In order to achieve liberation Nigamananda had been practising severe austerities in Benares for quite a few months. One day he was extremely hungry, but he had nothing to eat. In silence he said to the goddess of plenitude, “Annapurna, how is it that I don’t have any food to eat?”
Just then a very ugly elderly woman with filthy clothes brought him a bag and said to him, “Please hold this bag of food. Let me go and bathe in the pond nearby. Then we shall eat together.”
Nigamananda waited two or three hours, but there was still no sign of her returning. Finally he opened the bag and saw most delicious food and fruits inside. He ate everything himself.
That night in a dream Nigamananda saw the goddess Annapurna. She said to him, “So you see, nobody remains hungry. I feed everyone.”
“You feed everyone?” Nigamananda exclaimed. “When did you feed me? I invoked you when I was hungry, but an ugly, dirty, old woman gave me food. You are so beautiful and luminous!”
The goddess explained, “It was I who came to you in that form.”
“Why did you do that?” he asked.
“I wanted to show you that all forms are mine,” said the goddess. “Still you care more for physical beauty than for the soul’s beauty. So I wanted to show you that even ugly people can have good hearts. From now on try to feel that physical beauty has nothing to do with a kind, sympathetic heart.”
Commentary: The beauty of the body ultimately fails. The beauty of the soul eventually sails in the boat of perfection-oneness towards God’s Satisfaction-Shore.