There is a story in one of the Brahmanas: there was a king called Harishchandra, and he had no child, so he said: “I must have a child at any cost”. He went round, asking for the secret of getting a child, and somebody told him, “If you pray to Varuna, you will get the child”. Why Varuna? Because Varuna is vast: the meaning of Varuna is ‘that which is vast’. In the ‘Vast’ everything is contained, therefore, you should go to the vast, anything that you want is available there, if you go to Varuna. He was told “Go to Varuna”, so he went to Varuna, and told him, “I want a child”. Varuna said: “Do not ask for it, because that is not what you are worthy of; you are not destined to have it”. But he said, “No, I want a child”, he said, “Alright, I’ll give you a child on one condition, that as soon as you get the child, you disclaim the child. I’ll give you a child, offer the child to me back: this is my child I give you back! On that condition I am prepared to give you the child”.
He was so desirous of the child, he said, “Yes, I don’t mind at all, I’ll give you back immediately, I must have the child”. Varuna was pleased, and gave him the child. When the child was born, and Varuna came and said, “Now give me back”. He said, “But I have just begun to see my child; this is not all what I wanted, I really wanted to play with the child, I want to see him growing, give me some time so that I can really enjoy the child”. He said: “Alright, one year later I will come”. Again he came, again asked for the child, so he said: “No, I want to see him going to education; I really want to see further about what happens to him”. Varuna was very wise, he went on saying: “Alright, see for yourself what happens ultimately”. The child grew up, became sixteen, seventeen years old.
Then this child came to know, and told his father, “What right have you to give myself to Varuna? I am born, why should I be given away to Varuna?” He said: “But I have promised Varuna, I have got to give you back to Varuna.” He said, “I am not going to obey you”. He ran away from home. And then, he was told by some saints: “cara cara eva, go on moving, go on moving, when you go on moving, you will find the solution”. In this world, there is only one secret, “cara, cara eva”. As Sri Krishna says, “karma eva, your power is only action, go on acting, then, you will find a solution”. So he went on moving.
Then in a big dense forest he met somebody and said: “You know, there is one important secret about pleasing Varuna. Instead of you, if somebody else gives himself, that will be alright for Varuna, you don’t need to give yourself, find somebody who will take your place, and Varuna will be satisfied”. He was very happy that, ‘alright I am at least not to be finished, it will be somebody else.’ Who is it in the world, who is prepared to give himself to Varuna? He got in search of that person.
He met one individual who had three sons. Among the three sons, the eldest was the favourite one; the youngest was the dearest one, the middle one, was not claimed so much either by father or mother. And that was a very wise boy: his name was Shunashepa. The father said that: “I will give this son, provided I am given so much money.” This young man was a prince, he said, “It doesn’t matter”, he took him to his father and said: “Look there is a boy, only pay him this much, and I am free, you are free, we are all happy”. The king gave the money to the father of this boy.
The question was that this boy was taken to the sacrifice, where Varuna was to manifest to take him back. The question was: who will be the one who will sacrifice him? There was nobody available who will put him in the sacrifice. The father again said: “I will be prepared to do it.” But then, a greater Rishi appeared, his name was Vishwamitra. And Vishvamitra said: “I know the secret, of giving, sacrificing everything. He will be sacrificed and yet he will be saved”. That was the knowledge that Vishwamitra possessed: “Sacrifice him and yet he remains”, because he had the Knowledge of the Eternal. He comes to Shunashepa, and Shunashepa was asked that: “Look, you are going to be sacrificed, are you willing?” He said: “Yes, even in sacrifice, I remain.” That was the knowledge he gained from Vishwamitra. Then, when Varuna appeared, he cut off the three cords in which he was tied, and gave him immortality.
This is the story in Aitraeya Brahmana. This is one of the famous stories of Brahmana literature. It is the symbolic story. Actually, Shunashepa stands for the soul, for the Self, which is always eternal. The cords, the three cords are the cords of the body, life and mind, in which you are tied up. The immortal soul is tied up in body, life, and mind. Once you know that you are eternal, the three cords are loosened, they no more bind you, and there is no death for you, you become immortal. Or, getting this desire to get a son is always riddled with the condition that afterwards you have to loose him.
This, human beings do not know. Human beings think that, “If I possess something, it will remain with me forever”. But that is never going to be. All the fruits of action are transitory. And you always want to clutch them, as if they are eternal possessions, but they are not eternal by nature.