The legendary description of Iswara’s leela is wonderful, according to all the Rishis who had first-hand knowledge of the vignettes of Iswara tattva and Vedanta. It inspires bhakti even in an atheist! Great Rishis like Vyasa and Sanatkumara, all-knowing as they were, had displayed rare knowledge of Shiva tattva.
Vyasa Maharshi met Sanatkumara once and requested him to enlighten him on the secrets of Iswara’s leelas and powers which defied definition by anyone. “Omniscient, Sanatkumara! ”Vyasa said to him, “I have heard a lot about the Paramatman par excellence from your lips but I feel like knowing more about the great one. I am also keen on knowing more about some of those who had been carried away by Iswara’s spell of illusion (maya). Please tell me all about Mahadeva’s greatness”.
“Vyasa! Your intellectual level is lofty. You will be glad to know that the moment one listens to Shankara’s story, one’s devotion rises rapidly! I shall now relate to you some facets of this story which brings happiness to all”.
“Iswara”, said Sanatkumara, “is the Lord of all. He pervades all. He is a witness to everything. It is only from his creative power that the whole universe has come into being. Wherever you cast your eyes, you will only see and perceive his mighty power and greatness. Iswara takes the combined form of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and with that he pervades all beings and elements besides the known linga form, which hides within itself the powers of creation, protection and destruction. All birth and deaths are attributable to Iswara. He is the cause of all living beings in the upper and lower worlds. He is their friend, preceptor and guide. He is their protector and Lord. He is the one who dispels their illusion. He is the one who gives them liberally everything like the all giving tree – Kalpa Vruksha! He is the one who meditates on himself and makes others too to mediate on their source of power and energy”.
“Iswara” continued Sanatkumara “is the in-dweller of all people. He is self-luminous and greater than all the great gods like Brahma. All good and bad things in creation are mere parts of his body beyond which there is nothing you can see. You cannot therefore take out anything conceivable from him. But more than anything, his spell of illusion on others is enormous and indescribable. There is no place, where the spell does not operate. All the Devatas, rakhasas and the human beings and their earthly locations are subservient to his powers of illusion”.
Iswara, Sanatkumara told Vyasa, is capable of vanquishing the most powerful and the bravest like Vishnu. Everything goes on according to Iswara’s will.
“Indra”, said Sanatkumara, “once became a victim of Iswara’s powerful spell on illusion and committed the sacrilegious crime of having carnal knowledge of Ahalya, the illustrious consort of Gautama and incurred his curse. Agni (the Lord of fire) deluded himself into thinking that he was the greatest of all. Iswara dispelled his airs and rescued him. Likewise, Vayu the Lord of Air and the life force in all living beings, also came under Iswara’s wave of illusion; he was also saved by the Lord. The Sun and Moon Gods besides Brihaspati were also some of several ones who were saved by Iswara after they strayed from their path. The king of birds, Garuda, overpowered by Iswara maya, desired to kidnap a tapasvini called Shandili. The moment she came to know about it, she cursed Garuda and his wings were instantly consumed by the fire of her curse. Vyasa, even your father Parashara though a great yogi, got under Iswara-maya and married Matsyagandhi, the daughter of a fisherman. Vishwamitra Maharshi, the invincible warrior as he was, did not know the greatness of Vasishta and developed animus against him, as a result of Iswara’s will and spell of maya. The Menaka episode in his life is also part of the same spell. But before too long, he acquired Iswara’s grace in abundance and became a Mahabrahmana. Revana, the son of Vyshravana, lost his head and kidnapped Sita and his unnatural lust for her eventually brought about his downfall at the hands of Rama. Vyasa, these are but few instances throwing light on Iswara’s greatness. His leelas are legion and most wonderful”
“Iswara”, said Sanatkumara “is one who helps you to cross the ocean of samsara. Whoever is prejudiced against him is a very sinful one. Hell waits for those who hate him:
“Ye dweshanti Mahadevam samsaaraarnava-taarakam,
Sumahat-paatakam theshaam nirayaarnava-gaamineem”
In the same way, whoever criticizes a great tapasvi who imparts the knowledge of Iswara tattva or criticizes a Guru or the parents fall into the category of the intoxicated, as such a one, bereft of intelligence, throws reason to the winds. Critics of this category, accordingly to Sanatkumara, are consigned to hell which is as extensive as an ocean.
