Tales from Srimad Bhagavatam: Sankhya Yoga – VI

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Reading Time: 13 minutes

In the sixth part, Nilanjana tells us few wonderful stories about the three sons of Brahma, who were asked to populate the world by the Creator. Here Narayana says how he would be born in his devotee Kardama’s home as Kapila. Narayana was listening intently, when Kardama suddenly expressed, “I also want something worldly from you. Please grant me the capability to not to be attached to any object of the world, to dispassionately perform all my duties as expected by my father Brahma and abandon the world as soon as I complete them all.” Narayana smiled at his devotee, “So be it! You will live in this world as a drop of water stays on the lotus leaf. In two days Manu will come here with a marriage proposal with his daughter. She will be your ideal wife. I will be borne out of that union and I will teach Sankhya Yoga (way to liberate oneself) to the world.” Narayana disappeared as Kardama kept waiting for Manu. An enchanting story that reveals many secrets of life, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

In the beginning of creation, Brahma asked his three sons – Manu, Daksha and Kardama – to populate the world.


Kardama created his ashram (retreat) on the banks of River Saraswati. In the peaceful plot of land where the river embraced the ashram from both the sides, Kardama dedicated many years to meditating on the Divine (Narayana) and performing severe tapas (penance). Pleased by his sadhana (spiritual practices), Narayana blessed him with darshan (glimpse of the Divine). Kardama was very happy, since years of his sadhana had borne fruition. He spoke softly, “I am so fortunate to be in your presence. I, now, have no other desire in the world. You are the other form of Kal-a (Time). Time is like this enormous wheel that keeps on rotating and revolving and the speed of the wheel is immense. But human beings don’t understand that. They are so embroiled in maya (illusion) of the world that they spend their entire life running behind it. Suddenly life ends and then they realize that they have again wasted another opportunity to get liberated from the recurrent cycle of birth and death.”

Narayana was listening intently, when Kardama suddenly expressed, “I also want something worldly from you. Please grant me the capability to not to be attached to any object of the world, to dispassionately perform all my duties as expected by my father Brahma and abandon the world as soon as I complete them all.”

Narayana smiled at his devotee, “So be it! You will live in this world as a drop of water stays on the lotus leaf. In two days Manu will come here with a marriage proposal with his daughter. She will be your ideal wife. I will be borne out of that union and I will teach Sankhya Yoga (way to liberate oneself) to the world.” Narayana disappeared as Kardama kept waiting for Manu.

Swayambhu Manu was travelling to Kardama’s ashram with his wife Shatarupa and daughter Devahuti. He also carried a host of expensive gifts as a part of the trousseau that he intended to offer Kardama.

After his spiritual awakening, following his rendezvous with Narayana, Kardama was glowing with amazing energy. He welcomed Manu with courtesy appropriate for that epoch. He spoke softly, “The King is supposed to be an image of the Divine himself. I am honoured that you chose to walk down to my ashram. Please let me know why you have come here, and I will try my best to please you.”

Manu was a little hesitant, but slowly began, “Being a kshatriya1 , our job is to protect and help great souls like you so that you can perform your sadhana without any disturbance whatsoever. However, I am here for a different purpose. My daughter, Devahuti, has heard your praises from Narada and is keen on only marrying you.”

“I am honoured,” Kardama smiled, “But I would like to clarify something. My life is dedicated to the Divine. I will stay with Devahuti in the ghrihasta ashrama2  until she becomes the mother of my children. After that, I will leave her and perform tapas (penance) will I unite with the Divine.”

Since Devahuti was fine with the clause, the marriage was completed and she stayed back at Bindusaras with Kardama. Accommodating herself to the life of the ashram, she gave away her expensive garments and jewelry for simple clothing. While Kardama was busy in his life of austerity, she began adjusting to her new role and duties. Gradually, she started getting thin and her face lost the princess-like glow. Though her eyes reflected happiness and peace, she last lost the glamour of a princess.

Her husband, Kardama, asked her, “I have noticed that you look pale. Though your eyes have a definite spark of happiness, I feel something is amiss. I know I have been engaged with spiritual practices, but you have supported me in that. That way even you have received the grace of Narayana. When the grace is flowing is such a smooth way, what is it that bothers you?”

Devahuti felt very shy expressing herself. Very softly she replied, “I feel the grace flowing all around us all the time. But, at the end of the day, I am an ordinary woman. I would like to be a mother. That is a natural instinct, is it not?”

As she blushed, Kardama smiled, “Of course.”

With his yogic powers, Kardama manifested a Vimana3 . He suggested, “Maybe you can dress-up for a little tour across the celestial worlds.”

