By Swami Harshananda
Kauśika (‘a descendent of [the sage] Kuśika’)
Vedic studies and the performance of severe austerities can bestow upon a person special powers. However, the sincere and devoted performance of one’s duties in life also can confer such powers is a fact that has been stressed in our epics and mythological lore.
One of the well-known stories narrated in the Mahābhārata (Vanaparva 209) is that of a brāhmaṇa ascetic named Kauśika. Once, he was sitting for meditation under a tree. It so happened that a crane sitting on the tree eased itself and its faeces fell upon him. He opened his eyes and gazed at it with an angry look. And lo! the poor bird was reduced to ashes in no time!
Later on Kauśika went into the nearby village for alms and stood in front of a house, calling the attention of the inmates. When the lady of the house came out with the alms after a long time, the sage Kauśika stared at her with an angry look. She however coolly said that she was not a poor crane to be affected by his
looks! Ashamed of his behaviour and astonished at her psychic insight, he asked her for guidance. After declaring that she got everything by devotedly serving her husband, she directed him to another great teacher Dharmavyādha. Kauśika went to him and was fully enlightened on the various aspects and secrets of dharma.
Kauśika is also the name of another sage, a simpleton, who spoke the ‘truth’ about some travellers who were hiding in his hermitage, to the robbers pursuing them. These robbers killed those travellers and took away their belongings. A part of this sin accrued to Kauśika also. The lesson of this episode is that truth should bring about what is good to people. What harms them, though it may be a literal truth, is not truth in the real sense GMahābhārata, Karnaparva 72).
There is a dharmaśāstra attributed to one Kauśika. He has been quoted by other writers but the original is not available now.
Kauśika was also the name of Viśvāmitra because he was the grandson of Kuśa.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore