The real story behind the Warriors

I was just reading up about the origins of some of the asanas, and came across this blog by Sports Yoga Hawaii that I thought was too good not to share. Read on to find out about how poor Daksha came to a particularly sticky end. Seems that there were a few lessons in ‘ahimsa’ that were not heeded in this particular story…

The original article was in Yoga Journal, where Richard Rosen talks about Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) which is pretty much a standard pose in all yoga practices, and how few yogis (including myself) know the tale of its genesis. 

In Hindu lore, the powerful priest Daksha threw a huge yagna (ritual sacrifice) and invited everyone-except his youngest daughter Sati and her husband Shiva, whom Daksha despised (even if Shiva was supreme ruler of the universe).  Sati got word of this and suggested to Shiva that they go anyway.  Shiva, not wanting to incite her father’s anger anymore than he has already done, ask, “Why go, where we are not invited?”  Sati was hurt by her father’s refusal to acknowledge her marriage and her husband; she decided to go alone to the yagna.

When she arrived, Sati and her father got into an argument, which entertained the guests.  Sati was saddened and humiliated by this public argument with her father. When her father tried to taunt her again she remained silent, letting go of all desire to continue to argue with her father in hopes of defending her husband. She trembled with disgust and indignation at having been so cruelly let down by the one man upon whom she, as a daughter, should always be able to rely. Instead she made an internal resolve to relinquish all family ties. She summoned up her strength and spoke this vow to her father, “Since you have given me this body I no longer wish to be associated with it.” She walked past her father and sat in a meditative seat on the ground. Closing her eyes, envisioning her true Lord, Sati fell into a mystic trance. Going deep within herself she began to increase her own inner fire through yogic exercises until her body burst into flames.

When Shiva got word of Sati’s death, he was devastated.  He yanked out a tuft of his hair and beat it into the ground, up popped a his fiercest Warrior.  Shiva named this warrior, Virabhadra.  Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend).  He ordered Virabhadra to go to the yagna and destroy Daksha and all guests assembled.

Virabhadra arrives at the party, with swords in both hands, thrusting his way up through the earth from deep underground; this is the first aspect (Virabhadrasana I/Warrior I).  Establishing his arrival for all to see he then sites his opponent, Daksha, (Virabhadrasana II/Warrior II).  Moving swiftly and precisely, he takes his sword and cuts off Daksha’s head, (Virabhadrasana III/Warrior III).

Shiva arrives at Daksha’s place to see the damage that Virabhadra had ravaged. After this vengeful action, Shiva absorbs Virabhadra back into his own form and then Siva becomes known as Hare, the ravisher. His anger is gone but now he is filled with sorrow. This sorrow turns to compassion when he sees the aftermath; the bloody work of Virabhradra. Shiva finds Daksha’s headless body and giving it the head of a goat, brings Daksha back to life. Overwhelmed by this generous gesture Daksha calls Shiva, Shankar, the kind and benevolent one. With Daksha’s pride put in check he bows in awe and humility to Shiva Shankar. The other gods and goddesses follow his lead and honor Shiva.

So the next time you find yourself doing a Warrior pose, just remember where it’s origins came from.

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