• 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.