The maha mrityunjaya mantra, hailed by the sages as the core of the Vedas, can assist you in tuning into the healing power that is constantly at work within you, encouraging your growth, raising you up in difficult times, and reminding you of the greater purpose of life. Author and spiritual guide Rolf Sovik reveals one of yoga's most potent, sustaining mantras in this article.
Ancient Indian texts are rife with tales, myths, and legends where philosophy and devotion are intertwined. These stories feature several famous characters, including the sage Markandeya, whose teachings can be found in the Markandeya Purana. His text is noted in particular for its description of the Divine Mother's splendour. In the Mahabharata, Markandeya, who is renowned for seeing the cosmic flood, is a distinguished guest at the brave Pandava brothers' forested camp. But before he was born, his narrative began.
The childless sage Mrikandu and his wife Marudvati performed a protracted penance in an effort to gain merit and the blessing of a child. Their ishtadevata, Lord Shiva, appeared to them as a reward (the deity of their hearts). After hearing their desire, Lord Shiva advised them that they could either raise a long-lived, witless, and self-absorbed child, or they could parent a child who would be a dazzling spiritual light but whose life would only last sixteen years.
After some time, Marudvati gave birth to a son they named Markandeya, the child they had chosen had spiritual qualities. His parents chose against telling him that he would only live a short time, but as his sixteenth birthday approached, their mounting melancholy exposed them. And when he questioned them as to why they were feeling so dejected, they replied that Lord Shiva had stated something. Markandeya, an experienced yogi, committed himself again to his routine.
Markandeya sought sanctuary in a temple on the day of his sixteenth birthday and sat next to a shiva lingam (a representation of divine consciousness) to conduct his prayer and meditation. He was so engrossed in his prayers when the messengers of Lord Yama, the lord of death, arrived to remove him that they were unable to do their task.
They explained their predicament to Yama on their return. Yama then made his own way to the temple to complete the assignment. He begged Markandeya to come voluntarily and to abide with the natural rules of life and death, but Markandeya embraced the Shiva lingam and submitted to its defence. Yama hurled his rope to encompass Markandeya, but it also encircled the lingam. Shiva, who was present in the image, then broke the lingam open and burst forth in a wrath. Yama had thrown his noose too far since he lacked the power to enclose Shiva.
The other gods watched in horror as Yama was murdered by a foot-blow from Shiva. They begged Shiva to revive Yama out of concern that his passing might disturb the balance of the universe, and Shiva ultimately consented. However, he emphasised that Markandeya's devotion had shielded him, and as a result he was fortunate to continue being a sixteen-year-old sage forever. It was once thought that Markandeya's realised spirit was still active somewhere in the cosmos.