Rishi Vishwamitra is considered to be one of the most revered rishis (sages) of the ancient India. As per the holy Puranas, there have been only 24 Rishis in India who have the Gayatri Mantra. It is believed that Sage Vishwamitra is the first saint of the 24 saints, and Sage Yajnavalkya the last. He also claims the distinction of being the author of the majority portion of the Mandala 3 of the Rig-Veda. Read on to explore the biography of Sage Vishwamitra further…
Meeting Sage Vasishta
While on a tour of his kingdom, Kaushika came across the hermitage of the great sage, Vasishta, along with his army. The peace and the solitude surrounding the hermitage impressed him deeply and he entered inside. There, he and his army were well received and served a splendid feast. Surprised at the welcome received by him, Kaushika asked sage Vasishta that how he managed to feed such a large army.
The sage replied that the food was provided to him by his calf, Nandini, gifted to him by Lord Indra himself. Kaushika offered the sage a large amount of wealth in return of the calf. However, the sage declined the offer. Enraged at the refusal of sage Vasishta, he ordered his army to forcefully take the calf to his kingdom. The sage used his yogic powers to bring forth a huge militia of fierce warriors, who defeated the army of Kaushika. Kaushika was captured and brought before the sage, who pardoned him.
The above mentioned incident deeply affected Kaushika and made him realize that power of penance was greater than that of physical strength. He relinquished his throne and began his journey to become a sage, greater than even Vasishta. After undergoing intense meditation and severe asceticism, he was bestowed with the title of Brahmarishi by Lord Brahma himself. He was given the name of 'Vishwamitra' (friend of all).
When Viswamitra was taking Rama and Lakshmana for the purpose of killing Thataki, half way in their journey they heard a big noise. Rama and Lakshmana asked Viswamitra how in a forest where there were not many people, such a big noise could come. Viswamitra told them that in the Himalayas there is a particular mountain called the Kailasha and on that mountain there is a lake by name manasa sarovara. The river sarovara flows out of the Manasasarowar. An ancient king who belonged to the dynasty of Rama was responsible for bringing this river down to the plains and his name was Bhagiratha. Viswamitra stated that Bhagiratha brought down the river Ganges. As the river Sarayu was joining the river Ganges nearby the noise was so loud. Viswamitra had implied a good inner spiritual meaning for his statement. He regarded the word Kailasha as symbolic of the pure mind. Our mind has been compared to the lake manasasarovara. The outflow of several ideas from the pure and clean mind had been compared with the outflow of the river Sarayu from the lake Manasasarovara. He imagined that these ideas are springing as if they had pure white foam in them. When these sacred ideas are emanating from Manasasarovara in the form of Sarayu and when they are touched by the rays of sun, they produce a Sound the primordial sound OM. This sacred sound Om, or the pranava is emanating from the heart of every individual. Viswamitra explained that this is the origin of the noise. You can hear this sound of pranava only in a place which is pure.
After walking some distance, they heard a sound which was not very pleasant. That was causing some fear also. Rama asked Viswamitra, what that fearful sound was? Viswamitra told Rama that the fearful sound was made by Thataki a rakshasi (Ogress) who was causing havoc and trouble to all rishis (Saints) in the forest. He also explained that Rama was brought there to kill Thataki. She was originally a yakshini. Since Rama knew all dharmas and all the secrets of things he asked Viswamitra how a yakshini, which cannot exercise its own will could cause such a harm and suggested that Thataki is only a rakshasi. Viswamitra gave an interesting story in this context. He described the story of Suketa who was a yaksha, who was praying to the Lord because he had no children. As a result of this, he was blessed with a very strong daughter by name Thataki, the rakshasi. This Thataki married a person by name Sangalu and after the marriage she had two sons by name Subahu and Maricha. After some years, the husband died. Unable to bear the death of her husband Sangalu, she became very much excited and in great passion she developed anger and with the help of her two sons, she has been all the time giving pain and trouble to the rishis. Realizing this anger and bad conduct on the part of this woman, Agasthya cursed her and said that she will thereafter conduct herself as a rakshasi.
Viswamitra narrated this story and said that originally she was yakshini but as a result of the curse of Agasthya she became a rakshasi. Now she can exercise her will over human beings. After telling Rama about this power of the yakshini, he took him to Mithilapura. Viswamitra had also been establishing the truth that is contained in the statement that sin is not distinct and unconnected with one’s actions.
Rama was sitting alone in a room and was trying to press his feet and relieve the pain due to walking. The doors of the room were nearly closed, but there was a small opening. Narada came there and looked through the opening in the door and found that Rama was pressing His own feet. He loudly exclaimed, "Oh Paramatma, what has happened? why are you pressing your our feet?" Viswamitra appeared on the scene immediately and told Narada that this secret of the incarnation of Rama must be kept carefully. He requested Narada not to bring about a catastrophe by announcing it openly. Viswamitra said that if this is done, then the marriage of Sita will not take place and the destruction of Ravana will not came about.