Happily, Devahuti went for a bath. From nowhere, a lot of attendants came forward to help her dress up for her honeymoon. When she was ready, all her maiden charm and glamour revisited her. The moment she remembered Kardama, he presented himself in front of her.

They ascended the Vimana and rose up in the air. They lived in the satellite city for many many years joyfully, oblivious of the whole world. In course of time, Devahuti and Kardama were blessed with nine daughters.

However, she knew that the time had come when Kardama would leave her and go for his sanyas, as he had mentioned before marrying her. Distressed, she approached her husband for a solution, “I am a common woman. I know the time has come when you will leave me and move on. I have no complaints since this was agreed upon. But how will I live?”

Kardama’s compassionate look lingered on his wife, “Why do you worry so much? The Lord, Narayana, has promised me that he will take birth as our son to teach Brahma Vidya4  to the world. Therefore, you are a very fortunate woman. Prepare yourself to hold him; carry on your sadhana to purify yourself. Eventually, he will teach you how to move on from this world of illusions and delusions.”

Devahuti began her sadhana and in course of time, she was expecting. The heavens rejoiced as Narayana was about to take birth. Melody could be heard all around and Brahma, the creator of the world and the father of Kardama, paid them a visit.

“I am very happy, my son.” Brahma told Kardama as he began introducing the nine rishis (sages). “You can get your daughters married to all these nine rishis. When the Lord is born, he will help rid the world of Avidya (ignorance) through Brahma Vidya. And you both will be remembered as the parents of Kapila.”

Once his daughters were married to the rishis, Kardama bowed to the divine, to Narayana, who was growing inside the womb of Devahuti. He spoke softly, “You are very kind, to be borne to us. I know that you are the universe, the truth and the only path to salvation. You are Kal-a (Time), the three gunas5satva, rajas and tamas. You are the world and the protector of the world since you hold the universe inside you. I bow to you Kapila. I wish to adopt sanyasa, since the purpose of my life is to reach you.”

Narayana replied from Devahuti’s womb, “I have kept my promise. You are free to go and lead the life of a sanyasi. As far as my mother is concerned, she seems to be very scared of the world and loneliness. But I will teach her Atma Vidya (knowledge of the self). That will aid her understand the truth and move on from this world of illusions.”

Kardama extended his final courtesies and left. He led the life of a sanyasi in a forest. In silence, without the feeling of “I” and “mine”, he reached a stage when the three gunas were perfectly balanced in him. His mind had completely turned inwards and he was united with the Divine.


Devahuti and her son Kapila stayed in their beautiful ashram near Lake Bindusaras. As time passed by, Devahuti remembered that her son, Kapila, was another incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He had taken the human form to teach Brahma Vidya to the world. Devahuti approached her son, who usually kept to himself. She looked at him closely and began speaking, “I know that you are an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, whom we often call Narayana. I also know that you have taken birth to teach people about the ultimate truth. Can I not request you to also teach me the same? I am mortal, tired of this life. I often get caught in mind-games and am only focussed on gratifying the senses. In this body, which is made of the five elements, the feeling of “I” and “mine” are predominant. All the resultant emotional turmoil just draws me away from the atman (the self, often understood as the soul). Please tell me how to be liberated, how to free myself from all this entanglement.”

Kapila smiled at his mother, “Of course, I will tell you. I will also make it simple so that everyone can understand this path to salvation.”

Narayana, in the incarnation of Kapila, looked intently at Devahuti. She looked really tired and lost. He smiled, “Mother, it is not all that difficult if one is a little sincere. Firstly, our mind is the real cause of freedom and/or bondage. If you look closely at the mind, its nature is to get attached to most things. It, therefore, gets involved in play of the three gunas. When the gunas go topsy-turvy, then the mind gets occupied in the play of emotions. Outward bound, the mind gets entangled in the objects of the senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) and completely disconnects from the atman. This leads to bondage and pain.  Human beings become miserable since they get completely entangled in worldly drama. There seems to be no end to this bondage.

On the contrary, if the same mind is turned inwards, and focuses on the self or the Divine, then it becomes completely free. The feelings of “I” and “mine” disappear, the negative qualities do not impact the emotions, the pleasures or pains of the world seem transient and the senses lose their grip on this mind. This is called Chitta-samyamana6 .

When the mind is equipped with Vairagya (detachment) for the gross world, Bhakti (devotion) for the Divine, Gynana (knowledge) of the truth, then the mind will be able to perceive the Brahman (the all-pervading soul and spirit of the Universe, the source and destination of all creation).

