This article was written by Srivatsa Ramaswami and is reproduced here with his kind permission:
I used to visit Hyderabad quite often. My wife was raised in that city and I used to spend some time in my in-laws’ house in the old city of Hyderabad. The building was situated by the side of the road overlooking the Musi river. It is a tributary of the perennial Krishna River. In 1908 it is said that when it rained over 17 inches one day, the Musi river swelled and inundated Hyderabad . But then a couple of dams across the river, haphazard settlements downstream, emptying industrial waste have all destroyed the beauty of the river as wide as perhaps the Hudson river. The dry river bed downstream is a pathetic sight.
The river has a history and a story. It was originally known as Muchukunde river, named after a South India King. He is believed to have belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty which is also known as Surya vamsa or Sun dynasty. Several of his descendents were great mythological figures like Hariscandra, Dileepa, Raghu, and of course Sri Rama of the Ramayana, said to be the avatara of the Lord Himself.
According to the Puranas, in the Satya yuga or epoch, dharma or order will be 100%, which is that every being and nature will follow the divine order, dharma, completely. The second yuga, the treta yuga, dharma devata or the goddess that upholds dhrama will stand on three legs. It would mean that dharma will be 75% and adharma will be 25%. In the third epoch, the dvapara yuga, dharma will have to stand on two legs and finally in Kali yoga, the present epoch dharma will have to stand on one leg. Yogis know how difficult and unstable standing on one leg is. Kali yuga is vicious.
The King was a great and just warrior. Once the asuras, the demons as is their wont, tormented a weak army of the devas the divine beings. Since they did not have a good commander they suffered huge reverses. The deva boss, Indra came to King Muchukunda and requested him to protect the devas. The grace of the divine beings were essential for humanity and the King agreed to protect them from the Asuras. Without any sleep he kept a constant vigil. Ultimately the devas were able to find Kartikeya the son of Lord Siva who became the commander of the devas. The devas having found Kartikeya to lead their defense against the Asuras decided to relieve Muchukunda of his responsibilities. They thanked him profusely and offered to fulfill any desire he may have except Moksha as he was not ready for moksha. He should take another birth, do Yoga and remove his rajasic tendencies and also remove the papa (sins) accumulated. He was so tired and sleep deprived that he just wanted to go to sleep. “Let me sleep and I only request you to see that I am not disturbed until I wake up.”
Indra gave him the boon of satvic yoganidra and asked him to sleep in a cave in a dense forest on earth. He also said that if any one disturbed and woke him up from his sleep, his very gaze would burn the offender to ashes. Indra also mentioned it in his widely read blog so that no one would disturb the King. Muchukunda went to sleep. The treta yuga or epoch came and was gone which included the avatara of Sri Rama. Then the dvapara yuga came. Muchukunda was still sleeping.
It was Lord Krishna’s Yuga. One of the beautiful stories of the Lord in the Mahabharata itihasa and the Bhagavata Purana. One loves this Lord, so endearing, just, friendly, mischievous
He was the Yadava King, ruling from Mathura. Subsequently, for strategic reasons, he shifted the capital to Dvaraka. And then at the same time there was an ambitious Yavana King who wanted to control the whole world with his uncontrollable Rajas. The one stumbling block was Krishna. Krishna avoided any direct confrontation with him. He being the Yogeswara was very difficult to spot. So the Yavana King Kaliyan abducted Krishna’s sister Subhadra. Under the clutches of the asura, she cried her heart out for Krishna’s help. As the Lord did not appear he pushed her into a sagara, huge body of water, and the Lord had to come out to rescue his beloved sister. And as he was consoling his sister, Kalaiyan appeared before him and challenged Krishna for a duel. Krishna started walking away, but Kaliyan came running after him. The Lord kept the same distance from him but never got out of sight of the Yavana. This strange chase went on for a while and the chaser was using the choicest epithets but the Lord would not lose his cool,would not stop. Then when the Yavana appeared to be tiring the Lord swiftly entered a forest and was followed by Kaliyan.
After a short while the Lord suddenly entered a cave and Yogeswara did a quick disappearance act. The asura was perplexed but found the Lord’s beautiful silk upper garment (pitambara) covering someone sleeping. Thinking the Lord was resting under the silken sheet, angrily he kicked the person under the cover. Rudely shaken from the deep slumber, Muchukunda got up and looked at the offender and in a moment the Yavana king was reduced to ashes. Soon enough the Lord with his bewitching smile appeared before Muchukunda and blessed him. He asked Muchukunda to take another human birth, devote the entire time to tapas and yoga to overcome he intrinsic rajas and the accumulated sins and attain moksha/kaivalya.
Mahabharata is one of the best story books one can come across in life. When I was young my mother gave me a copy of Bala Bharata or Mahabharata for kids in Tamil. I read that several times. The story of the pandavas and the divine Krishna with such gems as the Bhagavat Gita, Vishnua Sahasranama and others are found in this great Vyasa’s work. With several subplots it is a gripping immortal work on dharma.
How did Vyasa come to write the epic Mahaharata? How did Ganesa help him in this project? That is another interesting story.
When I started teaching at the instance of my Guru most of the teaching I did was for free. In India at that time generally people would expect many of the good things in life like air, water, sunshine and yoga classes to be free though they may buy a movie ticket at a premium. I used to be asked to teach yoga classes free by many charitabe organiations to propagate yoga or to do good by yoga. One day my Guru asked me to teach yoga to some one who came to him for chronic bac…k ache developed due to traveling all over the country by bumpy roads and different modes of transporation. But my Guru said, “I have asked him to pay Rs 25 to you per class (it was a stiff fee at that ime). I was reluctant because I had known the patient very well and also I was very uncomfortable with the stiff fee. Anyway that was the Master’s order and one had to obey it.
He said at that time something on these lines. A Brahmana has to do six activities. Adhyayana or study of the vedas, adhyapana or teach. Yagnya or do vedic rites and yajayana perform thoses rites for others. Dana or give charity and pratigraha receive compensation for work done. So you are not supposed to teach free. You may occasionally do it as dana but not routinely. You can teach free because you may have other sources of income. Then it puts all other genuine yoga teachers into difficulties. Many yoga teachers have a family to support and bills to pay.
There are two terms yogis may consider here. Pratigraha is what is permitted under this. Prati means against or in exchange of. Pratigraha is something you get in exchange of what you give or teach. In this way there is no runa or debt accumulated. The student has learnt and paid for it. The other term used by Patanjali which he wants yogis to eschew is parigraha. The prefix pari would mean all around or parigraha would mean grabbing money from all around, left right and center. It may be all right for a businessman but not right for a yogi. Teaching yoga is ok but making it into a business venture with the sole aim of making money is what Patanjali wants the yogi to be careful about as the mind is now going to be occupied with making money and not yoga. Pratigraha is ok and parigraha is not ok.