HINDU BELIEFS ABOUT DEATH: Mahabharat story about the grieving mother

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The hindu beliefs about death are fatalistic and derive from the principle of Samsara (repetitive cycle of life and death). Hinduism teaches us that the body is made of the 5 elements of nature and is perishable. The soul inhabits the body due to its past karma and then continues its journey in different bodies across many births to fulfill the unresolved desires which keep on arising due to the illusory identification of the soul with the body. This is called Samsara and forms the basis for the Hindu beliefs about death.

The hindu beliefs about death are reinforced in almost all the ancient scriptures whether it is the dialogue of Yama and Nachiketa or the dialogue of Bhisma and Yudhistira in the Mahabharat. There is a beautiful story in the Anushashana Parva of Mahabharata where a dying Bhisma, the valiant warrior, lies  on a bed of arrows and and instructs Yudhistira as well the other sages on coping with the death of their loved and near ones.

Hindu Beliefs about death: From the Mahabharat

Yudhistira is overcome with remorse and holds himself responsible for the death of so many great warriors including his grandfather. To console him, Bhisma narrates the insightful story about Gautami, the mother who lost her son. This story of a stoic mother and an angry hunter encapsulates the Hindu beliefs about death.

hindu beliefs about deathBhisma says to Yudhisthira who is languishing with grief, “Yudhisthira, why do you consider your soul to be the cause of these actions. The cause is dependent on destiny and time and the effects that arise cannot be understood by these 5 senses. To ease your understanding, let me tell you the ancient story of Gautami and her conversation with Mrityu (death) and Kala (time). O sun of Kunti, the story will correct your beliefs about death.”

There was an old lady by the name of Gautami, who was calm & patient by nature and had achieved tranquility of mind. One day she was informed that her son died after being bitten by a snake. While she grieved about her lost son, a hunter named Arjunaka caught the snake that had bitten her son.

An angry Arjunaka brought the snake before Gautami and said, “This is the snake that is the cause of your son’s death. Tell me how should I punish it? Should I throw it in fire or should I cut it in pieces in front of you?”

Gautami saw the trapped snaked and replied, ‘O Arjunaka, release the snake. Do not kill it. Why do you want to take the bad karma of killing the snake for what has already happened? A person’s duty is to perform virtuous deeds for such deeds will help him or her cross this samsara with the ease of a ship crossing the ocean. Those who perform sinful deeds will sink at the bottom  of this ocean. By killing this snake, my son will not be restored to life. And by releasing the snake in the wild, there will be no harm caused to you. Release this living creature.”

The hunter said, “O Lady, you speak wisely but these are mere words and meant for normal times. How can you ask me to release the serpent in this time of sorrow? I must kill the snake. It is but normal for people to release their grief by taking revenge on the perpetrator. Thus let me kill the snake to lessen your grief.”

Gautami replied, “Good people have their intent only on being compassionate to others. The death of my son was a move of destiny. I will not approve the destruction of this snake. Therefore O Kind hunter, forgive the snake and release it out of compassion.”

The hunter was not convinced and replied, “We will get merit by killing this snake. After all, even creatures are sacrificed on the altar to earn merit. Merit is acquired by killing an enemy. By killing this despicable creature, you shalt acquire great merit.”

Gautami replied, “O Arjunaka of little understanding, what merit is there in killing an enemy and what good can be obtained by not releasing an enemy in our power? Be kind and forgive the snake. We will only earn merit by releasing the snake. Not by tormenting it.”

The hunter countered, “If we kill this snake, we will be protecting a lot of other creatures from its bite. We are killing the wicked snake to save the innocent creatures. That is virtuous. Thus let us kill this snake.”

Gautami replied, “By killing this snake, O hunter, my son will not be restored to life. Exercise compassion and release this living creature.”

The hunter took solace in his understandings of the scriptures and said, ‘By killing Vritra, Indra secured the best portion (of sacrificial offerings), and by destroying a sacrifice Mahadeva secured his share of sacrificial offerings: hence we are justified to destroy the snake.”

The noble Gautami was repeatedly incited by the hunter to kill the snake. But Gautami held on to her beliefs about death and argued with Arjunaka to exercise compassion and release the living snake.

