Ribhu and NidAgha (was: JaDa bharata)

Sankaran Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Wed Mar 1 15:02:46 CST 2000

[ This is the conclusion of the story of JaDa Bharata in the
  Vishnu purana, as translated by H.H. Wilson. The same story
  occurs in the shrimad Bhaagavatam.h in a more concise form. ]

Book 2, Chapter 15

Parasara continued, "Having terminated these remarks, the Brahman repeated
to the silent and meditating prince a tale illustrative of the doctrines
of Unity. "Listen, prince, to what was formerly uttered by Ribhu,
imparting holy knowledge to the Brahman Nidagha. Ribhu, who was a son of
Brahma, was, from his innate disposition, a holy character, and acquainted
with true wisdom. Nidagha, the son of Pulastya, was his disciple; and to
him Ribhu communicated willingly perfect knowledge, not doubting of his
being fully confirmed in the doctrines of unity, when he had been thus

The residence of Pulastya was at Viranagara, a large handsome city on the
banks of the Devika river. In a beautiful grove adjoining to the stream
the pupil of Ribhu, Nidagha, conversant with devotional practises, abode.
When a thousand divine years had passed, Ribhu went to the city of
Pulastya, to visit his disciple. Standing at the doorway, at the end of a
sacrifice to the Visvadevas, he was seen by his scholar, who hastened to
present him the usual offering, or Arghya, and conducted him into the
house; and when his hands and feet were washed, and he was seated, Nidagha
invited him respectfully to eat (when the following dialogue ensued):

Ribhu- "Tell me, illustrious Brahman, what food there is in your house;
for I am not fond of indifferent viands."

Nidagha- "There are cakes of rice, barley, pulse in the house; partake,
venerable sir, of whichever best pleases you."

Ribhu- "None of these do I like; give me rice boiled with sugar, wheaten
cakes, and milk with curds and molasses."

Nidagha(to his wife)- "Be quick and prepare whatever is most delicate and
sweet in the house, to feed our guest."

Having thus spoken, the wife of Nidagha, in obedience to her husband's
commands, prepared sweet and savory food, and set it before the Brahman;
and Nidagha, having stood before him until he had eaten of the meal he had
desired, thus reverentially addressed him, "Have you eaten sufficiently,
and with pleasure, great Brahman? And has your mind received contentment
from your food? Where is your present residence? Whither do you propose
going? And whence, holy sir, have you now come?"

Ribhu- "A hungry man, Brahman, must needs be satisfied when he has
finished his meal. Why should you enquire if my hunger has been appeased?
When the earthy element is parched by fire, then hunger is engendered; and
thirst is produced when the moisture of the body has been absorbed (by
internal or digestive heat). Hunger and thirst are the functions of the
body, and satisfaction must always be achieved by that by which they are
removed; for when hunger is no longer sensible, pleasure and contentment
of the mind are faculties of the intellect: ask their condition of the
mind, then, for man is not affected by them. For your other three
questions: Where do I dwell? Whither do I go? and Whence do I come? hear
this reply. Man (the soul of man) goes everywhere, and penetrates
everywhere, like the ether; and is it rational to enquire where it is? Or
whence or whither thou goest? I neither am going nor coming, nor is my
dwelling in any one place; nor art thou, thou; nor are others, others; nor
am I, I. If you wonder what reply I should make to your enquiry why I made
any distinction between sweetened and unsweetened food, you shall hear my
explanation. What is there that is really sweet or not sweet, to one
eating a meal? That which is sweet, is no longer sweet when it occassions
the sense of repletion; and that which is not sweet, becomes sweet when a
man (being very hungry) fancies that it is so. What food is there that
first, middle and last is equally grateful? As a house built of clay is
strengthened by fresh plaster, so is this earthly body supported by
earthly particles; and barley, wheat, pulse, butter, oil, milk, curds,
treacle, fruits, and the like, are composed of atoms of earth. This
therefore is to be understood by you, that the mind which properly judges
of what is or is not sweet is impressed with the notion of identity, and
that this effect of identity tends to liberation."

