Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Uddalaka Aruni

Long ago, there lived a great scholar called Ayodh Daumya. Daumya was great teacher and had plenty of students. One of his students was Aruni.

As was the practice in those days the students stayed with the teacher in the gurukul. The students helped the teacher out by doing the daily chores and also learnt scriptures and vedas from the teacher.

Daumya called Aruni one day, 'Aruni! I want you to bring some more firewood for the gurukul.' Aruni nodded his head. He was already looking after the farms of the gurukul. Aruni did not bother much about the extra work. If his teacher asked him to do something, that just meant his teacher trusted him that he was capable of handling it.

That day he went to the forests and was collecting the firewood. As he returning home, he saw that dark clouds were gathering in the sky. Alarmed he rushed back when he saw the banks between the farms were crumbling. Oh Lord! If the banks break, the water will flood the field and all the crops would be washed away...I will have to be back before the rain..As Aruni was about to proceed forward, the clouds burst open and he was drenched in the showers. Aruni dropped the firewood and ran to the banks. He tried to make the banks stronger by plastering it with more mud...However the elements were against him. As he tried making the banks stronger, the rains kept washing the mud away. The water threatened to enter into the fields...

Oh Lord what am I to do....Aruni thought...

In the gurukul, that evening, all the students finished their studies and were watching the increasing rain from inside their ashrama rooms, when they saw a very worried teacher coming and checking the rooms of all the students.

'Where is Aruni?' He asked as he entered the room of the last of the students.

The students looked at each other and shook their heads. 'Last we saw him was when you had sent him to collect the firewood sir!' One of them spoke, after thinking for some time.

Dhaumya was aghast. 'That was in the morning....He would not be gone for that much time...' Daumya looked out looking at the torrential rains with worry, '...It is raining...What if he is hurt...'

Daumya resolutely shook his head. Nothing like that would happen to his student...He looked at the students inside the room. He called out five of his eldest students, 'You five come with me...We will go out looking for him...'

'Stay safe inside the ashrama...' Daumya told the others as he shivered in the cold rain, 'I am going to look for Aruni...'

Daumya and his students set about looking for Aruni in the cold rain. As Daumya went towards the forest, he grew more and more apprehensive..What had happened...Aruni was usually very careful and responsible...

Daumya walked about as the rain eased a little. It made Daumya's search a little easy. Daumya was listening above the slight drizzle as his students called out for Aruni. He strained his ears to hear any sound from Aruni..Nothing...

Daumya neared his field...He suddenly realized that the rains would have washed away the crops...He sighed, he would have to...That was when Daumya's keen eyes spotted something, the water had not entered the field...Daumya called his students and asked them to follow him as he went to the banks of the field of crops.

'Aruni!' Daumya shouted in the cold night. He strained his ears as he heard a faint reply, ''

Daumya ran towards the sound. He knew it was Aruni and also knew that Aruni sounded stiff in the cold and the rain...Daumya ran forward and saw something lying near the bank. The water was being stopped by...Daumya blinked as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.

He saw Aruni lying on the crumbling bank. Aruni was acting as the bank preventing the water from washing away the crops..Astonished Daumya ran forward and came near Aruni. Aruni looked faint from hunger and cold. He was constantly muttering, 'Bank breaking...crops washed away...' Daumya picked up Aruni and asked his other students to mend the bank. The students quickly got to work as Daumya carried Aruni back to the ashrama.

Aruni was given fresh clothes and some food. After the food, some colour returned to Aruni's face as Daumya watched his student with pride. The other students returned and told the teacher that the bank had been mended and that no damage had been caused to the crops.

Daumya nodded his head and looked at Aruni with pride in his eyes.

Aruni finished his food as all the students of the ashrama watched him. After dinner Daumya came and stood beside Aruni.

'How are you feeling Aruni?' Daumya asked gently. Aruni nodded. 'A little tired sir! Otherwise...'

Daumya smiled, 'You laid down on the boundary to prevent the crops from being washed away...'

Aruni shuddered, 'I tried building the bank sir! But the rain was too strong then and besides I was only one...I could not...So I did the only thing...'

Daumya smiled again, 'Son! I am proud of you...You have done a great service to the ashrama....You will be a great man, Aruni!' Daumya said simply, 'Today, I raised you from the boundary...Henceforth you will be known as Uddalaka [In sanskrit, Uddalaka means, the one who was raised from the boundary].

Aruni blushed as he heard his teachers words looking at the other students looking at him with admiration.

True to the teacher's words, Uddalaka Aruni after completing his studies became a guru and became a great teacher...Uddalaka is the grandfather of Ashtavakra...A great scholar, who was the teacher of King Janaka, the father of Sita in the Ramayana.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bhasmasura and Mohini

Bhasmasura was an asura, who was driven by ambition to be the most powerful Asura ever. He saw the other Asuras and decided that he would perform severe penance to win the favour of Lord Shiva and become powerful.

So Bhasmasura prayed for a long time. He prayed and was soon absorbed in his meditation. Lord Shiva in Kailasha, heard his prayers and wondered who it was who was praying to him. Using the power of meditation, Lord Shiva realized that it was Bhasmasura who was praying.
Lord Shiva never differentiated between his devotees, whether they were Devas or Asuras. If they were true devotees he appeared before them, no matter who they were. Lord Shiva satisfied with Bhasmasura's penance prayed to him with utmost devotion and appeared before him.

Open your eyes, Bhamasura!’ Lord Shiva said appearing before him.

