Jadabharatha, Vamdeva & king Rahuganaka

Swami Vishudhananda, a contemporary [a little earlier) of Swami Sivananda, lived in Rishikesh around 1900 -20. He wrote the book “Pakshpata-rahit Anubhavpraksh” in Hindi. The book is written in Yoga-Vashishtha style where various stories are narrated using Shrimad Bhagwat [and other] Pauranic characters to bring home Advaita concepts.

Here is an excerpt – my translation from the Hindi text:

Story of Jadabharatha, Vamdeva & King Rahuganaka

King Rahuganaka was travelling to his hilltop vacation destination along with his royal contingent. He was being carried in a luxurious palanquin (palki) by four palanquin bearers. During this journey two of the palanquin bearers got sick and king’s soldiers started looking for replacements. They found two weird looking goons wandering in the forest. King’s soldiers grabbed them and forced them to carry palanquin on their shoulders while the royal journey continued. But then everyone including the king noticed how weird these two men were. Both of them were not big or strong but the heavy load did not seem to bother them. They were not very aggressive but then they weren’t lethargic either. Their faces did not look bright and cheerful but they looked relaxed. They were often whipped by the soldiers to make them move faster but that did not perturb them. In fact, both of them were taking their steps as if they were in a trance.

After a while, the king suddenly realized that these were not ordinary human beings. He did not know that these were the famous Self-realized Sages Jadabharatha and Vamdeva. King Rahuganaka got off from the Palanquin and kneeled in front of them and said “I do not know who you are but I can tell that you are holy sages. Please forgive me for making you carry this heavy burden for me. Please have mercy on me by enlightening me”.

Sage Jadabharatha said “O king, who are you asking forgiveness from? Look, this palanquin is resting on these shoulders that are resting on these feet that is on this prithvi (earth). So ask forgiveness from this prithvi (earth)! Actually, prithvi is within jala (water) which is within agni (fire) that comes from vayu (wind) that is located in akasa (sky). Now before you start asking forgiveness from akasa (sky) let me tell you that all these five elements (earth, water, fire, wind & sky) seem to appear due to maya within asanga (attachment-less), nirguna (attribute-less), nirakar (shape-less), nirvikar (imperturbable) Sat-Chit-Anand (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss) Chaitanya (Consciousness) as if an imaginary snake appears on a rope. And this nirguna Chaitanya (attribute-less Consciousness) is You! So looks like you want forgiveness from yourself. That is your call, suit yourself!”

When the king looked confused, Jadabharatha explained to him from another angle “Look, this wooden palanquin in which you were sitting is like a bundle of five elements, so is my body and yours.  This being an affair in between these five elements, is one five elements bundle going to forgive the other bundle? What have you the asanga Chaitanya (attachment-less Consciousness) got to do with his conflict?

O king, you have a needless ahamkara (ego) that you are sitting on a palanquin. Ask where is this palanquin? It is only wood, nay five elements only appearing like an imaginary snake on a rope within the Chaitanya (Consciousness) that is “You”. So, You really are not apart from this palanquin. If anything, you should be ashamed of the absurd idea that you are riding on yourself.

At this stage, Sage Vamdeva stepped in “Hey King, you say this wooden palanquin made from five elements is mine but when it comes to your body, which is also a bundle of five elements, you say it is me. You seem to have no problem in understanding this palanquin (which is nothing but names & forms) is not me and it is apart from me; but you cannot comprehend that this body, also made up of names & forms is apart from “You” the asanga Chaitanya (attachment-less Consciousness)). What kind of double standard is this? Only half a chicken cannot be dead or alive!

So hey Rajan (King), just the way you know you are sitting in this wooden palanquin and aware of everything that goes within it and you are apart from it – meaning if this palanquin is destroyed, you will be still there. Then in the same way, think of this whole universe (mountains, forests etc.) including your body as your palanquin and You are the drishta/jnata (ultimate seer/knower), witness of triputi (triad of seer/seen/seeing), asanga (attachment-less), nirvikar (imperturbable or flawless), nirvikalpa (without any doubts) Chaitanya (Consciousness). You are aware of everything that goes on or off in this universal palanquin and yet you are apart from it meaning if this whole universe is destroyed You the Chaitanya (Consciousness) will remain.

The king was stunned “Tell me O wise one, then who am I?”

Vamdeva replied “You are the Nirguna (attributeless), Nirakar (shapeless) Chaitanya (Consciousness) who is aware of all the conversation that is going on; and so am I. You can substitute You or I with any entity in the universe from Lord Brahma to a tiny ant. It is the same One!

In conclusion, the main thrust of this story in my view is to drive home the concept of “disembodiedness”:

अशरीरता हि आत्मनः स्वरूपम्    —  Shankara at 8.3.4, chAndogya.

Nature of Self surely is unembodiedness or disembodiedness. This is liberation.

What is disembodiment? The first requirement of the process of ‘disembodiment’ is complete detachment with the body. Shankara further explains:

अस्माच्छरीरात्समुत्थाय शरीरात्मभावनां परित्यज्येत्यर्थः   

Shankara uses the term ‘Rising out of the body,’ which means giving up the body or more precisely one should “give up the notion that the Body is the Self.” This “rising out” is different than getting up from the palanquin and landing somewhere else. It is remembering one’s true nature pure Consciousness Self.

(Acknowledgements: Ramesam for Shankar Bhashya reference & Dennis Waite for English meanings of advaitic sanskrit terms – from his book A-U-M)