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Paandav's Teerth Yaatraa-7

Story of Ashtaavakra

[3-132] Lomash Muni said - "See here, It is the Aashram of Shwetketu, son of Uddaalak, who is expert in sacred Mantra and whose fame has spread all around. Here Shwetketu had Darshan of Saraswatee Jee in person in human form and asked he boon of "speech". In that Yug, Shwetketu, the son of Uddaalak and Ashtaavakra, the son of Kaahod, who were uncle and nephew (Shwetketu was Maamaa of Ashtaavakra), were the best in sacred lore. They of matchless energy, once went to Raajaa Janak's court and defeated Bandhi in discussion. This is his Aashram, whose grandson Ashtaavakra drowned Bandhi in a river after defeating him, worship it." Yudhishthir said - "Hey Muni, Please tell me the story of this wonderful boy who defeated this Bandhi. Why was he born slanting at eight places?"

Lomash Muni said - "Sage Uddaalak had a disciple named Kaahod. Kaahod was a very devoted disciple of Uddaalak, so he liked him very much. He studied under Uddaalak for a long time. Uddaalak liked him so much that he married his daughter Sujaataa to him and mastery over Shaastra. Sujaataa got pregnant. Once she was learning in Kaahod's class that the child from her womb spoke to his father - "You have been reading the whole night, but your reading does not seem to me correct. Even in womb state, because of your grace, I have the knowledge of Ved and their branches and Shaastra." This insulted the father so he cursed him - "You are speaking even from a womb, you will be slanted at eight places of your body. The child was born slanted from eight places of his body and was thus named Ashtaavakra.

Ashtaavakra had an uncle (Maamaa, mother's brother) Shwetketu, who was of the same age as of Ashtaavakra. After the curse the child's growth was affected and he was not growing as he should have been, so Sujaataa asked his poor husband Kaahod as how she would manage her 10th month pregnancy, because after she had delivered the child she would not have enough to subsist upon. So Kaahod went to Raajaa Janak to get some riches. There he was defeated in a debate by a learned Braahman Bandhi and as a consequence, as the condition was, he was drowned in the water. When Uddaalak heard that his son-in-law was defeated in a debate and was drowned in the water, he said to his daughter Sujaataa - "Do not tell this to Ashtaavakra. Keep this secret from him." So Sujaataa, when the child was born, did not tell him anything about his father and Ashtaavakra also did not know about him. he regarded Uddaalak as his father and Shwetketu as his brother.

When Ashtaavakra was in his 12th year, Shwetketu saw him seated in his father's lap, so he pulled him from there saying that it was not his father's lap. Ashtaavakra started crying. This cruel sentence of Shwetketu went deep into his heart and he went to his mother and asked her - "Where is my father?" Sujaataa also greatly felt this and told him the whole story. Next day Ashtaavakra asked Shwetketu to come along with him to Raajaa Janak's court where we would see many wonderful things, listen to scholarly discussions among learned Braahman and eat good food. We will learn there something. So they both, uncle and nephew, went to Raajaa Janak's court. Ashtaavakra met the King and said to him --

[3-133] Ashtaavakra said - "When no Braahman is seen on the way, it means that that way belongs to blind, the deaf, the women, carriers of burden and the King respectively; and when one meets a Braahman, it belongs to him alone." Raajaa Janak said - "I give you the privilege to enter. You may go inside  by whichever way you like. No fire is ever too small to be lighted, even Indra respects Braahman." At this Ashtaavakra said - "We have come here to witness your sacrificial ceremony out of our great curiosity. We are your guests and we want your permission to enter. O Son of Indradyumn, We will see the sacrifice and we will meet Raajaa Janak also but your guard stopped us that is why we are angry." The guard said - "We obey the orders of Bandhi. He told us that the boys are not permitted but the old Braahman." Ashtaavakra said - "If this is the condition that only the old are allowed to enter then we have the right to enter. We are old and we have observed sacred vows, we have served our elders and are knowledgeable. Fire, even if it is very small burns if it is touched." The guard said - "I consider you a boy, otherwise you recite a verse related to the existence of the Supreme Being, composed of one letter still multipharious."

