Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Atri maharshi

Atri maharshi and Anasooya

Atri means one who is above trigunas, and functions with a consciousness beyond the three "Kosas". It does not mean that trigunas are nullified in him. It only means that he has gained total control over them and manifests them according to need or occasion. He uses them, but is not affected by either Satwaguna, Rajoguna or Tamoguna, the attributes of Vishnu, Brahma and Maheswara respectively. The Trimurtis are not three different entities but three different aspects of the same Divine essence. An evolved yogi experiences their oneness. This truth is symbolically conveyed in Dattatreya being born to Atri and Anasuya embodying the attributes of Brahma Vishnu and Maheswara. Sage Atri thus signifies a state of consciousness above the physical, mental, and vital planes and is the source of Divine utterance.

The legend regarding Atri’s birth is as follows. Brahma created by the power of His will Saptarishis, the seven great sages to assist Him in the creation of the universe. Atri was one of them . Atri prayed to Brahma to enlighten him about his life’s mission. Brahma told him that He had to be the progenitor of a great soul who would be the saviour of humanity. Atri then retired to the forests to do penance.

Atri’s wife Anasuya was the daughter of Devahooti and Kardama Prajapathi. She, along with her brother and eight sisters, was born as a result of a boon given to her parents by Lord Vishnu. When Kardama requested Atri to marry Anasuya, Atri readily agreed.

Anasuya’s love and devotion for her husband has rightly made her name a byword for wifely chastity. Hearing about her great virtues, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara once went to Atri’s Ashram to test her. They told Atri that they would accept the couple’s hospitality only if Anasuya serves them food without wearing any clothes. Anasuya thereupon sprinkled saffron rice on them, and they became little infants. She served food in plates and then restored them to their original forms. After they finished eating, she again made them into infants and kept them in a cradle. Lakshmi, Parvathi and Saraswathi visited the Ashram and requested Anasuya to give them back their husbands. Anasuya obliged. Pleased with her chastity, the Trimurthis asked her what boon she would like to have. She said she wanted to be their mother. After some years, Anasuya prevailed on Sati Sumathi to revoke the curse she laid on the Sun. Trimurthis appeared before Anasuya and again asked her what boon she would like to have. She reiterated her earlier wish that she would like to be their mother. They granted that boon to her. While Atri was doing penance in the forest a huge ball of light emanated from one of his eyes and pervaded the universe. As the earth was not able to contain that dazzling light it fell into the sea. Brahma picked it up and wore it on his crown. He said that the light would be born as "Chandra" to Atri and Anasuya and that would merge in the moon when it surfaces from the ocean at the time of its churning by angels and demons in their efforts to obtain nectar.

Atri stood atop mount Ruskha along with his wife and prayed to Parabrahma to bless him with children. So severe was his penance that a huge fire began to pervade the earth. Brahma , Vishnu and Maheswara appeared there and blessed the couple. By their grace Anasuya gave birth to Dattatreya and Durvasa. As Atri was getting ready to resume his severe penance to obtain liberation, Anasuya told him that they should first provide for their sons and advised him to approach emperor Prudhvi for financial help. Atri went to meet the King . The King at that time was performing Aswa Medha yagna. The King requested the sage to accompany his son who was taking the "Yagaswa" on a tour of the country. Atri agreed. On the way twice Indra tried to steal the horse and the Prince was able to get the horse back with the help of Atri. Everyone hailed the triumphant return of the horse and King Prudhvi felt happy. When the King was bestowing gifts, Atri sang his praises. Sage Gautama reprimanded him for praising a human being with words of praise one uses only while singing the glory of God. Both the sages had a heated argument about it and sought clarification from Sanatkumara. Sanatkumara defended Atri’s stand saying that a King is Lord Vishnu in human form and so one is justified in praising him lavishly. Emperor Prudhvi gave Atri many gifts and a large sum of money. Atri used that money to bring up his sons and then went to the forest accompanied by Anasuya.

Scriptures cite many incidents that prove Atri’s spiritual might. Once while the angels were fighting with the demons, Surya and Chandra were seriously injured and collapsed. The entire universe was plunged in darkness and so the angels sought Atri’s help. Atri revived the Sun and the Moon and with the power of his angry looks he killed the demons. The grateful angels praised Atri profusely.

There is a mention of Sage Atri in the Ramayana. During their stay in the forest (Vana vasa) Rama, Sita and Lakshmana visited Atri’s ashram. Anasuya instructed Sita on wifely chastity and presented her with new clothes and many gifts including a small vessel containing holy Kumkum.

Along with sage Viswamithra and sage Kasyapa, Atri also was once faced with a spiritual dilemma. The three were following the oath of "Aparigraha" or non-acceptance of gifts from others. They were subsisting on the fruits they gathered in the forest. There was a severe draught and all the trees in the forest withered away. They could not find a single fruit. They refused the food sent to them by King Vrishadarbhi. They decided to eat the stems of lotus flowers to avoid dying due to starvation. They gathered some stems, kept them on the shore of a lake and were taking a bath in the lake. Lord Indra stole them. When they saw that the stems were missing the three sages announced in a loud voice the consequences of the sin of stealing food. Hearing those words, Indra was scared and gave them back the stems, took them to Indra Loka with Him and felicitated them fittingly.

The most famous among the books written by Atri is Atri Samhitha where Lord Vishnu is hailed as the supreme Deity as "Param Jyothi" "Parandhama" and a detailed instruction is given about how to ritualistically worship Vishnu . Its three sections bear the names of Karma, Pratishta, and Puja.

Atri has written many books on dharmic injunctions also. Atri Smrithi, Laghvathismrithi and Vriddhatrismrithi enjoy equal renown with Manusmrithi May Atri bless the readers of Mihira with health, wealth, prosperity and good progeny

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