The story of three disciples: #1 Uddalaka Aruni

Posted on May 19, 2010


Sage Dhamyua & Uddalaka Aruni

Once there lived a sage by the name Áyodha Dhaumya, who had three disciples – Áruni from the country of Panchala, Upamanyu and Veda.

One day, Dhaumya ordered Áruni to stop a breach in the waterway in acertain field, and the disciple obliged. But Áruni did not return for a while.

The teacher, wondering about the Áruni’s fate, visited the field along with his disciples. Not finding him there, Dhaumya called out loud for Áruni. It was then that Áruni emerged from the embankment and promptly reported to the teacher.

Áruni said, “O Guru, being unsuccessful in my efforts to close the breach, I myself lied down on the bank to stop the flow of water. Upon hearing your voice, I have come before you, allowing the water to escape. Please instruct me on what to do.”

Dhaumya, delighted by the dedication of his disciple, blessed Áruni and proclaimed that he would henceforth be known by the name Uddalaka (one who pulled the stop-gap) Aruni.

Thus ends the story of Áruni.

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The story of the three disciples of Dhaumya maharishi is narrated at the very beginning of Mahabharata. While the narrator of Bharata, Ugrashrava Sauti, does not provide any specific reason for sharing this story, one line of thought is that the story of three disciples is told to create a specific mind-set among the listeners – a mindset facilitating complete dedication to one’s Guru.

Several other scriptures refer to Uddalaka Aruni. In Kathopanishad, Uddalaka Aruni, also known as Vajrashrava, once in a fit of rage offers his son Nachiketa to Yama. In Chandogya Upanishad, Uddalaka is mentioned as the son of Aruni and father of the scholar Shvetaketu; the popular statement ‘tat tvam asi’ in this Upanishad is attributed to Uddalaka.