In ancient times, there was once a rivalry between the devatas and rakshasas regarding “Vidya” and “Viveka”. Brihaspati, the teacher of the devatas stressed the importance “Yama”, comprising purity of intellect, kindness, truth, cleanliness and non-injury, and taught it to the devatas, emphasising its practice. On the other hand, the demons, under the tutelage of Sukracharya, followed the way of rituals to obtain victory and enjoyment.
Brihaspati understood that on seeing the early successes achieved by the danavas, some of the devatas experienced doubts within themselves. Therefore, he himself wrote books on worldly subjects such as Kamasastra, Dandaniti Sastra, Bauddha Sastra, and Silpa Sastra and gave them to his disciples to read. One day, when he was teaching these subjects, Devendra came. He had heard about it and wanted to see it for himself, his mind being quite agitated. Since the teacher was Brihaspati himself he could not speak in haste. Therefore, he said, slowly and with humility-
“O Gurudeva, are you not an Atmavidya-Visarada and an excellent vedantin? Then why are you engaged in composing these worldly sastras? As it is everyone motivated by desire for women, wealth and other things, is making great effort to achieve these desires. But such desires are worldly, why then should a being like you encourage such tendencies by composing sastras and teaching them. This is indeed wasted labour and very unfortunate. Is it not like pushing a blind person into a well? All of us feel that those like you should not indluge in this business of creating such bad sastras. But since you are doing this work yourself, we feel that it must have a deeper significance. Please do not consider it as irreverrance but tell us what is on your mind”.
Hearing these words, the Guru of the devatas laughed and asaid “Devendra, there is nothing wrong in asking. On the contrary your expression of doubt out of fear of adharma, pleases me. Have you not accepted that Tattva Sastra is something good? Purity of intellect forms the foundation, and compassion, truth, cleanliness, non-injury and good conduct form the basic pillars of these sastras. To illustrate this, I shall tell you seven ancient stories. Listen and reflect carefully. Then tell me what you think. “Devendra listened attentively, and Brhispati began-“
1. SILPA SASTRA:
“Indra, long ago there lived in the city of Kampilya, an expert in architecture, by the name of Vidhijna. He was not only proficient in architecture, but also in Vastu, Jyothisa and other Sastras. What has to be particularly noted here is that he was peaceful, kind and discreet. He was not hypocritical, nor did he harbour greed. Therefore, whoever wanted to build a house in the city, got it constructed through him. Gradually, his income grew and the pressure of work increased. Therefore, he engaged a number of architects to assist him and paid them liberally. Through this he also gained a good name among his equals.”
“With the increase in income, his acts of charity also increased. Thus the respect of the elders also increased, and ultimately he became the royal architect. Thereafter, his fame spread far and wide. However much his earnings increased and fame grew, he never became conceited, he never spoke harshly, he never talked of his desires, nor did he ever utter a falsehood. Day by day his humility and meritorious acts increased”.
After some time he died and as he was a virtuous soul, he enjoyed happiness in heaven for a long time. After this period of enjoyment expired, he was born as the king in the same city of Kampilya because of the merit he had earned. Due to the force of good samskaras of the past, he performed even more charitable deeds. He conducted sacrifices and worshipped gods and brahmins on a large scale. Then he died and again he went to heaven, and after enjoying pleasures there for a long time, he was born again, now as a brahmin in this world.
In this birth he studied the vedas and sastras, diligently practised a life of Dharma, intently pursued yoga, and in the end took sanyas and became a jivanmukta. You see Mahendra, he began with architecture and in the end achieved jivanmukti. In climbing thus step by step, there is no doubt some fatigue, but the path will not be the wrong path. It should not be forgotten that he never abandoned good judgement and discipline. Doesn’t this story show that possessing these virtues, even through Silpa Sastra a man can attain liberation?
2. FINE ARTS:
In the city of Mahismati lived a prince by the name of Visalaksha. He was an expert on music, skilled in dance, proficient in poetry and learned in Kamasastra. As a learned one in the fine arts, he knew fully well the characteristic features of women. Being handsome himself, he was also a knower of the distinctive marks of women. Therefore he could not approve of just any girl. Though he had passed marriageable age, he had decided to marry only if a girl possessing all the good marks prescribed in the sastras could be found. He possessed such strong self-control that he decided to wait rather than marry in haste.
Eventually, he went out in search of a bride. After much searching, a king showed him his daughter. As soon as he saw her, he knew that she was of the padmini type. He was over joyed that after so much searching he had found a girl of pure padmini type. On seeing him, the girl also liked him. The king thought – “He is a prince and quite suitable. They both seem to be set on each other. What more I wish for?” So he performed the marriage immedeiately, and gave half of the kingdom as a dowry. He also had a vast and splendid mansion built for them.
As I mentioned, Visalaksha was also well versed in Kama Sastra, with the aid of that knowledge, he was able to reach the peaks of conjugal happiness. Mahendra, it is strange that ignorant people are deluded into thinking that happiness comes from outside. The wise infer that happiness resides in the Atman alone. In fact, the nature of the Atman is happiness. That is the truth. All the joys that seem to come from outside, are indeed intutions of the bliss of the Atman.
So this young prince knew all the fine arts. He had a wife to his liking and she was of the best type. Strength, Wealth, health, everything was his. No one in the world enjoyed more happiness than he did with his wife. Without leaving out anything, he enjoyed all the happiness that the Upanishads describe as human happiness. What is wrong with that? He never uttered a lie. He never coveted another man’s property or wife. There was no stint in his giving away gifts. He never neglected his parents. There was never any deficiency anywhere in the Yajnas and Yagas he performed.
Furthermore, both husband and wife were experts in music. As they grew older they devoted themselves to Nadopasana effortlessly and floated in brahmananda. In the end both of them cast off their bodies while thus engaged in Nadaopasana.
As a result of the impressions left by the gandharva vidya and of the power of virtuous deeds performed by them, they were born as king and queen of Gandharva loka. Even then, they were born as king and queen of Gandharva loka. Even there they devoted themselves to music as a mode of Upasana. Maheswara looked with favour on this virtuous duo. Consequently, they had the opportunity to go to Kailasa to give a performance. Parvati and Parameswara shed tears of joy as they listened to their singing. The songs they sang were so charged with feeling. In great appreciation, the Lord gave them the boon of residing in swarga. There they enjoyed as much happiness as they wished. Who is not attracted by the noble qualities of goodness, humility and learning which they possessed? Both of them became very dear to you, Devendra. Isvara’s grace so kindly bestowed upon them, was still with them. Once, going to attend a festival in the Brahmaloka, you took them also, and arranged for a musical recital there. You wanted the fame and prestige of Swarga to be enhanced. Their music that day reached a new high and the pleasure and joy was limitless. Brahma was so filled with joy that he granted them a boon, saying “Yoy have acquired undisputed mastery over Nadopasana. Now stay here with me and learn the truth about Parabrahma. I have blessed you with residence in the Satyaloka”. And later, Brahma himself taught them the principle of Parabrahman, which is of the nature of Sat-Cit-Ananda.
Devendra, do you see how that couple attained liberation through Kama Sastra and the fine arts? In this story also virtue, truth and non-injury are shown to be the basis of a good life.
3. MANTRA SASTRA
“Kartavirya, on hearing this story, Devendra was impressed. Brihaspati smiled and said – “Indra, why are you surprised? You too have advanced many a person without any effort on his part. That is your greatness. Now listen to the third story.” Saying this, Brihaspati closed his eyes for a moment in a meditative mood. Then, in a joyful voice he began thus:-
“Mahendra, in all the stories I am going to narrate now, you will hear about Sri Dattatreya, Lord of Lords. You too have achieved victory over Jambhasura by His grace only. In the famous city of Visala there lived a brahmin by the name Vedasarma. He knew the vedas and was full of righteousness. With the intent of acquiring control over the senses, he observed many rituals. He led a life of contentment with whatever he received.”