Bhasmasura opened his eyes feeling the divine voice flow through him. He opened his eyes and saw the beautiful three-eyed God before him. He bowed low and fell on his feet. ‘My Lord, you have come at last…’ He said looking at Lord Shiva once more.

Lord Shiva smiled, ‘You prayed to me…I came to see you… What do you wish for, Bhasmasura?’

Bhasmasura smiled, ‘My Lord! I wish to be immortal...'

Lord Shiva shook his head, 'No Bhasmasura. That is against the laws of nature. All of whom are born have to die...'

Bhasmasura pouted. He had so wished that Lord Shiva would make him invincible and immortal. Looking at Lord Shiva, Bhasmasura realized that no amount of pleading would change Lord Shiva's mind.

What should I ask...I need to become powerful...more powerful than...Bhasmasura looked at Lord Shiva as he had an idea...

'My Lord if I touch anybody’s head, they should be reduced to ashes…’ Bhasmasura said rather fast.

Lord Shiva frowned and wondered what prompted the Asura to ask such a wish. But then Lord Shiva remembered that Bhasmasura had prayed well and that he was duty bound to grant any boon that he sought for. So Lord Shiva raised his hand and granted Bhasmasura the blessing.

Lord Shiva did not realize his mistake until, Bhasmasura let out a maniacal laugh, He studied his hands and said, 'Now I am more powerful than anybody. I am more powerful than you Lord. I can even burn down Lord Shiva….if I wish….’

Lord Shiva winced when he heard this. He stared as Bhasmasura continued. ‘Now Lord! I wish to test my power. I…’ Bhasmasura said coming forward, ‘I will place my hand on your head….’

Lord Shiva backed away as Bhasmasura came forward….Lord Shiva realized that he could not take back his words. He would be reduced to ashes if he let Bhasmasura touch him. That would change the entire destiny...That was not the way the things must happen...So Lord Shiva did the only thing he could do...He ran and ran and ran, Bhasmasura followed him with his hands outstretched.

Lord Shiva was wondering what to do, when he prayed to Lord Vishnu the Preserver God. ‘Narayana, Please help me now….’ He said as he ran between a clump of trees inside a jungle…

Bhasmasura was about to follow Shiva inside the clump of trees, when he…stopped..

Before him stood the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was so beautiful and so graceful that for a minute Bhasmasura even forgot who he was…He blinked and stared at the woman again, ‘Wh…Who are you?’ He finally managed to say.

The lady opened her mouth and frowned looking at him, 'You don't come to someone's home and ask them who they are...You have to tell me who you are...'

Bhasmasura was having difficulty breathing. Slowly he inhaled and realized that the woman had asked him a question...'Bhasmasura...I ...I am Bhasmasura...' He croaked.

'Ok Bhasmasura,' The woman said looking at him with twinkling eyes. 'Now is the time you ask me my name...'

Bhasmasura felt silly as he spoke again, 'Who are you beautiful lady?'

'I am Mohini...' The lady said in a beautiful voice, which captivated Bhasmasura.

'Will you marry me?' Bhasmasura asked the words before he could stop himself.

Mohini gave a tinkling laugh and turned and walked away.

Feeling like an utter fool Bhasmasura also followed her. He followed her and slowly asked her everything about herself.

Mohini lived in the forest with her parents. She had come here to collect flowers for the daily puja at home.

'Mohini, what I meant back there was...' Bhasmasura said slowly, wondering whether Mohini would laugh at him again, 'will you marry me..I will take good care of you and keep you happy always.'

Mohini looked unhappy as she looked at Bhasmasura, 'You with your good looks...I would look to marry you..' Bhasmasura felt his heart swell. A woman like Mohini had called him a good looking man....But then why was she unhappy. Mohini continued, 'I am a dancer Bhasmasura. When I was younger I made a promise that I would only marry a man who can dance as well as me...'

Bhasmasura blinked. He had never danced in his whole life. But he promised himself. He would learn how to dance just to marry this woman...

Mohini looked at him and said anxiously, 'Don't worry I will teach you..If you follow my steps exactly the way I do it, I am...I am yours and I will marry you..' She said looking at Bhasmasura. Bhasmasura was ready to slay dragons for her.

So the two of them danced. Bhasmasura tried his best to copy Mohini's move as she smiled encouragingly at him.

They went on dancing, where Bhasmasura got better and better at copying Mohini's moves. Bhasmasura concentrated on dancing and on nothing else. Mohini soon had a move where she kept her hand on her head. Without thinking Bhasmasura did the same!

Unfortunately for Bhasmasura, his powers worked....

Mohini was looking at Bhasmasura's ashes as Lord Shiva appeared before Mohini. 'Thank you!'

'Anytime! Just think carefully next time, you grant anybody any boon.' Mohini laughed as she vanished and Lord Vishnu stood in her place.

Lord Shiva went back to Kailash, thanking Lord Vishnu.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sage Vishwamitra – Part 1 of 3

In the Satya Yuga there lived a great king by name Kusha. Kusha had four sons – one of the sons was Kushanabha. Kushanabha had a son – Gadhi. Gadhi had a son Kaushika. The story of Vishwamitra starts with Kaushika. Kaushika was a brave and valiant king.

Kaushika had a huge kingdom. He very often traveled from one place to another to look after his people and listen to their complaints personally. Once as Kaushika was traveling from one place to another, he passed through a dense forest. Kaushika was traveling with a part of his huge army. When Kaushika came to the centre of the forest, he saw a beautiful hermitage there.

