Discourse 4: The Stories of Siva and Sati, and of Rishabhadeva and Bharata
The Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana is filled with glorious stories of all the gods and divinities. That is why the Bhagavata is considered as a god by itself. It is a divinity in its own scope. To have the Srimad Bhagavata in one’s house is to plant God Himself on the altar of one’s residence.
In the Fourth Skandha we have the glorious katha of Siva and Sati, which will strike us with wonder and consternation.
When Brahma was about to create the world, from him the four Kumaras—Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, Sanatkumara—were manifested for the first time. The moment they were born, Brahma told them to assist him in creation.
The Kumaras said, “We would rather concentrate our minds on the Supreme Being than engage ourselves in creation.”
Brahma was in a state of discomfiture at the total disregard that they paid to his request. He was annoyed, and anger burst through his forehead. But as these Kumaras were equally powerful due to their centralisation in God Almighty, this anger could not be directed towards them; and since Brahma could not swallow the anger, he released it. At that moment, a fiercely roaring being arose from his forehead, demanding an immediate abode for itself. It cried out. Then Brahma said, “Oh, Rudra!” Because it cried the moment it was born, it is designated as Rudra—one who makes roaring sounds, and yells and shouts.
Brahma said, “Help me in creation.”
Immediately this being created an endless variety of demoniacal creatures which were frightening even to Brahma’s eye.
Brahma said, “Please stop your creation!”
“Then what shall I do?” asked Rudra.
“I shall give you an abode. Go there, and keep quiet. Don’t do anything at all,” replied Brahma.
Then Brahma named him Siva, Rudra, Bhava, and many other names, and also gave him the Shaktis; and Rudra, who is Siva, retired to Kailasa. He did not interfere with anybody.
One day, Brahma was holding his audience, and all the gods, including Siva, were seated there. At that time Daksha, who was also a progeny of Brahma, entered the hall. In honour of his great entrance into the hall, all the gods stood up in obeisance. But Siva did not get up. He remained seated, minding not the coming of Daksha. Incidentally, Sati, the daughter of Daksha, was married to Siva, so Siva was Daksha’s son-in-law. But Siva showed utter disregard for his father-in-law and did not rise from his seat when all others stood up offering obeisance.
This enraged Daksha, who stood with uplifted arms and said, “Oh, you gods! Please listen to what I am saying. Here is an idiotic fellow seated in the audience of the gods. Shameless is he. He has no respect for anybody. He wanders about half-naked and lives like a beggar. To him I gave my daughter; what a mistake I have committed! Shame to all for having him in this audience!”
Daksha went on shouting like this for a long time, and all the gods shut their ears because they could not bear to hear it. Siva also heard all the abuses poured upon him by Daksha, but he did not utter even one word. He just walked out of the palace and returned to his abode in Kailasa, where he lived with Sati.
One day, Sati observed celestials travelling in their aerial cars. She looked up and asked them, “Where are you going?”
“You don’t know?” asked one of the gods, “How is it that you do not know? Your own father is performing a glorious yajna, to which he has invited all the celestials, and we are all going there. How is it that you, his daughter, do not know?”
Sati was in great chagrin that an invitation had not been extended to Siva. She was disturbed that her father had ignored both her and Siva, but as he was her father, she told Siva, “I want to go to my father’s yajna.”
Lord Siva said, “It is not proper for you to go there.”
“Why?” Sati asked.
“Daksha does not like me. He has no regard for me, and therefore, you going there is not proper,” replied Siva.
But Sati said, “No, he is my father.”
“He may be your father, but he hates me, so you should not go if I am not going. I am not responsible for the consequences,” said Siva
“What consequences? I shall take care of myself,” Sati told him.
“I am telling you again, it is not good for you to go there. You will not gain anything by it, and this adventure will not end in anyone’s happiness. I advise you not to go,” warned Siva.
“No, I must go,” Sati insisted.
“I don’t think I should send my attendants to take you there. It would be highly improper of me,” said Siva.
