CHAPTER – 15
Namadharaka who listened to the account of Sree Guru’s life and deeds with faith and devotions wished to know of one point in greater detail. He said to Siddha, “Holy Lord, you have said that through the grace of Sree Guru, a fallen Brahmin became a wise one. Pray, tell me what has happened to him afterwards.”
Siddha said, “My son, the Brahmin was spiritually awakened by the grace of the Guru and prayed to him, ‘Please tell me why I am fallen from my former state.’ Sree Nrisimha Saraswathi replied:
“Virtuous deeds elevate us to higher realms of existence, while sinful ones drag us down to lower states of being. Thus the ego will ever be shuffling between the higher and lower realms of existence like a rotating automation. Those who desert their gurus, mothers, wives, children, and their ordained path of righteous living and their deities of worship will suffer the respective punishments in their subtle bodies soon after death. Then, in order to work out those consequences of their sins, which can be experienced only by a gross physical body, they will be born in this earthly realm with gross bodies in the wombs of the low born ones. So too, the one with a violent nature, the false one, and the one who rails at sadhus, pious Brahmins, gods, holy places of pilgrimage, Vedas and sacred texts, the one who spoils public water tanks, wells, gardens and public roads and religious sacrifices, the one who eats on such holy days as ekadasi on which religious vows are to be observed, one who indulges in sexual union on festive days, on the holy days, on days of ceremonial offerings to the manes and in water; the one who betrays the trust reposed in him; one who takes back what he had given away to someone as a gift; one who fails to keep his word; one who deliberately shoulders the tasks which legitimately belong to others; one who always proclaims purposefully the meritorious deeds he has performed and the wicked deeds of others; one who boasts of greatness which he lacks; one who heartily associates with the wicked, murderers and thieves; the murderer, one who practices such forms of black magic as killing others; one who undertakes to treat a patient without really having the necessary medical knowledge and thereby endangers the lives of others; one who has cast away his sacred duties and one who causes grief to others – all these will pay for their misdeeds in the subtle bodies after death, in the world of Death. Then, to suffer for their sins which can be atoned for only through gross physical bodies on earth, they will be reborn in the families of the lowest of low”.
On hearing these words, Namadharaka had a doubt. So he said, “Sir, when I hear you talk of the subtle body and the world of Death, I have a question to ask you. And only you are capable of answering it. I only hesitate for fear of interrupting the continuity of your story”.
Siddha said, “Namadharaka, it is better for you to present your question as soon as it arose. For, if you do not get it cleared, your mind will be diverted from my account of Sree Guru in ruminating over it. In this manner, it is better for you to put forth the question and be done with rather than shutting it up in the heart for fear of interrupting my account”.
Overwhelmed by the loving patience of Siddha, Namadharaka bowed to him and said: “It is said that the soul reaps the consequences of its actions in the next birth. For instance, in this life, I perform some actions, which are meritorious, and some, which are otherwise. I will have to reap the consequences of both in my next life. But, how come, they say that the souls, after leaving this body, will suffer the consequences of its actions in the subtler realms like heaven and hell. How is it that the soul has to experience the consequences of its actions twice – once in the subtler realms beyond death, and again in the next birth? Is it just or proper that it should be so? It looks as though one has to experience the effects of a single action twice! How is it?”
Siddha replied, “Namadharaka, your doubt will not be resolved unless you listen very attentively to what I say. As you have said, it is not proper for the soul to reap the consequences twice for the same act. This physical form can stand and experience only joys and sufferings of a particular kind. Hence, it is called ‘the body which is destined to die, or fall’ (patanaavadhi, maranaavadhi, sarira). This body, for instance, cannot withstand the suffering called death. It is fit only to experience pleasures and sufferings within that range. The soul experiences these pleasures and pains which cannot experienced through the physical body in the subtler realms of heaven and hell. The body, which suffers the torments of hell, is not the material body, but it is the subtle suukshma body. It is also called the yaatana sarira or ‘the body that suffers’. Thus the soul experiences these punishments of its sins which are beyond the range of the abilities of the physical body to suffer, in hell. In order to experience these sufferings of a lower order than death, the soul again takes birth in this world with a material body. Thus the consequences of one’s actions that the soul suffers in hell and heaven are distinct from the consequences of action experienced in the next birth on earth. There is no question of paying for a single act twice, as you seem to suppose”.
