• Yoga Mythology Series: Krishna’s Flute

    It was almost time for the dusk to set in, the sun had turned orange and the entire village was soaked in a calm that comes after a hard day’s work. Birds flew past the clouds returning home, and farmers ambled back with the bovine. At the edge of the forest sat Devkinandana Krishna the God of compassion under a mango tree playing his flute with a calf sitting at his feet.

    The enchanting music could be heard deep into the forest of Vrindavan where each being was immersed in the divine melody. A group of gopis (cowherd boys) and gopikas (cowherds girls) returning from the forest were drawn to the music knowing well it could be no one else but their beloved Krishna playing his flute waiting for his cowherd to return.

    And like any other day the group of boys and girls, hearing the music could sense a deep emotion of love and belonging. They followed the music and saw their Krishna playing the flute surrounded by the cows. Vishakha, the cowherd girl walked up to Krishna’s feet and kept staring at him while he played his flute with his eyes closed resting his back against the tree. She gently touched Krishna’s arm

    “Oh Krishna who do you play this flute for, for whom is this beautiful music for, please tell us?” She asked him as other gopis and gopikas kept looking at him with devotion and love without blinking an eye. Devkinandan gently opened his yes, the most beautiful eyes, eyes that could make you fall in love with.

    “Vishakha, I play it for you”, he replied with a gentle smile and started playing the flute again. Overwhelmed hearing this from dear Krishna, she closed her eyes and started swaying to the music. Vishakha opened her eyes again to get a glimpse of her Krishna; he was standing next to her now playing the flute for her. She kept dancing to the melody.

    While swaying to the magic of the music she saw Krishna standing next to the Sridhama the young cowherd boy too, as he danced looking at Krishna next to him. Anuradha too had Krishna next to her playing the flute for her as she danced. Krishna was there next to Amsu the most mischievous boy in the group as he was raptured in the divine tune. Lalita and Tungvidya and all other cowherd boys and girls had Krishna standing beside them playing flute as they all danced with their eyes closed in devotion. Vishakha saw Krishna standing next to all her friends, playing his flute for each of them so that they could dance to the melody.

    “Krishna you said you are playing the flute for me, then why are you next to all other gopi and gopikas while they dance to your music”, Vishakha asked Krishna with drop of tear in her eye.

    “My Vishakha, I am here for you because of your unconditional love for me, I am with you because you are immersed in the faith you have in me as you dance with your eyes closed. How can I not be with Tungvidya, Amsu and other boys and girls when they devote themselves to my music with their eyes closed in love? All of you have opened up your heart to me being in the moment of spontaneity with no other intention,” Krishna had a smile on his face as he spoke to Vishakha.

    Free of all doubts, you all present me with your truest emotion of love with innocence; I have to be beside all of you to reciprocate this love and devotion. I am with all of you, because you are thinking of me without pretense and without an iota of doubt that it is my music that you hear and that I play it for you. You are free from fear and true to yourself and for what you feel or me, I have to be close to you”.

    Hearing this Vishakha let go all of her jealousy and desire to have Krishna all to herself, she felt the love of her dear Krishna which was as much hers as for all other gopi and gopikas who were devoting themselves to the divine music of Gopala.

    “Oh Krishna please tell me how can I always have you close to me in every moment…please tell me,” requested Vishakha.

    Krishna looked at Vishakha in her eyes as he spoke, “Keep me in your thoughts and think of me in all your actions, show unrestrained love and equanimity and I shall be close to you always.”

    “Is it that easy to have your presence beside us?” Vishakha asked again.

    Krishna smiled and replied, “Yes it is, do what you have at hand with utmost concentration, simple dignity and a feeling of affection while relieving yourself of all other thoughts, you will find peace and satisfaction within yourself, and that’s who I am. I am you in your most peaceful state.”

    It was almost dark and the cows were heading home, Gopala put his flute on his lips again and started walking behind the cowherd playing for tired souls of Vrindavan and slowly disappeared in the mist as Vishakha stood still with a warm feeling in her heart and a sense of fondness.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India. Portrait photography by Ankur Tunaak.

    Read More Yoga Mythology Stories by Ankur Tunaak

  • Yoga Mythology Series: Samrat Yayati – Ceaseless Desires

    Yayati the mighty King had conquered the world and become a Samraat; monarch of the universe. It is said that with his sheer power he conquered the world in six days. He was known to be the bravest of the kings. Yayati had lived a fulfilling life in roles of a husband, a father and a scholarly king. One night Yayati felt restless for reasons unknown.

    He couldn’t be in his bed any longer, he got out of his bed, dressed majestically and went and sat upon his throne. As he sat on the throne overseeing his most beautiful palace, alone, death appeared in front of him. “O King you have lived your life’s course and it is time for you to leave with me”, death informed Yayati as he sat on his throne. Hearing this Yayati said that we wanted to live only hundred years more, that the last hundred years of his life went in performing his duties and that he never got a chance to enjoy his life. Now that he had conquered the world, had amassed all the wealth and power, he wanted to enjoy it.