“I shall go with my own attendants!” said Sati.
Sati collected all her attendants and marched, under the impression that she, being the divine daughter of this great Daksha, will be highly honoured in the midst of all the gods.
With great expectations of glory before her, she went to the yajna and stood at the gate. She expected someone to come and receive her, but nobody looked at her. Daksha gave scarce regard for her, and for fear of Daksha, no other god would utter a word. Of course, her mother and associates came and hugged her, but she rejected their greeting, perhaps because her father was not concerned with her. She looked here and there.
“What is happening? How is it that no one is receiving me?” Sati thought. Then she remembered the words of Siva. “I disregarded him, and came here. Now neither can I stand here, nor can I go back to him shamefacedly.” She expected somebody to come. Nobody came. Time passed like this, and the yajna was going on. The gods turned their backs to her. It was a very serious situation.
Sati stood up, and loudly proclaimed in a ferocious language, “Due to the impropriety of this yajna where the great master Siva is not invited, it cannot be called a divine sacrifice when the chief divinity is not present. Fie upon all you gods! Shamelessly you have attended the yajna of this irresponsible Daksha, whom I no longer regard as my father. Siva is being disrespected. The two words ‘si’ and ‘va’ are sufficient to give salvation to people, and such a divinity is being disregarded here. Is this a divine sacrifice? Are you gods? Have you any sense? Daksha did not invite Lord Siva, and you come and sit here at the feet of this terrible person whom I shamelessly called father. I am very sorry that I was born to him.”
Sati sat down, with great sorrow burning her body. She sat in a state of yoga, invoked agni from within herself, and the yoga within burnt her. Flames came up and consumed her. All were shocked. What is this that has happened? They had nothing to say either this way or that way. All were wondering what to do. There was nothing that they could do, nothing that they could say. They were shocked, nothing but shocked.
News reached Lord Siva. He could have opened his third eye and burnt everybody if he wanted, but he had something else in his mind. He pulled a hair from his head and struck it on the ground. A fierce giant rose up.
“Order, master!” said the giant.
“Go and destroy the yajna of Daksha,” said Siva.
With the fierce retinue of Rudra, this giant called Virabhadra rushed to the sacrificial area of Daksha where all were seated, and when this fierce onrush of militant demoniacal forces entered the yajna, the ritviks, the priests performing the yajna, were frightened. They immediately invoked a counterforce from the fire, which rose up by the millions and attacked Rudra’s retinue. There was a tussle between the two forces, but suddenly Virabhadra overcame all the opposition and severed the head of Daksha.
Rudra came to know all this. He was mad with rage. He ran, hugging the body of Sati, and rolled all over like a crazy person, as if he was dancing the final tandava of destruction before him. The whole world was terrified because nobody knew what he was going to do. He would not stand in one place. He ran from place to place—over the whole creation, as it were—holding Sati’s body, looking as if he was inebriated and had lost his senses. He was conscious only of the dead body of his Sati, and was moving fiercely like a whirlwind, like a tornado, like a tempest.
All the gods were frightened. They went to Lord Vishnu and said, “Please do something. Everything is in danger. He is not going to leave her body; and what he will do finally, nobody knows.”
Then Sri Vishnu—Narayana—released his sudarshana chakra, which sliced Sati’s body into little pieces; and because of the ravaging movement of Siva, the pieces were scattered and fell in seven different places. It is believed that all the spots where parts of Sati’s body fell are shakti sthalas, and even today they are worshipped in various parts of India.
Then the gods, including Brahma and Vishnu, went to Siva. Vishnu greeted Siva and said, “Calm down. Please pardon this man Daksha. His behaviour was due to ignorance, and you should not punish an ignorant person. Calm down. Bless him. Let him be allowed to continue his yajna. After all, he is a foolish person, and are you going to be so enraged at the foolishness of this man?”
