Dattatreya Answers King Alark's Questions on Yoga (from Markandeya Purana)
After reaching youthhood, Prince Alark got married. By that time, his father King Ritudhwaj had also grown old. Hence before Grihastha, he crowned his son as the new king. At the time of crowning, queen Madalasa presented him a ring and said- 'O son! This ring contains a note which will teach you on how a king should administer the kingdom.' Saying this, Madalasa blessed Alark and left the palace with her husband Ritudhwaj to spend their lives in the forest.
DATTATREYA PREACHES TO ALARK
Alark says- 'O lord! With the arising of disenchantment in my heart, I have no miseries now. Only those people feel drowned in the ocean of miseries who are attached to worldly things. A man feels all kinds of sorrows due to his attachments towards the luxuries in which his mind indulges. Now neither sorrow nor joy can affect me.'
Dattatreya says- 'O king! Whatever you said is correct. Attachment is the cause of both sorrow and happiness. It is because of the knowledge I gave to you that the 'mist of attachment' has disappeared from your heart. A small sprout of ego ultimately develops into a huge tree of ignorance. Affection is the trunk of this tree. Home and family are the branches and wife and children are the leaves of this tree. Wealth and cereals are the flowers and happiness and sorrow are the fruits of this tree. Relation that emerges out of affection is the canopy of this tree. This tree grows day by day and obscures the path of liberation. This tree is full of desires and those who sit under the lee of this tree can never attain salvation. Hence felling of this tree is of foremost importance for a person desirous of attaining 'Brahmajitva.'
PERFECTION IN YOGA
Dattatreya says- 'During the process of conquering the soul, different kinds of allurements begins to divert the mind of the Yogis. It is imperative for the Yogi to keep his mind busy by observing fast, worshipping and contemplating God. It is the duty of the Yogi to always contemplate God, only then he can seek solace in Him. Thus, after controlling his senses, a Yogi ought to eat and sleep less, attain unification with the Supreme Being. O king! A Yogi unifies with Brahma once his physical and mental faults are removed. Then, he never separates from the Supreme Being.'
DESCRIPTION OF OMKAR
Dattatreya says- 'Those Yogis who abide by their resolution are never degraded from their supreme position. Such Yogis always recite Om while contemplating on the eternal God. 'A', 'U' and 'M', these three syllables constitute the body OM or AUM. These three syllables represent the virtues (gunas) of Sata, Tama and Raja respectively. Thus, by contemplating on God and reciting Om, a Yogi ultimately achieves unification with that eternal spirit. But there are still some disastrous traps that a Yogi should guard himself against, otherwise his entire penance might turn futile at the time of death. Hence every Yogi must be aware of these disastrous traps.'
ALARK MASTERS YOGA AND PENANCE OF JADA AND HIS FATHER
The words of Alark pleased the king of Kashi. Subahu got up gladly and after embracing Alark, said to the king of Kashi- 'O king, I had taken your refuge to win the kingdom. Now, I have got it without fighting a war and without a drop of blood being shed. But, I am leaving now, renouncing everything.'
The king of Kashi said- 'Subahu, why had you taken refuge in me? What have you received now?'
Subahu said- 'O king! My younger brother Alark had been so far indulging in luxuries despite having metaphysical knowledge. He was in fact experiencing miseries in his household. When the miseries cross all limits, only then renunciation arises in the mind, as is the case with Alark. That was why I had taken your refuge. My job is finished now. So I am leaving to attain perfection in Yoga. O king, I regard those people who ignore their near and dear ones in their miseries as heartless.
Such people are degraded from their position of Dharma, Arth, Kama and moksha and are criticised everywhere.'
The king of Kashi said- 'O Subahu, You have salved your brother Alark. Now kindly salve me also.'
Subahu said- 'Attainment of Dharma, Arth, Kama and Moksha are the four major objectives for the attainment of which humans have been created. You have already attained Dharma, artha and Kama. Only Moksha remains to be attained now. 'It is mine', 'It is me' etc. are expressions of ego. Guarding the self from these thoughts is the true knowledge. A man must know 'What is to be known? 'Who is to know?' and 'Who is he?' A knowledge of these automatically leads to the knowledge of all.' Saying these words, Subahu left the palace.
The king of Kashi too returned to his kingdom. Alark crowned his elder son as the new king and he began to practice Yoga in a forest. After many years of rigorous practice, Alark attained salvation and his abode in Brahma loka.
The Brahmin's son said- 'O father! Now you too must take refuge in Yoga in order to attain Brahma. I too will try to attain salvation.'
The birds say- 'O Brahmin! Thus the father and son began their penance and attained salvation.'
WISDOM OF ALARK
After his accession to the throne, King Alark ruled justly. In due course of time, he got many sons. He followed the dictates of Dharma, Arth and Kama while ruling his kingdom. Inspite of enjoying all the luxuries, Alark still could not experience bliss and felt as if he was missing something in his life. Very soon, Subahu came to learn about the royal luxuries of his brother Alark and got tempted to enjoy the same luxuries. To attain his objective, Subahu took the help of the king of Kashi. The king of Kashi sent an envoy to Alark with a message to give the kingdom to Subahu, which Alark refused. Instead, he sent a reply that the request must be made by Subahu himself. 'I will not give him my kingdom out of fear of war,' said Alark. But Subahu did not pay heed and with the help of the king of Kashi, launched a massive attack on his kingdom and conquered it. Now Alark's days of sorrow had begun.
