My humble prostrations at the feet of the grand Datta Tradition and the glorious gothra of Sage Bharadwaja to which I am lucky to belong.
Atmananda’s Memoirs – The story of Mooli Baba
It was many years ago. During one of my journeys to the Kumaon region of Himalayas, I happened to meet an interesting saint whom the villagers called Mooli Baba. Mooli means radish. (the whitish vegetable which is used as part of the green salad in the Northern part of India.) When I met him, Mooli Baba looked close to 60 years of age. I was curious and I asked one of the villagers, as to why he was named after a vegetable? He replied, “We do not know where he came from and what his name is. He suddenly appeared in the village and started wandering up and down, sleeping in various odd places, ignoring the rain and the sun. First, he was thought to be a mad beggar. But then we realized that he is not begging at all. Instead, he is buying only one particular vegetable – radish – with the money that he dished out from his own rough shoulder sack. We used to wonder how he had the money. None dared to ask him. Soon, he settled down close to the jungle trail, by erecting a shelter for himself with bamboo, sticks and raw clothes. It was not sufficient to contain the constant rain. But, he seemed to be satisfied. Soon, people started recognizing his stature and began visiting him.
Since we saw him eating only the vegetable mooli, everyone brought mooli to him as their offering. And as a remedy or cure, he always gave everyone moolis. Once, for a patient with throat cancer, he made him open his mouth and pushed a mooli inside and pulled it out thrice. The man screamed in pain, but was instantly cured. His methods were strange. One lady drank the juice of the mooli that he gave and it cured her stomach ulcer. His mooli cured all illnesses spontaneously. But, some days, he will never come out of his tent or meet anyone. And on those days, if anyone comes near, he will throw mooli at them and drive them away. And if the mooli hit them, it healed them instantaneously. He was so powerful. The strangest thing I ever heard was his pushing a mooli up the anus of an old man suffering from piles and it healed him! They say that blood poured out of him and became a pool around his feet and people were frightened that he may die. He cried aloud in fear and confusion too. Soon, he became normal and he left on his own, fully healed!”
“Mooli Baba only articulates one word – AUM which sounds like Hmm from his mouth. He never asks anyone anything and whenever he needs something, money just appears in his hands and he pays for everything with cash.”
I had to meet Mooli Baba. The pull was so strong that I could not imagine moving away from that village without meeting him. I spent seven days and seven nights in this remote village, repeatedly visiting the make-shift abode of Mooli Baba. There always used to be a small crowd in front of his tent. I always waited because patients have to be given preference. And as if to test my patience, he always went inside and drew the curtain of the tent, ignoring me, as soon as the last patient left the tent. Seven days later, one day, he threw a mooli at me. I took it and walked to my accommodation. That evening, I ate only that. And something shifted in me. I fell into a deep trance which lasted for a few days. I did not leave my room; neither did I eat, sleep or use the toilet. I did not even consume water. When I came back to the usual waking state, I realized, what a powerful Avadhoota this Mooli Baba was. I did not waste a minute. I went back to him immediately.
Rain was pouring from the dense skies. Thunder and rain. There was none on the village path. I did not have an umbrella. I was determined to see Mooli Baba or at least be in His presence. Water was flowing knee-deep through the village path and it was difficult for me to walk. I cared for nothing else. Nothing could stop me from going to the abode of Mooli Baba. I waded through the water and reached the forest clearing near the tent of Mooli Baba. The cloth shutter was drenched and swayed in the rain and wind. It was cold. I was shivering. When I came close, I saw a hole in the cloth through which I looked inside. Mooli Baba was sitting there, with his eyes raised to the heavens, totally still and motionless, while the rain poured over him through various holes of the sack roof of his hut! He was totally unaffected by the weather! I stood looking at him for some time. I also could not move. I was standing outside his tent in the rain while Mooli Baba was sitting inside his tent in the rain. The same rain covered both of us. I felt as if both of us were under one umbrella of nature called rain! When this thought occurred in my mind, Mooli Baba looked in my direction. He threw a mooli at the cloth, which hit the cloth and fell back inside his tent. With his eyes, he motioned me to enter. I entered. He uttered “Hmm”. I replied “AUM”. He looked ino my eyes. I bowed down at his feet, making sure I did not touch his feet, but I touched his feet in my mind. He again said “Hmm” as if acknowledging my intention. He hit the back of my head with a mooli. I went into a trance again. I do not know how many days or nights I stayed like this on my knees with my head touching the ground. When I came back to my terrestrial consciousness, Mooli Baba was not there. I was alone. I or the villagers never saw Mooli Baba ever again. All I could see when I looked around was a small pile of mooli near the entrance of the tent. And it is true that those who chose to keep those moolis, which I distributed to the villagers a few days later, saw that they never decayed even after years. They always remained as fresh as ever. Pieces of those moolis cured many diseases too.
The two times that I went into trance, I had different experiences. The first time, I had left my body and was roaming in a plane of existence where there were only white bubbles all around. Totally naked men and women floated like fairies in the bubbles. I could see myself as if I was looking at myself from the outside. I could see myself through others too. Everything was transparent. Then I realized that white conglomerates all colors. All the colors came together to create white. So, in fact, this world is multi-colored! There was no pain or fear in this plane. There was no ego or loss. There was no duality or oneness. There was nothing. It was like a hallucination. When I returned from this plane, my vision had changed. I could see through things around me.
Immediately, despite the rain, I went towards Mooli Baba’s abode. The second time, when Mooli Baba hit my head with the mooli, I became like a splash of light. Everything gross dissolved. I became light. Just light. I saw many like me, but, they were all essentially me. I could not understand if they were within me or outside of me. The light was blinding, yet soothing. The body was well beyond the earth and the stars. I was light and there was nothing else apart from me. I am the creator, maintainer, and destroyer. I am the witness too. I am everything and I am nothing! There was nothing neither created nor destroyed. There was a thin veil between my earlier identity and now, which was now fully torn to extinction. Nothing existed anymore.
