Beach 4: A Dose of Mythology

Wave 3: Devotee calls the Tune


Great is the world.

Greater is BrahmA whose creation it is.

BrahmA was born from the navel of VishNu

VishNu sleeps on the waves of the ocean

The ocean was gobbled up as a handful by agastya

agastya was born in just a pot

The pot itself is only a little earth.

The earth is held up by one head of the Snake-Lord

The Snake itself is just a ring of the little finger of the Goddess

The Goddess is only one half of the Lord

The Lord resides in the Devotee’s mind.

Devotee’s greatness is beyond words !



This is the story of the devotee who was greater than the God of his devotion. King Ambarisha, was the great grandson of Vaivasvata-Manu, the 7th Lord of the Earth in this cosmic Day of Brahma . Neither his kingship nor the wealth that goes with it could enchant him away from his constant and intense devotion for the Lord, Lord Narayana. The Lord was so pleased with him that He gave him His own miraculous sudarSana - cakra (=Disc) that can overcome any kind of attack.

Ambarisha, once performed a year-long dvAdaSi-vrata. This enjoined on him a complete fast on every ekAdaSi day (the 11th day of the lunar fortnight) and which has to be broken exactly on the next day (dvAdaSi = the 12th day) at a specific time. On one such occasion, on the morning of dvAdaSi day, the sage Durvasa, (known for his short temper and fierce anger) came as guest, along with his disciples, at the doors of king Ambarisha. The latter was about to break his fast, but seeing the esteemed guest, he was ready to play host for him but Durvasa wanted time to go to the river, have his bath and perform his morning rituals before he partook of Ambarisha’s hospitality. Ambarisha agreed to wait, hoping that Durvasa would respect his Vrata and come back before the time of his breaking the fast. The fast was to be broken not later than a specific time. But he waited and waited; Durvasa did not turn up before the specific time. When it was no more possible to wait, the king’s advisors, both secular and religious, advised him to sip a little water in the formal religious way (in the form of an Acamanam) by chanting the names of God and that, they said, would be equivalent to breaking one’s fast. This would satisfy the rules of the Vrata as well as the protocol, by which, he would not have eaten before his notable guest.

But Durvasa, when he appeared, would not agree. He felt the protocol broken and he had been insulted; in no time he created a demon from one of his hairs to attack and kill the King. The King did’nt move an inch but the Lord’s Disc which was protecting him, not only burnt the demon by its fiery power, but now in its turn, attacked Durvasa himself. The sage in sheer fright, ran for his life ! The Disc of the Lord pursued Durvasa wherever he went, through even the three worlds. Finally he went to the Creator BrahmA. The Creator pleaded inability to defend him against the Disc. Durvasa then went to Lord Siva. The latter said; The whole world is engulfed in VishNu-mAyA. None of us, can help you in this matter. You may try going to Lord VishNu Himself. So Durvasa came to Lord VishNu’s abode and fell at His feet. Lo and Behold! VishNu also is helpless!. Look what He says to Ambarisha:

" My dear Durvasa, can you not see that I am also just as helpless as BrahmA or Siva? Evidently you do not know about me. I am not a free person. I may be able to do anything I like. But first and foremost, I belong to my devotees. All that is mine belongs to them. They have renounced everything and have chosen me as their sole companion. They have abandoned everything for my sake: wife, home, child, and kinsmen: their very lives. They have no thought of this world or the next. Heaven holds no charm for them. All they want is my grace. In return I have sworn that I will never abandon them. The foremost thought in my mind is the bhakti they have for me. They have conquered me with their love and I am powerless against their love. I have no will of my own. Their sorrow is my sorrow and their happiness is mine. I am famed by the name "Bhakta-parAdhIna" (subservient to the devotees). I am not as fond of myself or even my Devi Lakshmi as I am of my devotees. When such is the case, how can I treat them casually? Any insult offered to my devotee is considered as an insult to me. Just as good women make slaves of their husbands by the extreme love they have for them, even so my devotees have made me their slave" (from Kamala Subramanian's rendering of the bhAgavatam; corresponding to slokas 63 - 69 of 4th chapter of Skanda 9).

The Lord says in so many words: Devotees are my heart. I am the heart of (my) devotees. They are not aware of anything other than me; and I also do not know, even an iota, of anything other than them.

sAdhavo hRdayam mahyam sAdhUnAm hRdayam tvaham/ mad-anyat te na jAnanti nAham tebhyo manAg-api//

The Lord sorts out the problem by advising Durvasa to go and apologise to Ambarisha himself. So Durvasa finally came back to Ambarisha and fell at his feet. Ambarisha prayed to the Disc to stop attacking Durvasa. The prayer was heard and thus was the great sage saved from ignominy and extinction.

That the devotee is greater than the Lord Himself is a constant refrain we find among the greatest devotional literatures of the world. In the context of Hinduism it is more than a refrain; it is a fact repeatedly illustrated by many an event in the lives of devotees.


Next page Previous page For notes on mythological names referred, go to MYTHOLOGY

May 7, '99 Copyright Ó V. Krishnamurthy