CHAPTER – 5
Namadharaka Sharma asked Siddha, “Oh great soul, you have said that the Lord incarnated twice during the age of Kali. I long to hear all about these avatars.” Siddha was very happy to notice the humility and faith of Namadharaka. He said, “It is good you have asked me of these. For it purifies the one who recounts it as much as it does the listener. So listen attentively. The Lord ever incarnates on earth in order to check evil ways and strengthen the righteous forces in man. In this age of Kali, he first manifested himself as Sreepada Sreevallabha for the same end.
To the east of where we are, there is a village named Pithapur (East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, India). There lived a Brahmin couple, Appala Raju Sharma and Sumathi, who were devotees of Lord Datta. The had many children, of whom only two survived. These too were sons, but as misfortune would have it, one was lame and the other was blind. Like orthodox Hindus, they believed that unless they had a son who could efficiently discharge all the righteous rites and duties, their souls had no hope of entering the portals of heaven. They worshipped Lord Datta for the fulfillment of their hearts’ wish and never failed to offer food to mendicants and monks. They looked upon all such as the very forms of Lord Datta. One day, they were performing the annual ceremony in their house and many Brahmins were invited as guests for the feast. Tradition holds that none should eat on that day before these guests partake their food.
But Lord Datta appeared at their threshold in the form of a renunciate sadhu, bearing the staff and the water vessel (kamandalu) and asked for food. The head of the family was not aware of it. The housewife, with immense faith that the visitor was none other than the Lord to whom the whole annual ceremony was being offered, gave him food even before the Brahmin guests were fed! Her faith touched the Lord’s heart and he at once granted her vision of his true form. The divine form which Sumathi witnessed was such that neither a thousand eyes can fully comprehend it nor a thousand tongues can describe it. In His six divine arms, he held the conch, the disc (chakra), the trident of Shiva (trishula), the drum (damaru), the water vessel (kamandalu) and the rosary (japa mala). His glorious form had three heads. Clad in a tiger’s skin and his body besmeared with sacred ash (vibhuti), he looked like a silver mountain in moonlight. His matted hair hung down like ropes, as though in order to help his devotees to climb out of the mire of phenomenal existence.
The blessed housewife drank the divine glory of the Lord’s form and felt that the highest object of her birth was fulfilled. The Lord said, “Mother, I am pleased with your devotion. Even before you fed the Brahmin guests, you have given me food with the full faith that this is the Lord in the guise of a holy sannyasi. Now, ask me anything you wish and it shall be granted”. The Nectarine words of the Lord seemed to penetrate every cell in her being. Her eyes were blessed by the sight and now her ears were sanctified by His sweet words. “Lord”, she said, “You, whose vision is not attained even by great yogis, have blessed my sight with it spontaneously, out of sheer compassion for me! You have even accepted food from me, on this day. And thereby, the spirits of our ancestors, for whose welfare we are performing the annual ceremony are all blessed. You are, indeed, the wish – fulfiller of your devotees. You have already addressed me as mother. So I have no need to ask for you anything further. Make me worthy of being addressed by you as such i.e., bless me with a child as divine as you are and keep up your word”.
Hearing her words, the Lord thought, ”She is asking me for the same favor as did Anasuya of yore.” Then he said, “You shall have a son as great as I am, but then you must remember one thing: You will have to implicitly do as he tells you. Do not forget this in your attachment to the idea that he is, after all, your son!” So saying, the Lord disappeared.
Still rapt in the spell of her divine experience, blessed Sumathi at once went to her husband and said, “Sir, I have transgressed the divine law: the Brahmin guests are not yet fed. Lord Dattatreya came to our house in the form of a sannyasi for offerings of food. Believing that he is the Lord of this annual ceremony and the Lord of all religious sacrifices, I gave him food”. Raju said, ‘my virtuous one, we offer food to Brahmins on this occasion and consecrate the whole ceremony to the Lord Vishnu. If, then, that very Lord had personally received your offering, it is all the noble fruit of your deep faith in Him. This noble act of yours has blessed all of us. Lord Dattatreya, in order to bless his devotees and the righteous ones, wanders about in disguise of a random guest at the lunch hour. That’s why it is said that a random guest has to be treated as the very embodiment of Lord Dattatreya. If, owing to our inadvertence, the guest goes away unappeased, it means that the Lord Himself is displeased with us.” Then Sumathi told him of the divine vision the Lord had bestowed on her and of his granting her wish for a divine son, along with the caution he gave. Raju Sharma was overjoyed to learn all that and congratulated her saying, “You have indeed sought a blessing that would purify our very lineage and the whole world”. He then completed the ceremony scrupulously.
