Sisupala, the childishness within

For today’s story we will take the setting of the ‘Rajasuya Yagna’ performed by Yudhisthira. The Pandavas had created a beautiful kingdom called Indraprastha from Khandavprastha, a desert (more a wasteland). The Yagna was preceded by great celebrations and all the kings of the country had come to support the Pandavas. The final act of the celebrations was to name a guest of honour from among the distinguished guests present there. Yudhisthira took the advice of his grandsire, Bhishma, on this matter. Bhishma told Yudhisthira that in that great gathering of so many princes and sages, it was only Krishna who, like a great sun, shines in his own rays – his light comes from within and so in that gathering, it would only be appropriate that Krishna be the guest of honour.

Yudhisthira was very happy as he loved Krishna dearly and he asked Sahdeva to come forward, wash Krishna’s feet, and honour him. With great love, Sahdeva performed the actions honouring Krishna but a group of the assembled princes were not satisfied with what had happened. The whole hall, which was silent, was suddenly aroused by a loud and eerie laughter. Sisupala, Krishna’s cousin who hated him from the core of his being, started raining insult upon insult on Krishna.

He called Krishna a cowherd and Yudhisthira a bastard. He further added that everything that Krishna had achieved in life was through deceit and kept on insulting him. The grandsire Bhishma told Yudhisthira not to worry as it was ordained that Sisupala’s death would be at the hands of Krishna and the time had come. Bhishma then narrated to Yudhisthira the story of Sisupala’s birth.

When Sisupala was born, he had three eyes and four arms. His parents were horrified at what they saw but a heavenly voice told them that whenever the child was placed in the lap of the person who was to kill him, the extra eye and arms would fall off. When Krishna and Balarama went to see the child, his mother (Krishna’s aunt) put him in Krishna’s lap. Immediately the third eye closed and the arms fell off. Sisupala’s mother requested Krishna to spare Sisupala. Krishna replied that he would allow Sisupala to insult him a hundred times before killing him.

Now in the hall as Sisupala kept on showering insults upon Krishna, the time had come for Krishna to kill him. Krishna recounted all the evil deeds of Sisupala and after a long battle, severed his head with his chakra called ‘Sudarshana’. As soon as Sisupala fell, the forces of nature were suddenly aroused and the wind blew in the trees suggesting omens of future discord and destruction. The seed for the great Mahabharata battle had been sown.

Now let us try to see the above events through the eyes of a disciple. The first step a disciple takes is to be free of unnecessary leakages of energy. He realises that the chief source of leakage is excitement and he practices hard to be free of it. Excitement is chaotic or Khandavprastha which the Pandavas transform to Indraprastha. This is the transformation of excitement into sensitivity. The student then starts using his consciousness (sudarshana) to observe the workings of his own psychic nature. It is at this time that we observe the workings of the Sisupala within ourselves and eventually killing him.

Sisu’ means a child and ‘pala’ means to look after, that is to look after the child within us. When the child is young he plays with his toys. If a neighbour’s child wants one of the toys, the child holds it tightly and does not part with it. Say, the same child grows up and becomes a great politician, or a member of parliament. If from within his own party someone wants his seat then the member will hold his seat tightly saying he won’t step down. The body has grown but nothing within has matured. When people come closer to death, they become like infants. This is the tragedy of our lives that we never really grow up – when we die it is the same child (when we were three years old) that dies. This childishness within us is the Sisupala and he must be killed. ‘Rajasuya Yagna’ means that point in our spiritual journey when we start looking inside. Krishna symbolises consciousness and it is this inner light of consciousness (sudarshana) that kills the Sisupala within. Before killing him he allows him a hundred insults; this shows that this inner childishness of ours must first be studied over a period of time without any interference and only then defeated.

When Sisupala was born, he had three eyes and four arms. This shows that that childishness within us is never bound by normal ethics and morality. A young child loves to peep through holes and do things which he should not be doing, depicted by an extra eye and two extra arms.

Sisupala was the king of Cedi (pronounced Chedi) and on his death, his son Dhristaketu becomes the king. ‘Dhris’ means bold and ‘ketu’ means chief. This signifies a new boldness on the part of the disciple. As a child, he was frightened to go into dark rooms alone and in meditation he was frightened to enter into the darkness of the mind. Now that Sisupala was dead, with his new boldness, he can delve deeper into his own psyche without fear.

This new boldness gives him the power of mental resilience. The child in us would always be hypnotised by some evil thought but now we have the power to resist such hypnoses. Even though the Pandavas were responsible for his father’s death, Dhristaketu overcomes the urge for revenge and becomes their friend. In all of us, this urge to avenge lies deeply rooted and it is with the killing of the inner Sisupala that we have the maturity to rise above this. When the disciple is free from the urge to avenge, he has taken a big step forward in his journey.