Kaushika sent his men to find out whose ashrama it was. His men came back, 'Your Majesty! The ashrama belongs to the great Sage Vasishta!' Kaushika immediately got down from his horse. 'Wait here! I will go and pay respects to sage. Ask the men to be ready...We will be leaving soon...' His men nodded as Kaushika went inside the hermitage.

Kaushika met the great sage inside the ashrama and bowed to him. 'Sir! I was passing from a city in my kingdom to another, when I saw your hermitage. I just came to pay my respects to you sir!'

Sage Vasishta smiled, 'Your majesty! Please accept my hospitality and have your lunch here!'

Kaushika hurriedly shook his head. It was after all a small hermitage. There was no way, they could feed an entire army. 'Sir! We are in a hurry...Kindly excuse us now...'

Sage Vasishta smiled, 'Your majesty! You think I will not be able to feed you or your men...I think that is the reason you are refusing my hospitality...Please let that not bother you...All of you please have your lunch here...'

Kaushika frowned. There was no way he could back out now. But the sage seemed insistent on feeding all of them. He shrugged. 'As you wish sir!'

Sage Vasishta said, 'There is a river nearby! Please ask your men to clean themselves and come for lunch...' Sage Vasishta laughed, '...a sumptuous meal...'

Kaushika was a little curious now. He went back outside. He told his men that they would be having their lunch here. When the cooks got ready. Kaushika shook his head. 'We are going to enjoy the hospitality of the sage today...' If the men found the order of the king a little strange, they did not say anything about it. They just went to the river and washed themselves. The king also came back after refreshing himself.

Much to surprise of the king and his men, they had a lovely lunch that day. It was wholesome and was sufficient for the entire army. Kaushika was now more than curious. After his lunch he hurriedly cleaned himself. He asked his men to take rest and ran back to the sage.

'Sir! I am sorry to be asking this question...But how were you able to feed our entire army?....' The king asked the sage.

The sage smiled, 'I have a cow with me your majesty – Nandhini. Kamadhenu, the divine cow, came out during the churning of the ocean. Nandhini is Kamadhenu's daughter. Indra, the Lord of the Heavens presented Nandini to me...Nandhini can provide as much food as is necessary sir! There is no end to how much she can provide...'

'Can I see the cow, sir?' Kaushika whispered in awe. The sage nodded and took the king to the back of his ashrama. There Kaushika saw a beautiful cow calmly grazing. There was a powerful aura around the cow...' Looking at the cow, Kaushika had no doubt that the cow had indeed provided them with all the lunch they had had today. The king nodded. The sage lovingly caressed Nandini and spoke, 'She is like my daughter to me...All of us in the hermitage love her and worship her...'

Frowning Kaushika walked out of the ashrama. Head bowed he went towards his horse.

Such a cow is meant to be with a king...Why with this cow, I can feed my army anytime any place and there would be no problem...If I take it with me to my palace, every single person in my kingdom would benefit from this...The sage should understand and gift this cow to me...As a king I deserve to have the cow with me...Such ran the kings thoughts as he neared his horse. Finally when he was about to get on the horse, he signaled his men again. 'Wait for me! I have some work...'

Saying this Kaushika again went back into the ashrama. Sage Vasishta was surprised to look at the king. He was even more surprised on seeing the king come in with a determined if he wanted something. Frowning the sage went forward and greeted the king. 'Your Majesty! Is there anything else?'

Kaushika slowly nodded his head and looked at the sage, 'Yes sir! I have a favour to ask of you...'

Sage Vasishta remained silent and looked at the king waiting for him to continue. The king said, 'Sir! I am a king and I have an army which goes with me and lots of people in my subjects whom I love like my own children...'

Sage Vasishta still did not say anything and asked Kaushika to continue. 'Sir! I think it would be better if I had Nandini with me...' Sage Vasishta looked at Kaushika with anger as Kaushika continued hurriedly, 'Sir! You have only a hermitage here...You will not need the cow much...I on the other hand will make good use of the...'

Sage Vasishta looked at the king with anger and slowly calmed himself, 'You just look at the cow and look at it like a source of food...Do you know what she means to me and to my family members...She is part of my family King Kaushika! I cannot just hand it over to you...She will not like it...'

Kaushika was now getting angry. The man was not understanding that the cow was underused here and that he needed the cow...He curbed his anger and tried again, 'Please sir! Think how many people would benefit from this...'

Vasishta flatly shook his head, 'No your majesty! I cannot give you this! Please...understand...'

Kaushika impatiently spoke, 'Name your price! I am a king...I can give you whatever price you want for the cow...'

Vasishta laughed, 'Seriously your majesty! You cannot expect me to take your offer seriously. What riches can you offer me in return of a cow, which already offers me everything?' He spoke to the king contemptuously.

Kaushika angrily looked at the sage and said, 'Fine! If you will not give the cow to me...I am going to take the cow...Who says I need your permission for it...'

Sage Vasishta said quietly, 'Do what you want, Kaushika! I am not giving the cow to you...'

Kaushika stomped out of the hermitage angrily..If its a battle that silly sage is a battle he will get... Kaushika eyed his trained soldiers all ready and waiting for his command and almost laughed out as he saw the small hermitage....The cow is mine... He went outside and called his general, 'Get your men ready for battle!'

The general looked surprised, 'What are we going to do, your majesty?'

Kaushika angrily pointed at the hermitage, 'I am going to bring down that hermitage brick by brick...I am going to make it such as if it never existed...'

