Great Ribhu and Nidaga

A tale from Vishnu Purana

If a man understands that soul is one, omnipresent, restrained, pure, beyond virtues and nature, one can realize the truth of life. The soul is within and without, it is visible and invisible and one finds no difference. If a man finds some variation, he is ignorant and unconscious of the Supreme Reality. In creating distinction within and without, he creates conflicts and thus, comprehension of life and meaning recedes. The soul is beyond birth, it is beyond beginning and an end, and it is infinite. A man thinks what it is. Everything emerges out of ‘the self’ and it appears so near and definite but in fact, it is beyond any possible distinction and if one tries to know ‘the self’, one reaches the horizons of truth and dharma. The Soul is illuminated and has no identity, a man often seeks and visualizes in caste or creed, colour or wealth. A great revelation and truth dawn that He is present in other beings and still, he is the same. Only the unwise and stupid make a distinction.

If a man attains knowledge of oneness, he gains strengthen, and finally knows the Ultimate Truth and he, who nurses duality, cannot reach the Great truth. If any distinction exists, it is lack of knowledge. Here, a man suffers and it is what a modern man must try to understand. So long, he lives in conflicting views, suffers and so the world is in trouble. Feelings and thoughts of duality give varied meanings, and create dissensions.

It was a very subtle thought. To throw further light, an incident relating to a thought provoking counsel of Ribhu to Nidaga will elucidate. Ribhu, a son of Brahma knew the ultimate reality. He was the cerebral son (Manas putra), a son born out of a mere thought. He had a disciple Nidaga, a son of sage Pulastya of ancient times. Nidaga deeply impressed Ribbu and therefore, guru Ribhu imparted him total knowledge of the Supreme Truth. However, in later years, Ribhu realized that despite the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, Nidaga had no respect for the spirit of Oneness. He still nursed faith in duality of existence that exhibited ignorance and poor knowledge of the ultimate truth. It did not go well with Ribhu.

During the ancient times, sage Pulastya was the cause of establishment of a big and famous town Virnagar on the bank of river Davika. It was one of the most beautiful and prosperous towns.

It was a famous town where a disciple of Ribhu, a man of yoga Nidaga, lived during ancient times. To meet disciple Nidaga, sage Ribhu visited the town after a period of one thousand divine years. At that time, Nidaga waited for the guest at the door. Nidaga saw the great teacher and therefore, extended due respect and courtesy, and afterwards, conducted him to the house, offered proper prayer and worship. The holy brahmin washed guru’s hands and feet and then requested him to sit on a high pedestal and said, “O holy brahmin, please take food.”

Ribhu said, “O brahmin, what kind of food I will take. I am not interested in impure or contaminated food.”

“O the supreme brahmin, I have sattu (a dish made of the floor of wheat, rice, barley etc), lapsi (a sweet dish made of floor, fruit and roots etc), and then, puye (again a sweet dish). All delicacies are quite tasty. Whatever interests you, you may eat.” Nadaga told reverentially.

“O brahmin, food is contaminated. I want halva (a sweet dish made of floor, water and ghee or oil), kheer (a dish made of rice and milk and sugar), matha (an eatable made of floor that is a little hardened and at times, it is like chapatti or bread), and other food dishes made of sugar.” Ribhu said frankly and thus, discarded the dishes Nidaga offered.

When he found that it was difficult to satisfy the hunger of a great guru, Nidaga told his wife, “You may prepare sumptuous food for the great sage with the eatable material and grain available at home.”

As desired, she prepared delicious food for the visitor. The food was served to Ribhu, and after Ribhu took food, Nidaga asked humbly, “O brahmin, are you satisfied with the food? Please tell. Are you happy, O holy Guru? O brahmin, tell me to which place do you belong. Where do you want to go? O holy man, also tell from where did you arrive here?” Nidaga wanted to satisfy his curiosity that raised host of questions within about the unexpected visit of a brahmin, who had not revealed identity.

Ribhu listened to the several questions from Nidaga, thought and said, “O brahmin, he, who is hungry is naturally satisfied when he gets food. However, O brahmin, hunger never gives trouble to me. I never feel hungry. Then, why do you ask me about contentment. When the fire of digestion exhausts solid minerals within, a man feels hungry. When a man digests everything he has in the stomach, he feels hungry. When a man feels lack of water in the body, he feels thirty. O brahmin, hunger and thirst are necessary for physical existence and thus, it is dharma of body. However, it is not with me. It does not happen to me. I do not suffer from either hunger or thirst. Therefore, I am always satisfied because I do not suffer I say again.”

