In the heart of a thick forest, stood a small hut. In front of the hut there was a platform of stone and a deer-skin adorned it. Seated in half-padmasana posture radiating peace was one whose body had grown thin with thapas. An emaciated exterior, a far reaching forehead, a pair of eyes glittering with tranquillity and a mysterious thejas, a long and black beard and locks of hair tending to augment the brightness of the face, the scared thread suggestive of purity and lion-cloth symbolic of renunciation were the salient features of the serene-looking personality. Only the vibhuthi markings were a little less distinct with the passage of time. Belongings in the immediate vicinity that could be counted and spelt out were only the kamandalam, a book of palm-leaves and the concomitant etching pen. Inside the hut, there was nothing except for a piece of cloth hung up for drying and a small basket for collection of flowers. All these facts of the hermitage were proclaiming that he was a unique thapasvi of powerful impact and influence.
The Sage who was none other than the great Kanaada Muni was engaged in writing something on the palm-leaves. There were moments in between when he would close his eyes and withdraw himself to mediate intensely. There was no evidence of human beings jostling anywhere around even up to a great distance from the hut. It was a forlorn forest. The distinct sounds from the flowing river to the right of the hut and still-life appearance of the open fields on the far side of the river seemed to intensify the loneliness of the place.
The typical silence pervading the centre of this forest was broken by the movement of horses. The sound of their steps became distinct and a person got down from a horse and proceeded towards the hut with a weighty bag in his hands. But the Muni who was immersed in writing was not attentive towards the approaching visitor. It was only when the later offered prostration lying full stretch on the ground that the Muni turned towards him.
Laying down the pen he was holding, he said “Be happy son! Who are you?”
The visitor got up respectfully and said with folded hands, in a low tone, “I am a servant of the king of this country”.
“What is the purpose of your visit to this place?”
“In accordance with the command of the king, I have come here to offer this bag to you. There are four thousand gold mohurs in it. The king has sent them to you as a token of his service”.
“Good. It is really nice of the king but I am unable to take it. Please give it to the poor. Their need is greater than mine. Please take it back and leave soon”, said the Muni and holding the pen in his hand resumed the writing.
The king’s messenger was taken aback. He began to think and said to himself: ‘What! How can I imagine anyone being more poverty-stricken than this person? This hut is in a crumbling condition; barring his loin cloth and the sacred thread, he does not seem to have anything to put on at all. What are his possessions except for a basket, a kamandalam, a pen and a book of palm leaves? These four thousand mohurs cannot bring anything beyond the most essential things for daily use. The Muni must therefore have spurned this small sum of money”. He stood still with these thoughts.
However, the attention of Kanaada Muni, who was engrossed in producing Vyseshika Darsana Sutras, gave no indication of its falling again on the king’s messenger. The messenger turned back and resumed his return journey to the capital – with the money bag.
“Rajan! What is the purpose of your visit to this uninhabited forest with a countless sum of money under the burning sun at this severe time of the noon?”
“Pardon me, Swamin! I hear that in my country there are great men of your calibre who are eking out their livelihood by collecting grains on the ground, bereft of a square meal and even of sufficient clothing to cover the body. In addition to the fact that this militates against the wealth of my reputation, don’t you think I will be considered a grave sinner?”
The king’s tone was surcharged with fear, obedience and kindness. He was seated with folded hands and with his ankles firmly on the pebbled surface of the ground. Next to him was one of his ministers. Behind them were two servants. Their faces were weary due to the severity of the midday sun.
“Maharaja! If it is really apprehension that living in your country brings misfortune to you, I am ready to leave this place now alone and go away from your country”. There was a curious admixture of patience and resolution mind in the Muni’s voice. He said so with a yawn and laying down then pen in the process after straightening his back.
“Great seer! God forbid the eventuality of my being the author of sins for each step that Mahatmas like you take in going out of my country! Have mercy! Please accept this pile of money and put the burden of your livelihood on this servant of yours from today. This indeed is my main desire. This servant is ever prepared to cater to your needs”, pleaded the young king.
“Rajan! What benefit can I derive from this pile of money? Why don’t you give it away to poverty-stricken people? The merciful Paramatman, in addition to my various needs, has blessed me with powers and comforts to fulfil these wants. Son! What scarcity is there in the scheme of creation of the creator? Under the pretext of getting increasing benefits, man has chosen to create new items of scarcity every day. Hence, Rajan! Gift made to a fit person will produce infinite results”.
The king was shocked at this. The minster calculated within him, “How should we divine one who is a fitter person? A hut in poor condition, a few grains that come to the rescue of life and no clothing barring the loin-cloth!”
The king made bold to make a colourless suggestion, “Swamin! Anybody being fitter than you is beyond my comprehension. Where can I go to find more poverty-stricken people as you said?”
“Good! I’ll show them to you. For the time being take the money away and keep it safely in the palace. Whenever I feel its need, I shall send word t you. Do not have needless worry”, said the Muni and resumed his introversive work.
“Please accept these mangoes at least and have mercy”, offered the king. The Muni did not raise his head. There was no movement in his vision either.