Then Lord Siva calmed down. But how could the yajna continue when Daksha’s head had gone? So a goat’s head was brought and fixed on Daksha, and he was enlivened to the person that he was. He immediately realised his mistake and prostrated—sashtanga namaskaram—before Lord Siva, and chanted the Rudra mantra, Namakam and Chamakam. Some people humorously say the mantra was made by uttering the sounds cha me, cha me, because goats make that sound. The yajna was completed. Brahma, Vishnu and Siva blessed the yajna, and everything went on well.
Here, in the tradition of the pantheon of the gods according to the epics and the Puranas, Lord Siva stands pre-eminent. He is not an ordinary god. It is impossible to describe what kind of person he is. He is a person who wants nothing for himself.
Lord Siva’s name also occurs in the Mahabharata. One day, when Arjuna was seated with Bhagavan Sri Krishna at the close of the day’s battle, Arjuna queried Krishna, “Master, may I ask you a question?”
“Yes, ask,” replied Krishna.
“When I was engaged in battle with Drona and Karna, I saw some vague being moving about, not touching the ground. It was sometimes visible, sometimes not visible. It had ashes on its body, a serpent around its neck, and a trident in its hand. I could not make out what it was. It was an illusion before me. At the time I could not speak about this because I was engaged in war, but I remember this incident now and want to ask you what it was that I was seeing there,” said Arjuna
Sri Krishna said, “You are a blessed man to have that vision. It was Bhagavan Sankara himself, invisibly moving in the battlefield to help you. Otherwise, even with all your archery, with all your might and mane, with all your knowledge and power, do you believe that you can face people like Bhishma, Drona and Karna? They are all a hundred times stronger than you. Siva, in his compassion, came uninvited to bless you because of your goodness. He did not engage in battle, and did not come to wage war with the Kurus, but his very presence was enough to paralyse the strength of all the Kurus. The odour emanating from his body was enough to cow down everybody and make them lose all their strength. Such is the glory of Siva, the great Sankara Bhagavan; and you had his darshan. Blessed you are, Arjuna! He is Ashutosh—immediately pleased. Ask, and it is given immediately. You did not call him, but he knew that you required help. Unsolicited, the great master, the great god, came to you. This is Tripurari, Mahadeva, Sankara, Rudra, Siva. He was in the air, moving about without touching the ground. His blessing is upon you.”
Here we have the central issue, practically, of the Fourth Skandha of the Srimad Bhagavata—among many other things, into which we will not enter here due to paucity of time.
We turn to the Fifth Skandha, which engages itself in the description of cosmic geography, and describes the denizens of the various planes and existences. It is not the geography that we read in schools and colleges, but the cosmic geography of the planes of existence, all which is given in majestic Sanskrit prose. The whole of the Srimad Bhagavata is in poetry; but here the author, Bhagavan Vyasa, turns his attention to majestic Sanskrit prose, which is a beauty in itself. A hard nut to crack is that style of Sanskrit prose found in the Fifth Skandha of the Srimad Bhagavata.
The highlighting katha in this Skandha is the stories of Rishabhadeva and Bharata. Rishabhadeva was a king who abdicated his throne and became an ascetic in the forest. The Jainas consider Rishabhadeva as their first Tirthankara because he lived like an utter renunciate who would not even wear clothes, which is the description of a Tirthankara in Jain literature. Digambara was the behaviour of this Rishabhadeva. Such was his austerity, such was the tejas that emanated from his person, such was the energy that was in his personality, that it is said that wherever he eased himself, that part of the earth would become gold. Wherever he went, people would run after him to find gold, and so he would hide himself. The fragrance of jasmine would emanate from his body, extending to distances of several miles, and wherever people smelled jasmine, they felt that Rishabhadeva was somewhere nearby. Such was his austerity, his yoga, his concentration on God Almighty, his meditation on the Supreme Bhagavan.
He had many sons. One of them was Bharata. Due to Bharata’s lethargic attitude, people used to call him Jada Bharata. Bharata was also a king and, like his father, decided to abdicate his throne and go to the forest for meditation. He did years of tapas alone in the jungle, meditating on the Mahapurusha, Purushottama, Narayana.
