Long ago, there was a Brahmin called Sangira stepped in ignorance and bereft of faith in Vedas as a result of sins committed by him in his previous incarnation:
“Puraa kashcin-mahaa-murkhah-Sangiro namma baadabaha, Poorva-janma-kritaath-paapaath-Veda-shraddha vivirjithaha”.
He was interested in Logic; he tried to know the transcendental principal of the Brahman and the pictures of good and bad, not with the authoritative help of the Vedas but easily through clever arguments and peripheral analysis.
As his experiences, arguments, counter arguments registered a rise, the quality of his clever and cunning approaches also showed an upwards trend. But with the hollowness of his equipment, he failed to know the truth. Gradually, his illusory methods made him reach abysmal levels of atheism. Over-come by strange doctrines of skepticism and doubt and unable to discover truth, he spent his time in folly and in changing himself from one religion to another.
Instead of relying upon the unassailable truth enshrined in Vedic proclamation, he had lost his way in man made projections and imaginations without firm foundations of the correct and righteous path. Eventually, not being able to follow any disciplinary tenet, he became a victim of vicissitudes of his own mental miscalculations. He strayed from the dharmic path and committed very grave sins out of ignorance and illusion. His purposeless life lacking direction came to an end after some time.
The aides of the Lord of Death mercilessly produced Sangira before Yama. The fierce-looking Lord commanded his men to torture him in his presence.
Yama’s men did as they were told. Sangira, despite the torture, did not react but remained silent like a rock. The resistance offered by him only provoked Yama to inflict more severe punishments.
Sangira spent many years of suffering in Yama Loka. But by the force of some excellent deed in some remote corner of a previous birth and by Iswara’s grace, a great one who was looking like another Iswara but nevertheless a great devotee of Shiva and a wise one called Shatananda with an effulgent face came to the place where Sangira was passing through a phase of unending punishment and misery and untold sorrow. His over-flowing kindness forced him to chant the Sadaakshari (six-lettered) mantra of Shiva – Om-Na-ma-shi-vaa-ya – the King among the mantras!
Lo! The moment the mantra was uttered the hellish cell became a heaven. Shatananda had mantra-siddhi. Following the chanting of the auspicious mantra, there was a rain of flowers. The Rishis who had just then offered seva to Agni and clothed themselves with glory, the Siddhas, Yakshas and others danced in ecstasy. Even Indra joined the Devatas in what obviously was a show of celestial dancing. The peak performers were Brahma and Saraswati on the one hand and Vishnu and Lakshmi on the other.
It was seemingly a tribute to the efficacy of the mantra.
Yama who witnessed the gaiety signalling divine approbation readily concluded that it was indeed the very grace of Shiva and did not dare to proceed further with his punitive action.
Shatananda, who saw Yama and his men visibly shaken by fear, said, “Yama! Have no fear. As you are totally loyal and dedicated to Shiva in carrying out his instruction and command by punishing those who practise adharma and blessing those who follow dharma, thus showing yourself as Yama for the vicious ones and Dharmaraja for the virtuous lot upholding dharma which is the domain of god, you have no cause for fear”.
The moment Yama heard the words of wisdom and comfort backed by purity of knowledge and authenticity from Shatananda noted for his capacity to banish ignorance, he was able to dispel his own fear complex.
(‘Mantra’ is coined from Manana and Traana suggesting that the vibration of a mantra will be charged with strength and that chanting will be productive of powerful results).