Bhaktamal as a scripture
The descriptions of the devotees of Bhagawan hugely vary. They vary depending on the Puranas and scriptures (composed by authorized sampradayas) we refer to. This dissimilarity arises because in Santana Dharma, time is defined as a cyclical phenomenon rather than linear. Though time passes as if it were linear, we can experience its cyclical motion by analyzing the events in our life. Many events in the present have already occurred in the past.
Our life can broadly be classified (in terms of life events), into phases where one phase repeats itself somewhere down the line. This discussion seeks your kind attention as we are about to briefly discuss the life story of Shukracharya. He is a unique character, described differently in different scriptures. Therefore, we must understand that the following article is based on Bhaktamaal. The the description might quite differ from that in Vishnupuran.
The greatness of Bhaktamal lies in its ability to transmit devotion which is implicitly present in supposedly villainous (non-devotional) characters.
A common outline of Shukracharya’s character would be that he was a well-wisher of demons which naturally translates as a born-enemy of the Devatas. But, the Bhaktamaal expresses his mood as a well wisher of the asuras in its truest sense. It describes him as a preceptor who does not give in to the fancies of the disciple but instead educates him about what is truly beneficial and what isn’t. Indeed, it is difficult to find such genuineness in today’s world.
Who is Shukracharya?
The third mind born son of Lord Brahma is Brighu Rishi who was the father of Kavi. (As per other versions, Shukracharya is also known by the name Kavi and he was the son of Brighu Rsi). But in Bhaktamaal, Kavi was the student of the demon-guru (asura-guru), Maharishi Shukracharya.
His work, Shukraniti gained limelight and people know him as its author. This book focuses on morals and rules that a dutiful king must exercise on his subjects. He promotes governance that follows the core principals of Dharma. It presents his viewpoint on political sciences and is his compilation of ethics. Although he was seated on the pedestal of an Asura Guru, internally he was devoted to Bhagawan.
He preached the precepts of Dharma to his students and it is said that he cultivated the mood of devotion (towards Lord Vishnu) in his asura disciples of whom Prahalada, Virochana and Bali were famous. On his insistence, they performed sacrifices that are dear to the Supreme Lord.
Read about Sage Narada- The Guru of Bhakta Prahlada
He possessed knowledge of the Mrit-Sanjeevani-Mantra which had the potency to grant life even after death. Thus, he used this knowledge by chanting it on the dead asura soldiers which subsequently multiplied the strength of the Asura army. However, this gesture proved to be lethal for the devatas. Rishi Brihaspati, the mentor of the Devatas was perturbed to see his disciples fail in war. But, he was not blessed with the Sanjeevani mantra. Therefore, he sent his son Kacha to acquire Sanjivani mantra from the knowledgeable Brahmin.
Story of Shukracharya teaching Sanjeevani Vidya to Kacha
On receiving the son of Brihaspati, Shukracharya was delighted and with much love he decided to impart the knowledge of Sanjivani mantra to him. This decision brought immense displeasure to the Asuras and they attempted to murder Kacha. To their astonishment their guru, granted Kacha life every time they plotted against him. Repeatedly they encountered failure until a foul plan struck their mind. They ultimately cheated their Guru by burning Kacha into ashes.
Shukracharya drank the glass of liquor in which his disciples had dispersed Kacha’s ashes! After a while, Shukracharya realized that he had consumed Kacha which ought to be the folly of his disciples. He was compelled to grant the Sanjeevani Vidya to Kacha as he would not house him in his body. He delivered the Sanjeevani mantra and Kacha grasped it all while he was sitting inside the stomach of Shukracharya. The latter spoke: “After mastering this mantra, tear open my stomach and I shall die. But, revive me by reciting this mantra.” Kacha followed his instructions literally and brought him back to life!
Shukracharya curses Brahmins.
But, this event disappointed the demon guru as he immediately issued a curse on the Brahmins as follows: “Today, I am going to set a universal rule to which all the elevated Brahmins, Devatas, the ones who are obedient to their elders and all other creatures must give their consent. The Brahmin who takes into intoxication (Alcoholic or addictive substances), will at once lose his Brahmanism. Such a person will be accused of the sin of killing a Brahmin or Cow (Brahmahatya) which instantly calls for severe punishment.”
Further he continued: “He shall suffer on both earth (in his present lifetimes) as well on other planets. He will immediately be recognized as sinner and would be made to undergo the torments of the hellish planets. Such an impudent Brahmin will surely be condemned by beings of all planets and his earthly stay will never be peaceful.”
Through this curse, Shukracharya sets the principal teachings of Dharma and encourages everyone to follow it for not following Dharma leads man to his grave.
Shukracharya tests Bali Maharaj
In the royal sacrifice hosted by King Bali, Shukracharya tests the devotion of the king by asking him to withhold his promise made to Vamana. He discouraged him from granting three footsteps of land and in turn cautioned him by saying: “This is none other than Sri Vishnu who in the guise of a Brahmin has come to rob you off your kingdom.” On hearing such displeasing words, common man would have become fear stricken.
But, Bali whose devotion for Bhagavan was unsullied, and who was the most qualified student of Shukracharya immediately refused to abide to his orders and instead pledged to grant 3 footsteps of land to Sri Vamana. Therefore, Bali was an exceptional representation of Shukracharya’s devotion for Bhagawan.
We get to see get to see one of his comments on the Vamana Avatara: “Bhagawan, ill reactions that come about as a consequence when one errs in mantra chanting, tantra sandhana, etc can be negated if the practitioner chants your divine name. Your namasankirtana has the potency to burn all mistakes which might otherwise have devastating results.”
Shukracharya was the father of Devyani who was later wedded to King Yayati of the lunar dynasty (Chandra Vamsa), in whose clan Sri Krishna appeared. Devyani exists on the celestial plane in the form of a nakshatra. By studying this nakshatra’s movements, various weather forecasting conclusions can be made like possibility of rain and wind.
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