This story from Mahabharata throws light on the truth that our spiritual achievement has no relevance or probably useless if we neglect our duties or Dharma.
Kaushika was the only son to his parents.
“Mother,” he said one day, ” I want to go to the jungle and devote myself to spiritual studies for mastering the Vedas.”
His mother worriedly said, “But son, your father and I are very old. Your father’s health is so bad that he can hardly move. If you leave us and go to jungle , what will happen to us? Who will look after us?”
Kaushika was not in the mood to listen. He was determined to study and master the Vedas. His mother cried in vain as she watched her son left her to get off to jungle.
After a while with sincere and great practice, Kaushika acquired great mystical powers.
One day in the morning, as he was meditating under a tree, a crane flew up, and perched herself on a branch above Kaushika. Some bird droppings fell on Kaushika’s head. Kaushika furiously threw a fiery gaze at the crane.
The crane immediately fell dead.
Kaushika (the sage) felt sorry for his anguish action. “How could I have allowed my anger to take over me that way?” He mourned.
In the evening of the day, he went to a village to beg for alms. The lady of the house asked him to wait and went inside the house to get something to eat. At that time, her husband arrived. She immediately set aside the pot of food she was taking to the sage and went to attend her husband.
After washing husband’s feet, giving him the meal, and attending to his needs, she came back out to give the alms to the sage who was waiting. The sage was very insulted. “You put your husband higher than a pious sage? Do you know the power of a Brahmin?”
She calmly replied, “Yes, a true Brahmin is he who has conquered his anger. Please do not threaten me, I am not a crane that will die by your fiery gaze.”
The sage was astonished. “How does she know about the crane?” he wondered.
The lady said further, “Oh holy one! You are a learned Brahmin but you have not understood the truth about virtue. If you want to be really enlightened, go to Dharmavyadha who lives in Mithila. Any one will tell you where he lives.”
The sage with folded hands thanked the lady and hurried to Mithila. “He must be a great and learned sage indeed,” Kaushika thought to himself.
But to his shock and surprise, when he finally reached Dharmavyadaha’s place, he found it to be a butcher shop!
A simple and ordinary looking man came out and said, “Welcome holy one. I am Dharmavyadaha, the man you seek.”
“How can a butcher be spiritually enlightened?” Kaushika asked in amazement.
Dharmavyadaha smiled with compassion and said, “I know the stories of both the crane and the woman who sent you here. Come, let us go to my house. ”
The sage could not control himself anymore and uttered suddenly, “But butchering animals is such a sinful profession! Are you not ashamed?”
“I am not,” the butcher calmly said. “I am just doing my family trade. I work hard and sincerely at it. There is no reason for me to be ashamed of doing my family trade!”
“Holy one,” continued the butcher. “If I do hurt or cause injury to other creatures, so do you as you did to the crane. ”
“As we walk on the soil, we are trampling on numerous creatures. Nor is the air devoid of creatures.”
“Look at that farmer tilling the land? He is killing unconsciously so many animals that thrive under the soil.”
They reached the butcher’s house. The butcher’s wife was engaged in her house hold chores and his two little boys were playing.
After entering his house the butcher touched his parents’ feet and took their blessings.
The butcher introduced the sage to his family.
“Here is a learned Brahmin who has come from a far-off place.” the butcher told his old father and the mother.
“Welcome, holy one,” the father said.
Before leaving the room, the butcher remarked, “My parents are my Gods. My wife and my children attend to them with devotedly with great care and pure love. We consider caring for our parents to be our greatest and foremost duty.”
“In doing one’s duty cheerfully and wholeheartedly, lies true virtue. This is what, the dutiful wife who sent you to us wanted you to learn.”
“Oh learned one!” the butcher continued, “You have run away from your duties and responsibilities and deserted your aged father and mother. Spiritual achievement is useless if one has neglected one’s Dharma, or duties.”
The sage remembered his mother crying, “Who will look after us when you are gone my son?”
The sage apologised for his wrong doing and said to the butcher, “You have shown me the path of true virtue, the true meaning of Dharma, Oh pious one. I am deeply indebted to you.”
Kaushika immediately returned to his parents and served them with devotion, love and care till the end of their days.