Tales from Srimad Bhagavatam: Rituals and Quest! – XIV

Reading Time: 9 minutes

and rituals take one away from being united with the Divine. Sage Narada decided to approach King Prachinabaris and show the path of devotion. He met the king, who received him with courtesy appropriate for that epoch. After exchanging pleasantries, Narada spoke to the king, “I see that you are too occupied with these rituals, the Karma Kanda. The two most popular desires in the world are being happy and removing sorrow. The wise men know that these Karma Kandas, these , lead to none of these. Is there any other wish for which you keep performing this yajnas ()?” The king began thinking, “Actually I have been so involved in the performance of these yajnas that I have not thought of anything else. I haven’t even thought of salvation. Please show me the way.” Narada smiled. He led the king to his terrace and with his yogic powers summoned all the animals that the king had sacrificed. “They are waiting to wreak their vengeance after your death.” The king was bewildered. Nilanjana retells an important tale, which denounces rituals, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

King Barhisat was very ritualistic and believed in religiously performing all yajnas (ceremonies and rituals). He was always busy performing one yajna after another. At that point of time, the earth was covered by kusha grass (a specific kind of grass used for yajnas). From that, he got the name ‘Prachinabarhis.’

Sage Narada decided to help this king, who was so embroiled in Karma Kanda* that he was forgetting that his ultimate goal is to get united with the Divine and not get entangled in rituals.

Sage Narada decided to approach King Prachinabaris and show the path of Bhakti (devotion). He met the king, who received him with courtesy appropriate for that epoch. After exchanging pleasantries, Sage Narada spoke to the king, “I see that you are too occupied with these rituals, the Karma Kanda. The two most popular desires in the world are being happy and removing sorrow. The wise men know that these Karma Kandas, these ceremonies, lead to none of these. Is there any other wish for which you keep performing these yajnas (ceremonies)?”

 King Prachinabaris began thinking, “Actually I have been so involved in the performance of these yajnas that I have not thought of anything else. I haven’t even thought of salvation. Please show me the way.”

Narada smiled, “Let me show you all that you have accumulated till date.” He led the king to his terrace and with his yogic powers summoned all the animals that the king had sacrificed. “They are waiting to wreak their vengeance after your death.”

The king was bewildered. Narada continued speaking, “Let me tell you the story of Puranjana. That will help guide you.”

“Once upon a time, there lived a king named Puranjana. His best friend was Avignyata. The friend was a little bit strange since no one could fathom what he did and how he acted. Nobody could decipher his presence unless they requested him to make his presence felt. However, he and Puranjana were thick.

“In course of time, Puranjana started getting restless. He was bored with the same life. Though Avignyata warned him, Puranjana left his home and went in search of a more interesting life!

“Puranjana’s search took him around to many cities. However, he left the company of his best friend Avignyata for this quest. He looked for a new city, a new dwelling and travelled far and wide.

“Eventually, he found the city in the southern slopes of the Himalayas The city was beautiful and was called Bhogavati. It was surrounded by a wall and nine gateways adorned it. The in the city were beautifully designed; they were built of gold, silver, and iron and inlaid with precious stones. Lovely gardens enlivened the city. The streets were wide and large. He also spotted a mansion with seven floors. Walking around, Puranjana saw a heavenly garden adjoining the city. It seemed that trees from paradise were planted here. The birds made melodious music and the lake across emanated a soothing pleasant breeze. Puranjana was only too happy to enjoy the beauty of this new city.

“Suddenly, he met a beautiful lady. Puranjana had never seen such a beauty before. He was completely charmed by her beauty, grace, and appeal. He tried to tear his eyesight away from her but in vain. He noticed that she had ten attendants and each of these ten had another hundred women as companions. A huge five headed cobra was walking ahead of the damsel, guarding her.

“Puranjana asked her who she was. He sensed that she was not resenting his presence. She answered, “I live in this city, but I don’t know who I am or who created this city. Neither do I know who built this city. All I know is that I belong to this city and these are my friends and companions. It looks like you have come here seeking pleasure and this city and I can gratify your pleasures. You seem like my ideal husband since you are not averse to pleasure.”

“She was called Puranjani as she invited him to the city of Bhogavati. They lived happily for a hundred years. Puranjani’s wish was her husband’s command. He was very eager to fulfill all her desires. Children were born to them and Puranjana got even more entangled. He did not realise that the wheel of time was turning, albeit slowly. Following the law of nature, he became old.

“The Gandharva chieftain, Chandravega, had three sixty-five powerful male attendants. They had the same number of attendants. The men were fair and the women dark. They decided to attack Bhogavati. Chandravega and his people surrounded the city intending to destroy it completely. The five-headed snake, Prajagara, was guarding the city. He put up a valiant fight against Chandravega. It is said that the fight went for a hundred years. Though Prajagara tried his best, he could not hold on.

“Puranjana was so besotted by his wife that he did not care about anything else, hence he totally ignored the real state of affairs.

Jara (old age) was the daughter of Kala (time). She was not really blessed with good looks nor did she have a good heart. The effect was that she repulsed everyone wherever she went.

“Jara longed for a husband, a companion. Unfortunately, nobody accepted her. Once she had approached Sage Narada with a proposal of marriage. The Sage did not show any interest; she cursed him that he would wander around the universe without a place to call his own.

“Eventually, she met Yavaneshvara (death) and proposed him. He smiled at her kindly, “You need to understand without getting upset at me. Neither your looks nor your intention appeals to people. If you go on willingly approaching people, they will not accept you. Hence, I suggest you creep in. Catch them unaware and people will be your slave! I will team up with you. This is my brother Prajvara. We team up with together like happy . Along with our army, Bhaya (fear), we will stalk the world and create havoc.”

