Tuesday 10 July 2007


Sri Bhagavan became transformed while relating incidents from his vast collection of stories and tales. On one occasion while describing Gautama’s joy at Goddess Parvati’s coming to his Ashram, Sri Bhagavan could not go on, for tears filled his eyes and emotion choked his voice. Trying to hide his plight from others, he remarked, “I don’t know how people who perform Harikatha explain such passages to audiences and manage to do it without breaking down. I suppose they must make their hearts hard like stone before starting their work.”


D: I fear that Self-realisation is no easy thing to attain.
M: Why impede yourself by anticipating failure? Push on. Self-realisation will come to an earnest seeker in a trice. To illustrate this, Sri Bhagavan told the following story:

KING JANAKA WAS listening to a philosophical treatise read by the state pandit, wherein a passage occurred to the effect that a rider who had placed one foot in the stirrup, contemplating upon realisation could realise the Self before he lifted the other foot to place it in the other stirrup. That is, the passage taught, that when realisation comes, it comes in an instant. The king stopped the pandit from proceeding further, and ordered him to prove the statement. The pandit admitted that he was only a book-worm and was unable to impart practical wisdom. Janaka suggested that the text was either false or exaggerated, but the pandit would not agree to this. Though he himself was unable to impart practical wisdom, he maintained that the text could not be false or exaggerated, since it contained the words of wise sages of the past. Janaka was annoyed with the pandit and in a fit of rage condemned him to prison. He then inflicted the same punishment on every pandit who passed for a wise man but was unable to prove this scriptural text.

For fear of being imprisoned, some of the pandits fled the country in voluntary exile. While two or three of them were running through a thick forest, a sage called Ashtavakra,* who though young [* Ashta means ‘eight’ and vakra means ‘bends’. Ashtavakra was so named because his body had eight deformities.] in age was wise in learning, happened to cross their path. Having learnt their plight, Ashtavakra offered to prove the text true to the king and thereby have the imprisoned pandits released. Impressed by his bold assurance, they took him in a palanquin to the king. At the sight of the sage, the king stood up and saluted him with great reverence. Ashtavakra then ordered the king to release all the pandits.

Janaka thought that such an order could come only from one who had the capacity to set his doubts at rest, and hence he released all the pandits and asked the sage whether he could summon the horse. The sage advised him not to be in a hurry and suggested that they should go to a solitary spot. Thereupon the king on his horse and the sage in a palanquin went out of the city towards the forest. When they reached the forest the sage asked the king to send back the retinue. The king did as he was asked, and then placing one of his feet in the stirrup, he requested the sage to prove the scriptural text. But the sage replied by asking whether the position in which they stood indicated a proper master-disciple relationship. The king then understood that he should show due reverence towards Ashtavakra, and prayed to him for grace. The sage then addressed him as ‘Janaka’, since he was no longer a king and told him that before being taught Brahma jnana, a true disciple should surrender himself and all his possessions to his Master. “So be it”, said the king. “So be it” replied the sage and disappeared into the forest.

From that moment Janaka stood transfixed with one foot in the stirrup and the other dangling in the air, as if he were a statue. (Saying this, Sri Bhagavan imitated the posture of King Janaka).

Time passed by, and the citizens, finding no sign of their king returning, grew anxious and began to search for him. They came to the place where Janaka was standing transfixed and were dismayed to find him unaware of their presence and indifferent to their earnest enquiries. They therefore began searching for Ashtavakra who, they thought, must be a charlatan that had cast a spell upon their king, and vowed vengeance upon him. At the same time, being concerned with the king’s condition and wanting to minister to him, they brought him back to the city on a palanquin. The king, however, continued to remain in the same condition.

At last, having found Ashtavakra, the ministers entreated him to remove the alleged spell and bring the king back to his normal condition. At the same time they charged him with the responsibility for having cast the spell. Ashtavakra treated their ignorant remarks with contempt and called the name of Janaka, who immediately saluted him, and responded to his call. The ministers were surprised. Ashtavakra told the king that he was being maliciously accused by the people of having brought him to some sad plight and asked him to tell the truth. On hearing this, the king angrily asked, ‘Who said so’? The ministers were taken by surprise and pleaded for mercy. Thereupon, the sage advised the king to resume his normal functions, adding that Brahma jnana could be taught only to competent persons and that since the king had successfully passed the test, he would now impart it to him. Then the sage remained alone with the king during the night and taught him the ultimate Truth, saying “Brahman is not anything new or apart from oneself and no particular time or place is needed to realise It.” He finally concluded by saying, “That Thou Art” (tat tvam asi). That is the Self, eternal and infinite.

