CHAPTER – 20
Namadharaka said, “holy sir, you have said that I owe my faith in the Guru to my ancestor. Who was he and how did he come to serve the Lord?”
Siddha replied: “One of your ancestors, by name Saayamdeva served Sree Guru at Gandharvapura and won his grace. At first, Saayamdeva heard of his glory, visited him bowed and sang in ecstasy:
Oh thou Supreme Spirit, the Light that transcends all, O Sri Nrisimha Saraswathi, all the holy places reside in this holy feet (paada). You are the embodiment of the holy Trinity and not a common mortal. You are Lord Brahma, thy kamandalu full of the holy water of compassion for all creatures. Thou art Lord Vishnu, come on earth to restrain the wicked and protect the virtuous, in the form of a sannyasi. You are the Lord Shiva whose yogic look, fixed ever on the tip of His nose, is capable of liberating his devotees from sin, craving and destruction. You, by whose grace a dead man was revived, a barren buffalo had yielded milk, a withered twig sprouted again and the fallen are uplifted again, who can recognize you for what you are?’
Sree Guru said, “My son, I am pleased with your devotion. May all thy descendants be blessed with faith in me. I am seeing you again after such a long time! Where are you living? How are your wife and children?”
Saayamdeva replied, ‘Lord, by your grace, all of us are safe. I am living at Kanchipura. I have come to serve your holiness.’
Sree Guru said, ‘it is hard to serve me. For I move about from one place to another. Now I stay in a village, now I live near the river and again, in the midst of a wild forest, I stay where my whim takes me.’
Saayamdeva submitted, ‘Lord, I shall serve you wherever you be.’
Sree Guru consented. Later, one day, he went to the Sangama along with Saayamdeva. In order to test the latter’s devotion, the Lord caused it to rain untimely. It was a heavy downpour with loud thunder and lightning. It was very cold in the open. Even though his teeth were chattering in the biting cold, Saayamdeva covered his Guru with his own garments and served him. After about five or six hours, the rain abated. Then Sree Guru said to him, “The cold air is troubling me much. Go to the nearby village and get some fire.”
Saayamdeva proceeded in the darkness, amidst the drizzle and the biting cold. He had to find his way only in the occasional flashes of lightning. He proceeded to the muth and was returning with fire. When he stood in one place, looking around for the spot where the Guru stayed, he found two enormous serpents on either side! In fright, he chanted the name of his Guru and ran about. Then, at a distance, he heard the Vedic chant emanate from the Sangama. Inferring his direction there from, he ran ahead and soon reached the spot. He found the Guru seated, totally unaffected by the cold and rain, and was amazed at it. The Guru said to him, “Don’t fear! I have sent the serpents to guard you on the way!” even before his eyes, the two venomous creatures approached the Lord, bowed their hoods to him and vanished. The Guru added, ‘it is hard even for the gods to come by such service of the Guru.’ Saayamdeva was happy at his words and said, ‘Supreme Lord, expound to me the way of service to the Guru which is the highest means of salvation.’
