Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sage Ashtavakra


Sage Ashta  Vakra
(sage with eight bends)

Compiled  by
P.R.Ramachander

   There was saint called Udhalaka He was considered to have talked personally to the goddess Saraswathi.. He had a daughter called Sujatha   and a son called  Swetha Kethu. He also had a disciple called Kahodaka. (also known as  Khagodhara) . The disciple learned all that has to be learned from Uddalaka  and pleased him very much. Udhalaka then gave  his daughter Sujatha  in marriage to Kahodaka . Eventually Sujatha became in the family way. While Kahodaka  was  chanting Vedas  sitting beside her , the child in her womb shouted that Kahodaka  was  committing mistakes in his recitation. Kahodaka  became angry and cursed that the child would  be born with  eight bends, because the  mind of the child had bends. After the birth of the child Kahodaka decided to go to the court of king Janaka  to earn money by exhibiting his knowledge .At that time king Janaka was performing a Yaga  and so Kahodaka  was not allowed to meet him . Later he met the king and was asked by him to debate with a scholar in his court called Vandheena(also called Bandhi) . All those  who were defeated  by Vandheena (Bandhi) were supposed to jump in the sea( some versions say river) and die.  Kahodhaka was defeated   and  died.
   Ashtavakra  again learned all Vedas  in company of Swetha Kethu. Due to his fiery temper , the fact that  his father  died after being defeated  by Vandheena(Bandhi) was hidden by him. But one day Swetha Kethu happened to blurt out the truth. Immediately , with torrential anger Ashta Vakra started towards  the  court  of King Janka. On thei way , king Janaka  was  travelling in the same road opposite to them. The  security people of Janaka  asked Ashta Vakra to give  way to the king. Then Ashta vakra told them, “Does not your king know that  under  the laws  of dharma  , every human being  has to give way to the  handicapped people?” Janaka heard this and  agreed with him and gave way to Ashta Vakra  to proceed further. Ashta Vakra  reached  the court of Janaka   and was not allowed to enter inside,  saying that he was but a child. He told them that  his wisdom should not be decided  based on his age. Later when he went in front of Janaka, the courtiers of Janaka laughed at the misshapen boy . Then Ashta Vakra told Janaka that , he was not prepared to debate  with mere  cobblers. When the king wanted him to explain, Ashta Vakra told him that , he was being judged about his intelligence by his courtiers based  on his skin, similar to the cobblers judging an animal .  The king  was amazed  his intelligence  but felt great pity on that boy and wanted  to test his wisdom by  himself before allowing him to debate with  Vadheena (Bandhi) . The king and his courtiers were amazed at the knowledge of the boy  . The next day Ashta Vakra  defeated  Vadheena in scholastic argument and wanted Vadheena to jump in the sea and die. Then Vadheena told them that  he was the son of God Varuna and  was in the earth to recruit  sages to perform a Yagna to Varuna. All those defeated  by  him jumped in the sea  and  went to the  abode of Varuna to perform the Yagna. The Yagna was just over and all  of them would  return to   this world. As per his word Kahodha came back and was reunited with his son. Kahoda  felt bad that he has cursed his son. Sage Varuna then made him perfectly all right.
      Later Ashta Vakra wanted to marry  Suprabha , the daughter of  sage Vadanya. But the sage wanted to test him before giving his daughter  in marriage to him. He wanted him to go to Kailsa  meet Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi and further go north and see a very pretty damsel there  and come back. Ashta Vakra obeyed him and in  kailsa he was first received  by Lord Kubhera  and the sage stayed along with him for one year. He then went to Kailasa  and further proceeded  to  the north. There he met  seven very pretty maidens. Ashta Vakra wanted one of them to stay there  and asked the others to go. The lady who stayed there  tried to seduce Ashta vakra .He told that he was not interested in her but only interested in marrying Suprabha. The lady then told that  she was the goddess of the northern direction called Uthara  and blessed him and send him back.Ashta Vakra  returned back , married Suprabha.
   
Ashtavakra  and the deva maidens

   Once the deva maidens made fun of Ashta Vakra with a  body with bends. It seems Ashta Vakra cursed them to become human beings and they were the Gopis of the Brinda van.

Ashta Vakra  and Ravana

   It seems once  Ravana made fun of the form of Ashta Vakra and told him that he would remove all his bends by beating him. When he caught hold of the sage and threw him, the sage cursed Ravana that he would be crushed from head to feet  by monkeys.


Ashta Vakra  Gita
    One of the great philosophical  treatises  of Hinduism is the  instruction about  the nature  of self given by Ashta Vakra   to king Janaka.  It is referred as either Ashta Vakra  Samhitha or as Ashta Vakra  Gita.   It  is a dialogue between “Ashtavakra and king  Janaka on the nature of soul, reality and bondage.  It offers an extremely radical version of non-dualistic philosophy. The Gita insists on complete unreality of external world and absolute oneness of existence. It does not mention any morality or duties and therefore, is seen by commentators as 'godless'. It also dismisses names and forms as unreal and a sign of ignorance.
You are really unbound and action-less, self-illuminating and spotless already. The cause of your bondage is that you are still resorting to stilling the mind. (I.15)
You are unconditioned and changeless, formless and immovable, unfathomable awareness, imperturbable- such consciousness is un-clinging. (I.17)
You are not bound by anything. What does a pure person like you need to renounce? Putting the complex organism to rest, you can go to your rest. (V.1)”
   The  great  translation of entire book in to English is available  in
    There is another story  of the origin of  sage Ashta Vakra. It seems there was a sage called Asitha. He did thapas  to lord Shiva to get a son  and got a son  called  Devala. He was so pretty that Rambha  , one of dancers of the court of Indra  ,fell in love with him. When he refused her , it seems Rambha cursed him to become one with eight bends. Later he did thapas for six thousand years  and Lord Krishna with Radha came before him. Radha was horrified by the ugliness  of the sage but it seems Lord Krishna hugged him. This hug made  Devala get back his normal form. It seems this Devala married a lady called Yekaparna , who was the daughter  of Himavan.


1 comment:

Divya Balakrishnan said...

The conversation between sage Ashtavakara and King Janaka is brilliant. I feel it emphasises on Advaita Vedanta.