In today’s fast paced world, we tend to isolate the process of learning to a defined period of life and all the rest of our experiences tend to be treated as rather obscure matter. We fail to see that what we are taught ready-made is only another person’s experience and our own experiences have to be given at least as much importance, if not more. What we can learn and from whom depends on two factors: one is whether we can learn and second whether we learn.
Once, sage Markandeya met with the Pandavas while they were in the forest. It then happened that Yudhishtira spoke highly of womanhood. Markandeya then told a sacred story to the Pandavas in this regard: Once there was a Brahmana by the name Kaushika who was very learned and a strict observer of Brahmacharya. One day, as he was lost in meditation under a tree, a crane’s droppings defiled him. Irritated, he looked angrily at the crane and the poor creature was burnt by his power. Kaushika was disturbed by the fact that his thoughts were all coming true.
One day, he went to beg alms and it so happened that the lady of the house was busy with some work and asked him to wait. But by the time she had finished that work, her husband had returned and she had to tend to his needs. So Kaushika was kept waiting for a rather long time before the woman came out with some food. Kaushika was angry, but the woman said: Oh, Brahmana! Your anger cannot harm me for I was only doing my duty. I am no crane!
As Kaushika stood stupefied at the woman’s knowledge of the crane, the woman continued: You are a very learned person, yet it seems that you do not know what dharma really is. If you want to learn what dharma is, go to Dharmavyadha who lives in the city!
Kaushika was very curious and eagerly went to the city in seek of Dharmavyadha. Expecting to find Dharmavyadha in a lonely hermitage, Kaushika was utterly surprised when he found out that Dharmavyadha was a butcher!
Dharmavyadha addressed Kaushika: So that chaste woman has sent you here! Please wait!
As Kaushika, filled with surprise at the man recognising him even without introduction, waited, Dharmavyadha went about his job meticulously until it was done. He then took Kaushika to his house and showed him his old parents and taught him the dharma of one born into this world.
Kaushika, who had hitherto only thought of his own emancipation, was now enlightened. He went back and took good care of his parents and the family’s needs and in due course, thanks to the woman, became a great teacher.