Austerity versus Satsang

Swami Atmapremananda Saraswati

Once upon a time, a debate took place between Sage Vishwamitra and Sage Vashishtha on the topic, "Which is greater, austerity or Satsang?" Vishwamitra said that austerity was greater than Satsang. Vashishtha said that Satsang was greater than austerity. Finally both went to Lord Shesha, who bears the burden of the whole earth on his head, for a decision.

Listening to their talk, Lord Shesha said, "When there is a burden on one's head, the intellect does not work. I bear the burden of the whole universe. Take this burden lying on my head for a while. Then I will decide for both of you."

Vishwamitra was proud of his austerity. He tried to hold the earth on his head with the strength gained by the austerity of ten thousand years. Suddenly there was an earthquake and chaos broke out all over the world. He was unable to hold the weight of the earth on his head. Then sage Vashishtha look the burden from Vishwamitra. He was able to hold the earth on his head for a very long time by the strength of his Satsang of half a moment.

When Lord Shesha was taking the earth back on his head from Vashishtha, Vishwamitra asked, "So what is your decision regarding our debate?"

Lord Shesha smiled and said, "The decision has been made automatically by what happened a few minutes back. The Satsang of half a moment is greater than the austerity of thousands of years."

Both happily returned to their ashrams with a new and enlightened vision of life.