Tuesday, August 25, 2015

33.Yayati's Exploits

After handing over his kingdom to his youngest son Puru, Yayati retired to the woods to observe the Vanaprasta Ashrama (a life of seclusion in the forest) 

He observed many rigorous practices like living only on air for a long period, performing a severe penance by standing on one leg with fires raging on the four sides and the scorching sun emitting rays of heat from above, observing strict silence for a long period etc. He also entertained the guests by offering them fruits and other food items available. After many years, he ascended to the heaven.

Yayati was warmly  received in the Heaven by the Celestials, who respected him for his sacrificial deeds.

One day, Yayati went to meet Indra, the God of the Celestials. During the course of the conversation, Indra asked Yayati "What was the advice given by you to your son Puru at the time of your handing over the reins of power to him?"

Yayati replied, "I told Puru that the central kingdom that lay between the rivers Ganga and Yamuna were his while the peripheral regions went to his brothers. I also gave him some general advice on the following lines: 

  • One who controls anger is superior to one who comes under its sway. 
  • If you are wronged, you should not wrong the other person in return. 
  • Never cause pain to others by using harsh words. 
  • Don't subdue your enemies through despicable means. 
  • Always keep virtuous people as your models. 
  • Disregard the words of the wicked. 
  • There is no better way of worship than by showing kindness to others. Therefore, use only words that will soothe not words that will scotch. 
  • Always respect people who deserve to be respected. Always give but never beg."

Indra then asked Yayati to tell him whom he would consider equal to Yayati in the practice of austerities. Yayati replied, "In the matter of observing severe austerities, I don't see anyone equal to me among the Rishis, the Celestials or the Gandharvas."

Indra said, "Since you have disregarded people who are superior to you, equal to you and inferior to you without knowing their real merits, your virtues have suffered diminution. Therefore you should fall from the heaven."

Yatati said that he would accept the punishment for his mistake but requested that he fall among the virtuous. Indra acceded to his request and said "in course of time, you will acquire even more renown."

Yayati began to fall from the heaven immediately. A rishi by name Ashtaka, who was foremost among the royal sages saw him falling. Astounded by the resplendence and energy of Yayati, Ashtaka asked him who he was. Yayati narrated his story. He said while falling from the heaven he asked the celestials who were watching his fall "Where are the virtuous among whom I should fall?" They then pointed out your Ashram.

It turned out that Yayati was the maternal grandfather of Ashtaka. Learning about Yayati's rigorous practice of asceticism for a long period, Ashtaka asked him many questions about the means to attain heaven and about rebirth. Yayati answered him in detail.

Yayati said that beings that reach heaven because of their good deeds lose their virtues over a period of time and then are thrown back into the earth by the Devas. Such beings take a subtle form and enter the water, get transformed into semen and then enter the wombs to be reborn as human beings or as other creatures depending on the virtues and vices practiced by them.

Ashtaka wanted to know whether it was possible for anyone to permanently remain in heaven, Yayati said, "There are seven gates to the heaven - asceticism, benevolence, tranquillity of mind, self-control, modesty, simplicity and kindness to all creatures. But a person with vanity will lose all these virtues. A person who has acquired knowledge may consider himself learned. But if he uses this knowledge to destroy the reputation of other people, his knowledge will not help him to attain the Brahman, the ultimate heaven. Four things will remove fear. These are study, taciturnity, worship before fire and sacrifices. However, when contaminated with vanity, these practices instead of removing fear, will cause fear. Only a learned person who considers the unchangeable and inconceivable Brahman as his support can enjoy peace forever."

Yayati lived among Ashtaka and other sages. He answered their questions on several topics and showed them the way to heaven.

After sometime, Yayai along with Astaka and others reached heaven (again).

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