Guru Purnima - a story from The Mahabharata

To celebrate in a small way this year's Guru Purnima , (happening this Friday 18 July 2008) here is a charming story from the Mahabharata, from the translation by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (published between 1883 and 1896)

The Ganguli English translation of the Mahabharata

The Ganguli English translation of the Mahabharata

Santi Parva, Section CCCXXVIII

Vyasa the son of Parsara, after the arrival of his puissant son, continued to dwell there on the Himavat (Himalayas) engaged in teaching his disciples and his son. One day, as he was seated, his disciples, all well skilled in the Vedas, having their senses under control, and endued with tranquil souls, sat themselves around him. All of them had thoroughly mastered the Vedas with their branches. All of them were observant of penances. With joined hands they addressed their preceptor in the following words.

The disciples said:

"We have through thy grace, been endued with great energy. Our fame also has spread. There is one favour that we humbly solicit thee to grant us."

Hearing these words of theirs, the regenerate Rishi answered them, saying:

"Ye sons, tell me what that boon is which ye wish I should grant you!"

Hearing this answer of their preceptor, the disciples became filled with joy. Once more bowing their heads low unto their preceptor and joining their hands, all of them in one voice said these excellent words:

"If our preceptor has been pleased with us, then, O best of sages, we are sure to be crowned with success! We all solicit thee, O great Rishi, to grant us a boon. Be thou inclined to be graceful to us. Let no sixth disciple (besides us five) succeed in attaining to fame! We are four. Our preceptor’s son forms the fifth. Let the Vedas shine in only us five! Even this is the boon that we solicit."

Hearing these words of his disciples, Vyasa, the son of Parsara, possessed of great intelligence, well conversant with the meaning of the Vedas, endued with a righteous soul, and always engaged in thinking of objects that confer benefits on a man in the world hereafter, said unto his disciples these righteous words fraught with great benefit:

"The Vedas should always be given unto him who is a Brahmana, or unto him who is desirous of listening to Vedic instructions, by him who eagerly wishes to attain a residence in the region of Brahman! Do ye multiply. Let the Vedas spread (through your exertions). The Vedas should never be imparted unto him that has not formally become a disciple. Nor should they be given unto one who is not observant of good vows. Nor should they be given for dwelling in one that is of uncleansed soul. These should be known as the proper qualifications of men that can be accepted as disciples (for the communication of Vedic knowledge)."