“Suspecting devotees of God”, said Iswara, addressing Vishnu, and doubting Brahma, you and me bring about major impediments to rise of jnana in a person. Displaying total lack of understanding of those on the dharmic path and causing harm to the reputation of those who have understood the Vedas also impede one’s progress towards Atma jnana. Casting aspersions on the righteous people, deliberately refraining oneself from joining the company of the righteous and indulging in gossip besides absence of devotion and love towards Guru, Gods and jnana-constitute definite impediments to spiritual progress. Entering into arguments with Guru, forgetting the guidelines laid down by them and looking upon Gurus not as personifications of God or Iswara but as just ordinary men and unworthy of worship bring in obstacles to genesis of jnana. Only jnana leads to mukti”.
“One of the instruments for removing impediments to genesis of jnana”, continued Iswara “Is offering service to the learned and the like”, so that one may draw lessons from them.
Iswara then proceeded to narrate the stories of Shashivarna and Shubhaga.
There was once a very virtuous and reputed person called Paakayajna. He had a son called Shashivarna who proved to be the very antithesis of his father in behaviour and character. He was indulging in the most sinful of deeds. He used to criticize the very concept of Brahma jnana and display total dislike of Vedas. He was sadistic in temperament and wicked in nature. He used to take pleasure in causing harm to those on the dharmic path, besides revolting against the tents of dharma.
As Shashivarna’s catalogue of sins became huge, he was soon afflicted by many diseases and tormented by devils.
Paakayajna, devoted to Iswara, came to know about the son’s misdeeds and sins. His grief knew no bounds and being unable to bear it fell down almost dead – only to be retrieved and comforted by an enlightened one called Devabhakta.
“Paakayajna, rise!” said he, “Have no fear! I will tell you a secret even for your son’s redemption. There is a Shiva linga named by Umadevi as Shakteeshwara in Goparvata located in panoramic surroundings. Brahma worshipped the linga and got the power to create the universe. Other Gods also got into their saddle likewise”.
“Paakayajna”, continued Devabhakta, “There is a thapasvi called Mahaakaarunika in Goparvata, a Guru who knows the essence of all Upanishads and who is always in bliss. Take your son with you and seek his darshan with a sense of surrender and offer service to him every day. That will destroy your misfortune and unhappiness”.
With great delight, Paakayajna went over to Goparvata with his son Shashivarna who had shown a visible degree of repentance by then. Both the father and son had frequent darshan of Shakteeshwara and completed pradakshina (circumambulation) of the Lord 108 times with great devotion. By the Lord’s grace, they had the chance to meet the Guru who was a perfect picture of peace, a beacon of bliss, an epitome of enlightenment and a Jeevanmukta sui generis. Stretching themselves fully on the ground, the two offered prostration to Mahaakaarunika. With folded hands, Paakayajna related his trials and tribulations to the Guru.
The kind and great Guru, a great yogi as he was, enjoying the ecstasy of inner bliss, looked at the sinful Shashivarna but with the characteristic outlook of universality and tolerance, accepted him as a shishya (disciple).
“The moment the Guru cast his eyes on Shashivarna”, said Iswara to Vishnu, “He was totally cleansed of some of his sins. As he was taken as a disciple, some other things were washed away instantly. Indeed, all his diseases left him and he became a healthy one!”
Shashivarna’s daily routine consists of devoted attention to the needs of the Guru (like fetching water, fruits and vegetables) and taking care of the Guru’s cows in the ashram. The service extended to relieving his bodily pain, giving him an oil bath and washing the Guru’s clothes. Repentance, service to the Guru and antidotes undertaken relieved Shashivarna of most of his major sins.
Satisfied with the transformation in Shashivarna, the great Guru once took food and gave a piece of the reminder to him with his blessings. The disciple, true as he was, looked upon it as nectar and took it. There was an obvious change for the better in his physical frame and gradually attained the state of the Mahatma. Then the Guru, satisfied with the degree of purity that had descended on his disciple, caught hold of him and smeared white vibhuti on his body and initiated him to the secret lore of Parabrahma tattva precisely as laid down by the scientific tenets and vignettes of Vedanta.
“Vishnu, the Lord of all sensory perceptions!”, said Iswara, in conclusion, “Shashivarna had by then known me by direct experience within himself and attained mukti by virtue of my grace. Also by my grace, his father Paakayajna got the blissful Brahma Vidya by the unique Guru seva and attained salvation. Paakayajna’s forefathers also got liberated. His family line became pure and acquired a divine touch. The land the family members lived acquired special sanctity and sacredness. Even a sinful girl whose carnal gratification Shashivarna had, attained a high heavenly world. So much for the strength of his knowledge and enlightenment he acquired at the Lotus Feet of his Guru. I will now tell you the fruits of offering service to a rare Atma jnani and Sadguru”.
Long ago, there was a prostitute called Shubhaga who by the force of conglomeration of sinful deeds had even done to death several of her callers and customers and had greedily appropriated their money to spend joyful moments among her friends and family members.
