Saturday, April 28, 2007

Story 44 - Story of Rantideva - 01


Upon analysis, we find only two entities here - one is sentient Consciousness termed as Brahman or Lord and second is the insentient world consisting of illusions of names-forms. The insentient world is only an illusion in the reality of Lord. Thus whatever really exists is nothing but the ultimate reality of Lord. The world thus is filled in and out by the ultimate reality of Lord. Constant contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord as the substratum and reality behind the illusory world alone will lead us to realize our nature of Lord. Realization of our very nature of non-dual Lord alone can give us eternal bliss - that which we have been seeking each and every moment in the illusory world.

If we forget the ultimate reality of non-dual Lord, then we will end up with illusory names and forms of the world. As any illusion will lead us only to sorrow and suffering, the moment we forget the ultimate reality of Lord we will end up with sorrow alone. Thus we have to remember to constantly remember the ultimate reality of Lord as the only real entity present here.

It is this Lord who is the main import of sruthi, smrithi and puranas. We find Puranas explaining about the ultimate reality of Lord through various stories so that we are able to easily remember the Lord through his illusory glories.

Are the glories of the Lord also illusory?

Anything apart from the Lord is an illusion. Thus the glory of the Lord which includes creation, protection etc. is also mere illusion in the Lord as the Lord alone exists, one without a second.

Remembering the non-dual Lord as the only reality and the import of all the stories of Srimad Bhagavatham, let us start with the next story of Srimad Bhagavatham. The story that we are going to discuss is the story of Rantideva. This story of Srimad Bhagavatham shows us that knowledge and intellectual conviction about the ultimate reality of Lord will make a person bold and strong enough to face anything and everything in the world. Such a person will neither fear anything nor crave for worldly pleasures. Such a person will be ever willing to part with whatever he has as possessions. This is possible only because he knows that the Lord alone exists and all other things are mere illusions in the Lord. This knowledge that the Lord alone exists will make him totally detached to worldly possessions include the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. All these basic needs are only for the body and not for the Self of the nature of Lord. The moment we realize our nature of Lord as distinct from the body, we will become detached to the body even as an actor is detached to the particular role he is playing in the drama. We all are playing our roles in this long drama of waking world. We may need to act accordingly as required by the role. It is foolishness to stay away from action saying that I don't need to do action. As the Lord proclaims in Gita, it is impossible to be without doing actions in this karma loka. We are bound to do actions. But we have the option of either getting attached to the action or being detached to the action. If we are detached to the action, then the outcome of the action will not affect us and we will be ever blissful. On the other hand, if we are attached to the action we will become either sad or happy depending on the outcome of the action. Such a person who is attached to action will have to do more and more action seeking eternal bliss in sensual pleasures. As we saw in the story of Yayati, there is no end to sensual pleasures. And hence such a person will be born again and again in the karma loka ever deluded in the ocean of samsaara. But the wise person realizing the futility of karma and knowing that the ultimate reality of Lord alone exists will be detached to everything including actions.

In this story, we find Rantideva totally detached to all possessions including his basic needs. We will see as to how he lived in the world in the next day.

Rantideva was a chakravarthi in the vamsha of Puru and was a daanaveera (known for his attitude of giving). The fame of Rantideva has spread not only here but also in Paraloka as well. Whatever was there with him and whatever he used to get, he used to give it to people seeking from him. He thus lived with the only possession of aakaasha (space).


We have all heard about the giving nature of Karna who is very popular for it. But Karna was a total failure in the world as well as in spiritual life. We should remember that terming of qualities and character as either good or bad is not dependent on the quality in itself - instead it depends on the attitude behind such quality. It doesn't depend whether a person is doing good action or bad action - if the action is associated with the right attitude of remembrance of the ultimate reality of Lord, then it is a good action; if the action is not associated with the right attitude, then it is a bad action. It doesn't matter whether the action is sandhya vandhanam or veda paarayana or even Vedantic study - if it is not associated with remembrance of the ultimate reality of Lord, then it is a bad action.

What is bad action? What is the problem of doing bad actions?

Bad actions are those which aren't associated with remembrance of the reality of Lord. Such actions will lead us only to sorrow - since the goal of our life is nothing but eternal bliss, thus we have to always try to do good actions.

Though Dharmavyaadha of Mahabharatha was doing an adharmic activity of cutting and selling meat, still he was a jeevan muktha and was considered great by the Lord himself. This clearly shows that the attitude behind any action determines whether the action is good and will lead to eternal bliss or is bad and will lead to sorrow.

Though Karna was doing the action of giving everything to whoever sought it from him, still he wasn't doing a good action as there was no remembrance of the ultimate reality of Lord. Moreover when we give emphasis to worldly relations instead of the truth, then it will lead us to our own destruction. This is what happened with Karna. He knew that Duryodhana was not doing the right thing by taking what was rightful for pandavas but still he was bound by the friendly relation with Duryodhana. There are many such people in the world who though know that certain things are bad and will lead only to sorrow, still do those actions because of bondage. What to call such people than FOOLS. Mahabharatha through the character of Karna tells us that it doesn't matter whether we give value to relations but it matters as to whether we are acting for the reality or not. If we aren't acting for the reality through constant remembrance of the Lord, we will end up in sorrow alone. Lord himself did many wrong actions in Mahabharatha including killing of Karna by Arjuna, killing of Drona etc. but still he was always immersed in the contemplation of Lord (as he was Lord himself). It is this knowledge that helped Krishna face all the hardships in his life with a smiling face and being able to give happiness to whoever came to him.

Here in this story we find in Rantideva another Karna but Rantideva was always contemplating on the ultimate reality of Lord. The very remembrance of the Lord will make any action pure, sacred and blissful. As Bhagavatham mentions in many places, the very aim of life is to constantly remember the ultimate reality of Lord so that when our time to leave this mortal coil comes, we will be able to do it without any sorrow and crying. It will be as simple as an actor finishing his role in the play.

We will see as to how Rantideva was behaving in the world even during times of distress and sorrow in the coming days.

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