One day an incident occurred. There was the roar of a lion, and all the deer in the forest ran helter-skelter in fear. A pregnant deer jumped across a stream, and due to that frightened jump, she dropped her baby in the water. Bharata saw this, as he had come to take a bath in the stream. It was a little fawn. Anybody who saw it would take pity on it. He took it, tenderly caressed it, and loved it because it was such a tiny, simple, innocent living being. But it so happened that his attention grew more and more towards this little deer. Whenever it was absent or not visible nearby, Bharata would worry about what had happened to it, that some animal may devour it. So often and so intensely did the thought of this little deer occupy him day in and day out that, unfortunately, when he departed from the body, his last thought was of the deer. Due to this concentration on the deer at the time of his death, Bharata was born as a deer.
Yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajaty ante kalevaram, taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya sadā tadbhāvabhāvitaḥ (B.G. 8.6): Whatever thought one remembers or entertains in the mind at the time of passing, that is the state you will attain in the next birth, says the Bhagavadgita. The body is a concentrated form of the mind itself. It is a condensation of thought. The mind manufactures this body for the purpose of the fulfilment of its desires. The body is necessary for the mind in order that it may contact physical objects through the sense organs. Otherwise, the mind by itself cannot contact physicality. So, as if its only duty is to come in contact with pleasurable objects of sense, it manifests certain avenues of contact, called the sense organs. The desire of the mind in five different ways is the reason for the manifestation of the five different senses. When we look at an object, we want to see it again and again because of its deliciousness and its apparent capacity to fulfil our desires. We want to hear the sound that it makes, we want to smell its odour, we want to touch it, we want to taste it, and for this purpose several sense organs are necessary. This is how the drama of creation goes.
This law operated even on the great ascetic Bharata. As a Sankhya sutra warns us, thinking of anything which is not contributory to spiritual practice, or sadhana, results in bondage, as in the case of Bharata. Attachment sneaks into our mind without our knowledge, like a serpent entering into a hole without our knowing that it has entered. The power of the mind, which is filled with desire, finds all sorts of excuses to see that its longings are fulfilled one way or the other. It is like a thief or a dacoit who knows every way of fulfilling his wish. Hence, because of this law of compensation according to the intensity of thought, Bharata, due to his attachment to the baby deer, was born as a deer.
But due to the tapasya that he performed, in his deer life he remembered what had happened. He was not born ignorant of the past, as in the case of all people. The deer knew that it had become a deer due to some mistake in the operation of its thought. So, the deer was of a peculiar character, and not like other deer. For fear of attachment, the deer would not touch even a leaf of a tree. It carefully moved in the forest, touching not a twig, a leaf or a bush due to fear of becoming attached, as happened in its previous birth. In this detached condition, the prarabdha of the deer form ended one day. The deer died, and Bharata was once again born in the family of certain Brahmins. So he took three births in order to finally have his achievement.
Because of the fear of attachment due to the lesson that he had learned, he would not utter a word in this birth. His parents sent him to school, but he would not learn anything, not even the letters of the alphabet. Whatever was told to him fell on deaf ears. They thought that he was an idiot who was shamefully born into a Brahmin family, as Brahmins are very learned in Vedic lore. They tried to teach him again and again, but he was so idle, and never responded to anyone, and would not say anything. They thought he was an idiotic creature, and wondered what to do with him.
They said, “Go! Do some work,” but he would not do any work either.
“Okay, at least tend the cattle. Go! Graze the cows,” they said.
He took the cattle to graze, and allowed them to go into other people’s fields and eat up all their crops. People were annoyed, and wondered what was wrong with him.
Then they said, “Don’t do anything. Go and sit there. Idiot! Don’t do anything.”
But though Bharata would not utter a word, he looked very robust. He was filled with energy, but he did not want to use that energy because of fear of attachment. He had learned his lesson. So he did not want to say anything to anybody, and just kept quiet.
