Monday, December 04, 2006

Story 39 – Story of Mahaabali - 01

Remembering the ultimate reality of Lord as main goal of the study of the various stories of Srimad Bhagavatham, let us learn the next story. The next story is that of Mahaabali, the great asura chakravarthi. As we have learnt in many of the stories of Srimad Bhagavatham, there is a general wrong notion in the minds of people that the various asuras were not realized and against the Lord. That this is completely wrong is clearly shown in the various stories in the puranas like that of Prahlaada and Mahaabali.

There were a great set of asuras who were realized souls and ever established in the ultimate reality of Lord. These were jeevan mukthas unlike the devas who were often deluded into sensual pleasures as seen in the stories. The asura parampara starting from Prahlaada and ending with Mahabali shows us that it doesn’t matter what is the activity that a person does in life – what really matters is the attitude behind all illusory activities. So long as a person does actions remembering the ultimate reality of Lord and offering it unto the Lord, he is either a seeker or a realized saint only.

We have already seen while learning the story of Prahlaada that Prahlaada was a realized being ever established in the ultimate reality of Lord. Prahlaada’s son was Virochana. Virochana’s son was the great Mahaabali who is very famous in the clan of the asuras. We find the story of Mahaabali in the Bhagavatham as well as in the Yoga Vasistha. Yoga Vasistha’s narration and way of pointing out the reality is quite distinct. It will be very useful for seekers of the reality. Hence while learning the story of Mahaabali, we will also try to view the story from Yoga Vasistha as well.

It is but right that people who are not well learned in the stories or are not pure in mind to apprehend the meaning of the stories will bring out false imports of the stories. It is one of such wrong notion that Mahaabali was pushed into Paathala by the Lord. This is completely wrong. Bhagavatham beautifully describes as to what happened to Bali at the end. Mahaabali was not send to Paathala but to Suthala with the vow of the Lord that whenever he wants to meet the Lord, the Lord will be present there. Thus we should again and again remember that the action that a person does or the vamsa (clan) in which a person is born doesn’t matter – it has got nothing to do with spiritual progress. Spirituality is beyond the limitations of body. A person who is pure in the heart is a great bhakthi; he is a great yogi as his mind is pure and controlled; he is also a jnaani as he knows that the Lord alone is real & everything else is only an illusion in the ultimate reality of Lord.

We will learn in the coming days that Mahaabali clearly catered to this kind of definition of a real bhaktha of the ultimate reality of Lord. Even though he was an asura by action, he was brahma nista by attitude. He was ever immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord. It is because of this that when Vaamana asked for keeping the foot on his head, Mahaabali didn’t go back on his word. He had already realized that the ultimate reality of Lord alone is real – the body and other limitations are only mere illusions in the reality of Lord. Mahaabali as he was aware of this knowledge, considered himself blessed that the Lord himself had come to ask something from him. Therefore Mahaabali didn’t even heed the words of his Guru Shukracharya who told him not to grant his words as Vamana was Vishnu. A real seeker of the ultimate reality of Lord will never let anything stop his progress in the spiritual path. Even if the Guru comes in the way of the reality of Lord, the seeker will keep aside the Guru and walk in the spiritual path. This is exactly what Mahaabali did. We may again think wrongly and come to the conclusion that Mahaabali was punished because he was cursed by Shukracharya for not heeding his advice – but this thought also is because of ignorance alone. Bhagavatham clearly points out three jeevan mukthas in the last part of this story – the three being Mahaabali, Vaamana and Shukracharya. Each person did what they had to do in the illusory play of the Lord not being affected by the surroundings and environment. It is because of contemplation of the reality of Lord that Mahaabali didn’t heed to Shukra’s words. Shukra cursed him because that was the role he had to play in this illusory play of the Lord. We will see this in detail when we learn that part of the story.

This particular story is a beautiful one because it brings out the essence of knowledge of the scriptures as well as tells us as to how to live in the world unaffected by the activities of the world.

We will start the story of Mahaabali today. As mentioned earlier, Mahaabali’s father was Virochana whose father was Prahlaada. Prahlaada was a jnaani and bhaktha of the ultimate reality of Lord. Prahlaada even made his father realize the reality that whatever is present is only the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus the tradition of knowledge was passed down from Prahlaada to Mahaabali. We find the Yoga Vasistha speaking about Virochana speaking about the reality to his son Mahaabali when he was young. When Mahaabali took over the charge of the kingdom, he remembers the advice of his father about the ultimate reality of Lord. Virochana had mentioned that the ultimate reality of Lord alone exists and whatever else exists is only an illusion in the Lord. But in order to confirm it from the Guru, Mahaabali thinks about Shukracharya and the Guru arrives at the place. Mahaabali puts forth his questions about what all really exists in the world and Shukra answers thus:

Chidiha asthihi chinmaatram idam chinmayameva cha
Chit tvam chit aham ethe lokaah chit ithi sangrahah

Consciousness alone exists here, there is nothing other than Consciousness. Everything is Consciousness alone. You are Consciousness, I am Consciousness and the world is Consciousness – this is the knowledge in brief.

Chit chetyakalithaa bandhah tanmukthaa mukthiruchyathe
Chit achetyaa kila aatmethi sarva Vedanta sangrahah

Consciousness when mixed with thoughts is bondage and removal of thoughts from Consciousness is liberation. Consciousness devoid of thoughts is called Atman – this is the essence of all scriptures.

He who understands the reality from this will realize the reality. He who cannot understand this will never understand and his learning will be like pouring ghee over ashes (for fire).

Keep this reality in mind and always contemplate on the reality. You will by yourself realize the ultimate reality of Lord in time.

The above is the teaching that Shukra gives to Mahaabali. As we can see, the instruction is crisp and easy to understand as well. He who cannot understand this brief instruction will never understand it at all. There is nothing here apart from the ultimate reality of Lord. The dualities and differences that appear in the world are only mere illusions in the Lord. The scriptures speak about the Lord as prajnaanam or Consciousness. Hence Yoga Vasistha uses the word of CHIT to point out the ultimate reality of Lord. Chit is that which illumines itself and other illusory things. Without chit, there is no existence at all. If a person is not conscious, there will no world or things at all. Thus Consciousness or Chit alone is the essence of everything. That which we perceive in the world are in fact Chit alone as they are illumined by Chit alone. The duality is only names and forms of the ultimate reality of Lord. If we remove the illusory names and forms through constant contemplation of the reality that Lord alone exists, we will realize this ultimate reality. Realization of reality doesn’t require special sadhana or paths but it just requires constant contemplation of the reality knowing through the intellect that there is the Lord alone here. This is what Yoga Vasistha is telling that a person who remembers the reality that the Lord alone exists & contemplates on the Lord at all times will easily realize his own very nature of Lord in due time. Time depends on the strength of conviction and the time that a person uses for contemplation. IF a person is able to gain conviction that there is the Lord alone and contemplates on this reality at all times, he will realize the Lord within a day. It even doesn’t require a day also – it just requires a moment. Time constraint is not really there for realization because realization is knowing our own real nature of Lord.

Ramana Maharshi used to tell that the time for realization is the time taken for light to enter into a dark room when it is switched on. We all know that the time taken is very less – similarly when the light of knowledge and devotion arises in a person, that very moment he realizes the ultimate reality of Lord which removes the darkness of ignorance of one’s own nature of Lord.

Mahaabali after listening to Shukra’s words, analyzed the same and concluded that he will ever be established in contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus he became always immersed in the Lord though externally he was into many activities.

This is the version that we find in the Yoga Vasistha. WE will start with the story of Mahaabali as found in the Bhagavatham from tomorrow.

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