Ashtaavakra said - "The physical growth is not the true growth, as the growth of knots of Shaalmali tree cannot signify its age. Whatever tree bears fruit is supposed to be old, even if it is small in size and slender." The guard said - "Boys indeed obtain education from elders and take time to grasp it, then only they grow old. This takes long time, and you being a child is talking like an old man." Ashtaavakra said - "One does not become old by gray hair, only he is old who has the knowledge. Sages do not count age to see that a man is old or gray hair, or friends, but in our opinion who knows Ved, he is old. I wish to see Bandhi in the court. Go and tell Raajaa Janak that I am here. Today you will see me enter into discussion with learned people and defeat Bandhi. And when the others will be defeated then only King and Braahman etc will judge my superiority or inferiority." The guard said - "How can you, a 10-year old, enter this Yagya Bhoomi where only learned Braahman are allowed to enter. I also try for your admittance, you also try."

Ashtaavakra said to the King - "O Janak, In olden times King Yayaati was a great sacrifice performer, and presently you are the great sacrifice performer. We have heard that learned Bandhi drowns the person who is defeated by him in  discussion? Hearing that I have come here to expound the doctrine of the Unity of the Supreme Being. Where is Bandhi? tell me where is he so that I can defeat him as the Sun destroys stars." King Janak said - "You are saying this because you don't know his power of speech. Only those people can tell you who have heard him. He is very well versed in Ved. Many people have lost their lives when they come before him in the hope to defeat him. Sometimes they just go away as they see him even without speaking to him."

Ashtaavakra said - "It is because he has never come across a man like me, and that is why he thinks that he is lion; but today when he will meet me, he himself lie down dead." the King Janak said - "He is truly a learned man who understands the significance of the thing which has 30 divisions, 12 parts, 24 joints, and 360 spokes." Ashtaavakra said - "May that ever-moving wheel that has 24 joints, 6 naves, 12 peripheries, and 60 spokes protect you. (This wheel is the Wheel of Time, measured according to the Solar, Lunar and Astral revolutions. The importance of Ashtaavakra's reply is this that : May the meritorious deeds performed at proper times, during the revolution of this Wheel of Time protect you.)

The King said - "Who amongst the Devtaa bears those two which go together, like two mares (yoked in a chariot), and sweep like hawk, to what do they give birth?"
Ashtaavakra said - "May God prevent the presence of these two (thunder and lightening and death) in your house, even in the house of your enemies. he who appears, having for his charioteer the Wind (cloud or the Mind), begets them and they also produce them."
The King asked - "What is that does not close its eyes, even while sleeping? What is that does not move, even when born? What is that which has no heart? And what does increase even in its own speed."
Ashtaavakra said - "It is fish (the male being is ever conscious) that does not close its eyes, even while sleeping. It is an egg which does not move even after being born. It is stone (the soul that has renounced connection with the body) that does not have a heart. And it is river (the heart of a Yogee) that increase in its own speed."
The King said - "It seems that you are not an ordinary human being, you are not a boy but a matured man. there is no other man who can comare you in the art of speech. I allow you to enter. There is Bandhi."

[3-134] Ashtaavakra said - "In this assembly I am unable to find out Bandhi. Where is he as I am searching for him only. O Bandhi, You think yourself the greatest thinker. When you will engage yourself with me in discussion you will not be able to flow like a current of a river. I am full fledged fire, so you should be quiet before me. As other mountains are inferior to Mainaak Mountain, so are other kings are before the king of Mithilaa. And as Gangaa is the best river and Indra is the Dev of Devtaa so you are, O King. Bring Bandhi before me."

Lomash Muni said - "Thus thundered Ashtaavakra in the assembly and spoke to Bandhi - "You answer my questions and I will answer yours." At this threat Bandhi said - "Only one fire blazes forth in various shapes; only one Sun illumines this whole world; only one hero Indra destroys all enemies; only one Yam is sole Lord of Pitri. (Ashtaavakra comes to Janak's sacrifice with the object of proving the unity of the Supreme Being. Bandhi avails himself of various system of Philosophy to combat his opponent. He begins with the Buddhistic system. The form of the dialog is unique in literature being that of enigmas and the latent meaning is in a queer way hid under the appearance of puerile and heterogeneous combinations of things. Bandhi opens the controversy by saying that as the number of each of these is one, so is only one intellect, the Lord, leader and guide of the senses.)

