Embarrassed by the defeat at the hands of Vasishtha—the Brahmarishi—Vishwamitra, the king, let gasps of exhalations. He took his chief queen and walked toward the southern direction to undertake great penances. Vishwamitra had four sons: Havishpanda, Madhushpanda, Dridha Netra and Maharatha. He lived in the forest for a 1,000 years, and led an intense life of an ascetic.
At that time, the creator of the world, Brahma, appeared. He congratulated Vishwamitra over the very difficult austerity that he had undertaken. As a result of this, he would be called Rajarshi, a seer of truth among kings, said Brahma and left for swargaloka of Indra, en route his place at Brahmaloka.
Vishwamitra heard this and he hung his head in shame. He did not like what he heard. After so many years of tapas, he had only got the title of Rajarshi and not a Brahmarshi or a seer who was a Brahmana. Resolving to attain that state, he commenced his austerities again.
The kind of obstacles that may come our way when we take up an intense task with a goal is told in the many incidents that happen to Vishwamitra. There was a king called Trishanku of the Ikshwaku race. He was a truthful person and wanted to do a fire sacrifice. His wish was to go to heaven without leaving his body behind.
He approached Vasishtha to do this sacrifice for him and the sage refused. The king then approached Vasishtha’s sons who were leading a life of austerities. With a sense of shame felt by the rejection of Vasishtha, he joined his palms together and entreated them. “Vasishtha is the family priest of the Ikshwaku dynasty. He has refused to do this fire sacrifice for me. I implore you, O sons of Vasishtha, who are all gods to me,” said Trishanku.
The 100 sons of Vasishtha were angry that after their illustrious father had refused, the king had the impunity to approach his sons. They cursed him to be refused entry into human society. That very night the appearance of the king changed owing to the curse. His precious jewels turned into iron chains and his beautiful yellow silk turned into rags. He had a disgusting appearance smeared with coal and ashes. All the royal paraphernalia that surrounded him vanished at his very sight. Burning with anger, but with his desire unsatiated, Trishanku went to Vishwamitra.
Despite his present condition, Vishwamitra—owing to his great austerities—recognised Trishanku and asked him why he was cursed. He narrated the whole story and placed his request for conducting the yagna to Vishwamitra.
The author is Sevak, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.chinmayamission.com