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[ Transcribed from lectures given by Sri Atmatattva Das ]
So then Vasishtha told the story of Rishyashringa. Shringa means “horns” or “a person possessing horns.” Risha means “deer,” so Rishyashringa means “a human possessing horns.” He is a human being with deer horns who performs yajna and speaks Sanskrit. Vasishtha said, “I will tell you the story of Rishyashringa. Long ago, Kashyapa Muni produced a son while meditating on the sunlight. While he was meditating on the sunlight, suddenly he thought of a personality. When he thought of a personality, that person would come into existence. And he would come out of his mind. Kashyapa was Prajapati, “progenitor.” And this person was known as Vibondaka.
As soon as Vibondaka came out of Kashyapa’s mind, he went to the deepest forests in Madhya Pradesh which is now very famous as Chandal Valley. All the dacoits are there. That is where Vibondaka went, and he performed ugra-tapasa, very severe austerities. He was only performing tapasa for self-realization, but Indra was worried. Indra has a special secretary for this department. He gives him a list of people who are performing austerities, because he is so worried that they may become the opposition and may even try to usurp his own seat. So when he heard the name Vibondaka he asked, “What kind of tapasa is he doing?” The secretary mentioned to him, “He is performing such huge austerities that if he were to ever get angry, this whole universe would be burnt to ashes. And if he ever thinks of anything, it will automatically come to him without his having to perform any sacrifice. This is the potency of his tapovalam.” Indra said, “Then he is my candidate. I will have to work on him.” He thought of all the damsels on his planet, and he decided, “These are no good.” So then he went to Satyaloka, Brahma’s planet.
In Satyaloka there are damsels who are self-realized souls. They dance only for the pleasure of the deity that Brahma keeps for worship. Indra, for his political purpose, wanted to pollute these damsels. So he went to Brahma, but he couldn’t spend much time there because if you are too long in Brahma’s planet by the time you return your time will be over, So Indra said, “Give me the best damsel, quickly! I have to go!” So Brahma said, “All right, take this one.” There was one lady called Harsha, because she was always smiling. Harsha came with Indra, and even while flying with Harsha, Indra could understand that he was so greedy and lusty, and this woman was so saintly and serene, always meditating on the Absolute Truth. He was thinking, “What happens if I send her and they both become self-realized?” Indra wanted something wrong to happen. So he fell at the feet of Harsha, and said, “Please, protect my seat.” Harsha said, “I don’t think that this Vibondaka desires to enjoy anything.” Because she was sitting in Satyaloka she could see Vibondaka and what type of austerity he was doing. So she said, “You are unnecessarily sending me there, and I may even get burnt by his anger. But because Brahma has told then I am coming with you. Vibondaka has no such material desires. He won’t even look at me. I don’t know how I’m going to attract him and make him fall.” Indra said, “I don’t know what you will do, but at least get it confirmed from him that he has no desire to become Indra. Then my position is safe.” So Harsha said, “All right, I will do it. Whatever is given to me as a mission I will accomplish.”
So Harsha came to that valley, and Vibondaka was coming from the Ganges and going to his ashrama. So she came and sat there, and chanted mantras. There are different ways of making people fall down. Whatever is your weak spot, that can be used. Vibondaka’s weak spot was mantras and meditation, so she started chanting mantras. Vibondaka was so absorbed, and then suddenly he heard this clear pronunciation of Vedic mantras, clearer than anything else he had ever heard anywhere in the three planets. He turned back and looked at her, and immediately she fell at his feet. She said, “Only for the prayer of getting a son from you have I chanted these mantras. Vedic mantras which are chanted should not go in vain. Somebody must give a benediction, and I don’t want this benediction from anyone else, not even from Brahma. I only want It from you. If you don’t accept this request, then I will perform austerities and I will leave my body. And brahma-hatya will come to you.” In this way she blackmailed him. So Vibondaka said, “What is this? I am just trying to peacefully think of God. Why is this trouble coming?” So he looked at her and said, “I am Vibondaka, and I have no interest in this world. I don’t know why I was even sent here, but Kashyapa produced me. I am just trying to go away from here. What is this, giving you a son? You can’t get a son from anywhere else? You mention any other person, and I will command him to give you a son. If you want a son from Brahma, I will request him. If you want a son from my father Kashyapa, I will request him. Why me, in the whole creation?” So she said, “No, only you. You are the only person who should give me a son.” And then he said, “No this is not possible. I am not going to do it. If you have been even been thinking about me like that, that is bad for me.” And then he said, “Here is the potency from my body. You can arrange for getting a son.” And he dropped some semen and left.
