Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Lesser Known Indian Saints......................Astavakra




         

     *     Astavakra, an Indian sage, was born with eight different deformities of the body (two feet, two knees, two hands, the chest and the head).

·     ·   The sage Uddalaka, the seer ran a school teaching the Vedas. Kahola was one of his best disciples. Uddalaka was so pleased with him that he had his daughter Sujata married to him. When Sujātā got pregnant, she had the desire of wanting her child to imbibe spirituality and intelligence. She began to sit in the classes taught by Uddalaka and Kahola, listening to their chanting of the Vedic Mantras. In India, there is a belief that when expectant mothers expose themselves to spiritual teachings, the child in the womb hears it and gathers that knowledge and become a genius in that spiritual area after its birth.

      ·       Around that time Aṣṭāvakra was born. Kahola was persuaded by Sujātā to go to the court of Janaka to earn some money. In Janaka's court best philosophers were invited to argue in the presence of the King. Vandin easily defeated Kahola. Aṣṭāvakra was now raised by Uddalaka. Sujata and the disciples ensured that Aṣṭāvakra was never informed of his real father, Aṣṭāvakra thought that Uddalaka was his father and Shvetaketu his brother. He decided to confront Vandin and defeat him in an argument.
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     *   Aṣṭāvakra and Śvetaketu made their way to Janaka's palace. Aṣṭāvakra first faced the gatekeeper who tried to keep the young boy out. On convincing the gatekeeper that he was well versed in the scriptures, he was let in. Then Janaka tested Aṣṭāvakra with cryptic questions which Aṣṭāvakra answered with ease. Janaka decided to let Aṣṭāvakra face Vandin. Vandin and Aṣṭāvakra began the debate, with Vandin starting. They alternately composed six extempore verses on the numbers one to twelve. Then Vandin could only compose the first half of a verse on the number thirteen. Aṣṭāvakra completed the verse by composing the second half and thus won the argument against Vandin.

      *   This unique debate is full of enigmas and latent meanings which lie under the simple counts of the numbers one to thirteen.  The condition of the contest was that if Vandin were to lose he would grant any wish of his vanquisher. Aṣṭāvakra demanded that Vandin be drowned in water just as he forced his vanquished opponents to do. Vandin then revealed that he was the son of Varuṇa (the Lord of all water bodies), and brought all Brahmaṇas to surface. Aṣṭāvakra was praised by all the freed sages. Kahola was extremely pleased with his son. Kahola returned to his aśrama with Aṣṭāvakra and Śvetaketu. In the presence of Sujātā, Kahola asked Aṣṭāvakra to bathe in the river Samanga. When Aṣṭāvakra entered the river, all his crooked limbs became straight.
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     *   Later Aṣṭāvakra grew into a spiritually advanced sage. He went again to Mithila and taught King Janaka about the Self. These teachings form the content of the Aṣṭāvakra Saṃhitā. 
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