Ashtaavakra replied - "The two friends, Indra and Agni, ever move together; the two celestial sages are Naarad and Parvat; twins are Ashwinee Kumaar; two is the number of the wheels of a chariot; it is a couple, husband and wife, who live together; as ordained by the Deity." (There is a Vedic revelation that two birds live together on a tree as friends--one of these eats the fruits and the other looks at the former. From this it is manifest that two are the lords, leaders, and guides of the senses. That there is a second faculty besides the intellect is also proved by the fact that in sleep when the intellect is inactive that faculty continues in action, for if it were not so we could not remember having slept, nor connect the state after awaking with that preceding sleep. Accordingly by citing the number two Ashtaavakra assets that besides intellect there is another faculty--consciousness that these two are jointly the lords, leaders and guides of the senses and that they act together as Indra and Agni, etc.)

Bandhi said - "Three kinds of beings are produced by acts; the three Ved together perform the sacrifice Baajapeya; three times the Adhwaryu commence sacrificial rites; three is the number of words; and three are Divine lights (By citing the number three Bandhi means to say that as it is Acts that produce the three kinds of born beings, etc., so Acts are supreme and that everything else be it intellect alone, or intellect and consciousness together is subservient to Acts.).

Ashtaavakra said - "Four are the Aashram of Braahman; the four orders perform sacrifices; four are the cardinal points; four is the number of letters; and four also is ever known are the legs of cow. (Ashtaavakra here advances the thesis that even if Acts be supreme still when the (fourth) or Supreme Being becomes manifest to the soul, it stands in no further needs to Acts.)

Bandhi said - "Five is the number of fires; five are the feet of the meter called Pankti; five are the sacrifices; five locks, it is said in Ved, are on the head of Apsaraa; five sacred rivers are known in the world. (By bringing in the this five series, Bandhi wishes to assert that the five senses are competent to cognize their respective objects and that besides these senses and their objects there is neither any other sense to perceive nor any other object of perception. He also cites the authority of the Ved according to which the Apsaraa (or consciousness) have five "locks" on their hands--i.e., five objects of perception.)

Ashtaavakra said - "'Six cows, it is asserted by some, are paid as a gratuity on the occasion of establishing the sacred fire; six are the seasons belonging to the wheel of time; six is the number of the senses; six stars constitute the constellation Krittikaa; and six, it is found in all the Ved, is the number of the Sadyask sacrifice." (Besides the normal five senses Ashtaavakra contends for an additional sense namely the Mind and accordingly cites the number six.)

Bandhi said - "Seven is the number of the domesticated animals; seven are the wild animals; seven meters are used in completing a sacrifice; seven are the Rishi; seven forms of paying homage are extant (in the world); and seven, it is known, are the strings of the Veenaa. (Bandhi admits the existence of the six senses but says that the soul experiences happiness and misery through those as well as through the intellect.)

Ashtaavakra said - "Eight are the bags containing a hundred fold; eight is the number of the legs of the Sharabh which preys upon lions; eight Vasu, as we hear, are amongst the celestials; and eight are the angles of Yoop (stake), in all sacrificial rites." (Ashtaavakra advances an eighth element, namely, the knowledge of the ego.)

Bandhi said - "Nine is the number of the Mantra used in kindling the fire in sacrifices to the Pitri; nine are the appointed functions in the processes of creation; nine letters compose the foot of the meter Brihatee; and nine also is ever the number of the figures (in calculation)." (Each of the three qualities - existence, foulness and ignorance, of Prakriti (the passive or material cause of the world) mixing with each of the three corresponding qualities of Pradhaan (the active or spiritual cause of the world) in various proportions produces the mundane order of things. Thus is proved the eternity of Prakriti or nature and is also established the doctrine of duality.)

Ashtaavakra said - "Ten is said to be the number of cardinal points, entering into the cognition of men in this world; ten times hundred make up a thousand; ten is the number of months during which women bear; and ten are the teachers of true knowledge, and ten are the haters, and ten again are those capable of learning it." (Prakriti does not really create. It is the Supreme Being who through the medium of illusion in contract with the ten organs (viz., the five locomotive organs and the five sense organs) makes manifest the system of things. Prakriti therefore has no real existence--her existence is only apparent in the real existence of the soul.)