The snake who was withering in the net of the hunter and was in great paid, then slowly spoke in a human voice, “O foolish hunter, why do you say it is my fault? I have no will of my own, and am driven by my nature. Mrityu (Death) sent me on this errand. It is by Mrityu’s dictate that I have bitten the child. I did not bite him out of anger nor did I have a choice. Mrityu led me to bite her son. If you want to hold someone responsible, then it is Mrityu. Go and address him.”

The hunter said, “You have done this evil. You were the chief instrument in this act of death. In the making of an earthen pot, the potter’s wheel, the rod and other things are the causes. Similarly you are one of the cause of this act. You deserve death. Confess to your sin.”

The serpent replied, “Like you said, to make an earthen pot there are many causes like the potter’s wheel, the rod and other things. Similarly the sin of death of this lady’s son is the aggregate of causes and not on me. I was directed by my nature to come and bite the boy. The cause of my bite is not independent but working in unison with other causes that brought about this destiny for the boy. If you want to know the true cause, then go to the one (Mrityu) who has driven me to bite the boy.”

The hunter replied angrily, “O foolish snake, you think I will spare your life if you speak clever words. You will die at my hands for you have killed an infant.”

The snake said, “O hunter, just like the priests who perform a yagna for the devotee do not acquire the merit by offering the oblations of ghee in the yagna fire, similarly I tell you again, it is Mrityu that has to be regarded as the cause and not me.”

Mrityu was hearing this conversation between Gautami, Arjunaka and the snake. He himself appeared before them. He addressed the snake.

Hindu beliefs about death: Conversation of Mrityu, Kala and Gautami

Mrityu said, “O Snake, Guided by Kala (Time), I did send you on this errand but neither you nor I am the cause of this child’s death. Like clouds are scattered and directed by the wind, similarly I, like the clouds, am directed by Kala. The natures of Satva, Rajas or Tamas are caused by Kala in all creatures. All mobile and immobile creatures, whether in heaven or earth, are influenced by Kala. All existent and non-existent objects are destroyed by Kala or time.

                Also Read: TIME GIVES A TIMESLESS SERMON ON DEATH

Knowing this, O snake, realize that I am not guilty for the child’s death. If any fault is attached to me for this event, then the fault is also attached to you.”

The serpent said, “O Mrityu, I do not blame you but I do not totally release you from being guilty for the boy’s death. I only state that I am influenced in my actions by you.”

Then the serpent, addressing Arjunaka, said, “O hunter, you have listened to what Mrityu has said. Hence stop tormenting me as I am not guilty.”

The hunter said, “I have listened to both of you. I hold both you as the causes and hence responsible for the child’s death. Both of you have committed this sin.”

Mrityu said, “We do not operate out of our free will but as per the dictates of Kala. We are destined to do our appointed work by Kala. If you introspect on this truth deeply, you will realize that the fault is not ours.”

The hunter said, “If both of you, O snake and Mrityu, are dependent on Kala, then how is pleasure (arising from doing good) and anger (arising from doing evil) caused?”

Mrityu replied, “Know that all actions are done under the influence of Kala. Kala is the cause of all and both of us were acting under the dictate of Kala to do our appointed work.”

Kala who was watching this argument, them came on the scene and spoke to everyone assembled together.

Kala said, “O hunter, neither Mrityu, nor this snake are guilty for the death of the boy. Neither am I guilty of the death of any creature. We are responsible for merely bringing about the immediate causes for the event of this death. O hunter, the death of the boy was due to his own karma. There was no other reason for his death except his own Sanchita and Prarabhdha Karma. The boy has met with death as the result of his Karma in the past. All of us have to face the effects of the lives we live in the present and the past. We are all subject to the influence of our respective Karma. It is the karma which can lead one to salvation or keep one enmeshed in the repetitive cycle of life and death. It is the karma which indicates whether a man is considered good or evil. The effects that you see in the present life are cumulative results of your past actions. Just like men can make any shape from a lump of clay that they are provided with, similarly the results that they achieve in their present life are shaped from their own actions in the past. As light and shadow follow each other, similarly men and karma follow each other. Thus, it is neither you, nor Mrityu nor this chaste lady nor me who is the cause of the child’s death. He himself is the cause here.”

