Posted Date : 06:00 (08/05/2018)  May 8, 2018  Sakthi Vikatan

Indira Soundarrajan


N.G. Manikandan

The king of Ayodhya Ikṣvāku listened to Kula Guru Vasiṣtar to perform Tapas (= Austerity) for a noble and lofty cause. He shed his crown, his jewels, his protective gear (cuirass or body armor) …, wore tree barks and immersed himself in Tapas in the riverside hermitage by Surabhi river.
Though no one understood the reason for his Tapas, the country was stunned to note his abandonment of royal luxuries and adoption of a life of a Tapasvin. When the subjects discovered the reason from Vasiṣtar for the king’s Tapas, it amazed them inordinately. They were happy to learn that their king took to Tapas on their behalf.
Tapas = Tapasya = Austerity, Asceticism.
Ikṣvāku’s desire was something not realized by the world thus far: there were no selfish desires such as a Perennial river, long life, and reign under one umbrella. What he wanted was his country should have Praṇavākāra Vimāṇam with the resident god, to whom the people of the world can offer worship, and attain liberation.  (The Om-shaped Dome housing the god)
The whiff of Ikṣvāku’s plan traveled by divine grapevine and had its unwelcome impact in Satyaloka. Even Brahma was surprised (and shocked) at the beginning. Brahma took into the account Vivasvāṉ and his administration, his son reigning the world, and his desire to obtain Praṇavākāra Mūrthy himself for his worship.  Brahma was angry to learn of Ikṣvāku’s attempt to obtain Praṇavākāra Mūrtham (God). Brahma called Vivasvāṉ and his father Surya and inquired.