The general did not like the idea of attacking defenceless people one bit. He spoke calmly, 'Please tell me what happened your majesty! Probably I can find a way out...'

Kaushika angrily hit his hands in a fist and spoke, 'There is nothing to discuss...That man has a cow, which I need..That silly man is refusing to give me...the king...So he must be punished...'

The general slowly got the whole story out of the king. He could see that the king wanted to use the cow for the benefit of the kingdom...But he also understood that the sage loved the cow...he would not hand it over...

Kaushika barked at his general, 'Now don't question my orders! Get the men ready...' Kaushika looked at the hermitage with contempt, 'We are going to make short work of this...'

The general tried reasoning with the king, but the king was too angry to see anything in the right perspective. Finally having no choice the general asked his men to get ready to attack the ashrama. The king himself led the attack and went in front of his men and stood outside the ashrama, 'Vasishta! Give me the cow or face my attack...Now!'

Sage Vasishta came outside and looked at huge army standing before the hermitage and smiled. Sage Vasisha spoke quietly with his steely angry eyes, 'Kaushika! This is the last chance I am giving you...If you want to prevent a massacre of your men, leave NOW!

Kaushika failed to notice the anger in the sage's voice or the determination with which he spoke. He thought the sage was bluffing and shook his head, 'The cow, or a battle...Which is it?'

Sage Vasishhta closed his eyes and muttered a mantra. The king was about to order his men to attack, when he stopped cold. As the sage finished talking and opened his eyes, a huge and fierce army carrying all types of weapons appeared before the ashrama, to protect it! The king faltered for a minute. The sage had the power to create such a huge army, by the mere power of words! Probably it was best not to ruffle a man like that...However the king had already given the command. He could not go back on his word.

And so the attack started.

No matter what the king tried, the warriors of Sage Vasishta were superior in strength and strategy. Needless to say that Kaushika's entire army was routed by the attack! Kaushika was captured by the army of the Sage Vasishta. They tied up the King and dragged him before the Sage Vasishta. Kaushika was staring angrily at Sage Vasishta. A mere sage, with no riches or possessions of any kind had defeated of the greatest warriors in the world...All with what? The power of the meditation was that powerful? All his fighting skills were useless and unnecessary...

Sage Vasishta looked at the bound king and spoke, 'Kaushika! You behaved out of arrogance...You thought that might was right and did not even pause to think about your actions. But I think you acted out of ignorance...For this I forgive you...Take your remaining army and leave....Never ever fight with the power of the Brahman....The powers of meditation are much more stronger that brute force and strength...Always remember that...Now GO!'

Kaushika listened to the words of the sage...He felt something change inside him... He realized that he no longer wished to be a king...A king was someone who had to bow to the might of a sage...A sage...The power of penance, that was what he wished...he wanted to be the most powerful of them all...He bowed to Sage Vasishta and walked away from there.

He immediately gave up all the rights to his kingdom and walked away. He immersed himself in meditation and cared for nothing else in the world. His whole body burnt with only one passion – he had to become a better sage than Vasishta.

Kaushika started his penance and kept to it very steadfast. In fact he concentrated so much on the power of the Brahman that he was able to perform his meditation and penance effortlessly. He just shrugged off all physical challenges...

High up in the heavens, Indra was getting worried with Kaushika's penance. Kaushika was becoming more and more powerful and there was nothing which seemed to stop him. If this went on Kaushika would become even more powerful than him. Indra realized that something had to be done to stop Kaushika...