    Hearing this from the wise king, death was amused but decided to grant the king his wish to live for another hundred years on the condition that he will have give away one of his sons to death in return.  The following morning Yayati went to his eldest of the hundred sons he had. The eldest son was eighty years old and refused to comply to his father’s request to go with death. “I am just eighty years old”, he thought, “my father who has lived hundred years still not content, how can I be content at the age of Eighty”, and ignored is father’s request. Yayati was deeply disappointed in his eldest son. He called all his other sons and told them about the condition that death had put before him to spare his life. All his sons stood in silence looking at each other; no one came out in support of their father’s wish.

    After a while, the youngest son stepped out and spoke, “I am ready to go with death”, he looked at death and spoke again, “O death please spare my father’s life and take me with you”. Death was surprised to hear the young boy, and asked him when his elder brothers who were eighty years old, seventy five years old, sixty years old were not ready to go with him, why he wanted to go with him when he was all of twenty years and not lived his life enough. The young boy replied saying that when his father was not content after having lived a hundred years, his brother wanted more and were not satisfied even at the ages of eighty years, seventy five years …and had not been able to live fully even after so many years, he did not see a reason to continue his life till the next hundred years in discontent and that it was better to leave with death.

    Death took the young boy away and spared King Yayati’s life for another hundred years as promised but before leaving death said to him the even next hundred years of his life will also not satisfy the King’s lust for pleasures and he would still be going in circles chasing same, unsatisfied always. King Yayati represents each of us, where instead of experiencing life every day we are in pursuit of new pleasures that might come the next day. We mistake momentary pleasures for enjoyment or eternal happiness and that is the reason we all are chasing something new, something more, being in state of constant unrest and a never ending desire for more and more. Yayati was a scholarly monarch with all the wealth and ruled the world, yet it was not enough for him. We too seek happiness from things and people around us. The reason for this constant search for pleasure is that we often mistake pleasures as happiness.

    Life can be experienced in its true nature when one strives towards a smooth flowing life that comes from living the best possible version of ourselves moment to moment.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India.

    Portrait photography by Ankur Tunaak.

  • Yoga Mythology Series: Rishi Dadhyanga, Life’s Purpose

    Dadhyanga was a born to Santi and sage Atharva. The boy was innately calm and beneficent. As he grew older he became known for his unswerving devotion for Lord Shiva the omniscient yogi the supreme being worshiped as a great God; one who can transform the universe.

    Dadhyanga immersed himself in devotion to Lord Shiva. He spent most of his time meditation upon Shiva and used the remaining time of the day helping and serving people around him to his truest ability. His conscious efforts to live a selfless life devoted to welfare of others and devotion to supreme being made him a revered rishi (sage) amongst all gods and devas; the celestial beings.

    After many years of seclusion in the Himalayas, rishi Dadhyanga came back and started living on the bank of Sabarmati river. Anyone who came to his hermitage seeking help never returned disappointed. Sage Dadhyanga did everything in capacity to help the needy. With extreme devotion towards leading a selfless life made his body and soul purge all impurities that came as a part of human existence.

    During those ages there were several wars waged by the asuras (demons) on the devas (celestial beings) and celestial gods to take control of the three worlds. Once during such wars between the asuras and the devas, Vrtraasura, a very powerful demon king captured swarg loka (the heavens) with his might, defeating the gods. The gods tried everything possible to regain their control over swarg loka but failed in all their attempts as Vrtraasura defeated them each time.

    The gods realized that there was no way to defeat the demon king thus they went to Lord Narayana (the supreme creator of the universe) and took his shelter. Learning about their plight Lord Narayana informed the vanquished gods that there was no weapon strong enough in heaven or earth that could slay Vrtaasura and that it was only Lord Indra the god of thunder and storms who could kill him by a thunderbolt made from the bones of sage Dadhyanga. Lord Narayana told them that Dadhyanga had performed such severe penance that his bones had acquired strength beyond bounds and that he was such a great beneficent that he would offer his bones for the purpose, if requested for. Learning this from Lord Narayana, all the celestial gods and devas went to see rishi Dadhyanga at it his hermitage.

    Dadhyanga welcomed all the gods in obeisance at his hermitage. “What brings all of you here?” he asked looking at Lord Indra, the god of thunder. “Vrtraasura the demon king has captured the swarg loka and banished all of us, we have no place to go to and it is in great agony that we have come to you to seek your help”, Lord Indra replied with much sorrow. Hearing their plight Dadhyanga explained the devas that he was Brahmana and a teacher and it was against his nature to wage a war or assail a demon.  “We have come here to request you to give us your bones to create a thunderbolt so strong that it can slay the demon king because there is no other weapon strong enough in the entire universe to kill him” pleaded Lord Indra.