After a long time, after he had given up hope, he got a son. He named him Sunila and brought him up with much love. Owing to some sinful act committed by the boy in a previous birth, seven brahmarakshasas, took possession of him and began to afflict him. The brahmarakshasas, owing to mutual dislike, quarelled among themselves and made things worse. Everyday was a fatal one for that poor innocent child.
It was difficult for that brahmin to recognize the power of these brahmarakshasas in the beginning. First, he thought that the child was ill. Later, after observing the grotesque gestures of the boy, he thought the boy had gone mad. Sometimes it occurred to him that he might be the mischief of evil spirits.
To this brahmin, who was free from all attachments, that boy was his only relative in this world, and he tried all the means he knew of to help him. The boy, whom the brahmin had been given after performing many meritorious deeds and japas, had now become the cause of unending worry.
This was the state of affairs, when, one day after performing the ‘Vaisvadeva’ ritual as usual at noon, Vedasarma was looking for guest. A strange man appeared at his door. His clothes were dirty and his body was smeared with hardened mud. A foul smell emanated from him, and saliva was oozing from the corner of his mouth, and flies were swarming around him. Whoever he may be, if he comes in the noon after Vaisvadeva, he is Vishnu himself is the ruling of the veda. Thinking this, Vedasarma served him cooked rice with devotion. It was his custom to consider guests as God. If Vishnu came as a begger, he would offer him alms. If he came in other form, Vedasarma would serve him in a manner appropriate to that form. But, in both cases, his devotion was the same. That day also he acted likewise.
But while offering alms, looking at the begger, the thought occured to him “Is he Lord Dattatreya?” I have heard people saying that sometimes He disguises himself and goes begging. It must be He. There is no doubt. It is Lord Dattatreya.”
These thoughts came quickly but faster than lightning the beggar got up and left. Vedasarma did not hesitate, neither was he slow. He immediately followed the begger who began to walk faster. He did not even stop at any house to seek alms.
It became difficult for Vedasarma to catch up with the begger, even when he began to run. By then both had crossed the town’s boundary.
Suddenly the begger stopped and began to pelt stones at the brahmin who was following him. Still the brahmin did not stop. The begger came near him, and although Vedasarma was panting for breath from exhaustion, he beat him mercilessly with the branch of a tree that was at hand, until the brahmin was at the point of dying.
Strangely enough, as the begger went on ill-treating him, Vedasarma began to feel happiness welling up in him. He looked for a chance to catch hold of the beggar’s feet, but somehow the beggar began to run again and the brahmin fell behind.
On the way the begger saw the half-decomposed carcass of an ass. The beggar seemed to be bruning with rage. He took a bit of the putrid and foul-smelling flesh out of the carcass of the ass, and placing it in the hands of the brahmin, sail – ‘Eat this.” The brahmin pressed it to his eyes, and tying it in the loose end of his upper cloth, began to follow the beggar again. Then the beggar kicked the brahmin with his legs till the brahmin broke down. By the time the brahmin recovered, the beggar had disappeared and entered a nearby cave, where he sat down. But still Vedasarma did not leave him. He too entered the cave. He fell down at the beggar’s feet and then stood up with folded hands. Now the beggar opened his lips a little and spoke – “O brahmin, what business have you with a madman? Go away?”.
Vedasarma’s intellect had been purified by long study of the vedas. Therefore, he was convinced that the person before him was Lord Dattatreya. He bowed again and extolled him thus – “O Lord, if even Brahma and the other Gods are unable to understand you, how can I? Is it not cruel that you try to deceive me like this? Lord, you alone are my refuge. You may drown me or kill me in anyway. Do as You like with me.
Pleased at Vedasarma’s steadfastness, the Lord assumed an auspicious form, at which Vedasarma was overcome with joy and praised the Lord with hymn of Rug, Yajur and Sama Vedas. With a smiling face the Lord said – “Vedasarma, I subjected you to much suffering, but do not consider it as suffering, because it was for your good. I know why you have come and I pity you. You are worried about your son who is being harmed by seven brahmarakshasas simultaneously. Do not be afraid, I shall give you seven mantras. Chant them along with the seed-letters. Thus each brahmarakshasa will be dispelled by one mantra. It is not possible to dispel all the seven at a time. Is there anything you do not know? It is not possible to teach all subjects at once. Mental impressions born of ignorance can be destroyed by Nyaya sastra, some by Samkhya, some by Yoga and some others by Mimamsa. If Advita philosophy is taught after removing all the impressions of the mind, then it can be esily understood. The task of dispelling these brahmarakshasas is just like this. Therefore, after you become freee from anxiety about your son, by the help of these mantras you will attain the supreme goal effortlessly. Now, receive the mantras.
The Lord imparted to him the mantras along with their power. Full of happiness Vedasarma left for his home. When he noticed the rotting carcass of the ass on the way, he remembered the piece of meat the Lord had given him. He untied the knot and saw there a red sandal flower. With great surprise he looked around for the carcass of the ass. But in the place where the carcass should have been, there was a red sandalwood tree. Joyfully extolling the Lord’s glory, as with a thousand mouths, he reached home and following the Lord’s instructions, he had his son’s health restored. Later, with the great power of those wonderful mantras, Vedasarma began to relieve other people of their afflictions from evil spirits. Thus not only did he earn merit, but his fame and income and his meritorious deeds also increased. He performed yajnas and yagas. He built remples and towers. He got wells dug and constructed tanks. He undertook many more charitable acts without any desire for reward. Gradually his mind took to the path of detachment and he attained self-realisation in that very birth.
Therefore, O Mahendra, even Mantra Sastras and Tantra Sastras can bestow liberation provided there is a keen and purified intellect and truth and non-injury are practised.
Are you listening Kartavirya? In this story, the conflict in the sastras, mentioned to you, has also been dealt with. As you see, there is no conflict between the scriptures. But if someone imagines conflict, it is his fault. They may tread the respective paths according to their understanding and inclination. Listen to some more stories and the matter will become clearer.
Kartavirya, the next four stories took place in Matapura. A great devotee by name Vishundatta lived there. He was my devotee and I praise him and hold him in high esteem. I am deeply moved when I remember his name. Listen to his story in the words of Brihaspati himself. You will become purified by listening to these talse. “The Emperor was impressed by the words of the Lord. As he was listening intently, the Lord continued”-
“Kartavirya, Brihaspati began to narrate the story thus: “Devendra, these stories confer great merit. As they are very dear to Lord Datta, listen to them earnestly”.
4. REGULAR PERFORMANCE OF ONES DUTY
There is a place called Matapura near Sahyadri, where lived a brahmin called VishnuDatta. He was very well-versed in the study of the vedas and steadfast in practice. His wife Susila was highly devoted and virtuous. I lack the ability to describe that noble couple’s steadfastness, austerities and desirelessness. They had no worries about anyone in the world. They lived in a world of their own, simply following their religious practices. If the villagers gave him some grain considering him a good brahmin, that was great wealth for them. Gradually, even the villagers ceased to take any notice of them.
There was a peepul tree in front of their house and a brahmarakshasa was living on it. He used to collect and eat the grains of boiled rice offered daily to all living creatures by Vishundatta, after performing sacrifices to all deities. Therefore, the brahmarakshasa did not harm that couple, instead he used to catch hold of others and torment them. Gradually, the thought occurred to him that it was sin to harm others. He was himself surprised by this. By degrees his piety increased more and more. He soon realised that all this was the result of the “Vaisvadeva” offerrings made by that pious brahmin. As his goodness increased, a sense of gratitude began to grow in him, and it culminated in the feeling of wanting to return their kindeness.
One day he became bold enough to appear in his true form before Vishundatta, who was placing the offerings of boiled rice under the tree. The brahmin was frightened on seeing him hideous and terrible form. But the brahmarakshasa told him not to be afraid, and expressing his gratitude, told Vishundatta that he wanted to repay his kindness and that he could ask him anything he wanted. The brahmarakshasa was as polite as it was possible for hime to be.