Thus, his doubt dispelled, Namadharaka asked Siddha, “Be pleased to tell me what kind of sins lead to what kinds of rebirths”.
Siddha explained: “Earlier, I have explained to you to some extent what sinful deeds in this birth lead to one’s rebirth in the families of sinners (Chandala). Besides, one who is vengeful, infatuated with a low-born woman, one who has given up holy acts enjoined by Sastras for daily and occasional observances, one who rides a bull, one who sells ginger, leaves, cows and Vedas, one who partakes of a cow’s milk without first offering it to the Supreme Lord of the Creation, one who eats prohibited food stuff, one who accepts the offerings of the wicked, one who robs others of their livelihood, one who sleeps during the twilight hours (morning and evening sandhya) at dawn and sunset, even if such a one were a Brahmin in this life will be born in the next as a sinner (Chandala).
The punishments for sins which have to be endured through the subtle body in the realm of death (yamaloka) are eight crore and forty lakhs in number. Out of these, twenty-one are the most prominent ones. Lord Yama ordains the appropriate punishments to sinners.
The sinner leaves his gross physical form on earth. Immediately after that, the attendants of Death (Yama) tie up his vital forces and put them in the subtle body (Yaatana sarira) and lead him along a path in which every step forward is fought with terrors. Then the soul will experience unbearable thirst and hunger and finds it extremely difficult to walk along. But the attendants of Death will frighten him till he faints with pain and fright. They restore him to his senses and drag him along the river of pus and blood called vaitarini so that he sinks and floats in it by turns. Thus they take him to the presence of the Lord of Death (Yama). Thereafter, undergoing all kinds of suffering in punishments for his sins which can only be experienced by him through it. If, somehow, he does not take birth, owing to the force of the accumulated store of psychic associations (Vasanas), he wanders about as a spirit, ghost or ghoul and suffers the attendant sufferings.
Now listen further: One who betrays his teachers or guru and one who puts pious Brahmins to shame becomes a brahmaraakshasa. One who serves mean fellows will be born as an ass. One who eats alone, leaving his unexpected guest (athithis) hungry will take birth as a hen. He who steals other’s money will be born as a camel. He who pilfers fruits, leaves and vegetables will take birth as a monkey. One who steals honey will become a bird in his next life. Stealing of flesh makes one a raven. One who steals cooked rice will be born as a rat; and the one who steals water will take birth as a chaataka bird. One who commits theft of food grains will become a locust. By stealing gold, one will be born among the grass-eating cattle. One who eats food without consecrating it with appropriate mantra will be a crow in his next life. One who betrays a friend will be a kite. The boastful one will take birth as a crane.
He who hurts the feelings of others will suffer from diseases of the heart in his next life. He who deserts his guru and who steals gold will suffer from leprosy. He who tortures pious Brahmins will be overtaken by consumption in his future life. He who steals others’ books will be born blind. He who betrays trust through ingratitude will suffer from nausea and vomiting. He who misappropriates public money will suffer chronic disease of the glands of his neck (ganda roga). He who usurps others of their wealth will have no children in his next life. One who steals garments will be a leper. He who utters falsehood or scandalizes others or steals food – these three types of sinners will suffer from diseases of the spleen. Theft of oil makes one suffer from stinking diseases of the mouth. Theft of bronze and iron will make one suffer from white leprosy. He who swallows the funds of temples and shrines will be born anaemic.
Indeed, Oh, Namadharaka, all the diseases are consequences of past sins. He who embraces a woman who does not legitimately belong to him will be born a hundred times a dog. He who willfully steals the sight of private parts of a woman will be born blind. He who entices the wives of his relatives will become an ass and a snake. He who embraces others’ women with bad intent will suffer heart pain in his next life. He who entices and cohabits with the wife of his uncle or friend will be born as a dog. Women too, when they commit such sins as adultery will suffer like punishments in the future births”.