Bhishma continued, “The snake was released into freedom. Kala and Mrityu went back to their respective destinations. Gautami took solace from the words of Kala and the hunter too became consoled.  Having heard this story O Yudhisthira, forget your grief and attain peace of mind. These men have achieved death as part of their own karma. This evil brought about by war is not your creation nor Duryodhana’s. Know that these people have been slain as a result of the acts of Kala.”


 

 

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What is Atman or the Self: Brahma’s teaching to Indra

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What is Atman or the self: The story from the ancient scripture Chandogya Upanishad in which Brahma explains the truth about the Atman to Lord Indra.

What is Atman: The truth about the self

what is atman
Indra Seated on a 3 Headed Elephant: Temple Wat Arun, Thailand

One day Lord Brahma, the Creator, announced: “The best goal in life is an attempt to know the atman. One who knows the atman knows everything, achieves everything. Anyone who knows the atman, his or her desires are destined to be manifested.”

The Gods and Demons got excited after hearing this. They discussed among their groups and realized that no one knew what is atman actually. The Gods decided that Indra, their king, would go and live with Brahma until he learnt what is atman. The demons selected their leader, Virochana, to serve Brahma and get the secret of the self out.

Both Indra and Virochana reached Brahma’s abode at the same time. Brahma asked them the reason for their visit. Both of them explained that they wanted to know what is atman so that they could become wise and manifest all their desires.

Brahma thought for some time and said, “Stay with me for some years meditating and practicing austerity. We shall see.”

Thirty-two years passed and both Indra and Virochana stayed with Brahma observing discipline. Brahma called both of them one day and said, “I will tell you what is atman. Fill in water in a vessel and look into it. What you see is the atman.”

Indra and Virochana both ran and picked up empty vessels. They filled the vessel, looked inside and saw their own reflections.

Virochana saw his face and his body in the vessel of water, and claimed delightedly, “I know what is atman. The atman is the physical form. The atman is the body.”

Virochana immediately returned home and proclaimed to his fellow demons, “The atman, that Brahma spoke about is our physical body. This physical body is our truth. Hence serve the needs of the body; eat, drink, be merry and beautify the body. For the body is the atman.”

The demons till this day, believe that the body forms their core truth. Demons and Gods are representative of the good and evil tendencies of man. Thus the demoniacal nature in a man stems out of this confusion that the atman is the body.

Indra was also tempted to return home, seeing that Virochana had returned to his life of comforts. However, he contemplated on what is atman and recollected on what he saw in the vessel.

Immediately he realized that the atman is eternal, permanent. But the body was transient. If the body fell ill, would the atman also fall ill? If the body disintegrated, would the atman also disintegrate? Hence Indra concluded that his interpretation that the body is the atman was wrong.

Indra went back to Brahma and said, “The atman is not the body.”

Brahma smiled and said, “Is it? Stay for some more time and we shall see.”

Another thirty-two years passed and Brahma summoned Indra again.

Brahma said, “You want to know what is atman? Atman  is nothing but what you see in your dream. When you fall asleep and dream, what you see is the atman.”

Indra was again tempted to rush home with this knowledge. But he again sat down and meditated on this. Indra pondered, “In the dream, I see experiences that my senses have observed in my waking state. In the dream, I experience pain and pleasure, fear and happiness, hunger and thirst. The atman is beyond all this. And what happens when the dream ends? No, what I see in the dream state cannot be the atman.”

Indra again approached Brahma and said, “The atman is not known in the dream state.”

Brahma again smiled and said, “Is it? Stay for some more time and we shall see.”

For another thirty-two years, Indra practiced self-control and austerity.

Brahma summoned Indra again and instructed, “What you see in the state of deep sleep is the atman.”

Indra again resisted the temptation to return to his home and comforts and contemplated on Brahma’s statement. Indra realized, “In the deep sleep, there is no consciousness of the ego. There is complete darkness. The atman cannot be death of the ego. The atman is beyond the presence or absence of the ego.”

Indra again went to Brahma and said, “The atman is not known in the deep sleep state.”

Brahma did not smile this time. He looked at Indra and nodded, “Yes, that is correct. The atman is none of the three things I have told you. Stay for some more time and I shall tell you finally what is atman.”

Indra stayed for another five years practicing austerity. In totality, Indra had spent 101 years away from heaven and the other Gods. Brahma knew that Indra would persevere unless he was told the truth. Brahma decided to tell Indra the truth about the atman or self.

Brahma summoned Indra and said, “The atman is not what you perceive with your senses. What you perceive with your senses is your body. The sight, senses and body are all perishable. The mind that makes you dream from the residual memory of the senses is also not the atman. The mind is also perishable. The body and mind both merge in the deep sleep state; but this state is also temporary as the mind and body become different entities as soon as you wake up. Hence the deep sleep state also perishes.

“O Indra,  I will tell you what is atman or the self. The air which has no body, the clouds which are not bound, the rays of the sun which heat, everything get absorbed in the space. The space becomes their source. Similarly, the atman is that consciousness which is the cause of the creation; the atman is the life principle present in every living creature. The atman is that which is both the experienced and the experiencer remaining totally unattached with the perception of the senses, the distractions of the mind and the quietude of the deep sleep state. When you realize that the atman is universal and not individual you will achieve joy and peace by being free from the cycle of life and death.”

Suggested Reading:

What Stops YOU from being free? The story of the Caged Elephant

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CONCEPT OF DEATH IN HINDUISM- Time gives a timeless sermon

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An Ancient story that tells about the concept of death in Hinduism. Time takes the form of a man and gives a sermon to a grieving father on what is death and how to cope with the death of loved one. 

“Interpreted from the Indian philosophical scripture Yoga Vasistha” – Concept of Death in Hinduism

WHAT IS DEATH IN HINDUISM: Time gives a timeless sermon

Death in Hinduism
Concept of Death in Hinduism

A long time ago, a sage had accumulated much merit on account of his immense self-control, performance of good deeds and his austerity. The sage had mastered all his senses and controlled all his negative emotions.

One day, his son who was twenty-seven years old, died in an accident. The Sage fell into a state of deep grief and all his wisdom could not help him understand what is death and why did his son die in his youth. The pain was unbearable for him and the shock of this cruel act of fate too much for him to fathom. His grief transformed into rage and the sage decided to curse Time, whom he held responsible for his son’s untimely death.

Time, who is neutral and detached, realizing that the sage was in a state of grief and hence in an agitated mind, made an exception and appeared before the sage in a physical form. The sermon given by time, provides a deep understanding of what is death and how to cope up with someone’s death.

The bereaved father, with hair disheveled, eyes puffed and eyes moist was performing the ceremony that would transfer all the merit he had accumulated in the form of a curse to Time. At that moment, Time appeared as a man with a sword in one hand and a noose in the other.

The concept of Death in Hinduism

Calmly and in an unfaltering voice, Time spoke to the Sage: “O Holy sage, I salute you at the life of control, discipline and goodness that you have lived. It is my nature to be appreciative of people who live a pious life with a worthy sense of conduct and without harming others. Listen to my words for it is my attempt to pacify you. It is but natural, that in this state of grief you are reacting out of anger and want to trade all your accumulated merit by wanting to inflict pain on someone else.

Sometimes a single action can wipe out an entire life’s discipline and goodness. O Sage, why and who are you going to curse?”

The Sage was surprised at the sudden appearance of the man who claimed to be Time and momentarily became passive.

Time continued, “Listen to me before you lay your curse and expire your accumulated merit in this life. I am immortal and unaffected even at the time of cosmic dissolution. This has been ordained as my role in the creation, and there is nothing your curse can do to me. I as Time destroy countless beings on this earth. I also cause death of Gods who preside over the universe. O Holy Sage, your son has died untimely and your grief is justified. But you have to realize that I am the consumer and every species on this earth is my food. This is an immutable law set by creation.

This law is beyond your personal likes or dislikes. Just as the nature of fire is to flame upwards, and the nature of water, is to flow downwards, my nature is to consume.

Try and understand what is death after hearing this truth from me. The nature of the self is to reside in everyone. The same self is in me, in you and was in your son. The self alone is the doer, the enjoyer, the enjoyed and the weeper.

You are a wise man who has been overcome by grief. Before committing any action, remember that there is neither doership nor non doership here. Just like flowers from a tree come and go, creatures are consumed by me so that they can come again.”

