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Immortal Characters in Hindu Mythology.......
Date: Thu Nov 12 1998 - 09:52:16 PST

Dear Bhaktas,

This is my first posting after my recent enrolment, and I think it does fall
within our forum's ambit, and merits a discussion. However, correct me if I
am wrong with the choice.

A couple of days ago, I was casually browsing the soc.religion.hindu
newsgroup, and I came across an interesting (in my opinion) question. 

The topic is about immortal characters in hindu mythology, like  Aswathaama,
Vibheesan et al

This piece is pretty long, therefore I request the Bhakthas to bear with my
elaborate language.
If you carefully observe, I think the question goes deep into the concept of
our philosophy in a way and seeks an explanation from the Visistadvaita
concept of soul / brahman. May be I could be wrong in trying to visualize
this beyond its merits. 

The question was this.

>> In both the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha, there were characters who 
>> were said to be immortal, like Parashurama, Kripacharya, Vishwamitra, 
>> Ashwathama, Vibhishan, and some others.  How is that statement
>> rationalized given that none of these people exist today?

I attempted to answer the question this way. Here is my abridged(!) reply

>> The boon could be intended for physique, soul, character/personality

The period of the boon, if we consider them to be for 'physical immortality'
is restricted to the 'yuga'  in which it is granted. Therefore, the boon is
as the said characters probably lived till their respective 'yuga's end. 

If we consider it to be valid till today, then the concept of yuga is out of
question, and therefore the physical nature of the boon. Hence it has to be
applicable to the soul. But all souls are immortal, and therefore the
speciality of the boon cannot be adequately explained if soul alone is to be
considered and therefore 'trait' comes into picture. 

My explanation was, the seekers' soul/ trait is captured and made to be
re-born again and again until the process of Creation itself stops and
therefore we may find a number of Vibhesans and Aswathaamas among the 6
billion human and other life forms around us. As for mortals, we are re-born
only for a definite number of times to balance our Karmic consequences and
then cease to be re-born. Hence it is rationalized.

The inquirer makes a pitch, saying  I am making the boon look like a curse
than a bless and I countered it saying the Grantor does not care on the
merits of the boon per se, but only the merits of the seeker to justify the
grant and therefore the boon is indeed a bless and not a curse.
Also the inquirer suggested, the boon may be for their names which lives
till today as we all talk and think about them.

However, I am still not sure if there could be any other convincing solution
to this intriguing question. If Bhakthas see a merit in discussing this, I
request some thoughtful responses.

Sriram Ranganathan