Sree Guru began: ‘Saayamdeva, listen! A true disciple ever follows the guru like his shadow, never leaving him, and serves him whole-heartedly. He dedicates everything he has, including his body, for the service of the Guru. He looks upon his guru as the embodiment of the Supreme Lord of creation, delights to take only his prasad as food and the washings of his feet as the all-sanctifying drink. He loves to listen to the divine acts of his mission on earth and makes his life, a continuous meditation on him. When the Guru enjoins a piece of work, the disciple stakes all to achieve it, however difficult it might seem. Having once commenced his efforts to that end, the true disciple, at all costs, sees it through. Even the Lord of Death will be afraid of laying his hold on such a faithful one. There is an ancient dialogue between goddess Gowri and her consort Iswara, to illustrate the point. Now listen to it:
Thwashta Brahma (one of the creators in a cosmic cycle) once served a Guru. The Guru wanted to test his steadfastness and said, ‘My son! Every year, rainwater leaks into my hermitage. So raise a beautiful house for me!” The Guru’s wife said, “Fetch me a blouse which is good and natural, but is marvelous!” The son of the Guru said, “Get me a pair of sandals which would be comfortable either in water or ditches, fitting my feet and which can take me wherever I wish to go!” The Guru’s daughter added, “Get me a pair of ear rings, a single pillared place of ivory with live-elephants in it and a cooking vessel which will not gather soot.” Thwashta proceeded to the forest to procure all these things and he resolved firmly even to stake his life, if necessary, in the effort. There, a merciful sadhu approached him. Thwashta visualized his own Guru in the Sadhu, prostrated to him and revealed his mission. Then the sadhu said:
“My son, nothing is impossible of achievement when the All-Merciful Lord Viswanadha is in Kasi. All sins are annihilated even at the very glance of the Lord. The bliss that abides in his presence is indescribable. The bestower of the four objects of human life personally initiates everyone who dies in Kasi with the taaraka mantra and thereby bestows liberation.” The disciple humbly asked, “Where is Kasi of which you speak so highly? Where is that Lord Viswanadha? Is he in Heaven or on earth? Please enlighten me of these.”
The sadhu replied, “My son, one attains liberation even at the sight of Lord Viswanadha. I shall be blessed with his darshan by taking you there”. So saying, the sadhu took Thwashta with him to Kasi in the wink of an eye, by virtue of his yogic power! He also showed him the various holy places on the way, explaining to him in detail the glory of every one of them. Then he showed him Lord Viswanadha, took him to the shrines of Bhavaneesa Hari, Vighneswara, Bhairava and Subrahmanya. Finally he took Thwashta to Ganga and made him take the holy dip and perform ritual worship and then give away gifts to the poor. The sadhu told the disciple to install a Shiva Linga there, to win the grace of Iswara. The next moment, the sadhu vanished.
Thwashta realized that his own Guru had appeared in the form of the sadhu to test his faith and bless him accordingly. As per his instruction, Thwashta installed a Shiva Linga and worshipped it with faith. Lord Viswanadha appeared before him and said, “My son, you are made pure by your devotion to the Guru. You are indeed blessed. Now tell me what you wish to have.” Thwashta bowed to the Lord and submitted, “Lord, grant me all the things which my Guru and the members of his family have asked me to procure for them.” The Lord blessed him saying, “May you attain mastery in all arts, all branches of learning and by your skill, you shall attain fame in the three worlds too!” so saying, the Lord disappeared. Soon, Thwashta returned to his Guru and gave what he and the members of his family asked of him. The Guru was pleased with his resourcefulness and blessed him saying that he would be elevated to the divine rank of the Creator, Brahma; that he would be able to command the nine types of treasure and that he should ever be untouched by care and suffering. Accordingly, Thwashta attained fame in the whole world. This story was recounted by Lord Shiva to Goddess Gowri. So one should serve the Guru and follow his instructions deli gently.”
Saayamdeva sang in wonder: ‘I have indeed seen all that you have described, with my own eyes! Where am I, where is Kasi and where are you? I could see what I have never seen before. You are not a common mortal, not even one of the gods, but the Supreme Spirit! You who are the Para Brahman, transcending all action, have, by your own will to become the many, created Brahma (the creator) and, through him, you have projected the whole universe. Though you are above all modes of existence, you have descended on earth through the modes of existence, which are your own and, as part of your cosmic play, you destroy the wicked. Oh lord Nrisimha Saraswathi, I bow to you. Your descent on earth is for the establishment of righteousness and is a pleasure to the gods. Your descent, like sunrise, dissolves the immense darkness of Ignorance. You are the protector of the law. Oh Thou Bliss of all, you have assumed this form of a sannyasi, which is free from all impurity and is dedicated to truth, blessed and sanctifying. You bestow salvation on creatures who are lost in the sea of phenomenal existence. You have bestowed the power of speech on the dumb, sight on the blind, progeny on a barren woman, life on a dead man, and the blessed life of a housewife on a widow! Your divine power has achieved the impossible. Oh thou, the abode of the liberated souls, thou art the bestower of liberation and of all the wishes of thy devotees. You are the dispeller of want, sin and craving. The Vedas have glorified you as beyond speech. Oh thou Lord of yogis, you are the refuge all holy places, the very life of blessed ones, the philosopher’s stone of the devotees, the treasure-trove of divine powers. I worship thy holy feet, which are the centers of holiness even for pious souls. Even learned ones debate concerning the divine mystery of thy feet. Oh Holy One, you are beyond the Vedas and thy nature is indescribable. You pervade the whole universe by your eight bodies. Thou art the original form of the pranava. I bow to thee. This form of yours, which has graced the banks of river Krishna and Bheema, is fit to be meditated upon by those who are of tranquil mind. May you bless me that this, your form, may abide steadily in my heart!”
