1. King Ambarisha and Sage Durvasa
King Ambarisha was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Having pleased with his devotion, lord Vishnu gifted his Sudarshana Chakra to Ambarisha. Ambarisha’s country prospered after the arrival of the Chakra and he was always protected by its power.
Ambarisha undertook a vow to fast on every Ekadasi day for a period of one year. Lord Indra became very jealous of Ambarisha and he was worried that the king, who was already in possession of the mighty Sudarshana Chakra, might become a threat to him, once he gained the benefits of austerities of fasting on Ekadasi days for a year continuously without a break.
As the day of his last fasting day approached, Lord Indra went to Sage Durvasa (who was known for getting angry on petty matters and cursing others) and pleased him with his services. He managed to send Durvasa as a guest to King Ambarisha with the evil idea of breaking the fast and preventing the king to get divine blessings.
Durvasa went to meet King Ambarisha. The king received the sage with all reverence. He told the sage that he had finished Ekadasi day fast they can have the meals together on Dwadasi day at the auspicious time. The sage wanted to finish his morning ablutions before it and left, with a promise to return soon.
While the king waited, the most auspicious time for the king to take his food and end the fasting pledge came. His ministers insisted that he should at least sip some water to mark the ending of fasting at the auspicious time, while he could wait for the sage to return for taking the meals together. But the king did not want to do it, out of respect for the distinguished guest. However, as the auspicious time was about to end, he succumbed to the pressure of his ministers and sipped some water. Exactly at that moment, the sage returned. He noticed the king sipping water without sharing with him and he got very angry.
King Ambarisha sought the pardon of the sage again and again by falling at his feet, but the sage remained unmoved. He cursed the king for his failure to treat the guest properly and created a demon to kill the king. The king silently prayed to Lord Vishnu to protect him.
Suddenly, the Sudarshana Chakra came whirling and killed the demon instantly. The chakra started moving towards Sage Durvasa in order to cut his throat too. Shocked, the sage started running and the chakra kept chasing him. The sage ran to Lord Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu but none came forward to save him. Lord Vishnu told him to run back to the King Ambarisha and seek his pardon so as to escape from the Chakra.
Durvasa rushed to the king and sought his pardon for having insulted the king for no reason. The humble King prayed to Lord Vishnu to save the sage; instantly, the Chakra withdrew.
Extending all respects to the sage, the king served food to the sage and ate along with him, successfully completing his fasting vow.
(Note: This story appears in Amma’s talks rather briefly in Upadesamritam 1 — not with so much details as above)
[Amma: “God will always be with his devotees who are as humble as Ambarisha. God will come to the rescue of only such devotees who have such a humility. Instead, if one’s mind is only full of wishes like ‘I want wealth; I want comforts; I want money’ etc., how can he ever get God to come to his support?”]
2. What is Brahman?
[Amma: “There are many pundits and sanyasis today, who can talk about Advaita Vedanta, but never live by it. Their mind is full of desires and envy. Advaita is not something meant for intellectual debate. It is an experience that a realized person has. There is a story in Upanishad on this subject:”]
Once a father sent his son off to a Gurukula to learn shastras. The boy came back after finishing his study. The father noticed vanity in the behavior of his son on account of his acquired knowledge. He started asking questions on what he had learned on Brahman; the son tried to explain Brahman through words from what he had memorized from scriptures. The father decided to teach a lesson to his son.
He asked his son to bring some milk and sugar. Then, he told him to mix them together and taste it by picking up some milk from different directions in the cup. He asked, “How does it taste?”
The son said, “It taste sweet.”
“Explain me sweetness and how sweet it is” said the father. The son could not answer. He kept silent. He understood that Brahman is an experience that cannot be explained by words.
3. Sita’s magnanimity
In Ramayana, Ravana abducted Sita and kept her confined in Ashoka Vana. Many Rakshasis (Demonesses) were around her, constantly troubling and threatening her both physically and mentally. They were forcefully compelling her to accept Ravana and marry him.
