Monday, April 02, 2012

Part 7 of mAdhavi's story - When did vasishTha die?

Sanskrit mahAbharata verse in mAdhavi's story, told by nArada
Sanskrit version you can see in Part 2 of this mAdhavi's story
Vol. 5 udyOga parva (war preparations), chapter 106, verse 13.

atra pUrvam vasishThasya
paurANasya dvijarshabha-
sUtiS caiva pratishThA
ca nidhanam ca prakASatE

Ganguli's translation
I gave in Part 3 of this mAdhavi's story

It was here, O bull among the twice-born, that the birth, growth, and death of the ancient Vasishtha took place.

Context: Galava was worried about getting the 800 white horses asked by visvAmtra. Galava's friend kite-God garuDa appeared before him.

garuDa saw the predicament of his friend. garuDa assured him that he spoke to vAsava-i.e. Indra /his brother VishNu about gAlava. Ganguli's translation: "Before this, I spoke to him on thy behalf and he hath been pleased to grant my wishes.". There is some problem in translation here: "vibhavaS cAsti mE vipra vAsavAvarajo dvija- pUrvam uktas tvadartham ca kritah kAmaS ca tEna mE". Any way, it will not make much difference whether Indra or VishNu who agreed to grant the wishes of garuDa and gAlava.

ybrem 1
If Indra/VishNu had granted wishes of garuDa/gAlava, this unhappy incident of repeatedly exchanging the girl mAdhavi for horses could have been avoided. What did Indra/VishNu/garuDa really do to really help gAlava? Nothing, except asking him to go and beg kings. This, anyway he would have done.

ybrem 2
The kite-god carried his friend gAlava to all the four directions, explaining the important features of each particular direction EAST, SOUTH, WEST AND NORTH. nArada (presumably temple preachers), unnecessarily enlarged nArada's advice to duryOdhana, by including the geography of the four directions. By explaining geography, how will duryOdhana's mind change?

This inserting extraneous things approach of later-day preachers, helps us immensely the geographical perceptions of people during the period of evolution of mahAbharata, which was devoid of highways, railways, cars and buses, trains, airports, aircrafts and airways. What was beyond say a day's journey by walk/bullock cart/horse carriage becomes a figment of fantasy and imagination. This helps us to assess the socio-economic-industrial-trade conditions of those days.

The above verse pertaining to death of Sage VasishTha relates to the direction "EAST".

I am not sure about Ganguli's translation. I am unable to trace any scripture/book/vAlmiki rAmAyan which mentions the death of Vasishtha, timing of death, cause of death, whether natural or some visvAmitra's cruel act or something else. I request the readers for references about vasishTha's death, other than what I am furnishing below.

Ganguli seems to have ignored the word 'sUti'. 'sUti' means 'son' vasishTha's 100 sons, Sakti (father of parAsara) died, even when vasishTha was alive. Were garuDa, nArada, VaisampAyana, gangUli, referring to the death of vasishTha's sons in the DIRECTION OF 'EAST'? Seems so.

I do not find any fault with Ganguli's translation because his work was a nearly impossible monumental job of explaining the 115000 verses of mahAbharata with hundreds of footnotes.

I could catch from internet, one reference to vasishTha's death. This reference was ramaNa maharshi's discourses. I have not so far touched ramana maharshi's preachings and practices in my blogs.

Here is the link:

This is ramana maharshi's talk No. 261. One devotee of ramana maharshi raised the complicated question of soul's fate after death. ramana maharshi told the story of vasishTha's death and his rebirth as King Padma. The story was said to have been told by Goddess saraswati (Goddess of Learning and, creator's wife)
to one 'Lila' w/o King Padma, who was said to be the reincarnation of vAsiShTh'a.

He even made out Lila 1 and Lila 2 to show that soul can exist at two locations simultaneously. One gets an impression that ramana maharshi wanted to impress on his devotee that a soul can be reborn in body No. 2, even before it leaves body No. 1.

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Two important questions arise:

1. Sage vasishTha is revered as the greatest of not only the seven sages (saptarshis), but also the greatest of all the Indian Sages. He was guru of Rama. He was said to have taught the great philosophical treatise 'yOga vAsishTham' to rAma. How can such 'greatest Sage' have rebirth just as an ordinary king? He should directly have had liberation i.e. 'mOksham' (relief from the cycle of births and deaths.). arundhati was also a pious woman. She could also get liberation from rebirths.

Otherwise, what is the sanctity of being vasishTha maharshi (=Great Sage)? Hindu mythology has stories of ordinary, sometimes even habitually sinful persons, being re-born as kings. vasishTha's disciple Shri rAma as per scriptures gave liberation (=freedom from birth-rebirth cycle) even to ordinary animals. How Shri Rama could allow vasishTha to be reborn just as an ordinary king and that too twice?

2. In ramaNa maharshi's story vasishTha was first reborn as king "vidurata". While "vidurata" was still alive, he was reborn as king "padma". In both the cases, his wife was 'LIla". For avoiding confusion, ramaNa maharshi renamed them as LIla 1 and LIla 2.

This brain-teaser, I had to break through by searching for a full text of yOga vASISTHA on the net. As full text was not available, a 'laghu yOga vASISHtha English translation of 742 pages could be downloaded. Link:

Quote from the book: Page 140. Translation by Shri Narayanaswami.

It is, in such an incomparable Mayavic dome, that there was a town called Girigrama in the midst of a certain tract on one side and that, in a certain spot of that dome. That town was a fertile tract boasting of the possession of hills, rivers and forests. There lived in it a great Brahmin householder who had sacrificial fire and was well versed in Sastras and Dharmas, away from the reach of kings. He equalled Vasistha in beauty, wealth, age, humility, actions, and education, but could not be called Vasistha himself in real knowledge. In name at least, this Brahmin may be called Vasistha. The name of her who worshipped his feet (as his wife) was equal unto Arundhati but had not her knowledge; yet she passed by the name of Arundhati. The wife of Vasistha was this lady on Bhu loka (earth) but the true Arundhati in Deva loka."

The above story of duplicate namesake VasishTha's death story was told by Goddess Saraswati to LIla. This ramaNa-maharshi's lecture to his devotees was about the death and rebirth of the duplicate VasishTha and not the original Vasishtha. I am not sure how listeners took it, but ramana maharshi should have cautioned his devotees that his story was about the Brahmin duplicate Vasishtha living in Girigrama and not the IkshvAku Guru VasishTha living in Ayodhya. Else, devotees might have taken it as that it was original Sage vasishTha who died.

The Yoga vAsishTha was a discourse by original vasishTha to Sri Rama. Obviously, he cannot tell a story about his own death and incarnation to Shri Rama.

Ganguli's translation of the direction EAST being the place of death of VasishTha, it is difficult to sustain. We can, by the use of the word 'sUti', the deaths must be those of his sons.

Link for those who want to download laghu yOga vAsishTha 742 pages, quite an informative book: link from google search -click here.

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