The next morning the ministers found that the king called the assembly and performed his functions as usual. In the assembled court Ashtavakra asked the king whether his former doubt about whether Brahma jnana could be attained as suddenly and as quickly as mentioned in the scriptures was cleared, and if so to bring the horse and demonstrate the truth of it.

The king was all humility now and said, “Lord! Because of my immaturity, I doubted the correctness of the scriptural text. I now realise every letter of it is true.” The ministers thanked the sage.

The Jnani and the Siddha

One day, while speaking about hatha yoga and related subjects, Sri Bhagavan narrated the following story from Prabhulingalila, a well-known Tamil work by the Sage Sivaprakasa Swamigal.

PRABHULINGA, THE FOUNDER of the Lingayat sect (now mostly prevalent in Karnataka State only), was touring the land for the uplift of the spiritually minded. He met the famous Yogi Gorakhnath in Gokarnam (a famous place of Hindu pilgrimage on the west coast of India). The yogi welcomed him respectfully, but was however, proudly conscious of his own extraordinary powers over the elements. He considered his guest more or less his equal, expressed pleasure at meeting him, and upon greeting him, asked who he was.

Prabhulinga replied that only the One who had destroyed his ego, root and branch, and who had thereby realised himself could know who he was, and wondered what he could say to a non-entity, a person, who clung to his perishable body.

Gorakhnath, who identified his body as himself, replied, “That person alone who has gained the immortality of the body, by the favour of Siva and consumption of gulikas (medicinal herbs), will never die. Therefore one who had not gained such immortality dies.”

Prabhulinga remarked that knowledge consists in realizing one’s Self and not in immortalising the body and went on to explain at length that the body cannot be the real Self. However, Gorakhnath could not be persuaded and would not budge an inch from his ground; he proudly challenged Prabhulinga to try cutting his body, handing him a long, bright and sharp sword. When the sword struck the body of Gorakhnath, it caused him no injury but was itself blunted. Prabhulinga feigned surprise, and asked Gorakhnath to try cutting his body. At first Gorakhnath hesitated to do so saying that Prabhulinga would die. But when Prabhulinga insisted, he took up the sword and tried to cut his body. To the great surprise of Gorakhnath, the sword passed easily through the body of Prabhulinga without affecting it in any way. It was as if the sword was passing through empty space!

Only then was Gorakhnath, the Siddha, ready to acknowledge the superiority of Prabhulinga, the Jnani. Thus his pride was humbled, and he prayed to Prabhulinga, to teach him the truth. Prabhulinga then expounded Brahma vidya to Gorakhnath as follows:
“Gorakhnath, do not think your body to be your Self. Seek the In-dweller (the cave-dweller) and you will once for all rid yourself of the disease of birth and death. The cave is your heart only, the In-dweller thereof is called God and I am That.”

Twentyfour Gurus

A KING WAS passing through a forest in all pomp and pageantry, with his army and retinue behind him. He came across a man with not even a cod-piece on, lying on the ground, with one leg cocked over the other. He was laughing away, apparently supremely happy, contented with himself and all the world. The king was struck with the man’s happy state and sent for him. But when the king’s men approached the nude ascetic and delivered the king’s message, he took absolutely no notice and continued in his ascetic bliss. On being told of this, the king himself went to the man and even then the man took no notice. Thereupon it struck the king that this must be no common man, and said, ‘Swami, you are evidently supremely happy. May we know what is the secret of such happiness and from which guru you learnt it?’

Thereupon the ascetic told the king, ‘I have had twentyfour gurus. Everything, this body, the earth, the birds, some instruments, some persons, all have taught me’. All the things in the world may be classed as either good or bad. The good taught him what he must seek. Similarly, the bad taught him what he must avoid. The ascetic was Dattatreya, the avadhuta.