As Sree Guru went on, Trivikrama asked him, “Holy Sir, if once anyone, knowingly or unknowingly, commits any of these sins, is there no means at all of salvation from the same? Is one condemned to go through this miserable round of births?”
Sree Guru smiled and replied, ‘My son, Trivikrama, the sins that accrue from one’s previous misdeeds can be washed off through hearty repentance, through penitentiary religious acts and by confessing one’s sins in the public assembly and by gladly receiving the punishment thereof as per the judgment of the elders. If one is really not capable of observing the penitentiary vows, he can save himself by giving away a cow or its price as gift to a pious Brahmin. Part of the sins can also be undone by taking the ‘ten-baths’ (dasa-snaana), by performing 200 praanaayaamas and by gifting away gold. But by devoutly serving the Sadguru, even very great sins will vanish. Indeed, there is no better means than this.
Now I shall explain to you a few of the penitentiary vows (Vratas) enjoined in the Sastras.
Praajaapatya Krichra Vrata: For three days, one takes food only in the day and fasts at night. During the next three days, he fasts during the day and eats only at night. For three days thereafter, he accepts whatever food comes to him unasked, as the Lord’s gift (prasad). Then for three days hence, he has to fast completely.
One who is incapable of observing such a vow can, instead, do japa of the Gayatri mantra 10,000 times; then he should offer ghee as oblation to sacred fire with the chanting of Gayatri Mantra 1000 times. Then he has to feed 12 pious Brahmins and offer them cows and money (dakshina) as gifts. Those who cannot afford to gift away cows can offer money instead, to the best of their ability along with a small quantity of gold.
Chaandraayana Vrata: In the brighter half of the lunar month, one should take only one morsel (i.e., mouthful) of food on the first day; two on the second day and so on. Thus he should go on increasing the number of morsels of food. From the next day of the darker phase of the moon, he should go on reducing the number of morsels again by one per day, so that he takes 14 morsels on the 14th day (i.e., the day before the new moon day). As the food intake is increased and reduced as per the phases of the moon, it is called the Chaandraayana Vrata. Through its performance, one can undo his earlier sins to some extent.
The right manner of taking food consists in partaking twelve morsels in the day and fifteen at night. This is sufficient to maintain the body in perfect health. By eating only a little food for one month, or subsisting on only milk will also purify a man from his sins to some extent. When leaves of Bel (Bilwa) tree, peepul twigs, lotuses and darbha grass are put in water and the water is used for bathing, it removes some of the sins. Pilgrimages also purify a man, though partially. Holy dip in the Ganga or in the sea at Rameshwar, the performance of japa and other spiritual practices in holy places will cleanse one of even the sin of killing a pious Brahmin.
The following sins can be annihilated through the corresponding japa of the Gayatri mantra.
No. of japa Sins destroyed
10,000,000 Killing a Brahmin
800,000 Adultery with the Guru’s wife
700,000 Stealing Gold
Sastras enjoin the chanting of the following portions of the Vedas for one month for the annihilation of all sins: the 610 Pavamaani Suukhtas, the two suukthas of Indra and Mitra, the Sunassepa Suukhtas commencing with “Kasyanunam”, Santhi Suukhtas like “Samna Indra”, the Suukhtas of “Thrisuparna”, paurusham Naachiketam and Aghamarshanam. One who has committed all the major sins (Mahaapaapas) has to do the same, but for six months.
The pacification of all sins to some extent can be achieved by sipping water in which darbha grass is kept and by partaking the pancha gavya (or the five products of the cow viz., its urine, dung, milk, curd and ghee i.e., classified butter). If both the husband and wife have committed sins, then both of them have to observe the penitentiary vows. Even if one has not personally committed sins, but associated himself with sinners, he shares them. Such a one has to observe the penitentiary vows.
Namadharaka, mark this one truth carefully: Suppose a pot is full of toddy, and it is placed in the river Ganga, however long it is kept like that, the liquor does not escape from the pot, nor does a drop of the holy Ganga water enter the pot! So too, if one is not devoted to Lord Vishnu (the all-pervading Divine), his sins are not washed away by any number of penitentiary vows he may observe. One has to observe the vows with faith in, and devotion to, the Lord. In the absence of faith and devotion, it is useless to observe these vows,” So said Sree Guru to the fallen Brahmin and added, “You have deserted your parents in your previous birth. So you are now born as a Chandala in this life. If you take bath every day at the Sangama, you will be purified.”