The noble brahmin listened to the revelation of great wisdom. After a few moments, Ribhu said, “To keep sound health and satisfaction are conditions of mind and to stay firm constitutes dharma of mind. Dharma of mind it is and so, the facts and truths bear no relationship with Purusa (the soul, the supreme truth). Therefore, O holy brahmin, you should ask such questions from a man, who adheres to a dharma of mind and body.” He was clear and straight. They sat silently for a while.


Nidaga asked many questions and the subtle answers he got, confused him more than before. After a pause, the guest said again, “O brahmin, now you asked me, where I live? To which place I go and from where have I come. I shall answer the three questions. Kindly listen.”

He looked at him gently and said, “O noble brahmin, you know that soul is present everywhere because it is as pervasive as the sky is. Therefore, your questions are not meaningful and relevant. I am everywhere and I am here, I am here and I am everywhere at the same moment. The soul ‘the inner self’ pervades the whole cosmos. O brahmin, I do not go anywhere. I do not arrive at any place. I also do not live at one place. In other words, the thoughts of you, he and I exist because of bodily perception and feelings and therefore, appear separate and different. However, in reality, it is not so. In fact, you are not you, he is not he and I am not me.”

A great truth emerges. All agonies and sufferings in the world appear and surface because of distortion in understanding. Apparently, it is very difficult to subscribe to the view that everyone exists in everyone else and that one lives in everything, and everything still exists in one. If one maintains distinction, one faces sufferings and pains. One must understand. Duality breeds contempt and hatred. Sage Ribhu explains in simple words that getting rid of the spirit of duality is a path to moksa and the supreme bliss. A philosophic thought it is and a philosophic thought brings harmony and peace. It spreads aura of beauty and fragrance around.

Nidaga beheld the great sage utter calmness even as the words of eternal truths began to percolate. He heard sweet voice of sage Ribhu again, “In reality, nothing is sweet. Sweet is not sweet and O great noble soul, when I requested you to provide delicious food I wanted to know what you say about the scrumptious or sweet food. O the greatest among the brahmins, what is the real meaning of sumptuous or distasteful food? You will find nothing like sweet or sour. When tasty food turns bad or unsavoury, it becomes the cause of excitement and passion. Similarly, at other times, distasteful food appears quite yummy and sweet to the tongue, and on the other hand, lip-smacking food excites passion and anger. Now, a genuine question arises. Can you tell me about the delicious and flavorsome food at the beginning, in the middle and in the end? Slowly, you would notice erosion of taste and flavor.”

After sometime, he said again, “As you plaster house with mud properly, it becomes strong. Similarly, body becomes healthy and strong if you eat solid food, fruit and roots. Solid elements of food contain barely, wheat, moong (cereal), dhrit (ghee), oil, milk, curd, gur (raw sugar) and fruits. Now, can you tell me about the tasty and bad food or not. It is all a condition of mind. The mind imparts the knowledge of deliciousness, good or bad taste and so, it needs correction. One should not allow any distinction to creep in. You make mind devoid of any divergence or dissimilarity. If variance disappears, distinctness and convergence enter and the life is free from the feelings of separateness. It is a path to harmony, and leads a man to moksa.”

After he heard wise words of Ribhu about the Supreme Truth, the ultimate Reality, Nadaga bowed and saluted, and said, “O holy man, bless me and be happy. Who are you? I know you came with a desire to do good to me. When I think over the words and evaluate true meaning, I see no infatuation with the material world. Attachment to material world disappears I say. I harbour no feeling of thine or mine.”

Immensely pleased with disciple Nidaga, Ribhu said, “O brahmin, I am guru Ribhu. I came to here to impart knowledge of oneness and wanted to tell you that feelings of duality bring discord and disharmony. Oneness leads to moksa. Now, I go and whatever is the Supreme Reality, I told you. Now, deliberate over the thought of Oneness and find the world in the image of Supreme Lord and you will find that no distinction survives. Oneness spreads a feeling of love and harmony.”