Devahuti was listening intently, but presented a query, “All this sounds good, but difficult! Is there any easier way?”

Kapila had the answer ready for her, “Of all the ways of reaching the Divine, Bhakti (devotion) is the easiest one. It is quick as well. See, it is very normal for human beings to get attached since we are designed to be attached. But the mind has to be trained. Instead of getting attached to worldly objects, shift your focus to the Divine, to Narayana.”

Devahuti wondered, “How can we suddenly shift the focus and the attachment so easily?”

Kapila suggested, “Be with people who are already attached to the Divine. They will infuse in you a zeal for the Divine so that ties with worldly objects get broken, and it becomes easier to focus on the Divine. This company is called in Sat-Sanga7 . When the mind will be attached to the company of holy people, then moving on from the six evils8  will be relatively easy.”

“How one can identify a real holy person from a fake one?” Devahuti sounded unsure.

Kapila explained, “Holy people are everywhere and are very easy to identify. They may not advertise themselves, but you can spot one if you are aware. Firstly, they do not get bogged down by the sufferings and pains of the physical body. Secondly, the troubles of the world do not bother them. Thirdly, they are compassionate towards everybody. Fourthly, they consider all living beings as their kinsmen, and hence have no enemies in their minds, but they are free from all attachments. Fifthly, their mind is clear and tranquil and hence they are at peace with themselves. Then, they are always righteous – that means their behavior is always appropriate as far as the situation is concerned. Finally, they are always pre-occupied with thoughts of the Divine and have no other duties and obligations that supersede the Divine. They love to discuss the Divine and stories pertaining to the Divine.

Being in Sat-Sanga, you will only discuss the Divine. There is no room for worldly gossips and this will lead you to shraddha9 and eventually to Bhakti. Gradually your mind will disentangle itself from sense objects and get centered. The mind will get more interested in discovering methods that keeps it closer to the Divine. You will notice that the intellect will become sharp and keen owing to the non-attachment to the senses.”

Devahuti was trying her best to understand all that Kapila was saying. She had another query, “I am not a wise person, like the sages. I have not read the Vedas (ancient scriptures), nor am I well versed with the truth. How can I reach the Divine?”

Kapila’s lips broke into a patient smile, “Bhakti (devotion) is the sure and easiest way to reach the Divine. Bhakti will free you from indulging in the senses or controlling the wayward mind. This devotion will burn away the bondage that has been created by our karma10  it will free you from the world of objects and unite you with the Divine. You will, therefore, feel one with the Divine. This way, the illusion of duality will disappear and mukti11  will be easy to achieve. The Holy men who dwell on the Divine only do not even desire salvation since they are happy thinking about the Divine and discussing stories of divinity all the time. Even if they don’t ask, they are granted mukti.

Devotees of the Divine will never be destroyed. The wheel of time will never be able to eat them up. To the devotee, the Divine comprises of the whole world – child, confidante, friend, instructor, and beloved. They have no fear since they know that the Divine belongs to them. And the world is just manifested divinity. This way they reach Narayana very easily.”

Devahuti was totally engrossed in Sankhya Yoga that Kapila had made so easy for her. He continued, “Now, I will tell you about the Purusha (soul) and how the universe is pervaded by the same soul. This yoga (practise) is called Atma Vidya (knowledge of the self). When one truly understands and imbibes this, he/she can gain salvation.

The soul that is trapped inside us is just an iota of the all-pervading cosmic spirit. The soul has no beginning or end. Everything is therefore just a part of the same cosmic spirit, the same eternal soul. Purusha is beyond the three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas). Kal-a (Time) is again another form of Purusha. With time, the gunas lose their equilibrium and one guna dominates the other two. While Purusha(soul consciousness) is the original source of creation, it cannot help but get manifested through Prakriti (Nature).  Prakriti with all her diversity and plurality is the cause of the conditioning of the Purusha or the soul. However, Purusha pervades the world of plurality and diversity. Therefore the pure, the eternal, the whole, the complete (Purusha) co-exists and merges beautifully with the world of plurality (Prakriti).

When all the gunas are in equilibrium, then one achieves a state of perfect calm. This nirguna (without any of the gunas predominant) state is blissful when one is not entangled by the tearing influence of either of the gunas. One is perfectly in sync with the cosmic spirit, with the divine. 

However, time, which is just another aspect of Purusha (the soul or cosmic spirit) keeps on flowing. Gradually the gunas lose their equilibrium. Rajas manifests itself first followed by the other two.