Bandhi said - "'Eleven are the objects enjoyable by beings; eleven is the number of the Yoop; eleven are the changes of the natural state pertaining to those having life; and eleven are the Rudra among the gods in Heaven." (Yoop or stakes mean here, feelings, etc, which keep men bound to the world. Rudra are those who make others cry. Bandhi means to say that the soul is not essentially free from the fetters of happiness and misery arising from the eleven objects of perception. In this world all men are subject to happiness and misery. We also hear that there are Rudra in Heaven.)

Ashtaavakra said - "Twelve months compose the year; twelve letters go to the composition of a foot of the meter called Jagatee; twelve are the minor sacrifices; and twelve, according to the learned, is the number of the Aaditya." (The supreme soul unaffected by happiness and misery really exists, but His existence is not susceptible of being proved, nor can the ignorant ever perceive Him. Men attain that condition through these twelve - virtue, true, self-restraint, penances, good-will, modesty, forgiveness, exemption from envy, sacrifice, charity, concentration and control over the senses.)

Bandhi said - "The thirteenth lunar day is considered the most auspicious; thirteen islands exist on earth." (According to some, endeavors to attain emancipation can be successful not in this world but in the world of Brahm. Others say that to that end a special Yog is necessary. By bringing forward the objects numbering thirteen, Bandhi advances the opinion that, virtue, etc., are not sufficient for purposes of emancipation but that suitable time and place are also essential.)

After saying this Bandhi stopped, so Ashtaavakra spoke the latter half of the Shlok, he said - "Thirteen sacrifices are presided over by Keshee; and thirteen are devoured by Ati-chhand, (the longer meter) of the Ved." (Ashtaavakra concludes the discussion by citing the same number thirteen. The soul which is essentially unaffected, becomes subject to happiness and misery through, the thirteen, viz., the ten organs of locomotion and sense, and intellect mind and egoism. But Ati-chhand, i.e., those that have surmounted ignorance, namely, the twelve virtue, etc. destroy those thirteen and that is emancipation.)

Seeing Ashtaavakra speaking with such confidence, Bandhi got silent, his head bent down, and the learned and other people roared very loudly. Everybody praised Ashtaavakra. Ashtaavakra said - "before this man used to drown people in the water, let he also meet the same fate. Drown him in the water." Bandhi said - "I am the son of King Varun. Along with your sacrifice, O King, my father was also doing one sacrifice whi was supposed to continue for 12 years. So it is for this reason that I have sent those Braahman there. They have gone to witness Varun's Yagya, Lo, they are returning. I respect Ashtaavakra by whose grace today I will join my father."

Ashtaavakra said - "By defeating the Braahman somehow this man had drowned them, but today I have rescued them by my intellect, so the learned people judge, such as Agni Dev who knows what is good and what is bad, leaves untouched his heat because they are good and is partial to them. O Janak, You are hearing me as if you have been fooled or the flattery has robbed your senses, or you are not hearing them all?" Janak said - "Your speech is superhuman. You yourself is superhuman as you have defeated Bandhi. Now he is at your disposal whatever you want to do with him." Ashtaavakra said - "Remaining alive, he will not serve any purpose of mine, And if his father is really Varun, the let him go to waters." Bandhi said - "I am Varun's son, so I have no fear in drowning. Now even Ashtaavakra will see his father Kaahod."

Lomash Jee said - "At the same time many Rishi came up duly worshipped by Varn Dev. Kaahod said - " It is for this day, O Janak, that people pray for sons. Where I have failed, it is achieved by my son. Weak persons may have mighty sons, foolish people may have intelligent sons, and illiterate people may have learned sons." Bandhi said - "It is with your sharpen axe, O King, that even Yam Raaj cuts the enemies' heads. In this Yagya, hymns related to Ukta rites are being chanted and Devtaa have accepted their shares in person."

Lomash Muni said - "When all Braahman had come, Bandhi drowned in the sea with the permission of King Janak. Ashtaavakra worshipped his father, other Braahman worshipped Ashtaavakra. Thus after defeating Soot's son Ashtaavakra and Shwetketu came back to his home. Then in the presence of his mother Kaahod said to Ashtaavakra - "O Dear Son, you soon enter this Samang River." And as he took a dip in the river's water, his all slanted limbs got straight and from that day that river got called as Samang (Sam+Ang=which makes all body parts all right) and she became a purifier of sins. So you also take bath  in this river and cleanse your sins." So Yudhishthir took bath in that river along with his brothers and Paanchaalee.


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Created by Sushma Gupta On 05/27/04
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