“The three came across the city of Bhogavati. When Puranjana was busy leading sense-filled life, Jara entered his body. She took full control of his body while Chandravega invaded Bhogavati. Puranjana’s wife and children abandoned him.

“In due course of time, death marched towards him and claimed him. Since his last thoughts were of his wife, he was born as a woman in his next birth.

“Puranjana was reborn as the daughter of the king of Vidharba. Princess Vaidarbhi grew up to be a beautiful woman and was eventually married off to Malayadhvaja, the king of Pandya. After leading a happy life, having seven sons and a daughter, both of them handed over the kingdom to their sons and left for peace and solitude.

“King Pandya and his wife, Vaidarbhi renounced the world and chose to spend their last few days in search of the Divine. Pandya performed severe tapas (penance) and eventually gave up his body to get united with the Divine.

 “Vaidarbhi was very depressed at the death of her husband and was weeping aloud when a pious-looking man approached her. Instead of consoling her, he put her in a state of a query, ‘Who are you crying for? What is your relation to this man? Who is he? For how long have you known him?’

“Bewildered, Vaidarbhi looked at him as he continued speaking, ‘Do you not remember that a long time ago before you got entangled with the drama of the world, you had a friend called Avignyata?’

“Vaidarbhi’s eyes reflected a look of recognition. Avignyata reminded her, “We used to be called ‘the inseparable’ since we were always together. Then you chose sense-pleasures and moved on to Bhogavati. You met Puranjani there, and later on, you took this birth and married this man. Forget all this, since you were not Puranjana and neither are you Vaidharbi. You have been blinded by the illusion of ignorance.

“I am Paramatma (the cosmic soul or the divine soul) and you are Jivatma (the part of the cosmic consciousness trapped in , often referred to as the human soul). The truth is that we are the same; when you are in soul consciousness (also called the self) you remember that.

“Bhogavati is the human body with nine openings and Puranjani is the mind. When you get involved with the body and mind, you forget the self. You get involved in Maya (illusion of duality and indulgence in sense pleasure) and get drawn into the earthly drama. Chandravega is time and Jara and Prajavara are the diseases that slow down the body.

“Once the self, realises its true nature, all these illusive dangers disappear and life is full of bliss.

“Vaidharbi finally went back with Avignyata, her true self, her best friend.”

King Prachinabarhis was silent as Narada narrated the whole story of Puranjana. Narada explained, “This is Brahma Vidya, simplified into a story.”

“Can you please explain it more clearly? To help ordinary mortals like me to get it even better.”

Narada continued explaining, “Ok. Listen to me carefully. Puranjana is the purusha (soul) who pervades and illumines the body. He is, therefore, the part of the cosmic consciousness, the jivatma (individual soul) living in the human body. His companion, Avignyata, is the divinity in him that is always there to guide him.

“The jivatma has a tendency to crave for sense pleasure. For this, the human body is required. Bhogavati is the human body with nine openings (two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, mouth, and two excretory organs). Puranjani is buddhi (the intellect), her ten attendants are the ten Indriyas(hearing, touch, sight, taste, smell, ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose). The snake with five heads is Prana (life-force); the five heads are its five variations.

“When the mind is keen on enjoying sense pleasure, the soul also gets attached to them. Hence Puranjana acted as per the lady’s advice. He had forgotten his true nature once he got embroiled in Maya (illusion).

“The hundred years that Puranjana spent at Bhogavati is the life span granted to human beings. Chandravega is time and his 365 fair and dark assistants are day and night. They eat up the body ruthlessly. Jara is old age, Prajvara is fever and affliction that leads to death and Yavaneshvara is Death.

“When the soul gets attached to the mind and body, it suffers the pleasure and pains of the mortal world.

“This is all a dream and the soul suffers until the dreamer awakens and realises the truth. Bhakti (devotion) can free you from this illusive suffering when you realise that you are a part of Divinity itself. Hence, focusing on the Divine, instead of sense objects, will rid you of attachment, misery, and suffering.

“All this karma kanda (rituals and ceremonies) does not lead you to truth. Bhakti does.”

King Prachinabarhis gratefully thanked Sage Narada for this timeless . Eventually, he renounced his kingdom and performed sincere sadhana to be united with the Divine.

Beyond the Bhagvatam, Rabindranath Tagore has composed a beautiful poem/song that encapsulates this mindset. It says,

“Tomar poojar chole tomay bhulei thaki,

Bujhte naari kokhon tumi dao je phaki…”

Translated: In my attempt to get lost in the rites and rituals to worship you, I forget you; I don’t even realise when you have evaded me…”

Glossary

*Karma Kanda: The section of the Vedas that speak about the religious/ceremonial rituals and sacrificial rites and the merits that one can receive from practicing these.

Footnote: Srimad Bhagavatam is often called the Bhagavad Purana. Authored by Ved Vyasa, the stories are about the various avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu, also known as .

©Nilanjana Dey

Photos from the internet.

#Divine #LordNarada #LordVishnu #Narayana #VedVyasa #LordVishnu # #Tapas #Avatar #MythsAndMythology  #DifferentTruths

Nilanjana Dey

Nilanjana Dey

A story-teller at heart, Nilanjana Dey is on a journey to experiment with fiction and poetry. Her first novel, largely aimed towards children, is titled ‘The Adventures of Puti – The Cheese Trail’. Her poems have been published at various prestigious portals. An alumni of English Literature from Jadavpur University (Kolkata), she is a marketing and communication professional based in Mumbai. She volunteers with a Mumbai based NGO working with the marginalised sections of the society.
Nilanjana Dey
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