THE STORY OF UPAMANYU
SRILA GOUR GOVINDA SWAMI
In Mahabharata there is the episode of the muni named Dhaumya who had a brahmacari disciple named Upamanyu. The guru ordered the disciple, “Upamanyu, take care of my cows. This is your sevā.” So Upamanyu was taking care of the cows. Early in the morning he would get up, perform maṅgalārātrika, and take the cows to the jungle, then he would return in the evening and offer daṇḍavats to his guru. After a few days, Dhaumya saw that Upamanyu was getting fat. He told him, ”Upamanyu, you’re getting fat! Are you eating something?” With folded hands, Upamanyu said: ”Bhagavan, I collect some bhikṣā, alms. I go to four or five houses, beg some food, mādhukarī, and eat it.” ”Who told you to do this thing? Have you taken my permission? Why are you doing this if I have not given permission? You must not do this any more. When you go to collect bhikṣā you should give it to me, as it belongs to me. It is not yours. How can you accept it?” “I agree. What you have said, I’ll do.”
From then on, every day he would collect bhikṣā and would give it to his guru. A few evenings later, as he was paying obeisances, the guru again said to Upamanyu, “You have given the bhikṣā you have been collecting to me. Still I see that you are getting fat. Are you eating something?” “Gurudeva, the first time I go to collect bhikṣā, whatever I collect I give you everything, and the second time I go, whatever I get I keep.” “That is not good. If you do like this you’ll de velop greed. I have not told you to do this thing. Why are you doing it? Stop it. You cannot do it.” ”Yes. I won’t do that. I accept.” Again after a few days, in the evening the guru observed: “Upamanyu, I have forbidden you to accept bhikṣā for yourself, and instructed you to give it all to me. You are giving me but still you are getting fat. Are you eating something?” “Yes, Gurudev. I drink some of the cow’s milk.” “Huh? You drink some milk from the cows? Who told you to do that? No, you should not do that. It is not your duty. Stop it.” ”Yes, Gurudeva. I won’t do it any more.” He accepted what his guru said and he stopped that activity. A few days passed. Then one evening the guru said: ”My dear Upamanyu, I have forbidden you to accept any bhikṣā for yourself, and you are giving me everything. I forbade you to drink the milk of the cows, and I think you are following that. Yet still I see that you are becoming fat. Are you eating something?” ”Yes, Gurudeva. When the calves drink milk, some foam is there over their mouths and I lick that.” ”Huh? Why are you doing this? Who told you to do this? The cows are very merciful and affection ate to you, so they’ll give you more foam. Then you’ll become much fatter. No, stop it! You can’t do it.” ”Yes, Gurudeva. I will not do it” So strict! The guru stopped everything. You are always thinking, “Oh what is this guru-sevā? I cannot do it. Better to perform māyā-sevā.” Isn’t it? However, whatever his guru said, Upamanyu accepted. He did not violate the instruction of his guru. One day he was very hungry. He could not tolerate the hunger. What to do? His guru had stopped everything. He had nothing to eat. He thought, “How can I serve my guru? I am so hungry! If my body fails then I won’t be able to move. How can I serve my guru?” He then took some leaves of an arka bush, which are poisonous. He ate them and at once became blind. Then he fell into a deep dark well. That evening he could not return to his guru’s āśrama with the cows. When the guru noticed that Upamanyu had not returned he wondered what had happened to him. The guru was thinking deeply of his disciple. Guru has affection for his disciple, although outwardly he is very heavy. That is sādhu. He is like a coconut — outwardly very hard but inside very soft. So the guru thought, “Upamanyu has not returned today. Because I stopped his eat ing, he became very distressed. Therefore he has not returned” He took a few disciples with him and went to the jungle to search for Upamanyu, loudly calling: “Upamanyu, where are you?” From inside the well where he had fallen, Upamanyu shouted: “Gurudeva, I am here. I have fallen into a deep, dark well.” The guru went there and saw that Upamanyu had be come blind from eating those poisonous leaves. He told Upamanyu: “Offer prayers to the Asvini kumaras. They’ll give you back your eyesight.” Upamanyu offered prayers to them and they came, gave him a cake, and said, “Upamanyu! Take this cake and eat it. You will then get your eyesight back.” “No, I cannot eat it without my guru’s permission.” “There is no harm. Previously when your guru offered prayers to us we gave him one such cake and he ate it. Your guru has done it, so you can also do.” ”No, no. Please excuse me. I cannot imitate my guru. My guru may do that, but I cannot. I cannot imitate him. Without the permission of my guru I cannot eat.” They saw his guru-bhakti and were very pleased with him, so they gave him their bless ings, “All of your teeth will become golden, and you will have very nice eyesight. You will develop transcendental vision.” Upamanyu got out of the well and offered daṇḍavat-praṇāms to his guru, who told him, “You have passed the test successfully. You have all my blessings.” Obtaining the blessings and mercy of his gurudeva, Upamanyu developed pure kṛṣṇa-bhakti. All Vedic tattva, śikṣā, and jñāna — truth, learning, and knowledge — became manifest to him. mūkaṁ karoti vācālaṁ paṅguṁ laṅghayate girim yat-kṛpā tam ahaṁ vande śrī-guruṁ dīna-tāraṇam This is guru-kṛpā. If you get the mercy of guru, it is so powerful that even if you are dumb and cannot utter even one word you will become an eloquent speaker of the Vedas. If you are crippled and you cannot move one inch, still you will be able to do mountaineering. You will get such strength. That is guru-kṛpā. You should understand that whatever you see is all the property of guru and Gauranga. You should think, “It is not my property. It is guru and Gauranga’s property. They are the enjoyers. I am not the enjoyer. I am a servant. They are to be served. It is their property. Everything is to be utilized for their service. This service is my eter nal dharma. My dharma is not enjoyment. Guru and Gauranga are the enjoyers, not I.” However severe and difficult the order of the guru may be, a real disciple, a sat-śiṣya, will carry it out. If it is required that his life must be given, he sacrifices his life. He thinks, “What is the value of my life if I cannot serve guru and Gauranga and give them pleasure?” If a disciple becomes deprived of sevā then it is death. “Because I am eternally a servant, if I am deprived of service why shall I survive?” ·
– An expert from Sri Krishna-kathamrta Bindu, a free bi-monthly magazine service provided by Gopal Jiu Publications.