Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kaushika and the Crane...

This is a story from Mahabharata that brings to light that our spiritual achievements are useless if we neglect our duties or Dharma.

Kaushika, a Brahmin boy was his parents' only son. One day he told his mother that he wanted to go off to the jungle and devote himself to spiritual studies.

His mother was concerned as her husband was very sick and they needed someone to take care of them. But Kaushika was adamant and he was determined to study the Vedas. His mother cried in vain as she watched her son turn his back on her and leave for the jungle. Eventually Kaushika acquired great mystical powers after doing a lot of penance and acquired completed knowledge of the Vedas.

One afternoon, as he was meditating under a tree, a crane flew up, and perched herself on a branch above Kaushika. Some bird droppings fell on Kaushika's head. Kaushika furiously threw a fiery gaze at the crane. The crane immediately went up in flames and fell dead. The sage felt sorry for what he had done. He felt bad for letting his anger control him that way.

Later in the day, he went to a village to beg for alms. The lady of the house asked him to wait and went to get some food. Right then her husband arrived. She immediately set aside the pot of food she was taking to the sage and went to attend her husband. After washing his feet, giving him food, and attending to his needs, she came back out to give the alms to the sage. The sage felt very insulted as she put her husband before a pious Brahmin like him. She calmly said that a true Brahmin is one who has patience and who has mastered his anger. She said that she is not a crane who will die by his fiery gaze. At this the sage was amazed. He was wondering how she knew what happened with the crane.

The lady said to him that he was a learned Brahmin but one who has not understood the truth about virtue. She asked him to go meet Dharmavyadha in Mathura to know more about it.

The sage thanked the lady and hurried to Mathura thinking that Dharmavyadha must be a great and learned sage. But when he finally reached Dharmavyadaha's place, he found it to be a butcher shop! A very ordinary looking man came out and and said that he was Dharmavyadha. Kaushika couldn't believe how a butcher could be spiritually enlightened??!!!

The sage could not contain himself and blurted that he is in the sinful profession of butchering animals. So he asked him if he doesn't feel ashamed of himself. Dharmavyadha replied that he wasn't ashamed as he was just engaged in a family trade and that he worked hard and honestly. He also said that as we walk we trample numerous creates under the soil, so there is really nobody who doesn't harm another living creature knowingly or unknowingly.

The butcher then took him to his house where his wife was doing her house hold chores and his two boys were playing. The butcher introduced the sage to his wife and boys. Then the butcher entered the house and touched his parents' feet. The butcher remarked that his parents were God to him and that his wife and himself attend to them with devotion and love. In doing one's duty cheerfully lies true virtue said that butcher.

The butcher said that the brahmin has run away from his worldly responsibilities by deserting his aged father and mother. He said any level of spiritual achievement is useless if one has neglected one's Dharma or duties.

Hearing this Kaushika felt very ashamed of having left his parents and immediately returned to them and served them lovingly until their end.

There are two things to be learnt from this story:

1. To achieve spiritual enlightenment there is no need to relinquish everything and make the Himalayas as your abode...but you can be a completely connected person living in your current state of life and executing your routine duties.

2. If a person is well-read or if he / she is born in a particular caste / creed it doesn't mean that they are automatically superior in spiritual terms to another fellow person. At a human level nobody can measure the level of spiritual prowess, so it better left to the Divine to gauge us.

Having ego blinds us to so many truths and makes us deaf to other people's pleas. So in order to deflate this balloon of ego which is a major hurdle to our spiritual ascent and be completely at ease executing our duties effectively just try Sahaja meditation. The meditation also teaches anger management techniques which will ensure that you do not burn down any endangered species with your fiery gaze ;-)

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