On one side, Sita was suffering from deep agony as she had no idea about what her beloved Ram was doing after her abduction by Ravana; on the other side, the torture of of Rakshashis to turn her mind to accept Ravana, Thus Sita was living in virtual hell at Lanka.
It was then Hanuman arrived there as the messenger from Lord Rama. For the brilliant Hanuman, it required little time to grasp the extent of suffering Sita was undergoing there. After giving the ring of Rama to Sita as a proof of identification, he said, “Ma, if you give permission, I will kill all these treacherous Raksasis who were torturing you all along”.
Sita stopped Hanuman and said with compassion, “No, don’t do any such thing; however sinful people may be, it is our duty to show forbearance towards them”.
4. Three different prayers
Lord Rama came to Mithila to take part in Sita Devi’s swayamvar.
The people of Mithila saw Rama and immediately they thought. “Oh how handsome this young man is! From his looks it is highly possible that he is very skilled and a man of impeccable character. Oh God! We pray to you to give him enough power to lift the Shiva’s Bow and marry our most beloved princess Sita!”
When Rama arrived at the place to take part in Swayamvara, all the rest of the kings who had already gathered there to take part in the swayamvara saw Rama. They cursed: “Oh God! Why did this young prince come here? Will our chance of winning Sita become a distant dream because of this young man? Dear God, How nice it would be if only he could disappear totally from this scene!”
Sita too saw Rama. Immediately her heart started throbbing for him. She prayed, “Dear Lord, why did you create this Shiva’s bow so heavily? Will you please make it very light when this young man tries to lift it?”
[Amma: “Of the three prayers, only the prayer of the people of Mithila was the most appropriate and just. They did not pray for alteration of any situation. They prayed only for God’s grace to give Rama enough power to lift the bow. In a similar way, in all situations that we encounter in our life, we must pray for giving the requisite mental strength to face them boldly. At the same time, our prayer should not be childish”.]
5. Krishna’s intervention
When the Kurukshetra war was going on, Duryodhana went to meet his mother Gandhari on one night. The purpose of his visit was to get the blessings of his mother to get more power and ensure victory for him in the war.
Gandhari had a lead a life of sacrifice by tying a cloth around her eyes all through her marital life since her husband was a blind person. This was the way she demonstrated her dedication to her husband by leading a life on equal footing — she did not want to enjoy anything that her husband could not. By the practice of this virtue, she had attained some yogic powers by which she could bless a person through her eyesight; if she looks at a person’s body, the person would develop strength like iron and he would become unbeatable in a combat.
Duryodhana met Gandhari and requested her blessings through her eye vision. Gandhari, out of her love for her son, agreed for it; she asked Duryodhana to take bath and come in front of her totally nude and she would remove her eye band and look at his body to bless him.
Duryodhana took bath and was coming in nude to meet his mother. Lord Krishna who came to know of Duryodhana’s ploy, intervened Duryodhana on the way. He said, “What are you doing Duryodhana? Is it not highly disrespectful if go in front of your mother totally nude? Have you fallen so mean in your conduct? Can’t you at least wrap a narrow towel around your waist? Duryodhana felt that what Lord Krishna said was indeed a sane advice. He tied a small towel around his waist and went in front of his mother.
Gandhari removed her eye cover, looked at Duryodhana’s body and blessed him. All the limbs of Duryodhana that were not covered by cloth became strong like iron; since his thighs were covered by the cloth, they failed to receive her grace.
At the end of Kurukshetra war when the final combat with the mace took place between Duryodhana and Bhima took place, Bhima could not succeed in weakening Duryodhana by hitting him at his various limbs that had been ‘protected’. Finally, Lord Krishna signalled to Bhima to hit Duryodhana at his thigh. Though, as per rules of the combat, one should not hit the opponent on the thigh with the mace, Bhima took the advice of Krishna and hit Duryodhana at his thigh and Duryodhana fell defeated on the ground. That brought the victory to Pandavas and the end to the Kurukshetra war.
6. Draupadi’s compassion
When the Kurukshetra war almost ended, most of the warriors on both sides had perished in the war. As Dronacharya was killed by devious scheming by Pandavas, his son Ashwathama was boiling with rage and he wanted to avenge the Pandavas for his his father death. He also wanted to inflict a deathly blow to them on account of losing his close friend Duryodhana in the final mace battle with Bhima.
