CHAPTER – 19
Namadharaka asked, “Holy Sir, Sree Guru has already expounded the paths of Gnana (Wisdom) and Karma (Disciplined Activity), which are self-sufficient; why then did he find it necessary to expound the Path of Bhakti (Devotion) too?”
Sree Guru explained: “Of all the Paths, Bhakti is the best. That is the only means of accomplishing anything. Hence it is indispensable for all. In fact, Bhakti, Gnana and Karma are not distinct from one another. They form a unity and assist each other in leading us to Brahmajnaana (Perfection of Wisdom). The latter cannot be achieved by any one of the paths alone.
The devotee who is ever vigilant, and have a Sattvic nature, is the dearest to the Lord. The man devoid of Bhakti would be lost in the Ocean of phenomenal existence, even though he is assiduous in practicing the Karma yoga. As man’s faith in and devotion to god grows stronger, he becomes more and more disinterested in worldly things. Only such a one can pursue the life of virtue and righteousness that is dear to God. Then his heart gets purer and he becomes fit for Wisdom. Only one who can achieve such a synthesis of Bhakti, Gnana and Karma can realize Non action. Thereby, he will be freed from the bondage of action. Now, listen to the stories of the Beloved of the Faithful, and steadfast devotion will strike root in your heart:
Every day, some devotee or the other used to visit the Master and invite him and his disciples to lunch. Once a poor man by name Bhaskara Sharma arrived with provisions of food enough for only three persons. But before he could arrange bhiksha for the Master, some one or the other used to do so, and Bhaskara Sharma used to join the band of guests. Three months passed thus. His fellow disciples started insinuating him that he was making a living for himself thus, on the pretext of offering bhiksha to Sree Guru.
At last, Sree Guru came to know of this and said to Bhaskara Sharma: “Today you arrange bhiksha for me and all the disciples including yourself!” The latter was immensely happy. He fetched vegetables and prepared the food. The Master then ordered him to invite all for lunch. When he did so, they heckled him saying, “We are more numerous than the grains of food you have cooked! How dare you invite all of us?”
When poor Bhaskara Sharma communicated the same to Sree Guru, the holy one himself personally commanded all of them to join him at lunch. In perfect obedience to his word, all of them took baths, washed their dishes and turned up. As per the Master’s order, the food was consecrated and then, as behoves a cultured host, Bhaskara Sharma entreated all of them, ‘Pray all of you, young and old, lunch to your hearts’ content’. When the food was being served, it was found that though the preparations were meager, what was actually being served was enormous in quantity. Even after it was served to many people, what was still left in the vessels was as much as at first prepared! Everyone ate to his full. Then the Master ordered that the poor, and even the other creatures like crows and dogs, should be fed. At last, after ascertaining that none was left unfed, he threw the rest of the food to the fish in the river. So plentiful was the food available!
All those who partook of that day’s feast were astounded to recollect how incredibly delicious were the dishes served on that day. They said, “We heard that once, when the Pandavas were in deep distress, Lord Krishna came to their rescue by feeding the large group of sages who arrived as their guests, by his divine power. Now we have witnessed the same miracle. Though the food prepared was scanty, the number of people fed today has exceeded four thousand. Though Bhaskara Sharma served the Lord for hardly three months, he has proved to be a true disciple. Thus has he earned such grace from the Master! Then they glorified the divine power of Sree Guru.
Now listen to another event: There was a barren lady of sixty years named Ganga. She used to visit the Master everyday and serve him with faith. One day, pleased by her loving service, Sree Guru said, ‘What is your heart’s wish?’ She replied: ‘it has been declared by the Sastras that those who are not blessed with sons have no hope of attaining heaven. And that the souls of even those pf their ancestors who, by virtue of their merits, have attained heaven, lose their blissful state and fall to a lower state. Hence, barren as I am, I am much alarmed at my plight. Sree Guru said: ‘Owing to the force of your Karma, you are caught deep in the ocean of delusion. Now that such wisdom has awakened in your heart, you shall be blessed with two sons’. Amazed at his words she said, ‘I have ever been a born-barren woman. Yet, by your grace I shall be blessed with motherhood’. As a token of his pledge, she tied the end of her garment in a knot and continued: ‘All my life was spent in the observance of religious vows in the fond hope of being blessed with sons. With a superstitious persistence have I circumambulated the peepul (ficus religiosa) and worshipped it with due ceremony!’ Sree Guru retorted: ‘what you say is a falsehood! Once Lord Brahma said to sage Narada:
“Divine Sage! Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and I ever reside in a peepul tree. All the deities inhabit its branches. The oceans exist in the twigs. All the sacred rivers dwell in the branches. Sacred cows, religious sacrifices (yagnas), the great sages and even the Vedas dwell in its tender leaves. The peepul tree that is so holy should be duly consecrated and worshipped. One should not touch it during night, at twilight hours and during the time of rain, One should observe such vows as of continence and silence with all of one’s mind, word and deed and then worship the sacred tree. You must besmear the lower part of its trunk with cow dung and chant the Swasthi Mantra. Then you should bathe it and worship it according to your means. You should contemplate Lord Vishnu with his eight divine arms. Then, either while repeating the Divine Name or chanting a mantra, you should circumambulate it with a slow and steady pace. Both at the commencement and the completion of each circumambulated, you should bow to it with a concentrated mind. If you do so, poverty, delirium, danger, sin and other kinds of suffering will be terminated. Every step that is taken around the tree with full faith will be as efficacious as the performance of the Aswamedha sacrifice. If you chant the mantra of Saturn, the tormentation by spirits will be ended. If the Rudramantra is recited, fear of death will be averted. The fruit of feeding pious and learned Brahmins thereafter, bathing, japa and performance of religious sacrifice underneath it is indeed unbounded. Wishes for sons and grand children will be granted. He who plants a peepul tree will be elevating his entire lineage to heaven. As many pious Brahmins as one tenth of the number of circumambulations should be fed and, a golden image of a peepul tree, a cow and gingely (thill) seeds should be given away as daana. If you do these, your wish will be fulfilled. Therefore, take a dip in the Sangama and worship the tree there accordingly. You will be blessed with two sons.’
