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April - June 2023

Curse becomes Verse — Birth of Ramayana – 2

Maharishi, realizing it was getting late for his noon bath and ritual, walked with faster pace on the banks of Tamasa River followed by his disciple. He drew Bharadwaja’s attention  to the waterbody of Tamasa and said “see the crystal clear water of this River. It is like the mind of a great Gyani whose mind is   ever pure”. Bharadwaja saw the vast expanse of the water of Tamasa like a glorious sheet of sphatika (crystalline) adorned on both the banks with green trees and creepers in full bloom with fresh flowers. He remembered that crystal is a good conductor of heat and helps to keep the body and mind cool if worn as a mala.  No wonder,  his teacher compared the pure water of the River to the mind of a great Gyani  whose mind is  not only cool as it is ever established in blissful state, but makes the minds of those who come in front of him equally cool. He looked into the water as he was walking behind his teacher. Lo, it looked like a mirror and he saw the  form of his teacher, a great Rishi, embodiment of all knowledge and effulgent  tapas (penance). Bharadwaja felt as if one shining sun in human form is walking in front of him as reflected in the waterbody. Maharishi stopped at the bank and asked his disciple to give his tree bark to wear and get ready for bath. After wearing that bark he was about to enter the water for a bath but was suddenly drawn by the beauty of the sylvan setting on the bank and started wandering towards it. He was transposed to a state of joy and happiness in walking through the trees in the peaceful silence of the forest only interrupted by the joyous chirpings of the birds. Bharadwaja, whose only objective in life is to serve his teacher, walked behind him at  a respectful distance savouring the beauty of the naturally decorated forest.

Maharishi and Bharadwaja were enjoying the nature’s beauty  which was in full bloom in that place. Birds of various hue were singing songs of happiness. It looked as if they were all bound by some common streak of happiness gifted to them by the Divine Nature.  In one tree, there was a pair of beautiful Krauncha birds locked in love and their joy filled the air with their shriekings.  On another tree, they saw some birds giving a clarion call  in one voice to their friends to join them in their happiness.  Even as the teacher and his disciple were floating in a state of joy and bliss witnessing this unique spectacle, a piteous and shrill voice of a bird suddenly filled the air. It was a shriek of helplessness and misery. They turned to the direction of  that shrill shriek. To Maharishi’s horror he found one hunter taking an aim with his arrow to shoot that male krauncha bird (demoiselle crane) which was locked in love with its  female bird. Even before he could utter a word to the hunter to stop the act, the damage was done. Before his voice could take the form of a word to stop the hunter, the male bird dropped  on the ground. In a moment, for the female bird, the endless joy of union with its companion turned into a grievous sorrow of eternal separation. She  saw her companion rolling on the ground hit by the arrow, full of blood and slowly dying  out of an infinite pain. Not able to bear the sight, the female bird started its never ending cry of woe and despair from the tree top. It was gripped with mortal fear and grief; it was looking out here and there for some help.  All this took only a  moment for Maharishi to assess  the situation. His voice took shape. When it took shape the words that were to stop the hunter from his act, became the words of punishment for the hunter. The words came in the form of a Curse towards the hunter. Like the hunter’s unerring missile which hit the krauncha bird to its death, the words of curse from the mouth of Maharishi, which hitherto was known only for uttering countless benedictions and blessings, came and hit the hunter.  “ O hunter ! Fie on you. You killed a krauncha bird which was in mating  with its companion. Nothing is a greater sin than that. Hence, you will become restless in your long life”.  All this happened at lightning speed.  Bharadwaja felt extremely sad at what happened. It was an unbearable sight for him to see a bird being hit to its death. So far, he has seen only jeeva karunyam (compassion or mercy) all around Maharishi’s Ashram. That compassion manifested in the form of friendship even amongst the sworn enemies in animals. That vibrant compassion  resulted in the form of  happiness and joy all around the place. But today this sad incident has marred the glory of  that joy. He thought to himself why Maharishi, an embodiment of compassion and love should imprecate such a big curse on the hunter. He is after all a hunter and his job is to hunt and live his life. Yes,  his teacher was driven by a sense of compassion and pitied that female bird. It lost its companion. Whatever was destined had happened. Why should that hunter be given a curse like that? Teacher is full of compassion and never betrayed a sense of differentiation when it comes to the question of showering his universal love on all beings. Maharishi looked at his disciple and told him as if he read his thoughts that “ these words have come out in the form of a poem in Anushtub  metre (Anushtub metre is a type of prosody in sanskrit literature in which syllables are set in four quarters). They have automatically come in the form of a poem  and would be pleasing to hear like the sweet sound of  Veena  or harp. Do not think otherwise”. Thereafter the obedient disciple accompanied his teacher to the River to complete their noon bath and anushtan (daily rituals).

On the way back to Ashram, Maharishi maintained a deep silence as he was borne with heavy thoughts in his mind. Some very remote thoughts from his previous life occupied  his mind. He walked with those thoughts towards his Ashram. He was born to a pious brahmin couple living in  Anartapura (or Anandapura in the current day  Northern Saurashtra in Gujarat). He  was known by the name  of Lohajhanga ( according to some legends he was known as Prachetas or Sumali) . Due to severe famine for twelve years in Anartapura, he became a  robber to support  his family to which he was deeply attached.

One day, he encountered the most revered Seven Sages (Sapta Rishis) while waiting for some travellers to pass through that jungle. He demanded  them to give whatever they had or else they would face dire consequences. They asked him for whose sake  he was doing the  heinous acts of robbery. He said that he had a big lovable family to support and they depended on him for their livelihood. Sage Pulaha, one of the Seven Sages asked him whether his parents and wife would partake of the sin of the heinous crime that he committed, while they benefited from the fruits of his labour, ie., booty from the robbery. He was nonplussed and told the Sage that they would do anything for him as they loved him so much and they were partners in his hours of joy and sorrow. The Sage asked him to go  back to his family members and find out whether they would share the wages of  his sins arising out of robbery that he committed for their sake. He was not prepared for this situation. He hesitated and thought  for a while on whether it was  a trick attempted by this group to escape from him. The Sages smiled as they read his thoughts and assured him that they would wait in the same place till he returned with an answer.