He knew that as long as Lord Krishna was with Pandavas, he could never defeat Pandavas in a war. Hence he schemed to undertake a gory act of violence which was against any norms of normal warfare. Accompanied by a few trusted supporters he went to the Pandava’s camp at midnight when everyone was deep asleep. In one of the tents, he saw five people sleeping together fully covering themselves in blankets. Assuming that they must be the five Pandavas, he murdered all of them mercilessly on the spot.
However, the five persons who were sleeping together were not Pandavas but were the five children of Draupadi born to the five Pandavas. When she came to know of her children’s murder, her grief was unconsolable. Arjuna and Lord Krishna were seething in anger; they came to know that it was Ashwathama who committed such a gory murder. They went out in search of Ashwathama. Soon they located him, arrested him and brought him before Draupadi. Their intention was to kill Ashwathama right in front of Draupadi’s eyes so as to avenge for her grief.
Seeing the pitiable state at which Ashwathama stood there, Draupadi said, “Don’t kill him. I am not able to see him only as a murder of my five children. I also see him as the son of your revered teacher Dronacharya. Having got worked up on account of his father’s death, this fellow has resorted to a vengeful counter act forgetting his dharma. By killing him, I am not going to get back my children alive. As a mother, I know how painful it is to lose your own children. If we kill him, the same pain would be felt by his mother too. Let no other mother undergo such a grief on account of my vengeance. Please give him some other punishment and release him”.
[Amma: “Amma does not mean to say that criminal should not be punished. Let law take its own course. Over and above man-made laws, there is the law of Nature — the Justice of the Universe – that delivers fruits to all actions with principal and interest. No mortal being can ever frustrate karma giving back the fruits of karma. At the same time, hating the criminal instead of the crime is sure to affect our personality, mind and actions negatively. If our mind is filled with hatred and enmity, how can we ever get peace and happiness? Hence the change has to happen in ourselves.”]
(Source: Oliyai Nokki- Tamil – Part 3)
7. The boon that Kunti had
[Amma: “Children, in life we all may come across good times and bad times. At times, there may be certain happenings in life which bring good fortunes unexpectedly and we may consider as a divine grace. At times what looks to be a good fortune might turn out to be a calamity because of certain omissions and commissions of ours done out of lack of discrimination and awareness. When such a thing happens, we might think that a good fortune was rather a curse. In reality it may not be so. How we face good fortunes and bad fortunes as they are encountered in our lives will decide the overall meaningfulness of our life”.]
Early in her teens, princess Kunti Devi devotedly served Saint Durvasa when he came and stayed for a while in the King’s palace. Having felt very happy at her devoted service, Durvasa instructed a mantra to Kunti by which she could call celestial Gods and get pregnant through their association if and when such a need arose.
But, even before her marriage, Kunti made the mistake of experimenting with the Mantra by calling Sun God. Because of such an act she had to go through the ignominy of bearing a child and the pain of discarding it secretively. Some people may think why Kunti had to undergo such a painful incidence in her life despite getting a boon from a saintly person.
However, the truth was that Sage Durvasa knew through his divine vision that Kunti would not be able to bear a child through her husband after her marriage. He knew there was a need for her to bear children of great valor and character for the sake of establishing dharma in future and that’s why he gave the mantra to her. It was the foolish mistake of Kunti to try out the mantra to check whether it really worked that brought Kunti into disgrace before her marriage.
[Indeed, as foreseen by the sage, Kuntis’ husband Pandu, on account of a curse he received from a saint, could not beget children from his two wives. It was at his behest that Kunti agreed to call celestial Gods by utilizing the mantra and bore 3 children — Yudhishthira, Bhima and Arjuna. Thus at the appropriate time the mantra did bring good fortune for her.]
