Saubhari and Samnada from the Vishnu Purana6 min read

A Sage by the name of Saubhari meditated for twelve years in the water. There lived a big fish by the name of Samnada who had a large number of children and grandchildren, all obedient and affectionate to him. This fish was the sovereign of the water. Accompanied by his progeny, the king fish sported in the water of his own free will, in perfect freedom and delight. The attention of the Sage was attracted by the king fish and he began to envy his delight, freedom and sovereignty. Hegaveuphisww^A/ and began to contemplate the sportive movements of the happy fish.

One day he said to himself :—“ Blessed, blessed is this king fish ! He has so many children and grandchildren, and moves about freely in complete happiness. Why should I not be like him ? ”

He came forth from the water and applied to the great King Mandhatri for the hand of one of his daughters. Having received the worship of the King, the Sage said : “ O King, give me one of your daughters ! It is the tradition of your dynasty that no Sage ever returns from your court disappointed. O King, there are many other kings on this earth who have charming daughters, but there is none like you in virtue and majesty ; and so, out of your fifty daughters, give me one in marriage, and I will bestow a blessing on you ”.                                                              *

The King saw the old Rishi, emaciated and unkempt, and was reluctant to give his daughter to such an old man. Saubhari Muni read his thought and said : “ Do not be anxious, O King ! You can trust a Muni ; all will be well with your daughter ”. The King replied: “ O Lord, it is the custom of this royal family that a Princess should choose her own husband. I am uncertain what to do on this occasion The Sage thought for a while and then said : “ Take me to the palace of your daughters, O King, and let the one who is to choose select me ”. The King agreed and asked a minister to take the Muni to his daughters’ apartments. The Sage set out for the palace, and on the way, by thepower of his yoga, transformed himself into a handsome, virile and clever young man. Approaching the court of the Princesses, the Muni said to them : “ With whomsoever of you I find favour, she I will marry

When the Princesses saw this extraordinarily handsome and intelligent young man, they all admired him and each began to vie with the other, saying : “ O sisters, I saw him first so I should marry him The others said : “ No, sister, I saw him before he even entered the palace. It is I who wish to serve him as a wife ”.

The minister returned to the King and reported what he had seen. The King was amazed and said : “ What shall I do ? It is a difficult matter ”. He wanted to keep his word and so he finally decided that all the Princesses should marry the Muni.

The wedding having been solemnized, the Sage returned with his wives to the hermitage. By the power of his yoga he called Visvakarma, the divine architect, and ordered him to construct a great palace with separate apartments for each of his wives. When this was done, it was indeed a wonderful palace. Each apartment had a beautiful flower garden surrounding it and ponds of clear water with blooming lotuses and swans gliding lazily on the surface. Birds sang sweetly and the fragrance of the blossoms was wafted on cool breezes. Rishi Saubhari lived in the palace in great delight and free from all wants. His health was excellent, his means abundant. Surrounded by clever and obedient servants and enjoying every luxury, the Sage passed his days in supreme earthly felicity.

In the course of time, the Rishi had a hundred and fifty sons. Day by day, his mind became more and more attached to his children and his surroundings, and he completely forgot the yogic wisdom. Indeed the may a of the Lord is powerful. He thought : “When will these children speak sweetly to me ? How many will attain youth ? I wish to see them married and become fathers in their turn ”. So Saubhari lived in pleasurable imaginings and was entirely attached to sansara (the world).

He who is once in Yoga and has served his Guru (Teacher) does not fall from the path for ever. One day the Muni reflected : “ My desires seem to have no end. When some are gratified, others arise. When I have seen my children attain youth, I shall want to see my grandchildren married. O who can stop the rising tide of desires ? I see, I see, these desires will not end until the end of my life. So long as my mind is attached to desires, I cannot contemplate the spiritual Truth. My samadhi came to an end with my association with the great fish and the loss of spiritual understanding has landed me in the midst of sansara. My one life was enough to make me conscious of my ignorance and misery, and now by marrying fifty wives I have increased my ignorance a hundredfold. This prosperity is an impediment to the progress of God- knowledge. Oh, I have been deceived by my association with the sovereign fish ! Detachment leads the yogi to eternal freedom ; attachment to, and association with worldly objects are the means to bondage and consequent sufferings. I have fallen from the Yoga on account of my envying the fish. My intellect is imprisoned by infatuation. I must now do something to free myself from the chain of this illusion which binds my soul so fast. Alas ! I am undone ! Let me meditate and surrender my heart in devotion to the Universal Creator whose form is unimaginable, who is smaller than the smallest and yet larger than the largest, whose form is Absolute Purity, who is called Shri Vishnu by the Sages. I take refuge in that ever- effulgent Light, the Essence of all, the Unmanifest. This is the only way to purify my mind and to reach the other shore of the river of becoming and be freed from the cycle of birth and death. I take refuge in the great Vishnu and in my holy Guru. He alone is taintless, infinite, the Lord of Lords, without beginning and without end. I make him my all in all. I shall resume my life of yoga and devotion ”.

Having revolved this thought in his mind for some time, the Sage Saubhari renounced his children and his property and, accompanied by his wives, resorted to the forest to practise quiet meditation and uninterrupted devotion to the all-pervasive Vishnu. There he lived in a hermitage a life of devotion and worship, and slowly detached. his mind from all desires and imaginings. In course of time, when his detachment was perfect, he became a monk. In that state, through ceaseless meditation, he realized his separation from the body and the world, and obtained that high state of consciousness which revealed to him that his spirit was birthless, eternal, imperishable, beyond the senses and all-Bliss.