The sage Vashishtha meditated under water for twelve years. He wanted to become the most powerful person spiritually. When he came out of the water, he saw that his dearest disciple, Harishchandra, was in serious trouble. The sage Vishwamitra had come to Harishchandra’s palace and asked him to do certain things. Because Harishchandra could not fulfil his promises, he had to leave his kingdom, sell his wife and child and take up work as an undertaker.
When Vashishtha saw that Harishchandra was undergoing so much suffering, he cursed Vishwamitra: “My dearest king is suffering at your hands,” he said. “You are so cruel. I curse you! You will become a bird!”
In reply, Vishwamitra pronounced a curse on Vashishtha: “You will immediately become a bird also!”
O God, both of them became huge birds and they started fighting in the sky! While flapping their wings, they were destroying trees, houses, everything. The whole of creation was being smashed to pieces because they were fighting so ruthlessly.
When Brahma saw the destruction that was being wrought by these two huge birds, he decided to do something. He clipped their wings so that they could no longer fly. Although they could not fly, the two birds continued to fight face to face on the ground. Their fury showed no signs of abating.
Brahma observed them once again and said, “What I have done is not enough. Without wings they are still bent on destroying each other. I can see that my entire creation will be destroyed in the process. I have to do something more.”
Brahma meditated for thousands of years to acquire power and finally he was able to trans-form the two birds back into human beings. When they took the form of men once more, Brahma addressed them: “Are you not ashamed of yourselves? You cursed each other to become birds and then you fought ruthlessly. You were destroying the whole world because of your personal quarrel. Now at least remain as two ordinary human beings. Even ordinary human beings do not fight the way you have fought. I am not asking you to be saints. Just become decent human beings.”
In this way, Brahma tried to illumined the sages. They embraced each other and promised to desist from fighting. Unfortunately, their truce did not last. Afterwards, these two sages once again resumed fighting. Most people say that Vashishtha had the higher wisdom, while others say that he started the whole thing. Each sage has his own supporters. Although they were both great, neither one had conquered anger.
from The Earth-Illumination-Trumpets of Divinity's Home (Stories from the Indian Scriptures: the Puranas)
by Sri Chinmoy