An Example of Asthanga Yoga in Bhagavata Purana

Nārada Advises Yudhiṣṭhira

Meanwhile, the noble King had finished his morning prayers and rituals – paying respects to the learned and giving them food, resources and money. He returned to the palace to respect his elders but could not find his uncles and aunt.

Worried, he went to Sañjaya and asked,

“Where is our blind and old uncle? Where is my aunt, so sad over the death of her children? Where is my Uncle Vidura, who has always protected me? Have I been so insensitive to their losses that they’ve thrown themselves into the Ganges in misery?

“When our father Pāṇḍu fell and we were still little children, our uncles protected us from danger and disaster. Where have they gone?”

Sañjaya couldn’t answer right away, but he brushed away his own tears, calmed his own mind and, carefully remembering the feet of his master, began to reply.

Sañjaya said:

“Oh beloved son, I don’t know what your uncles and aunt have decided. Those great souls have left me in the dark.”

Just then godly Nārada arrived with Tumburu.[1] Everyone stood up to offer respectful greetings to the scholar.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

“O godly one, I don’t know where my uncles and austere aunt have gone, aggrieved over the death of their children.  Your ears can guide us beyond the insurmountable limits of our own limitations.”

Then, godly Nārada, the most spiritual scholar, began to speak:

By no means should you weep, King. You are not the real King, God is. Everything is controlled by him. Everyone and all their leaders pay tribute to him, seeking sanctuary. He brings living beings together, and also takes them apart. His orders are the reigns through the nose of the bull that is humanity. Everyone pays him tribute and receives sanctuary.

Just like a playful child brings his toys together and separates them as he likes, so too are humans moved by the will of the Master.[2]

Maybe you think life is eternal, maybe you think it is temporary. In either case it is foolish to lament over affection, or anything else.[3]

You worry, thinking, “But how can those poor helpless people survive without me?” You feel this way because you are ignorant of who and what you really are. Give this up.

You are in a body created by five elements and controlled by habit, causality and fate. You are like a person bitten by a snake, who rushes to help others.

You worry that your aunt and uncles may have gone somewhere dangerous. Is anyplace safe in this world? Here the strong devour the weak. The four-legged devour the legless. Those with hands devour those without. Here, life lives at the expense of the living.

In this frightful situation, O Emperor, we must try to see the All-Attractive inside and outside of everything; the one soul of all souls. It is a bewilderment to look towards any other.

O Emperor, the All-Attractive being of beings is always among us in the form of fateful time. He deletes the existence of those who trouble the gods. He accomplishes this mission with time to spare. You will stay in this world for as long as he does.[4]

You want to know where your aunt and uncles are? They have gone to the southern Himalayas, to place where sages reside, a place called “Sevenfold” because there the Ganges splits into seven branches, creating seven islands for the seven sages.

Your Uncle Dhṛtarāṣṭra is practicing aṣṭānga-yoga there. He performs the first step by bathing and invoking the sacred fires exactly according to rites. He performs the second step by eating only water. By now he will have attained self-pacification and abandoned all desires.

He will master the third and fourth steps: postures and breathing. He will take the fifth step: withdrawing his six senses from the external world and absorbing them in Hari. Thus he will attain the sixth step: liberation of the mind from the distractions of passion, peace, and ignorance.[5]

As the seventh step he will reach unity with perfect self-knowledge. He will destroy the knower of the body by merging it into the pool of spiritual being, like the air within a pot merged into the sky.

Finally, at the eighth step when nature’s impurities are overcome and their after-effects subside, the causes of desire will cease. All acquisition is stilled, immovable, and fixed. There is no further obstacle. All deeds are completely given up.

O King, this will probably take him another five days to achieve. So in five days his body will become ash.

When his saintly wife sees her husband’s body engulfed in flames inside a hut she will also enter the flame..

But when Vidura sees this amazing sight he will leave that place, pushed by feelings of delight and grief, and again wander on pilgrimage.[6]

After saying all this, Nārada and Tumburu ascended to the heavens. By keeping Nārada’s words in his heart, Yudhiṣṭhira could let go of all worry and grief.


[1] Tumburu is considered the best Gandharva (celestial musician). He accompanies Nārada to assist his kīrtana.

[2] We have very small, localized vision. Therefore it is not always obvious to us how God’s “play,” which often appears cruel and painful, can somehow serve a loving purpose. Similarly a child does not easily understand the punishment of his loving and careful mother.

[3] If life is eternal nothing can be lost. If life is temporary nothing can be saved. In either case there should be no cause for shock.

[4] This is a very slight hint that Krishna has already departed, and thus his retinue, which includes Vidura, are now also departing from the world.

[5] Material energy has three modes of operation: rajas agitates us to endeavor, sattva makes us seek peace and calm, tamas makes us want to relent and forget. These three forces constantly pull the six senses by the ropes of habit, dragging them back into mundane activity.

[6] He is delighted that his brother was so successful, but naturally sad at the experience of losing his relationship.

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About Vraja Kishor

Invoved in Hare Krishna and Hardcore Punk since 1988 (Beyond, Inside Out, Shelter, 108). From 1992, I studied Bhagavat Gītā and Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu at the Vṛndāvan Institute for Higher Education; became headmaster and temple-president in 1995; and finally distanced myself from ISKCON in 1997, setting out to start a family. In 2009 we moved to Japan, where I continued my astrology practice and began teaching English and studying Sanskrit and the Ṣaḍ-sandarbha. To date I've written about a dozen books. You can find out about them and the study courses I offer, on my website: http://vrajakishor.com View all posts by Vraja Kishor

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