Ganga said, ‘Sir, now I am sixty years old. Yet, I shall, upon your word, do so with faith’ and then she commenced her daily circumambulations. On the fourth day, at night, Sree Guru appeared in her dream and said, ‘After worshipping the tree, eat the fruit which Sree Guru gives you and you shall be blessed with offspring’. She at once woke up and informed her husband of her dream and continued her avowed adorations with greater zeal. One day, the Master gave her two fruits and said, ‘after completing your vow, give away proper gifts and then eat these fruits. In the earlier ages (yugas), there were different kinds of children. In this age of Kali, only those born of one’s womb and those who are adopted are considered as one’s sons. It is said that even at the very sight of one’s begotten son, the parents are assured of heaven hereafter. You shall be blessed with two sons. This will be the fruit of serving me with faith’.
Ganga went home and did as Sree Guru directed her. After a few days, she had her first menses ever and, after her purificatory bath on the fourth day, she went for the Guru’s darshan, along with her husband. After returning home, that night, she conceived. All the people in the village were astonished and praised her good fortune.
Her husband, Somnath, got the appropriate religious ceremonies (pumsavana) etc., performed. At the proper time she delivered a girl child. Astrologers predicted that the girl would come to be a pativrata who, through paativratya, shall elevate all her kinsfolk in holiness. When the child was twelve days old, the elderly parents took her for darshan of Sree Guru, placed her at his feet, prostrated to him and said, ‘the family tree that has been barren has borne fruit by your blessing. If the fruit proves to be good, all the passers by along life’s path would be benefited. Indeed, barrenness is better than having wicked offspring’. Sree Guru caressed the tender child and said, ‘what the astrologers have foretold of her will come true. This time, do you wish to have a dullard of a son who will live a hundred years, or a son who will be a bright, learned one, but who will have a shorter span of life?’ The old couple submitted that they wished to be blessed with a son who will be learned and pious, though of a shorter life. Sree Guru blessed them accordingly and sent them away. In course of time, she had two sons. In this way, the barren lady, Ganga, became a mother by serving the Master with unwavering faith.
With the passage of time, her children grew up to be wealthy ones and they too, in their turn, had several children and, after their death, attained heavenly realms. Their daughter too, as per the blessing of the Great Master, grew up to be an ideal housewife and reached higher states of being, along with her husband. But such good fortune accrues only to those endowed with zeal and faith. Those devoid of these qualities, just as the born-blind cannot see the sun, fail to win divine grace. The happy couple renounced worldly ties, donned ochre robes and dedicated the rest of their lives to the service of the Master. Thereby, they attained liberation.
So too, a man named Narahari Sharma was afflicted with leprosy. He surrendered himself to Sree Guru and submitted, ‘oh Lord Hari, thou the very being of Bliss ultimate, you love your devotees as your own children. I have heard of your fame and come to you for succors. The learned Brahmins consider it a sin even to look at my face. Even the austerities I have practiced in holy places and my prayers have not cured my fell disease. Pray, heal my illness by your grace. If you too say you cannot do so, I have no other choice other than committing suicide in your holy presence, in the hope that at least in my next life I shall win religious merit!’
The Master’s heart was moved and said, ‘even though disease is a consequence of your wicked deeds in a past life, it will be wiped out. If you have faith in my word, plant the dead branch of a fig tree at the Sangama and go on watering it every day. You will be healed on the day the stumps put forth leaves!’