When I came back to my body, I realized that I cannot be this body. As a reminder of my shift, or as a witness to it, only a few moolis were on the floor. There was none else. And Mooli Baba disappeared forever. Did he really exist? Or, did he exist only for me? Or did I visit this village for Him? Questions which need no answer. Questions that do not matter! The current state is the only reality!
I stayed in the same village, in the same tent curing people for three years, as my humble offering to the great saint, Mooli Baba, as my Guru Dakshina. I fulfilled his tasks as best as I could, in my own humble way. The people whom I gave mooli got relieved of their nagging afflictions. When the divine call came for me to leave the place, I took my bag and left. As soon as I walked out of the tent, it collapsed completely and merged with the earth!. No sign of its existence! It had miraculously stayed on all these years until I decided to leave the village. I faintly realized that I and Mooli Baba were in fact one. And I did not exist.
Atmananda and the farmer’s son
While I was wandering further north from Kumaon, I stopped for a meal at a small way-side hut owned by a farmer. He had a tiny farmland. He grew seasonal crops there. He took care of his wife and a son with his income. He also served refreshments to the stray wanderers who traversed through the village path in front of his house, for a reasonable cost. There were no restaurants anywhere close by that place. Thus, that afternoon, I became his guest.
He was a selfless man and always served fresh food. When I told him that I was a wandering monk and I would like to have some food, he asked me to sit on a cot which he had kept outside his hut and went inside. I heard him conveying the arrival of a customer and also that he is a monk from whom money cannot be collected, to his wife. Then I heard his wife asking him if it is fine to give me the remnants (left-over) of their lunch since it is charity. He objected to her idea and insisted that old food should never be offered to monks and saints. The obedient wife silently went out of the house to the nearby well to fetch water for cooking. I sat observing the last rays of the setting sun casting a golden halo over the forest. It was a clear afternoon.
As the husband and his wife were busy cooking a meal for me, I saw their teenage son entering the house. He looked at me and bowed slightly, with a ritualistic, obligatory air, without any reverence and went inside. He asked his parents what they were doing and if they were cooking their supper. They said that they are cooking a meal for me. I heard the boy objecting. “He is a wandering monk. He has no money. He will not pay. Just give him the remnants of our lunch or a banana and some water and send him off before sunset. Otherwise, he will creep in for supper, too.” And as a continuation, he told his mother “Ma, my father does not have any concern for our tomorrow. At least you should guide him not to be so extravagant”. Quickly, his father intervened in a hushed voice, “Hush! silence my son. Not so loud. Do you want the sadness of a hungry saint to affect our family? Keep quiet. It is our dharma to feed the hungry monks. Their blessings will keep us free from illness and poverty.” As his wife was cooking, perhaps to take him away from the periphery of my audibility, he took his son to the backside of his hut. I could still hear their conversation; perhaps it was even more audible to me.
The farmer said “Son, have you heard the story of Adi Shankara? While wandering, once he reached a house and called out for alms. The householder was away hunting for work and daily sustenance and his wife opened the door and saw a young monk calling out for alms. She told him with deep humility, “Pardon me Maharaj, there is not even one grain in this house. How can I serve you?” Adi Shankara looked at her and said, “Kind mother, I am very hungry. There will be something in the household. Please check all vessels and bottles.” The lady of the house searched and found one gooseberry in brine in one of the bottles kept in the kitchen. She gave that to Shankaracharya and he consumed it as if it was a delicious full meal. He was happy. He blessed her with the famous Kanakadhara Stotra. And golden gooseberries started falling from the skies and rolled on the ground. It goes without saying that the family became very rich and lived happily ever after.”
He continued “My son, never ridicule saints and monks. God can appear in their form. Lord Shiva has appeared to many, as monks, saints, and beggars! He appeared to Adi Shankara as a cobbler, to Sage Narada as a boatman! So, never count the money that you spent on their food. God will reward you with much more. If you scandalize a saint, as the scriptures say – eternal damnation will happen to you and your succeeding generations. Never bring wrath on yourself and your family, my son. God has given us sufficient food, water, clothes, this modest shelter as well as good health. Why not we share a bit of our food with a noble, wandering saint?”
There was silence. The farmer’s son thought for a while and asked his father “As you said, it is a deep sin to scandalize saints. What if they are not saints and they are just lazy people pretending to be saints to enjoy free meals where ever they go from people like us who work hard day and night in the field?” The farmer said “Everyone will enjoy the fruits of their action, my son. You will get what you deserve and they will get what they deserve. Pretensions often become costly bargains and pretenders suffer terrible damnation. Nobody can fool the world forever. This should not be our concern, but that of the just God Almighty”. He added “My dear son, scriptures say that all the 68 places of pilgrimage reside at the feet of the holy saints. And the one who abuses a holy man will be cursed with spiritual blindness or be spiritually crippled without any progress for lifetimes and also will be in the hell of suffering – life after life.
We may not understand the stature of a holy man nor do we understand their method and action. We accept them, we respect them. They will shower grace on us. What is material richness worth, if the inheritance is deep suffering? And liberation will be taken away from him and his kin, if saints are abused! And the cursed ones will roam in the 8.5 crore types of wombs available on earth including worms and insects and suffer agonies in each existence. Why my son, if a bit of kindness can ensure our liberation, should we be rude, and have unkind words tilt the whole equilibrium of our entire family and the generations to come? Let us honor saints and let us be rich within, which is true richness.”
