INTRODUCTION TO TRIPURA RAHASYAM
Tripura Rahasyam is a valuable scripture based on the philosophy of the Upanishads. Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi of Tiruvannamalai used to quote from it frequently and he even caused an English translation of the text to be written by a resident-scholar by name Munagala Venkataramaiah.
Tripura Rahasayam is a graphic record of the rise and fall and resurrection of Parasurama, the sixth Avatar of Maha Vishnu. At a point in his militant career when Parasurama was facing the biggest crisis of his life, he was given appropriate spiritual instruction by Adi Guru Dattatreyar that lifted him out of the slough of despond and set him on the path of Liberation.
As with Yoga Vaasishtam, the unique speciality of Tripura Rahasyam is that the Teachings were from a Preceptor in human form to an Avatar of the godhead. Bhagavad Gita, on the other hand, was taught to Arjuna a human, by Lord Krishna.
Now to the genesis of Tripura Rahasyam: Parasurama was the youngest son of Sage Jamadagni and Renuka. A redoubtable warrior fully trained in martial skills, he could defeat any prince who dared to challenge him. Envious of his prowess and reputation, some king’s raided Sage Jamadagni’s hermitage when the son was away and they also killed the Rishi.
On returning home, Parasurama’s ire knew no bounds. He vowed to decimate the entire Kshatriya clan in the land by way of wreaking vengeance on the killers of his father. Prior to embarking on his mission of war, he had to perform the funeral rites for his sire. Carrying Sage Jamadagni’s corpse on his shoulder and accompanied by his sorrowing mother Renuka, he proceeded towards the banks of River Ganges. On the way through the forest they chance to meet Adi Guru Dattatreyar. Parasurama is surprised to see the Sage bow to his mother who now tells her son: “If at any time you find that the worldly education you have received fails to enable you to cope with a crisis-situation, then remember to seek out this Saint”. It was in this manner that he received an imprint that would effloresce at the appropriate point in future.
On the banks of the
Parasurama now shoulders his battle-axe and embarks on a gruesome mission, seeking out kshatriya princes, challenging them to combat and decapitating them after inflicting a crushing defeat. He however gives a reprieve of one year to just-married princes. Dasaratha, the king of Ayodhya, avails of this exemption in full measure by taking a new bride every year and expanding his harem although he already had three royal wives!
Parasurama criss-crosses the country 21 times and he is a terror to the kshatriyas. Feeling temporarily satiated, he rests on his laurels but not for long. News reaches him that Rama, the crown-prince of Ayodhya, has emerged as a warrior of renown. Parasurama’s vengeance is provoked again and he comes in search of Rama whom he confronts with the words: “The bow you broke in Janaka’s court had already been weakened by others before you and it crumbled when you handled it. Your reputation is wholly undeserved. I have a bow here, which I will hand over to you. Bend it if you can or be prepared to lose your head to my battle-axe!”
Without any apparent effort, Rama bends the Sivadhanus given to him, strings it, fixes an arrow and turns it towards his rival saying: “O, son of Sage Jamadagni, a kshatriya’s arrow once mounted has to be expended. Point out the target”.
Cowering in fear and shaking like a leaf, Parasurama falls at the feet of Rama and implores, “O prince of Ayodhya, I accept you are the victor. Let my spiritual strength be the target for your arrow. Oh, I beseech you, spare the life of this ageing brahmin!”
Rama replies: “I allow you to escape with your life for the sole reason that you are a brahmin by birth though not by character. Even if a brahmin forgets the Vedas he can school himself again, but if he falls from his dharma he would come to great grief. May you serve as a warning to others such as you. Put an end to your thoughts of revenge and seek the means for expiation of your sins before your ignoble life comes to a close!”
Denuded of his spiritual powers, and his fame as a warrior having become a thing of shreds and patches, Parasurama becomes an object of ridicule for little boys even. Slinking away from human haunts he is trudging with heavy steps through forest-terrain when he comes face to face with Samvartar, an avadhoota who takes pity on him and directs him to Sage Dattatreyar. The Adi Guru takes Parasurama in hand and points out to him the missing links in the education he had received in boyhood and youth. On being instructed that human birth has a glorious goal, on orienting towards which alone there would be abatement of misery, Parasurama’s vision is turned inward for the first time.
After listening earnestly to the preliminary teachings of the Master, Parasurama retires to the Mahendra hills there to contemplate on the words of the Preceptor. For full 12 years he meditates on the instructions and also does penance to clear himself of the enormous load of sin-imprints that he had accumulated in the decades of his ignorance. When doubts continue to assail his mind even after this exercise, he seeks out Sage Dattatreyar again for fresh instruction. This time he is in a better position to comprehend the Truth and he utilises the opportunity fully to advance himself and attain to jivan-mukti.
Tripura Rahasyam originally contained 12,000 slokas, of which only 8,850 stanzas are available now. A reading of this one scripture is adequate for an aspirant to get to know the purpose of life and fulfil it in this very birth.
— Sage TGN
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