Time continued speaking to the sage, “Let me tell you a secret O Holy sage:

I am naturally inclined to consume species and bring them back again as per the results of their past actions (KARMA). I kill no one and I give birth to no one.

Some people hold me responsible for their anxiety, some for the deaths of their loved ones, some for the sorrow brought about by unrequited love, some for their mental agonies and others for their poverty. I am beyond all this.

Just like when the surface of the lake is agitated, the moon appear to be agitated, people are deluded that time is responsible for their deaths and lives. O Sage, since you have wisdom, moral courage and self-control, let me tell you one more thing. This physical body that you have is actually insentient and its natural inclination is to destroy itself. The mind is sentient and its natural inclination is to evolve. So the one you think is dead has just left the physical body while his consiousnesses is everlasting.

A disturbed mind will always make the urges of the physical body powerful and a pure mind will always make the seeker turn towards truth and clarity of thought. Hearing my words, it is upto you to choose now,  O wise sage.”

 SUGGESTED READING

Who am I- Story about truth of creation

Why am I trapped? The Story of the 2 birds

Samsara: The Story of the Boat-Ride

Why am I born? Story of the 5 Ants

How to break free: The Story of the caged elephant

Happiness: Why does Maya Smile at you

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Vairagya and Viveka: The Story of the Caged Elephant

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Vairagya & Viveka

Vairagya is non-attachment to wordly desires. Viveka is the ability to discriminate between what is real and unreal.

Often people feel trapped in circumstances or the monotonous routine of life. The story of the caged elephant in the scripture “Yoga Vasistha” explains this feeling of bondage and the concepts of Viveka and Vairagya.

The Story of the Caged Elephant: Vairagya & Viveka

In a forest, there was an elephant which was extremely strong and possessed a powerful pair of tusks. It used to roam freely in the forest without any kind of bondage.

One day, a thin and lean man came and lured the elephant into a cage. The elephant became trapped in the cage. The man used to repeatedly stab the elephant with a spiked stick.

Soon the elephant became conditioned to the reality that there were only two kinds of experiences in life: pain when it was poked with the stick, and pleasure in the absence of being poked with the stick.

Thus the man was able to tame the elephant by limiting its reality and became known as the rider of the elephant. After some time, the elephant forgot that there was an alternate reality, in which it had roamed free in the forest, without any fear, remaining all powerful with the help of its tusks.

One day, when the rider was away, the elephant struggled to free itself. It struggled hard, and after days of intense effort, was able to shatter the cage. The elephant ran towards its freedom. The rider returned as the elephant was trying to escape. In an attempt to stop the elephant’s escape, the rider climbed a tree and  jumped down, planning to land on the elephant’s back and hence subdue him once again. The rider missed and landed right in front of the elephant.

The elephant saw his tormentor in front of him, but instead of killing  the rider, the elephant made his escape into the forest.

The rider got up again. He was weak from the fall but not dead. He recovered and began a search for the elephant once again. Sure enough, the rider spotted the elephant standing near a lake one day. He sought the help from other elephant tamers, and dug a huge pit. He covered it with grass and shrubs, camouflaging the hole underneath. The elephant stepped on the grass covering the pit, and fell down in the pit.

The rider again caged the  elephant, repeatedly poking it with spiked stick. The elephant again got conditioned to the two kinds of realities, becoming subjugated to the will of the rider.

The elephant still stands in that pit today, conditioned by the reality that the stick determines its pain and pleasure.

Interpretation of the Story: Vairagya and Viveka

The elephant represents each  one of us on this earth.

Like the elephant in the story, each one of us possesses two powerful tusks in the form of viveka (discrimination between real and unreal) and vairagya (dispassion or non-attachment towards sensual objects).

The rider in the story is the ignorant mind. Though we are extremely powerful like the elephant, once ignorance in the form of a rider takes control, the mind conditions us to forget everything and only perceive life in terms of pleasure and pain.

The cage of the elephant is the cage of desires that we build around our selves. An iron cage rusts with time, but the cage of desires only gets stronger with time.

Like the elephant broke out of the cage, there are times in our life when we will get a glimpse of the truth and make an effort to seek a higher and liberated way of living.

