The young ascetic had a solitary goal in his life; the one of learning as much as possible during his lifetime. He started his pursuit at a young age and never looked back. He renounced all earthly pleasures and moved forward in his life's mission without interruption. All his time was spent in learning, mastering whatever was learnt and further learning. Days flew fast and he was not even aware of it. Days became years and decades. He continued on his path unmindful of all other things.
Father time waits for none. The ascetic was now at the end of his life span and was a hundred year old. There is a limit to human body and the end for his body was near. Pleased with his application and dedication to learning, Lord Indra appeared before him and wanted to bless him before his separation from the human body. The sage realized that the Lord of the Devatas, Indra was standing before him. He now knew that his end was near. He had no qualms about embracing certain death and renouncing the body. But he was unhappy that he had not succeeded in his mission to learn everything that is there to learn.
"Time has come for you to leave. You have achieved a lot in your lifetime. You are a model to other learners. You are eligible to enter higher worlds due to your achievements", said Lord Indra.
"Thank you, Lord Indra. I am indeed grateful. I have no worries about death. How I wish I had finished my learning! Unfortunately that is not to be.", said the sage.
"I will make a special boon for you. I will extend your life span by another hundred years. This is not generally done. However, I am impressed by your urge to continue learning. Finish your studies. I will come after another hundred years.", saying so Lord Indra disappeared.
The sage continued his goal for another hundred years. Time flew and he was not even aware of limitations of time. Lord Indra again appeared before him and repeated his lines.
"Time has come. You are to move to higher worlds now. I will provide a place of choice for you in heaven", said Lord Indra.
"I am again beholden to you, my Lord. But my learning is not complete. How I wish I had some more time to finish my learning!", said the sage.
"I am extending your life span by another hundred years to complete your learning. But remember, this is the last chance. I will be back after hundred years.", said Lord Indra and disappeared.
Another hundred years flew in learning new things. Time was gone but learning was not complete! Lord Indra dutifully appeared before the sage and asked whether he was now finished. The sage said that still there was a lot to learn and he was far from finished. Lord Indra asked the sage to turn back and look at the scene behind him. As the sage turned, he saw three big mountains before him. Lord Indra asked the stage to pick up a small stone lying near his foot. His instruction was followed by the sage.
"The stone in your hand represents what you have learnt in three hundred years. The three mountains before you represent the amount of unfinished learning. However much I extend your life span, you may not be able to finish your learning.", said Lord Indra.
"I appreciate the enormity of the task, my Lord. But there must be some method of achieving this task. You are the one capable of helping me in this pursuit. Please guide me.", said the sage.
Lord Indra was pleased with the approach of the sage. He advised him to appeal to the Sun God to help him to learn the essence of all knowledge. The sage sat in penance and prayed for the blessings of the Sun. He then succeeded in his mission by guidance of the Sun.
This is the story of Rishi Bharadwaja. Due his unquenchable thirst for knowledge and achieving the essence of all knowledge, he is recognized as one among the seven top most rishis of the present period. The seven sages are collectively called as "Saptarshis" (The seven sages) and have the responsibility of protecting all knowledge sources till the end of present times (Manvantara).
Rishi Bharadwaja is credited with texts of many branches of knowledge including Rigveda and Ayurveda. He is a highly revered and loved sage. His reference can be seen in both Ramayana and Mahabharata. Rama and Seethe visit Bharadwaja Ashram and spend some time with him during their Vanavas (life in the woods) period. Sage Bharadwaja had a son through a celestial Nymph by name Ghrutachi. This son was named Dronacharya and was given training in use of weapons and warfare, a training he received from his father initially. Dronacharya had a major role in Mahabharata as a Guru to the Kauravas and Pandavas and the Kurukshetra war.
Sage Bharadwaja's story has many lessons for us. There is no end to learning, is one of them. Continued perseverance in achieving the set goals is another. Finding a short path to understand the essence of learning is one more. There can be many others as well.
We may sometime feel proud about our achievements when certain things we do succeed and bring a sense of elation. Remembering Sage Bharadwaja at such times tempers our sense of pride and instils humbleness in our approach.