Soon, they brought a hot meal outside to me and both the farmer and the son served me wholeheartedly. After the tasty meal, I prepared to leave. They requested me to stay the night over and leave in the next morning, as there were no places to stay anywhere nearby, ahead of their abode. I could not accept their further hospitality as I had to reach further north and decided to be on my way. Before I left, I gave them three moolis and I told them. “Farm these moolis in your yard before Brahma muhurtha (day break) tomorrow. You will have no dearth of wealth.” The whole family came and prostrated at my feet and I left them and walked away into the moonlit village path, towards the north.
I love YOU
Atmananda is a fictional character created by Mohanji to explain the Tradition. Any resemblance to the living or dead is purely coincidental.
The Inevitable Journey to Himalayas
When the two visitors left the old saint, they were in complete awe. They did not speak to each other for a long time. They were lost in their own thoughts. The saint subtly invoked in them an inspiration to follow their own dharma, stick to one path to attain spiritual progress, and he performed, in front of them, great siddhis without any pretension, pomp or splendor. It was obvious that there was no effort from his side to impress them, nor did he expect anything from them. All the attractions from the material world which they could possibly offer, were of no interest to this semi-naked saint. Is he a Saint of the Navnath tradition? Well, it really did not matter which path he followed. It only mattered where he has reached!!! And he has indeed reached “HOME” or was very close to it. 🙂
They managed to find a place to stay, took bath in the “tapt kund” or the spring of warm water, and attended the evening prayers. Everything happened in a semi-conscious state. Their mind was elsewhere. They felt as if they have found the teacher they have been searching for, since life times. Many thoughts cropped up in their minds. They mused… Will he accept them as his disciples? Are they eligible? And what about their family back home? It is not easy to detach. Mind wants to, but responsibilities compel one to stay put. Everyone cannot be a “siddharth” to abandon his family, eh? 🙂 Is abandonment perhaps better than emotional divorce and pretentious co-existence, just to avoid a separation due to whatever reasons?. Not at all. Well, In many cases, usually mind is wandering elsewhere while body is right here! Plastic friendships. Plastic relationships! For those people, everything happens mechanically at home. No love. No feelings. Just fulfilling their duties. Just co-existence based on some fear, or just “tamas” or inertia! This is bad indeed, while abandoning one’s duty or responsibility is not a good idea either. Life is not easy; isn’t it? 🙂 Everyone has a bit of escapism in them. Everyone wants to run away from something. But, situations compel them to stay back. Some break free. Escapism amounts to only postponement and it is never a completion of anything. It is never ever recommended in spiritual path. It is extremely important to watch every thought, word and action, because each moment we are carving our own destiny. Relationships are certainly quite a binding force, in the aspect of liberation, as abandonment or escapism is not a solution. Entering into a relationship is very easy, while fulfilling them is not.
Somehow, the visitors slept for a few hours. Overwhelming thoughts were bothering them. Despite the serious cold atmosphere, and strange environment, they felt they were still very energetic and not hungry or thirsty. What a magic! They did not know when they finally fell asleep. At around 4AM, they heard sounds from outside the door of their small room, sounds of people walking and chanting. So, they too got up, brushed their teeth in icy cold water – which was not quite enjoyable 🙂 , took a dip in tapt kund (warm spring) again and felt much better. Then they went to the temple for the early morning worship.
After the worship, as the day broke, they could not resist themselves and started walking towards the direction of the saint’s abode. When they arrived, he was chanting some manthras and performing “homa” or fire ceremony. They waited till he completed. After the rituals, the saint invited them to sit around the fire, to ease the cold and purify themselves in the proximity of fire. They bowed down to the fire place, took some sacred ash from it and reverentially applied it on their forehead.They were keen to hear the saint’s journey from the south of India to the icy cold Badrinath and pick up the pearls of his wisdom.
To break the ice of silence and initiate a conversation, they asked: “Swamiji, during winter, when Badrinath is usually covered in ice, do you still stay here, or do you go down to the lower regions of Himalayas?”
Swamiji laughed, “What have I got to do with the elements? Why will they bother me? I go nowhere. I am an old man. I stay here. How can any ice dampen my fire?” He pointed at the fire in front of them. They understood the hidden meaning. The fire that he meant was the fire of spirituality. Ice for him is distraction from his path. No distractions can conquer his single pointed, dedicated spiritual life indeed, because the single force that creates all distractions, THE MIND, does not exist in him!!! He is always in a “No Mind State”. So, Maya or delusion cannot exist either. He is in total control of himself and the external elements. It was obvious that distractions have no room in his life. They thought “How many people are chasing rainbows still. When they get closer, there is only water vapor!!!. They fall in the trap of mirages through generations! And here is a saint, who has nothing to do with illusions, distractions, delusions, rainbows…. and sits here in his old body like a rock or pillar in the path of spirituality, laughing at those who chase images and words and get themselves totally lost when both images and words decay and perish!!! What a world of pomposity; And wasted lives!!! How many lifetimes have we chased rainbows and stayed ignorant of our own folly!!! God only knows! 🙂
They asked “Swamiji, how did you reach here?”
Swamiji laughed again, briefly, and said “How does it matter to you? Everyone has a story, like you yourself have. And no two stories are alike. All stories are insignificant as every life is inimitable, distinct, unique and lives keep flowing through time into eternity. The past of this body has no value for me nor you, just like your past. If you can carry something from me now, this moment, do so. I am here to give. And, this moment is your only reality”.
They did not know how to carry on, or what to carry, as they did not know their capacities or their requirements. They mused “What a situation! A saint who is capable of giving us everything we would ever need is asking what we would want from him and we do not know what we want! If Lord Badrinath Himself comes in front of us and offers a boon, what will we request? This is the naked truth of our existence. We do not know what we need!!!” Finally, they said: “Bless us, Swamiji, so that we do not fall into the traps of spiritual path”.