Vishnudatta was quite puzzled. The brahmarakshasa was pressing him to say what he wanted. But however much he tried he could not think of anything he wanted. The brahmarakshasa did not give up and would not leave him. At last, Vishnudatta thought he would better consult his wife. She too could not think of any wish at first. After much thinking however an idea came to her. She told her husband – “Have you not been wishing for a long time for Lord Dattatreya’s darsan? The brahmarakshasa obviously possesses great powers. He may perhaps be able to arrange this”. Her suggestion appealed to him very much and he told the brahmarakshasa accordingly. Hardly had the brahmarakshasa heard the name Dattatreya, when he jumped up and sprang back scared.
He said menacingly – “O brahmin, you have lost your direction. Do not ever repeat that name. If we rakshasas just hear that name, our hearts burst and we are dead. How could I lead you to him? Can anything be more unjust than this?” Vishnudatta was distressed and said – “Well, you seem to possess superhuman powers. That is why I asked you, believing that nothing is impossible for you. Forget it then, I do not want anything. I shall regard as if you have done me favour. So, do not worry.”
Because of his new inner piety, the brahmarakshasa would not even think of going back on his promise, but he could not consider undertaking this hazard. After much hanging, he came to a decision, and said – “O brahmin, having eaten your food, I cannot think of cheating you. You are so stubborn and say that you do not want anything. He, whom you mentioned is great yogi. More than that, He is a great conjurer, and He can assume incredible disguises. He moves about in forbidden places. I shall find out where He is and come back and show Him to you from distance. Then, without wavering, you must go and catch hold of His feet. I myself cannot come near Him. Remember to catch hold of His feed and to serve Him with faith. But I warn you I will not take you to Him more than three times. Then my promise is fulfilled”. So saying the brahmarakshasa went away.
Later, he appeared suddenly and in a trembling voice said ‘Come, with me’ and took Vishnudatta to a meat shop.
A mad man was there, nothing around and begging for pieces of meat. His appearance was terrible, and his face was very frightening. His eyes were big and fiery like the embers of wood. He seemed to be drunk and toddy was dripping form all over him. Now swaying; now staggering, now falling and then getting up, he moved to and fro unsteadily. When he moved, the flies swarming all over his body, would fly off. Flashing his fiery eyes, it looked as though he was searching for an opportunity to strangle someone.
Pointing him out from a distance, the brahmarakshasa said – “Look, that madman there, He is your Datta. Run and catch hod of His feet”, and ran away with fear. The best among brahmins felt as though an apple had stuck in his throat and a boulder had fallen on his chest. His first problem was how to bear that horrible smell.
“O dear, after leading such a pure life now I have to go to such an awful place, out of friendship for the rakshasa. Is it true as this rakshasa says, that this horrible fellow of improper conduct is Lord Dattatreya? The rakshasa did not seem to be joking. But could one imagine that Lord Dattatreya the beloved son of Atri and Anasuya would be like this? Even if he is an Avadhuta, how can He be so ghastly?”
“But the brahmarakshasa appears to be credible. What does he gain by deceiving me? Perhaps he is speaking the truth. Still, how can a scholar of vedas enter such a shop? How can I go in there and touch that awful person? What will those who see this say of me? If only I knew what I should do”, while the brahmin was thinking thus, the madman disappeared.
While the brahmin was looking for Him here and there, wondering what had happened to Him, the brahmarakshasa came back and said “O brahmin, I told you in the beginning that person is a great deceiver. His looks are terrifying. I told you that you would not believe me. When Saturn is on the centre of the head, what can anyone do? This chance is wasted, but I shall show him to you again. At least then, have some sense in you!”.
After a few days, the brahmarakshasa came again in a hurry, and saying: “Come, He is moving about nearby”, took Vishnudatta to a cemetry. There was a butcher in the midst of a heap of charred human bones. Dogs surrounded Him. Together with the dogs, He had dragged out a half-burnt corpse from the pyre and appeared to be eating it. His eyes were like embers of tamarind wood. There was a garland of bones round the neck and intestines were garlands for the ears. His entire body was smeared with blood. That was his frightening form.
Pointing him out, the brahmarakshasa said – “Look, there is your Lord, be careful”, and he ran away as fast as he could.
Vishnudatta had come this time with an alert intellect, determined that in whatever form the Lord might be, he should not get confused.
He did not have any doubt this time, but he was afraid. Yet he contrtolled himself, and treambling went near Him and prostrated. When the butched turned aside, His body seemed to be in flames. He struck Vishundatta with the bone in his hand. Poor Vishnudatta felt as if his life was on the point of ebbing out. In the meanwhile, the dogs had begun to bark and attack him. By now, the brahmin was beside himself with terror. He put all his strength in his legs and ran and ran. When he reached home, he collapsed. The brahmarakshasa, sitting on the peepul tree, laughed hilaiously and taunted him this:
“Hey Mr. Pundit, I did not think you could run so fast. Fortune is not with you. Dattatreya’s tests are not easy. You are not the only one to fail, I had hoped that this time you would withstand. Why should I bother myself with it? I shall take you once more. If you dare come again!” – So, saying the brahmarakshasa disappeared. Feeling a deep sense of shame, Vishnudatta sat on his doorstep, where his wife Susila found him and comforted him with affectionate words: “My poor husband, you have striven so much, yet fortune did not favour you. Let us forget it. The merit we have is enough. This rakshasa has said that the Lord is big conjuror. Why should you stretch your hands for grapes which cannot be reached?.
But for Vishnudatta, his attachment to the body was an unbeatable thorn in his heart. How could I run away fearing that this body would be injured? So he felt a sense of shame and guilt, while he carried out his religious practices.
One day the brahmarakshasa came and called him again. This time he was not scared, “O brahmin” said the brahmarakshasa, “according to my promise I will take you for the third and last time. You have lost two chances already. Bear this in mind and don’t waste this chance”. Now it ws evident that he did not believe that the brahmin would withstand the test.
Vishnudatta followed the brahmarakshasa with desperate determination. Can there be a fool equal to me? How could I have attributed defects to the Lord Himself and accused Him of improper conduct? What an unfortunate person I amd that even though I knew very well that He is the one and only Lord who has all the worlds under His protection, and even after seeing Him with my own eyes, I fled overtaken by fear, afraid that my body would be injured. This must not happen again, it is the final test for me. There are only two options – to obtain the Lord’s gracxe or to perish.
This time the brahmarakshasa took him to a harijan colony.
There, a harijan was taking out flesh from dead asses and working on the hide. The harijan was throwing bits of meat to the crows, eagles and nearby dogs and playing with them.
Pointing him out to the brahmin, the brahmarakshasa ran away.
There was not a fraction of doubt in Vishnudatta’s mind now. He did not have slightest fear. Moving forward quickly, he fell at his feet and caught hold of them firmly, saying – “Lord, I seek Your protection, please have mercy on me”.
The harijan kicked the brahmin in the face and abused him. He even spat on him and beat him, and tortured him in various ways. Whatever the harijan did, Vishnudatta did not leave his feet. Even when He hurt him so much, Vishnudatta uttered only one word “Lord, Protection!”.
With tightly closed eyes, he clutched the Lord’s feet more firmly, and was uttering “Lord, Protection” as though he did not know any other words, when suddenly he heard a gentle voice, saying “What can I do for you?” Vishnudatta was overcome by the sweetness of the Lord’s words. Not only sweetness, there was nectar in those words. Without giving up the Lord’s feet, Vishnudatta lifted up his head and opened his eyes.
Before him was the gracious Lord, wearing ochre coloured robes; on his lips, a splendour excelling moonlight caused by radiant smiles, overflowing with compassion. Moonlight of the form of bliss was emanating from the immaculate Lord, who was sitting on a decorated seat placed on the sacrificial grass.
