Long ago there was a
Maharshi called Atharvana. He had great spiritual wisdom. He had an Ashram where many
pupils were studying. While teaching them the Vedas, the Upanishads, etc. he was also
training them in the ways of realizing Brahman. In managing the Ashram, in looking after
the pupils and in attending to the guests he was assisted by his wife Shanti.
In course of time three children, namely Dhritavrata, Dadheechi and Atharvasira were
born to this couple. When the children grew up and came of age, Atharvana performed their
Upanayana (initiation into Brahmanhood) and sent them to a Gurukula.
Boys were not sent to schools in those days. Nor were there schools at all as in modern
times. Boys after Upanayana were sent to live in the house of some Guru. There they were
provided with lodging as well as lessons. The life at Gurukula would start like this. The
pupils would go round begging, and whatever they got was brought home to be placed at the
disposal of the Guru. They would eat contentedly what the Guru gave them. The Guru would
impart all knowledge only to those who pleased him with their modesty and service. The
pupils, by way of service to him, would roam about in the forest to collect faaaots and
sacred firewood, and they would also wash his clothes and do such other odd jobs. While
doing all this they would learn about nature also. They would learn many things by
listening to the Master while he taught other students.
These boys grew up much more cheerfully in the midst of nature than they would have in
the shade of, their parental affection. They would become sharp enough to grasp-fully the
Guru taught, even if it was taught only once.
Dadheechi also led this kind of a life in a Gurukula. He earned the love of his Guru by
his service and devotion. He learnt many subjects. Afterwards he did rigorous penance
addressed to Indra. Who was pleased to appear before him. Indra asked him what he wanted.
Dadheechi, who was then a youth, made this request: I want to know about Brahman."
Indra taught him with pleasures all the secrets of this Supreme Knowledge in detail.
But then Indra was always jealous. He could never tolerate any one becoming as great as
him. He would put many obstacles and hindrances on the path of progress of those aspirants
who did rigorous penance in order to attain the highest positions. He would hold out many
threats to them. Sometimes he would try to distract their minds by sending the apsaras
(divine nymphs) like Rambha, Menaka, Urvashi and such other temptresses who were
celebrated beauties of Heaven. He would thus spoil their efforts.
Therefore Indra, after teaching the secret of Brahma. -Jnana warned Dadheechi:
"Mind you, keep this constantly in your mind: You should not teach this secret to
anybody. If you ever do so your head will be cut off! Beware!" Dadheechi felt very
sorry, as his knowledge would not be useful to others. But how could he disobey the orders
of Indra who as his Guru had given him the secret knowledge? He just consoled himself that
he still had many other subjects to teach without any restriction.
Now Dadheechi, being proficient in all the subjects, chose for his settlement a fine
place on the banks of the river Saraswati. It was away from the traffic of people and he
could carry on his penance without any disturbance. The river saraswati being very near,
it was convenient to get water for cooking, bathing, and washing of clothes.
The sky-scraping large trees of the hermitage were heavily laden with fruits and
flowers. A number of singing birds like Koil had made their homes in those trees. It was a
very beautiful hermitage. To be there was itself a matter of joy.
Dadheechi had married a maiden called Praatitheyi and led a righteous life. Many pupils
were coming to learn at his feet. Day by day his reputation began to spread wider and