Let the sleeping lion of adhyatmic fervour in thee wake up! Fight out thy enemies in the inner Kurukshetra. -Chinmaya
In most of us, the adhyatmic (spiritual) fervour is sleeping. This sleep has many symptoms:
If we have no interest in anything spiritual – be it meditation, Satsang or prayer… If our interest is only in everything worldly – be it movies, restaurants, stock exchange or real estate… If spirituality is considered as a waste of time… If we are restless in the company of saints… If we think spirituality is meant only for the old and the retired…If in our opinion, all spiritual people are escapists from life or failures in life… If we think money can solve all problems of life… If for us, roti-kapadaa-makaan/wine-wealth-woman/kaamini-kaanchana-keerti – is the be-all and end-all of life… If gossips refresh us… If worldly glitz and glamour enchant us… If solitude suffocates us… If ego rules us… If passions burn us… If the moods control us… If scriptures bore us…
– Then know for sure that the spiritual lion is still sleeping in us.
Shocks in life are God-sent to wake us up.
The story of King Pareekshit’s waking up to the Reality comes in Shreemad Bhagavatham. Pareekshit was the grandson of Arjuna and a great devotee of Lord Vishnu.
One day, chasing a deer while hunting, he lost his way and reached Sage Shameeka’s ashram. There he saw the sage in meditation oblivious to the outer world. The King, tired and hungry, thirsty and exhausted, requested the sage for water. But when no response came, the King presumed that the sage was feigning samadhi only to avoid him. In a fit of anger and also to test the sage, Pareekshit put a dead snake lying nearby around the neck of the sage. As the sage was in samadhi and had lost all body-consciousness, it evoked no response from him. The King then returned to his palace.
Shameeka Rishi had a son named Shringi, 5 or 6 years of age, who was playing with his friends near the banks of river Kaushiki. When he heard the news of what the King had done to his father, he became red in anger. Purifying himself with the waters of the river, he uttered the following curse, “Within seven days, Takshaka the serpent shall, as directed by me, bite the King to death.”
Then the boy went to the ashram. Seeing his father seated there with the dead snake dangling around his neck he cried aloud in utter sorrow. The sage now opened his eyes, roused by the cries of the boy. Seeing the dead snake, he threw it away and asked his son what the matter was.
On hearing everything from the boy the sage lamented, “O foolish child! For a small mistake of the King, you have given such a big punishment! Have you ever thought of the consequences of your action? A King should be considered as a representative of God Himself. It is because of his might that the country is protected and the subjects become prosperous and secure. In a country which is devoid of a King, the thieves and the robbers multiply and the entire nation is ruined.
“Moreover,” continued the sage, “Pareekshit is a great King by all means – he is a great devotee of the Lord, a protector of righteousness, and the one who followed the footsteps of his great ancestors like Krishna and the Pandavas. He is a man of great reputation who has performed Ashwamedha sacrifice.
“Besides, he was physically exhausted and afflicted with hunger and thirst when he committed this offence. Therefore, by no means, he deserved this curse.” The sage thus admonished his son.
Shreemad Bhagavatham says:
A true devotee of the Lord, though he might be endowed with power, will never retaliate for an injury done to him – be it insult, deception, curse, belittling or beating.
Shameeka Rishi thus showed his true greatness.
In the palace, the King had no peace of mind after returning from the forest. His sinful act kept pricking his conscience. He regretted thus, “Alas! I have committed a grave sin against a true mahatma absorbed in samadhi. O Lord! Give me such a punishment that my wicked mind will never ever think of committing such evil in the future…”
As the King was lamenting thus, he received the shocking news of the curse. The great King thanked the Lord for the punishment meted out to him. Handing over the kingdom to his son Janamejaya, renouncing everything, wearing the robe of an ascetic, Pareekshit resorted to the banks of Ganga taking a vow of fast unto death.
The news spread like wildfire in all the three worlds. Such was the reputation of this great King that all the saints and sages rushed to the spot to meet Pareekshit in person. The great Rishis – Atri, Vasishtha, Chyavana, Bhrigu, Angira, Paraashara, Vishwamitra, Parashurama, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Maitreya, Agastya, Vyasa and Narada – all came along with their disciples. The august assembly included Devarishis, Brahmarishis and Rajarishis.
Pareekshit prostrated to all of them and said, “I am indeed the most fortunate among kings, because I have become the object of the blessings of all of you. To me, a sinful man, intensely attached to the home and its affairs, the Lord has come in the form of the ascetic boy’s curse only to generate renunciation in me; because when death is near at hand, even a man with great worldly attachments will be filled with fear and become prone to accept an attitude of devotion and renunciation.
“O Holy Ones! Please bless me thus – whatever embodiments I am going to take in future, may I have in every one of them the love for Lord and association with holy people.”
As he spoke these words, the great Shuka Brahmarishi happened to come there as a mere coincidence, as though sent by God Himself. Aged sixteen, with a well proportionate handsome body, totally naked, ever wandering; he never used to stay at a place more than the time taken to milk a cow. Ever absorbed in the bliss of the Self, he was one of the most revered amongst all sages.
The King after due worship then spoke these words in all humility, “O Revered One! Please guide me, what should a dying man do in his last moments?”
Shuka replied, “O King! The one who seeks to attain immortality must meditate upon the Lord who is the Supreme Self. He alone is the Remover of all sorrows and the Bestower of absolute bliss. Therefore one should meditate upon Him, worship Him, chant His glories, and remember Him. Remembrance of the Lord at the time death is the greatest gain one can have in this life. This is the very purpose of all spiritual practices. The best and the easiest path among all yogas is to develop intense devotion for the Lord. Hence, for the next seven days, meditate only on God.”
The great sage Shuka then gave various techniques of meditation to fix the mind on the Lord. The sportive past times (leelas) of the Lord in various manifestations were discussed in detail and the stories of the devotees of the Lord were elaborated upon to develop single-pointed devotion for the Lord. Thus the seven days passed by in total contemplation of the Lord.
On the seventh day, when the teaching concluded, Pareekshit worshipped the sage and placed his head at the feet of Shuka in tears of gratitude. Then he sat there motionless like a tree, having made the mind single-pointed and absorbed at the lotus feet of the Lord, free from all worldly attachments. Even before Takshaka came to bite him, the King had merged himself in Brahman leaving all bodily identification.
As per the curse, Takshaka bit him, and in a flash, the body was reduced to ashes due to the fiery poison of the serpent. For the King, the curse was a blessing in disguise, for he was liberated from the birth-death cycle within a span of mere seven days.
All the shocks and knocks in life are an earnest effort from the Lord to wake the sleeping lion of spirituality in us. May we listen to His constant whisper:
उत्तिष्ठत ! जाग्रत !! प्राप्य वरान् निबोधत !!!
O M T A T S A T