The Story of Sagara

The king Sagara, having restored the empire lost by his forefathers, established himself as a benevolent king in all respects. In the process of restoring his empire he conquered several enemies but refrained from killing them in difference to his preceptor’s(Sage Aurva’s) advice. On the suggestion of the sage Aurva,he started to perform ‘Ashvamedha yagna’ which is supposed to be a vehicle to propitiate the Lord Hari himself. As was the practice in those days,the sacrificial horse was set out to roam free around the country before concluding the sacrifice or Yajna. Indra who was jealous of Sagara performing the Yajna stole the horse. On hearing this, Sagara commanded his sons(sixty thousand in number according to the story)to go,search and locate the lost horse. With a lot of enthusiasm and energy they set out in search of the horse. Not having found the horse anywhere they started digging and excavating the earth and ultimately found the horse tied close to Sage Kapila who was in deep meditation. As it turned out,the sons of Sagara were deluded as Indra(the lord of the senses)destroyed their sense of discrimination.(The horse was obviously planted by Indra close to Sage Kapila just to mislead them). Finding the horse tied up near the sage Kapila,the sons of Sagara started abusing the sage of stealing the horse and in fact wanted to kill him with their weapons. At this point the sage opened his eyes and they were burnt to ashes instantly.

Vyasa uses this simple story with very good effect to impart an important lesson in our rich philosophy. He briefly debates the question as to the cause of instant destruction of the sons of Sagara and gives a very interesting interpretation. He contends that it is not correct to say the sage Kapila reduced them to ashes by a curse(arising out of his wrath) after opening his eyes. This is because the Sage Kapila is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself and therefore is an embodiment of Pure ‘Sathva'(Sathva is the highest form of nobility manifested in beings). And this ‘Sathva Guna'(Guna means quality) in the Sage Kapila is so pure that it is unmixed with the other two negative qualities(gunas) namely ‘Rajas’ and ‘Tamas’. Only the latter 2 ‘gunas’ are capable of showing negative emotions like anger. Such a great Being like the sage Kapila can not differentiate between a friend and a foe.
(‘Na saaduvado munikopa bharjita nripendraputra iti sathva dhamani,katham tamo roshamayam vibhavyate jagat pavitratmani khe rajo bhuvah’).
If sage Kapila did not destroy them,what else could have burnt them to ahes? It is answered beautifully by Vyasa himself as follows: Firstly,Indra,the lord of senses, had destroyed their faculties which led to utter lack of discrimination and delusion. And the deluded mind had made them utter obscenities at such an exalted soul as sage Kapila.
Therefore Vyasa concludes that they were burnt to ashes at the very moment they committed a grave sin against the sage. Opening of eyes by Kapila,as they got burnt by the fire of their own sin, was a mere coincidence.
All this is beautifully captured in one sentence:
‘Svashariragnina taavan mahendrahrtachetasah mahat vyatikramahata bhasmasadbhavan kshanaat’

Thus the story imparts to us an important spiritual lesson from our philosophy that the effects are after all embedded in the cause itself. What exactly does this mean? Our conventional wisdom tells us that the cause and effect are separated in time,implying thereby that the consequences of an action are seen after a certain interval of time. Our philosophy teaches us differently,though. It says the moment an action is performed the effects are felt instantly through a divine dispensation. The actual punishment given for a wrong action is just a formality which may take place immediately or later. The fire-power of a negative action will show up in so many ways before the visible punishment is meted out. The effects could manifest at the spiritual or intellectual / emotional level depending on the individual. At the emotional level,the terrible feeling of guilt could burn some people up. Some,who are spiritually evolved,will feel tormented and tortured by the sinful act. Even the most remorseless characters would admit in private of being unhappy after committing a sin.

Having digressed a bit to dwell on the philosophical import of the story,let me complete the rest of the story.
Sagara’s grandson(Ansuman) went searching for the Horse and ultimately found the same close to a heap of ashes. As he saw the sage Kapila meditating nearby,he at once realized he was the divine incarnate and sang in glory of him. Thereupon,the sage asked him to take back the sacrificial horse and also brought his uncles back to life by means of sacred waters of Ganges river. The king Sagara completed the Ashwamedha Yajna and got blessed by the Lord Hari.

One can not miss the contrasting results obtained by the wicked sons of Sagara on the one hand and that obtained by Ansuman through his worship of the Lord Hari.

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