Harsha then understood that Indra had nothing to fear, so her mission was fulfilled. But this shukla coming out of the body of Vibondaka, was there burning the whole world. She was now responsible for it, she had to direct it somewhere. She did not want to hold it and produce a son, because that was only a trick she was using. But when she looked up she saw a very transcendental deer moving around there. So immediately by her potency, she put the semen in the body of the deer, and the deer conceived a child. Since it was the conception of a rishi, it did not stay for more than a night.
The next morning, the deer delivered a baby. It had a human form, but with deer horns. This was Rishyashringa. So this deer ran to the ashrama of Vibondaka and started crying. Vibondaka saw this and thought, “Why are these things happening to me? Some lady wants a son, and now a deer is crying in my ashrama.” So Vibondaka asked the deer, “What is wrong? Who is giving you trouble?” The deer started walking away and Vibondaka followed. The deer brought him to where Rishyashringa was, and Vibondaka saw this shining young baby with deer horns. He thought, “Oh, this is my son. If nobody wants him, then I will take care of him.” Then Vibondaka thought, “Now I know why I was sent here, for some reason. Kashyapa did not conceive me for nothing. I am supposed to conceive this son, and God knows what he is going to conceive.” So Vibondaka brought him to the ashrama and gave him milk. He taught him Vedas and Upanishads and philosophy.
There was no woman in that forest, which was yojanas wide. There was not even any tigresses, only tigers. So Rishyashringa had no idea of women. He grew up, and for everything he was depending on his father. He would ask his father, “Father, can I take this book and read?” And if his father said yes, then he would do it. He would ask, “Father, should I brush my teeth?” And if the father said yes, he would brush his teeth. He was so dependent on his father. He would always walk everywhere holding his father’s hand. In this way Rishyashringa grew up to be the most innocent person in the creation. Lord Ramachandra had to appear, and if he was to appear then the yajna-purusha has to give the khir, and if that khir is to come, then the yajna has to be performed by someone who has never seen a woman. Lord Ramachandra’s advent was not that easy. This whole story is already in Vishnu Purana. In this way Rishyashringa was growing up, never hearing of any woman.
Dasharatha, when his daughter was born to Kausalya, he was thinking, “What shall I do with this daughter?” Then one day, from Angadesha, the country of Anga, Dasharatha’s friend Romapada (which means “hairy feet”) was hankering for a child too. He had some sons, but he had no daughter. This is the material world. He who has daughters, he is hankering for a son. And he who has sons is hankering for a daughter. And he who has no children, they are hoping for children, and those who have children are thinking “How to get rid of them,” and they send them to Gurukula. So Romapada came to Dasharatha and said, “You are my very good friend, and you have no sons. You always think, `What is the use of a daughter?’ And I want a daughter, so why don’t you give her to me?” And Dasharatha said, “All right, you can have her.” So he gave Shanti in adoption to the king of Angadesha known as Romapada.