Sage Vishwamitra – Part 2 of 3

As Indra got worried, he called his most beautiful apsara – Menaka to meet him in his garden. He told her, 'Menaka! I have a work for you...' he said as he sat in the garden looking at the beautiful fountain in between the lush green garden.
Menaka nodded her head waiting for Indra to continue. Indra said, 'Do you know Kaushika?...'
Menaka frowned as she spoke, 'Are you talking about Kaushika who fought with Sage Vasishta for the cow Nandini?'
Indra nodded, 'Yes! The same one...'
Menaka frowned again, 'I thought he no longer wanted to be a king...He had given up everything and started his penance...'
Indra sighed, 'Yes! That is the problem...You see I underestimated exactly how powerful his penance would be...If he continues the same way, I am afraid...I am afraid he would become even more powerful than me...Well...he has been a king before...I would not put it past him to try conquering the heavens once he has enough power...' Indra said to Menaka feeling a little desperate.
Menaka sighed. Indra always got paranoid every time any sage tried to perform any difficult ritual. She sat down in the garden beside him. 'Indra...not everyone in the world would be interested in dethroning you...To the best of my knowledge that man wants to be better than Sage Vasishta...he has no quarrel with you...Why do you think he should be interested in your throne?'
Indra said, 'You do not understand...Menaka, He has been king, people like that will always have the desire to rule others...otherwise there is no other reason for him to undertake this particular penance now...'
Indra went on and on until Menaka reluctantly nodded her head, 'Fine! What do you want me to do, Indra?'
Indra smiled slyly, 'You are the most beautiful woman ever...Nobody can ever resist you ever...' Menaka sighed and nodded her head. She knew where the conversation was leading. Indra continued, 'I want you to use your beauty and destroy his penance...' Indra finally said.
Menaka said quietly, 'Indra you yourself have said that he is very powerful. What if he curses me...if he finds out what I have done....'
Indra shook his head, 'Who in his right mind would curse you, Menaka? One look at you and everyone would be charmed by you...Please...?' Indra said holding Menaka's hands.
Despite everything, Indra was the king of the heavens. Menaka was duty bound to do what her king asked her to do.
Menaka nodded her head. That very day, she set out for earth to meet Kaushika. Menaka found Kaushika deep in penance. Unfortunately for Indra, there was a twist in the tale. Menaka, who was supposed to charm Kaushika fell in love with Kaushika, the moment she saw him. She already knew of his bravery and his valiant nature. The minute Menaka saw Kaushika, she fell in love with him.
Kaushika used to meditate in wild forest and perform his penance there. While he was deep in meditation, Menaka came there. Out of her love for him, she used all her powers and created one of the most beautiful gardens there. The fragrance from the garden was amazing and the garden had every conceivable colour of flower in it. When Menaka was finished, the place surrounded Kaushika was not a wild untamed forest, but a fragrant beautiful garden with a spring season. As Kaushika opened his eyes, he saw a beautiful maiden before him. Added to that Kaushika also saw that the garden around him was so beautiful that he somehow felt different...
As Kaushika opened his eyes, Menaka started dancing, a beautiful dance which was lovely to look at. Kaushika saw Menaka, he forgot his penance, his meditation, his desire to get better than Sage Vasishta, he forgot everything....He fell in love with Menaka immediately. As she finished dancing, Kaushika looked at her with rapt eyes as she bowed to him.
'Wh...Who are you?' Kaushika croaked, his heart thumping.
'I am Menaka...' She said in a beautifully haunting voice, which Kaushika liked very much. 'I am a maiden in Indra's court...I was seeing you perform penance...' Menaka shyly bowed her head and spoke, 'I...liked you very came down to see you...' Menaka faltered as she felt Kaushika look at her.
Kaushika felt drawn towards Menaka, the way he had never felt towards any other woman. He looked at Menaka and spoke innocently and little desperately, 'Menaka...I do not know whether I am worthy of you...But....but will please marry me....' He spoke in a hurry.
Menaka gave a tinkling laugh and bowed before the sage shyly, 'Sir! I thought you would never ask...'
Menaka and Kaushika were married very soon enough. However Menaka was thoroughly miserable sometimes. Indra's words kept on haunting her...She could not accept the fact that she had been responsible for destroying the powers of meditation and penance, which were accumulated by Kaushika.
Kaushika on the other hand was delighted with his loving and understanding wife. She seemed to sense his every need and was there to fulfill it. He also tried his best to keep Menaka as happy as possible. Menaka was delighted to find Kaushika a very thoughtful and loving husband. Soon after their marriage they had a daughter – Shakuntala.
Shakuntala is famous in history for her marriage to Dushyant. Shakuntala and Dushyant had a son Bharata, after whom the entire country of Bharata (India) is named. However that is another story.
After the birth of Shakuntala, Menaka felt even more unhappy especially when she saw what a loving and doting father Kaushika was. So ten years after their marriage, Menaka steeled herself and spoke to Kaushika, 'Kaushika, there is something which I have to tell you...Something that I should have told you a long time ago and something which I never had the nerve to tell you...'
Kaushika smiled, 'Menaka, you cannot have done anything that terrible...what is it?'
Menaka blinked away tears and she spoke, 'I am a bad person...I told you that I came from Indra's court did I not?' Kaushika nodded asking Menaka to continue. Menaka took a deep breath and spoke, 'The truth is that Indra sent me...' Kaushika frowned as he listened to her in silence. Menaka continued, 'Indra was getting worried that you would become very powerful with your penance and dethrone him...' Kaushika felt a whiff of anger at Menaka. Menaka almost faltered but resolutely continued, 'He sent me here to break your penance...That was why I came here...' Menaka said miserably. Kaushika had gone very still and said quietly, 'Go on...what happened?'
'But when I came here and saw you...the unthinkable happened...I...actually...actually fell in love with you...I wanted to be with you....' Menaka said feeling thoroughly miserable. Kaushika closed his eyes and took a deep breath.. He felt that over the decade, his powers, once which he had been so obsessed about, had been drained from him...He had nothing with him..Kaushika was in a fit of rage when he realized that he had lost all the power for a woman, who was acting under someone else's orders...Kaushika opened his eyes and looked at Menaka once more standing before him. She said quietly, 'That is the truth Kaushika! I don't care what you do...And there is one more truth that is I love you...' Menaka said with utmost sincerity in her eyes.
Kaushika closed his eyes as he felt the pain in her words. He understood that she loved him as much as he had loved her. Kaushika opened his eyes, 'Menaka! You have fooled have stripped me of my powers...For this I curse you...' Menaka did not even flinch. She looked like she welcomed it. She looked at Kaushika as he spoke, 'I curse you Menaka...I curse you that you will always be separated from me...' Menaka looked at him with anguished eyes as Kaushika released his curse. Menaka disappeared from there immediately as Kaushika let out a wail of frustration. Menaka was sent back to Indra's court...she could never meet Kaushika again.
He had sent away the only woman who had loved him...Kaushika knew. He had also spent all his yogic powers...But Kaushika did not care...The old fire was back in his eyes. He wanted to regain all his yogic powers. He would regain his penance and meditation. But first he had to take care of his daughter.
He went back to his ashrama and found his baby daughter Shakuntala alone in the ashram. Wherever he saw her, he had memories of Menaka. Shakuntala had the same features like Menaka...He took a deep breath. Kaushika remembered that his friend Sage Kanva had wanted to adopt Shakuntala some time ago. Menaka had point blank refused it...But now...Kaushika took a deep breath and he took the baby and went straight to the ashrama of Sage Kanva.
There he spoke with the Sage. Sage Kanva looked at his friend. His friend looked like something had been torn apart from his heart...But Sage Kanva decided not to question it. Kaushika spoke dully, 'You wanted to adopt my child...did you not? I am willing...Are you still' Kaushika looked at the child and did not say anything more. Sage Kanva readily agreed and soon the ceremonies were completed.
Leaving Sage Kanva with his daughter, Kaushika went back to the Himalayas to forget Menaka and also focus on his penance and meditation. Kaushika's penance was now more difficult as he had to continuously forget his thoughts of Menaka...But he still did it...Kaushika started his penance with great vigour and again started his meditation.... 