The Chandala said,” Lord, I am already purified by the Ganga-like current of your grace. Henceforth, may I be made a member of the Brahmin community”. Sree Guru replied: “My son, if the impurity of your physical constitution is totally dispelled, that will certainly be possible. I shall recount the story of sage Viswamitra which pertains to this truth: In ancient days, Viswamitra who was a Kshatriya by caste, wished to become a Brahmarshi and did intense Tapas. Then gods granted him their vision and directed him to serve sage Vasishta in order to realize his ambition. Accordingly, he approached the sage and prayed that he be accepted as a Brahmarshi. But the latter did not agree to do so for the raajasik nature still existed in him. Viswamitra grew angry with him and killed all the hundred sons of Vasishta with the spiritual power acquired by tapas. Indeed, he wished to kill the sage too, but was afraid of his brahmic power i.e., totally sattvic nature of his tapasic power. Subsequently he prayed to the sage in repentance, and as per his order, did tapas for thousands of divine years. Again, owing to his infatuation with the divine damsel Menaka, all his tapas came to naught. Again he did Tapas with redoubled resolution and finally, he became a Brahmarshi. You too shall be born a Brahmin in your next life.”
The man prostrated to the feet of Sree Guru and said, ‘Once a piece of iron is alchemized into gold, it will be henceforth regarded as gold only and not as iron. So too, by the power of your grace I have become a Brahmin. So please rehabilitate me in that caste’. Sree Guru then ordered one of his disciples to bathe the man in the river. When he was so bathed, the man totally forgot all that had happened a little earlier and went away as the fallen man he already was. Then Trivikrama Bharati asked Sree Guru, ‘Lord! Why did the man go away as a fallen one in spite of the fact that he was graced by you and sanctified by the bath in the holy river?” The Master replied, ‘The earlier revelation he had was due to the spiritual power of holy ash that was applied to his body. As soon as he bathed in the river, the ash was washed away and with it, his knowledge of his previous lives too. So he went away as he was earlier.’ Then Trivikrama requested the Guru to expound the virtues of holy ash in greater detail. The latter recounted the following story from the Puranas.
“Once upon a time, sage Vaamadeva was wandering about in his supreme state of Gnana, immersed as he was in Brahmananda, quite detached from all touch of worldliness. When he was passing through a dense forest, a Brahmaraakshasa attacked him with the intent of devouring him. The moment the latter touched the sage’s body he was uplifted from the miserable state of existence and at once the memory of his previous existences dawned in him. So he bowed to the sage and said:
“Swami, I was a king in one of my previous lives. Then I was blinded by pride of wealth and lust. I enjoyed sex pleasures with all kinds of women – be they poor or rich and of every caste or social status. The people of my land feared that their women were not safe in my realm and so migrated to other parts of the land along with their families. I died after sometime and suffered untold torments in hell along with the spirits of my ancestors. When the sufferings I was due to experience with my subtle body were through, I again took twenty four births on earth in different forms. The sequence of my births was: a tiger, python, wolf, pig, dog, fox, stag, wild foul, monkey, mongoose, crow, bear, cock, cat, donkey, frog, tortoise, fish, bandicoot, owl and elephant. In my twenty fifth birth which is the present, I have become a Brahmaraakshasa. Having reaped the full consequences of my evil acts, I have contacted you now and thereby gained this noble transformation. The ancient saying, ‘The religious merit of seeing sages are great; that their touch is destructive of sin’ is now confirmed in my case. Now, noble Sir, please tell me, what is the cause of present transformation and uplift?”
The sage replied, ‘My son, owing to contact with the sacred ash on my body, you have gained the knowledge of your previous existences. This ash was bestowed on my by Lord Shiva Himself. The power of the holy ash is indeed unimaginable. Once upon a time, a Brahmin who was being dragged by the attendant angels of Death to the terrible hells was saved by the touch of the holy ash. At once he was taken by the attendants of deities of Lord Shiva to the blessed Shivaloka and he attained one-ness with the Lord.’