Vishnudatta looked around in wonderment. Where there the dongs, the carcass, the crows and eagles? The harijan colony also disappeared.
An enchanting tapovan was there instead. Marvellous tranquility and infinite effulgence reigned. The indefinable Lord was there, surrounded by divine bliss.
Vishundatta’s heart overflowed with joy. Without any effort, he got up and circumambulated the Lord thrice. Form his mouth flowed mantras of the four vedas in praise of the Lord, like the flow of Ganga. In that blissful state he was not conscious of what he was doing. He bowed again and again his eyes full of tears of joy. He extolled and touched the Lord and said “O My Lord, I experience a great sense of fulfilment having touched Your feet. Is there anyone who does not feel that he has achieved his highest goal when You reveal Yourself? Lord, what an ocean of compassion you are!” These were not mere words, rather he was in a state of ecstasy. Those who are seized by that divine frenzy are fortunate, and Vishnudatta felt he was the most fortunate among them.
The Lord too was supremely happy on seeing his elated devotee. He gently lifted up Vishnudatta and said – “The best among vipras”, ask what you want?.
The devoted brahmin was again faced with a problem. Previously, both husband and wife had somehow thought of a request. If a request had to be made now, where should it come from? That was the poor brahmin’s problem. To consult his wife again was out of question. After all, what could she come up with? In front of him the Lord was waiting. To delay would amount to an offence, as it would if he said that he did not want anything. What should he do?
Suddenly an idea came to him who was so devoted to religious duties. At once he prostrated to the Lord and said – “Lord, tommorow my father’s death anniversary will be ovserved in our house, could you honour us by attending?”
The Lord was overjoyed. The selflessness in the brahmin’s request pleased the Lord. “If the Lord comes as a guest, all the manes will attain liberation. That is a great satisfaction for me”, was the brahmin’s idea. The Lord said – “I shall come to your house tommorrow noon. Be ready”.
Evening was then approaching. Turning to Vishnudatta, the Lord said-“My time of silence is very near. Make your water offering to the gods in that river and reach your home before darkness sets in”.
Vishnudatta did not get any sleep that night. On seeing her husband’s ecstasy, the wife too could not sleep. Both of them were seized by great excitement. Tommorrow the Lord will come to our house. What should we do when He comes? How should we receive Him? How should we receive Him? How should we seat Him? What food should be cooked? What courteous treatment should be given and at what time? At every word they were absorbed in joyful anticipation. The whole night was full of Datta to that virtuous couple. Until the dawn and the time for the daily rites approached, they kept talking about Lord Dattatreya. Afterwards while Vishnudatta was performing his daily rites, he kept imaging that the Lord had arrived. He jumped even at the sound of an ant. He shrunk with fear when a fly moved.
His wife Sushila was in the same state. Even when she had prepared many dishes, it did not satisfy her. She was in a dilemma as to whether the Lord would like the dish or not; whether a particular item would be good enough or not. She prepared a variety of food and many kinds of dishes.
Finally the Lord came. The couple welcomed Him with enthusiasm and courteous attention and seated Him on an appropriate seat. The Lord was in a pleasant mood and delighted them with wise words. After conversing with the Lord for a while, Sushila went into the kitchen, and the Guru and his disciple discussed subjects from the scriptures.
The housewife returned and announced that everything was ready. Then the Lord looked at Vishnudatta and said-“Yes, but where is the other guest? Surely you have invited another brahmin suitable to me”.
Vishnudatta’s face turned pale. His only thought had been that the Lord would come. There was no other thought in his mind. Until the Lord reminded him, he had not thought of the custom of inviting another brahmin. Recovering a little, he said – “Lord, my wife usually takes care of such matters”.
“As You are the greatest of guests, she will definitely have arranged for a suitable guest. I shall enquire and come back” and going inside, he talked to his wife.”
But she was in the same predicament. Until then it had not occurred to her. What should they do? The wife recovered and said – “Alright, leave the matter to me. First, bathe the Lord and seat Him on a wooden seat”. Vishnudatta went back to the Lord and said-“She will attend to everything do not worry. Please have Your bath”.
While the Lord seemed to be just bathing, He was in fact carefully observing the couple’s conduct.
Inside the house, not knowing what to do, the wife went to the backyard. There she saw the sun in the sky. As soon as she saw the Sun God, and idea occurred to her. Folding her hands, she praised that friend of the World-“Lord, you are the stimulator of all intellects. There is nothing unknown to you. Lord Dattatreya is our guest and He wants the company of another brahmin. Lord, You alone can help us”.
The Sun God in the sky was startled. Should I go to the dinner at the death anniversary? But it was the wish of the supremely virtuous Susila. Besides, Lord Datta was waiting. Asthough bound by mantra, the Sun God took a human form, and appearing before her in the guise of a brahmin, said-“Mother, I shall act as you desire”.
She worshipped the Sun God properly, and told Him to come after bathing.
Lord Datta observed what happened with astonishment. Vishnudatta was happy that the second brahmin had come in time, and announced with pleasure-“Lord, another brahmin has come now”. But the Lord wanted to test him further. He said to Vishnudatta-“Do you want to complete the death anniversary with only two brahmins? Have you not arranged for a brahmin sperately for the place of Vishnu?”
Vishnudatta’s face turned pale again. With two brahmins only the death anniversary could be performed well in conformity with the scriptures. There is no need for a third brahmin. But the Lord is now insisting on a third brahmin. To ascertain whether his wife had invited anyone, he went inside and said-“The Lord says that it would be better if a third brahmin were here. Have you invited anyone else?” With wide eyes she looked at him in surprise. Recovering instantly, she said-“The third brahmin will come. Leave it to me. You go and commence worship”.
Susila pondered over what was to be done and then her eyes fell on the three sacred fires on the platform. She took courage and chanted:
(Salutations to the Householder’s fire; Salutations to the Southern fire; Salutations to the Sacrificial fire).
She folded her hands, and meditating upon Agnideva, prayed thus:- “O Lord, you are the master of the house. You are ever worshipful to us. Therefore, I am begging you to help us”. Agnideva knew her power very well. Without delay he came out of the firepit in the guise of a brahmin. She worshipped him with due devotion and asked him to have a bath.
Vishnudatta was happy that a third brahmin also had been found in time. Lord Datta was filled with surprise and pleasure at the power and devotion of that jewel among virtuous and dedicated wives, as well as the humility of the couple.
The Sun God, Agnideva and Lord Datta Himself were now the guests. O Mahendra, such a death anniversary has neither taken place in the past, nor will take place in the future.
After the guests had eaten, Vishnudatta performed the rites of the death anniversary and then had all the three guests rest for a while. He was extremely happy. By the grace of the Lord, the ritual of the death anniversary had taken place in an extraordinary way. In that joyous state he prostrated to the Lord again and praised Him with one hundred and eight names which came to him as an intution.
Listening to that matchless praise the Lord went into complete rapture: “Vishnudatta, you are the best among brahmins. Your devotion is supreme. The wonderful praise with a hundred and eight names has emanated from your mouth as a great inspiration. To those who recite them daily with devotion, I shall be as gracious as I am to experts of yoga. I shall grant any boons they ask. This is a great favour, which I am bestowing on the whole world out of love for you. Redemption of the world is achieved by persons like you. Out of love for you I shall fulfill all your wishes. Don’t hesitate, but ask for a boon”.
Since Lord was thus pursuading him to ask, at last Vishnudatta said-“My Lord, the cause for this happiness is the brahmarakshasa living in front of my house. Please favour him”. The Lord burst out laughing. Then the Lord began to press him again and said – “Vishnudatta is there anything still left for me to do for him? Merely by eating your Vaisvadeva offerings and sacrifices, his sins stand destroyed. Since he has helped you, blessings are already waiting for him. I will grant him residence in heaven till the end of the kalpa. This is his boon. Now ask what you want?” However, the couple could not think of anything to ask. The Sun God and Fire God, who were by His side, were looking on with wonder: should they not at least ask for liberation?