Enter the Heart

A devotee who had suddenly lost his only son came to Bhagavan in a state of acute grief, seeking relief. He asked a few questions in which his grief was evident. Bhagavan, as usual, asked him to enquire into the Self and find out who is grieving. The devotee was not satisfied. Bhagavan then said, “All right. I will tell you a story from Vichara Sagaram. Listen”.

TWO YOUNGSTERS BY name Rama and Krishna, told their respective parents that they would go to foreign countries to prosecute further studies and then earn a lot of money. After some time, one of them died suddenly. The other studied well, earned a lot and was living happily. Some time later the one that was alive requested a merchant who was going to his native place to tell his father that he was wealthy and happy and that the other boy who had come with him had passed away. Instead of passing on the information correctly, the merchant told the father of the person who was alive, that his son was dead, and the father of the person that was dead, that his son had earned a lot of money and was living happily. The parents of the person that was actually dead, were happy in the thought that their son would come back after some time, while the parents of the person whose son was alive, but was reported to be dead, were in great grief.

In fact, neither of them saw their son but they were experiencing happiness or grief according to the reports they received. That is all. We too are similarly situated. We believe all sorts of things that the mind tells us and get deluded into thinking that what exists does not exist and that what does not exist exists. If we do not believe the mind but enter the heart and see the son that is inside, there is no need to see the children outside.


During a conversation on non-attachment, Bhagavan said, “In this part of the country, one of our ancients wrote, ‘O Lord, thou hast given me a hand to use as pillow under my head, a cloth to cover my loins, hands wherewith to eat food, what more do I want? This is my great good fortune’!

That is the purport of the verse. Is it really possible to say how great a good fortune that is? Even the greatest kings wish for such happiness. There is nothing to equal it. Having experienced both these conditions, I know the difference between this and that. These beds, sofa and articles around me – all this is bondage.”

“Is not the Buddha an example of this?” asked a devotee. Thereupon Sri Bhagavan began speaking about Buddha.

“YES,” SAID BHAGAVAN, “when the Buddha was in the palace with all possible luxuries in the world, he was still sad. To remove his sadness, his father created more luxuries than ever. But none of them satisfied the Buddha. At midnight he left his wife and child and disappeared. He remained in great austerity for six years, realised the Self; and for the welfare of the world became a mendicant (bhikshu). It was only after he became a mendicant that he enjoyed great bliss. Really, what more did he require?”

“In the garb of a mendicant he came to his own city, did he not?” asked a devotee.

“Yes, yes,” said Bhagavan. “Having heard that he was coming, his father, Suddhodana, decorated the royal elephant and went out with his whole army to receive him on the main road. But without touching the main road, the Buddha came by side roads and by-lanes; he sent his close associates to the various streets for alms while he himself in the guise of a mendicant went by another way to his father. How could the father know that his son was coming in that guise! Yasodhara (the Buddha’s wife), however, recognised him, made her son prostrate before his father and herself prostrated. After that, the father recognised the Buddha. Suddhodana however, had never expected to see his son in such a state and was very angry and shouted, ‘Shame on you! What is this garb? Does one who should have the greatest of riches come like this? I’ve had enough of it!’

And with that, he looked furiously at the Buddha. Regretting that his father had not yet got rid of his ignorance, the Buddha too, began to look at his father with even greater intensity. In this war of looks, the father was defeated. He fell at the feet of his son and himself became a mendicant. Only a man with non-attachment can know the power of non-attachment”, said Bhagavan, his voice quivering with emotion.

The Sadhu and the Three Stones

In 1949 the inauguration of Mother’s Temple took place, and the dedicated labour of ten years was consecrated in Sri Bhagavan’s presence. In front of the Matrubhuteswara Shrine, the Jubilee Hall was built to accommodate the ever-increasing number of devotees. A large granite couch was installed with elaborate carvings, spread with a silken mattress for Bhagavan’s comfort. As a big pillow was placed on one side for Bhagavan to keep his arms, another behind him to lean against and a third one at his feet, the actual seating space was considerably reduced.