Viswamitra recognised that the atma, which is identical with Divinity is present in everyone. It takes the form of pragnana (wisdom) in the created form in order to establish the identity between the Jeevatma and Paramatma. When we look at the story of Ramayana, we find that at a certain point, Viswamitra comes to Dasaratha and requests him to send two of his sons for the specific purpose of protecting his yajnas in the forest. During the journey he taught Rama and Lakshmana two mantras, Bala and Atibala. Not only did he teach these mantras but he also gave them all the weapons that were in his possession and taught them how to use those weapons. After giving them all this training, he took to Mithilapura after the yajna was over. It is not as if these mantras, Bala and Atibala, have something special in them.
While taking them to Mithilapura, he also undertook the task of getting Rama to remove the curse on Ahalya. After reaching Mithilapura, he gets Ramachandra to break Siva’s bow and marry Sita. After the marriage of Sita, Viswamitra disappeared that very night and was not to be seen thereafter. Thus we see that the story of Viswamitra begins with taking Rama and Lakshmana with him and performing the marriage of Sita as the foundation for the ultimate destruction of Ravana. When he came to Dasartha he was in the first stage. When Viswamitra taught the mantras Bala and Atibala to Rama and Lakshmana, he took the form of Taijasa. When he undertook to perform the marriage of between Sita the jeevatma with Rama the Paramathma, he took the form of pragna.
Because Viswamitra reached this sacred stage of Pragna, he could realise that Rama was the incarnation of Narayana himself and in that content he was in contact with Rama. in this stage of Pragna, there will be a commendable determination to fulfil a task. That determination is permanent and unwavering. In this stage Viswamitra developed some kind of enmity with Vasista because Vasista being described as a Brahmarishi while he himself was described only as a Rajarishi. He was determined to see that he was also addressed as a Brahmarishi himself. Withstanding all kinds of difficulty and never wavering from his determination Viswamitra went into a very severe penance. He could withstand all the tests to which he was subjected by God himself. In the end he succeeded in being called a Brahmarishi by Vasista himself. Because he took such a hard and difficult vow and succeeded we call him brahman, Thus if we want to achieve anything we should go into the state of an unwavering mind and a determination without swerving from the objective. Viswamitra demonstrated such a sacred truth.
Among the lessons which Viswamitra gave to the world, Gayatri Mantra is an important one. This mantra teaches that there is equal opportunity of spiritual achievement for all religions, for all people of all countries and people of all communities and all places.
Viswamitra always proclaimed that the two aspects beauty and happiness really come out of our own mind. His great achievements and his courage are indescribable by ordinary words. He had very many potent weapons with him. He never cared for the great weapons which he possessed in his own house. He knew that Narayana Himself had come as a young boy and was born in Dasaratha’s household. So all that Viswamitra did was based on this knowledge.
Vasishta lifted Viswamitra and hailed him as "Brahmarishi" (a sage who has realised the Supreme Self). Vasishta, who had previously described Viswamitra as a Rajarishi (a royal sage), spontaneously hailed him
Legends surrounding Vishwamitra
It is said that Sage Vishwamitra created a parallel heaven, known as Trishanku Swarga, for King Trishanku. It is also believed that in the great epic Ramayana, Vishvamitra was born as Lakshmana, the brother of Lord Rama. He gave his brothers the knowledge of the Devastras (celestial weaponry), trained them in advanced religion and taught them how to kill powerful demons
Spiritual powers shall not be misused for materialistic enjoyment
On seeing the sight of a beautiful lady taking bath in forlorn deep dense jungles... this renowned Sage could not contain his self and fell from grace. He committed the same mistake that Adam had committed. Let me make it clear that Adam did not commit a mistake. It was all destined by God and for the perpetuation of life itself... that sacred union with Eve was planned by God. It was not a sin but Sage Vishwamitra indulged in a practice which was not called for. He paid for his sins. Sage Vishwamitra had to repeat the spiritual journey all over again
Sage Vashistha and Sage Vishwamitra were almost contemporaries but in the end... Sage Vishwamitra fell from grace... all his efforts to excel in the spiritual pursuits of life fell apart because of a single mistake he committed. While passing through the deep jungles (dense forests) he came upon the sight of an extremely beautiful maiden having bath under an isolated waterfall in most sensual circumstances... he lost control. He forgot for a moment his desired goal of life... and indulged in the most un wanton desire... the desire for sex! On the contrary Sage Vashistha continued on his path by the lift and Sage Vishwamitra had to take the staircase... he deeply regretted the mistake but there was no remedy. He had to practice it all over again!
The sight of a beautiful maiden taking bath in most sensual circumstances and that too in an isolated location is not something that occurs all of a sudden. While proceeding on the path of pure Spirituality... God desists us from taking absolute control of senses and the mind. God Almighty does not desire many people at a time gaining self realization, enlightenment. It is not to be. It is only in a century or so that one or two people at the most gain emancipation and finally salvation.
In the case of Sage Vishwamitra it was not a sight by choice. While proceeding on the path of pure spirituality... it is God Almighty which does not desire us from completing our cosmic journey of at the earliest. It is at this moment that the choicest of the materialistic wants are offered to us. If we succumb like Sage Vishwamitra... we fail.
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