Deeply indebted to the holy teachings of a great guru, Nidaga prayed and worshipped. Later on, Ribhu returned to his abode.


After a period of one thousand years, sage Ribhu again arrived at the same town to impart knowledge to Nidaga. When he arrived in the town, he observed the king of the country had entered the town and the people danced, sang and enjoyed moments of immense joy and so, celebrations on the occasion delighted. He saw disciple Nidaga with a bunch of kusha (blades of grass) for worshipping the gods. He also carried sacrificial fuel brought from the forest. When he saw a huge army of the king entering the town, he stood aside probably to avoid disrespect to the king. He stood at a distance from the huge crowd and appeared hungry and thirsty.

Ribhu noticed Nidaga and immediately came near him, greeted and said, “O brahmin, how it is? Why do you stand alone?”

“O brahmin, today the king wants to go to the most beautiful and fascinating town and I found a huge crowd of people on the road and therefore, I stand here.” Nidaga made a truthful statement.

Ribhu said, “O great brahmin, it appears you know everything about the place. Who is the king? Who accompany the king? I wish to know about everybody.”

“O brahmin, a man, who mounts a very tall elephant, is the king of the country. The family members and people of the area follow the king.”

Ribhu wanted to become clear and therefore, said, “O brahmin, you show the king and the elephant and I find it one and the same thing. You did not tell about the emblems or signs or other characteristics that separate the king and others, including the people. Therefore, O holy brahmin, What are the chief characteristics of the king and the elephant? Please tell. I want to know who the king is and who is the elephant?”

The questions appeared quite ridiculous and insignificant, for everything looked obvious. Still, Nidaga said calmly, “Whoever is below is the elephant, and he, who sits on it and say, who mounts the elephant is the king. The relationship of bahya and vahak exists between them. Who does not know it?”

Ribhu said again, “It is alright. However, O brahmin, please explain again where I could know what does ‘below’ mean? What is the meaning of ‘above’?”

It was not clear whether Nidaga was angry or not. He heard Ribhu and then, immediately stood on the shoulders and said, “Now, listen. Whatever you asked I would tell you. Now, I sit on you ‘above’ like a king, and you are like an elephant ‘below’ me. O brahmin, you can understand, I explained to you like this.”

Ribhu did not finish queries and it appeared he was dissatisfied. He thought over and asked, “O brahmin, if you are like a king and I am like an elephant, and then please tell me, who you are and who am I?”

As Ribhu uttered in a subtle way, Nidaga immediately fell at the feet of Ribhu, held the feet warmly and reverently, and said, “I am convinced that you are the great acharya sage Ribhu. None on earth, other than guru Ribhu is equipped with the sacred virtues of mind, and therefore, he adheres to the principle of oneness. It is the Supreme Truth and Reality. Therefore, it is my belief that a great guru has arrived.”

Ribhu said, “O Nidaga, previously you extended warm welcome and looked after me courteously and graciously. Your love and respect attracted me towards you and so I arrived. I am your guru Ribhu, who came here to advise. O wise brahmin, to nurse the thought of Oneness in all created beings (animate or inanimate) after you discard the thought of duality, is the highest reality and it is the gist of Supreme Truth. I told you briefly.”

The most learned sage and guru Ribhu said calmly and left, and went somewhere else. Nidaga was engaged in deep contemplation and so was lost in the thought of Oneness among living beings. Oneness was the Reality and a path to the attainment of moksa. The word ‘oneness’ contains a great message of peace and harmony to man, to the world and to humanity he realized.

Now, sage Nidaga found no distinction in created beings. He was in everything and everything was within he found. The man of dharma Nidaga, later on, attained moksa. The Supreme truth is one. Whatever a man finds in the world is one soul, one entity and one thing in oneness. It is the soul, the ever eternal and the infinite and nothing exists beyond. You, he and I are just images of ‘athe Soul’ and therefore, for achieving moksa, one must abandon the thought of distinction. Such a wisdom alone grants deliverance to a worldly man. In contemporary life, when the wise men speak of unanimity and unity, peace and harmony among all, possibly, they are conscious of the thought of oneness. However, disunity, diversity and distinctions continue to govern the psyche of men around the world, and it is unfortunate characteristic of human life and the man knows.


More by :  P C K Prem

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