Sagas of Our Maharshis of Yore
Adaptation in English of Sadguru Shivanandamurtyji’s
Margadashakulu – Maharshulu in Telugu
The benevolent and compassionate Sadguru Shri Sivanandamurtyji of Anandavanam has narrated the sagas of forty-two maharshis of yore after years of perceptive study and exposure to invaluable scholarship extant on those sublime souls. It has been my great good fortune that the Guruji has readily consented to my adapting his work in English for the benefit of readers who do not have access to Telugu.
Permit me to state that it would be unwise and immature to claim any merit for this rough and ready rendering. The entire merit of the thinking and exposition is entirely our Guruji’s. Any lapses and shortcomings that the readers may come across in this work are totally mine.
This work in English is brought to the readers with the divine blessings of our Guruji whom we reverentially call guruvugaru according to the custom and the usage of Telugus. May God and the Guruji be with us as always!
Salutations and obeisance to our maharshis, the sacred-seers and divine visionaries who visualized and gave us powerful incantations for our enlightenment and spiritual uplift!
May those sublime minds always be with us showing and leading us along the path of glorious living.
May those infinitely blessed ones guide us all along the right way! May they never forsake us for we shall never lose our faith and neglect our allegiance to them!
As long as their grace holds we stand safe, steady on the path of rectitude. They are compassionate to all those who repose faith in them. They are nearer to us than God. Being so, they guide us and lead us along the easiest path to reach God. They gave us the hoary tradition of the pristine culture envisaged in the Vedas. It is they who have given us the Vedas, which they received straight from the Supreme Being.
Every mantra, incantation, has its origin in a maharshi. We remember them all with gratitude for their benevolence and compassion. Their pronouncements are the bedrock of pristine arshadharma, the impeccable path laid down for human progress towards divinity with viveka, and jnaana, discrimination and knowingness.
While studying the sagas of these luminaries, we would be getting insights and exposure to all our scriptures and puranas, grand poetic compositions for all time.
The saga of each rishi (there are hundreds of them) enlightens us teaching us eternal verities. We are enthused and elevated to a higher level of thinking. They make us aspire high. Their sagas of highest deeds of nobility and idealism have sustained our culture and faith for millennia. Their achievements have been inspiring us untiringly and unfailingly.
The maharshis envisioned for themselves and put across to our understanding the Absolute Reality. Being visionaries and drashthas they gave us the Vedas which they got straight from godhead. All of them are worthy of our highest veneration and devout worship.
All of us are the progeny of Maharshi Kashyap, the first of the prajapatis, law givers. We can justly claim kinship with this rishi and take his name for our gotra, if for some reason we do not remember ours. This is applicable to all, no matter one’s caste or birth.
Brahma, the Lord of Creation created some people first but each one of them in vairagya went away to perform tapas, intense contemplation on the Supreme Being. Population did not increase as intended. The prajapatis were entrusted with the function of taking measures for populating the earth. They had the insight that unless man and woman have certain qualities they cannot procreate. The qualities are avidya, ajnana, dehabhimana and dehatmabhavana. Avidya is the non-awareness of the soul: ajnana is ignorance: dehabhimana is the love of the physical body and dehatmabhavana is the identification of the deha, the body, with atman, the soul. In all human beings there is a combination of these four qualities in varying degrees.
The Lord of Creation, at the beginning, was at a loss to how should ‘build’ MAN, how to design the limbs and the organs in the human body. At that juncture, Mahaganapati offered his suggestions and advice. He offered to sit on the mooladhara padma, the four- petalled lotus, as the presiding deity and create the illusion in the human being that the body is the person. Brahma followed his advice. Owing to this illusion humans are tied in wedlock and procreate. They eat and sleep and build shelters and so on. All humanity and the whole civilization sprang from the love of one’s own body identifying it with the soul. But for this there would be none at all and so no world.