Not long after, Sumathi conceived and delivered a male chilled at the proper time. She gave birth to one who is indeed birth less. Astrologers and priests had all prophesied that Lord Datta Himself was born as her son and praised her good fortune. Indeed, He kept his word to Sumathi and, as he can have no equal, he had to take birth as her son. As the child had all the divine features besides celestial radiance, it was fittingly named as Sreepada. This was the first incarnation of lord Datta in the age of Kali.
As days and months passed, the child Sreepada grew ever more glorious, like the waxing moon and attained the age of eight. As per the tradition, he was invested with the sacred thread. Normally, after the sacred thread ceremony a boy has to be trained by a Guru for 8 years before he can memorize the Vedas completely. But this boy, Sreepada, started imparting Vedic knowledge to his pupils’ right from the moment of his upanayana (sacred thread ceremony). It was all a purely divine miracle. In him was demonstrated the truth of the dictum that all knowledge acquired in one’s previous lives springs up spontaneously in the present life, like things recollected.
Meanwhile, his father Raju Sharma wished to get his son married and even started looking for a suitable girl. When he heard of it, one day, Sreepada said, “Father, you need not search for a bride anew. The perfect and divine bride is awaiting me. She is the treasure of Yoga. Hence, I shall renounce all. As I am Sreepada Sreevallabha (meaning the consort of Sree or Goddess Lakshmi), I shall gain liberation even without the need of begetting a son.” The determined aim of his son to forego marriage pained the father. With tears in their eyes, the parents said to Sreepada, “If you were to leave us, as a wandering sannyasi, we shall be like fish out of water. Even though you are the Lord incarnate, you have taken birth as our son. Is it proper for you, then, to leave us to perish in the ocean of grief of separation? How can you, the protector of righteousness, not fulfill the duty enjoined upon every son?”
Then, pointing at their two sons, they said, “Indeed, even by contemplating on you (i.e., when u leave us), one can cut asunder the self-perpetuating rounds of birth and death. But when we look at these blind and lame sons, our minds are again caught up in the whirl-pool of worldly concerns.”
His heart, melting with compassion at the sight of the tears in their eyes, Sreepada touched his brothers and made them whole in a trice! What is impossible for the almighty and the lord of the universe?
The miracle dispelled the veil of delusion that blinded their understanding. As the realization that he is all pervading had dispelled the illusory grief of being parted from him, it even seemed a sin to them to confine him at home and keep him off from all creatures who are, indeed, his children. Then his mother said, “Lord, your Maya has deluded me into looking upon you chiefly as my son. In fact, the whole cosmic egg is within your being. That you are my son is but a convention. You should keep my understanding clear on this delusion”.
Then the Lord granted her the vision of his real, divine, form. The handsome, tender, lad at once appeared radiant like a million suns and pleasing as a myriad moons. His blissful nature seemed to enliven every atom of existence. “Mother, you ever contemplate this form you now see. You shall soon attain eternal unity with me. These two sons of yours shall live to their full span of life and serve you with devotion. They shall be learned and wealthy and you shall be blessed with grand children and great grand children. They too shall win fair renown”, he said.
As the brothers praised his glory, Sreepada said to them, “Look upon your parents as the embodiments of divine parents and serve them well. And I shall renounce all”. Then he circumambulated thrice around them in reverence. With their permission, he renounced all worldly ties and trekked to holy places like Dwaraka, Brindavan, Mathura, and Badrinath. After wandering there for sometime, he marched down to the holy Gokarna in order to bless the spiritual seekers there. There, Lord Siva manifested himself in the form of Mahabaleshwara Linga which was installed by Lord Ganesha. Hence the place came to be the spiritual resort of innumerable seekers after the Spirit, down the ages”.