Apastambhar

We learn subtle matters that are invisible to us through scriptures. We follow as ordained by scriptures and benefit accordingly. Hence scriptures are the pramAnam. We are called as Vaidikas as we follow the rituals ordained by the scriptures. Scriptures are the root source for all the rituals. If we could not get a clarity from them, we seek other Smriti (Upanishads) to perform rituals.

Smritis are written by Rishi-s. These Saints wrote the Smritis out of divine grace of Bhagavan as a fruit for their rigorous penance. The Smritis that are written by such satvic saints are the proof for our Vedic matters. Abasthambar is one such satvic saint. He has written granthams like Sraudham, Gruhya sutram and Dharma sutram. Sraudham talks about religious rituals, Gruhyam talks about upanayanam and wedding rituals.

While paying obeisance to the the elders, one chants “apastambha sutra:” such is the greatness of Apastmbha Maharishi. In fact, Saint Bodayana comes only after Apasthambar. This saint had acquired the name Apastambhar for a reason. His wife was called as Akshasutra and he had a son named Kalki. During his period, there was another devout Brahmin who followed the ordained rituals strictly. While performing annual oblation for his parents, this brahmin use to appoint a well learned Vedic brahmin to perform Nimantranam for concluding the oblation. On one such occasion, he could not find any suitable person to complete the Nimantranam so he invoked a suitable brahmin on a koorcham, as per the scriptural law this process is called ‘satakam’ and went on to complete the ceremony.

Saint Apastambhar wanted to teach this brahmin the truth of the scriptures, so he took the form of a old brahmin and reached his place right on time. Apastambhar thought ‘a brahman is the one who learns Brahma Gayatri from his preceptor and chants it as ordained is considered pious even if he has not learnt any other sastra.’ Such a brahman is eligible to do Nimantranam during the oblation. The saint’s objective was to propagate the glories of Gayatri japa Anushtanam to the world. This learned brahmin happily received the saint and requested him to do the Nimantranam. Everything went well, after partaking the food, the Karta of the ceremony carried prasadam in one hand and water to be poured in other hand and asked the saint ‘triptosi’? (are you happy with my service) for which the saint in the form of brahmin replied please ‘serve me some more rice and curds’ the performer obliged and asked him again are you contended for which the saint again asked him for another serving of the same. The srardha karta was furious, he said if he serves such a person, performing an oblation like this would be a waste. Saying so he threw away the water holder. The saint out of his power of penance made the water stand still from the water holder as spilling of water from the holder will lead to sin. The srardha karta realised the greatness of the saint and offered his profuse apologies.

Apastambhar gave many upadesams to the brahmin like one should be devoid of anger particularly while doing rituals. As per the statement ‘Gayantam trayate iti Gayatri,’ Gayatri Devi protects the chanter of Gayatri mantra from all sins. One who chants Gayatri as ordained is eligible to perform Nimantranam during oblation. It is not right to invoke brahmins on a grass. The learned brahmin did not have the right knowledge on sastrams. He realized his folly, offered due apologies and concluded the ceremony.
He was called Apastambhar because he made the water stand still in the holder itself. This story also tells us to control anger and to respect the chanters of the glorious Gayatri Japa.

(Sri U.Ve Atti Krsnamacarya Swami Tirupathi)

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