In the end, the Lord Himself spoke. He said-“Vishnudatta, Datta is in your name. You are yourself Datta. Your wife too is as much Datta as you are. I have been observing her influence. You alone are her equal. She alone is fit for you. I know you have nothing to ask. Those who have no knowledge of the Truth ask for salvation. They do not know that salvation cannot be given. The statement that “desire for salvation is good’ is meant for the unknowing. I know your noble feelings. Yet, I cannot leave without giving you something. Therefore, all of your manes have attained the eternal Brahmaloka as a result of this death anniversary. Now, is there anyone in your lineage, who is not on the path of salvation? As for you, there is nothing you want. You have conqured even the desire for liberation. You have achieved the art of doing everything without desire. In fact, there is not any work that can bind you”.
“Vishnudatta, I therefore want you to do a little of my work. I shall give you a mantra. If you worship and meditate on it, you will attain whatever you desire and long life, health, wealth, power of kingdom. Not only will you attain this, you can also confer on others whatever favour you want by the power of this mantra”.
So saying the Lord taught him the mantra, placed both of His hands on the heads of the couple and disappeared.
When they realised that Lord Dattatreya had gone, they still did not feel that He had really left them. Therefore, they were not sad.
The Sun God and Fire God who witnessed the eminence of that couple, were full of admiration and both of them gave them many boons themselves.
The Sun God confered the benefit of walking in space and unrestrained movement and the assurance that he would appear whenever remembered.
Agnideva bestowed the boon of incomparable brilliance, establishment in truth and power to give happiness, and said-“If you just remember me, I shall come and do your work”.
Both of them returned to their respective regions. Then the former brahmarakshasa took his seat in a celestial chariot and went to the celestial regions, after having obtained Vishnudatta’s permission.
You see, Mahendra, Vishnudatta attained extraordinary acheivement in that very birth performing his obligatory duties without desires.
Therefore, Devendra, it is obvious that it is not important which path or scripture one follows. One should perform one’s duties to the best of one’s abilities, with realiability and devotion. Most importantly one should do everything without desire for the fruits of one’s actions. If one does everything with such detachment, then whatever one does will elevate one. All of one’s undertakings should be devoid of planning and desire for results.
Look at Vishnudatta. He did not perform extraordinary deeds. He did not have wells dug, nor did he construct tanks. He did not build temples and towers, nor did he perform sacrifices all the time. He achieved his power with his wise intellect; his integrity, his truthfulness, non-injury, purity and self-restraint. More than anything, he achieved it through his contentment, detachment and desirelessness. The same is true for his wife Susila. It is for this reason that the story of that virtuous couple is a great example for all devotees.
After narrating the story up to this point, Brihaspati fell silent, moved by the thought of the saintly couple. Looking at him Indra said-“Gurudeva, I have listened to this story which confers much merit. You had said that you would narrate seven stories called Saptodaharini (Seven Examples). So far you have told four stories. I am eager to know what Vishnudatta did afterwards. Please, favour me by telling this”.
Pleased by Indra’s keen interest, Brihaspati began thus- “Manendra, your wish will be fulfilled. The three stories to be told next concern Vishnudatta.
These stories have until illustrated how the different traditions mentioned in the scriptures give spiritual achievement to the respective seekers, according to their taste and eligibility. But virtues, such as truthfulness, non-injury and integrity are necessary for all aspirants and are the basis of all striving.
But in normal life people’s tendencies are rather complex. Their desires and tendencies sometimes contradict each other. In this case, discrimination has to be used. Without discrimination all the scriptures seem contradictory.
For instance, those who are deluded by ignorance, may think that Ayurveda sastra shows the way to happiness by keeping the body healthy aor that Dharma sastra prescribes the way to attain heaven and other upper regions; or that Mantra and Tantra sastras teach us how to cast a spell on one’s foes or that sastras like Mimamsa show the way to obtain rewards both here and hereafter through sacrifices.
The purpose of the sastras is to show various ways of obtaining happiness, and to make those absorbed in worldly activities gradually trun to the supreme truth. Then they will realise that Ayurveda shows the way to destroy obstacles to austerities. Dharma sastra is the path of purity of the mind, Mantra sastra teaches the way to conquer inner enemies, and that Mimamsa and other sastras show how samsara causes delution and assumes that the body is Atman.
Thus the respective sastras employ a device to appeal to individuals not yet ready for the ultimate Truth. You cannot instruct the meaning of the sentence ‘Thou art that’ to aspirants who are ridden with desires and diseases. They would not listen, and even if they did, they would not understand it. Suffering should be reduced to remove obstacles in this spiritual path.
First one has to lesson their suffering; then they will be more inclined to believe. Devotion will increase and faith will develop. Then they are ready to listen to what is said.
The next three stories I am about to tell will explain this with examples. They also include reference to Vishnudatta.
Even after obtaining great boons from Lord Datta and attaining amazing power, there was not a trace of vanity or pride in Vishnudatta. Just as the ocean does not overflow when all the great rivers enter it, Vishnudatta remained even-minded. He was kind to everyone and he never exhibited his powers before others.
Though he was living in his house like fire enveloped by ashes, his saintliness spread all over the country like the frragrance of the jasmine flower. He helped people without any desire for rewards and without thinking that he was the one who acted thus.
At a short distance from Matapura there was a place of piligrimage called Kusavarta. The large number of learned brahmins living there spent their time in groups studying vedas and vadangas.
To one among them, owing to some sin committed by him, a son was born who was afflicted with acute gour from birth. Even after he came of age, the affiliction did not decrease. Yet even before he had attained marriageable age, his parents performed his marriage. The girl, by the name of Sumedha, was a sparkling as light. The poor girl, did not know anything about her husband. Before she came of age both his parents passed away. By that time, her husband, already suffering from acute from acute gout, developed dropsy which culminated in tuberculosis.
There was nobody now to care for him in this awful state. Sumedha was still a young girl-a girl who should have been enjoying a care-free youth. What a virtuous soul she was! In order to save her husband, she left her parents house and went to look after him as the eyelid would the eye.
Seeing her doing the work of both husband and wife, and serving her husband as if she were his own mother, the whole town was astonsihed. But his diseases increased day by day. Asthough the diseases he was already suffering from were not enough, he also caught dysentry and heart diseases.
Since all the treatment he was given proved futile, the girl, for the sake of her husband’s health, observed whatever rites anyone suggested. While wives of her age were moving about freely with their husbands, this poor girl was nursing her husband day and night, emaciating her body by taking up new discipline all the time. She worshipped every diety and observed all sorts of religious vows. Inspite of all this her husband did not improve even in the slightest.
Then, one day, the girl learnt of Vishnudatta’s powers. As she had heard about Lord Datta’s greatness before, hope was kindled in her that Vishnudatta might be able to do something for her husband. Though she wanted to take the patient to Vishnudatta, he was not in a position to move.
Finally she asked her father to help and went with him, to consult Vishnudatta. On seeing him, the girl was deeply impressed and moved, so loving and compassionate he was. Her heart opened for him ahd covering her face with the border of the sari, she sobbed loudly.
Vishnudatta could see both the past and the future. His heart melted with compassion for the girl, yet, following the usual procedures asked her about her problem and cheering her said, “Why should we fear when Lord Dattatreya is among us?” Then he agreed to go to Kusavarta with them.
By the time they reached the house, the disorder of the three humours in the patient’s body had increased and he was unconcious, due to high delirious fever. He did not respond when called. When Sumedha saw her husband in that state, her heart seemed to break. Crying loudly, she caught hold of Vishnudatta’s feet and said “O Vishnudatta, I beg you to care my husband”.