Just as the rider lay helpless before the elephant when it did break free, the mind is at our disposal at those times when we are inspired to make efforts and break free from the shackles of a mundane life to inquire into higher truths.

At that time ignorance is weakened, and it is the ideal time to kill it. Although, ignorance is wounded, it is extremely resilient. The other elephant tamers are the past memories (residual memories or vasanas) of the times that we have experienced bodily pleasures and pains.

Ignorance clouds our mind with these residual memories and we again get tempted to indulge  in vain worldly matters.

The wise sages have said  that every-one is born powerful and possesses the two qualities of Viveka and Vairagya. Once ignorance renders both these qualities useless, then you remain imprisoned in the forest that you call your world

 

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WHY WAS I BORN: Ancient Hindu Story of the 5 Ants

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People often wonder Why was I born or What is the purpose of Life. Hinduism explains this question by a story.

Why was I born
Why was I born?

Hinduism encourages one to think about the question “Why was i Born or What is the purpose of Life” in the quest of self realization. There is a story mentioned in the Hindu Philosphical Scripture “Yoga Vasistha” that mentions an interesting anecdote in an attempt to answer the question Why was I born.

Why was I born: The story of 5 ants in Hinduism

At the beginning of creation, there were five ants who became fascinated by the vastness and diversity of the world. These 5 ants decided to investigate the whole world by visiting all the parts and corners of the earth. They desired to travel in all the directions and have different experiences. The consciousness in them manifested their desire and granted their wish to travel all over the world and have different experiences.

The ants are still roaming the corners of the earth. They keep taking repeated births in their quest to explore different places and have diverse experiences.  When they die upon covering a part of the journey, they come back on the earth and resume their journey from the point they had covered last.

In each birth, the ants are confident that they will get to the end of the  journey this time. The five ants start crawling as soon as they are born, running towards the promised destination. Time, the eternal stealth thief, steals their youth and vitality during this endless journey. Death overcomes them during their relentless running and their breath returns to the wind, the eyes into the sun, the mind into the moon, the hearing into the quarters of heaven and their body merges with the earth.

In Vedanta, The 5 ants represent the 5 sense organs/ Indriyas and the journey is represented by the insatibale desires of the 5 senses.

By the law of creation, consciouness ensures that as per the unfulfilled desires of a person upon his or her death, the 5 elements integrate and the person takes birth again.  The unfulfilled desires and the past actions in the last journey, limit the pure consciousnesses into a physical body and the ants start crawling again.  For some of us, the ants have been crawling since  the starting of creation now!

The story leads to conclude that the 5 ants are the 5 senses, and their insatiable desire to conquer the earth represents the immortal attraction of the senses for the transient pleasures. As long as the senses will drive one’s consciousness, he or she will be born on this earth as sentient as the ants. The senses driven body will travel a distance of miles in their journey on this earth, and take birth again to continue the journey.

SUGGESTED READING

PREDICTIONS OF KALI YUGA

WHAT IS THE SELF: Ancient Upanishad Story

SAMSARA: The Story of the Boat-Ride

THE STORY OF THE CAGED ELEPHANT: How to get free

WHO AM I? Sage Vasistha answers the question

 

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Who am I – Ancient Hindu story about the truth of creation

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A Hinduism Story that answers “Who am I? What am I?”

who am i
Who Am I

At some point in life, most men and women will be plagued by the query, “Who am I? What am i doing here? What am I?

Some people believe that creation is accidental and some say that the answer to why the world is created can never be understood. Vedanta says that both the above views are deluded.

Men and women in every age have, by their own efforts been able to find an answer to ‘ulitmate truth of life’  and crossed the samsara or this repetitive cycle of birth and death.

The truth of life and the secret behind creation needs to be realized layer by layer; just as when you peel each layer from an onion, another layer is revealed. Similarly the truth is to be inquired step by step. Rama, the god who was born as man had the same query centuries ago: Who am I? What am I? What am i doing here?

Who am I  – The dialogue between Sage Vasistha and Lord Rama

In this regard there is a less known, esoteric story that was conveyed by Sage Vasishta to young Rama in the Treta Yuga. This story encapsulates the truth of life in a profound message.

Rama as a young prince went into despair and lost interest in his worldy duties.  Upon being summoned by his father, the King, Rama stated before the court that he was disllusioned with this material cycle of life and death and was not sure about the truth of life and the purpose of creation.

