Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 6 - Chapter 6

Chapter VI

Means of attaining liberation. Anecdotes of Khāṇḍikya and Keśidhwaja. The former instructs the latter how to atone for permitting the death of a cow. Keśidhwaja offers him a requital, and he desires to be instructed in spiritual knowledge.

HE, Puruṣottama, is also known by holy study and devout meditation; and either, as the cause of attaining him, is entitled Brahma.

From study let a man proceed to meditation, and from meditation to study; by perfection in both supreme spirit becomes manifest. Study is one eye wherewith to behold it, and meditation is the other: he who is one with Brahma sees not with the eye of flesh.

MAITREYA: Reverend teacher, I am desirous of being informed what is meant by the term meditation (Yoga), by understanding which I may behold the supreme being, the upholder of the universe.

PARĀŚARA: I will repeat to you, Maitreya, the explanation formerly given by Keśidhwaja to the magnanimous Khāṇḍikya, also called Janaka.

MAITREYA: Tell me first, Brahman, who Khāṇḍikya was, and who was Keśidhwaja; and how it happened that a conversation relating to the practice of Yoga occurred between them.


There was Janaka, named Dharmadhvaja, who had two sons, Amitadhwaja and Kritadhwaja; and the latter was a king ever intent upon existent supreme spirit: his son was the celebrated Keśidhwaja. The son of Amitadhwaja was Janaka, called Khāṇḍikya.

Khāṇḍikya was diligent in the way of works, and was renowned on earth for religious rites. Keśidhwaja, on the other hand, was endowed with spiritual knowledge. These two were engaged in hostilities, and Khāṇḍikya was driven from his principality by Keśidhwaja.

Expelled from his dominions, he wandered with a few followers, his priest and his counsellors, amidst woods and mountains, where, destitute of true wisdom, he performed many sacrifices, expecting thereby to obtain divine truth, and to escape from death by ignorance.

Once whilst the best of those who are skilled in devotion, Keśidhwaja, was engaged in devout exercises, a fierce tiger slew his milch cow in the lonely forest.

When the Rājā heard that the cow had been killed, he asked the ministering priests what form of penance would expiate the crime.

They replied that they did not know, and referred him to Kaśeru. Kaśeru, when the Rāja consulted him, told him that he knew not, but that Śunaka would be able to tell him.


Accordingly the Rāja went to Śunaka; but he replied:

"I am as unable, great king, to answer your question as Kaśeru has been; and there is no one now upon earth who can give you the information except your enemy Khāṇḍikya, whom you have conquered."

Upon receiving this answer, Keśidhwaja said:

"I will go, then, and pay a visit to my foe: if he kill me, no matter, for then I shall obtain the reward that attends being killed in a holy cause: if, on the contrary, he tell me what penance to perform, then my sacrifice will be unimpaired in efficacy."

Accordingly he ascended his car, having clothed himself in the deer skin (of the religious student), and went to the forest where the wise Khāṇḍikya resided.

When Khāṇḍikya beheld him approach, his eyes reddened with rage, and he took up his bow, and said to him:

"You have armed yourself with the deer skin to accomplish my destruction, imagining that in such attire you will be safe from me;

but, fool, the deer, upon whose backs this skin is seen, are slain by you and me with sharp arrows: so will I slay you; you shall not go free whilst I am living.

You are an unprincipled felon, who have robbed me of my kingdom, and are deserving of death."

To this Keśidhwaja answered:

"I have come hither, Khāṇḍikya, to ask you to solve my doubts, and not with any hostile intention: lay aside therefore both your arrow and your anger."

Thus spoken to, Khāṇḍikya retired a while with his counsellors and his priest, and consulted with them what course to pursue:

They strongly urged him to slay Keśidhwaja, who was now in his power, and by whose death he would again become the monarch of the whole earth.

Khāṇḍikya replied to them:

"It is no doubt true that by such an act I should become the monarch of the whole earth: he, however, would thereby conquer the world to come; whilst the earth would be mine. Now if I do not kill him, I shall subdue the next world, and leave him this earth.

It seems to me that this world is not of more value than the next; for the subjugation of the next world endures forever; the conquest over this is but for a brief season. I will therefore not kill him, but tell him what he wishes to know."

Returning then to Keśidhwaja, Khāṇḍikya desired him to propose his question, which he promised to answer; and Keśidhwaja related to him what had happened, the death of the cow, and demanded to know what penance he should perform.

Khāṇḍikya, in reply, explained to him fully the expiation that was suited to the occasion; and Keśidhwaja then, with his permission, returned to the place of sacrifice, and regularly fulfilled every necessary act.

Having completed the ceremony, with its supplementary rites, Keśidhwaja accomplished all his objects: but he then reflected thus:

"The priests whom I invited to attend have all been duly honoured; all those who had any request to make have been gratified by compliance with their desires;

all that is proper for this world has been accomplished by me: why then should my mind feel as if my duty had been unfulfilled?"

So meditating, he remembered that he had not presented to Khāṇḍikya the gift that it is becoming to offer to a spiritual preceptor, and, mounting his chariot, he immediately set off to the thick forest where that sage abode.

Khāṇḍikya, upon his reappearance, assumed his weapons to kill him; but Keśidhwaja exclaimed:

"Forbear, venerable sage. I am not here to injure you, Khāṇḍikya:

dismiss your wrath, and know that I have come hither to offer you that remuneration which is due to you as my instructor. Through your lessons I have fully completed my sacrifice, and I am therefore desirous to give you a gift. Demand what it shall be."

Khāṇḍikya having once more communed with his counsellors, told them the purpose of his rival's visit, and asked them what he should demand.

His friends recommended him to require his whole kingdom back again, as kingdoms are obtained by prudent men without conflicting hosts.

The reflecting king Khāṇḍikya laughed, and replied to them:

"Why should a person such as I be desirous of a temporary earthly kingdom?

Of a truth you are able counsellors in the concerns of this life, but of those of the life to cone you are assuredly ignorant."

So speaking, he went back to Keśidhwaja, and said to him:

"Is it true that you wish to make me a gift, as to your preceptor?"

"Indeed I do," answered Keśidhwaja.

"Then," re-joined Khāṇḍikya, "as it is known that you are learned in the spiritual learning that teaches the doctrine of the soul, if you will communicate that knowledge to me, you will have discharged your debt to your instructor.

Tell me what acts are efficacious for the alleviation of human affliction!"