Having heard these words, conveying the substance of ultimate truth,
Nidagha fell at the feet of his visitor, and said, "Show favor unto me,
illustrious Brahman, and tell me who it is that for my good had come
hither, and by whose words the infatuation of my mind is dissipated."

Ribhu answered, "I am Ribhu, your preceptor, come here to communicate to
you true wisdom; and having declared to you what that is, I shall depart.
Know this whole universe to be the one undivided nature of the supreme
spirit, entitled Vasudeva." Thus having spoken, and receiving the
prostrate homage of Nidagha, rendered with fervent faith, Ribhu went his

Chapter 16

"After the expiration of another thousand years, Ribhu again repaired to
the city where Nidagha dwelt, to instruct him further in true wisdom. When
he arrived near the town, he beheld a prince entering into it, with a
splendid retinue; and his pupil Nidagha standing afar off, avoiding the
crowd; his throat shrivelled with starvation, and bearing from the thicket
fuel and holy grass. Ribhu approached him, and saluting him reverentially
(as if he were a stranger) demanded why he was standing in such a retired
spot. Nidagha replied, "There is a great crowd of people attending the
entrance of the king into the town, and I am here standing to avoid it."
"Tell me, excellent Brahman," said Ribhu, "for I believe thou art wise,
who here is the king and who is any other man." "The king," answered
Nidagha, "is he who is seated on the fierce and stately elephant, vast as
a mountain peak; the others are his attendants." "You have shown me,
observed Ribhu, "at one time,the king and the elephant, without noticing
any particular character by which they are to be distinguished. Tell me,
venerable sir, is there any difference between them? For I am desirous to
know which is here the elephant, and which the king." "The elephant,"
answered Nidagha, "is underneath; the king above him. Who is not aware,
Brahman, of the relation between that which bears and that which is
borne?" To this Ribhu rejoined, "Still explain to me, according to what I
know of it, this matter: what is meant by the word `underneath' and what
is it that is termed `above'?"  As soon as he had uttered this, Nidagha
jumped upon Ribhu, and said, "Here is my answer to the question you have
asked : I am above, like the Raja; you are underneath, like the elephant.
This example, Brahman, is intended for your information." "Very well, said
Ribhu, "you, it seems, are as it were the Raja, and I am like the
elephant; but come now, do tell me which of us two is `you'; which is

When Nidagha heard these words, he immediately fell at the feet of the
stranger and said, "Of a surety thou art my saintly preceptor Ribhu; the
mind of no other person is so fully imbued with the doctrines of unity as
that of my teacher, and hence I know that thou art he." To this Ribhu
replied, "I am your preceptor by name Ribhu, who, pleased with the dutiful
attention he has received, has come to Nidagha to give him instruction :
for this purpose have I briefly intimated to you the divine truth, the
essence of which is the non-duality of all." Having thus spoken to
Nidagha, the Brahman Ribhu went away, leaving his disciple profoundly
impressed, by his instructions, with belief in unity. He beheld all beings
thenceforth as the same with himself, and, perfect in holy knowledge,
obtained final liberation.

In like manner do thou, Oh king, who knows what duty is, regarding equally
friend or foe, consider yourself as one with all that exists in the world.
Even as the same sky is apparently diversified as white or blue, so Soul,
which is in Truth but one, appears to erroneous vision distinct in
different persons. That One, which here is all things, is Achyuta(Vishnu);
than whom there is none other. He is I; He is Thou; he is All; this
universe is his form. Abandon the error of distinction." "

Parasara resumed - "The king, being thus instructed, opened his eyes to
truth, and abandoned the notion of distinct existence: whilst the Brahman,
who, through the recollection of his former lives, had acquired perfect
knowledge, obtained now exemption from future birth. Whoever narrates (or
types!) or listens to the lessons inculcated in the dialogue between
Bharata and the king, has his mind enlightened, mistakes not the nature of
individuality, and in the course of his migrations becomes fitted for
ultimate emancipation."


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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