“Listen! Great Purusha”, Iswara related to Vishnu, as her sins knew no bounds, she was tormented by evil spirits and several diseases. She could hardly sleep and she was prey to many problems and difficulties along with her relatives”.
One day, a great scholar, bitten by pangs of hunger, chanced to enter the prostitute’s house. By virtue of the punya of the past lives and the modicum of culture and hospitality she had been endowed with accordingly, she offered prostrations to the Brahma jnani who presented a different image to her altogether. She took him inside and washed his Lotus Feet with scented water and then took the washed water with reverence only to discover the sudden disappearance of all her ailments:-
“ ….. Aadaaya peetwaa Subhagaa vimukta pishaachikaabhischa samasta rogaihi”.
Shubhaga was struck with wonder and amazed at her transformation due to the grace of a peaceful one who had known the Paramatman. She gave him sumptuous food, clothes and the traditional betel nut and leaves and offered worship to him.
With folded hands, she said, “Swamin! By your very darshan, I have been cured of all my diseases and rendered absolutely pure. I therefore fervently pray that you may be pleased to accept me as your spouse. I shall serve you till the end of my life with total surrender”.
The guest was delighted with her sincere prayers and impelled by the power of his own prarabdha decided to respond to her request and accepted her.
“Vishnu”, said Iswara, “With great enthusiasm and devotion, Shubhaga worshipped the Mahatma with all her belongings for a period of three years. She acquired the same level of jnana as the Guru and attained moksha. Many people who came to know about the attainment of the prostitute who climbed to the top of spiritual ladder also chose to worship the Brahma jnani and after assimilating the kind of Vedic knowledge that leads to liberation from bondage unfettered themselves from the shackles of samsara”.
“Wherever a jnani resides”, continued Iswara, “I reside there at all times. Even if my devotees live far, others should have their darshan as I happen to live with them permanently. Great Hari, where a jnani stays for a minute or half, you must conclude that all sacred waters (theerthas) are found there symbolically. There can be no doubt about it. If anyone causes harm to a Brahma jnani even out of ignorance, I look upon such a one as sinning against me. A jnani is dearer to me than even my consort Umadevi. All people are always different and external to me but a jnani is my own Atma-swarupa – a constitution of my own self. Those who look upon me and seeker of the self (Atma-nishta) as individually different are verily the ignorant (Ajnanis). Therefore, all must offer special worship to Atma-jnanis. Vishnu, I have given you a summary of Vedic and Vedantic proclamations and given you the essence of their meaning. Every other literary exercise in this matter is nothing but an expansion of this fundamental theme”.
“The wise and the intelligent”, continued Iswara, “must study the sastras and know the subtle meaning thereof from the Gurus. They must follow the teachings by taking the essence of a book leaving the book behind, in the same way as one interested in grains leaves the husk behind. If there is plenty of water easily available all over the world, a well is not necessary to one who is thirsty. In the same way, for one who has an insatiable thirst for fundamental knowledge of the Vedas, the embellishments and lesser details are not necessary to such a seeker. The chance of a human birth is a rare one. If this is so, what is the use of one endowed with Vedic scholarship if one does not rise higher by reaching the Brahman by metaphysical disquisitions in Vedanta and enjoy the bliss of Sat-Chit-Ananda state transcending barriers of Varnasharma? When does such an ignorant one get liberated? It is not possible to envelope oneself with the elusive akasha (space) in the same way as the body is enveloped by the layer of skin. Likewise, it is literally impossible to liberate oneself from all bonds of unhappiness without knowledge of Shiva who is indistinguishable from Atma-tattva swarupa. It is by my grace alone that one acquires the aspiration for and the knowledge of great Vedantic passages; this grace one gets after refinements acquired over a series of previous births and by virtue of good deeds one indulges in”.
“It is only through my grace”, Said Iswara, “that in the extremely fortunate one (i.e., endowed with a lot of punya) jnana rises on a steadfast note as a result of metaphysical disquisitions into Vedantic Maha Vakyas”.
“The jeevan who has vivid experiences within himself of the phenomenon of jnana directly continues to witness the vicissitudes of samsara only upto the moment the physical frame withers away. In other words, even after the onset of the Brahma jnana until the vanishing point of the prarabdha responsible for the cause of the physical body, the jeevan will be a Jeevanmukta and functions as an Ati-varnaashrami and as a Guru imparting edifying lessons in the field of knowledge and enlightenment. For the jnani, even before the collapse of the body, from a philosophical view-point, there is in reality no involvement in samsara. There can be none after the moral coil falls”.
“Immortal Vishnu as Achyuta (devoid of detraction or destruction). “It is only in the last several lives (births) that sure and pure knowledge of Brahmatma that ensures Mukti begins to rise”.
Parameswara became silent after the above exposition as no further elucidation was necessary.
The immortal Vishnu who felt the sense of completeness within himself by the inroads into Vedic essence opened up by Parameswara, offered humble thanks by touching his Lotus Feet.
Later Vishnu told the Devatas and Rishis that Parameswara continued to bless all living beings without giving up his exalted state of bliss and self-illumination.