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In the Book 1: Adi Parva, Sambhava Parva (Section 104) of the Mahābhārata, we encounter an appalling story of sage Dīrghatamas, as narrated by Pitāmaha Bhīṣhma to Satyavatī.

I'm quoting the translation from the Wikipedia page, the same can also be accessed from the SacredTexts too.

"There was in olden days a wise Rishi of the name of Utathya. He had a wife of the name Mamata whom he dearly loved. One day Utathya's younger brother Brihaspati, the priest of the celestials, endued with great energy, approached Mamata. The latter, however, told her husband's younger brother (i.e., brother in law) — that foremost of eloquent men—that she had conceived from her connection with his elder brother and that, therefore, he should not then seek for the consummation of his wishes. She continued, 'O illustrious Brihaspati, the child that I have conceived has studied in his mother's womb the Vedas with the six Angas, Seed is not lost in vain. How can then this womb of mine afford room for two children at a time? Therefore, it behoveth thee not to seek for the consummation of thy desire at such a time. Thus addressed by her, Brihaspati, though possessed of great wisdom, could not suppress his desire. The child in the womb protested, 'There is no space here for two. O illustrious one, the room is small. I have occupied it first. It behoveth thee not to afflict me.' But Brihaspati without listening to what that child in the womb said, sought the embraces of Mamata possessing the most beautiful pair of eyes. And the illustrious Brihaspati, beholding this, became indignant, and reproached Utathya's child and cursed him, saying, 'Because thou hast spoken to me in the way thou hast at a time of pleasure that is sought after by all creatures, perpetual darkness shall overtake thee.' And from this curse of the illustrious Brihaspati, Utathya's child who was equal unto Brihaspati in energy, was born blind and came to be called Dīrghatamas (enveloped in perpetual darkness). And the wise Dīrghatamas, possessed of a knowledge of the Vedas, though born blind, succeeded yet by virtue of his learning, in obtaining for a wife a young and handsome Brahmana maiden of the name of Pradweshi. And having married her, the illustrious Dīrghatamas, for the expansion of Utathya's race, begat upon her several children with Gautama Dīrghatamas as their eldest.

Now, it's needless to say what kind of acts does these verses talk about.

I'm seeking an explanation for these unfathomable act committed by Devaguru Bṛhaspati. Considering, he's is supposed to be the all knower of all kinds of dharmas, why must he commit such unpardonable activities?

Manu Smṛti says the wife of one's elder brother is to him like the wife of his Guru.
However, here we see Bṛhaspati, all lost in lust trying to gain sexual pleasure with his brother's wife (who's by the way pregnant). How is this even justified from any perspective?

Further, on being refused by the unborn foetus (i.e., Dīrghatamas), the "passage" to commit this heinous act, Bṛhaspati curses an unborn innocent child with perpetual darkness (blindness). How can such an exalted being be so much lost in materialism to give an unnecessary and unjust curse?

I'm unable to reconcile anything w.r.t. Bṛhaspati's acts. Please explain in detail if these acts are justified or not when viewed from the dhārmika perspectives. Has any explanation been given for this appalling story in any other scripture or by any "authoritative personality"?

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    Puranic stories are full of symbolisms. Same is the case with Brihaspati, Tara and Chandra episode.. Every story has Adiboutika, Adidaivika, Adhyatmika and other interpretations. Check PVR Narasimha Rao's explanation for tara Chandra story. He says union of feminine energy of intelligence (wife of Guru, Jupiter) with Mind (execution) gives birth to Budha (mercury, ability to learn). All three are required for an act.. These stories happen philosophically in us and everywhere. There might be similar meaning for this story.
    – The Destroyer
    Jun 1, 2021 at 12:28
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    Yes, I'm very well aware of different levels of Verses interpretation @TheDestroyer. However, despite it's esoteric meanings, we cannot just let go these stories as symbolic, especially if they're directly from the itihasas. Thus, we need explanations for these kind of stuff.
    – Vivikta
    Jun 1, 2021 at 14:09
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    I have given an answer below, you can check it out, Vivikta & @TheDestroyer
    – Bingming
    Oct 26, 2023 at 23:21

1 Answer 1

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Ok, so the kathā is as follows [appears in Ādi Parva (104), Bhāgavata Purāṇa (9.2035-39), Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa (2.74.36-46), Vāyu Purāṇa (99.37-46), Śaunaka’s Br̥haddevatā (4.11-14)]