Swamiji said ” Tathasthu!” (So Be It) and continued: “Abandon dependency on siddhis (spiritual powers), as if they do not exist at all; As you may gain them, when you progress spiritually. Respect siddhis and live without any attachment towards them. Then you will stay liberated. Siddhis often bind a person and prevent his spiritual elevation. The lure of siddhis can also instigate, in your mind, the presence of the six most powerful and extremely dangerous enemies of human existence, and especially so in the path of spirituality. Those are: kama (Desire, Lust), krodha (Anger), lobha (Greed), moha (Delusion, Attachment), mada (egoistic pride) and matsarya (jealousy/envy). They are like invisible cancer that usually binds and destroys human beings from within themselves. Always beware of these enemies. Always stay rooted in the TRUTH and non-violence in all aspects of your life, with supreme FAITH.”
They met Swamiji many times during their stay in Badrinath. They conversed a lot during those days. They collected fragments of Swamiji’s story, which he uttered randomly. He did not narrate his story, ever, but, alluded to many incidents of his past, as examples to prove some point during their conversation. This was good enough to get a general idea about his life and journey. The biggest surprise was that Swamiji was born in 1600!!! He was almost 370 years old!!! What follows is the story….
“GO TO THE NORTH. DO NOT LOOK BACK”
February 23rd 1600, on the banks of the elegant river Nila in the southern part of India, in a small house, around midnight, a baby boy was born. He was called Raman. His parents were poor brahmins. He became their only child. Raman’s father was a priest in a nearby temple. It was a small temple and his income was mostly nothing more than a meal a day or a few coins, which the worshippers gave away in abandon. Mostly, he had to satisfy himself and his family with very little food and no money. He had a house, one mango tree and two coconut trees in his small property. They managed their life with that, as Raman grew up. Raman had never been exposed to any luxuries, which the neighborhood feudal lords of their own community enjoyed. Raman’s mother used to visit the rich families during celebrations or festivals, as it was more or less customary, and they used to give her food and clothing.
Being a true and satwic Brahmin, Raman’s father would get up at 3AM every morning and, after a dip in the nearby river, go to the temple in wet clothes to preserve sanctity of the temple and its deity. The temple was not far away from his house. A narrow lane brought him to the temple. On one such morning, while he was climbing the stone steps from the river, he felt a slight pain in his chest. He ignored it and continued towards the temple. Before he could enter the temple, he collapsed and breathed his last, due to a massive heart attack. Since it was too early in the morning, there were none around to support him or take him to the local physician.
That day’s sun rose in the village with the news of the death of the noble priest. Raman was three years and a few months old when his father died. He knew that something terribly wrong has happened in his house, but did not quite understand the depth of the tragedy. He saw his father “sleeping” on the floor, watched by many. He could not understand why his father was sleeping during day time, which he has never seen before. He also could not understand why all of them were watching his father, as he slept. For him, it meant nothing, because his father sleeps every night, just like he does, and nobody was quite concerned about it so far.
It was quite different for his mother. The sole bread winner of their household has left forever! She did not know what to do next. Raman saw that his mother was crying. She looked inconsolable. He slowly went and touched her hand. She hugged him and cried more. She kept repeating: “Your father has gone forever. He has left us alone!!!”
Little did Raman know that this was the beginning of a life grossly uncertain and insensitively tragic for both of them. His father looked peaceful in his sleep. They had kept his body on the verandah of their house. Some priests came and took the body of his father away from home, put it on some wood that they cut from the mango tree, bathed Raman, made him do some ritual and finally burnt his father’s body in the fire. Raman watched all this without knowing anything in particular. He was quite disturbed when he saw his father’s body being burnt. He could not understand why his father, who was only sleeping, was being burnt!!! A deep sorrow welled inside him and he burst out crying, even though he was too young to digest the depth of the matter. Many uncles and aunts who came during funeral tried to console him and his mother, and expressed a lot of love before they left for their own homes. They invited him and his mother to come to their places, after the usual mourning time was over.
Soon after the death of his father, he and his mother started experiencing poverty. There was no food at home. Being a brahmin (priestly caste) woman, it was difficult for Raman’s mother to find a job, as social conditions allowed her to work only in houses of people of her community. It was not easy. At that time, caste system was severely controlling and quite obscene in India. Brahmin women were not allowed to be seen in public, let alone work outside their homes. Likewise, those of the other castes, especially those who consume meat and fish, were not allowed to come near brahmins, who chanted manthras and performed poojas or systematic worship of the deities, in their own homes as well as temples. The sacred fire was kept alive in their houses through generations.
The initial reason for this system of un-touch-ability between castes was, that flesh of animals are dead organisms or dead bodies without any prana. Temples have deities or idols that are installed with sacred rituals that ensured live praana exists in them, and its power had to be maintained. The prescribed methods of worship and manthras were made to maintain and enhance the power of the deities. Dead organisms were contradictory to manthras and hence against this purpose. That is why they kept themselves away from all the people who consumed flesh and fish. It goes without saying that some people were not even allowed to enter into temples, because of the same reason. Rigid systems were made to ensure sanctity and power of deities in temples, and priests who were well educated in the proper worship pattern were chosen to perform daily worships, which usually started during Brahma Muhurtha or the time between 3AM and 6AM. Brahma Muhurtha is considered as the heavenly time. Priests were also expected to maintain purity. Later, systems were abused and un-touch-ability became caste based and discriminatory.
