While Western religions recognize Adam and Eve as the original humans, the Vedic texts describe Manu and Shatrupa as two of the most ancient human beings created. There is a really interesting story about one of their offspring. Actually, all of their children have interesting stories, but for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on Priyavrat.
Priyavrat, though born into royalty, was attracted to the path of yoga, sadhana (spiritual practice), and devotion. Under the able and blessed guidance of Shri Narada, Priyavrat left home to focus exclusively on attaining self-realization and liberation.
However, an unexpected plot twist happens next.
The creator Himself, Lord Brahma, comes to Priyavrat and convinces, nay, instructs him to return to his kingdom, start a family and worship Shri Bhagavan Narayan through his day-to-day work and actions!
The logic given by Lord Brahma is that the life of a householder is like a castle within which a seeker can safely win over his enemies of lust, anger, greed, etc.
While Priyavrat didn’t want to participate in worldly affairs, we witness how he is convinced by the creator to do so. Eventually, he does accept kingship and turns out to be an able and great leader of people.
The Universal Plan
There can be many reasons or interpretations why Lord Brahma asked Priyavrat to give up his ‘passion’ and go for a ‘9-5 routine life’ (apart from the reason mentioned above). I have no hotline to Lord Brahma nor claim to understand these esoteric Vedic texts. However, considering Srimad Bhagavatam is a predominantly Bhakti Yoga (aimed at uniting the living entity with God through the bond of love and devotion) text, a ‘safe’ interpretation can be that a person of Priyavrat’s character and caliber was required by the universe/Shriman Narayana Bhagavan to serve as a king and lead people through example.
For the sake of the article, let me take another view.
Priyavrat might have been away from the comforts of his royal kingdom. Still, he was mentally blissful and ‘comfortable’ in nature by the side of his realized master, Narada, and following his passion for self-realization.
However, as we often witness in our lives, creation can have its own plans. The path of least resistance isn’t always the one that leads us to our goal; sometimes, the path chosen for us is one we never expected to tread upon. However, once having walked along the chosen path, we realize the wisdom of the benevolent universe is more fulfilling than our personal estimation. In this case, the plan is for Priyavrat to be around humans and not in seclusion.
And for all of us who have been around humans, know that it can both be a blessing and an immense challenge!
Humans drain each other; they can be brutal, malefic, insensitive, and depressing. History is replete with examples of sadistic tendencies of human beings. But history also entails examples of incredibly kind, valorous, loving, and exemplary human beings that, just by merely reading or listening about them, one feels uplifted.
It doesn’t matter how well an athlete performs in training; the real test is in a competitive game. Mock exams can help build confidence, but the competitive exam is the actual test. Our faith, religion, spirit, character, integrity— all of it is tested not when we are on the yoga/prayer mat or in solitude. Our character is tested when we are amongst humans. Humans (and the universe through them) will inevitably trigger, poke, and challenge us. If we manage to pass those challenges, we end up becoming something more, something greater. And the ones who end up enduring way beyond the average tolerance of humans are touted as legends.
Please note that I’m in no way advocating for us to continue a disrespectful, toxic equation with anyone. I’m speaking about our non-toxic bonds and equations, which will never be consistently harmonious. Or say, unreasonable to expect to remain so.
I once heard a legend about how the great Adi Shankar tested one of his aspiring students. The story goes about how once a spiritual aspirant wanted to learn from Shankaracharya. Adi Shankar asked the seeker to take a bath (unsure if the seeker had bad body odor) and then come. Then, the great sage asked a person from the so-called lower strata of the society to barge into him as he returns after bathing. The idea was to test whether the seeker was still in body consciousness, i.e., judging people based on birth. Everything happens as per Shankara’s plan, and the seeker ends up cursing and abusing the fellow who barged into him. Witnessing that, Shankar advises the man to meditate more before he can be initiated by him.
It is described that this similar pattern is repeated many times. Until one day when the seeker came back and first fell at the feet of that man who had been provoking him on the instructions of Shankaracharya. To the seeker, the man became an instrument of purification. He thanked him profusely, for had it not been him, the seeker wouldn’t have had the chance to work upon himself.
My personal experience and realization, including a recent incident, made me ideate on the subject of this article. One may be in a spiritual environment, perhaps even discussing deep, philosophical spiritual matters with others, but out of nowhere, Mr. Ego appears in the garb of anger or intolerance. Inter-personal exchanges with fellow humans can effectively mirror how far we have progressed.
It doesn’t matter how well my personal sadhana (spiritual practice) is going when I’m alone. I mean, that’s the point of authentic spiritual practices— they make you feel peaceful and calm. The challenge is moving beyond the reaction state to the response state; the challenge is to take that calm and peace with me off the mat. Because if I do, then only I can say I’m progressing. If not, then as the scriptures say: “श्रम एव ही केवेलम,” meaning all your learning is just a wasteful expenditure of energy.
Thank you so much for reading until the end. I hope to give you some food for thought. Here’s hoping all of us can not just grow but also end up cherishing the challenge but definitely purifying association of fellow humans.
Here’s a ‘formal’ reflection question:
How can you use the triggers and presence of humans around you to evolve into an upgraded version of yourself?