Sree Guru said: “My son, I am pleased by your hymn of praise. I have blessed you with pure faith, un spoilt by any other desire. Indeed, all your descendants shall be blessed with faith in me. Henceforth you resign the service of the foreign king and stay on here with your family!” Saayamdeva pleased Sree Guru by acting upon his command.
Often, Saayamdeva sang the praise of the Guru; “Oh Lord of the three modes of existence, you are the Omnipresent Spirit, without a beginning and an end. By virtue of my meritorious acts in the previous lives, I am blessed with your darshan. Even at the touch of the dust of thy feet, I am purified of all my sins. I, who am burnt by the flames of discontent, am made tranquil at the sight of thy face. Like the piece of iron which is transmitted into gold at the very touch of the philosopher’s stone, I who was earlier caught in the miserable plight of phenomenal existence am uplifted to the state of blessedness.”
Beginning with such a hymn of praise, Saayamdeva wrote the story of Sree Guru in Kanarese. Sree Guru was pleased at it and saying, “Saayamdeva, your first son Naganatha is my chosen devotee” placed his hand in blessing on the boy’s head. Young Naganatha who was dumb by birth, at once became as wise a teacher as Brihaspati. Then Sree Guru said to Saayamdeva, “Your wife is virtuous. She shall be blessed with four sons. As you are wealthy, do not ever think of serving the foreign king and you shall be blessed.” Sree Guru continued, “There is a religious vow called Ananta Vrata which burns out the sins of those who observe it. At the instruction of Sree Krishna, Dharmaraja observed the vow and thereby won divine pleasures and bodily passage to heaven. May you observe it.” Saayamdeva replied, “Oh Lord! You are indeed Lord Ananta to us. And your service is Ananta Vrata. Who then, is the Ananta you speak of? May you expound the details of the observance to us?”
Sree Guru went on, “Once upon a time, the architect for the demons, Maya had built a unique palace for Dharmaraja in which he could perform the famous sacrifice of Rajasooya. The palace was of such uncanny nature that Duryodhana who entered it saw water where there was none, and hard ground where there was indeed water, slipped and fell down. When the whole assembly of royal princes laughed at him, the proud price felt insulted. He took revenge, on the host by winning for himself, in an unfair game of chess. Then he commanded all of them to live in the wild forests. Accordingly, Dharmaraja went to the forests and there lived in suffering and danger, along with his brothers and wife. After sometime, when Sree Krishna visited him, Dharmaraja poured out his tale of misery and said, “Lord, you are hailed as the Protector of Thy devotees. Do you not know of our sufferings?”
Lord Krishna said, ‘Oh Dharmaraja, the fruition of one’s previous karma is indeed relentless. However, it cannot torment those who are devoted to me. So you observe the vow called Ananta Vrata. Indeed, I am lord Ananta and the vow is dear to me. I am the Lord of all that is; for I am in all the forms of existence. I am above karma, motive and the modes of existence. This vow has to be observed on the 14th day (chaturdasi) of the dark half of the lunar month of Bhaadrapada. This vow can bestow infinite blessings on the observer. Listen:
Once there was a sage named Sumanta who belonged to the Vasishta Gotra. His wife Bhaargavi died immediately after giving birth to a baby and the sage married again. But his second wife was an ill-tempered shrew and she troubled him much. At the proper time, Sumanta gave his virtuous daughter in marriage to one Kaundinya. Once young Kaundinya visited her father’s house and stayed there for two months. At last, unable to put up with the wild temper of his mother in law, he got ready to return home along with his wife. The shrew of a lady refused to give him the customary gifts due to a newly wedded son-in-law. She even refused to allow him the expenses of his journey. Sumanta was helpless. At last, he gathered up a small quantity of wheat from the heap outside the hermitage and gifted it to Kaundinya. The latter set out along with his wife and by noon, reached the banks of a river where he rested for a while.