On hearing of it, the erstwhile Brahmaraakshasa prayed to the sage Vaamadeva: Is this holy ash so hallowed? Indeed, I long to besmear myself with it at all times. Please enlighten me regarding its preparation and the prescribed method of applying it to my body. When I was a king, I arranged means of living to several pious Brahmins. I got wells sunk wherever there was water scarcity. Perhaps, such noble deeds have secured for me this meeting with you, once the consequences of my previous misdeeds were exhausted’.
Sage Vaamadeva went on: ‘My son, in ancient times, sage Sanathkumara went to the Supreme Lord and prayed to Him, “Oh three-eyed and the five-headed one, thou shiniest with the with the glory of the weapons in your ten hands, which ever chastise the wicked; thou the wearer of the serpent as your sacred thread, thou dressed in a tiger’s skin! The crescent moon shines on thy brow. Thou with your head covered by matted locks which are sanctified by holy Ganga, thou the Supreme Lord, the One ever united with the Mother of Creation, thou in-dweller of your devotees’ hearts, I prostrate to your feet again and again. Thou Ocean of Mercy, the Cause of the whole creation! The various kinds of yoga practices and religious sacrifices enumerated in the Sastras of yore for the liberation of the souls bound in ignorance are very difficult to practice. So, Oh Lord, teach us an easier means of attaining that goal and crossing this ocean of misery of phenomenal existence”.
Lord Shiva was well phased with his adoration and said, “My son Sanathkumara, the easiest means of attaining liberation is the proper use of holy ash. All of one’s sins are destroyed merely by the application of the ash to one’s body in the prescribed manner which is as follows: The holy ashes of a religious fire-sacrifice or ashes made from cow dung-cakes should be fetched. It should be consecrated by chanting such mantras as the one commencing ‘Bhasmaagnim’. Then it should be applied to forehead and other parts of the body by holding it with the thumb and the index fingers, and chanting the mantra commencing ‘Trayayusham’. Thus three beautiful lines (horizontal) will be drawn on the forehead. These are called the Bhasma Tripundras. They signify the three sounds (A,U,M), the ‘Trinity of Gods’, the three Gunas, the three souls (Jivatma, Pratyagatma, and Paramatma), the three powers, the three chandases (metres), the three Vedas, the three realms or states (lokas) of existence, the Trishavanas (ritual baths at dawn, noon and sunset). This holy ash burns up one’s sins. All can wear it in this matter. Even if one does not know the relevant mantras and is an ignorant one, if he wears it with faith and reverence, it will be as efficacious. There is no other thing which will help to attain liberation. One who has reviled at cows or ladies of another’s family, or one who has betrayed them, one who spoils full grown crops, one who purposely hurts the minds of others, one who sets houses on fire, one who sells such holy things as betel leaves and Vedas, one who is given to uttering falsehood, one who accepts base things from persons of a base temperament, one who commits adultery with widows and Sudra women – all those who commit such other sins as these, either knowingly or unknowingly, if they regularly apply holy ash with faith and reverence, shall be liberated. The darbha (or Kusa) grass which is capable of securing all the (four) objects of man’s efforts, the holy ash and rudrakshas – by wearing these, one becomes worthy of honors even in the divine realms of existence (heaven). It needs no mention that the holy ash which can annihilate the sins of thousands of past lives can eradicate all diseases. By wearing the holy ash, one can secure all the higher states of existence (lokas) and gradually attain to Kailasa (the highest loka, the abode of Lord Shiva). This is the easiest means which you have wished to know.” Thus has the Supreme Lord expounded to sage Sanathkumara.’ So saying, sage Vaamadeva offered a little of the holy ash to the erstwhile Brahmaraakshasa and told him to apply it to his body. The moment he did so, he left off his body of a Rakshasa and was liberated. Anon came a heavenly aerial vehicle, took him in and left. So, Trivikrama, apply the sacred ash to your body with full awareness of all I have told you”.
Trivikrama agreed to do so, prostrated to Sree Guru and went away.