Narahari Sharma started doing as he was directed. All those who beheld the absurd act of Narahari commented: ‘you are an irreparable sinner and hence the Master has meant his order only as a sort of unending punishment. Else, how can a dead branch put forth leaves again? May be, the swami only implied that your disease, which is a consequence of past sins, cannot possibly be eradicated.’ However, Narahari stuck to the Master’s order and persevered in his efforts. When someone reported what was he doing to Sree Guru, he said; ‘he does it right and he shall be relieved, by virtue of his steadfast faith. There is no other effective means in this world than faith. The Mantra, a Brahmin priest, an astrologer, or a physician and the Guru-men derive their benefit from these, only according to their faith in them. In this regard, sage Suuta told the sages:
“Once upon a time, there lived a king named Simhaketu. He had a son named Dhanumjaya. One day, the latter went to a forest for hunting and, when he was tired by the chase, he rested in an old, dilapidated shrine of Lord Shiva. He had a tribal man, by name Sabara, as his attendant. He fetched a Shiva Linga and asked him for instruction in the proper manner of worshipping it. The king said, ‘in the company of your wife, worship it in a clean place. Besmear your body with the ashes of a funeral pyre and then distribute prasad’ and then he proceeded to explain the details of the ritual worship.
Thereafter, Sabara worshipped the Shiva Linga accordingly everyday. One day, he could not secure the ash from a funeral pyre and was much upset at it. His wife addressed him thus: “My lord, this my physical frame is consecrated for the accomplishment of dharma (righteousness). You may burn my body, thus secure the needed ash and offer it to Lord Shiva. Leave your vain infatuation for my body; I shall sacrifice the transcient body to achieve the eternal nearness to Lord Shiva. After all, (as per the Hindu law) my body is but a half of your own!” and she even insisted. Then the man bolted her inside the hutment and set fire to it. Afterwards, he offered the ash of her burnt out body to Lord Shiva and then besmeared his own body with it. After the ritual worship, at the time of distribution of the prasad, by the force of daily habit, he called out her name too. The wonder of it, she came forth as usual and received the prasad! And his hut was in front of him as before. In amazement, he questioned her about it and she replied, ‘I just feel as if I awoke from deep slumber; I know nothing else!’ Then both of them realized the power of Lord Shiva and glorified him heartily. The lord appeared in front of them and blessed them with joys. Such is the power of Bhakti”.
So saying, Sree Guru sent the people away. Then on his way to the Sangama for his bath, he threw the water in his water-vessel (kamandalu) on the dead branch of the fig tree, which was tended by Narahari. Lo, it at once put forth tender leaves, and as instantly did Narahari’s leprosy vanish. The latter was amazed and, overwhelmed by intense faith and devotion, he glorified Sree Guru thus: “Lord! Your splendor is that like of a million suns, yet thy grace is as cool and pleasant as that of a million moons. You are worshipful even for gods and you are the repository of the whole universe. I shall ever meditate on you who are the bestower of all wishes. You are like the Sun to the darkness of cosmic illusion. I bow to thee. You are free from any qualities, yet you are with them! Worthy of being served by your devotees, you are the bestower of boons; I bow to thee. You are like a lion to the six internal enemies like lust, which are like full-grown bull-elephants. You are the very embodiment of Bliss Absolute. I shall meditate on you who have manifested yourself to protect righteousness. Thou bestower of wishes and the cause of all existence, I shall ever worship thee. Thou lotus eyed one, the bearer of the staff and kamandalu, the Merciful One, I seek refuge in you. You are the object of knowledge of Vedanta; you have the sun, moon and fire as your three eyes. You are the nature of Naada, Bindu and Kalaa, the dispeller of the fire of craving. I bow to thee. You are the destroyer of misery, fear and suffering and bestower of yoga. Thou inhabitant of the banks of rivers Krishna and the five Gangas, I shall serve you. Thou without a beginning, a middle or an end, thou of inscrutable power, the Absolute Self, thou whom neither the mind can comprehend nor the speech delineate, I surrender myself to thee. The four-faced Brahma himself is unable to sing thy glory; how can I ever hope to do so? The thousand headed Adisesha himself was dumb founded at the sight of they glory. Even the Vedas have failed to describe your divinity!’
Sree Guru was pleased with his intense devotion and said; ‘Son, by my grace, you shall gain spiritual power, wealth, fame and noble offspring. You shall become the knower of yogic wisdom. Like you, your descendants also shall be devoted to me. You come away along with your wife and stay here!’ Narahari did accordingly and was blessed with children and grand children and all else. He was liberated even while living, by the teaching of Sree Guru. Like him, his descendants were devoted to Sree Guru.
Namadharaka, all this is the fruit of devotion to the Guru. One of your ancestors was fortunate enough to win the blessing of Sree Guru. It is owing to that you are now blessed with such loving faith in him. Even this is by the blessing of the Master. I fell that even among your descendants there shall certainly be born a progressing soul”, said Siddha.