Devaguru Br̥haspati had forceful intercourse with Mamatā, who was wife of his elder brother (Aśija/Uśija or Ucathya/Utathya), when she was pregnant. When he was discharging his vīrya, his brother's son in the womb asked him to stop (because there is no place for two in the womb). This angered the uncle and he cursed the baby in the womb that he would be born blind. The śukra of Br̥haspati (being Amogharetas), immediately transformed into a child, named Bharadvāja. This Bharadvāja is not R̥ṣi Bharadvāja. Mamatā & Br̥haspati both tried to leave the child with the other for nourishing and bringing up. Br̥haspati said, mūḍhe bhara dvājam imam, meaning “O fool, [you] take care of this dvāja.” Mamatā said, bhara dvājaṁ br̥haspate, meaning “O Br̥haspati, [you] take care of this dvāja.” Due to this reason, the child was called ‘Bharadvāja’. Bharadvāja (aka Vitatha), being abandoned by Br̥haspati & Mamatā was taken into the care of Maruts. Later, Rājā Bharata Dauṣyanti (son of Duṣyanta) performed Marutstoma yajña and obtained Bharadvāja as son, whom he adopted & appointed as crown prince. As for the blind child (legitimate son of Mamatā), he was named Dīrghatamas, who became a legendary R̥ṣi later.

So, why is Devaguru Br̥haspati indulging in such a horrible act with his elder sister-in-law? As per Manusmr̥ti (9.57-58),elder brother's wife is equivalent to gurupatnī for younger brother & if both really have any intercourse (apart from the exceptional case of niyoga), they both suffer patana.

Some ignorant say that Br̥haspati's intercourse with Mamatā is an example of niyoga. But that's totally false. Mamatā's husband (i.e. Br̥haspati's elder brother), doesn't have any presence in this incident. He didn't give any consent for Br̥haspati having intercourse with his wife, nor is he dead. Furthermore, Mamatā is already pregnant with his child, and she was absolutely unwilling to engage in the intercourse with Br̥haspati, but the latter forcefully did it with her. This is a clear case of sexual assualt, not niyoga. And such an act would surely lead to patana, in the case of manuṣya. But is this it? Purāṇas have to be interpreted in various manners to extract the pramā, out from them.

One of the most basic (but valid) interpretations is that the aim of this brief narrative is to give a teaching via a simple example. It criticizes the kāma that goes against dharma, by showing that even divyapuruṣa like Br̥haspati can be overcome by kāma & go against dharma. This also blends with Manusmr̥ti (2.213-215), where Manu coaches men, to not give into their desires towards women. Manusmr̥ti (2.213) points out the doṣa of men in giving in to their desires & becoming reckless and cautions them to be always restrained and respectful towards women. Hence, it says, the learned men should never make mistakes (vipaścitaḥ na pramādyanti), i.e. behave inappropriately and disrespectfully towards women. In (2.215), he even coaches men to not be alone with sister, mother, etc. because the force of indriyas is so strong that it can even sway the most learned of men.

But this kathā is more than just a teaching on not to go against dharma, in the pursuit/sway of kāma. We would take the name of elder brother of Br̥haspati as Utathya, which is present in Bhāgavata Purāṇa & Mahābhārata. Utathya is 'u+tathya', where u is an interrogative interjection and tathya refers to satya. Always doubting or questioning the satya is aśraddhā. Utathya's wife Mamatā represents mamatva, the worldly attachment. The union of Mamatā & Utathya results in avidyā/ajñāna which is represented by Dīrghatamas (lit. absolute darkness), who is blind of sight (the sight with which one cannot see satya). Br̥haspati represents the guru & it's the guru who points out the avidyā within us (his cursing Dīrghatamas is actually him pointing the nature of avidyā), so that we can dispel it. When attachment to aśraddhā is replaced with attachment towards Guru, then jñāna in the form of Bharadvāja is born, which is beyond all attachment, it doesn't require any mother or father but ajñāna does require the support of aśraddhā & attachment. Dīrghatamas, being in the garbha of Mamatā, represents her moha. Even if the guru tries to shower his kr̥pā & vidyā (discharge vīrya) for the udaya of jñāna within śiṣya, the moharūpī Dīrghatamas would prevent that.

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    Not my Brihaspati theirs no way... Now I am distressed... My fatherly figure... The deva who I prayed to days on end knowledgeable... One who I in his very mansion was born into... How could this perfect embodiment of knowledge succumb to lust? ;-;
    – Haridasa
    Feb 16 at 1:50
  • mansion (Jyotish)
    – Haridasa
    Feb 16 at 1:50

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