How the Risis (ऋषि)  Lived 


How the Risis (ऋषि)  Lived 


images-16 How the Risis (ऋषि)  Lived The life they lived, these people who taught the Upanishads, was a very simple life, mostly. But sometimes these teachings were originally given by kings who lived in the luxury of a palace. There is a theory, which Swami Vivekananda himself held to some extent, that the Vedanta, or the Upanishads, really originated among the Kshatriyas (क्षत्रिय), the warrior caste, rather than among the Brahmins (ब्राह्मण). And in support of this, we often find in the history of India that the most liberalizing thoughts in religion or philosophy came not from the first caste, not from the brahmins, but from the second caste, the Kshatriyas (क्षत्रिय).For example, Sri Krishna was not a brahmin; he was the son of a Kshatriyas (क्षत्रिय), and Buddha, who democratized the teachings of the Vedanta and spread them broadcast, was the son of a Kshatriya (क्षत्रिय) king.We do not consider this to be a reflection on the Brahmins; we say that just as two opposing forces create a balanced in every community or every system of knowledge there have to be two forces working—


images-16 How the Risis (ऋषि)  Lived One conservative and the other liberal. If liberalism has complete freedom in its own experimentation, it is apt to kill itself; therefore, there has to be a conservative force that will challenge it. When liberalism can stand that challenge it is gradually embodied into the accepted authority. In India, the Brahmins (ब्राह्मण) have represented that conservative force, and in the matter of Vedanta we find that some of the teachers were Brahmins (ब्राह्मण), others were Kshatriyas(क्षत्रिय). So we sometimes find Brahmins (ब्राह्मण) going to Kshatriyas(क्षत्रिय) to learn this most excellent truth, the truth about the Atman and Brahman.Well, whatever that might be, most of these teachers lived a simple life in an ashrama (आश्रम ), which can be translated as ‘retreat’. Just as modern retreats are located outside the cities in a solitary place in the midst 0f nature, so in those olden days there were many such retreats or hermitages all over the country, particularly in the Himalayan region. And many of these teachers- who Were generally called Risis (ऋषि), which literally means ‘seers’ because they directly perceived supernatural truths-were established in these ashramas (आश्रम ) and were supported by the rich or by kings, who considered it their duty to protect them and to supply their needs.Those needs were very simple. They lived in huts; they would get up at what they called the Brahma-muhurta, the ‘hour of God’, an hour before dawn, and would go in the dark or semi-dark to a nearby Stream and bath; then they would sit around a fire, Which was always burning, but which at that time was burning brighter because the disciples had put more logs on

images-16 How the Risis (ऋषि)  Lived Those needs were very simple. They lived in huts; they would get up at what they called the Brahma-muhurta, the ‘hour of God’, an hour before dawn, and would go in the dark or semi-dark to a nearby Stream and bath; then they would sit around a fire, Which was always burning, but which at that time was burning brighter because the disciples had put more logs on it, and they would plunge into meditation. After a long meditation, some teachings would be given, and then they would all go to their respective duties. Later, classes would be held in the different branches of learning, particularly in the Vedas and the Upanishads; the Risis (ऋषि) would teach their pupils the art of meditation; they would teach them what is called Brahma-vidya-the ‘science of Brahman’, or the ‘science of God-realization’, and they would teach them philosophy, so that their intellect would be trained in accordance with their spiritual findings. There were also other teachings’ sometimes called vedangas, which were essentially secular subjects like astronomy, prosody, grammar, and so on.


After a long meditation, some teachings would be given, and then they would all go to their respective duties. Later, classes would be held in the different branches of learning, particularly in the Vedas and the Upanishads; the Risis (ऋषि) would teach their pupils the art of meditation; they would teach them what is called Brahma-vidya-the ‘science of Brahman’, or the ‘science of God-realization’, and they would teach them philosophy, so that their intellect would be trained in accordance with their spiritual findings. There were also other teachings’ sometimes called vedangas, which were essentially secular subjects like astronomy, prosody, grammar, and so on.The pupils themselves had to live a life of utmost asceticism, of which an essential condition was the practice of celibacy. Many rules are given in the old books for this rigorous life. The pupils would live many years with the teachers, whose examples were considered very important as a part of their training.

images-16 How the Risis (ऋषि)  Lived Then some of them would return to the World, get married, and live as ideal citizens. They would carry them on, and when they were fifty years old they were supposed to retire from the world and plunge again into a life of contemplation and meditation. And men, after some time, they would embrace the life of utter renunciation and become sannyasins, or wandering monks. That was the general picture.It goes without saying that although there might have been hundreds and hundreds of such hermitages, not all the Risis (ऋषि) were equally proficient. It is but natural that there were differences among them, and you find that some became very well-known as great spiritual teachers and as great scholars of the Vedas or Vedanta.

Of course, more people would come to them than to others, and one to whom thousands and thousands of people would flock used to be called Kula-pati, the ’chief of the clan’, the clan of spiritual aspirants.Such ‘chiefs’ were very highly regarded and necessarily used to receive great respect from all.And of course, the kings and the nobles of a kingdom considered it their special duty to support them.