Though moved with pity, Vishnudatta was immersed in a state of perfect inner peace. He thought: “with the divine powers granted by Lord Dattatreya I can cure all these diseases in an instant. But with that nothing will really have been achieved. He will live, that is al. Of what use is that? He should live and become virtuous. He should not again commit the sins he committed in his previous lives. Not only that, he should also advance spiritually.
To that aim he should develop interest in the good deeds recommended by the scriptures. He should be made to experience directly that by performing expiatory acts in accordance with the scriptures, all former sins are destroyed and diseases cured, and that by observing rites, merit accures and real happiness is attained. If this happens he will follow the scriptures as long as he lives and eventually attain fulfilment. Without this, will it be worthwhile for me to exhibit my powers and gain fame? That is not the way. I could even secretly pass on my powers to him, so that the good deeds he performs may soon, bear fruit. This is the better way”.
Having come to this conclusion Vishnudatta lifted up the girl and said-“Child, what is the use of crying? Listen to what I have to say. Experiencing the fruits of past actions cannot be avoided. It is so with me, it is also so with you-it is so even with Brahma. Who can chage it? Sins committed in previous births, manifest and torment us in the form of diseases. But here are atonements. They have to be performed scrupulsously. Tuberculosis is caused by slaying a brahmin. To expiate this sin, a rite has to be performed for twelve years with great dedication. Your father and the others here are all scholars. There is a book which deals with the consequences or results of any action either in this or in a former birth and matured by time. I wonder whether you can act according to it”.
Sumedha’s answer came like an arrow. “If you and my father tell me to jump into the fire, I shall do so. Save my husband. I shall do anything that is needed”.
By that time all the important brahmins of the village had gathered there. After talking to them, Vishnudatta decided on the atonement, according to the sastra which deals with actions and their consequences.
A religious observance for twelve years for the disease caused by killed a brahmin; another twelve years observance for dropsy caused by sins against Vishnu, and a six years rite for acute gout and three years observance for the fistuals and ulcers. After deciding this Vishnudatta initiated Sumedha separately.
When a particular rite was observed, the disease corresponding to it began to diminish. As the diseases abated, the brahmin youth also began to participate in these observations, as far as was possible for him. By the time half the observances were over, all the diseases were cured completely. The couple completed the remaining observances with great faith.
When all the rites and observanes had been completed the couple invited Vishnudatta to their house for three days and accorded him the traditional sixteen kinds of devotional treatment. Vishnudatta treated the girl as his own daughter, and touching the chest of the husband and blessing him, he told him to chant Datta mantra to attain a righteous disposition, virtuous progeny, long life, health and wealth. Then he returned home.
See, Devendra, now tell me, if Vishnudatta had told either Sumedha or the youth that the world is unreal, that there is neither birth nor death, and there is no disease at all, would they have understood? Would it have been acceptable if he had advised them to perform meritorious acts, so they would be happy in their next birth? That is why Vishnudatta combined resourcefulness with power and caused that brahmin youth’s intellect to be absorbed in righteousness. Outwardly, atonement was the reward for those rites. But, in fact, they were themselves the means to purify his intellect and therefore indirectly lead to liberation.
Take the example of a child who is ill and should take bitter medicine. The child will cry and reject it. Then the mother, holding sugarcandy in one hand and the medicine in the other, says – “You take the medicine first, then I shall give you a sugar candy”. To get the sugarcandy, the child, closing his eyes, swallows the medicine. Considering that it would be harmful if she gives all the sugar candy, the mother gives it only a little and concealing the remainder and telling the child that it is all gone, no wrong is done by that mother. Indeed, it should be done in that way alone.
Indra, the scriptures are like mothers to us. The worldly happiness shown by the scriptures is like the sugar candy. This samsara is only a disease. Reflection on the mahavakyas alone is the remedy.
Indra, whatever the subject be, whether self-knowledge or any other subject, in imparting knowledge to others, one should proceed as shown in this story. To make it understood at a deep level, it should be repeated again and again in different ways. As another example, I shall tell you the following story also relating to Vishnudatta.
6. SYSTEMATIC INSTRUCTION
Indra, in a village to the north of Sahyadri there lived a brahmin by the name of Kundila. His wife Visalakshi was jewel of a wife and also very attractive.
Both of them were of a good age, and there were no elderly relations in the household. There was perfect harmony between them and there was no scarcity of food and water. For them, the village was like heaven.
One day Kundila had to go to town on some major work. It would take at least one month to go and return. Here was the young wife with no other company in the house. Yet he had to go and, making all necessary arrangements, he departed unwillingly. Before he left he gave a thousand warnings “Be careful, if any one knocks at the door, do not open it without looking out through the window. As soon as the sun sets, bolt all the doors and stay inside the house”. Thus he gave her plenty of good advice. The young wife lived in fear during his absence.
A brahmarakshasa was then roaring about in those regions. In a prevouse birth, he had been a brahmachari by the name Jhantiga and had studied the Vedas, yet he had been prey to misconduct. Therefore, no one had given their daughter in marriage to him. He had taken to evil ways and as a result of some hostility, had died an untimely death. After death he had become a sprit and was now wandering about in that area.
After he had become a spirit, his lust had increased enormously. Whenever he felt like it, he harassed the female spirits and also women. Whenever he saw young women alone, he came in disguise and treated them cruelly. He was an obstinate spirit who could not be subdued even by a magician.
Ever since Vishalakshi had married, he had set his eyes on her. He hesitated to trouble her however because he knew that her husband was a vedic scholor and regularly performed religious rites. But when he learnt that Kundila was going away, he became bold.
He assumed the form of Kundila and came to Kundila’s house as soon it was dark. The deceived wife, believing that the person who had come was her husband, felt very happy. With her face shining with joy, she asked “How come you could return so soon?”. With a politeness he did not normally possess, the brahmarakshasa said -“I met the person I had to see on my way, and he told me to come to see him after a month”. The young wife was filled with joy.
That night the virtuous wife indulged in amorous sport believing that demon to be her husband. She was just astonished at his ways and after some time she experienced unbearable agony and, overtaken by heart rending terror, she began to cry, and cried until dawn.
As soon as it dawned, the brahmarakshasa, under the pretense of going to work at another village, went away. “I shall return by evening. Be watchful”, he said.
For that innocent girl the day was agonising. She sensed that he must be some horrible demon. Yet his form completely resembled her husband’s. But how could see bear this pain? She could not disclose her suffering to anyone.
When it became dark again, fear gripped her. The ‘husband’ brought a big basket full of jasmine flowers tied garlands of flowers all over Visalakshi’s body and showered flowers all over her. As on the previous evening, he waited until midnight. The pain suffered by the girl that night cannot be worse even in the terrible Raurava hell. The more the fiend tormented her, the more satisfaction he derived from it.
Several days and nights passed thus. She was certain that he was some fiend and not her husband. But whom could she tell? Who would believe her?
Her heart used to shiver at the very thought that he was coming. Due to her fear of him and of diseas, she became as thin as a straw, with the bones of her checks and chest protruding. Her hair was falling out and half her head was already bald. Her eyes were full of wretchedness, her face full of fear and her mind full of anguish. Lacking the strength and courage even to die, she existed as a living corpse. She did not notice how many days passed in that way.
As soon as the month was over, her real husband came back. On seeing him, she was frightened and began to tremble. When he saw that his wife looked like a corpse, the husband was alarmed. After a short conversation, it became clear that he who had come now was her real husband. She was about to tell him everything when Jhatinga ran in yelling – “Who are you? Coming in my disguise, you are dallying with my wife!” His infatuation for Visalakshi had driven him to this impudent bravado. He now even dared to come in broad daylight.
On seeing him, Kundila staggered at first, but he was soon overcome with rage and began to fight with Jhatinga. Abusing, striking and pushing each other, they fought in the middle of the road. All the men and women of the villege came running there.
They stared at the combatants with open mouths. Both were identical in looks, voice, in details of dress-in every respect they were replicas of each other. But both of them couldn’t be the real Kundila! How to distinguish between the false and the genuine one, no one knew.