    Hearing this Dadhyanga assured them with a pleasing smile and said.. “We humans are made for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like the eye lids. To act against one another then is contrary to our inherent nature. We humans do not realize it but our greatest need is to be useful to a fellow human in the purest way possible, that is the only way we can find true contentment and use our time here on this earth in the most fulfilling way possible”.

    Rishi Dadhyanga with folded hands told them that death was inevitable, and the best way to end this journey of life would be to die for the well being of another one.
    “I am going to give up my life leaving my bones for your sake, please use them for welfare of everyone” Rishi Dadhyanga said looking at Lord Indra as other gods looked at him with tears of joy and hope. The sage then sat on the grass closed his eyes and left his body by yogic powers, soon the cows of the forest gathered around the body and licked the sage’s body away until only the bones were left on the grass.

    Lord Indra killed Vrtaasura with the thunderbolt made from Dadhyanga’s bones and order was restored in the universe.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India.

    Portrait photography by Ankur Tunaak.

  • Yoga Mythology Series: A Defeated King’s Last Words

    The car suddenly stopped with a jerk. Liam got out of the car and opened the hood and started doing a meticulous inspection, it seemed that sun was getting hotter by the second. After few minutes being inside the car his grandfather, who was travelling with Liam, got out too. “What seems to be the problem Liam”, he inquired. “Looking into it Grandpa”, Liam replied with his head under the hood. Almost an hour passed and Liam tried everything to fix the car but it did not start.

    “I saw a garage about a half mile back near the gas station, let’s get a mechanic here and get him to inspect the car”, grandfather suggested. “Grandpa, I am a qualified automobile engineer, what could the mechanic do that I can’t”, Liam retorted to the suggestion. After a while Liam gave up and got the mechanic to the car. After inspection, the mechanic asked Liam when they refueled the car and Liam told him that it was from the gas station near his garage on the highway. “You have misfuelled the car, this a petrol engine and you have put diesel in it”. Both Liam and the grandfather looked at each other in silence. “Sorry Liam I thought your car had a diesel engine and put the same in it”, the grandfather said apologetically. The diesel was pumped out and petrol was put into the tank. It was almost evening and both of them were driving on the highway again.

    Both sat in silence with their eyes on the highway as Liam drove.

    “Liam have you heard of the story of Ravana and Prince Laxmana?” Grandpa broke the silence with his question. But Liam kept driving without replying.

    “Ravana the mighty scholar King and a great yogi was lying on the battle ground injured by the arrows of prince Rama and the younger brother prince Laxmana, awaiting his death”, grandfather continued.

    “Rama the elder brother asked Laxmana to go and pay his last respects to the dying defeated King of great wisdom, and seek true knowledge from him. Laxama resented the idea and said that he did not want to go near his enemy who they had defeated. Rama requested his younger brother again telling him that there was lot to learn from the Ravana and that he should go to him. Laxmana gave in to his elder brother’s request but came back furious and told his brother that Ravana did say a word to him inspite of him asking. Rama asked Laxmana where he was standing when he went close to Ravana, and Laxmana told him that he went and stood next to Ravana’s head while he lay on the ground.

    Hearing this Rama said “dear Laxmana please go again and this time sit close to his feet and request for wisdom again”. Laxmana was annoyed at his brother’s suggestion and asked why should he sit at Ravana’s feet? Prince Rama explained it to him that he had to approach Ravana as teacher to seek wisdom and since a person’s feet represent mother earth which gives birth to everything and that all which is created goes back to earth eventually, thus it’s a sign of humbleness and acknowledging mother nature, which is existence in its vastness, so when you bow down or sit close to a teacher’s feet, you lighten yourself of your ego and become like an empty vessel to absorb, a teacher will realize it and help you in your quest, it’s not respect the teacher is seeking but looking for sign if you are ready to learn, and you can learn something from everyone if you are willing to empty for vessel from all memories and impressions that fog your perspective.

    Both Prince Rama and Prince Laxmana approached the wise king Ravana again and sat by his feet.

    “Oh wise king please show us a path to righteousness” Laxmana requested Ravana.

    Ravana looked at Laxmana and spoke “Young prince, with my last few remaining breaths I can only tell you that I lay here because of my pride, the pride I took in being the most learned and most powerful. And in those moments of self-obsession I lost my ability to distinguish between righteousness and irreverence.”

    “Laxmana always remember any action that we do with a feeling of compassion, kindheartedness and thoughtfulness is a right act and such act demands our immediate attention and we should complete it without delay or procrastination.”

    “Lastly, always be aware of your enemy. This enemy resides within oneself; the one who makes us put ourselves over and above everyone else around us”. Prince Laxmana stood in silence as Ravana the teacher spoke his last words.

    It was 7:30 p.m. when the car halted at the driveway. Liam and his grandfather got out of the car. Liam came around from the other side and gave his grandfather a hug and then led him to the house holding his hand.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India.

    Portrait photography by Ankur Tunaak.