Faith

Challenge of penance

Anyone who succumbs to anger, ahamkara, and desire is sure to regret the act at some point of time is the message taught through the purana stories. There is much to be learnt about each one’s progress in spiritual development from the various experiences that the rishis Nara and Narayana undergo in the course of their severe and long drawn penance, pointed out Sri K. Srinivasan in a discourse. The story of their penance is narrated in the Devi Bhagavata Purana by Vyasa.

People engaged in penance or tapas basically try to control their senses to achieve peace of mind and calm temperament and these two rishis had done such penance for 1000 years. Unable to bear the heat and severity of their penance, Indra tries to distract them by sending the apsaras damsels of swarga loka to their presence. As a rishi of boundless strength, mental and physical, and determination, Narayana does not yield. In his mind he is not at all disturbed by their beauty. Confident about his restraint, he breaks the silence and talks to them. It is one thing to possess a talent and be aware of it as a matter of fact. But when one is conscious of it in a possessive way, it leads to ahamkara as is seen when Narayana goes further to show his prowess and creates Urvasi of exceptional beauty.

Like a spider that is caught in the web spun by it, he falls further in his penance. Moreover, he realises that the apsaras damsels have got attracted to him. He mulls over the options available. He can get angry and curse them. But this would be self destructive and would lead to further loss of tapas and also the chances of incurring their curses and ill will. With Nara’s counsel, they decide to come out of the fix by carefully avoiding any wrong steps.


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Printable version | May 26, 2022 1:58:11 am | https://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/challenge-of-penance/article38293725.ece