Shakuntala’s Inner Growth

We saw how Dushyanta was attracted to Shakuntala. He expressed his love by asking her to marry him immediately. Shakuntala requested him to wait for her father but Dushyanta asked her to decide immediately saying that she was the master of her own destiny. Shakuntala said, “If I am my own mistress, then listen oh great king, the son born of my womb will be the heir to the throne; if you accept this, then I am yours.” Dushyanta accepted her condition; they married in solitude, and thereafter consummated their marriage. The king then returned to the capital, promising to call Shakuntala later.

Despite Dushyanta having experienced a very high state of consciousness, he accepted to play the drama of a normal life (lila) and hence, allowed himself to fall and express his love to Shakuntala in totality. Proper conduct demanded for Dushyanta to wait for the rishi and seek his permission for the marriage. Instead, he asked Shakuntala to take the decision immediately, on her own. Dushyanta observed that Shakuntala had practiced austerities under the influence of the rishi for years; he wanted to free her from this influence and be a light for herself and was successful in doing so.

When Rishi Kanva returned to the ashram, he noticed Shakuntala blushing and with his yogic powers divined all that had happened. He called upon Shakuntala and reassured her that he knew everything and blessed her saying that Dushyanta was a great king and that their son would rule the earth.

Three years later, Shakuntala gave birth to a son who was full of lustre, fire, and generosity. His growth was very fast. At the age of six, he could overpower all the wild animals of the forest, such as lions, tigers, wild boars, buffaloes, and elephants; he would tie them to trees and ride on their backs. He was named Sarvadaman, the one who overpowers all, and was endowed with strength, victory and ojas. Sex energy has three parts – the physical part (shukra), the psychic part (virya) contained within the physical part, and the spiritual essence (ojas).

Among the many meanings of Shakuntala, one is potentiality. She married Dushyanta, meaning intense fervour. Every student of spirituality has the potentiality to flower within oneself and can realise this through hard work. Sarvadaman, the son born of this marriage symbolises flowering of potentiality and his three years in the womb depict that flowering from potentiality to actuality takes three years of gestation. Sarvadaman being the master of all animals shows that he has overpowered the lower (animal) psychic nature. He has freed his sex energy from the slavery of excitement and extracted its spiritual lustre.

The rishi decided that it was time to send the boy to his father to be crowned prince. Dushyanta had promised to call Shakuntala; nine years had passed since but he had not. The rishi sent Shakuntala with her son to the capital so Dushyanta could now take care of his child. Shakuntala and her son went to the court of Dushyanta where she addressed him with words of respect, “King, this is your son, born through me when you had consummated your marriage to me in the ashram of the Rishi Kanva. Please accept him and make him the crown prince.”

The king heard her words and even though he remembered everything, acted ignorant. He taunted her, “O fallen mendicant, whose wife are you that you claim to be mine, I don’t know who you are, please leave.”

Shakuntala was stunned and losing her balance was on the verge of becoming unconscious. Even though her eyes were red, her lips quivered, and anger burned within her, she stood as if nothing had happened. She used the power of her austerities to control herself. Looking at the king with narrow sarcastic eyes, she said, “O king, your heart and soul, both, know the truth but still you act ignorant. Nothing is hidden from the inner spirit, the knower and seer of all; he is the oldest of all sages. You do not know him but you are lying in his presence. People remain content that they can lie and no one knows. I, the daughter of the pious rishi, tell you that the gods in the form of the Sun, Moon, Wind, Fire, Ether, Earth, Water, Heart, Yama, the days, the nights, both the twilights and Dharma all have knowledge of the acts of man.”

Dushyanta acted ignorant because he spotted two aspects in the subconscious of Shakuntala and by acting ignorant, he created a situation where these energies could manifest. He noticed a lot of hidden anger within her and wanted to free her of this. He also observed a lot of wisdom and allowed her to speak words of wisdom in the guise of anger.

Here, Shakuntala unravelled the hidden laws of lying. She explained that lying is not the uttering of an untruth but of projecting an image which in reality is not. She mentioned the deeper energies which get affected and tainted by lying and how these energies are aware of every act we perform. She also added that these energies were the creators of our destiny and how by lying we invite pain because these energies then lose their purity.

We also see that Dushyanta is beyond both lying and not lying, for he is using lying as a tool for Shakuntala’s growth.

Next week, we shall see how Shakuntala talks of the different roles played by a wife, and we will try to understand their deeper meanings.