The story of Mahavishnu by Raja Ravi Sekhar.
Parts of this story are true and some have been made more interesting to hold the attention of the reader. Many of my chess students, especially those aged between 6 to 10 have heard this story many times over and enjoyed it a great deal too.
Sometime one night , maybe in the year 2000 , I was fast asleep but dreaming - ( I tend to dream in colour which I am told , indicates that I have psychic powers - Often there are some long sequences where I seem to be flying in the air - At other times I am perched high in the air with very long legs reaching down to the ground , resting of all things , on the pedals of a bicycle , which is maybe several miles down - All very odd , to say the least and some of my old friends like T.N.Parameswaran , who are known to dabble a bit more in such matters , have often commented on it being some kind of astral travel experience etc - I can't say that I believe in such concepts but I can't deny that I get these kind of dreams from time to time ) - All of a sudden in my dream (must be the dream for what else could it be ? ) Mahavishnu appeared before me - I could make out who it was, in some mysterious way , without being told in so many words - Maybe it was because he was blue all over and clad in yellow as he is traditionally made out to be - Anyway there he was , standing before me and smiling but silent for a while - I kept silent too but told myself "Hey ,what's happening here? This must be Mahavishnu but what could he want with me ? Dunno but better we just wait and see how it goes!" - (A small footnote here especially for our readers from the west who might not know anything at all about Mahavishnu - No need to rush to google or wikipedia - RRS will help you - Along with Siva and Brahma , Mahavishnu or simply Vishnu is one of the holy trinity of Hindu gods - Better known as the preserver of all things , he is perhaps the most popular Hindu god , having visited the world of mortals as Rama , Krishna and several other avatars - Pretty powerful , portrayed to be benevolent , generous and you guys might get a better picture of his final and imminent avatar , reading "Kalki" by Gore Vidal ) -
"Well , RRS , I hear that you have been doing a swell job , teaching kids to play chess and giving them a lot of good advice" quipped he with a smile - " I know that you are the sort that keeps moralising , pontificating , sermonising and mouthing a lot of criticism - Must be pretty boring for the people around you to get all their mistakes dissected , analysed and made crystal clear - " My God! thought I (pardon the pun) How does He know all that and where did He learn to talk like that ? Oh yeah! an omniscient One would be all knowing and it'd be no big deal for Him , I figured and just nodded , saying nothing as I was sure there was more coming up -After all , gods do not descend to talk to mortals about the time of the day - (er...night..that is)
Mahavishnu continued " Your analytical approach to most things is pretty dull and dry though correct but it so happens that this is well suited for a game like chess - I am very pleased with you for guiding so many people both young and old - You have done a thorough job of teaching well what you have learnt about chess and life so far , withholding nothing and giving everything you have - So you may ask for any three boons you like and they will be granted" -
Being rather analytical as He had rightly summarised , I could not fail to detect the condescending air and patronising note that the offer took and how else could it be , I reasoned further - After all the roles of superior and inferior , giver and receiver must have some overtones of these things - For awhile I was a bit puzzled - Could Vishnu know what I was going to ask for? Surely He must and was it all not decided beforehand ? Were we just supposed to act out a preconceived sequence ? Was this the '' leela" of the gods ? Did I really have any choice and in fact did I know it myself ? What the heck , I thought , let's think it over and give it a good shot -
Should I ask for a very large sum of money for my first boon ? For some reason I was reminded of the genies of the lamp, the ring and poor Alladin - What if that would bring some kind of danger to me ? Would I be tempting someone to kidnap me or my family for ransom ? Maybe like in the movies someone close to me would finish me off for the loot - Nope, I decided , I could not be sure that unlimited money or material possesions would be a guaranteed advantage without accompanying risks -
What about something like immortality ? Never die at all - Keep on waking up every day and eventually repeating all experiences over and over again - Seemed quite reasonable but I got a doubt - What if the gods decided to teach me a lesson and fixed things so that I would lose say both limbs but keep on living forever ? Living forever could hardly be fun without so many other things to go with it - Suddenly I began to get a strong feeling that selecting three good boons would be pretty troublesome - It looked as if I would certainly overlook something and get into a mess - Was not that what happened after all to most of my predecessors who had availed such boons and come to nought ?
Vishnu had an impatient look about him as he turned his gaze on my forehead puckered with thought - I was racking my brains for a good solution where I could not "lose" - This had the taste of a game of chess where I needed to keep the draw in my pocket , somehow win and also remain unbeaten - Not impossible, I thought , I would turn his enormous powers to my advantage in a foolproof way - Yes! that was it - As the idea became clear and strong in my mind , I crosschecked for flaws but could see none - Yes, I was ready -
" Oh mighty lord of all around you " I began , I cannot know the future and what it will bring as a result of your boons - So my first boon would be to ask that my life should run in the manner and course that would be best for me -
The voice of Vishnu had sounded all along so far like a sharp musical instrument with lilting notes and it came stronger now in answer (or question? ) "And what exactly would that entail ?