He then remembered the ring presented by his mother Madalasa. He opened the ring and found a letter in it. The letter said- 'When you lose your everything, give up the company of your present advisors and join the company of learned sages.' This message made Alark pine for the company of the learned sages. Very soon, he went to the refuge of Dattatreya and requested him to remove his miseries. Dattatreya assured him of removing his miseries at once but before doing that, he wanted to know the reasons for his miseries. Alark said- 'I do not long for pleasures but my elder brother wants to grab my kingdom.'
Dattatreya says- 'O king! With the attainment of knowledge, people come to conjugate with the Supreme Almighty and which results into dispersion of their ignorance. To attain Moksha, it is necessary for a man to shun attachment first of all. Only after that, he will become free from sorrows. When he becomes free from sorrow, he unites with the Supreme Almighty. This phenomenon is known as Yoga. Unification with the Supreme Almighty enables a man to attain knowledge and finally Moksha (salvation). It is therefore essential for the all those seeking salvation that first of all they should renounce affection and attachment for the worldly objects including their near and dear ones.
Knowledge and renunciation are nothing but two sides of the same coin and one is necessary to give rise to the other. Home is nothing but the place for staying, food is nothing but the energy required for sustaining our body, and knowledge is nothing but an aid to attain salvation. Anything that caused obstacles in the way of salvation is ignorance. A living being is bound to receive the fruits of action no matter whether they are good or bad. Hence one should carry out his duties without bothering for the results. With the attenuation of the results of the action performed in the previous births, a living being becomes free from the cycles of life and death. With the attainment of Yoga, Yogis take refuge in none other than Brahma. But the path of attaining Yoga is indeed difficult, if not impossible. One has to conquer his soul first of all because the soul itself is regarded as invincible. Control of physical impurities with the help of Pranayam, sins by determination, lust by self-restrains and contemplation on God are the ways to conquer the soul.
DAILY ROUTINE OF A YOGI
Alark says- 'O lord, now kindly narrate about the daily routine, a Yogi should abide by in order to preserve his piousness.
Dattatreya says- 'O king! Respect and insult are the two reasons for love and hatred. Yogis attain perfection by understanding insult as respect and vice versa. A Yogi should therefore never attend social functions like Shraadh, marriage ceremonies or other festivities. He should not accept the hospitality of others and should shun unnecessary journeys. A Yogi should seek alms only after the householder and his family has dined. A Yogi should accept alms only from those households whose inmates are gentle, religious and free from blemishes and should accept things like whey, milk, fruits, edible roots, gram flour etc. Before going to dine, a Yogi should offer his food to the deities reciting he following mantras-
After reciting these mantras one by one and offering food to the deities who are present in his body as different forms of air, the Yogi may now proceed to dine.
Control of senses and greed, celibacy, renunciation and non-violence are the five resolutions of a Yogi. Control of anger, service to the Guru, sanctity, eating less and studying Vedas regularly are the five norms for a Yogi. A Yogi must practice meditation at a desolate place, forest, cave or peak of a mountain. A true celibate has full control over his speech, mind and action. Iron and gold have equal worth in his eye; he loves no one and hates no one.'
DESCRIPTION OF DISASTROUS TRAPS
Dattatreya says- 'A person who is unable to see the path of the deities, or the heavenly bodies like Dhruv, Shukra (Venus), Soma (Moon), or his own shadow or Goddess Arundhati, must understand that his death is near. For those people to whom, the Sun appears without radiance but fire appears as the Sun, die within eleven months. Sighting of gold and silver in urine or stools signifies death within ten months. Those who see ghosts, Gandharvas and gold tree in the dreams live for nine months only. Those who become fat or thin suddenly live for eight months more. Those Yogis whose heels appear cracked while walking on sand or mud die within seven months. Getting perched on the body by volatile birds like vulture, pigeon, owl, crow etc. indicates that the concerned person will live for only six months. Those who see their shadow in opposite direction live for four or five months more only. Those who sight lightning without clouds or rainbow during the night time in their dreams live for two or three months more. Those who cannot see their reflection in ghee, oil, water and mirror die within a month. A person whose body smells like a cadaver dies within fifteen days. Those whose hands and feet remain dry even after taking bath and dry even after taking light refreshments live only for ten days. Those who sight hair, cinders, ash, snakes and dried rivers in their dreams, die on the eleventh day. Those who feel hungry even after eating their fill also die soon.
O king! There are many more disastrous symptoms that indicate death. A Yogi must always be alert regarding these signs. Whenever a Yogi perceives the appearance of all or some of these disastrous symptoms, he must at once take to Yoga to minimise the effects.
Brahmagyan- A Yogi experiences extreme joy when he meditates while doing Yoga. Only then can he experience Brahma. Physical body is ephemeral; hence a true Yogi does not mourn over the loss of physical body. Hence, a Yogi must train his mind in Yoga ignoring sorrow or affection. This is indeed a difficult task to achieve.'
Alark says- O Brahmin! By your blessings, my ignorance has ended. Now I will do everything so that ignorance does not grip me once again.'
Then taking Dattatreya's permission, Alark went back to the king of Kashi and said- 'O king! You have a desire for the kingdom, so take this kingdom and enjoy its luxuries yourself or give it to Subahu.' The king of Kashi asked Alark as to why he was renouncing the kingdom without fighting a war. He also tried to instigate Alark by saying that his conduct did not suit the Kshatriyas. Alark said- 'Only Brahma is truth, all the other things are false. Now controlling my senses, I will attain perfection in Yoga.