After a while the robber turned brahmin, came back crestfallen, with tears in his eyes and told the Sage that his  family members refused to share his sins as they said the  wages of one’s  sins should be borne only by the individual. He  realized the inescapable truth that in the world, the results of one’s action, good or bad, should be borne by him.  Highly repentant of his acts, he fell at their feet in despair. The Sages were moved by his condition. Sage Pulaha, out of compassion, imparted to him the Taraka mantra (Rama nama). That transformed him. He sat motionless impervious to changes in time and seasons. Time rolled on. After a long time ,  the Seven Sages came back. They saw  rays of light coming from the holes of  a mound of huge anthill. They slowly removed that anthill. Underneath that was seated their disciple wrapped in deep meditation of Rama nama. Their divine vibrations woke him up from that blissful state and he opened his eyes to see his Guru, Sage Pulaha and other Sages in front of him. Overcome with divine inebriation, he prostrated  at their feet. He was totally transformed. Devoid of all karma, he got purified and took  a new avatar. The Rishis renamed him Valmiki, as he was covered with the ant-hills.

Maharishi was brought out of the depth of his musings by Bharadwaja’s announcement that they reached the Ashram. Even as he went about the routine of reading the scriptures,  he was lost in the thought of what had happened that noon. He felt slightly ill at ease the way  he uttered the curse on the hunter. He wanted to reprimand the hunter and redeem him. But what  had happened was unexpected. He went about the process of recitation of the scriptures when he suddenly saw a shaft of illuminating light entering his small hermitage. Oh! It was the most respected Grandsire, the creator of the world, Lord Brahma Himself who entered his small abode. He hurriedly got up overwhelmed with emotion and devotion not knowing what he should do.  Overjoyed at the visit of the divine Creator especially when his heart was rent asunder due to the untoward incident of the day, he threw himself at the Holy Feet of the Creator of the world. Then he offered   a kusa (grass) seat and honoured him most respectfully with padyam (washed his feet) and arghya (water to drink). He offered  Lord Grandsire fruits and honey as his humble offerings. Maharishi stood in front of Lord Brahma  in reverent silence.

Sri Brahmadeva looked at Maharishi and told him, “My dear child ! I have made this visit to your Ashram with a divine purpose. Remove from your mind all unwanted thoughts of what happened today.  Whatever  is destined will happen. All are  instruments in That Divine Will. Do not brood over what  happened. The words which have come out of your mouth were not  a curse but a verse  full of blessings. You will realize it. Everything is predestined. You have missed the real meaning in this verse:

Ma Nishada Pratishtam tvam agamas saswateeh samah|

Yat krauncha mithunat ekamavadhih kama mohitam||

Samskritam is a language of devas (Gods). You can derive different meanings from their dhatus (root syllable) based on how you perceive it.

Now read the same  verse with this perspective:

The word “Ma” refers to Goddess Mahalakshmi, instead of “you will not”;

The word “nishada” refers to “residing”  and not  “hunter” and

The word “Krauncha” refers to Demon (rakshasa)” instead of “bird”

Now with this perspective, the verse reads as:

“O Lord ! one whose heart centre is residence of Goddess Mahalakshmi ! By killing a demon, who is seized of the lustful desire, You are going to attain eternal fame for a long time”

as against the meaning of the verse thought by you:

O hunter! You killed a krauncha bird in mating with its companion! Hence, you will not attain stability (rest) in life for a long time !

Out of compassion for that bird you thought you have given a curse to the hunter who killed its companion. But in reality you have composed a benediction verse which is the first man made verse in the world.

Dear Child ! You have been ordained to compose Adi Maha kavya of Sri Rama Charitam which you heard from Sage Narada. That will become immortal and flourish till the infinity. Along with that work,  your name will also become immortal. You will attain the fame as Adi Kavi (the first poet) in the world.

These first words which emanated from your mouth will become the auspicious first verse of this Adi Maha Kavya. You will come to know through your gnostic vision of what happened in the life of Sri Rama, both past and future”.  After hearing Grandsire, Maharishi  was overwhelmed with emotion and prostrated at the feet of  the Creator with tears flowing down his cheeks. Before he could get up,  Lord Brahma vanished.

His disciple, Bharadwaja who went  out from Ashram on an errand  came back around sun set. He was surprised to see his teacher at the height of happiness and endowed with rare energy. This was  a totally different person  from whom he saw  in the noon, full of despondency and gloom, then. He saw in his  Guru’s eyes an uncommon glow of divinity. When he heard that his Guru is going to compose Sri Rama’s life history which is destined to shine as an immortal work, his joy knew no bounds.

When Bharadwaja committed this verse to his memory  and started singing it multiple times, he was enveloped with an ineffable joy and happiness.  At that time, he was least expecting that his name would also become immortal along with his Guru’s name as part of that magnum opus, Srimad Valmiki Ramayana.

(Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, was composed mostly in Anushtub metre. This meter contains sanskrit syllables in four quarters and  is very pleasing to hear; it is said that this is the first metre which was composed by a human being that is Valmiki Maharishi.  This work was  the first poetic composition ever made by a human being. Prior to this, all the Vedic  mantras, found in different metres were not composed by  human beings. They were revealed to the Rishis in their Gnostic vision. Hence, Vedas are called as “Apaurusheya” not created by any human being).

— Sri Ram, Jai Ram —