Sage Vishwamitra – Part 3 of 3

As Kaushika became more and more powerful, Indra again grew worried. He knew that he could not send Menaka again. Indra realized that Menaka was actually in love with Kaushika and secondly Menaka was prevented by Kaushika's curse to go back to him. Indra wondered what to do...What worked once, may work again...
He called Rambha, the queen of the apsaras. 'Rambha, you have to go to speak with Kaushika, will you...?'
Rambha shook her head, 'Indra do you think I am foolish?...You have already successfully broken his meditation once....He was so angry at that time...If I try to break his meditation again, he will curse me...There is no way I am risking that...'
Indra shook his head, 'Rambha, Menaka is only an apsara...You are the queen of apsaras...If Menaka can break his meditation...Can't you do the same?...' Indra spoke in taunting words. The words hurt Rambha. She was also feeling slightly jealous. If Menaka can do it, it would be embarrassing if I can't do it...Her jealousy clouded her judgment. Rambha nodded her head, 'I will do it Indra.'
Indra smiled as Rambha left for earth that day.
Just like Menaka, Ramha also transformed the wild and untamed Himalayas into a beautiful spring garden. She prepared beautiful fragrant garlands and danced before Kaushika.
Kaushika opened his eyes, when he had a sense of deja vu. The same thing had happened a long time ago. Even now sometimes, he had memories of Menaka, thought not with the same intensity as before...He remembered it all as if from someone else's life...He was through it now...
But this time instead of Menaka, there was some else before him. Kaushika took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He concentrated and used his powers of meditation to find out the reason behind Rambha's visit. He saw in his mind's eye, Indra's talk to Rambha and how Rambha had agreed to come...
Kaushika opened his he saw Rambha dance, this time instead of falling in love, he became angry...This woman was acting under the orders of that foolish Indra...Kaushika opened his mouth and uttered a curse in anger, 'You foolish woman! I curse you...' Rambha stopped dancing looking at Kaushika with fear, 'I curse you that you will become a rock for ten thousand years...'
Rambha screamed. But before she could do anything, she turned into a huge rock then and there. [Rambha was freed from her curse by Sage Vasishta – Kaushika's rival]
Kaushika looked at huge rock which stood in the place where Rambha was dancing and immediately felt guilty. He had given out a harsh curse to a woman who was just following orders...All this was the doing of Indra...not this woman...Kaushika was again disappointed. He felt that all his years of meditation were a waste...He had still not mastered his temper...He was dejected...first he had broken his meditation by love and now by his anger...He was still not in control of his senses. He closed his eyes and he realized that he was getting angry with Indra for no reason.... Indra is not my enemy...neither is Rambha...I cannot control my senses...That is what is going against me...I have to master myself...Kaushika realized. I need to perform meditation to gain control over myself...
Thinking thus, Kaushika again started his meditation with renewed vigour. This time his intensity and focus was unmatched. Kaushika had given up eating, drinking and even breathing...He was so totally immersed in the Brahman that everything else stopped existing for him.
Indra was now totally worried. Kaushika was becoming more and more powerful and there was nothing he could do to stop the man...After hearing what happened to Rambha, no apsara was ready to even look at Kaushika, let alone go near him.
Indra thought and wondered what to do...he was looking at Kaushika who was breaking his fast after his long penance and meditation...Suddenly he had an idea...
Back on earth, Kaushika was about to take his meals, after his meditation, when he saw a poor, pathetic looking man come towards him. The man looked like he was learned man, who had seen bad days. He was stumbling forward and walking as if in a daze. Kaushika left his food and ran forward and caught the man. He made the man sit down and gave him some water from his kamandalam. The man gratefully accepted the water. The man drank the water and closed his eyes. His eyes then became clearer and spoke to Kaushika, 'Thank you kind sage! Thank you so much...You saved my life...' The man croaked. Kaushika smiled and patted the man. Finally the man spoke again, 'Sir, I am hungry! Would you please...' The man said pointing at the food before Kaushika. Without a second's notice, Kaushika nodded his head. 'Please take what you want...'
The man frowned, 'Don't you want any of it?'
Kaushika smiled and shook his head, 'Not as much as you want it...'
The man fumbled, 'I will go and clean myself and come...I like my food hot...' He said with relish looking at the food. Kaushika smiled. 'There is a river nearby friend! Go wash yourself! When you are fresh, you will find your food hot!'
The man went away towards the river. Kaushika closed his eyes and started his meditation...his hunger forgotten. He looked at the place where the food was kept and recited a mantra...No matter when the man would come, the food would be hot...
The man, who was none other than Indra wantonly took a long time cleaning and washing himself. It would be impossible for anyone to keep up their fast while staring at food before them...I will take as long as possible...Kaushika will surely break his fast and then I will ask for food...But Indra had badly miscalculated this time. Kaushika had started totally mastering himself...He had no such yearning for the food.
Though Indra came after a long time, Kaushika not once even looked at the food. Indra to his surprise found that the mantras of the sage had even kept the food hot for him. Indra grudgingly realized that the sage had powers greater than his and that he could not stop him any more. Indra went home a dejected man, as Kaushika felt an enormous power flow though him...He felt like he was finally controlling himself...
However it was at this time that another problem came up. Kaushika had a friend – Trishanku. Trishanku was the king of the Ishkawaku dynasty [The same dynasty of Rama]. Kaushika and Trishanku were very good friends. Their friendship went back to the days when Kaushika was a king of a huge kingdom. After Kaushika had been defeated by Sage Vasishta when he wanted Nandini, the heavenly cow, he had given up his throne and gone away in a fit of anger. Unfortunately at that time a great famine struck Kaushika's kingdom. The people in the kingdom would have died from the drought. However Trishanku looked after Kaushika's family and his kingdom and made sure everyone had enough food to eat. Kaushika never forgot Trishanku's gesture and wanted to repay him back in some means.
Trishanku was extremely good looking and handsome. However as he was learning from his teachers about the facts of life and death, he learnt that after death every person had to shed his body and his soul would alone go to heaven. But this worried Trishaku. I will not be able to go to heavens in my good looking body?...That cannot be good...There has to be a way by which I can go to heaven in my own body...I will ask my teacher whether that can be possible...
So the very next day, Trishanku went to see Sage Vasishta, his teacher. 'Sir!' He bowed to Sage Vasishta, 'Sir! I have a request for you!' Sage Vasishta nodded his head and asked Trishanku to continue. Trishanku hesitatingly continued, 'Sir! Is it possible to go to heavens with the body that I have right now....Please...' He said. Sage Vasishta shook his head. 'No Son! That is not possible...Your soul is what you are...Not your body...Your body keeps changing with every birth you have...Whereas your soul belongs to the Brahman...that is the only thing which always lives forever, not your body...Do not have any attachments with physical things like your body or other material comforts...'