Some dacoits who worshipped Kali—Bhadrakali—were looking for a human being to offer in sacrifice. They searched for a hefty, strong person, and they somehow found Bharata sitting quietly without saying anything.
“Come on,” they said.
He did not utter one word, and allowed them to drag him to the temple. They anointed him with chandanam—sandalwood paste—and garlanded him, and he still did not utter one word. Then the priest took the sword to behead him. Immediately, thunder struck. A bursting noise arose from the murti of Kali that they were worshipping, and a fierce-looking Devi rushed forward, grabbed the priest’s sword, and cut him down, and smashed everything. All the dacoits ran helter-skelter. Even all this noise did not disturb Jada Bharata’s peace. He kept quiet. Let Kali come, let dacoits come, let anything happen, he did not mind anything. People ran away from that place, and he sat alone there.
One day Rahugana, the king of the country, was passing that way on a palanquin carried by attendants. They wanted one more man to carry it and, seeing Bharata sitting there, said, “Come on. Will you help us?”
Bharata did not say anything.
They got angry and said, “Carry the palanquin!”
Bharata did not utter one word. He had not uttered one word in his entire life, and would not say anything. Whatever happens, let it happen.
They put the palanquin on his shoulder and said, “Carry! Go!”
He carried it, but he was not interested. He walked slowly, while the others were moving fast.
The king asked the palanquin bearers, “Why are you walking like this? Have you no strength? Move!”
The others replied, “We are not doing anything wrong. We are walking properly. But this new fellow is unable to walk. He is lethargic, and is moving like an ant.”
The king said, “Oh, Jada! Have you no sense? I am the king. I will hit you now. Go!”
This is the first time Bharata opened his mouth. Throughout his life he did not say anything, but when the king taunted him and said, “Jada, go! I’ll thrash you!” he opened his mouth and said, “What are you saying, King? You uttered the word ‘Jada’. Whom are you addressing? Are you addressing the five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether? Are you scolding them that constitute the body of all individuals, mine as well as yours? When you say ‘Jada, go!’ whom are you referring to? Is it the five elements? Or you are addressing the prana which is in all people and is all-pervading, and incidentally happens to be animating this individual body also? Or, are you calling the mind Jada? It is a part of the cosmic mind. Your appellation does not apply to anyone. Are you calling the intellect Jada? It is a part of the cosmic intellect. Are you calling the Atman within Jada? It is a part of the universal Atman. What is the language that you are using? Why did you utter these words? Whatever you said is empty words. Under the impression that you are scolding me, you have done nothing except blabber something in nonsensical words. Do you understand what you have said?”
When the king heard these words he was surprised, and understood that this was not an ordinary person. He came down from the palanquin, prostrated himself, and said, “O great sadhu! Bless me. I did not know who you are. If I have committed any mistake, please pardon me. Instruct me. Tell me who you are, masquerading as a human being. Perhaps you are some divinity, a god. I do not know who you are. Please tell me. I have made a mistake. Pardon me, again and again, O sadhu! Tell me who you are.”
Then the great discourse of Bharata is narrated in the beautiful language of the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. The whole world is compared to a forest, where animals like human beings are moving in search of their grub. This is a wild jungle. This entire world is compared to a forest where we can find anything anywhere, and also nothing anywhere. Ignorant, animal-like individuals lose their sense of propriety and do not want to know what the purpose of their existence actually is. They move in this forest like prowling tigers, like predators. This is to be properly understood. Do we think that the world is a pleasure garden? It is no such thing. It is full of thorns, a jungle which is to be feared. It is better that we get free of this jungle as early as possible.
Then the Skandha continues with the description of the whole process of creation—how the body of individuals is formed. The whole creation process is, in some ways, similar to the one we studied in the Second and Third Skandhas of the Srimad Bhagavata. The great wisdom of the structure of the universe and the power of the Supreme Being are described in this discourse called the Rahugana-Bharata Samvada in the Fifth Skandha of the Srimad Bhagavata.
