Lessons from the story about Trishanku

In the Ramayana there is the story of the noble king Trishanku. Because Trishanku was a good king, his soul was eligible to enter Devalok. However, he wanted to enter it with his body and requested the sage Vasishtha to perform the yagna to enable this. Vasishtha refused to do so because it was against nature for someone with a body to go to Devalok. Trishanku was unhappy with Vasishtha’s response and went to Vasishtha’s sons. They were angered by his request and also thought that Trishanku had insulted their father. Thus they cursed him to lead a wretched life. In desperation, Trishanku requested the sage Vishwamitra to perform the yagna which would not only get him to Devalok it will also end his wretched life. Vishwamitra, who had a rivalry with Vasishtha, took on the challenge. During the yagna, Trishanku’s body started ascending towards Devalok. On seeing a body approach his kingdom, Indra, pushed the body back towards the earth. But Vishwamitra’s powers kept Trishanku from coming back to earth. This impasse led to a compromise between Indra and Vishwamitra and Trishanku was deemed to be a star between earth and Devalok.

There are various lessons we can learn from the above story including:

1. Do not desire what is against nature. Even if you have powerful friends, you will not achieve it. Although Vishwamitra was helping Trishanku, Trishanku could not achieve his goal of reaching Devalok with his body. If Trishanku had listened to Vasishtha his soul would have reached Devalok.
2. Those who come forward to help you, may have ulterior motives. Vishwamitra’s sole motivation to help Trishanku was to show that he was more powerful than Vasishtha who had said no. Just because someone is willing to help you, does not mean that they are your true friends.
3. Those who say no to you may be your true friend. Vasishtha knew that getting Trishanku to Devalok is not possible. So he was honest with his answer. One often feels angry when one receives negative feedback. It is important to reflect on the reasons for the negative feedback.
4. Compromise is often the only way out when two powerful forces are involved. Indra and Vishwamitra could have continued their power play. If they had not compromised, Trishanku would be oscillating between heading to Devalok and heading back to earth.
5. Approaching someone who is more powerful for help, may result in outcomes that are beyond one’s control. Once Vishwamitra got involved, Trishanku lost his ability to influence what would happen to him. He had to accept what Indra and Vishwamitra agreed to. Trishanku is effectively in limbo till this universe comes to an end.
6. Noble deeds will be rewarded. Because Trishanku was a good king Indra and Vishwamitra agreed to make him a star. While he (or his soul) did not each Devalok, Trishanku was made into a star.

Many of the above lessons can also be learned from the Panchatantra (see https://goldcoasthindu.wordpress.com/2019/06/03/ethical-issues-in-the-panchatantra/> or the Hitopedesha (see https://goldcoasthindu.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/hitopadesha-philosophical-stories/) where stories that illustrate on how to pick advisors, when and how to give proper advice are covered.

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