Trishanku was however not satisfied, 'Please sir! I think it can be done...can you...'
Sage Vasishta lost his patience, 'Enough! I have heard enough of your foolishness...I say it cannot be done...that means it cannot be done...And that is that' Sage Vasishta yelled at Trishanku. Trishanku knew that no amount of convincing could change the Sage's statement.
Trishanku sadly went away from Sage Vasishta's hermitage.
As he was walking, Trishanku came to another ashrama. Sage Vasishta had a hundred sons. All the hundred sons together had a ashrama. Trishnaku went inside the ashrama and talked to them. 'Look, I just want to know whether you would be interested in performing a yagna for which I can go to heavens in my own body...'
However Trishanku should have known better. He should have known that Sage Vasishta's sons would not go against their father. The request of Trishanku angered Sage Vasishta's sons. 'You have come here to ask for our help, after our father refused to help you! How could you even think we would help you?...If we entertain would amount to insulting our father....'
Another son yelled at Trishaku, 'You dare come to us! For this I curse are so proud of your body are you not? You will not have a good looking body hence forth.' Trishanku opened his mouth to stop the curse. But the son continued, '...You will look ugly and deformed and nobody would even want to look at you....' The son released the curse. Trishanku trembled as he heard the curse. He felt his body change. He saw the sons of Trishanku come and jeer at him, looking at his face. Trishanku saw his own men look at him and turn their face away...Trishanku hid his face and ran to the river nearby. Trembling and shivering he looked inside the water and what he saw appalled him. In the reflection, there was a hideous looking man...! The curse of Sage Vasishta's son had deprived him of the one thing he was really proud about...Trishanku wailed in frustration as he thumped his hands on the rocks near the river....But no amount of wailing could bring back what he had lost.
Now Trishanku felt totally alone and lost. Stumbling and fumbling Trishanku walked in the dense forests. He totally abhorred looking at all people and avoided everyone at all costs! As he walked on and on he reached the ashrama of Kaushika.
As Kaushika was about to begin his morning prayers, he saw a hideously ugly looking man come and look at him. However Kaushika never saw any of that. The only thing which he did see was the king hearted man, who had looked after his family and kingdom, when he had left them. Kaushika ran forward and embraced Trishanku. Trishanku felt a little uneasy as he was among people after a long time. However Kaushika's love opened him up. Kaushika made sure Trishanku ate well and rested well. Only after this he asked the reason why Trishanku had come here...
Trishanku spoke in broken words, 'You...know how handsome and good looking I was....' Kaushika nodded his head and did not say anything. 'Sage Vasishta and his sons took all that away from me...All for what?' He said angrily, 'All because I wanted to go to heaven in my own body...' Trishanku spoke with blood shot eyes, 'I think it can be done. But those people refused to even listen to me...Vasishta's sons even cursed me and took away my good looks.' Trishanku was almost reduced to tears as he spoke with trembling tones.
Kaushika thought what the king told him and spoke quietly, 'I can make sure that I send you to heaven in your own form, Trishanku...' Trishanku looked at Kaushika with hope in his eyes. However Kaushika held up his hands, 'But listen to me. I can also change you to your previous good looking form ...But if I do that, I would lose quiet a lot of my penance energy. I doubt whether I would be able to send you to heavens with the remaining energy I have...What do you wish I do?' Kaushika asked Trishanku. Trishanku thought about the jeering faces of the sons of Sge Vasishta. He knew how they would feel when he went up to heavens in his own form...Their face would be something priceless to look at. He looked at Kaushika. 'Send me to heavens in the same form that I am right now..' Kaushika patted his friend. 'Don't worry friend! I will make all arrangements for your yagna..Take rest and take good care of yourself...' Saying this Kaushika walked away from there.
There was another reason Kaushika wanted to perform the yagna, which he did not tell Trishanku..Sage Vasishta had told Trishanku that nobody could be sent to heavens in their own body..To do something that even the great Sage Vasishta cannot do, would be something like a crowning achievement for him...Kaushika was gleefully thinking as he set about making his preparations for the yagna.
He invited the sages from all over the country to attend the yagna. All of them fearing the sage's curse attended the yagna. Predictably the only two exceptions were Sage Vasishta and his hundred sons. Sage Vasishta had politely refused to attend the yagna. His sons sent back an insulting message to Kaushika telling him that they would not attend the yagna.
When Kaushika got the reply of the sons of Sage Vasishta, he lost control of himself. He cursed the sons of Sage Vasishta, however that is another story....
Kaushika started the yagna, with great pomp and show. He said the mantras and used his powers and made sure Trishanku raised up to the heavens in his own form. Trishanku and everyone else was amazed to find that he was actually rising to the heavens in his own form! Trishanku was about to enter the heavens in his form, when Indra, the Lord of the Heavens, came and saw an impossible thing.... A man was coming inside his kingdom in his own form! Indra was stupefied...such a thing had never ever happened! Indra stared and looked at Trishanku. He looked down at the earth and saw Kaushika's yagna. He understood that Trishanku was being sent up by the powers of Kaushika's own penance powers. Indra already knew that it was impossible to fight Kaushika and defeat him...But he could however deal with Trishanku. Once Trishanku came to heavens, he was in Indra's realm. Indra caught hold of Trishanku's neck and angrily told him, 'You silly man! You think you can break the law of nature! No man can ever come up to the heavens in their own form...Why should I make any exception for you...Take your hideous form and get out of here...' Indra threw Trishanku down with all the force he had. Trishanku was unable to protect himself and fell down, plunging straight back to earth. 'Kaushika! Help me!' He yelled as he fell face down.
Kaushika sensed that something had gone wrong. With only a few minutes to protect Trishanku, Kaushika uttered a mantra by which he stopped the falling Trishanku.
Kaushika looked at Indra angrily, 'Indra, you are foolish and think you can match wits with me and win! Never!' You are arrogant thinking you are the ruler of the heavens and that you can do anything...But I have the power of the Brahman, just see what I can do...'
Holding Trishanku suspended in midair, Kaushika using the remaining powers of his meditation, set about creating...He created his own world, and a heavens there...where Trishanku could go and reside...
Now Indra was scared...Kaushika had surpassed him! Kaushika was now actually displaying the powers of Brahma, the Creator God which were much greater than Indra's own power. Kaushika was actually creating a parallel universe, with another Indra...Indra shivered and wondered what to do. He along with Brahma went to see Kaushika, 'Kaushika! Your powers are great! You have shown the control you have over the Brahman, but you are changing the laws of nature...That should not be done...' However Kaushika was past caring. He continued creating another heaven for Trishanku to live in..Brahma and Indra desperately talked with Kaushika asking him to drop the idea and keep the balance of nature. 