Raman’s mother did not know what to do. Being born a brahmin became a curse for her. Those of other castes did not have any problem to get a job, in the paddy fields or as household maids at the houses of Feudal Lords. She did not know how to lead the rest of her life and bring up a small child. She visited their relatives who lived in their neighborhood. None really showed any concern and any sincere intention to help, except allowing them to join in for a meal, if the time was appropriate. After a few visits, she stopped doing that; as it did not do them any good, and it amounted to more humiliation. Especially, she was worried about Raman and how he would feel. It was obvious that none were sincere enough to help them. All their offers for help during the funeral were false and it became clear to her that they actually never meant it.
She still maintained some hope and tried to contact her own and her husband’s relatives who lived near and far through a paddy field worker (like a farmer) who lived in their neighborhood. This man was loyal, but, being born in a different caste, he had his limitations. He was not even allowed to look at her or talk to her face to face. As was customary, she always hid behind the door or wall while conversing with him. He was quite sincere and always carried her notes and letters to her relatives and also got her replies from them. None really wanted to help. Everyone gave one excuse or another, for not being in a position to help her and her son. A few sympathetically sent her some food or old clothes. This was surely a one time assistance. But, life had to go on…
The paddy field worker always brought Raman a fruit or a sweet whenever he came to their house. Even though it was not allowed to eat the food prepared or touched by a person of another caste, Raman and his mother did not care, because they were hungry and helpless. His sincerity and love was unconditional and unmistakable, and they were deeply touched by that.
A few weeks after her husband’s death, a distant aunt came to visit them. She was kind of a wandering monk who did not stay at one place for long. She was reasonably respected by the society. She was far away when Raman’s father died, and when she heard the news, she decided to visit them at once. She was saddened at the plight of this family. And she was deeply disappointed that all their other relatives kept a blind eye on them, and avoided them. She promptly took initiative, discussed with a nearby rich family and got Raman’s mother a job in their house, as a domestic help or, in other words, a house maid. Raman’s mother started working there immediately since the rich family was from her own community and it was thus acceptable.
Raman also accompanied his mother to her workplace, as she could not leave the small boy alone in their own house. There were many people in the house, and many children too. They were good and kind people. Raman and his mother were treated well by all. They got sufficient food at all times, and none bothered or interfered in their freedom. When his mother involved herself in the household chores such as cooking food, washing or cleaning, Raman played with other children of the house. They even shared their goodies with him. So, Raman and his mother finally found peace and happiness and it was a big relief for them, from the serious uncertainties that they faced after Raman’s father’s death.
One day, the lady of the house announced to all the maids and servants that her daughter’s marriage is finalized and they must prepare themselves for the big event. She distributed new clothes to all of them, as a token of happiness associated with the big event and asked them to wear it on the day of the event. All were happy and quite chirpy. Raman also got new clothes. He was thrilled. He came running to his mother to show his new proud possessions to her. She hugged him and shed tears of joy. Little did she know that this event would be a turning point in both her and her son’s life.
As the date of the event neared, guests started flowing in. Workload increased tremendously. One day, as Raman’s mother was cleaning the rooms on the first floor of the huge building, the mother of the bride asked her to come inside her bedroom and have a look at the gold and precious stone jewelery that they had bought for the occasion. This was the first time Raman’s mother was seeing such splendor of richness. Mother of the bride gave a necklace studded with diamonds in her hand to see. She marveled at its beauty and splendor, looked at it, appreciated it and gave it back to her. Not even once did she feel that she too should have some ornaments like that. Raman’s mother was a pious and level headed lady. She knew where she stood in the society. She never craved for earthly richness. Soon, she went away to complete her work.
Soon after lunch, she heard a big commotion in the house. People were running up and down. Someone told her, “The necklace is stolen!!!”. She had touched and felt it. So she knew that it was quite an expensive one. They searched the entire house. They called the police and they questioned everybody, especially the domestic helps and servants. They even took some of them to the police station and beat them up to get the truth. They took Raman’s mother too, as the mother of the bride told the police that Raman’s mother has seen and held the ornament. She tried her best to convince everyone that she has not taken it. They checked her thoroughly. They checked her house. She was threatened, abused and humiliated to bring out the truth as to where she has hidden the stolen material. She cried and cried. She begged to them to believe her words. The necklace was not found. Finally, all were frustrated and gave up. But, they never stopped suspecting her. One day before the marriage, she and Raman were asked to leave the house. She lost her job! She could not believe her fate! Raman could not understand what was going on, but, understood that his mother is in terrible distress. His innocent mind thought that she was crying because she had no gold jewelery on her. He tried to console her as best as he could, telling her that when he grows up, he will work hard and buy lots of gold for her. This made her cry more. It was not gold that she was after, it was just two meals a day for Raman. That is all what she wanted in life. She never cared for herself. How can she tell this to Raman? How could she make this small child understand? She refused to sadden the young child’s heart and pretended happiness.
After the marriage, the elders of the community who supported the feudal lords decided to punish Raman’s mother for stealing the jewelry, as they firmly believed that she still has it. They issued an order “Nobody should give her a job, food or any other support. Nobody should give her medicines or clothing. No physician should treat her. She is completely excommunicated from the society”. The day she was thus excommunicated by the society, Raman’s mother wanted to commit suicide. All hopes had vanished. But, she could not think of killing the then 6 year old Raman. She decided to survive and keep him alive. An excommunicated woman will not be assisted anybody in the village, or else they will also get excommunicated. If someone is seen helping her, that person also will be excommunicated. Fearing the order of the powerful Feudal lords, none dared to even offer them a glass of water, let alone allow her to work in their farms or houses. Day by day, she started becoming weak. She and Raman survived on whatever was available in their own little property. They had no money and no support. Nobody even looked at them. This was more torture than imprisonment for them.
