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Story Of Chakrayana Usasti In Chandogya Upanishad

Chakrayana Usasti in Chandogya Upanishad is a great a character who sets an example of adherence to dharma even in times of distress. The story shows that in extreme situations when there seems to be no other alternative, one can deviate from one’s ordained dharma; and that when other courses are open one should refrain from doing wrong.

In Chandogya Upanishad (1-10-11), Chakrayana Usasti shows how to adhere to dharma (righteous conduct) under adverse conditions and gives knowledge of Udagithopasana (a part of Sama Veda).

The Land of the Kurus was devastated by a hailstorm and there was a great famine.

Chakrayana Usasti and his young wife reached the region and was in search of food.

He went to Ibhya village, a wealthy village which had people who owned elephants.

He saw a wealthy villager eating forest beans. Chakrayana Usasti asked him to give him some.

The villager shared some beans and offered water too.

Chakrayana Usasti and his wife ate the beans but did not take the water. He told the villager that he can take ucchista (remains of food) as if he had not eaten them he would have died. But water was available and he could have had it at will.

Chakrayana Usasti displayed Dharma. Ucchista is not to be taken as per Dharma but it is permissible to save life.

Greatness And Knowledge Of Chakrayana Usasti

Chakrayana Usasti saved some beans for the next day and he went to a place where the king of the region was conducting a yajna. He was hoping that he would get some priestly duty which would put an end to his poverty and hunger.

He sat near the Udgatr priests who were to sing the astava rite. Legend has it that he cautioned the priests that if they chanted a mantra without knowing the governing deity their heads would fall. The priests hastily withdrew from their duties and remained silent.
The king recognized the superior knowledge of Chakrayana Usasti and appointed him as the chief priest. Chakrayana Usasti allowed the other priests to participate in the ritual under his instructions.

A priest then approached Usasti and asked him about the deity connected with Prastava – God present in mukhyaprana is the deity connected with prastava was the answer Usasti gave.

Another priest asked about the deity connected with mantra or Udgitha and the answer was Aditya (sun).

Pratiharta priest wanted to which deity he should make offering and the answer was to the deity associated with food.

The knowledge that was shared by Chakrayana Usasti came to be known as udgithopasana.