By H.V. Seshadri
THIS is the story of the young Upamanyu who lived during the period of Mahabharata.
Maharishi Ayoddhaumya was well renowned for his knowledge, meditation and benevolence. Overtly he used to appear very strict with his students but deep inside he had high regard for them. He hoped to make his students exceptionally capable. Thus only those who were truly sincere and keen to acquire knowledge could stay with Maharishi with great devotion. Among Maharishi´s disciples was a student named Upamanyu. Gurudev entrusted the responsibility of grazing the cows to Upamanyu, who would graze the cows throughout the day and return to the Ashram in the evening. One day Gurudev enquired, ?Son Upamanyu, what do you eat for your meal every day??
Upamanyu replied very humbly, ?Sir, I manage to subsist by bhiksha for alms.?
Maharishi said, ?Son, a bachelor should not eat food collected by bhiksha. Whatever is collected by bhiksha should be placed before the guru. If the guru spares something from it, then that alone should be consumed by the disciple.?
Upamanyu willingly accepted his guru´s advice. Now whatever he collected by bhiksha, he would place in front of Gurudev. To strengthen his disciple´s devotion, Gurudev began to keep all the food for himself that the disciple collected by bhiksha. He would not give anything from it to Upamanyu. After a few days when Gurudev asked, ?Upamanyu, what do you eat these days?? then Upamanyu revealed, ?I give the alms collected in my first visit to Gurudev and go again and collect alms for myself in my second visit.?
Maharishi said, ?But asking for alms twice is against Dharma. This way the householder will bear a greater burden and the other disciples would hesitate to go for bhiksha to that house. From now on, you should not go for bhiksha the second time.?
Upamanyu said, ?So be it.? Later on being asked again by Gurudev, Upamanyu replied, ?I satiate my hunger by drinking the cow´s milk.?
On being told by the Gurudev to desist from the practice, Upamanyu began to control his hunger pangs by swallowing the spit oozing out from the calf´s mouth. But Guru Maharaj, by citing one reason or the other, placed a curb on Upamanyu´s eating of any type of food.
After remaining empty stomach for two to three days, Upamanyu collapsed out of hunger in the sweltering heat of an afternoon sun. To satisfy his hunger he ate four to six leaves of a tree growing nearby. Due to the poison in the leaves, Upamanyu lost his eyesight. But even in such a condition, Upamanyu got up to move towards the Ashram through touch and guesswork, but soon fell into a small dry well. From inside the well he began to call out to Guru Maharaj for help, ?Gurudev! Gurudev!?
A story from Mahabharata
That evening when all the cows as usual returned to the Ashram without any sign of Upamanyu, then Maharishi Ayoddhaumya became worried and rushed to the forest. On hearing his cries, he approached near the well and taught his pupil the mantra from the Rigveda calling upon the Ashwini gods. On recitation of the mantra with full devotion the Ashwini gods appeared and, besides restoring Upamanyu´s eyesight, gave him prasad (a small food item given after offering it to the gods). At this, Upamanyu refused to accept the prasad without offering it to his guru first.
At that moment, the Ashwini gods told Upamanyu something which landed him in a serious mental dilemma. They said, ?Look, before this, even your Guru Maharaj had eaten the prasad given by us without offering it to his guru. Then why do you have any objection in doing the same??
Upamanyu replied, ?I am not concerned with what my Guru Maharaj did or did not do during his childhood. It is my duty to act according to what has been taught to me by my guru.?
On hearing Upamanyu´s reply, the Ashwini gods were dumbfounded as well as pleased at his devotion to the guru, and blessed him of becoming capable in all fields of knowledge.
When Upamanyu emerged from the well, Maharishi Ayoddhaumya embraced his favourite pupil and the guru-devoted, young Upamanyu, by becoming a complete follower of Maharishi Ayoddhaumya, grew adept in all fields of knowledge.
Adopt a Role Model
The reply that young Upamanyu gave to the Ashwini gods was according to the words of an important Rishi as described in the Acharyaopdesh of the Taittiriya Upanishad:
?….yanyanavdhyani karmani, tani sevitvyani, no itrani,
yanyasmank such-aritani, tani twayop-asyani, no itrani.?
(Taittiriya Upani-shad?Acharya-opdesh, XI part and shloka No. 2.)
(Only works devoid of faults are to be adopted. Whatever is good in our (teacher´s) character should be emulated; not the other traits.)
This can raise a question in front of us, that is?Is this story of Upamanyu relevant to the situation seen around us today? In its reply it may seem to us that it is not applicable even a wee bit. This is because in today´s society we cannot see such a capable person among the teachers or in the society as to be compared to Maharishi Ayoddhaumya. Secondly, it is all the more difficult to find a student in the student community who is capable of having such a strong devotion to his guru (teacher) as Upamanyu had. In other words, no matter whatever be the shortcomings of our teachers, parents or eminent persons of the society, we should try to follow their useful advice, though emulating a character like Upamanyu is next to impossible.
Today, no matter which important field of the society we look at?educational, economic, religious or social, a government bureaucrat or a police officer, or more importantly, our parents at home, can the new generation get encouraged to adopt any one of them as their role model? The general reply would be a ?no?.
Because in every field, persons take the support of their ideal for committing their wrong acts. Does this imply that there is nothing good left in the society? Has the society no role model to offer? It is natural to feel thus on looking at things superficially. But this is not exactly true. In this society, in our own life we certainly do see some men of high principles who enthuse us to emulate them.
There are teachers and professors who teach their students with utmost sincerity and try to guide their lives towards progress. There are police officers and administrators who, without relenting under government impact or pressure, follow the right path. There are thousands of persons in national life who, keeping the welfare of the society in mind, are engaged in fulfilling their duties in literature, medicine, religion, agriculture, big and small industries and many other fields. At home, many such role models will be found who, with their ideal behaviour, have been successful in giving the right direction to their children´s life.
In Chennai, a few years ago, the late Shivram Joglekar, a Pracharak, felt, ?Today there is corruption all around; no good men are left. Such a belief is not correct. In the society there are men who hold high ideals but fail to acquire limelight. Hence, I will try to find such persons.? Within a short period of two to four years he was able to identify two thousand such men in the field of administration and he personally went and met eight hundred of them. He tried to bring together all such persons into one unit under the banner of Nallavar Vattam (a group of good persons). Slowly and gradually, more and more persons began to join this group on coming under its influence. It was seen that the life of each such person was ideal and a role model for others.
Today the need is for such people. We have to prepare our new generation by placing before them the lives of those men and women who harbour the desire to reach high ideals and lead a disciplined life. Instead of complaining that ?there is darkness everywhere?, life would become more enlightened if we were to light somewhere a small lamp of learning.