Romapada brought Shanti to his kingdom. And whether it way the girl’s misfortune or the king’s misfortune, the second day was the day the rainy season was supposed to start but there was no rain. The whole rainy season went by and there was no rain. The second rainy season also went by with no rain. A big famine came about. So the king went to the astrologer and asked him, “Why is there famine in my kingdom? Is it due to this daughter? Everyone is saying it is due to her.” They found out that during some yajna that had been performed by Romapada he had cheated a Brahmin. He first promised him, “I will give you this much amount of diamonds,” but while he was counting the diamonds to be given as dakshina, he found one diamond which was very valuable, and he thought, “What is the Brahmin going to do with this?” So he took it out, and put a bigger diamond in its place, which was less valuable. When he gave the bag of diamonds to the Brahmin, the Brahmin touched the bag and said, “You cheated me! You removed one of these diamonds and put a bigger diamond to cheat me.” It was inside the bag, and the king was thinking, “How does he know this?” The Brahmin said, “I am a Brahmin, so I know this. You are cheating, so all the Brahmins will leave this country.” So he formed a big union and all the Brahmins walked out of the country. No more Brahmins means no more yajna, and it was Treta-yuga, so no yajna means no food.
The king was wondering what to do, so slowly from here and there he collected some Brahmins from other countries, and he brought them on immigration, so they couldn’t stay long. These Brahmins were coming and going, and in this way he was running his kingdom. Now famine had come due to this curse, and the fact that all the Brahmins had left his country. So the astrologer said, “So to solve this problem, you have to bring all the Brahmins back.” Romapada said, “But these Brahmins have formed a union. They won’t come back.” “They will come back if you bring one person here.” Romapada asked, “Who is that?” “There is one rishi. He has never seen a woman. And he doesn’t even know what is a woman. That person must come, and he must marry your daughter. If that rishi stays in your kingdom, then the Brahmins will not stay anywhere else. They will come here, because he is such a learned person. To see him, they will come. And after they come, they will stay.” So now he had to get this Rishyashringa, and he was thinking “How to get him?” So he asked this to his ministers, and they said, “Rishyashringa is not an easy object, his father is Vibondaka. If Vibondaka gets angry he will burn the universe to ashes. If you try to get his son he will get angry, and then there is no necessity of yajna or rain, because the whole universe will be burnt, and you will also be burnt.” “So what to do?” Romapada asked. “You have to use some trick,” his ministers replied. Then they advised him, “You must go and consult the society girls, the famous prostitutes of the country.”
So then Romapada made an announcement, “Special interview with the prostitutes of the country.” They all came, and they were thinking it had something to do with dance or music, or something like that. But when they heard that they had to bring Rishyashringa, then they ran away because everybody knew this person. However, one lady came up, and she said, “For the benefit of my country, I will sacrifice myself. I will try; if he comes, that’s good. Then the kingdom will be happy. If he doesn’t come, only a prostitute will be killed. What’s the problem? I don’t care, I will go.” Romapada asked, “What do want in return?” “I don’t want anything, let the country be happy.” “What help do you need?” Romapada asked. “Your treasury, whenever I go, must open. And if I want anything from any department, they must say yes, because you must know I am sacrificing my life.” So the king gave her a special green card. Anywhere she goes, anything she wants she would get. She made a boat which was four miles long and two miles wide. On top of the boat she made an ashrama. This boat was totally covered with trees and bushes, flower gardens, lakes and deer. All kinds of things she put in there. And thousands of people were rowing the boat, but you couldn’t see anything, it was all covered by bushes. There were pathways, small mountains, waterfalls, everything was created. It looked like a island, but it was moving. No-one knew what it was. They all though it was the gandharvas who have come. It was a special ashrama, no men. Only women were there. No tigers, only tigresses. It was filled up with women. They all had rudrakshas, tulasi-malas, jasmine flowers tied up in their hair, and they were all praying, doing meditation and chanting mantras. This boat was floating so nicely down the river, and somehow or other they got it into Madhya Pradesh. So as they reached Vibondaka’s ashrama, Vibondaka went out to help a sage who had gotten stuck in the mouth of an elephant. He was calling, “Save me! Save me!” And no-one heard him, only Vibondaka. So he told Rishyashringa, “You must perform the yajna three times daily. Don’t worry about cleaning the ashrama, because it’s too big for you. Just perform the yajna till I get back.”