Sanatkumara proceeded further and said:
“Indulging in criticism of Iswara, derisive talks about Gurus, comments on Iswara-jnana, stealing of articles reserved for religious worship, destroying a brahmin’s possessions or surreptitiously snatching books dedicated to dissemination of Shiva jnana all constitute a cluster of six grave sins”.
Vyasa was curious to know the various types of sins.
“There are”, said Sanatkumara, “three types of sin namely, physical, mental and conversational. The physical ones comprise of consuming prohibited items of food, causing physical harm and distress, exposing oneself to moral turpitude and robbing anything from others. The mental ones relate to desire to covet other women, desire or design on others wealth, wishing ill for others, conceiving anything calculated to harm others. On the other hand, gossip and loose talks on unconnected issues, indulgence in lies, revelation on anything distasteful to others, carrying tales against others constitute the conversational type of sins”.
One who does not speak the truth, who does not indulge in gifts and charities, one who gives initiation to others in unclean surroundings or one who initiates with an impure frame not excluding one who also receives such instruction on the meaning of scriptures, one who receives it without worshipping the Guru or one who is indifferent to the master’s commands or is disobedient to the preceptor becomes a grave sinner. In the same way one who ridicules Shiva tattva out of pride or prejudice and ignorance of incompetence is equally a sinner. Transgressions will constitute sins as serious as those against Iswara himself.
There are those who shield their own defects and lapses and struggle to boast about virtues and qualities they do not possess. They expose themselves to such very grave sins as to merit the description of “brahmaghnas”.
The Vedas constitute the sacred books that throw light on the effervescence of Brahma jnana glorified by the Shivaite School. Having studied the Vedas, one should not forget them; forgetting them brings the same guilt as one gets by consumption of alcoholic drinks. One gets guilt of the same lapse by refraining from the daily fulfilment of the five-fold yajnas, namely: Brahma yajna, Deva yajna, Pitru yajna, Bhoota yajna and Manushya yajna. Giving up parental connections is a sin which ranks with brahmahatya.
Cow-sheds, fireplaces, water tanks, public roads, the shade beneath beautiful trees and lovely gardens should not be used for answering calls of nature. Inability to display civic sense brings the same change of sinful omission as the ability and alacrity displayed in discovering others defects, demerits and derelictions expose one to the charge of sinful commissions.
It makes no difference if one indulges in sinful deed oneself or employs someone else to do so. The actual doer or the agent and one who shares and accepts with delight the commission of such offence against the commandments of Iswara will be equally responsible for all reprehensible acts. Herein lays the physical, mental or conversational type of sin:
“Yah karoti swayam karma kaarayetchaanumodayeth,
Kaayena manasaa vaachaa tasya paapa-gatih phalam”.
Lord of Death Yama intimidates the sinners and makes them shiver. Chitragupta, soft-natured as he is advises and cautions them against impending punishments. The Guru bales them out of grave exposures to pain, loss and misfortunes and saves them. But Iswara, who is ‘Death for Death’, is an ocean of kindness and by a stroke of grace can destroy all sins.
The wealth of a dead man remains at home; the relatives of the departed reach only the crematorium and return! But the result of good and bad deeds of a person follows the astral body of the person even to the other worlds.
The jnanis who follow the direction of the Guru will not come within the command of Yama.
The Rishis proclaim that the dust particles that cover the feet of the righteous people who appreciate the vignettes of Shaiva Vedanta are akin to scared waters.
“Whoever listens to or reads at least for a few minutes or moments to such vignettes with devotion”, said Sanatkumara “will not experience bad periods in life or spells of misfortune. Na thesham durgatirbhavet. It is Iswara himself who created the monumental masterpiece of nectar – like Shiva Purana especially for the benefit of those bereft of intellect or commonsense or those prone to straying from the dharmic path. Only one who drinks such nectar will attain immortality. Even the family of one who drinks it will unfetter itself from the shackles of birth and death”.