Some people may ask if dehabhimana, love of the body, is desirable at all. No doubt it is true that we are told time and again in so many words that it haa to be shed on the way to jnana, knowingness and moksha, salvation. But it is impossible to go about this life without the body and love for it. If one does not love one’s body, one would doe soon. The awareness that the body is one’s leads one to take care of it. But as viveka, discrimination dawns, one should slowly shed the love for the body. It should come naturally. The presiding deity for such viveka, is Ganapati. Without His grace and compassion, we would not be the way we are.
Brahma first propitiated and invoked the help of Ganapati. Ganapati is there much before Brahma. He is ancient. Before creation, the Supreme Mother, while fighting the demons, contemplated on Parameshwar and invoked his help. Their eyes met. The consequence was the birth of Ganapati. He is called Mahaganapati. It is His incarnations that man has been worshipping all along.
At Brahma’s request, Ganapati advised the Creator to create moolaadhara chakra, the pelvic plexus first. Then he was asked to build the superstructure up to sahasraara kamala, the thousand-petalled lotus on the top of the head. Ganapati in His concern for all creation created in man the love of body and the illusion that the body is the atman. Thus human beings came to be engaged in the activity of acquiring food, shelter and be swayed by a desire to procreate and bring forth offspring. Along with the human being this dehabhimana is also born. With Ganapati’s grace creation went on.
Those who know all this are the maharshis to begin with. They know the answers to questions like: ‘Who is Brahma?’ ‘Where is atman?’ ‘What is atmapadartha?’ ‘What is atman made from?’ ‘How did the five elements come about?’ ‘Who is Eshwar?’ The maharshis had answers for all questions like these. They knew the past, the present and the future. They knew about jeevi, jeevatma and paramatma. They had the insight and understanding of the nature of things in God’s creation. They were all concerned about human welfare and the welfare of all the worlds and the universe. They built and maintained an ideal way of life, which came be to known as arsha dharma. It is our essential duty to know, understand and live up to their teachings and expectations.
This sacred seer Maharshi Agasthya’s influence pervades all the eons and almost the entire world. It is no exaggeration to say that there is no place which he has not known or visited. We come across his legends associated many a holy place. There are several sthala puranas ,narratives about the holy places of pilgrimage, to bear this out. Several scriptures and many shastras, systems of science (like naadi shastra, for example) are extant even today. Even today the sage’s compassionate concern for the human race and his plan for human progress are evident. The following are the interesting and wondrous details of the seer’s life and achievement.
In the very distant past, several eons ago, the demons like Tarakasura were persecuting and harassing the deities, devaas and human beings and causing immense grief all over. Then the lord of deities, Mahendra ordered Agni and Vayu, the Lords of Fire and Air to kill all those demons. They began killing them. They drove them far, far way. Those who could escape sought refuge and hid themselves under the ocean. They were found no more in swarga and the deities were rid of the bother. So the duo of deities Agni and Vayu relaxed. But the demons hidden under the ocean during the day used to come up and bother all living beings during the night. They used to devour sages, seers, men and women, the devout and the innocent who never sinned in any way, only during the night time. One purana has it that in a single night all the animals in the wilds were killed rendering the forests empty. There was a crisis. There was confusion and bewilderment in the world. The deities were at their wit’s end. Thus twelve thousand years passed by. It was possible to them when the demons were moving about on the earth. But now they were not easy of access.
Then Devendra grew angry and called Agni and Vayu and reprimanded them that they had been asked to kill all demons but they had not completed their job. Those that fled were let off. Now they were asked to search for them and put them to death by fire. Then the deities asked their Lord as to how the demons could be found while they lay hidden under the ocean. “Dry up the oceans then!” The deities of Fire and Air broke into laughter. They said that there could be a thousand demons, but to kill them, they asked if it would be right to kill millions of living beings who live in the sea. Millions of trees, fish whales and several living beings were there. They represented that they would not be able to kill those innocent, harmless beings for no fault of theirs.
Devendra upbraided them saying: “The King issues an order for a purpose. You have to listen to them with attention and carry them out.” Then they asked him for a strategy and a ruse. Indra grew wild with anger and cursed them to be born on the earth as humans.