When Vibondaka left, the demigods made arrangements and got him involved in so many other things so that Rishyashringa was left by himself. Rishyashringa went to the river to take water for the yajna, and he saw this moving ashrama. He’d never been anywhere, but he’d studied a lot of shastra, and he’d never heard of anything like this before. And whenever the description came of women, Vibondaka would never explain it. He would never read such parts. In this way he was kept brainwashed to be a brahmacari. He looked at this ashrama, “This is so nice.” And then he saw some figures in there. “What kind of rishis are these? This is a different type of rishi.” He became very eager. “Anyway, if they are in the area, they must visit my father’s ashrama.” And they did come. They just made sure that Vibondaka was not around, and then three of the great saintly people walked out of the boat. And then they came, raising their hands and calling “Rishyashringa! Rishyashringa!”
Usually when the rishis came they called for Vibondaka. So he saw these rishis coming, and he went and addressed them. And after addressing them he was asking, “Where are you coming from? Which planet? What mantras do you chant? How come by the touch of your bodies all my hairs are standing on end? Why am I having such romancha?”
They were smiling at each other, and they said, “We are rishis from another place, it is eight yojanas from here. It is an island, and no human beings come there. We are born with perfection. We came to see your father. We know that you are very learned, so in our moving ashrama, we want you to come and stay for a few days.”
Rishyashringa said, “I would be very happy to do that, but my father is not here. I don’t even brush my teeth unless my father tells me to. So how will I go away from here, and who will perform the yajna three times daily?”
One lady said, “I will do it, I am expert in this line.” And she sat down. Somehow Rishyashringa fell pray for this. These were saintly people, so why shouldn’t they do yajna? And they looked different, very attractive. He couldn’t understand what the tejas was that was coming from that body and attracting him. He didn’t know it was lust. This was never explained to him. So he left that lady there doing yajna, and they had a flower ladder from the ashrama up to the bank of the river. This ashrama was filled with saintly people, so somehow they engaged him in listening to music, and dancing and so many other things, and slowly they came to Angadesha.
In Angadesha there was big reception arranged for Rishyashringa, brahmacari incarnate. There was purna-kumbha and there was mantras and Brahmins. The Brahmins all came to know that Rishyashringa was coming, and they came and waited there. He was worshipped like anything. He saw more saintly people were sitting there in that country, and they were sitting with other saintly people. Then he started realizing that something was wrong in his understanding. He asked the king, “Why have you brought me here?” But as soon as he stepped off the boat, rain came. And people were all happy, they were showering akshada and touching his feet. All the people came and told him, “You must never leave our country. You must become the son-in-law of our king.” He didn’t know what son-in-law meant. So then they had to have special classes for him to explain how to become a son-in-law. Then he understood everything and finally he blessed the king by marrying Shanti, Dasharatha’s daughter.
In the meantime Vibondaka had returned to his ashrama, and saw this lady sitting there offering ghee into the fire. He grabbed her by the hair and said, “Who are you? What are you doing with my fire? It’s been here for six thousand years. You came and contaminated it. What are you doing?”
She said, “I am not this body. I am spirit soul.”
Vibondaka said, “That’s very nice, that you’re not this body, but you are not supposed to do this.”
So then she said, “No no, Rishyashringa told me to do this.”
So he said, “So come on tell me, where is Rishyashringa? What did you do to him? There was one man in this world who was pure, and you spoiled him too!”
And then the lady said, “What could we do, this was a nationalistic service. We are serving the nation. In the service of our nation we have done something so we will go to heavenly planet.”
So then Vibondaka said, “I’m going to curse that king, that Angadesha Raja! He’s getting rain, but I will see that he gets nothing any more.”
The lady fell at his feet and said, “At least do the curse there. Then he will know you are cursing him. Don’t do the curse from here.”
