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71. Ramacharitmanas: A Story of Yoga and Devotion

The first born man, Swayambhuva Manu was married to Satarupa and together they had three children.  Their firstborn son Uttanapada became a great king, whose son Shri Dhruva was a renowned devotee of the Lord.  Their second child Priyavrata, again a son, was praised in the Vedas. Finally they were blessed with a daughter named Devahuti, who married a great Yogi called Kardama. Their son, Kapila, became a great philosopher and enlightened man who expounded the philosophy of Sankhya, which describes the different forms of matter and spirit.

Manu ruled his Kingdom virtuously, but when the time had come for him to retire, he was overcome by sadness because he still had an attachment to worldly pleasures and had not cultivated the love of God in his life. Manu and Satarupa decided to renounce the life of the palace for a contemplative life in the forest. They stayed in the Naimisha forest, famous for wandering Saints and ascetics who dwelt there in search of enlightenment.

The spiritual resolution of the couple made them shine. They had never felt such incredible inner peace and joy. The couple enchanted the sages of the forest who became fond of spending time with them. Both Manu and Satarupa spent their days in devotion to God, reading the sacred Vedas, serving the Saints, meditating and reciting the sacred mantra: Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya.

Subsisting on nothing but fruits and roots, the couple meditated on the eternal reality which exists as truth, consciousness and bliss, also known as Brahman which pervades all things. The couple cultivated a great longing to see the Lord manifest himself before them and undertook the most incredible austerity. Manu said, ‘My dear Lord, I desire to see you, the source of all things, who is described by the Vedas as neti neti (not this, not this), who is unconditional love. I have no doubt that you listen to the sincere prayers of your devotees.’

Giving up all food, the couple survived for six thousand years on nothing but water, standing in the Vrksasana pose (on one leg with hands in prayer above the head). Then through the power of their Yoga, they stood for seven thousand years, surviving on air alone. The saints were bewildered by this level of austerity but what came next amazed even the Gods. The couple then subsisted for ten thousand years without even breathing air. The love of God alone sustained them.

Through this much austerity the couple could have achieved any heavenly power. These yogic powers (siddhis) which come to those on the path also distract so many from their true purpose. Nonetheless the couple was resolute in their devotion, focused only on the lotus feet of the Lord.

The Lord out of love for his devotees, spoke to the couple. The Lord said, ‘Ask anything you desire’. As the Lord’s voice entered the ears of the couple, their emaciated bodies filled with life. Supreme bliss entered every part of them, and every hair tingled as they fell to the floor crying with devotion.

Manu said, ‘O Lord, it is true that you fulfill the prayers of your devotees. The dust on your feet is a fountain of blessings. O friend of the poor, the Saints of this world seek you, the Vedas describe you, please grant our eyes the blessing of seeing you’.

Shri Rama and Sita, the divine couple, manifested before Manu and Satarupa. One billion cupids could not have described their beauty. Their eyes were like lotus flowers in full bloom, their bodies were perfect in every way. Shining like the Sun, the brightness which emanated from them was beyond description. Shri Rama’s glorious feet, which the Saints of the world swarmed to like bees, were like a thousand heavens.

The divine couple smiled upon Manu and Satarupa, bringing warmth to them and the entire world. Both Manu and Satarupa were intoxicated with love. Drunk from their vision of God, they could not blink as they stared at the divine couple. Shri Rama said, ‘Your love and devotion has pleased me, please ask for anything you wish’. Manu said, ‘I wish that in a future life I will be a divine Son.’ Satarupa said, ‘My Lord, I wish that the love in my heart which I feel for you never diminishes. I wish that you grace us with Love for you for eternity’.

Pleased with their requests, Shri Rama smiled and said, ‘In a time to come, you will both be born in the City of Ayodhya, I myself will manifest as your Son. The acts I will perform in this life will be for the benefit of all mankind. I shall show the way of dharma and hearing about my past-times will be like a boat for all beings to cross the ocean of suffering.

After saying this, Shri Rama and Sita disappeared with hands in prayer.

The story of Manu and Satarupa in the Naimisha forest above describes the power and indeed the true purpose of Yoga. Yoga means to unite with the divine. Many powers and pleasures can distract us from our life’s purpose of being united with God but inevitably we all find our way home. Manu in a future life was born as Dasaratha, the father of Rama in Ayodhya and King of the Kuru dynasty. Satarupa in a future life was born born as Kaushalya the ever loving mother of Rama. 

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