There his wife saw a few housewives observing a religious vow and asked them what it was. They said that they were observing the Ananta Vrata. At her request, they told her the details of the observance: “After taking bath, one has to put on red clothes and prepare a ritual bracelet with fourteen pieces of thread. Then, keeping darbha-grass over a pot, one has to worship it as the very form of Lord Vishnu. Fourteen special dishes have to be prepared and gifted away to pious Brahmins. The new bracelet has to be worn in place of the old. Married couples have to be fed sumptuously. This vow has to be observed on that particular day for 13 consecutive years. In the fourteenth year, at the end of the observance, pious Brahmins and poor people have to be fed. This is the best of religious vows. You will do well to observe the vow yourself.” The young lady observed the vow to the best of her means and gave away half the store of their wheat and returned to her husband.
Kaundinya and his wife resumed their journey. As they passed through a village, the wealthy inhabitants of it requested him to settle down in their village, which he did. In course of time, by the grace of Lord Ananta, he became rich and was much honoured for his learning and piety. One day, he had an argument with his wife and in his pride; he plucked away the ritual bracelet from her wrist and, despite her warning, threw it in the fire. Shortly after, his house caught fire and all his wealth was destroyed. Robbers stole away whatever was left behind. He realized that it was all a result of the wrath of Lord Ananta at his misdeed. In bitter despair and repentance, he roamed about the forest, asking every cow, tree and mountain that he encountered, regarding the whereabouts of the Lord Ananta. At last, the merciful Lord Ananta appeared in the form of an old Brahmin, consoled him, led him to a town, which he created by his divine power and there revealed his true form. Kaundinya glorified the Lord thus:
‘Oh Supreme Lord Ananta, omnipresent Spirit! Pardon the sacrilege I have committed in my ignorance.’ The Lord was moved and blessed him saying, “By my grace, may you be freed from misery. May you enjoy riches and, at the end of your mortal existence, may you adorn the sky as the constellation Punarvasu!” Kaundinya submitted: “Lord, earlier I have perceived some mystic signs. The first was a mango tree, the fruits of which were not eaten by anybody. The second was a castrated bull, which could not eat fodder. The third was a pair of lakes from which no creature ever slaked their thirst. I have also seen a miserable donkey, elephant and an old Brahmin. May you explain their significance to me?”
The Lord explained: “The mango tree you saw is a man of learning who did not impart his wisdom to his disciples. A wealthy man who gifts away a worthless piece of land is the bull. The pair of lakes is people who merely exchange things in the name of giving away religious gifts. The donkey you have seen is a man who is enslaved by rancor. A man who is wild with lust is the elephant. I am the old Brahmin you have seen. All those you have seen have just now been freed from their previous karma.” The sage Kaundinya glorified Lord Ananta and secured all the wishes of his heart. Therefore, oh Dharmaraja, you too observe the Ananta Vrata. You will be benefited,” said Sree Krishna. Dharmaraja did accordingly, vanquished his enemies, enjoyed the pleasures of kingship and entered heaven even with his physical body.” Saayamdeva observed the Ananta Vrata and spent the rest of his life in the service of the Guru and at last, attained liberation. Indeed, by the grace of Lord Nrisimha Saraswathi, all his descendants attained liberation. Oh Namadharaka, you are born in such a family. Therefore, you shall surely cross this ocean of misery and reach the Lord of Immortality,” said Siddha.