Finally after a lot of requesting, Kaushika accepted. But he told Indra and Brahma, 'The world I have created for Trishanku would be for him and he can stay there only...That will be his heaven...The only concession I can give Indra is that Trishanku would rule only his own heaven, he would not be able to rule outside his heaven, on the earth or anywhere else.'
Indra said feeling a little disgruntled, 'Please... the only way to make sure that he rules only within his sphere, is to keep him upside down in the same form in which he was suspended by you...'
Kaushika realized that it was the only way to keep the balance of nature and reluctantly agreed to the condition. Thus Kaushika was able to create an alternate universe for his friend Trishanku, when he was refused the permission to go to heavens in his body form.
However after Kaushika had created the alternate universe for Trishanku he found that he had again depleted all his powers. He however had no regrets this time. He set about continuing his meditation and penance again. He gained much of his penance powers. Lord Brahma came and called him as 'Rajarishi'!
However that did not satisfy Kaushika. He again started his meditation and this time Lord Brahma came and conferred the title of 'Maharishi' on him. However Kaushika was still not satisfied. He performed some more meditation and penance and then went to ashrama of Sage Vasishta.
Sage Vasishta looked at Kaushika and said, 'Kaushika! I do not think you are great because of your powers...You are nothing more than a scoundrel..a scoundrel who wanted to steal my Nandini...'
Kaushika felt a change come over him when he heard the words of Sage Vasishta. He did not even react, not did he get angry. He was thinking about his silly little battle for Nandini. It all seemed so irrelevant now...He actually laughed. Kaushika at last felt completely in control of himself.
Sage Vasishta now looked at Kaushika with respect, 'Now you are totally in control of yourself, Kaushika! You are a Brahmarishi! Someone whom I would be proud to call my friend!'
Kaushika smiled. He knew that he and Sage Vasishta had now become best friends. It was at this time that Lord Brahma appeared there. 'Kaushika, you have been a good friend and you have helped all the people who have come to you...For this henceforth you will be called as 'Vishwamitra' – the friend of the universe. You are Brahmarishi Vishwamitra henceforth...'
Brahmarishi Vishwamitra smiled as he felt waves of peace pass through him.