Who am i? What am I here for? thundered Rama in the courtroom.

The king requested Sage Vasishta to end Rama’s despair.  This story is chronicled in the glorious book “Yoga Vasistha”.

Sage Vasistha tells the following story to Rama who is full of angst in trying to understand the truth of life.

    Once upon a time in a city which did not exist, there were three princes who were brave and happy. Of those three princes, two were unborn and the third had not been conceived. Unfortunately all their relatives died.

      The princes left their native city to go elsewhere. Unable to bear the heat of the sun, they took shade under three trees, out of which two did not exist and the third had not even been planted.  After resting there for some time and eating the fruits of those trees, they proceeded further.

    They reached the banks of three rivers; of them two were dry and in the third there was no water. The princes had a refreshing bath and quenched their thirst in them.

    Then they reached a huge city which was about to be built. On entering this city, the princes found three palaces of exceeding beauty. Of them, two had not been built at all and the third had no walls at all.

    They entered the palaces and found three golden plates; two of the plates had been broken into halves and the third had been smashed into pieces. They took hold of the plate that had been smashed into pieces. They took ninety-nine minus one hundred grams of rice and cooked it. They then invited three holy men to be their guests. Of them, two had no body and the third had no mouth. After these holy men had eaten food, the three princes ate the rest of the food that had been cooked . The three princes were greatly pleased on having this meal. They then lived in the city for a long time, in peace and joy.

    

Sage Vasistha then proclaims to Lord Rama, “Know this, that whosoever can comprehend the secret of this story, will understand the ultimate truth of life and be able to answer the question Who am I?”

SUGGESTED READING

WHAT IS THE SELF? Lord Brahma instructs Lord Indra

WHY ARE WE BORN- The Story of the 5 Ants

WHAT IS SAMSARA- The Story of the Boat-Ride

WHY DO WE FEEL TRAPPED- The Story of the 2 Birds

HAPPINESS: Why is Maya smiling at you?

WHAT IS DEATH: Time gives a Timeless Sermon

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WHAT IS KARMA? Sanchita Karma and Prarabdha Karma

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WHAT IS KARMA: Sanchita Karma and Prarabdha Karma

Hinduism classifies Karma as Sanchita Karma and Prarabdha Karma. In Vedanta, the following analogy is used to explain Karma.

sanchita karma and prarabdha karma
What is Karma?

A bowman stands aiming at a distant target. He takes out an arrow from the quiver and releases it. While the arrow is floating through the air, the bowman takes another arrow from the bundle of arrows in the quiver and fits it in the bow. He is ready to shoot another arrow even as the other arrow is going towards its target in one direction.

Vedanta says that you are the bowman in every birth. The quiver of arrows represents Sanchita Karma.

Sanchita Karma is the sum total of the good and bad deeds of all your past lives.

The arrows in the quiver are all the good and bad actions from your past life.  All the good and bad actions from your past life reside in the quiver as residual effects for your future life.

Vedanta further explains that the arrow that you have shot is that portion of the sanchita or past karma that is responsible for your present body and destiny. This is called Prarabhdha karma.

Thus, the portion of the sanchita karma which influences human life in the present incarnation is called prarabdha karma.

In our life, a certain portion of the sanchita karma, most suited for the spiritual evolution at the time, is chosen to be worked out, during the course of our lifetime.

Subsequently the Prarabdha Karma creates circumstances which we are destined to experience in our present lifetime. It also places certain limitations via our physical family, body or life circumstances we are born into.

Thus Sanchita Karma and Prarabdha karma are colletively  known as fate or destiny.

Fate or destiny is nothing but the effect of the past karma represented by the quiver holding the arrows. The arrows are the residual effects of all your good and bad actions of your past. The action of choosing and shooting a particular arrow from the choices given due to your past actions creates present karma which will  decide your future birth.

SUGGESTED READING:

WHO AM I? Sage Vasistha instructs Lord Ram

WHAT IS DEATH? Time gives a timeless sermon

WHAT IS PEACE OF MIND: Brihaspati instructs his son

WHY ARE WE BORN- Story of the 5 Ants

SAMSARA- The secret of the boat-ride

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