Kamakordho vashe kritva
Te shishta sishtatammatah
“Right conduct is achieved through two things: avoiding the vices and promoting virtues. By taking such an approach we can maintain the right conduct even after attaining perception”
So, says the Bhagavad-Gita. And it is exemplified in the Mahabharata in the Canto Vana Parva. Here the sage Markandeya recites the story of Dharmavyadha (Righteous Butcher) to Yudhishtira while discussing dharma and dedication to duty of all human beings, whether King or his subjects. And in the Bhagavad-Gita the first six chapters emphasize this: “To work unremittingly without the least expectation of anything”. Karma Yoga, or path of action, speaks that the senses are always all powerful. But beyond senses is the mind, beyond mind is the intellect and beyond and greater than intellect is HE. In effect, Lord Krishna, instructs Arjuna to curb one's personal egotism and kill the enemy, which in our case is Desire, even though the path is strewn with insurmountable difficulties.
In our lives, we are expected to perform different duties at the different phases of our lives. And they are imposed by the society, family, our profession etc. And the importance lies in understanding what one’s duties are and performing it to the satisfaction of the self, first, and then the satisfaction of others later.
In the Vyadha Gita, we come across the teaching of a butcher, (vyadha) to a Brahmin Sannyasin who because he had attained perfection, becomes arrogant and self conceited. And as the story progresses, we shall see how he is humbled by a house wife first and then by the lowest class of people in India who used to live as hunters and butchers. (vyadha)
Once a young Brahmin Sannyasin, was meditating in a forest, and through practicing Yoga for years, had attained perfection by his austere living. .One day, as he was sitting under the shade of a pepul tree, a couple of birds that were sitting on the branch voided their droppings, on his head. He looked up and saw that there was a quarrel between a crow and a crane and in the heat of the moment, they had committed this offence. The young Sannyasin, could have walked to the nearby pond and washed himself. But he did not do so. He looked up, and with anger welling in his heart, shouted at the birds:
“How dare you pollute me with your droppings and that too on my head?” And he looked at the birds with undivided concentration, when a flash of flame emanated from his head and burnt the birds to ashes. He was very glad, extremely glad, that he had attained perfection in his Yogic Powers, which could burn the birds and turn them into ashes with just a look!!
He was feeling hungry. He walked to the nearby village, to beg alms. He went to the first house and stood before the closed door and called out:
“Amma, Bhavathi Biksham Dehi. Mother please give me some food”.
Nothing happened for some time. Then a voice was heard from inside the house.
“Wait for a little time, my son, I shall soon be out.”
In the mean time the Brahmin Sannyasin, was thinking: How dare this wretched woman, make me wait before her closed doors? Perhaps she is not aware of my Yogic Powers. And no sooner these thoughts flashed in his mind, the same female voice called out to him in clear tone:
“My son, don't be thinking too much of yourself and do not be angry. I know your anger burnt a bird to ashes but I am no bird”. And then she recited:
“Krodah shathru sharirastho, manushyaanam dvijottama”
(Anger is not good for the body; it is man's greatest enemy)
The young Sannyasin, was shocked and astonished, but still had to wait. All this time, he was hearing only her voice.
At last, when the woman made her appearance, he prostrated at her feet and humbly asked: “Mother, how did you know what had happened at the forest?”
“I do not know Yoga or how you practice it. And neither do I live an austere life. I am an ordinary house wife and live by my karmas. I had to make you wait, because my husband is not well and I was nursing him. All my life I have struggled to do my duty. As a maiden, I did my duty to my parents and now that I am married, I do my duty to my husband. And that is all the Yoga I practice. But by doing my duty I have become illumined and I could read your thoughts and know what you have done in the forest. And if you want to know more about the individual karma then go to the nearby market, at Mithilapuri where you meet a a Dharmavyadha (Righteous Butcher) who will tell you something that you will be very happy to learn."
The Brahmin Sannyasin’s first thought was why should he go to Mithalapuri and obtain his teaching from a butcher? But the happenings in the house of the village woman had chastened him and he was determined to find out what the butcher had to teach him.
The Brahmin Sannyasin went to the town and met Dharmavyadha in his shop. There, the big fat Vyadha was cutting meat with his big knife and bargaining with the people and selling his product.
The Brahmin Sannyasin was taken aback. “Lord help me! Is this the man from whom I am going to learn? He is the incarnation of a devil, if he is anything.”
No sooner Dharmavyadha saw the young Sannyasin, he said through his betel stained teeth:
“Young man did that lady send you here? Make yourself comfortable, till I have completed the work for the day”
The young Sannyasin took his seat; the man continued to do his work and after he had finished he took his money and said to the Sannyasin: “Come Sir; let us go to my home.”
At his home, the Vyadha gave the Sannyasin a seat, and told him to wait there till called and entered his house. He then cleaned his old father and mother, gave them their food and did all he could to make them comfortable, after which he came to the Sannyasin and said:
“Sir, you have reached here to see me; what can I do for you?”
The Sannyasin queried him about atman and about paramatman, and what the Vyadha told him forms a part of the Mahabharata, called the Vyadha Gita. It is Vedanta of the highest order. When the Vyadha finished his teaching, the Sannyasin was astounded:
“Why are you in this body? With such knowledge as yours, why are you, in a Vyadha's body and doing such filthy, ugly work?"
“My son,” said the Vyadha, “No duty is ugly, No duty is impure. By my birth I am in these circumstances and environments. I learnt this trade in my boyhood and I am unattached and I do my duty well. I do my duty as a householder, serving my parents and do all I can to make them happy. I neither know Yoga as you practice it, nor I am a Sannyasin. I did not go out of this world into a forest; nevertheless, all that you have heard and seen has come to me through the unattached doing of my duty that belongs to my position.”
The Vyadha advised the young Brahmin Sannyasin that all work must be done by “dedicating to God” and it is not the birth but dharma and virtuous conduct that makes one a Brahmin.
And he recited:
Kamakordho vashe kritva
Te shishta sishtatammatah
"Right conduct is achieved through two things: avoiding the vices and promoting virtues. By taking such an approach we can maintain the right conduct even after attaining perception"
Moral of the story:
The Vyadha and the woman did their duty with cheerfulness and whole-heartedness; and the result was that they became illuminated, clearly showing that the right performance of the duties of any station in life, without attachment to results, leads us to the highest realization of the perfection of the soul. The Vyadha teaches that “No duty is ugly, No duty is impure” and it is only the way in which the work is done, determines its worth.
Swami Vivekananda describes the Vyadha Gita in one of his lectures in Karma Yoga and says that it contains one of the “highest flights of the Vedanta”. And this story describes the importance of performance of swadharma (prescribed duty or duty in life). According to the story, a Vyadha, considered low by birth, but engaged in dharma and doing good to others is capable of teaching a Brahmin, considered high by birth, but practices austerities for his own good. The attainment of freedom, by the performance of swadharma, is also one of the central teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita.