Chapter 4: King Supriya's disease
As already mentioned, Vaisampayana was the family purohit and guru of King Supriya of Suryavamsa, who then ruled Vardhamanapura. In those days, a guru commanded great respect and King Supriya was financially assisting Vaisampayana to run the ashram and maintain the gurukula and pupils. King Supriya, the benefactor of Vaisampayana, fell from the path of virtue and became engrossed in the pleasures of the senses and was leading a licentious life. As a result of this, the king became afflicted with dreaded venereal diseases, which developed into leprosy. The immediate cause of this calamity was the dancing girl Mantara with whom the kind had developed intimacy. Despite the best treatment from eminent doctors, who tried in vain with a number of potent medicines the diseases of the king could not be cured. Supriya with the chronic malady advancing in severity became a physical wreck and soon lost all faith in the medication. The king thought the only course then open to him was to have spiritual healing and sent for his guru Sakalya alias Vaisampayana. On Vaisamapayana's arrival the King appealed to him to cure him of his disease by invoking the sanctions of the expiatory rites and mantras prescribed under Sastraic sanctions.
Vaisampayana took pity on the king who was so good to him in several ways and assured him that performing the swastika rites according to Sastras could cure him of the dreaded disease. He immediately arranged and got the santhikam rites and pujas regularly performed at the palace engaging the best of Vedantins and experts in expiation ceremonies. But even after prolonged performance the santhikam rites did not have the desired result and failed to give any relief to the king. Vaisampayana felt downcast and ashamed. He told to the king that the elders often say that the proper time should come for anything to fructify and that he shall make other efforts to obtain concrete results. The king pointed out that it may be inconvenient for the guru to arrange the rites to be performed in the palace and henceforth the rites may be conducted at the ashram and the prasadas are sent to him daily.
Everyday Vaisampayana selected a pupil explained to him the rituals and rites prescribed for the santikam and directed them to perform through one sishya. Each day the selected pupil after due performance of the santhikam ceremony was taking the manthraksha and theertham to the king as prasada. A number of days passed and the prasadas were being sent the king regularly. Days passed into months, but there was no abatement of the malady. On the other hand the disease was aggravating and the king was beginning to lose the faith in the santhikam itself. Almost all the sishyas had taken the Prasada to the king with no avail and nearly a year passed.
At long last, the guru Vaisampayana left with no other alternative sent for Yagnavalkya as a final resort. Though Vaisampayana knew the remarkable capacity of Yagnavalkya, his unfavourable disposition was the main reason for not calling for him earlier. He wanted to have the king cured, if possible, without the help of Yagnavalkya. Having failed with almost all the other sishyas he made this last ditch effort. He knew how well Yagnavalkya was equipped in the Atharva Veda, which abounds in prescribing perennial remedies for expiating any evil and for securing atonement of all human sins and shortcomings.
Vaisampayana praised Yagnavalkya for his wisdom and accomplishment in all the Vedas. He told him that it was Yagnavalkya's turn to perform the santhikam and take the prasada to the King. Yagnavalkya began to ponder over the cause of the king's ailment and his guru's desire to affect the cure invoking Sastraic means. He did not personally like the idea of his guru seeking to provide relief through ceremonial rites to the king who was suffering a natural punishment for his immoral and licentious life. Yagnavalkya felt that the immoral king should undergo the suffering ordained by nature for his misdeeds in accordance with the law of karma and should not be helped. Yagnavalkya, being a trikala jnani was able to foresee the course of events that would take place later that day. Compromising his personal feelings, as ordained upon an obedient pupil, he did not wish to deviate from the injection of his guru. Vaisampayana noticed the hesitation and inquired him the cause of his deep thinking and asked whether he was having any reservation in performing the santhikam. Yagnavalkya said he was wondering whether it was proper to help a person who has deviated from the course of righteousness and suffering the consequences. He inquired what should be the attitude of persons steeped in Vedic learning and Sastraic sanctions. Vaisampayana normally such transgressors shall be considered as ignorant persons devoid of knowledge and take pity on them. But if they should show any remorse for their foolish actions and repent, they could still be helped. He also said that the king was a person having great regard for dharma. It is a pity that he fell prey to sensual pleasure and he was repenting his misdeeds. Once cured he would eagerly purse an upright life thereafter. He also said only Yagnavalkya could, with his great powers, cure the king and get recognition from the king. Yagnavalkya agreed to do the santhikam.