(Source: Amritam Gamaya- Malayalam – Vol 2)
8. Arjuna constructs a bridge
Once Arjuna had come to south India on a pilgrimage and he visited Dhasushkoti. After taking holy bath in the sea, Arjuna noticed the remains of the bridge that Lord Sri Rama in the previous yuga had built with the help of monkeys in his quest for slaying Ravana in Lanka to bring back his wife Sita.
Arjuna came to know how painstakingly Rama had to construct the bridge with stones and boulders brought from mountains by the vanaras.
At that time a monkey came by his side. Arjuna said to the monkey, “I don’t really understand why Rama had to make use of the services of monkeys like you to construct a bridge. Rama was a great archer, wasn’t he? If I were there, I would have easily constructed a bridge in no time using my arrows”.
The monkey said, “Nonsense! You don’t really know about my ancestors like Sugriva, Angata and others! They were so heavily built and strong that a bridge made of arrows will crumble in no time if they walk over it!”
Arjuna felt offended. “Don’t underestimate my prowess to build a bridge structure with arrows. It can withstand any amount of weight”.
The monkey said, “Will you take up a challenge? You construct a bridge here with your arrows. I myself will walk over it and crumble it! What will you do if you fail?”
Arjuna, in a moment of pride, said, “If you could crumble my bridge, I will sacrifice my life by jumping into fire”.
The monkey agreed and asked him to make a bridge. Arjuna took his bow and arrow, and using his skills he built a bridge of arrows. The monkey jumped over it and started walking on it. By the time it walked across a few yards, the bridge started crumbling to pieces! Arjuna could not believe his eyes!
With some humility coming into his manners, Arjuna said, “Please give me one more chance. I will construct a stronger bridge that you cannot break”. The monkey agreed.
Using more powerful Mantras, arjuna shot his arrows and built a much heavier and stronger bridge this time. Again the monkey walked over it and crumbled it in no time.
Arjuna’s pride was totally shattered. He arranged to collect firewood, lit a fire and was ready to jump over it. The monkey was curiously standing by the side and watching it.
At that moment, a Brahmin came that side and noticed the happenings. He came close by and asked Arjuna, “What happened? Why are you preparing yourself to jump into the fire at this young age? What is the problem?”
Arjuna narrated the whole incidence to the brahmin. The brahmin said, “You see, when two persons have a dispute and they enter into a competition, there should be a third person to act as a judge. Then only a fair decision can be taken as per scriptures”.
The monkey agreed to what the brahmin said.
The brahmin suggested that Arjuna should construct yet another bridge in his presence and the monkey should attempt to destroy it. The monkey agreed. The monkey was too sure that he could break any bridge that Arjuna could make.
This time, before shooting his arrows, Arjuna prayed within his heart to his beloved Lord Krishna to offer his blessings so that this time the bridge did not collapse.
After praying, Arjuna took more effort to construct the next bridge which would be extremely strong. Now the monkey jumped over it and started walking. Nothing could happen to the bridge! He was surprised. As the brahmin and Arjuna watched, the monkey suddenly started growing bigger and bigger and soon stood there as tall as a mountain. Only then, Arjuna realized that the monkey was none other than Lord Hanuman! He fell at the feet of Hanuman with humility. Hanuman now tried to crumble the bridge with his one foot. However powerfully he stomped over the bridge, the bridge did not yield a bit!
Hanuman was extremely surprised. How come a bridge made earlier by Arjuna could be crumbled by him even with an ordinary monkey’s physique, but could not succeed now even with his enlarged and mighty form?
He took back his humble form and prostrated before the brahmin. Both Hanuman and Arjuna noticed that blood was oozing from the shoulders of the brahmin.
Arjuna too offering his reverence to the Brahmin, said, “O Brahmin! My salutations to you. I don’t think you are an ordinary brahmin! May I know who you are? Why is there a bleeding on your shoulders?”
At that moment instead of the Brahmin’s form Arjuna noticed that his beloved Lord Krishna was standing there. At the same time, Hanuman saw his Lord Rama standing there! Thus Lord Vishnu indeed had come there in the guise of the Brahmin and He revealed himself as Krishna to Arjuna and Rama to Hanuman!
