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A Story About Patanjali
From JR Group, Mar 9, 2010, by Kulbir Bains
See also   Patanjali

Patanjali has been the pioneer of Yog Shaastra. When the mind unites with the soul, when the body unites with the breath, and when the soul unites with the Paramaatmaa, Yog happens. There is this story about Maharshi Patanjali.

There were thousands of disciples of Maharshi Patanjali. One day they were all at the session with Maharshi. Maharshi had a rule that there will be a curtain in between Maharshi and the student and no one was supposed to see the Maharshi during the session. This continued for some time. The students were gaining knowledge from the preceptor and the preceptor was showering the knowledge to the disciples.

One day something strange happened. One of the students wanted to go to the toilet. He thought why to disturb the Guru anyway, the Master will not be able to see (since there was a curtain in between them), so he silently slipped off the class and went to the toilet.

On the other hand, among the rest of the students, one felt the terrible urge to see the Maharshi. He whispered to the other fellow disciples that they should see their teacher, and the teacher being all compassionate will definitely forgive them and will not be upset at it. So suddenly one of the disciples got up and removed the curtain. And Lo, as he removed the curtain off, there happened a terrible disaster. Everyone who were present there turned into ashes. All the disciples who were present in front of the Maharshi Patanjali just turned into the ashes.

In the meantime the only survivor disciple who had gone out to the toilet returned. Maharshi told the student that he had done a great mistake by going out of the class without the preceptorís permission. And now the boy has to undergo a curse. So Maharshi cursed him to be a Demon (Brahm Daitya) and that he should sit on a tree and write down all that he had learnt from Patanjali. The boy immediately turned into a demon and went up the tree and started writing that entire knowledge he learnt from the Maharshi.

He was writing it on the leaves of the tree. It is said that there was a goat sitting at the base of the tree. The disciple who turned a demon kept writing on the leaves and throwing each leaf on the ground and the goat started eating all the leaves one by one.

Now who were those disciples who turned to ashes? Why did they turn to ashes? Why was that only disciple saved? Why did he become a demon? Why was he asked to write all that he learnt? Why the goat did eat away all the leaves? These are the questions that you should think and ponder.

There are two kinds of disciplines. We will begin with a story - the greatest and most effective way of conveying knowledge.

Once upon a time, long ago, all the Muni and Rishi approached Lord Vishnu to tell him that even though He (incarnated as Lord Dhanvantari) had given them the means to cure illnesses through Aayur Ved, people still fell ill. They also wanted to know what to do when people got sick. Sometimes it is not just physical illness, but mental and emotional illness too that need to be dealt with. Anger, lust, greed, jealousy etc are extra. How does one get rid of all these impurities? What is the formula to treat them?

Vishnu was lying on the bed of snake - the serpent Aadi Shesh with a 1,000 heads. When the Rishi approached Him, He gave them Aadi Shesh, the symbol of awareness, who took birth in the world as Maharishi Patanjali. So Patanjali came to this earth to give this knowledge of Yog which came to be known as the Yog Sootra. Patanjali said he was not going to discuss his Yog Sootra unless 1,000 people got together. So 1,000 people gathered at a place South of Vindhya Mountains to listen to him. Patanjali had another condition he would put a screen between him and his students and told them that nobody was to lift the screen or leave. Everybody had to stay in the hall till he finished.

So Patanjali stayed behind the curtain and he transmitted his knowledge to the 1,000 disciples gathered there. Each of them absorbed this knowledge. It was an amazing phenomenon and even amongst the students, they could not believe how they were getting this knowledge, how the master was making each of them understand without uttering words from behind the curtain. Everybody was amazed. Each one of them experienced such a blast of energy, such a blast of enthusiasm, that they could not even contain it. But they still had to maintain the discipline.

But one little boy had to go out to attend natures call. So he left the room. He thought to himself that he would go quietly and return quietly. Another person became curious. What is the Master doing behind the curtain? I want to see. He got so curious that he lifted the curtain to see the Master. But just as he did so, all 999 disciples were burnt to ashes.

Now, Patanjali became very sad. There he was, ready to impart knowledge to the whole world and all of his disciples were burnt. At this moment, that one little boy returned. Patanjali asked him where he had gone. The boy explained and asked his forgiveness. Patanjali was compassionate and felt him alive - at least one of his disciples was saved. So he gave him the rest of the Sootra, the rest of the knowledge. But the student had violated the law and Patanjali was not willing to forget that. So he said, "Since you have violated the law, you will become a Brahm Raakshas, a ghost, and hang on the tree. And the only way he could liberate himself from the curse is to teach one student." After having said this Patanjali disappeared.

Now that Brahm Raakshas, hanging on a tree, would ask everyone who passed by, only one question and when they could not answer he would eat them. He had no choice and for a few thousand years this continued. He could not find a single person to whom he could teach the Yog Sootra. So he remained on the tree as a Brahm Raakshas (the lesson here being that for the one who has great knowledge, and who does something wrong, the state of Brahm Raakshas will come. An intelligent person becoming a criminal becomes more dangerous than an innocent person becoming a criminal.).

So the Brahm Raakshas was hanging there and waiting for relief. Then out of compassion, Patanjali himself became a disciple and came as a student to Brahm Raakshas who told him all the Sootra, which Patanjali wrote on the palm leaf.

The story goes that to redeem one disciple, the Master had to become the disciple of his disciple. Patanjali wrote the Sootra sitting on the top of the tree as that was where the Brahm Raakshas sat. Also, Brahm Raakshas worked only in the night. So he dictated the Sootra at night and Patanjali wrote them on the leaves. He plucked all the leaves and made a small scratch, drew blood and wrote. This went on for seven days. At the end of it, Patanjali was tired and put everything he had written on a piece of cloth and set it down and went to bathe. But when Patanjali returned, he found that a goat had eaten most of the leaves. Patanjali then took the cloth bag and the rest of the leaves and walked away.

In this story, there is a lot of depth. The Puraan do not give any explanation. They just give a story and it is for us to unlock the meaning. So what is that meaning, you all have to find out?
(1) How did the master convey the knowledge to everybody without uttering a word?
(2) What was the significance of the veil and when it was lifted why did everybody burn down?
(3) Why was the one boy forgiven?
(4) What is the significance of the goat?
(5) What is the significance of this story?


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 5/9/09
Updated on 10/19/11