Once there lived a noble king called Jānaśruti. His practices were rooted in dharma and always involved in dāna. He had arranged daily santarpaṇa in his palace. He also had built chatras all over his kingdom. His fame knew no bounds. He had all the merit required to attain the brahmajñāna. Only thing lacking was a good guru.
Scorching summer. To avoid the heat Jānaśruti would sleep on the terrace. One night as he was sleeping he observed a pair of swans flying towards the palace. Those swans might have been some deities or ṛṣis who had come there in a bid to bless the king. One swan flew directly upon him. The other swan behind shouted, “Oye Oye Bhallākṣa! Bhallākṣa! Right below you the great king Jānaśruti sleeps. His divine jyoti stretches to the sky. One should not trespass such mahāpuruṣas.”
Bhallākṣa means someone with a sharp sight like a spear, i.e. with keen observation. Here it is sarcastically used. The summary is, “O fool! Don't you see the king sleeping below?” “If you cross him like that you’d be burnt by the tejas of Jānaśruti”, it warned. The swan flying in the front replied, “What are you saying! As if Jānaśruti is some mahātman! He is some lowly fellow! You know Raikva? He lives under a cart. You seem to praise this fellow as though he is Raikva! All the good deeds of this king and his subjects doesn’t even come to one percent of what Raikva does. All these get subdued under his tejas." The swans flew away.
Jānaśruti heard the conversation. He was engulfed in the question, “Who might this Raikva be?”. He couldn’t sleep. Early in the morning he summoned his charioteer and ordered him, “Go and find where this mahātman called Raikva lives. It seems he lives under a cart.” The charioteer went around the kingdom but could neither find who Raikva was nor where he lived. He came back and reported to the king, “Mahārāja! I’ve searched for Raikva in all the cities, towns, villages, everywhere. But I couldn’t find him.” The king replied, “Such a jñanin would not reside in the din of cities and villages. They would live in solitude far from all the commotion. Go and search for him in isolated places.” Then the charioteer followed his advice and started searching in isolated places. He found someone sitting under a broken cart. He was afflicted with scabies. He was scratching his body, and the charioteer approached him and asked him, “Bhagavan, are you Raikva?” He replied that he is the one. Jānaśruti was delighted to have finally found where Raikva resides.
He thought, “Now I should approach him and ask him to impart the adhyātmavidyā. But how would I be able to ask him?” The śāstras say
ब्रह्मचारी धनदायी मेधावी श्रोत्रियः प्रियः ।
विद्यया वा विद्यां प्राह तानि तीर्थानि षण्मम ॥
Someone who does sevā as brahmacārin, one who gives a lot of money, one who is sharp witted, one who is well versed in vedas, someone who is dear to one, or someone who can impart some other knowledge in return–vidyā can be imparted to these people.
There is another verse with similar import.
गुरुशुश्रूषया विद्या पुष्कलेन धनेन वा ।
अथवा विद्यया विद्या चतुर्थी नोपलभ्यते ॥
There are only three ways through which one can attain vidyā. By sevā or śuśrūṣā of the guru, by giving gurudaksiṇā, or by imparting some other vidyā in return. There is no fourth way.
The king had only one way to go, to give immeasurable riches to Raikva. So he set out with six hundred cows, gold coins and a chariot, gave them all to Raikva and said, “Bhagavan, please take these and impart me with the knowledge of the upāsanā required to attain the ātmajñāna.” Raikva shooed him away in disdain, saying, “O śūdra! Take your riches and go away.” Jānaśruti was in deep anguish. He thought the gurudaksiṇā he had brought was too less. He came to the capital and then returned with a thousand cows, some more gold and a chariot. He also brought his daughter, and said to Raikva, “Bhagavan, here are a thousand cows, gold coins and a chariot. Please accept them all. Also here is my daughter whose hand I’ll offer in marriage. I’ll also give you the village nearby for your expenses. Please accept all these and impart me with the ātmajñāna.” Raikva replied, “O śūdra! So be it. I’ll impart you with that vidyā.” the village given away by the king later became famous as Raikvaparṇa. The king was a kṣatriya. Raikva calling him a śūdra shows his disdain towards royalty.
The vidyā imparted by Raikva is called saṃvargopāsanā. Saṃvarga is something which can engulf everything. Thus vāyu or prāṇa is the saṃvarga. The details are in the upaniṣat. All the deities like Agni and the sense organs will subside in the deity Vāyu. Vāyu in turn subsides in the virāṭ and the virāṭ in the parabrahman. Finally only the parabrahman without the prapañca is what remains. Thus the brahmajñāna is attained is via the saṃvarga and the realization that there is nothing other than brahman becomes firm.
It is unknown if Raikva married the princess. The gist of this story is this.
- The puṇyakāryas such as dāna dharma etc leads to cittaśuddhi, i.e. purification of citta. This makes one eligible to attain brahmajñāna.
- The knowledge indeed would come from a guru. By our puṇya only we would attain a good guru.
- One shouldn’t be miserly when giving gurudaksiṇā. Whatever is one’s capacity he should give accordingly.
- It is difficult to recognise who is a jñanin. Even Raikva who is afflicted by scabies could be a jñanin and he can be anywhere.
To be continued...
This is the sixth part of the multi-part translation of the Kannada book "Upanishattina Kathegalu" by Mahamahopadhyaya Vidwan Dr. N Ranganatha Sharma. Thanks to Dr. Sharada Chaitra for granting us permission to translate this wonderful work. Thanks to B. N. Shashikiran for timely and appropriate edits. The original in Kannada can be read here