Yagnavalkya performed the santhikam strictly in his own rigorous and efficacious manner, chanting the Atharva Veda mantras imparted to him by Veda Vyasa and Aruni Maharishi with devotion observing the due rites in accordance with the Sastras. Yagnavalkya proceeded forthwith to the palace taking the prasada of mantrakshata and holy water to be offered to the king. Yagnavalkya was blessed with a majestic physique and commanding countenance and possessed a confidant demeanour. He used to put on fine clothes mostly presents given to him in recognition of his knowledge of the Vedas and Sastras, which made him, appear not so religious. On this account many mistook him to be an arrogant young man and looked at him with envy and jealousy.
The situation at the palace was one of despondency as the king who had by then regularly received the prasada every day with devotion and faith almost for a year without any relief. Hence he was disappointed and disgusted. The king was in a depressed state. It was at this juncture Yagnavalkya reached the palace to call on the king with the prasada. The king himself was completely lost and disillusioned that he had been deceived. The king seeing the apparel and adornment of a sishya with the prasada, not realizing that it was the renowned Yagnavalkya did not give due consideration of a Veda Vidyarthi. The king put on a mocking face and derided the efficacy o the prasadas and passed unsavoury remarks. The king rejected the prasada and did not even offer a seat to Yagnavalkya. Despite this contemptuous attitude of the king and notwithstanding the indignity and affront shown to him and the prasada, Yagnavalkya bore the insults and submitted to the king Veda and thus the prasada was very potent. But the king derided the manner in which he had been clothed which was unbecoming of a Vedic vidyarthi. The king objected to the manner in which the vidyarthi had approached the court and ordered Yagnavalkya to leave the palace forthwith.
Yagnavalkya felt that the king behaved in a foolish manner and did not understand the importance of the Vedic rites and the prasada. He decided to offer the prasada thrice and if the king refused still he would leave the palace. Accordingly he offered the prasada thrice to the king. However the foolish king said that he would not accept any prasada from a vidyarthi who was wearing clothes in violation of common codes of apparel. The king then challenged Yagnavalkya to prove the efficacy of the prasada on a dry log of wooden pillars in the horse stable. Yagnavalkya pitied the king and to prove the potency of the prasada and establish that he was far different from the other pupils, observed the appropriate japa of the mantra "Mantachie" (Divyamalegee) and reciting the mantra he sprinkled the sacred manthraksha and holy water on the stable pillars and hurried back to the ashram, making up his mind not to come back to the palace again or have anything to do with the king, his kith and kin.
Now a surprise lay in store for the king and his retinue of his ladies and ministers. No sooner than the manthraksha and theertham sprinkled by Yagnavalkya fell on the dry and moth eaten pillars of the stable, they began to spring back to life, transforming themselves into graceful trees, flagrant flowers and ripe fruits, presenting an inviting and pleasing sight. The king and ladies in the palace were wonder struck in witnessing the miracle and the king repented his foolish and impulsive behaviour in refusing to accept the prasada from Yagnavalkya and regretted for losing a divine opportunity of having his disease cured in a trice.
The king at once felt that he should receive the prasada from Yagnavalkya direct and sent for the counsel of ministers and bade them to request Yagnavalkya to perform the santhikam once again and present the potent prasada. The ministers rushed to Vaisamapayana's ashram. Vaisampayana was very much worried at the behaviour of his nephew but when he saw the ministers he was very much relieved. The ministers narrated to him how Yagnavalkya was able to achieve a miracle of bringing back to life decayed logs of wood and conveyed to him the desire of the king. Vaisampayana readily agreed and sent for Yagnavalkya. Vaisampayana conveyed to Yagnavalkya the desire of the king and said that the king would substantially reward him and also the ashram. Yagnavalkya pointed out that the king did not deserve any consideration as he refused the offer thrice and derided the prasada, which was the result of Sastraic sanctions of the mantras. The king went even to the extent of challenging the efficacy and wanted the prasada to be tested. He also said keeping in view of the canons of the code of conduct he had decided not to do anything with the king any more.