The neighborhood farmer who used to help them also could not help them any further because of the excommunication order. He felt too helpless and angry. But, he had his own family and he was afraid that his bold actions could adversely affect his own wife and children. Everyone stayed away from them. Steadily, Raman’s mother fell sick. Since no physician would treat her, she could not gather any medicine. Still she tried to collect fallen seeds and fruits from their yard and make at least one small meal for Raman everyday. Raman also helped her as best as he could. In a few days, her health deteriorated further and she became more and more weak. She could not even stand on her own legs. She crawled from one room to the other. Raman was too small to lift her. Yet, he tried his best to help his ailing mother. Raman’s mother knew that she will not live for long.
One night, she called Raman to her side. Raman saw tears running down her cheeks. She hugged him and said: “My son, I will leave you soon. I am sorry. I cannot stay in this body any longer. I am going to where your father has gone. But, I cannot take you now. I have always taken you where ever I went. Now, I must go alone. I will die soon. When I die, you alone will not be able to burn my body, as you and our relatives did, when your father died. You are too small. You have no money and nobody will help you. If you could, drag my body till the edge of the yard, (which was about 20 feet away from their door), push my body into the pit there and throw some soil on it. If you cannot do that, just leave my body here, take this stick and this cloth sack and walk towards north.”
“GO TO THE NORTH. DO NOT LOOK BACK.“. Those were the last words of that poor, innocent and pious lady. She closed her eyes. Raman hugged her and put her head on his lap. He rested his head on her face. An hour or two went like that. He started feeling that her face was slowly becoming cold. Her breath was stopping. He poured some water into her mouth. She drank a little and the rest spilled out of her mouth. She looked at his face one last time, as if blessing him, and she passed away.
Raman sat next to her body, hugging his mother till the day break. He did not know what to do. Suddenly he had become an orphan. There was nobody in his life anymore. He got up and sat on the veranda looking outside. Birds were chirping in the yard outside. Grazing animals looked at him. Did they comprehend his sorrow? He hoped and wished that someone would look at him. Nobody looked at him or even at his house. He cried and cried. Nobody cared. He went back inside. He saw his mother’s body again. Again, a wave of sorrow overwhelmed him. He hugged her and cried. Finally, he decided to do what his mother asked him to do. With great difficulty, he dragged the body of his mother, which was very stiff and dry by then, to the edge of the door. Somehow, he dragged it out of the door and into the sand outside. He was sobbing and crying too. When he was trying to drag the body of his mother through the sand, the farmer who used to help them in the past, saw this. He could not believe what he saw. He was shocked to see this small boy dragging the body of his dead mother through the yard. He was terribly agonized when he suddenly realized that the pious woman, his neighbor, whom he always respected, has passed away!!. The agony tore through his heart along with a deep guilt of not being able to help them, when they needed it the most. Now it is too late. He told himself: “Let the lords excommunicate me or kill me. I just don’t care. I must help this poor child”. He came running and helped Raman to move the body of his mother to the pit that she had mentioned. He brought a pick axe and covered her body with soil and wet mud. Both him and Raman sat there looking at the grave yard for a while. Soon, Raman got up, went inside their house, took the stick and the cloth sack that his mother had entrusted him with. He opened the cloth sack. He cried again, when he saw that his mother had packed some raw rice, a few coins and a few loin clothes for her son, despite their deep poverty!!! This was her only savings!!!. Finally, Raman wiped his tears and came out. The farmer was waiting outside. He said: “Come with me. I will look after you. I will take you home”. Raman thanked him and told him what his mother had asked him to do. The farmer listened to Raman’s words with tears in his eyes. He knew that he cannot change Raman’s mind. He loved his mother so much. He will not do anything contrary to her wish or command. As Raman took two steps towards the border of their yard, one messenger came running to him and asked: “”Where is your mother? Her Lordship wants her back in her household. They finally found the missing necklace. It had fallen between two large beds and when they took the beds out for cleaning, they found the necklace. The Lords have removed her ban and excommunication. She is now welcomed back to their household. You are welcome too.” Raman stared at him and gently smiled. He pointed towards the grave yard of his mother and without any emotions, said: “There she is. She cannot come back to their house anymore. She has gone forever.”
Raman looked one last time at their small house. He bowed down at the grave of his mother and walked towards “North”. He never ever looked back. That small boy Raman was the 370 year old saint sitting in front of the visitors to Badrinath!!!
God willing, I shall narrate his journey in the next part of this trilogy.
Love and respect all beings. Every being feels, just like we do. Sensitiveness is a real virtue. Have plenty of it. Have plenty of Love within. Let LOVE overflow yourself all the time. Love all and Serve all – your life will become total and complete! Remain Blessed!
Love You Always
This is a true story. Both the travelers who experienced this, have left their bodies now. This happened on August 23rd,1970. Two brahmins (priestly class in India) in their early 50s from the banks of river Nila in Kerala, went for a pilgrimage to Himalayas. After visiting many shrines, they reached Badrinath. When they arrived, it was afternoon and the temple was closed after the mid day poojas. They were quite tired after the long journey. They were hungry too. The high altitude, less oxygen, lack of food and general fatigue related to long journey made them feel quite sick. Since there was at least four hours for the temple to open, a guard, recognizing them to be of priestly class, guided the weary travelers to the house of the chief priest of Badrinath temple, which was quite nearby. When they arrived at the priest’s house, he had already completed his lunch and was about to have his afternoon siesta. Still, he welcomed them and asked them where they had come from. They explained about their journey in brief and told the priest that they intend to stay in Badrinath for a week. The priest asked them if he can be of any assistance to them. They said that they are fine and, should they need any assistance, they would certainly contact him. They got up to depart allowing the priest to take some rest. They were feeling reluctant to tell the priest that they were both hungry and tired.