There is also a beautiful story, called Puranjana Upakhyana. Puranjana was a king who was attached to the glamours of sense. He was caught up in the lure of maya and everything was beautiful for him, until it was time for him to depart from this world. I am not going into the details of this story now.
Puranjana represents the caught-up individual who is deluded by the Disneyland, as it were, of this world, where we do not know what we are seeing. Everything is shining everywhere. We do not know what we are actually seeing. One thing is here, and the same thing is also somewhere else—like a magic show. There are certain shows where mirrors are positioned in such a way that everything is reflected everywhere. One thing is here, and the same thing is there. Wherever we look, we see only that. And we may hit our head against the mirror, thinking it is a passage.
This world is also like that, where we hit our head against something under the impression that it is another thing altogether. We hug a snake, thinking it is a rose; we drink poison, thinking it is nectar; and we live in this body, thinking it is beautiful—whereas it is the ugliest thing that has been created by the admixture of the five elements. If the skin is removed, we will see the beauty of this body. Everyone will run away from a person who has no skin, and crows will eat the flesh. So, there is a point in saying that beauty is skin deep. Where is the beauty of a person who has no skin? Therefore, beauty is in the skin only. Is it not so? All is chaos.
Such kind of confusion and ignorance pervades the whole world of creation, right from Brahma onwards. Wherever we go, we will find bondage. We will be caught either by this policeman or that policeman. We have no freedom anywhere. This is the kind of world we live in. Either we will be caught by dazzling things or we will be caught by dreadful things—but either way, we will be caught. It does not matter who catches us.
“Such is the world. Beware of it,” said Bharata to King Rahugana. “It is a jungle, not a palace or an empire that you are ruling. You are a fool if you think that you are ruling an empire. You will perish one day, and everything will be lost. Nobody is going to continue to live for a long time in this world. Everything is passing, everything is passing, everything is passing. All is going to perish. Nothing will stay alive for a moment. This is the world in which you are reigning supreme as an emperor. Rahugana, understand what I am saying to you.”
Rahugana was enlightened. He again prostrated himself before this mighty master. And Bharata engaged himself in meditation on the Supreme Person, Purushottama, who is the saviour of all, who is the Moksha-data. Disregarding His presence, we move after the sense objects. We see the ensnaring, entangling presentations before our senses, and we get caught in them and have no time to think of the Mahapurusha, the Purushottama. It is His presence which gives light to all these presentations in this world. Minus Him, the world will not exist. He is the Satchidananda Svarupa behind the nama and rupa prapancha, and all this world. We pursue the shadows, which cannot be cast unless there is a screen behind them. We forget the screen, and we pursue the shadows. That is why we are going to attain nothing worthwhile in this world by the pursuit of external objects. All externality is a shadow cast by Universality. Universality is the True Being which is Satchidananda. When it is cast into the mould of the space-time process, it looks like objects of sense. They are only appearances. The objects do not really exist, just as the various figures that we see in a magic show do not really exist. It is a magical performance. Mahamaya is pervading everywhere, and the magician is Ishvara Himself, wielding His magic wand in His great art of creating worlds and worlds. We should not get caught. Like Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumara, we should be cautious of the existence of the great Purushottama everywhere. He is the Master of all creation, and knowing Him is our true salvation.
Yadā carmavad ākāśam veṣṭayiṣyanti mānavāḥ, tadā devam avijñaya duḥkhasyānto bhaviṣyati (S.U. 6.20): If you can roll up the whole space like a sheet of leather, then you can have peace of mind without knowledge of God.
Tameva viditva’timṛtyumeti nānyaḥ panthā vidyate’ yanāya: The Purusha Sukta concludes by saying there is no way of crossing over this sea of samsara except by knowing Him who is the Purushottama. One crosses the domain of death by knowing Him. Knowing Him is being Him. They are not two different things. The knowledge of God is also the being of God, and therefore, when we know God, we be God, as it were.
Such is the glorious story that we have here in the Rahugana-Bharata Samvada in the Fifth Skandha, and there are incidental stories of this type in the Sixth and the Seventh Skandhas also.