Just like others Visalakshi also did not know. But it was certain that the one who had just come home was her husband, whereas he who stayed all those nights was the rakshasa. But she could not recognise her husband when both were fighting. All she knew was that he who lived with her for a month possessed the strength of a demon, whereas her husband was of a gentle nature. However, both were now fighting each other with equal vigour. It was not possible to say who was stronger. What could she do?
When the elders of the village thought it over, they recollected the affair of Jhatinga. It was known that he was extorting women. This could be his evil doing only. They realised that he had made himself bold to come to their midst in disguise. Now was the time to put him down cleverly, so they approached both of them and, separating them, said-‘O youths, we are unable to know who is the real Kundila. Therefore, we had better ask the elders. Then Visalakshi can follow her real husband’. They took the two Kundilas to Vishnudatta, who was residing in the neighbouring village.
When Visalakshi, who had somehow recovered by now saw Vishnudatta, she was overcome with grief, fell down at his feet and betan to weep. He immediately understood the whole situation. He also recognised the rakshasa right away. But he thought-” If the people thing that I recognised the demon by some divine power, no one may talk freely. After a while, wicked suspicions may arise in the minds of a few that I have been boasting or have shown partiality. A doubt of some sort or the other may occur to them. Therefore, it is good to device a means by which they can know definitely who is genuine and who is the spirit.” Thinking thus, he decided upon a plan.
Following the convention of elders, he comforted the girl, and remembering Lord Dattatreya in his mind, looked at both of them saying, ‘youths, a small test will have to be conducted to find out which one of you is real and which one is false. Although it is an insult to the genuine one, both of you should consent to the test”. With folded hands they agreed-“Sir, is it not for that purpose that we have come to you?” They both showed great humility and reverence.
Then Vishnudatta called his disciples and asked them to put a hot seal ‘K’ on the face of one, and ‘D’ on the face of the other. The seals were applied, but they did not know that they had been consecrated with mantras.
Afterwards, Vishnudatta sat on one side along with the elders of the village and made the two youghs and Visalakshi stand on the other. Then Vishnudatta called ‘K’ and told him-“Describe all the articles, clothes, ornaments etc,. in your house and the identification marks on Visalakshi’s body.” As he was describing these, Vishnudatta has the description taken down by the elders. Then he asked ‘D’ to do likewise and also had that description taken down. Afterwards he asked Visalakshi also to describe all this and it too was written down. The elders compared the three statements and came to a decision.
Yet Vishnudatta called both ‘K’ and ‘D’ and said – “This Matapura is spread over five krosas. There are different temples around it. Both of you should go round the town and come back only after seeing the deity in every temple. He who returns first and describes the distinct marks of the respective deities, as proof of his really having gone around, will be considered winner”. As soon as they heard these words, both of them started running. ‘D’ came back first and described all the distinct marks of the deities, which the elders took donw. He said-“I have come first. Visalakshi is mine. The elders said-‘Let Us wait for K to come'”.
‘K’ came back at noon. He also reported all the marks of the deities. The elders could not come to a decision. The report of both was identical, only one moved fast, and the other not. By this alone they could not say who was genuine.
Then Vishnudatta smiled and said, “Let us see after conducting another test.” Addressing the two, he said-“O youths, we have heard that a number of yogis are living on this hill. You have to go round the hill and return after collecting the names and gotra of those yogis”. ‘D’ asked-“Will he who comes first, be the winner?”.
The elders confirmed this. ‘D’ was naturally full of enthusiasm. He ran with doubled zeal, thinking – “I have been successful in one test. Some are on my side. The decision is delayed as a few have opposed it. If I win in this also, then Visalakshi will be mine.” ‘K’ too doubled his efforts.
‘D’ returned in a short time. The elders took down all the names of yogis he mentioned. He boasted proudly-“I had the support of God. That is why I have been able to perform this test so quicily”.
After about three hours had passed, the second one came back dragging his legs and dropped down exhausted, saying-“I went round the whole hill. There were no yogis at all”.
Vishnudatta had him revived, and after consulting the elders, said – “Youths, we have already come to a decision. Yet since there should be no haste in such an important matter, we are conducting one more test. It is the last. “Vishnudatta had hardly spoken when ‘D’ got up and said ‘Tell us quickly”. ‘K’ remained sitting looking disinterested.
Then Vishnudatta had a bottle brought and said-“Youths, he who squeezes himself into this and comes out again can take Visalakshi with him. We shall take care of the other one”.
Chuckling gleefully, ‘D’ assumed a subtle form and pushed himself into the bottle.
Vishnudatta who was just waiting for him to do this, closed the bottle with a special stopper and sprinkled consecrated water over it. The spirit inside struggled and raved, but unable to overcome the power of the mantra, rolled about and fell down inside the bottle.
The elders who saw this were overcome with joy and applauded. Visalakshi and Kundila caught hold of Vishnudatta’s feet and Visalakshi began to cry. Lifting her up, Vishnudatta asked why she was crying. Sobbing, she said “O Vishnudatta, please prescribe some atonement for me”.
Vishnudatta asked with surprise-“Atonement! Why atonement for You?” She could not reply, she was crying so much. The women around her understood, and with tears in their eyes in appreciation of her sense of virtue, they explained the reason to Vishnudatta.
Kundila hearing those words, moved away a little from Visalakshi and listened to Vishnudatta, who began in a serious tone.
“Visalakshi, Lord Datta is pleased with your sense of virtue, Kundila, listen carefully. I am explaining this to you in the presence of the elders.”
“Jhatinga is now mere wind. All that has happend is the prank of the wind. If an untouchable spirit possesses a brahmin, will that brahmin become an untouchable?” Therefore, Visalakshi is absolutely free from the sin of contact with another man. The venerable Maharsi Atri, who gave birth to Lord Datta, has ruled that no stigma attaches to the woman who has been the victim of force. Then, where is the question of stigma in the pranks of wind?”
“Some men interpret the code of virtue rather harshly in regard to women. It is a sin in the world to do so. Therefore, Kundila, do not allow that supposition to enter your mind.
“Visalakshi, do not spoil your mind by entertaining nonexistent and hypothetical doubts. You have suffered the torture of hell for a month. None of the sins have stuck to you. Carry on your marriage with righteousness and be happy”.
When they heard Vishnudatta’s decision with regard to righteousness, all the elders corroborated him with quotations from different Stutis and Smriti.
Then faces of Visalakshi and Kundila shone with joy. They prostrated to Vishnudatta, who blessed them – “Live happily endowed with faith in the performance of your religious duties”.
Later, Vishnudatta had that bottle burried by his disciples in the burial ground. He had all the guests stay in his house that day and sent them back the next day.
See, Devendra, how Vishnudatta bound the brahmarakshasa who was pestering the inhabitants of that area! He knew before hand who the spirit was, yet he conducted tests. After the first test, all the elders of the village thought that ‘D’ was spirit. But, they were not sure. It was confirmed by the second test. Still doubt lingered in the minds of a few. By the third test all doubts were dispelled. Then in the fourth test, the spirit was apprehended. Thus, Vishnudatta demonstrated step by step to the residents of the village who was the real Kundila.
Even in the matter of identifying the real Kundila which was a problem for the villegers, a gradual method of instruction had to be employed. How much resourcefulness is then needed in the teaching of something which is beyond mind and speech and transcends proof?
If a man cries as though he himself is suffering, when his wife, children, friends or relatives suffer, then for him the doctrine of Carvakas, which teaches that you are limited by your body, will be some consolation.
To those who believe that the body is itself the Atman, Mantra and other sastras teach that there is a power which controls this body and the worlds and that by worshipping it, you may obtain visible results. That way they stimulate devotion to God. Mimamsa and such other sastras which say that if you perform noble deeds, you will obtain a better body and experience great happiness eventually, make you understand that you are different from the body.
