CHAPTER – 17
Namadharaka was enthralled by the account of the divine acts of Sree Guru and said, “Swami, when the young man Datta died on the way to Gandharvapura, and when his wife Savitri was lamenting, a sadhu came to her and expounded to her the most opportune and precious teaching. Who was he?”
Siddha replied: “Namadharaka, listen to what happened next and you will know it; after the young man Datta was brought back to life, the youthful pair stayed away at the holy Sangama (as an act of their grateful devotion to Sree Guru). The next morning, Savitri again took darshan of Sree Guru and asked him the very same question and the Great Master replied:
‘My daughter, I myself came to you in the form of that sadhu and tested your mettle. You were blessed (in that you had my darshan, teaching and prasad; also because you were able to stand up to the highest ideals of womanhood). You did not seek to advantage of the convenient portions of my teaching and timidly opt for a life of widowhood, out of fear of death. Your unswerving love and devotion to your husband have prompted you to choose only Sahagamana, which is capable of securing the greatest good to his departed soul. Only because you have rigorously, but out of unbounded spontaneous love for your husband, pursued the vow of paativratya ever since you were married, you could so effortlessly and fearlessly court your death by self-immolation on his funeral pyre. Out of appreciation of your ideal conduct, I chose to alter the very writ of Brahma the Creator. You are indeed blessed.’
Savitri then said: ‘Holy Sir, in the form of that sadhu, you have given me some rudrakshas. May you be pleased to expound to me the efficacy of the same’. Sree Guru replied, ‘My daughter, your dear husband was brought back to life by the divine power of those rudrakshas. Their power is in fact limitless. That is why; they have come to be the ornaments of Lord Shiva himself. They can bestow even liberation from birth and death for those who are ever mindful of their power of holiness. Wearing them, one wins the religious merit of having bathed in the holy river Ganga. They contain very valuable medicinal substances. Just as Lord Shiva wears the sacred ash on his body and bears the holy Ganga on his head, he wears thousands of rudrakshas on his person. If anyone wears them on his body with faith and reverence for the, or performs japa with a rosary of rudrakshas, or even simply wears them on his body, his sins are annihilated and purity accrues to him. One who wears them with full faith is unconquerable even to the deities. He who cannot utilize such an easy but effective means of spiritual unfoldment is indeed a beast. The proper manner of wearing them is 32 rudrakshas around the neck, 40 around the tuft of hair, 1 between the eyebrows, 24 around the forearms and 107 about the chest. Now listen to an ancient legend that brings out their greatness:
Once there was a king named Bhadrasena in Kashmir. He and his minister had a son each. The two lads used to spurn precious ornaments as of little worth as pebbles, but they used to wear rudrakshas with the utmost faith and reverence. The king wondered at their strange ways and once, when he took darshan of sage Paraashara, asked him about the two boys. The great sage who is uplifted with mystical knowledge explained thus:
“Bhadrasena, once there lived a beautiful courtesan in the ancient township of Nandigrama. She was very rich and used to give away huge amounts to the poor and the pious as gifts. As she was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, she adorned even her tow pets, a cock and a monkey, with rudrakshas and kept these creatures in her dance hall. One day, Lord Shiva appeared at her threshold, in the guise of a wealthy merchant, in order to test her faith. On seeing his pious and learned demeanour, the courtesan sent word to him through her female attendant, ‘If you would offer me the entire religious merit of your devout study of the Vedas, I shall live and serve you like a devoted wife for three days and abide by every wish of yours.’ On hearing this, the merchant spoke lightly of her virtue: ‘How can a courtesan ever have the truthfulness and dedication like a devout house wife?’ Then the courtesan stepped forward, swore by the holy Shiva Linga that she would live up to her promise in thought, word and deed. Accepting the challenge, the wealthy visitor swore by the sun and the moon that he would keep up his part of the agreement and, as a token of accepting her as his legitimate wife, tied a bracelet round her wrist and gave her a precious Shiva Linga as his wedding gift. She too kept the Linga in the court hall and pleased him in every way like a true wife.
