The royal sage Vishwamitra slipped several times from his austerities and Trisanku was one such reason. In this case the fall was due to misplaced compassion. This story goes to say the areas in which we have to be careful and not yield if we have to progress in our flights to achieve higher states of knowledge in meditation.
The king Trisanku’s gold jewels turned into iron, the robes of rustling silks now appeared like dirty tattered rags and his shining complexion owing to the attention he received as a king became dirty, grimy with the dark ashes of the burial ground. The king concluded that the course of destiny was more powerful than one’s self effort. He surrendered to Vishwamitra seeking to remove the ill-effects of evil fate that surrounded him. Having been spurned by his own Guru Vasishtha and his sons, he said he had no other refuge now than Vishwamitra.
Spurned by an enemy, someone can become our friend. This was the position of Vishwamitra. Vasishtha was his sworn enemy and what he refused to do for Trisanku, Vishwamitra took it up as his main project. He told Trisanku not to fear and that he would give succour to him. He said Trisanku would send word to other Rishis to conduct yagnas and rituals that would enable him to ascend heaven with the present physical body of one who is working in a cremation ground. “Think that you have gained heaven now,” Vishwamitra assured him.
He directed his students to bring all the Rishis well-versed in the Vedas, including the sons of Vasishtha. If they refused to come or commented anything negative, it must be brought to his notice, he ordered. The students went on the errand and said that all seekers of the truth from many countries were coming, except the great Vasishtha and his sons. They said it was not possible to participate in such an unholy sacrifice.
He cursed that they would become dog meat eaters, become deformed and disfigured and roam around the world for long years to come. Having uttered the curse, he got back to his normal self among the other Rishis.
This was the second instance of the proverbial anger of Vishwamitra. A lot of energy accumulated due to long years of hard austerities is lost in just a few seconds when someone expresses anger. This story in the Ramayana goes to show that our anger must be contained at all times if we wish ourselves well. It also shows that to do some actions contrary to the prescriptions and the guidelines of the Shastras, as Vishwamitra was about to do, would also spell doom for our hard-earned merit in life.
The author is Sevak, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi; email@example.com; www.chinmayamission.com