But, being deities how can they be born on the earth? Who would sire them? Which mother could bear them and give them birth? When they expressed their problem, they were asked to be born as inert, lifeless matter, as jad padartha.
The episode ended there.
Once there was a muni, an acetic and aspirant called Dharmi. He had two sons called Nara and Narayana. They went up Mount Gandhamadana for intense tapas, contemplation of God. The intensity of their commitment made Devendra jealous. Intent on breaking their commitment, Devendra sent Vasantha and Manmadha, Season of Spring and the Love deity, respectively, to distract them from their contemplation. Vasanth (Spring) went to the spot with a host of divine damsels but Nara and Naryana could not be distracted. In fact the apsaras, divine damsels, were proud and arrogant. They had great confidence in their capacity to distract sages and seers. Narayana knew this and slapped his thigh in a gesture of showing preparedness to fight. Thigh is uru. From out of his thigh a dazzling damsel was born and for that reason she was called Urvashi. Narayana taunted the apsaras that before Urvashi their beauty fades into insignificance and drove them away. Surya, the Sun Deity took Urvashi as his wife. While the two were on their way, the Rain deity, Varun, got enamoured of Urvashi. But the apsara told him that she had already been taken by Surya. Then Varun told her that he would not bother her but asked her to keep him in her manas, mind-heart. Urvashi left with Surya. Varun was satisfied. But coming to know of this, Surya told her that it was not proper for her to be his wife while having Varun in her manas, He cursed her to take birth as a human being on the earth, since mistakes of the kind she committed were common there.
Born on the earth Urvashi was wedded by Yayati’s son, the emperor Pururava. The duo Agni and Vayu cursed by Indra along with Surya and Varun collected their semen in a pot which they ejaculated while having Urvashi mind. Thus doing they absolved themselves and forgot all about the incident. It is not so with humans. This unique quality is common to all the deities and rishis. They never look back. From the pot were born both Agasthya and Vashishtha. The four accursed ones used the opportunity to take human bodies and be born on the earth as consequence of the curse. Earlier Agni and Vayu too were cursed by Indra to be born on the earth
Urvashi was responsible only nominally for she did not know who they were. They did not know her either as a human being. Since she happened to be the reason for their birth Agasthya nd Vashishtha are called Aurvasheyas. Since the semen was that of Surya and Varuna and they got the name of Maitravarunas. Since they were born of a pot they came to be referred to as kumbhasambhavas, pot-born. They grew up well since they basically were deities. No angularities or oddities of the earth born touched them. They were devout with interest in yoga and dedication to the divine, Right from their childhood they were drawn to jnaana and enlightenment. The deities themselves took care of them. In due course their naming ceremony and the rice-feeding ceremony were observed.
Agasthya conquered his senses, forsake food and began thriving with the strength of his yoga. A bachelor, he roamed about the wild forests. Once he came across huge tree. It spread far and wide with wide grown branches. Much to his wonder, he saw several rishis hanging head down from the branches. He approached them and asked them in appealing, sympathetic tones as to how it came be such a plight for them all. Then they told him that all of them had been manes in the world of ancestors. Since respect for manes dwindled and there was not enough growth of population on the earth, there had been none to offer them pitrutarpanas, water offering or oblation to manes by the living. If some great ones, who are married with children thinking them as their manes and offer tarpan, they would be able to reach their earlier home. It is best done by noble souls. Then they prayed Agasthya to perform the ceremony telling him that they had been waiting for him to be born and eventually to save them.
In the pitru lokas, worlds of the manes, there are five deities permanently looking after the manes who go there. First one has to pay obeisance to those deities and then offer oblations to the forefathers.
The hanging ones said to the celibate the further: “We have been here without touching the earth. How can we find you without walking? We simply kept waiting for you. You are celibate, committed to celibacy. For our sake you must marry, beget offspring and then only we could be saved by your oblations.”
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