One day during the stipulated period, the mansion caught fire and was completely burnt down, along with the cock, monkey and the merchant. Then the courtesan, not heeding the dissuasions of her kinsfolk, gave away all her wealth in charity, bowed to the sun god who is the eternal witness of all pledges, and leaped into the flames by way of Sahagamana, as a devoted wife does. Then the Lord appeared before her in his real form and said, “I have tested you. Though you are a courtesan by the accident of your birth, at heart you are a true wife. Seek any blessing and I shall grant your wish!’ She prayed to him for external proximity of Lord Shiva, both for her and for her kinsfolk and he granted the same at once. That pet monkey is now reborn as your son, oh king, and the cock is reborn as son of your minister. However, by virtue of the subtle psychological tendencies of their former lives, they now love to wear nothing but rudrakshas.”
Then king Bhadrasena enquired of the sage regarding the future prospects of his son. The great sage Paraashara said: “Your son will die on the seventh day hence. Yet, do not fear. For Lord Rudra is the Savior.
At first, Brahma so made the creatures that by introversion of the special senses and by discrimination; they would be able to practice righteousness. On the other hand, he created unrighteousness as the result of indiscrimination and extroversion of the senses. It is Devendra (or Indra) who protects righteousness and it is Yamadharma raja who punishes creatures for their unrighteousness. The attendants of Death are indeed lust and rancor. It is through their agency that Yamadharma raja drags sinners to his realm of death. These moral failings like lust assail the intellect, mind and the organs of sense and drag the weak willed to the world of death. But they cannot affect the Self (Atman), which is essentially eternal.
Brahma delivered the Yajurveda from his southern face and from it, Lord Rudra, in the form of the hymn called Rudra Suktha. Those who devoutly recite the latter with full knowledge of its meaning and firm faith in its divine power are never touched by lust and other failings. That is why, all mortals began to chant it everyday. Eventually, there came a time when there were no longer any sinners on earth. The realm of Death fell into disuse and looked deserted. The god of Death complained of it to Brahma and the latter showed him a way of regaining his way over at least some souls, by ordaining thus, ‘He who chants Vedas with irreverence i.e., while dozing, standing, walking, after drinking, or even simply without faith in its holiness will be a sinner against God Himself. You may legitimately drag them to your world and chastise them for their sins. Hence the Lord, conqueror of Death is the only true Savior of souls. Therefore, you get abhishek (bathing the Shiva Linga with water and other precious materials in honour of Lord Shiva) performed by pious and learned Brahmins. If you do so, your son will be saved from certain death.”
The king Bhadrasena did accordingly. On the seventh day, as per the prophecy of the great sage, the attendants of Death arrived there to drag the soul of the prince to that kingdom. Even at their approach and their subtle and invisible presence, the prince fainted. Then the priests sprinkled on him the holy water with which Rudrabhisheka was performed. At once the attendants of Lord Shiva arrived, drove away the attendants of Yama and thus saved the young prince from certain death. The king who was happy beyond all bounds gave away liberal gifts of money to the priests and, having sent them away, took darshan of sage Paraashara. In the meanwhile, the divine sage Narada appeared there and explained to the king, whatever had happened at the crucial hour in the subtler supra-sensuous plane and added: “Yama questioned his divine accountant of the merits and sins of all souls, Chitragupta, as to how the son of Bhadrasena, who was destined to die at that time owing to his previous karma, happened to be spared his life. The latter then showed the divine writ which clearly stated that the prince would be saved from untimely death by the sacred power of the rudraksha and that he would live on to the full span of life. Thus is was evident that when the counsel of sage Paraashara was obeyed, the power of the rudraksha saved the life of the prince so that the holy writ of Brahma the Creator Himself was altered, as explained by Sree Guru earlier. Then Narada blessed the king and went away.
Then Savitri said to Sree Guru: ‘I am blessed by your very darshan. However, please initiate me with a sacred mantra, so that I could always remember you with un flickering attention’. Sree Guru replied: ‘My daughter, for a woman, unwavering devotion to her husband is the only proper salvation. That is why no mantra should ever be taught to a woman. Listen:
In ancient times, there was a terrible war between the gods and the demons. As soon as some demons were killed, their guru Shukraacharya was reviving them again with the power of his mantra called Mrita Sanjeevini. On seeing this, Devendra, the king of the gods, was scared and prayed to Lord Shiva. The latter swallowed Shukraacharya himself. But the guru of the demons emerged in his subtle form along with urine from Shiva’s body and again resumed his mission of reviving the demons killed in the war. Then Devendra approached the guru of the gods, sage Brihaspathi, and sought his counsel. The latter determined that the only way open, was to neutralize the efficacy of the Mrita Sanjeevini mantra itself and he employed his own son Kacha for the secret mission.