“Why? How is it that you are inclined to be very indifferent today? What did the Mahatma say when you met him his afternoon? Did you have darshan?” asked the queen, feeling the king’s hand in hers and pressing his fingers with hers.
The king turned towards the queen and said, “I had darshan. But I was unable to render even a bit of service to the Mahatma. Why…”
Disengaging his hand from the soft grasp of the queen, the king, who was reclining on the bed, got up and intently looked at her to confess, “Why..? Let alone all the various things I had taken to him; it was impossible for me to make over even a mango to the Muni at the end”.
The queen’s face registered a picture of calmness and composure. She however asked, “Why was it not possible?”
“How was it ever possible?” replied the king, justifying his helplessness, “Far from touching it with his hands, he did not even look at any! Not only that! He even asked me to give it to some poverty-stricken or fitter person than him; the Muni lives in abject poverty but not on the alms of anyone”.
The queen heaved a sigh of relief and said after a pause, “True, what is the earthly use of these palatial comforts to such great people who have renowned everything in this world? Blessed indeed is our country where such great thyagis live! Why are they bothered about our involvement when alchemy, through which base metals could be converted into gold, adorns their armoury of knowledge?”.There was again a pause and the queen continued, “Since we have no issues, it is quite possible, we might not have been fit enough to be chosen for the bhiksha. If at least you had learnt the art of alchemy from him, we could have been instrumental in helping many a poor one and perhaps become eligible by virtue of such good deeds even to be blessed with children!”
“What is the time now?” queried the king looking through the western window at the crescent of the moon in the horizon.
“Today, happens to be the fourth day of the ascending moon”, replied the queen, “There are still three yaamaas of go before sunrise”.
“Who is there?” asked the Muni as he was lying on the deer skin in the hut, his head resting on his hands. Although darkness had enveloped the entire place, the sound of soft but steady steps of a human being was distinguishable from that of forest animals. The subtle ears of the Muni had not failed to grasp it. The subtle yogi’s vision was able to mark out the visitor’s form and identification even in the darkness of the night. Getting up, the Muni asked, “Rajan! Why have you come again at this untimely hour of the night?”
“Swamin! Be merciful on this servant. I have come to seek initiation into the wonderful art of alchemy that is in your possession. I have a feeling that possibly by the punya of gifting gold to many a poverty-stricken person in my kingdom I might be blessed with issues and be in a position to offer better service to you,” pleaded the king with folded hands and facing the direction from which he heard the Muni’s voice.
“Rajan!”Said the Muni, “Then it was midday, you yourself paid a visit to this hut in order to make over so many precious things to me. But, now? It is midnight, you are the king of this country and you have come here to seek knowledge of the art of alchemy. Son! Where else do you find one who is more poverty-stricken than me? The chemistry of alchemy consists in the indirect realization of the fact that the Jeevatman who is wedded to the doctrine of upadhi is none other than the self-manifest gold that is Paramatman. This knowledge of non-duality is itself the birth of a son”.
“Did you pick up the art of alchemy from the Mahatma?” asked the queen.
“He was surprised that I sought to know about it and learn from him. His alchemy consists in conversion of the gross form of the Jeevatma wedded to upadhi into the sublime form of the Paramatma through appropriate chemical change within the body. It is analogous to changing base metals into gold”.
“You mean converting base energies inside our body into sublime form so as to make them move upwards?”
“Urdhwa rethas! That is how it is described in our scriptures”.
“Yes! Sex energy is nothing but divine energy in gross form at lower levels. By practice of pranayama and sadhana, the base energy undergoes an alchemic change and becomes what is called hiranya rethas, the semen of gold, when it can sublimate into subtler form and reach the Sahasraar chakra. That is the vanishing point of upadhi and the Jeevatman will find in the God experience opened to him that he is indistinguishable from the Paramatman”.
“The subject of upward movement of energy or shakti in the human body is also mentioned by protagonists of Kundalini Yoga. Since, “kundalini shakti lies dormant at the lower level called muladhara, the practitioners of the said yoga make use of a mantra also for waking up what is also known as the serpent power in them. Did the Mahatma initiate you into any such mantra?
“Yes, he did! He also said that the pursuit of Brahmacharya and the practice of pranayama followed by the meditation on the mantra – Om Hreem Dum uthishta purushi kim swapishi bhayam me samupasthitham, yadishakyamashakyamvaa tanme Bhagawathi shamaya shamaya swaahaa – called the Vana Durga mantra has the innate capacity to transform an ordinary mortal into a living embodiment of God on earth. The words, ‘uthishta purushi’ constitute a prayer to the presiding deity to wake up and rise from a state of slumber”.
“Glory to the Mahatma who gave you the great art of alchemy and the Mahamantra to activate ennoble the art!” exclaimed the queen. The king joined her in silent salutations, but said:
“Glory to Indian womanhood. I would also say!”
“Why do you say so?” asked the queen.
“Because”, explained the king, “You were the first to enlighten me on the need to learn the art of alchemy from the Mahatma. He was the guiding factor, but you were the goading factor!”
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