Author Topic: story from Chandogya Upanishad  (Read 2945 times)


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story from Chandogya Upanishad
« on: January 13, 2012, 11:24:47 AM »
The story of Ushasti (20)
Chandogya Upanishad
Paraphrased- simplified- abridged
Thanks to the compilier --   R.R.Diwakar

[Like all ceremonies and rituals, the Vedic sacrifices later became mechanical and people performed them without knowing their real purpose. This story is one that illustrates this truth. One Ushasti visits a sacrifice and teaches the secret of sacrifices to the performers. Ushasti is very virtuous, straightforward and known for his knowledge and integrity.]

Once upon a time there lived in Ibhya, a village in the Kuru country, Ushasti Chakrayana with his wife. Though poor and simple, he was known to be very virtuous and learned on the Vedic lore.

It happened that once a dreadful famine swept the country and food became extremely scarce.

One day during that famine he went to the king of the village and begged food of him. The king was sitting with a handful of parched cereals and was eating them.

When asked for food, the king said most distressfully, “Respected sir, theses are the only ones I have and other food have I none. These have been rendered impure as I have been eating out of them.”

Ushasti said, ”Never mind, O king. Give me some out of them. They are welcome even if they are ceremonially impure!”

The king then gave him some cereals and offered him also some of the water that he had half drunk.

Ushati accepted the cereals, but refused the water and said, ”Thank you kind prince, for the food you have spared for me. But I do not want the impure water. I have enough of water with me. I am accepting the cereals half eaten by you because I would die of hunger if I did not take them from you now. But that is not the case regarding water. I am not suffering from scarcity of water.”

Ushasti then ate some cereals and took home to his wife what was left over. His wife however, had already secured a little food from somewhere and therefore she kept for the morrow the cereals given to her by her husband.

Next morning hungry Ushasti approached his wife and said to her, “If I get some food now, I can go and get some money from the king to buy food again. He seems to be performing some sacrifice and he will have to give me at least as much money as he is paying to his other priests.”

“Here then are the cereals that you gave me yesterday, dear,” said the wife to him.

Ushasti then ate the cereals and went happily to the place of sacrifice.

The sacrifice was being performed with all pomp and splendour. The king was the householder (yajamana) for whose benefit it was being performed. Then there were the different ritwiks or priests who carried out various functions in the sacrifice.

Ushasti went straight to the three principal priests and he accosted them one by one saying, “Do you know, learned priests, the god that presides over the particular function you are performing? If you do not know and still you keep on performing your function mechanically and in ignorance, your head will fall down from your shoulders. Beware.”

Obviously they did not know the answer. The yajamana was struck by the bold and straightforward attack against the priests. He said respectfully, “May I know, sir, who you are?”

Dear householder, I am known as one Ushasti Chakrayana,” replied Ushasti.

“Oh sir, we all sought after you and wished that you should preside over the sacrificial functions. But not having found you for long, we had to begin the sacrifice. Now that you are here, kindly lead the ceremonies.” Thus saying the yajamana entrusted the whole sacrifice to Ushasti.

Ushasti then took the three priests aside one by one and asked each of them questions which they could not answer. Then he told them about the presiding deities in the sacrifice and of their respective functions.

He said to the first priest, “Prana or the vital air is the presiding deity of your function. All these beings enter Prana and breathe it. If you perform the sacrifice without knowing this, great harm will befall you.”

Then he said to the second priest, “Aditya or the sun is the deity of your function in the sacrifice. All the beings sing high praises of him. If you perform your function without this knowledge, great harm would befall you.”

To the third priest he said, “Anna or food is the presiding deity of your function. All beings live by taking food. If you perform sacrifices without your knowing this, great is the harm that would befall you.”

Summing up, Ushasti said, “Prana is the essence of life, but Prana cannot live without anna or food and food depends upon the sun-god for its existence and growth. The sun god here on earth is represented by agni or fire. Agni can be satisfied only by offerings at the time of sacrifice.”

This is the meaning of sacrifice preached by Ushasti Chakrayana.