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The night was young. The chamber was well decorated, ready to welcome guests. A lamp was carefully lit outside that lighted up the path. In the glow of the lamp, a slender figure was seen moving inside the chamber. She was clad in a neatly pleated red saree with a bunch of keys securely tied to one end and thrown over her shoulder. The sound of her anklets gave the perfect accompaniment to the beat of the song she was humming. She kept walking to the door, again and again, peeping outside and returning not finding anyone there. The allure of the night was slowly wilting away with the first rays of dawn.

Pingala was the famous courtesan of the city Videha, in Mithila. She was an enchantress and unparalleled in her ability to seduce the rich and the noble. She was the epitome of youth and beauty. Her sculpted figure with flowing, silk, ebony black hair attracted men and they surrounded her like bees around a fragrant flower. As the day gave way to darkness, her customers would line outside her door to buy some time with her. Many men used to return with their unfulfilled desire. Her treasury was filled with the wealth and jewels she received as her pay. Many wealthy people were willing to sacrifice everything they possessed in exchange for some intimate moments with her.

Pingala could sense that something was terribly wrong that night. She had carefully decorated herself, draped the most gorgeous saree from her wardrobe, selected the jewelry to match it and anointed herself with a sweet fragrant perfume. Then why were the men rejecting her? Proficient in her trade, she kept trying to woo her customers, holding their gaze with her lotus eyes and encouraging them to take a step towards her. She desired wealthy and handsome men who would bury her with their rich gifts. The men who she wished to please didn’t accept her invitation. Her thirst for wealth was on the rise. So, she sat waiting for that opulent person who could quench her thirst. The night kept passing by. Anxiously waiting for the right man, Pingala kept prancing in and out of her chamber, pulling the curtain to look outside, still hopeful. Her sleepless eyes became blank. She was ill at ease, thinking what would happen if she failed that night. The night was dark and the entire city was deep in slumber. She became restless and lost all hope.

Pingala's wish remained unfulfilled. Her mouth was dry, unable to utter a word, her face had lost the glow and her heart devastated. When her desire was not fulfilled, she felt like the poorest of the poor. Her existence seemed the most trivial and the seeds of detachment germinated in her mind. Soon her desire for material wealth slowly started to subside.

Detachment is the only weapon that can cut through the net of all wants that bind you. A fool does not wish to stop feeding the desire of his senses and runs after material happiness. Only when one becomes detached does the attachments of the human body get severed. When the yearning for detachment gained strength, Pingala sang out loud, “Alas! I couldn’t win over my mind. Caught in the web of greed, I lost my conscience. How ignoramus have I become? That Lord of mine who is always present in my heart, has the power of bestowing me with the wealth of love, joy and the ultimate truth.

All the sages and seers uphold Him as the most illustrious among all men. Instead of seeking Him as my husband, why did I keep running after all these worldly men? What a sad state of affairs?! I have taken up the most hideous job to earn my bread and butter. I keep offering myself in expectation of wealth and love from these greedy, wretched swindlers, tormenting my mind and soul. O God! save me.

This body is a building where the small and large bones are inserted like pillars. The skin, hair and nails cover this house to protect it. There are nine doors to remove the waste and keep the house sparkling. This house is only filled with garbage and I take pride in this stinking, putrid dwelling of mine. I am impure and unchaste. My real husband is waiting to pour all his affection on me and I keep ignoring his call. My dearest friend, my ultimate master, the most lovable One who will fill me with joy is present right here, within me, in my heart.

Casting aside the source of permanent happiness, I am wading through darkness. Everyone in this material world is controlled by time. How can the ones, who themselves are drowning in misery and sorrow, make others happy?

Even the devas suffer from the same state. Lord Indra, the king of devas, is forever anxious dreading when his time will be over and he will become powerless. The Devas, Daityas, Naras, are all scared of death. So, how can they make me happy? I am so grateful that this day, the wisdom, the seed of detachment germinated inside me. God is merciful.From now on, I will survive on whatever alms I receive. I will stay satisfied and happy. I will serve the Lord of my heart, the unperceivable source of joy.”

‘Asha hi paramam duhkham nairashyam paramam sukham

Yatha sanchidya kantasam sukham susvapa pingala’

- Srimad Bhagavatam 11th Canto, 8th Chapter, 44 Shloka

Worldly desire is the sole cause of sorrow and freedom from such desire brings happiness. By entirely forsaking her desire of enjoying her unreal lovers, Pingala slept off happily.

We are drowning in this material world which has engulfed us like a dark well. Blinded by worldly, temporary happiness, we are unaware of ‘time’, which like a python, is waiting to swallow us. At such a juncture, the only one who can save us resides within us.

That day, God, mercifully granted Pingala the boon of ‘detachment’. Our wishes make us unhappy and freedom from them gives real happiness. Pingala gave up all worldly desires and slept peacefully.

The story of Pingala has been described in Srimad Bhagavatam. In his advice to Uddhava, Sri Krishna narrates ‘Yadu Avadhuta Samvad’, the conversation between King Yadu and Avadhut, who is none other than Lord Dattatreya. Pingala is one among the twenty-four Gurus of Avadhuta, whose episode he narrated in front of King Yadu, to bring awareness among humans.

Inspired by Krushnapriya Mohanty's 'Pingala Upakhyana'

Image Credit: Eila Sahu

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16. Jan. 2022

Detachment is the only weapon that can cut through the net of all wants that bind you.


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