 “Vivasvāṉ! Your son’s desire in the world is uncommon (unwelcome and contradicts my interests).” Vivasvāṉ maintained silence even before Brahma’s question.  
“Out with the answer, Vivasvān. Your silence is deafening. How am I to interpret your silence?”
“My Lord! What kind of a reply can I give you? You are omniscient. Is there anything unknown to you, the creator of all.”
"Since I know it, I am posing the question. In what ways could it be right for Ikṣvāku to desire for Praṇavākāra Peruman whom I worship every day? This idea dawned on him because of you.”
“Yes! The thought of Emperuman fell as a seed in Ikṣvāku because of me. I cast the seed in him when he was an infant. He was devout. My dear Emperuman, I never knew this seed would grow into a tree.”
“If that is so, cut down that tree yourself. Degrade and destroy your son’s Tapas.”
“Ayaṉē! Is this you talking?” Ayaṉē = O Brahma
“Vivasvāṉ! No deed without cause. (No good deed goes unpunished.) You must understand it. What remains there, must remain there. We can accept the performance of Tapas to receive Darśan of Mūrthy. The desire to own the Darśan-worthy Mūrtham is his transgression.” Mūrtham = God's image, form.
“I understand you, Prabhō! I will attempt to act according to your wish.” Saying so, Vivasvāṉ appeared before Ikṣvāku immersed in Tapas.  (Vivasvan left Brahma's immediate vicinity and appeared before Ikṣvāku in a matter of nanoseconds.)
Ikṣvāku’s simple Sannyasa guise and gear (simple loincloth) induced surprise and perplexity in Vivasvān.
In general, Tapas is the supreme act among human endeavors. A man shouldering the weight of Tapas with his mind is like a woman nurturing and housing  a fetus in the womb. To abort a fetus is a sin. Likewise, to degrade and destroy Tapas is a sin.
Vivasvāṉ was wont to teaching Sastra Dharmas to the world. Thinking of those Sastra Dharma principles, he stood there hesitating to degrade and destroy his son’s Tapas. He thought to himself, “One who wanted a flowering plant now wants the whole flower garden. My son is like that. Now only I realize your Vairagya.” He stood before his son remaining in the guise of a Tapasvin but soon left to visit with Kula Guru Vasiṣtar. Vairagya = Freedom from worldly desires, asceticism.
“O Mahaṛṣi! You are the reason my son Ikṣvāku became a Tapasvin.
“True, Manu Prabhu. However, the first reason is the Mūrtham Itself (God Himself). Second, you spoke of its greatness.  I am the third reason, said Vasiṣtar.  Mūrtham = That which has Form, Figure, Shape or Body.
“It is possible, Brahmadeva. It comes to me as a surprise if a Tapas must sustain destruction. It is a great surprise indeed.”
“Surprise or shock… He is my master. I must carry out his order.”
“That too is right. I will not tell you who codified (and popularized) all the principles Dharma. I won’t be presumptuous to lecture you on what you don’t know. There is nothing in this world higher than Tapas. Life is all movement. Abandoning the frenetic activity, Tapas is a life not lived (as we know). To destroy it is a sin, esp. for the codifier of Dharmic principles. Won’t it be wrong to violate Dharma and set that perversion as a corrupt example (for all to behold and follow)? Vasiṣtar stopped questioning Vivasvāṉ.
“True it is, Mahaṛṣi! What you said is a Great Truth.  How could a pathfinder (creator-sage) break his creation? To transgress is Adharma.
“If that is so, what do you propose to do?  
 “There is no way other than to seek forgiveness from my master.
No matter what, you have no more business here. Scoot!” Vasiṣtar pointed his hand towards the heavens.
Thinking of Ikṣvāku in his mind, he said to himself, “The ordeal has begun. Will Brahma control himself or again control you? I have to wait and see.” Vivasvāṉ was back in the presence of Brahma, no sooner than he left him a few moments ago.  Brahma, pretending to be ignorant, initiated the speech, “What happened? Did Ikṣvāku’s Tapas take a nosedive or fall off the cliff?
“Aiyaṉē! You are the knower of all. I won’t apprehend the one you don’t know yourself. You cannot be unfamiliar with what I know (in my mind as thoughts). That being so, what am I to say, since you ask me?” Aiyaṉē = Brahma.
Is it not a sin to destroy one’s Tapas whatever may be the reason of his Tapas? I formulated and announced the dictums to the world. How could I do (go against) it? Vivasvāṉ stood there before Brahma. Brahma retorted, “Are the principles of the world of gods applicable to the world of humans? If someone performs Tapas violating such discipline (code of conduct), how could that be allowed?
Vivasvāṉ looked at Brahma with commiseration and said, “Forgive me! The contradiction between man and the divine is a predicament. It is not right for me to become your tool. You know it! Please protect and offer me, your grace. You (Brahma) yourself appear before him as a Tapas manifestation and express your advice (displeasure and objection) to Ikṣvāku. Everything will come to the desired conclusion.”
“Vivasvāṉ, you behaved with rectitude. I am not angry with you. ( I am angry with your son.) You can leave now! My manifestation is not that simple. I manifest only before the fully-renounced ascetic. Tapasvins with latent or manifest desires will enjoy fructification of the vow, only upon payment of the appropriate price.” Brahma with such stated stance met with Indra.
Indra (the chief of gods) is the heaven-dwelling epicure capable of vanquishing the opponents of his high lifestyle. Because of it, sometimes his deeds bring imbroglios to the world of gods from which they do recoup.
Brahma called Indra and warned him, “Ikṣvāku’s Tapas will make Satyaloka banal and morph Bhūlōka into Satyaloka.” He added it was Indra’s responsibility to prevent such an outcome, and stop this catastrophe from becoming a reality. Brahma’s utterance had the similar effect of tying bell anklets to an accomplished dancer. Indra began cooking up a plot to disrupt and destroy Ikṣvāku’s Tapas. He inflicted on Ikṣvāku his usual punishments like thunderstorms, cyclone, and other so-called natural disasters. Ikṣvāku never budged.
The next strategy was to employ celestial damsels to sing and dance their way into the heart and soul of Ikṣvāku. The damsels did what they knew best. It was a fiasco. Indra was ashamed.
Ikṣvāku was not a superficial Tapasvin desirous of some worldly objects. His Tapas had a lofty goal in its core. Knowing this, Indra tried to disable and arrest Ikṣvāku’s breath and choke him to death. Vayudeva (god of wind) was not prepared to accrue stain and sin by killing such noble Tapasvin. Expressing that sentiment to Indra, Vayudeva to ameliorate Ikṣvāku’s suffering from Indra’s deadly antics, and as an act of expiation mellowed himself into a breeze and embraced Ikṣvāku gently.
The news of Ikṣvāku’s mental strength reached Boga-Niṣṭa Brahma and Yoga-Niṣṭa Sundara Parantāmaṉ.

To be continued…

Images: N.G. Manikandan