As they reached the door of the priest’s house, he called them back and said “There is an old saint, who belongs to your home town living nearby. Would you be interested to meet him?” Since there was nothing else to do, and no restaurants were open for them to find a basic meal, they decided to spend the time with the saint until the temple opens for worship. They said “yes” and the priest requested one of the guards to take them to the saint. The guard took them to the banks of river Alakananda. Badrinath is nearly 12,000 feet above sea level in the mighty Himalayas. It is usually very cold and mostly covered by thick white blanket of snow during winter. The visitors were shivering despite their winter protection. It was as if what ever protection they had, was insufficient to protect them from the freezing weather.
As they crossed the bridge across Alakananda, the guard looked down at the flowing river and said “There he is!!”. They saw a lean old man, just in his loin cloth, bathing in the river. They could not believe what they saw. It was impossible to bathe in the river in that temperature. The water was surely freezing cold, considering the atmospheric temperature. They reached the other side of the river and waited. The saint completed his bath and ablutions and came to where they were standing. It did not appear that he was affected by the cold breeze or the weather conditions at all. He was walking over stones in the water, as if walking on a bed of roses, bare footed!! As he approached them, the guard told him in Hindi, that that they were sent by the priest of the temple to meet him and that they are from the same place as he was. (Saints usually have nothing to do with their poorvashram or their abode before embracing sannyas or renunciation)The saint smiled and beckoned them to come near him. He wore only a loin cloth, which was totally drenched in icy water. He had a stick in his hand and a kamandalu (a small pot that saints use) which was filled with water from the river. He looked at them. His eyes were sharp and penetrating. He looked very old; at least about 100 years! White flowing hair and white beard. Yet, his eyes were shining and young. The guard took their leave. The saint started walking and asked them to follow him. They reached a small hut. The saint entered, asked them to enter and be seated. They sat on the floor. But, surprisingly, the floor was warm! The saint looked at them again, and said “Are you thirsty?” They both said “Yes”. He gave them a few drops of water from his pot and asked them to drink. They thought that this is some kind of initiation or purification. But, as soon as they drank those few drops of water, they felt something shifting in them. They no more felt cold and thirsty. Then he asked “Are you hungry too?” They said they are hungry as they had no food for many hours. He smiled and again gave them a few drops of water each. They drank it. Suddenly, they felt their stomach was full with food. This surprised them to no limits. Even though a saint whom they had previously met,taught them a manthra to conquer thirst and hunger, it has not been very effective for these seekers.
They both said “Bhagawan, you have effectively conquered the need for consumption of food and water. Now, you have demonstrated your siddhis to us too. Tell me, who are you? You belong to the same place where we have come from, but,what is the purpose of our meeting? Why did we meet? We are both so curious to know about you.”
The saint laughed. He said “I believe you have been chanting certain manthras to control the urge for food. What happened?” Why could you not control your mind through your practices?
They knew that he can see everything and nothing can be hidden from him. They said “Yes, We have been chanting the mantras focusing on our vishuddha chakra. But, mind was wandering and we could not gain much progress. The saint laughed again. He said “If you walk up the Himalayas step by step, your body will certainly get accustomed to the changing oxygen levels and the weather situation at each level. Why are all of you trying to speed up in your powered vehicles, when every matter needs its time to settle down into your system? Everything needs duration and space to give the maximum benefit! Everything needs time. Unfortunately, all are in mad rush, chasing, searching for something which they do not even know! How can you achieve spiritual progress? Patience, flexibility, adaptability, acceptance, determination, dedication to one single path of your choice, and consistency to follow it against all odds, are extremely necessary for success in spiritual pursuit. Most people change their guru, rather than changing their mind set.” He started laughing at his own joke.
They understood that he was referring to their impatience in spiritual journey. They have been meeting many saints and sages trying to speed up their spiritual sadhana, while totally ignoring the key aspect which was their capacity and eligibility for higher stuff! They have not been concentrating on developing this important aspect, instead, were following their shifting mind, to touch the feet of many saints, expecting quicker elevation without any hard work, along with or without the removal of their internal trash of lifetimes!!! Since their capacity and eligibility did not grow with the same pace of their travel, they could not gain much progress. Most manthras or sadhanas (spiritual practices) that they picked up at various points, did not give them much progress either. They had met many saints in the past. But, this old saint truly fascinated them.
They asked ” Swami, how can we progress further?”
Swami said “Drop what you know. You are carrying heavy burden of indigested knowledge and age old samskaaras.”
“Swami, what can we drop?
Swami said “Everything. All that you really need will be yours anyway. You “need” nothing. All that you think that you have, you actually do not have. It will all wither away sooner or later. All that you give away, you will always have. Spirituality never ends with one incarnation of the soul. It continues through time and space, as long as it should. You are covering yourself more than necessary. Shed your coverings. Do not hide yourself. And do not hide your real face. Be bold to be yourself. You will experience reality. When clothes become an addiction, we become unnatural.
They paused to digest the hidden meaning behind the saint’s answer and asked: “Swami, who will protect us from this cold and tamasic ignorance?”
Swami asked “Existence. Are you feeling cold now?” They realized that they were not feeling any physical cold. Swami continued: “Who is protecting you from cold now? The same existence will protect you from tamas and ignorance too. You are definitely not the doer.”
They contemplated on those words for a while and still feeling terribly insecure about future,said “Swami, We feel afraid to shed anything at all.”
Swami laughed aloud and said; “If you are afraid, go home. You are just infants. You need protection. Spirituality is not your cup of tea. You need more maturity to earn spirituality. Fear has no meaning here. Fear cannot exist here.” Swami paused for a while and continued “You are hiding your fears within your clothing. Escapism is the opposite of spirituality. The two cannot co exist.”
