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Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Great Sages of India... Part 3

Part 2...

I would continue to make few points on the basics before i jump to the main section:

1. Semantics:

In Sanskrit a sage is popularly referred as Rishi, which is derived etymologically from the root Ris and there are two specific definitions which explain why they are called so.

  • "Rishati Jnanena Samsaraparam" - which means a Rishi is one who crosses the worldly life (Samsaraparam) through WISDOM (Jnana).
  • "Rishir darshanaat" - which means a Rishi is one who is a "seer". 

Theses divine souls are generally created by Lord Brahma when a "Kalpa" begins and some of the important things to highlight are:
  • They are immortals and have conquered to birth and death cycle. Most of them have lived for ages and you can hear about them in multiple stories of different periods. Kalpa refers to 4.3 billion years (1000 Chatur Yugas) and equals to half a day of Lord Brahma. We are in the Sveta varaha Kalpa which has started JUST 1.96 billions years ago only. (If some one is interested in this calculation please leave me a comment / mail).
  • The were mostly humble and never said that they are the creators for any of their works including mantras. They have always claimed themselves as "Drishtas" and this is a very important aspect of Hinduism. Vedas are believed to be breath of God and they are ever existent. Rishis who can tune themselves to that state can perceive these vibrations and they compose what they have perceived. So they are all Drishtas and never claimed to be Karthas (creators).
  • Whenever when we think of a Rishi we need to think of their wife too. This is not the case in most of the modern texts. A wife is a "SahdharmaCharini", who has equal representation in any persons life - be it austerity, tapas, good or bad things. Hence all the powers these Rishis have had is shared with their wives and hence their wives are as powerful as the Rishis. Alternatively it is also told that the divine powers of these Rishis are because of their wives since many of the vedic rituals have to be jointly performed by husband and wife. This is very aptly captured in the quote "Ardho va Esaatmano Yat Patni" meaning a better halves have equal right in performance of Yagna.
  • This means that Rishis mostly lived a married life and yet were divine souls within that nuptial framework. It can also be said, that they married since without their wife they would not have become what they were. This is again very nicely captured in "Ayajno va esa Patnikah" -  that there is not Yajna without wife.
  • Sukrtam va etani Jyotimsi yan Nakshatrani - This means that stars which we see are the light of the doers of pious deeds. The saptarishis in the great bear constellation is an example of this with 7 sages - Marichi, Vasishta, Angiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha and Krutu. Some of the stars occur in pairs indicating their wives with them.
  • Practicing Vedic dharma was also prevalent among woman and there were atleast 27 woman seers listed in Rig Veda, some of them were Rishi patnis (wives). 
We would also notice that it was a prevalent custom for a Brahmin Rishi to marry a Kshatriya girl and take her as his wife. Inter-caste marriages with a FRAMEWORK were prevalent even at the highest levels. Hence we can infer that equal status to wife in married life and also in spiritual path were embedded in Hinduism from day one and what we see today as a male dominated society is a distortion.

Keeping the attention span in mind, let me continue the rest in the next blog...

Happy reading!

Examples of famous Rishis and Patnis:

1. Agastya - Lopamudra
2. Vasishta - Arundhati
3. Atri - Anusuya
4. Gautama - Ahalya
5. Bhrigu - Puloma
6. Shyavanar - Sukanya
7. Rishikar - Satyavathi
8. Jamadagni - Renuka Devi

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