Who was Maharishi Ribhu?
Maharishi Ribhu is one of the Manas-putr or heart born sons of Brahma. His very nature was spiritual and he lived a retired, isolated life. He had no attachment for the world and worldly affairs. To uphold Dharma, he accepted his elder brother, Mantsuja as his spiritual master. After receiving initiation he meditated and practiced yoga. As a result he would always remain entranced by spiritual experiences. Maharishi Ribhu was devoid of material contamination and distortions of the mind. He had no responsibilities of the world other than maintaining his own body for survival.
How did Nidagh become the disciple of Maharishi Ribhu?
One fine morning, Maharishi Ribhu visited the ashram of Pulastya Rishi. On reaching his hermitage, he saw, Nidagh, the son of Pulastya reciting the Vedic Scriptures. The little boy, recited the verses relentlessly without a break. Nidagh paid respects to the Maharishi and warmly welcomed him. Maharishi Ribhu was filled with compassion for the little boy and said: “If you successfully managed to parrot the Vedic scriptures, but don’t have the knowledge of the essential teachings of the Vedas, then what is the use of reciting them, Nidagh?” A current of realization ran through Nidagh after being questioned by the sage. He abandoned the house of his father and took refuge under Maharishi Ribhu. Nidagh accepted Maharishi Ribhu as his spiritual master and served him with utmost devotion. He would travel along with his guru and carry out all his orders. Seeing his sincerity, Maharishi was pleased and decided to deliver all Vedic knowledge to his disciple. After having completely transmitted the Vedic sciences, Maharishi Ribhu said: “Nidagh, now you must follow Grihasta dharma (or duties of a householder). After receiving these orders, Nidagh approached his Pulastya Rishi’s hermitage. His father got him married.
He settled with his wife in a small hermitage along the banks of Devika River, near Virangar. By doing so, he fulfilled the desire of his guru.
Philosophy of Duality explained by Maharishi Ribhu
After many days, Maharishi Ribhu got reminded of Nidagh and so he left out to meet him.
Nidagh welcomed the ascetic in his small house and offered him food, following the code of a householder. But, he did not recognize that the ascetic was none other than his guru.
He asked: “Oh sage, I hope you are satisfied with the meal. Where are you residing at the moment? Where are you coming from and where will you go afterwards?”
Maharishi Ribhu was accustomed to preach the Philosophy of the Self as he always desired welfare of mankind.
So, he said: “Brahmin, only the body feels thirst and hunger. But, I am not the body. When I don’t experience any hunger and thirst then how can I feel satisfied or dissatisfied by your offerings? Experiencing wellbeing and satisfaction is the nature of the mind, but the soul is always separate from these fleeting experience of pleasure-pain, satisfaction-dissatisfaction, etc. Now, listen to the answer of your next question. Just like the sky, the soul is omnipresent and therefore it need not travel. It neither comes from anywhere nor it go anywhere and nor it stays anywhere. The experience of satisfaction and dissatisfaction are prone to change. What used to please us at one point may not necessarily please us today. And what caused happiness in the past, causes pain today. Therefore, you must not depend on these petty experiences and objects of life. Look beyond this world which is an outcome of the three modes of nature. It produces dual experiences which cannot be the object of life. So you must look beyond this world which is matter and situate yourself in your own truest form, the Atman. All the beings on the material planet have been clouded by ignorance. As a result they have forgotten their identities. Now, you must conquer this Maya and attain the highest self.”
Hearing these nectarine words from the blessed mouth of the sage, Nidagh fell at his feet. This gesture, moved Maharishi Ribhu and he revealed his identity. Nidagh was overwhelmed with joy to serve his Guru. After sometime, Maharishi left his hermitage.
Philosophy of Oneness explained by Maharishi Ribhu
After a few weeks, Maharishi Ribhu prepared to leave for Nidagh’s hermitage. Coincidently, on that day, the king of Viranpur was passing through the same route as Maharishi Ribhu. Many people gathered to hail the king and watch the royal procession pass through their homes. But, Nidagh was standing alone, in one corner of the road and patiently waited for the crowd to disperse. Right at that moment, Maharishi went and stood close to Nidagh in a very casual manner.
