Raikva the cart driver, Samvarga Vidya- Stories from the Upanishads
The story of Raikva the cart driver is mentioned in Chapter 4 of the Chandogya Upanishad.
There was a king named Janasruti Pautrayana who was a pious giver and engaged in a lot of chairty. He built free rest-houses for vistors and gave food to everyone who needed it.
One night he was at the terrace of his palace and two swans flew over him. Janasruti heard one of the swans say to another, “O Bhallaksha (one having good sight) keep away from the day like light that is emanating from the king standing below. Keep away so that the brilliant light doesn’t scorch you.”
Bhallksha replied, “How can you speak of the king as if he were Raikva the cart-man?”
The other swan asked, “Of what sort of man is this Raikva the cart-man? You speak highly of him.”
Bhallaksha replied, “Just as in a game of dice, the winner throws the Krta (the highest throw) cast of dice and all lower ones go to him, similarly whatever meritorious deeds men do they all go to to Raikva. So all-inclusive does one becomes who knows what he (Raikva) knows too. I declare this to you.”
Krta is the highest number possible in a toss of dice, so it is said to include all the lower numbers within it. The swan says that Raikva is a person like krta, because he includes within himself all the good things that other people do. He is the sum total of all that is good in the world. If anyone has the Self Knowledge that Raikva has, then he becomes the same as Raikva.
Janasruti Pautrayana overheard what the swans were saying. He got up the next day and when approached by his attendant, told him, “O Friend, you are speaking to me as if to Raikva the cart-man.”
The attendant expressed his curiosity, “Who is Raikva and what sort of man is he O king?”
The king repeated what the swan Bhallaksha had said, “Just as in a game of dice, the winner throws the Krta (the highest throw) cast of dice and all lower ones go to him, similarly whatever meritorious deeds men do they all go to to Raikva. So all-inclusive does one becomes who knows what he (Raikva) knows too. I declare this to you.”
The king sent his attendants to search for Raikva. The attendants travelled across all the cities in the kingdom but could not find the man named Raikva. They returned to the king and announced their faliure.
The king told them, “Search for Raikva where the sages and Brahmans (self-realized people) stay.”
The attendants went further away from the cities now and in one small village, saw a man who was sitting under a cart and scratching himself. One of the attendant approached him and asked, “Sir, are you Raikva, the cart-man?”
“Yes, I am Raikva,” he replied.
The attendants rushed back to the palace and annouced this to the king.
Then Janasruti Pautrayana went to that place, taking with him, six hundred cows, a gold necklace, and a chariot drawn by mules.
He said to Raikva “O Raikva, all these -six hundred cows, a gold necklace, and a chariot drawn by mules are for you. Please tell me about the deity you worship.”
Raikva said to him , “You Sudra, the necklace and chariot along with the cows -let all these be yours.”
Janasruti left again and then came back – this time with one thousand cows, a gold necklace, a chariot drawn by mules, and his own daughter for marriage to Raikva.
Janasruti was a seeker of Brahma Gyan and in the spirit of the true seeker he did not give up.
He said to Raikva, “I am giving you these thousand cows, this gold necklace, this chariot drawn by mules, this daughter of mine to
be your wife, and also this village in which you live, Now, Sir, please teach me.”
Janasrurti offered Raikva among other things, his daughter in marriage and also the village where Raikva was living. The only thing he wanted in return was that Raikva accepted him as a disciple. Raikva was impressed at this sincere attempt from the King to seek knowlege and agreed to teach him.
The village where Raikva lived were known thenceforth as Raikvaparna.
It was here Raikva taught Janasruti. Raikva said to him. “Air is indeed samvarga. For, fire, going out, gets absorbed into air: the sun setting, gets absorbed into air; the moon, setting, gets absorbed into air. Water, dried up, gets absorbed into air. Air indeed is the all devourer. This is the instruction on the universal aspect (of the diety).”
Samvarga Vidya refers to meditating on the Vayu(air) externally and the Prana (vital breath) internally that absorbs everything. The above is the instruction on the universal aspect. The below is the instruction on the bodily aspect.
Raikva continues, “Prana indeed is samvarga. In sleep, speech is absorbed into prana; the eyes (sight) are absorbed into prana; the ears (hearing) are absorbed into prana; the mind is absorbed into prana. Prana indeed is the one that engulfs all these.
“These two (air and prana), are the two samvargas. Of the universal pheonomena (devas), air is the samvarga, and of the sense organs in a body, prana is the samvarga.”