The Lord said, “Both of you are my ardent devotees. I wanted to save Arjuna from dying in the fire; that’s why I had to give my shoulders under the bridge to bear the weight in order that it did not collapse under Hanuman’s stampede. That’s how my shoulder got injury and is bleeding.”
Addressing Arjuna, he said, “It is because of your ego and pride that you thought yourself to be a greater archer than Rama. It is because of your ego that the bridge collapsed under Hanuman’s weight earlier. You have to get rid of this pride. Remember that all the power that comes through you is indeed mine!’
Turning to Hanuman, the lord said, “When you crumbled the bridge twice earlier, you were conscious of your strength. But you have no right to let Arjuna die just because of your challenge. Great archers like Arjuna are needed for the welfare of the world ; How could you drive him into giving up his life? As an act of repentance for doing so, you shall present yourself in the flag that adores Arjuna’s chariot in the forthcoming Mahabharata war and protect Arjuna from evil forces.” Hanuman agreed.
Thus the lord taught a lesson to both.
(From Amma’s Ramayana Month satsang part 3 15/8/2020)
9. Learning from Mahabali’s story on Thiruvonam
Lord Vishnu came in the form of a 3-foot Vamana to meet Mahabali, the Asura King who had conquered and ruled all the world, during a yaga conducted by the former.
Vamana asked for just 3 feet of land as a gift. Mahabali, who was capable of even donating a whole country if asked, was bemused to hear the request for just a 3 feet of land by the young brahmin boy. He thought it was paltry. But when Vamana took viswaroopa (huge cosmic form), with 2 feet, he had measured all that worlds under the rule of Mahabali. With that Mahabali’s ego too was crumbled. At last he gained humility be realizing that in front of God all my possessions are meaningless; even I am nothing in front of Him. He thought, “There is nothing that I can claim to be my own. The whole universe belongs to Him”.
With ego totally subdued, he surrendered to Lord Vishnu and his mind totally merged in lord’s feet ,losing sense of “I” and “mine”. It is not right to say that the lord stamped him down to netherworld with his foot.
When lord asked him what his last wish was, Mahabali said, “I have only one wish. In remembrance of this day, all people should eat to their stomachful, wear new clothes, and enjoy the day dancing. May this world be filled with happiness and peace.”
[Amma: “This is what a pure devotee wants from God . He does not seek self-realization or liberation. His only wish is that all the people on earth should live happily and peacefully. That’s how Thiruvonam celebration is remembered as the day of total surrender of a devotee.”]
(From Oliyai Nokki – Tamil – Vol 2)
9. Karnas’ vanity
During the Mahabharata war, one day Arjuna and Karna were facing each other in combat. It was lord Krishna who was the charioteer for Arjuna while King Salya was the charioteer for Karna. Both Karna and Arjuna were showering arrows on each other.
Karna finally resolved to finish off Arjuna with a very powerful arrow. He aimed his arrow on Arjuna’s head and was ready to release it from his bow. Noticing it, Salya said, “Karna, if you really want to kill Arjuna with this arrow, don’t aim at his head. It is better to aim at his neck.”
But Karna replied with pride, “Once I set my aim and of focus for my arrow. I won’t change it. This arrow will hit Arjuna’s head and kill him for sure”. So saying he shot the arrow.
Lord Krishna noticed the arrow shooting towards Arjuna’s head. He pressed his leg on the chariot’s platform and on account of that pressure, the chariot’s wheels sank into the soil. Because of this sudden depression, the arrow that was to hit Arjuna’s head could hit only his crown and shattered it to pieces. Thus Arjuna was judiciously saved by Lord Krishna.
If only Karna had listened to the sane advice of Salya, he could have killed Arjuna. But since Karna was too proud and adamant, he failed to heet to the good counsel. Soon, Arjuna succeeded in killing Karna in the combat.
[Amma: “If we possess such ‘I know it all’ attitude, we cannot learn anything from life. If a vessel is full, what can one store afresh in it? Only when the bucket sinks into well water, it can fetch water. Even if one is a Nobel laureate, if he wishes to play flute, he should start as a beginner by learning it from a flautist with humility.”]
(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 1)