He asked him: “What’s this crowd for?”
Nidagh: “People are watching the royal procession.”
Sage: “You appear to be knowledgeable. Ok, tell me who the king among these people is?”
Nidagh: “The one who is mounted on top and stands on the elevated platform is the king, while the rest are common men.”
Ribhu: “No, no… explain the concept of ‘King and common man’ by stating the difference in characteristics between a gajaraj (king of elephants) and a hathi (common elephant).”
This queer question triggered restlessness in Nidagh and he pounced back with an answer
Nidagh: “See, I am gajaraj, the king of elephants while you are a hathi, a normal elephant who has no significance. I am sure now you understand the difference between the King and us.”
Nidagh tried to explain the concept of ‘King and common man’ by attacking the ego of the sage. By addressing himself as the King, he tried to set inferiority in the sage. This example holds good for a person who is materially contaminated, who is identified with his ego and body. But, this approach has no significance when conversing with a maharishi. Maharishi Ribhu was beyond the constraints of ‘me and mine’. Nidagh, was still shackled by his individuality. But, he was unware that the sage standing beside him was none other than his enlightened, spiritual master.
Now, the sage with total calmness and composure said: “If you are positioned like the king and my position is like that of an ordinary elephant, then please tell me what your true identity is? Also reveal to me my true identity. Who am I?”
The sage’s words had great spiritual wisdom that penetrated deep into Nidagh’s heart and stirred emotions within him. He fell flat at the sage’s feet and with folded palms said: “Oh venerable sage, you are definitely my spiritual master, my guru. Other than you, none has such great wisdom on Advaitin knowledge. You are well established in the Advaita philosophy. I have unknowingly committed a grave sin. But, you causelessly forgive everyone. Please shower your grace on this disciple of yours and relieve me of my sin. Please forgive me.”
With a slight smile, Maharishi Ribhu said: “Who insults and who gets insulted? If two branches of a tree get entangled, then which branch is to be blamed?”
Last time, I imparted the knowledge of the soul to you, by revealing the nature of the material world. I highlighted that-the world consists dual experiences of pain-pleasure. This is the teaching of Duality (व्यतिरेक-मार्ग or path of contrast). By contemplating on this principle, we realize the impermanence and fallacy of the world. But, you have forgotten that lesson, as you still consider all fleeting experiences as real. You have not contemplated enough, on the nature of Atman, which lies beyond the dual experiences of the material world.
Atman is not subjected to superior-inferior positions. It cannot be compared to anything as there exists nothing other than it. In such a case, how can comparison or contradiction arise? Due to your misconception you assumed that the king is superior to other people. Now, that you have understood the crux of Advaita philosophy, you must deliberate on it and attain perfection. Remember, Atma is one, present in all living beings. One person is not different from the other. This is the Advaita Philosophy (अन्वय-मार्ग– Path of Oneness). What brings the distortions like inferior-superior, happiness-sadness is Maya. These essential teachings (व्यतिरेक-मार्ग or path of and contrast अन्वय-मार्ग– Path of Oneness) must be deliberated upon and then you’ll attain perfection.”
After spending some days in the company of Maharishi Ribhu, Nidagh bid him farewell.
Glorification of Maharishi Ribhu by Sankadi Rishis
The four kumaras, (Sanakadi rishis) sang the glories of Maharishi Ribhu in front of Brahma. They called him Ribhuksh (ऋभुक्ष) where ksh (क्ष) was taken from the word kshama (क्षमा) which means forgive. Thus, he was glorified as the epitome of forgiveness. Even today, sampradayas remember Ribhu Maharishi as Ribhukshananda. Due to his benevolence, Nidagh attained Self-realization. We don’t know how many people like him got liberated from this ocean of material existence, just by his association.