring me with real knowledge.”

“Dear Narada, all that you have known is but mere name and verbiage, mere words. You can by your present knowledge achieve only what words can achieve and nothing more.”

“What is it that is greater than name and words? Please teach me that,” said Narada.

“Yes, the power of speech is greater than words. If there had been no power of speech there would have been no words, no Vedas, no truth or untruth, no religion or irreligion, no good or bad.”

“Is there anything still greater than the power of speech?” queried Narada

“Certainly. Mind is greater. It is the mind that is conscious of both the word and the power of speech. When a man decided that he should learn the Mantras, he learns them. Otherwise not. When he thinks he ought to do a thing, he does it, not otherwise.

“Is there anything greater than the mind?”

“Why not? The will is greater than the mind. If there is no will, nothing happens. It is the will that holds all things together.”

“What is greater than the will?”

“Consciousness is greater than the will. It is consciousness that begets mental activity. Then there is the will that impels the mind to think. Speech follows and words take shape. If a man’s consciousness is not concentrated, he is not alert and he cannot do things.”

“Dear Sir, is there anything that is greater than consciousness?”

“Of course, there is. Meditation is greater than mere consciousness. Even the earth and the sky and the mountains are, as it were, meditating and therefore standing firm and steady. If there were no meditation, nothing would stand firm and steady.”

“Please tell me if there is something which is greater than meditation.”

“Yes, the power of understanding is greater than meditation. Good and bad, truth and untruth, the Vedas and Puranas, this world and the next, all these can be known only if there is the power of understanding.”

“Is there anything still greater than understanding?”

“Yes, dear friend. Power is greater than mere understanding. A single powerful man inspires fear into a hundred men with brains and understanding. When a man with physical power gets up and goes about, when he becomes learned, when he becomes a seer, a thinker, a doer of things, becomes a man of understanding, he is greater than all. It is power that supports the earth, the sky, the mountains, the beasts and men and gods and everything that exists on earth or in heaven.”

“Is there anything that is greater than physical power?”

“Yes, food is greater. If a man does not eat ten days he may die, or even if he lives, he may lose his powers of speech, of action, of hearing, and of thinking. When he begins to take food his powers return to him.”

“Is there anything greater than food?”

“Yes, water is greater. If there are no rains then no food grows. For want of water all living beings would fade away. When there are rains all animals are quite happy.”

“What is greater than water?”

“Heat or light is greater. If there were no heat, the water from the earth would not evaporate and there would be no rain without evaporation.”

“What is greater than heat?”

“Akasha or space is greater. It is in akasha or space that all things happen. The sun and the moon and the worlds float about in space. Space is the cause of sound waves that makes hearing possible.”

“What is greater than space?”

“Well, there is the Atman, the spirit. That is the substratum of everything else.”

“Man is always impelled to do things on account of the joy or the pleasure that he gets out of the things that he does. No one acts or does anything unless by some kind of pleasure or joy. And joy consists in abundance, not in want. It is infinity and not limitation that can give joy. That infinity can be realized only by living a unitary life and not by living a life impeded by a sense of separation or isolation or limitation.

When a man sees not anything but One, hears not and knows not anything but the one Atman, he is experiencing infinity. When a man only sees and knows merely things other than the Atman, it is misery and sorrow that follow. The abundant and the infinite are immortal while things limited are mortal. The spirit lives by its own power and exists by its own support and greatness. Those who have realized the spirit are great on account of self-possession and not on account of the possession of houses and cows, servants and lands.

“The spirit pervades the four quarters. It is up above as well as down below. It is called the Atman. He who knows this Atman is absorbed in it. He sports with it, he enjoys its company as that of a mate. He is full of joy. He is his own monarch and fully self-possessed and self-controlled.

“This realization of the spirit can dawn upon us when our mind is clean and pure. Our minds would be clean and pure when we feed upon pure food. A clean and pure mind alone can concentrate upon truth. Truth then will shine in the heart of hearts like the rising sun.”

That is para vidya or spiritual realization that bestows immortality and eternal bliss.


Upanishads in Story and Dialogue

The Message of the Guru (32)
Taittiriya Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
By R.R.Diwakar

[The span of ashrama life for students was usually twelve years. The students lived with their preceptors and served them and the ashrama during that period. They learnt the Vedas, maintained the sacrificial fire and studied whatever the guru taught them. Below is given a model message from a guru to a departing disciple at the end of the period. This might be said to be a ‘Convocation Address’ if we liken the ashramas of old to the ‘residential universities’ of today. This occurs in the Taittiriya Upanishad.]

Young boys eight or more entered the ashramas and were entrusted to the care of the guru or the preceptor. They spent twelve long years in study and sport, in service and sadhana or spiritual discipline. They were called brahmacharis, that is, those who adopt a particular discipline in order to know Brahman. Brahmacharya is not mere continence, but a whole code of disciplined conduct which aims at the conservation, development and concentration of physical, mental and moral energy, in order to attain the highest spiritual goal.

The twelve strenuous years thus spent by the youngsters in the very home of the guru in close association with him, built up very affectionate relations between them. The gurus were expected to take almost parental interest in their charges, while the disciples were to render filial obedience to the gurus.

Let us imagine in one such ashrama, a day dawns when a disciple or a group of them is about to depart and plunge into the wide world. He is leaving the charmed circle of the ashrama to battle with the currents and cross-currents of life. He is to transfer himself from the cloister to the market place. He is now to test in the world of experience what he has learnt within the precincts of the academy. He is to cut off his moorings in the sheltered bay and launch the boat of his life into the open sea. Fears and thrills of anticipated adventures fill the young man as he contemplates the prospect before him. The guru too feels the wrench and his heart is full of emotion. He has some anxiety about the future of his young disciple. But the separation is inevitable- it has to come one day. In fact, by that separation alone can the future development of his student be ensured.

Such are the mixed feelings that surge in the heart when the Vedic guru gives the parting message to the brahmachari after his study of the Vedas is over.

“My dear child, your study of the Vedas is over. Now go forth into the wide world.

“Speak the truth and practise the Dharma or the Law. Never fail nor falter in the study of that part of the Veda that has been assigned to you. Study more but never less than thy portion.

“Give to your preceptor such wealth and such things as are dear to him. Never allow your line of life to lapse. Behind you, you must leave children.

“Never falter f