" Oh all knowing One " I replied , " Using your full powers to work that out and shaping it as such for me will be the second boon I ask of you - You cannot grant me the first boon unless you grant me the second boon - Vishnu seemed to frown a bit ( I had forgotten that you don't use words like "cannot" when you are talking to gods) but the frown turned quickly into a beautific smile "You are wise as was to be expected of one always analytical and pray , what more could you ask for as your third boon ?
It was my turn to smile - Surely the mighty Vishnu would know what I was going to ask for or did'nt He? "Oh mighty Vishnu - It is true that you are going to grant all that will be good for me , knowing everything that could happen as you already do - Even if good things happen to me or even if the best things are made mine , I could not be happy or proud if I knew that these things were merely being granted to me - I must not know that matters are being manipulated and I must feel that whatever takes place is the result of my own personal merit - Pray , keep up the illusion and Maya in this existence of mine just as long as you deem it best to last -"
At this Vishnu seemed to lose his composure "Foolish mortal" He thundered "Almost everyone wishes to be freed from this miserable existence of temperory sense experiences and you ask instead to continue to wallow in the illusion - Do you want the first boon or the third one ? Ask not what is impossible and what conflicts with each other - By asking for this you have betrayed your mortal weakness - Think and choose " ended He on a peremptory note -
Undaunted I persisted " I only ask for what would seem plausible to others - My success if any and all of it must not be incongruous and not in keeping with my merit - After all , Oh mighty One you would not have come to me with your boons if I had no merit - I ask only for the merit to continue and let the rewards be commensurate with the merit , of course as you see fit and best - My mind is clear about what I must do but you must grant me all three boons or none at all -
On my being so resolute , Vishnu visibly softened and his face grew kind - "So be it - You shall continue to do well what you can do well - You will make yourself happy by making others happy - You will remember this dream but everything else will seem to happen quite naturally as you desire and yet I will ensure that nothing goes wrong -
With his pink palm extended outward in benediction , Vishnu smiled and vanished - I woke up with a start but did not find or feel anything different - I found myself to be pretty much the same but soon found that most of the time I was engaged in advising people about what to do in chess as well as other aspects of life - Over the last few years I have found that I am quite happy and content to do what I seem to be capable of doing well - Others are happy with me too and life goes on - Sometimes I wonder whether the "game" has been "fixed" by Vishnu but in any case I am not able to make out any difference - What do you think ?
When I related this story to many of my students I got several startling responses from them , especially at the stage where I had to select my three boons - Little Gargeya Kishan who might have been just around 6 or 7 years old remarked "My first boon would be to ask for a thousand boons!" After thinking a little longer he added on a menacing note "My second boon would be that I should become Mahavishnu himself ! Seemed pretty impressive as he forgot about the third boon - There were kids who wanted things like "I should be the world chess champion for a thousand years or that they should get a huge sum of money or that they should have unlimited access to all sorts of goodies and what not -
Well, what do you think about the story? Do you get the feeling that RRS is a deeply religious guy who thinks he is on a divine mission to educate the world ? Has he made this a big spoof to tell you that the core idea of any kind of symbolism ought to be its inner meaning and not what it literally seems to be ? Could be either way - Everything is true and yet everything is false , depending on how it is defined , by whom and for whom - Origin , purpose , and destination have a great deal of relevance in understanding reality -
What is the moral of the story ? There are things that it would be best for you to do , of course in your own best interests - Obviously these would be the things that you would be good at doing and naturally turn out to be what would bring you the maximum material benefits - On the other hand there would be other things that you would actually like to do and naturally prefer to dabble in , though you might not be really good at those things and consequently your involvement in those things would not be comparitively lucrative in the material sense - Then again your surroundings, living environment , family , companions , society around you , etc could impose on you certain tasks , routines which could perhaps be termed as your duties or responsibilities which could often seem like disagreeable forced moves - The institution of marriage that often results in offspring has been known to work in this context - Indulgences in a broad sense also account for a large percentage of human actions and preferences - Eating well , drinking , dabbling with sex , gambling, smoking and a number of defined vices which nevertheless give a sense of satisfaction and pleasure to most human beings are all good examples of what most people believe as having a good time - I think that you have to strike a good and healthy balance between all these things and distribute your time accordingly - The times might come when you would have to renounce certain things and overdo others - Only good , analytical , unbiased and objective judgment can be your proper guide and always be ready for changes but do not change too often - RRS -