Enlightenment of Brahmanas engaged in mere rituals

There is another simple story in Bhagavata which beautifully exposes a common folly among human beings of ignoring greatness which exists in our own midst and search for the same or even mediocrity elsewhere.
This is the story of certain ‘Brahmanas’ who were performing ‘Yajna'(propitiating Gods with sacrifices and gifts)in order to attain material pleasures or Heaven. The ‘brahmanas’ were so deeply absorbed in what they were doing that they did not pay heed to some cowherd boys seeking food for Lord Krishna and Balarama who were very hungry. However,when the spouses were approached for food they immediately saw an opportunity to serve the Lord . And ignoring protests by their husbands, they started serving food to Krishna and Balarama. They were so enchanted by the beauty of the Lord they almost forgot about the ‘Yajna’ their husbands were performing.
Having served the Lord and enjoyed his companionship,they returned and narrated the the story of how they enjoyed bliss in the enchanting company of Krishna. One of the Brahmana ladies, who could not serve the Lord,thanks to strong protests by her husband,heard the story intently and embraced the Lord mentally with complete surrender and that was enough to attain instant Moksha.
On seeing this,the Brahmanas got very embarrassed and felt guilty of ignoring and insulting the Lord. They became repentant for the sin committed which drove them to self-condemnation. They undermined everything they stood for so far : their knowledge of vedas,their pedigree,their knowledge of conducting yajnas and other vedic rituals etc. They felt all this was useless and paled into insignificance in comparison to the simple minded ‘bhakti’ or devotion shown by their wives. The latter never performed any austerities,they never indulged in purificatory rites or rituals,they never made inquiries about Self or Spirit.They merely exhibited spontaneous and unswerving devotion to the Lord.
The Brahmanas failed to realize the fact that Krishna himself was the manifestation of all that was being carried out in the name of ‘Yajna’ – the Yajna,the performer of the Yajna,the gifts offered in the Yajna as well as the recipient of gifts offered,the time and place of performing the Yajna,the dieties propitiated in the Yajna,the ‘mantras'(the mystical vedic verses)and finally the gains accruing from the Yajna too. This message is beautifully captured in one line in Bhagavata:
“Deshah kalah Prdhak Dravyam mantra tantrat vijograyah devata yajamanscha kratur dharmascha yanmayah”
The Brahmanas,therefore, concluded that it was the power of ‘Maya’ which acted to delude their highly learned minds and blinded them to the real purpose of their lives. Not knowing their real interest (which lies in seeking the Lord), they went after cheap material pleasures afforded in heaven by performing ‘Sacrifices’ or ‘Yajnas’. It was due to His Maya that they failed to recognize the Lord who came in the form of a ‘yadava'(the community into which Krishna was born).

In this story as well as several others,Maya is invariably used as an explanation to rationalize the foolish or stupid behaviour of people. When people miss the obvious or carry out deeds against their Free Will or behave in an outrageously irrational manner,no reasonable explanation can be given except ‘Maya’.
One could find several examples of such irrationality in our present day world too(such as,chasing money all the time at the expense of happiness or at a more mundane level,buying things impulsively which we really do not need or use etc). And behavioral economists on the one hand and Biologists on the other are constantly trying to seek satisfactory answers to such an irrational behaviour through dedicated research in this direction.
We have to view the concept of Maya in this context. What is this Maya,one may wonder. According to Hindu philosophy it is that mysterious power because of which we lose our sense of proportion or priority and our intellect is completely clouded.
One may get some insight into this mystery by considering what neutralizes the effect of ‘Maya’. Meditation is considered to be one of the powerful antidotes to this(‘Bhakti’ being the other powerful antidote). A meditative mind attains a very high degree of sensitivity and clarity free from all disturbances and therefore acts with intelligence and rationality. Conversely,it is the disturbed and the troubled mind which clouds our intellect and causes ‘Maya’.

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Published in: on July 18, 2009 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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