Durghata, born of poor parents, was a well-known legendary figure with notoriety for having committed more sinful deeds than others. He was not afraid of his vicious record nor of the results of his inglorious past. Flaunting his cruel hands, he dared to indulge freely in devilish deeds. He had killed many virtuous men, destroyed numerous heads of cattle and burnt several cottages. He had robbed the belongings of many without even caring to know whether they were gentle, pious or saintly. His crimes had extended to molestation of women.
Durghata’s sadistic instincts had gone further. He would spoil the water stored in wells, tanks and reservoirs. He would take delight in spoiling the disciplined life of many, by deliberately forcing them to transcend all barriers of the moral code.
About a thousand incarnations (janmas) before, according to legend, Durghata had gifted a very valuable gold coin to a great one called Shivayogi. By virtue of that good deed, there was a sudden transformation in his mental calculations one day and the process of “heart-searching” and repentance began “Alas!“ cried Durghata, “I have committed many sins out of ignorance. I am not able to perceive the antidote for the catalogue of my sins. The Vedas, the virtuous ones and the scholars proclaim that those who indulge in crimes that I have committed have nothing but hell in store. Veda-vidwaamso vadanti narakaanmama! What shall I do?”
Durghata’s heart was heavy and his mind repentant. As luck would have it, he met a theist who gave him wise counsel.
“Durghata!”, counselled the theist, “There is in this world a fortunate and mystical town called Vyaaghrapura, which has a unique distinction of protecting devotees of God. In that place, the all-blissful Parashiva, who is the in-dweller or antaryamin of all animate beings, dances ecstatically to dispel the seamy side of life and redeem one from all sorrows. I would commend you to proceed to Vyaaghrapura, propitiate the great Shiva and perform thapas. The all-pervading Vishnu, the foremost among the devotees, namely Brahma, the greatest among the warriors, Indra, besides yakshas, kinnaras Rishis – have all done fierce penance there. In fact, Vishnu himself had darshan of Ishwara, the Lord of all the worlds and got his grace”.
“Durghata”, proceeded the theist, “Brahma received the grace of the Lord of laya and Sarveshwara there. Even rakshasas besides Gandarvas, Siddhas, Vidyadharas and others worshipped Ishwara and got what they wanted. You would also do well in worshipping the presiding deity of Vyaaghrapura.
Durghata, prompted by the words of wisdom and enkindled hope proceeded with great expectations to Vyaaghrapura the glorious place consecrated to Parashiva. With unstinted faith and devotion, he took a holy bath and enthusiastically made a pradakshina (circumambulation) of Ishwara three times, chanting the mantra of Shiva 108 times in the process. He then had darshan of the dancing Lord in the centre of the court and offered prostration stretching himself fully on the ground. He also chose to gift money and grains wholeheartedly to devotees of Shiva who were seemingly lost in contemplation. Durghata resorted to speaking truth at all times and gave up desire and anger. He spent three years like this and displayed devotion and love.
Hailed as “Devadeva” and “Mahadeva” and as an ocean of kindness, the Lord blessed Durghata, the wicked!
“Pashchaattaa-paaduparamaath praayashchittonmukhatvataha, Paschaath – thadanushtaanaath paapaa nashyanii paadashaha”.
It means that there is a way of redemption even for those who have committed sins. How is this achieved? The sincere repentance, such as “Alas! I did sinful deeds and committed forbidden ones!”, will take away a fourth part of accumulated sin. If one forbears from committing sin further, a second quarter gradually disappears. Then if there is an introspection to the effect that one should get rid of the sin by finding from a Guru, protector or an elderly one about the antidote, the third quarter of sin washes away. The fourth (remaining) quarter of sin also vanishes by actual performance of prayashchitta prescribed by scriptures or sastras. The sinful one then emerges as a pure one.
“Mana-eva manushyaanaam kaaranam bandhamokhayoh,
Bandhaaya vishayaasaktam muktai nirvishayam smrutam”.
For a man’s rise and fall ascribable to his good deeds or sins, his mind and mental dispositions are primarily responsible. He will be caught in the cobweb of samsara (suggestive of experiences of doer, doing, birth, death, happiness, grief and the whirlpool of vicissitude) if he is steeped in desires and chases utilitarian pursuits. The emerging sorrow and unhappiness is undoubtedly an eternal one. If, on the other hand, the adherence to detachment evidenced by disinterested pursuit, wisdom and renunciation, Parashiva’s grace methodically brings about purity of mind, knowledge and enlightenment leading to “Moksha” or eventual liberation (from rebirth and bondage) which is the ultimate goal and true end and aim of life. The Vedic seers hail this as realization of the fullness of God and of the freedom of thought engendering direct experience of bliss.
Basically, man is neither a sinner nor the sorrowing. By primordial nature, he is supposed to be in a state of purity and bliss. An analysis of the Jeevatman’s whole gamut of experience in the trinity of sleep, dream and consciousness shows that happiness or bliss is not something which comes from outside! It is for this reason that in Sruti, “Srunvanti Vishve amritasya putraa, Aaye dhaamaani divyaani thasthuhu” ( Sweta Upanishad – 2.5) In this the Jeevatmas are not described as either sinful or the sorrowing. On the other hand, they are hailed as the products of Parabrahma tattva that is beyond aberration or vikara. Vikara is the cause of sin and crime and this is effaced by purificatory practices and restoration of jnana.
Strange as it may seem, Durghata became the Lord of many worlds. As his physical frame originally rendered impure by ignorance recovered its pristine purity by practice of austerities and the dawn of enlightenment, he retained his innate Parabrahma form and attained Mukti – the manifestation of reality.
That for all persons, the principle is that doors of prosperity – material and spiritual – are open is the quintessence of Durghata’s ramifications in a singularly sinful early life – a principle called “Prasada – vaibhava” or the “Glory of Grace”.
It has been stated in Skandapurana (Yajnavaibhavakhanda, Chapter 21) that following the beaten track to salvation, the Devatas and Rishis pursued the dharmic tenets of Varnashrama, performed penance (thapas), acquired chittashuddhi (mental purity) and, by virtue of the austerities and punya acquired, attained enlightenment (jnana) and liberated themselves; others also should follow the same path and attain the Brahma. Everyone endowed with Chittashuddhi and jnana is eligible for moksha irrespective of all other considerations.