There was once a rishi called Mandavya. He was well versed in the scriptures and always immersed in meditation. He spent his time in deep austerity, standing with one hand raised, under a tree outside the entrance to his ashram. He stood in this posture a few years. Once a group of thieves, along with the treasure they had stolen, arrived at his ashram. The king’s soldiers, following them, arrived shortly. The robbers sensed the danger and left their bag of treasure in his ashram and hid nearby. The soldiers entered the rishi’s ashram and observed that he was deep in meditation. With respect they asked him whether he could tell them in which direction the robbers had fled. But the rishi did not hear what they said and gave no answer and so the soldiers searched his ashram and found not only the stolen goods but also the thieves hiding there. Their suspicions fell on the rishi and they bound him alongside the thieves and brought all of them to the king. The king immediately pronounced the death sentence upon the rishi, together with the thieves. The soldiers of the king then took the rishi, pierced him with a long spear, and dug the spear in the ground with the rishi pierced on top. He remained pierced on the pole for a very long time but did not die.
The rishi held his prana and continued to remain in a meditative state atop the spear. On hearing of the incident, many rishis came to him in the form of birds, trying to reason why he was enduring so much pain. Many months passed, the soldiers noticed that the rishi had yet not died and informed the king of the same. The king realising the greatness of the rishi came to him and asked for forgiveness. The rishi forgave the king, who then ordered his soldiers to bring the rishi down. The soldiers did so but try as hard as they would, they could not remove the point of the spear from the rishi’s stomach so they cut the spear, leaving the point inside. The rishi then engaged in heavy austerity and rose to great heights. Because the point was still in his stomach, he was now known as ‘Animandavya’, ani meaning point.
Once in his meditation, he reached the abode of Dharma, the law giver or the god of death. Dharma was sitting on his throne and the rishi scorned him asking what kind of sin he had committed to be accorded such painful punishment. The god of Law then told the rishi that as a young child he had pierced the wings of a butterfly with a small pointed twig. That small act magnified and he had to go through a similar cycle of pain.
The rishi got very angry on the god for giving him such a harsh punishment for a small act of his, that too done unknowingly. He said that till a child is twelve years old any act he does cannot be punished heavily. It could not be called a sin as he has no knowledge of the scriptures. For giving him such a heavy punishment in return for a small act, the rishi Animandavya cursed Dharma to be born in the world of men, and that also in a house of a low caste. Thus, Dharma was born as the wise Vidura from the womb of a maid but the son of Vyasa and so he is the half brother of the blind king Dhritarashtra.
The whole effort of sadhana or waking up is to free one’s consciousness from its continuous habit of complaining, calculating, and comparing. Every moment in our inner chatter, we compare and account and when not satisfied, complain. The rishi went through years of hard austerity but he was not free of the above three. He had achieved great powers that he could even curse Dharmaraja to be born in the world of men, but his consciousness was still bound by his lower psychic nature. He went through tremendous pain and suffering but he could not use it to free his consciousness. When he heard that Dharmaraja had punished him for such small an act, he became negative and complained and his consciousness fell. In every student’s journey, a point in time comes when he can be totally free of the lower psychic nature. If he uses this moment correctly, then at that moment his consciousness rises and he experiences total freedom.
We complain about everything and always calculate how badly life has treated us. We compare by saying how well life is for others. Life can be very cruel and unpleasant, but we always expect it to be a bed of roses. When our expectations are not met, our lower nature reveals itself and we fall in consciousness by complaining. In this story, however hard the soldiers tried they could not remove the point of the spear. Sometimes, a small hurt left in our consciousness leads to a tornado of inner chatter and abuse. That is why his name changed and ‘Ani’ was added, meaning he held on to this wound deep in his psychic nature. We hold on to so much; only if we let go, can we rise.
In this wonderful painting by Salvador Dali, he shows Jesus on the cross. There is no blood even though he is pieced by nails. The artist is telling us that Jesus was in pain but no blood signifies that he was free of complaining, there was no negativity. The cross is vertical and the body angled. We have two dimensions within us, one that rises is the cross and one that falls is the body. Here the artist is saying that Jesus had separated those two within himself.
In our story, the rishi despite deep austerities could not separate the two; with his complaining, that which would have risen also falls to the ground.