One day, the wise young man Kacha went to the hermitage of sage Shukraacharya and sought to be accepted as his disciple. The latter hesitated, but when his handsome daughter Devayaani who was enamored of Kacha insisted, he acceded, out of extreme fondness for her. Some of the shrewd demons suspected Kacha’s intention and warned Shukraacharya. As he did not heed their counsel, they secretly killed Kacha. When Devayaani was grief-stricken Shukraacharya, in order to cheer her, revived Kacha. Next time, the demons killed Kacha, burned his body, mixed the ashes in liquor and made Shukraacharya drink it. Devayaani was again disconsolate. Unable to stand her grief, Shukraacharya learned through his yogic vision that Kacha was within his stomach in the form of ash. He said to his daughter in utter helplessness, “If Kacha is revived, he will emerge from my belly and I will die. Then no one can raise me back to life, as none buy I know the needed mantra.” Devayaani pressed her contention saying, “Teach me the mantra and I shall bring back to life with its help.” Shukraacharya, out of extreme fondness for her, did so and thereby the mantra lost its entire efficacy. Thus Kacha’s mission was a success. That is why no woman should be initiated with a mantra. You may, in its stead, undertake some other spiritual practice if you wish.
Savitri then said, ‘In such a case, please teach me a vow or some ritual practice, as your memento’. Sree Guru replied, “A vow which can help anyone to win salvation is Somavaara Vrata i.e., Monday-Vow. I shall illustrate its efficacy: In ancient times, in the land of Aryaavarta in North India, there ruled a king named Chitravarma. He was blessed with a daughter who was a paragon of all virtues, by the grace of Lord Shiva. When her father enquired of her future prospect, many of the astrologers asserted that she would live all her life as a housewife. But one among them put forth the opposite view and said that she would be widowed very early. The king was much depressed on hearing it. When the child grew up to be a girl of 12, she too heard of it and she was much dejected. She at once approached the great woman sage Maitreyi and begged her to teach her a way out of the ominous prospect. Maitreyi said: “Perform the Somavaara Vrata and its presiding deity Lord Shiva, will protect you. The procedure is as follows: Fast during day time on a Monday and worship the Lord at night; dinner is optional. The abhisheka offered during the ritual worship destroys sins; worship of the pedestal bestows empire in a future birth; sandal offering bestows the good fortune of being a life long house-wife; the incense offering bestows Saugandhya, the offering of light bestows devotion and faith; betel and nut offering bestows wealth; salutation bestows all the Purusharthas (the legitimate objects of life). The offering of the mind through japa bestows lordship (Aiswarya); by offering food to pious and learned Brahmins is obtained all sided contentment; by offering dakshina (money) one accrues much money; Stotra or glorification of the Lord with appropriate verses bestows heaven after death.
Later the maiden was married to a prince named Chitraangada. The king kept the happy pair with himself. One day, the prince went out for a swim in river Kalindi and was drowned. Even his dead body could not be discovered. The princess resolved to perform Sahagamana but everyone forcibly prevented her from doing so. So she undertook the vow of performing Somavaara Vrata every Monday throughout her life. When Chitraangada was drowned, there he was rescued by the river nymphs of the nether world (Naga Kanyas) and they led him to their Lord Vasuki, the serpent King. The latter lovingly poured ambrosia in the mouth of the unconscious prince and brought him back to life. Later Vasuki learned of his family background and of his devotion to Lord Shiva. Then with great love and reverence sent him home on the back of a heavenly horse. Thus the prince repaired to his young wife and kinsfolk and lived very happily. Somavaara Vrata is so efficacious. So you may observe it”.
Savitri then and there observed the Vrata in the company of her husband. Later, with the consent of Sree Guru, she left for Mahurapura. Henceforth, every year she used to visit Sree Guru for his darshan and to receive his blessing. With his grace, the happy pair attained both worldly and heavenly joys. Namadharaka, in this way, Lord Dattatreya, who is of the essence of the highest good of all existence, appeared in the human form as Sree Guru and protected his devotees. Besides, by his wanderings he sanctified the very earth,’ Siddha concluded.