“All right,” he said. He was so angry, but Romapada was so clever, he was arranging for many Brahmins chanting mantras, glorifying Vibondaka, showing pictures of Kashyapa Muni just to attract him. But Vibondaka came and said, “Where is the king? Bring him here!”
Romapada came and begged, “Please don’t curse me! Already there are enough curses! All that I have done is that I have made your son the king of this country.” So then something dawned on Vibondaka. “My son has become the king of this country. Now he has become the king, he has to protect the citizens. If I curse, then the blame is on him because he couldn’t protect his citizens.” So then he called his son, “Rishyashringa, come here.” Rishyashringa came, and Vibondaka said, “All right, as soon as one son is born, you must be back in the ashrama. You understand?”
This was the time when Dasharatha was told, by Vasishtha Muni, the story. And Vasishtha said, “If you personally go, then Rishyashringa may come.” So Dasharatha started, with all his paraphernalia, his seven akshauhini-shainyas, and arrived in Angadesha. Romapada was thinking, “What is this? Suddenly Dasharatha is coming with his army. He is going to fight with me or what?” So he came with a white flag. “There is no question that your army can even stay in my country. Your army is so big that they can only just stand inside my country, not much more. Why are you coming with seven akshauhini-shainyas?” Dasharatha said, “No, I am just coming to request Rishyashringa to come and perform a yajna for me.”
Romapada said, “I don’t know. Already his wife is pregnant, and as soon as the son is delivered, he will go. I don’t know how long the yajna will be. I’m not going to play any more tricks, because already Vibondaka has told him, `One son and you are back in the ashrama’.”
Dasharatha said, “I will fall at his feet. He has protected your kingdom, why will he not save my country too? Why will he not do it?”
So Dasharatha went there, paid his pranams, and he cried and told Rishyashringa, “I have no hope. I will jump in the fire of asvamedha instead of the horse, if you don’t come.”
So then Rishyashringa calculated, “How many days are left?” It was 28 days more before the delivery. “That’s all right. In 24 days I will come and do putra-kamesti.” So he came, and right next to the asvamedha-yajna he created another fire from that, and he quickly started putra-kamesti. And when he was finishing with the purnahoti, the yajna-purusha came, a dark, black figure which was three miles tall. He had a huge big pot in his hand. He was holding Narayana in it, so it was no small affair. He said to Dasharatha, “Please give this sweet rice to your queens.” Dasharatha was looking at the size of the pot, and he was thinking, “If I give this to my queens, then there will be no more queens.” It was a huge big pot.
Dasharatha asked Vasishtha, “How is this possible? How can they eat this much sweet rice?”
So then Vasishtha said, “You ask Rishyashringa, he will tell you.”
Rishyashringa asked the yajna-purusha, “Why are you giving such a big pot to these human beings that they can’t even hold it?”
The yajna-purusha said, “The personality who is coming is so powerful, that you can’t reduce him smaller than this.”
Then Rishyashringa closed his eyes and said, “Ah! Bigger than the biggest, and smaller that the smallest. He is in this pot. You give it to me.” So he took the pot, and it became small. By the request of Rishyashringa the Lord reduced His aishvarya, and the pot became small. He gave it to Dasharatha and said, “All right, I have two days to get to my ashrama. In between I have to take care of the delivery.” So Dasharatha took the sweet rice. He gave half of it to Kausalya. The remainder he split in two, one for Sumitra and one to Kaikeyi. After Kaikeyi drank it, there was still some left, so that was also given to Sumitra. In this way the Lord came as Lord Ramachandra in Kausalya’s womb. He came as Laksmana and Satrughna in Sumitra’s womb, and he came as Bharata in Kaikeyi’s womb. Vasudeva came as Ramachandra, Sankarshana came as Laksmana. The Sudarshan disc came as Bharata, and the Pancajanya conchshell came as Satrughna.