Then it becomes easy for the Vedanta shastra to make you apprehend your real Self, which is different from the gross, subtle and causal bodies and is one.
Therefore, Devendra, understand that there is no conflice between sastras. After all my explanations, you may still doubt why there should be so many steps. Would it not suffice if there were just one or two?
“O King Devendra, the essential nature of Brahman is incomprehensible. Even if mahatmas who have gone quite near it slip a little, there is the risk of their taking the adjacent road and thus going far awway from the truth.
To clear the doubts of these persons, therefore, doctrines are needed which, though seeming to agree on the surface, have very subtle differences in their conclusion. To illustrate this, I shall narrate another story concerning Vishnudatta.
7. LAST STEP
ratisthanapura, where Sumatidevi, a jewel among virtuous and devoted wives, lived is known to you already. There was a brahmin to whom, after being childless for a long time, a son was born.
The brahmin was fairly well off and also righteous. Since the son was born after he had been childless for so long, the brahmin brought him up with much love and care.
Apart from the desires entertained by parents with regard to their children, there are the tendencies each child has in himself. The boy was not only stupid, but also obstinate. He did not mix with others or have the least interest in playing with his equals. His teachers were unable to understand how such a stupid child had been born to such a great scholar. The father came to the conclusion that he could only have a minimum of education. But, seeing the boy’s stupidity increasing day by day, he was alarmed.
The boy was always alone. He talked to himself or laughed and wept and even rolled in the mud.
Thinking it might be madness, the father had medicines administered to him. Fearing that he might be possessed by evil spirits, he had amulets tied to the boy. Yet, the result was nil. The father gave him the sacred thread in the hope that if he were to wear it and utter the Gayatri mantra, he might improve. But, thereafter his behavior became even more strange.
It was a headache to his mother to make him perform the religious practices. However much she told him to, he did not perform sandhyavandana. Inspite of remonstrations, he used to urinate wherever he liked. When he should have been silent, he would yell. For him there was no distinction between what to eat and what not to eat, between what to say and what not to; and between what to do and what not to do. He was not bothered about putting clothes. His parents were desperate.
They undertook many rites such as the chanting of prayers, austerities, disciplines, fasts, gifts and pilgirmages for the boy’s sake. But nothing helped.
At last, the parents and boy approached Vishnudatta, and prostrating to him, they told him of their distress with tears in their eyes.
As soon as he saw the boy, Vishnudatta’s face lit up, and the boy’s face did too. Seeing the brightness in their son’s expression, the parents were surprised and happy, thinking it was Vishnudatta’s greatness and his impression on the boy.
After conversating to them for sometime, Vishnudatta told them to go and have a bath and finish their rites. The boy would stay with him for a while.
As soon as they went away, Vishnudatta, looking deeply into the boy’s eyes, said-‘Mahatma, who are you? What is the unfinished work for which you have taken this body? What can I do for you, why have you come here under the pretext of accompanying your parents? O Lord, tell me, frankly and openly.’ Hearing these words, the boy said slowly:
“Have I Come? Have I work with you? Since I pervade everything like the water deluge at the end of creation, what is the meaning of my going to a place or coming from a place? What is there for me to do or cause to be done? Is there is any place where I am not? I am Atman only. I am myself Sat-Cit-Ananda. I alone am food, I alone am drink. Where is doership or enjoyership for me? These words do not apply to me for I am non-dual, one without a second”.
Vishnudatta, who was listening to the boy’s words with immense joy, was overcome with emotion and, hugging him, saik:-
“Mahatma, that alone is Truth. I agree. But I have a question to ask-Even though you are liberated while in the body, why do you not conduct yourself in a disciplined way and set a good example? Seeing you, some ignorant persons may behave as you do. If it is known that you are a liberated soul, even the virtuous may be ruined by following your present way of life. When it is so, what do you lose by being a good example to all?”
“It is not upto me admonish you. There is nothing unknown to you, who always revel in your own Self. Perhaps you may have a misgiving that if you fall into the trap of Karma, these attachments and bondages may stick to you again”
“May I ask just one more question? Do not misunderstand me. Why are you so much afraid of bondage? If you fear this, what is the use of your knowing that Supremen Reality where there is no fear? If there is duality for you, then you may fear. But are you not saying that you are one without a second?”
“I am not asking these questions to blame you. Think for yourself. Aret attachment and bondage real? Renunciation of identification alone is liberation. When sin and merit do not cling to even a common a man, provided he gives up the notion of ‘ I am doing’, then how can thy cling to you?.”
“Bandhasya vishayassangi mukternirvishayam manah”
“If the mind grasps and attaches itself to objects, it produces bondage. Otherwise it produces liberation and bliss. It is thus with the mind of the bride who has just married, though engaged in domestic work throughout day, she will remain happy and buoyant because her mind is fixed on her husband. It is mind alone which is the cause of bondage or liberation”.
“If the mind is under your control, why should you be afraid of actions that take place outside of you? Does liberation exit somewhere in heaven or in the nether world? It is not there, it is here within you. Liquidation of the ego in the mind is itself liberation. You have achieved this already. Then your fear is only an illusion.”
“There is no room for fear, there is no second. Therefore, why cause others to weep? Of all people, why should the parents who have given you this body, which is the field for discrimination, be made to weep? Living in the midst of people, why are you setting them bad example? Therefore, O Mahatma, follow the worldly path for some time and please your parents. Later, if you so desire, go away from the world and live as you like. Do not fall from the state of non-dual experience by entertaining unnecessary and unworthy fears”.
The listened with open eyes to these words, but remained silent. Then Vishnudatta took him inside for a bath and had food served to them by the virtuous Susila.
Seeing their son behaving so differently, the parents were overjoyed. They were filled with wonder at the greatness of Vishnudatta, who by his mere presence, had controlled the disease which had not subsided even after so many medicines, mantras and other techniques that had been used.
By the time the boy had eaten the food served by Susila all the particles of fear hidden in the corners of his mind had left him completely. Vishnudatta and Susila smiled to themselves when they saw prostrate to the feet of his parents after the meal.
Bowing down with gratitude and overflowing joy to Vishnudatta and Susila, the happy parents left with the boy.
The boy conducted himself in an agreeable and respectful manner as long as his parents lived, and afterwards he became an ascetic.
Did you see, Mahendra, even after reaching the height of the subtle ultimate principle and attaining the state in which he saw his Self in all and the Self of all in himself, a little bit of fear remained in the boy. Such a man at one moment considered himself as one without second and yet was aftaid of bondage at another moment. No wonder that layman in whom the immanent Atman ever shines, in deep sleep too grieve that they do not know who they are and believe that they are doers and enjoyers and want knowledge of the Self.
Regardless of the eminence of a person, it is possible for him to choose the wrong path. That is why different sastras has to be developed to impart instruction to different sadhakas with different qualifications.
“Mahendra, thus different sastras have been written to instruct the sadhakas step by step according to their level. They are ancient and not any novel creations. Now, let me know your opinion”.
Reflecting upon the words of Brihaspati’s detailed explanation and grasping the truth in them, Devendra prostrated to the Guru’s feet, and said – “Gurudeva, pardon me, I spoke without thinking, but now I know that what you said is true”, and left with a treasure of new knowledge.
“Now, Kartavirya, what do you think?” Lord Datta, looked smilingly into Arjuna’s eyes. Bowing down to the Lord, Kartavirya said:-
“Lord I now understand by your grace that all the sastras lead to one goal and the notion that they are contradictory is mere delusion. Now I have no doubts whatsoever. Whichever the sastra may be, he who follows and practices it thoroughly, achieves fulfillment. But he who entertains useless doubts and worries about what this sastra says and what that sastra says, wastes his time. My Lord, I understand this by your kindness”.
“By your grace my mind is now serene. Now I lack only the knowledge of the Self. Pray, bless me so that interest in other things may be destroyed and I may spend my entire life devoted to Brahman!”.