Swami looked at one of the two, straight into his eyes, and said: “Family is becoming thinner and thinner. No offsprings. Conducted many poojas and rituals to earn a child. Everything in vain. “Kaala Sarpa Dosha” (severe curse of snake gods)!!! (Traditionally, brahmins have worshiped snake gods along with many other deities. Almost every family used to have a temple for snakes in their yard. With the formation of nuclear families, as people became “irreligious”, or grossly ignorant of reasons behind the patterns of worship, worships abruptly stopped. The negative effects of this lack of connectivity started appearing in families in the form of unnatural deaths, lack of children, lack of marriage and many relationship issues. Family deities were part of every family at one time. They were invoked and installed by ancestors of that family, to protect them, their families, property and riches, with the promise that they would be honored and respected by them and their family members at all times. These deities were handed down through generations. For understanding’s sake, they can be compared to invited guests. They did not appear by themselves, they were brought by the ancestors for protection and grace. When the further generations stopped honoring them and taking care of them, it was like dishonoring your invited guests and even insulting them, by removing their bed and space. This is still affecting many families.)
He asked: “But Swami, what is the reason for “sarpa dosha” or the curse of the snakes?”
Swami said: “Ingratitude, my son. Snakes on earth are of two types. Earthly snakes which are gross and predominantly tamasic, and divine entities in the form of snakes, which they took for agility and isolation’s sake. You will never mess with a snake, right?. That is why they chose that form. Well, mankind has been closely associated with the higher entities, who exist in the form of snakes. We have co existed with them for a long time. We used to respect them and worship them. They have their own realm, sphere of existence or loka. They have come here out of compassion for us, the ignorant ones. They contributed a lot of understanding and awareness to the mankind.They brought us to higher awareness and showed us the dimensions of the supreme father in three aspects, such as “Srishti” or creation, “Stithi” or preservation and “Samhara” or dissolution. They introduced us to the power and force behind these three aspects of our existence. They introduced us to the trinity. They showed us the path of higher spirituality. They also protected us, as they protect and support the Lords that they introduced to us. We gave them a special place in our garden, close to the nature which they always loved, with the promise that we will not disturb their peace and they will bless us with a good life. Later, our next generations went back on our promises and destroyed the noble snakes and their abodes. We cheated them and killed them. We destroyed their abodes and built our houses on them.We started to suffer their pain and agony in our lives, in our families. The golden rule that whenever we hurt someone through thoughts, words or action, in fact we are hurting ourselves. We do get hurt more with the violence that we did unleash for that, deeply within our consciousness and life. This is called “sarpa dosha”. We have systematically abused and destroyed all beings who showed us the true path and quite sadly, have consistently glorified those who are just glitter to our eyes!!!. Higher Snakes represent the protection and presence of divinity on earth. Lord Vishnu rests on Anantha the serpent. Shiva has snakes as his garland. When the ocean of milk was churned for “amruth”, the celestial nectar, Vasuki, the snake was used instead of a rope. No celestial rope could have equaled Vasuki’s strength!. Snake represents both the kundalini shakti that lies dormant in every human as three and a half coils, as well as the movement of the sun and moon nadis up towards the crown chakra. They represent flexibility and ascension. Snakes have an important role in our spirituality. They brought us the highest wisdom and performed the duty of protectors. The usual signs of sarpa dosha are childlessness or lesser children, divorce of no marriage and problems in marital relationship.We need to respect them. Continued ingratitude will pull us down further.”
One of the brahmins asked “Swamiji, you belong to the same place that we have come from. Do you have any relatives there?
Swami thought for a while and said “No relatives. But, I used to have some friends. Perhaps you know them.” Swami narrated the names of a few people and their family names. Their families were known to the visitors. When they scratched their heads to decide who the people whom swami mentioned were, they realized that these people have left their bodies a few centuries ago and their fourth or fifth generation were currently alive in the families that Swamiji had mentioned. They were shocked to realize that Swami is at least 400 years old!
They told the saint “Swamiji, these people who were your friends are no more now. Their fourth or fifth generation is our contemporary”. Swami thought for a while and said “Well, I am an old man. Sometime, I forget the speed with which time moves. I am glad their families still exist”. He mentioned it so casually, as if his longevity is no big deal at all!!.The visitors could not believe all this and continued to stare at the swami while mixed emotions swayed their mind.
Swami asked “You are brahmins, isn’t it time for your “Sandhya Vandan?” (Evening Worship that Brahmins perform)
They looked at each other. They have not been following the brahminic rituals sincerely. They were sure that the swami was referring to their insincerity in adherence to the dharma of their inheritance. Swami said “Being born in a brahmin family is equal to marrying dharma by choice, beyond one’s individual karma. You, as brahmins have inherited the satwic dharma of serving the society, imparting knowledge and elevating the consciousness of the society. By shedding your own path, by not following your own path, which path will you follow? “Swadharma” or one’s own dharma is very important for everyone. Dharma is as important as karma. Never forget that. Brahminism should be nurtured through purity of thought, word and action as well as selflessness and non-violence in all aspects. By being born in a brahmin family or sporting a sacred thread will not make you a true “brahmin”. Live as one, to its fullest.”
There was deep silence. The saint said. “Go now. Take bath and worship Lord Badrinath. Come back tomorrow and we shall talk again”. They reluctantly got up and left the saint. Their mind was filled with utter dismay and amazement. They did not feel any cold, hunger or thirst and felt completely rejuvenated. They did not feel any tiredness or fatigue anymore.
Who was this amazing saint? Where did he come from? Many questions welled in their mind. They decided to come back to know more…
Love You, My Beloveds