Prakriti (Nature) is made up of Avarana12 (Obscure) Shaktih (Power) and Vikshepa13 (Agitation). When the three gunas toss and turn and act upon us, these two powers also work on their own. At this stage, the Purusha (soul or self of consciousness) divides itself into Jivatma14  (individual soul) and Ishvara15 (Supreme Soul). Jivatma gets involved in the earthly drama, owing to the gunas. Avarna Shaktih helps the jivatma forget its true nature. This state is often referred to as Avidya (ignorance). Vikshepa Shaktih adds to this and creates the veil of delusion, called Maya. Lost in this state, the individual soul or Jivatma often gets confused between the real and the unreal. It gets entangled in earthly drama, in the world of plurality since it has forgotten its true nature. The other aspect of Purusha that is called Ishvara does not get entangled in this and is more of a witness to the earthly drama.

So mother, how do you free yourself from this unreal world of drama?

By meditating on the Divine all the time. This devotion (Bhakti) for the Divine will grant you Gnyana (knowledge) and Vairagya (detachment from the world). Since your love for Narayana will supersede all other attachments, you will gradually become indifferent to earthly entanglements. You will reach the soul – consciousness as Avidya (ignorance) will vanish. Then you will know that you are the consciousness. The world of plurality is just a manifestation of the various aspects of the cosmic spirit. The Gnyana Yoga (Yoga of knowledge) and Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion) that I have taught is the same. They are just two approaches to reach the Divine. If you follow any of the paths, in all honesty, you will surely be united with the Divine.”

After teaching Sankhya Yoga to his mother, Kapila decided to move on. He took leave of his mother and moved north-west.


Devahuti followed the teachings of her son and stayed in their ashrama (retreat). She single-pointedly focussed on the Divine. She missed her husband and her son. Since her son was an incarnation of the Divine, thoughts of him brought her close to divinity. Gradually she prepared herself to give up her body. Her ignorance had been consumed by her devotion. The holy spot where she attained the Divine is called Siddhapada.


1. Kshatriya – Society was divided into four major sections, based on occupation:

i) Brahmans – Keeper of the scriptures, they pursued studying of the scriptures and advising kings accordingly;

ii) Kshatriya – Rulers or military, their job was to protect their people/land;

iii) Vaishyas – They belonged to the business community and were active in trade and other skilled activities;

iv) Shudras – Manual labourers.

2. Grihasta ashrama – In those days, it was believed that the life of a human being was divided into four cycles:

i) Brahmacharya – 1-25 years – one would essentially study and acquire knowledge and skill to be applied to life;

ii) Grihasta – 25-50 years – Life of a householder

iii) Vanaprasta – 50 – 75 years – Anchorite. Moving on from the role of a house-holder to one who looks after the general good of the society. Preparing for sanyas (renunciate);

iv) Sanyasi – 75-100 years – Complete renunciation of the world and all earthly attachments.

3. Vimana – Literally, it means an aircraft. But, in this context, it refers to a satellite city away from the mortal world.

4. Brahma Vidya – The ultimate knowledge. Literally, it means knowledge of the whole universe/cosmos.

5. Gunas – Literally means qualities. There are 3 kinds of gunas, in descending order:

i) Sattvaguna or sattva – This is the highest of the 3 gunas. It indicates goodness and purity;

ii) Rajoguna or rajas – This is the second, indicating activity(when on a positive swing) and restlessness(when negative);

iii) Tamoguna or tamas – This is the lowest one indicating rest (when positive) and lethargy (when negative). All the three take turns to dominate the human mind.

6. Chitta-samyamana – The art of controlling the wavering mind.

7. Sat-Sanga – The company of the holy people; literally means the company of truth.

8. The six evils – Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (Delusion), Mada (arrogance) and Matsarya (envy).

9. Shraddha – solemn and composed mind.

10. Karma – Can be literally translated as action or field of action. It is an eminent part of ancient scriptures that indicates that we are just an effect of our actions/deeds. The better (for the overall good of human beings and not ruled by selfish personal objectives) they are the more we are closer to the divine.

11. Mukti – Freedom/liberation/salvation.

12. Avarna Shaktih – The power that conceals or obscures. Here it indicates mental ignorance that conceals the true nature of the atman(soul or consciousness or self – all three indicating the same)

13. Vikshepa Shaktih – The power of agitation. With avarna it causes the veil of Maya(delusion, wherein one gets confused by the unreal and the real)

14. Jivatma – The jivatma is a part of the universal soul (or consciousness) that is trapped in the human body. It is veiled by Maya (delusion) and considers itself separate from others. This gives birth to duality, me versus the rest.

15. Ishvara – The supreme soul or consciousness

  [To be continued]

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 Narayana.

©Nilanjana Dey

Photo from the internet.

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