Thereupon an argument broke out between the guru and sishya, guru insisting that people have to bear the royal actions and as his guru his command shall be obeyed. But Yagnavalkya did not yield ground and refused. On this Vaisampayana called his senior students like Uddalaka, also known as Pichuda, Ping and others and bade them to go to palace and do the santhikam rites and cure the king's disease. Parched went to the king and told him that his guru had ordered him to cure the king's disease. The king did not repose any faith or belief in these words and told him to show his powers on a dry log. Parched said he would convert the log into a gold and sprinkled the prasada. But nothing happened. Prachuda did not wish to be in the palace any more and hurried back to the gurukula and hid himself in the corner. Seeing the failure of Prachuda other students even did not venture to go to the palace. The king felt utterly hopeless and he himself came to the ashram and appealed to his guru. He said in spite of his misbehaviour Yagnavalkya remained patient and offered the prasada thrice imploring him to accept the same. He offered anything desired by the vidyarthi if he could only cure his disease. Vaisampayana assured the king to help him and called Yagnavalkya to his side.
Vaisampayana told Yagnavalkya that the king himself had come and he had assured him to honour Yagnavalkya and the ashram with wealth and presents and that the ashram was dependant on the munificence of the king. He requested Yagnavalkya to cure the king. Yagnavalkya once again refused saying that he would not toe the line of wicked for the personal gains. He also told his guru that the sastras state that one should leave one's preceptor when he preaches adharma. On hearing these words Vaisampayana got extremely angry and bade Yagnavalkya to leave the ashram at once. He also ordered Yagnavalkya to unlearn every bit of Yajur Veda taught by him by vomiting the entire Yajur Veda. Yagnavalkya, by his yogic powers, gave a shape and form to the Yajur Veda taught by Vaisampayana, gathered it together and spewed it on to the ground. Huge tongues of flames of smouldering fire leapt from the emitted Vedas and began to blaze the entire place in frightening fury, as the fire of Yajur Veda mantras, shining bright and brilliant, would spread and envelop the entire world. Vaisampayana was bewildered and crestfallen at the consequence his wrath and foolish demand.
It was a divine
dispensation and celestial coincidence that Veda Vyasa was then providentially
returning from his pilgrimage to Kasi and was nearby. Vyasa happened to come
there at the very moment Yagnavalkya threw out the Yajur
Veda. Seeing Veda Vyasa Vaisampayana with his sishyas prostrated before him and appealed to put down the fire. Veda Vyasa sprinkled the theertham from his kamandala on some of the sishyas of Vaisampayana, namely, Apasthamba, Bodayana, Oukya, Kandiya, Kada, Dupuka, Sathyashada, Hirenyakesa etc., who happen to be present there and transformed them to the form of tittri birds i.e. ostriches and instructed to lap up the flames of the Yajur Veda. It is said that because of this incidence this branch of
Vedic knowledge has come to be known as Taittreeyam. Yagnavalkya left the ashram in haste after swearing at Vaisampayana the he shall not even think of the Yajus taught by him and he would acquire a Veda which is far superior in all respects and propagate the Veda for the welfare of the mankind.
It should be understood that Yagnavalkya vomited only the Yajur Veda taught by Vaisampayana and that he retained the other Vedas, the Rig, Sama and Atharva Vedas which he had earlier learnt from different gurus. The wrath of Vaisampayana had its own cosmic logic. This served as the means for the subsequent revelation and exposition of the Shukla Yajur Veda through Yagnavalkya. But for the behaviour of king Supriya, Yagnavalkya's refusal to cure the king and the indignation of Rishi Vaisampayana mankind would not have had the benefits of the treasures of Shukla Yajur Veda. It would be profitable to notice here how the elders and yogis, in the interest of the general humanity and for the benefit of the mankind sometimes do certain improvidential things for specific reasons. How the mankind was benefited could be seen from the subsequent developments.