One day when Suri Nagamma entered the hall Sri Bhagavan said, looking at his attendants, “See how this mattress slips from one side to another! People think that it will be comfortable for Bhagavan if there is a costly mattress. It is, however, not possible to sit on this restfully. Why this? It would be much more comfortable if I sat on the stone seat itself. As told in the story about the sadhu, people think that Swami is undergoing great hardship when he lives in a thatched shed and lies on a stone bench, and so they make a fuss. It will perhaps be better if, like that sadhu in the story, I gather some stones similar to those I had in the Virupaksha Cave, take them to whichever place I go, and spread them on a mattress like this.”

A devotee asked, “What is that story of the sadhu which Bhagavan has now mentioned?” Whereupon Bhagavan began relating the following story.

A GREAT MAHATMA was living as a sadhu under a tree in a forest. He always used to keep with him three stones. While sleeping, he used to keep one of them under the head, another under the waist and the third under the legs and cover himself with a sheet. When it rained, the body used to be on the stones and so the water would flow underneath, and the water that fell on the sheet too, would flow down. So there was no disturbance to his sleep; he used to sleep soundly. When sitting, he used to keep the three stones together like a hearth and sit upon them comfortably. Hence snakes and other reptiles did not trouble him nor did he trouble them, for they used to crawl through the slits under the stones. Somebody used to bring him food and he would eat it. And so, there was nothing for him to worry about.

A king, who came to that forest for hunting, saw this sadhu and felt, ‘What a pity! How much must he be suffering by having to adjust his body suitably to those stones and sleep thereon. I will take him home and keep him with me for at least one or two days and make him feel comfortable’. So thinking, he went home and sent two of his soldiers with a palanquin and bearers, with instructions to invite the sadhu respectfully and bring him to his palace. He also said that if they did not succeed in bringing the sadhu, they would be punished. They came and saw the sadhu and told him that the king had ordered them to bring him to the palace and that he should come. When he showed disinclination to go with them, they said that they would be punished if they returned without him. So they begged of him to come, if only to save them from trouble. As he did not want them to get into trouble on his account, he agreed to go with them. What was there for him to pack up? A kaupeenam, a sheet and those three stones. He folded and kept the kaupeenam in that sheet, kept those three stones also in the sheet and tied them together. ‘What is this? This Swami is bringing with him some stones when he is going to a Raja’s palace!

Is he mad or what?’ thought those soldiers. Anyway, he got into the palanquin with his bundle and came to the king. The Raja saw the bundle, and thinking it contained some personal effects, took him into the palace with due respect, feasted him properly and arranged a tape cot with a mattress of silk cotton to sleep upon. The sadhu opened his bundle, took out the three stones, spread them on the bed, covered himself with the sheet and slept as usual.

The next morning the king came, bowed to him with respect and asked, “Swami, is it comfortable for you here?” Swami: “Yes. What is there wanting here? I am always happy.”
King: “That is not it, Swami. You were experiencing hardships in the forest by having to sleep on those stones. Here this bed and this house must be giving you happiness. That is why I am asking.”

Swami: “The bed that was there is here also. The bed that is here is there also. So I have the same happiness everywhere. There is nothing wanting at any time, either in regard to my sleep or to my happiness.”

The king was puzzled and looked at the cot. He saw that the three stones were on it. Whereupon, the king immediately prostrated himself before the sadhu and said, “Oh great man! Without knowing your greatness I brought you here with the intention of making you happy. I did not know that you are always in a state of happiness, and so I behaved in this foolish manner. Please excuse me and bless me.”
After making up for his mistake in this way, he allowed the sadhu to go his way. This is the story of the sadhu.

“So, in the eyes of Mahatmas, the free life is the real happy life?” asked that devotee. “What else? Life in big buildings like this is like prison life. Only I may be an ‘A’ class prisoner. When I sit on mattresses like these, I feel that I am sitting on prickly pears. Where is peace and comfort?” said Bhagavan.

Next day that mattress was taken away and the usual mattress was spread on the couch. Even so, several people thought that it might be better to leave Bhagavan to a free life like that of the sadhu. But Bhagavan had to stay there alone, like a parrot in the cage of the devotees, because the devotees never leave him free.