Illumination-experiences on Indian soil, part 4
Timur and the mendicantThe Emperor Timur was an ancestor of Akbar the Great. When Timur was in India, one day he saw a religious mendicant praying and meditating most soulfully at the foot of a tree. Timur was not a spiritual person, but he appreciated spiritual people. He was so deeply moved by the religious mendicant that he told him he could have anything he wanted from him.
The mendicant said, "I do not need anything from you."
Timur asked, "But why not?"
The mendicant replied, "Because God has supplied me with all my material needs. I have got such a beautiful tree and I can draw water from the river. During the day I have the sun, at night I have the moon, and all the time I have such a vast sky over my head! What else do I need?"
Timur said, "You do not have any money!" The mendicant said, "I do not need money."
"Then please come and visit my palace," said Timur.
"There is no need for me to visit your palace," said the mendicant. "It is true that each place has its own outer beauty, but I care only for the inner beauty."
Finally, Timur said, "I am the Emperor. You have to take something from me."
The mendicant said, "Then give me something that will increase my aspiration and my love for God."
Timur said, "I do not have any aspiration. How can I give you something that will increase your aspiration?"
"Aspiration is the only thing I need," said the mendicant. "Anything else that I take I will not be able to appreciate or use."
Timur said, "No, you have to ask me for something else. Since I do not have anything to increase your aspiration, give me another chance to offer you something!"
The mendicant finally said, "All right. When I meditate here, sometimes flies bother me. Can you stop them from bothering me?" The Emperor tried for a few minutes to stop the flies from bothering the mendicant, but they came back again and again. At last the Emperor said, "It is an impossible task! How can I do it?"
The mendicant told him, "Oh, you are a real Emperor, indeed! You cannot even save me from these flies. Yet just now you were bragging about your wealth and capacity."
The Emperor was deeply humiliated. He stopped disturbing the poor spiritual mendicant and went away.
Washing the teacher's feetMany years ago, a Moghul prince was studying under a teacher. In those days, the teachers were worshipped by their students. In these days, the story is different, perhaps because teachers are now afraid of their students.
Previously, it was customary for a student to wash his teacher's feet after he had taken a lesson. One day, while the prince was washing his teacher's feet, the Emperor came by. The prince became frightened and the teacher also started trembling. How could the prince wash the feet of an ordinary man?
When the Emperor saw the prince hesitating, he began to scold the prince. "I clearly see that you are not washing your teacher's feet with utmost devotion and humility. Stop neglecting your duty and wash your teacher's feet properly!" So the prince washed his teacher's feet with utmost devotion and the Emperor was very happy. The Emperor wanted his son to learn the lesson of humility. Meanwhile, the teacher was trembling the whole time!
Jahan Ara's last wishThe Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan's only daughter was Jahan Ara. Jahan Ara was extremely beautiful, extremely soulful and extremely self-giving. When Shah Jahan was incarcerated in the Red Fort by his son, Aurangzeb, Jahan Ara remained in the same prison to serve and console her father. She stayed with her father for eight years. In every way she tried to keep him happy and well.
Long before he was imprisoned, Shah Jahan had built the Taj Mahal, one of the great wonders of the world, in memory of his dead wife, Mumtaz Mahal, whom he had loved very much. Who knows what he would have done if Jahan Ara also had died before him? True, by that time he was no longer the Emperor, but he would have perhaps begged his most notorious son to do something very special for his all-giving daughter, Jahan Ara. When Shah Jahan died, the daughter greatly mourned the loss of her father. With her mother also gone, she had full freedom to come out of her self-imposed prison-life and enjoy life as a member of the royal family. But Jahan Ara said, "How can I be happy when my brother is so cruel and undivine?" She felt her life had no meaning without her beloved father. So she continued living in prison for her few remaining years on earth.
Jahan Ara's last wish was not to have a canopy over her grave. Instead, she wanted only grass to grow on top of her grave. She wanted a most humble funeral ceremony, just like that of an ordinary person. She said, "I have not lived the life of a princess for many years. The life of simplicity, humility and purity I have tried to live. So let my passing also be all simplicity, humility and purity."
Aurangzeb visits the mosquePrince Aurangzeb incarcerated his father, the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan, and also imprisoned and even killed some of his brothers so that he could become Emperor. Afterwards, he felt miserable at what he had done, and he often went to the mosque to pray.
One day he was praying in the mosque, along with many other people, when one of the mosque attendants saw a hole in the carpet. The man cried out, "What will the Emperor think if he sees such a hole?"
The Emperor overheard the attendant and became furious. The man apologised profusely and said, "Please forgive me, O Emperor. Next time when you come, there will be no hole in the carpet. It will be a brand new carpet."
Aurangzeb said, "You fool, that is not why I am angry! Why should you beg my forgiveness for a hole in the carpet? In my palace, if I had seen such a hole in the carpet, I would have been really furious. There I would not tolerate such a thing. But I have come here not as the Emperor; I have come as an ordinary person, as one of you. I have come as a beggar to pray to Allah. This is Allah's special place, and Allah does not care for luxury and pomp. Here, simplicity and poverty are the real perfection. So do not worry about the hole; let it remain. Only if I pray in a simple place will I have true aspiration and true love for Allah!"
Aurangzeb's glass of waterLate one night, the Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb asked one of his personal attendants to bring him a glass of water. He wanted to have something to drink and also he wanted to wash his face, ears and nose before beginning a special midnight worship. The attendant was half asleep and went out of the room in a terrible hurry to fetch the water. While returning with the water, by accident he fell on the Emperor and almost kicked him. When he realised what he had done, the attendant immediately knelt down in front of Aurangzeb and begged for forgiveness.
The Emperor said, "Forgive you? Why do I need to forgive you? This is only a silly accident. I am planning to ask Allah to give me more inner wealth, so in which way are you inferior to me? In which way are we different? We are both beggars."
The king's humilityOne day a sage came to a king for an interview. The sage had to wait for a long time because the king was very busy. Finally, the king said he could come in.
When the sage entered the hall, the first thing he did was to take off his hat and bow to the king. Immediately the king took off his crown and bowed to the sage. The ministers and others who were around the king asked, "What are you doing? He took off his hat because he is an ordinary man. But you are the king. Why should you have to take off your crown?"
The king said to his ministers, "You fools, do you think I wish to remain inferior to an ordinary man? He is humble and modest. His humility is a peerless virtue. He showed his respect to me. If I did not take off my crown, then I would be showing less humility than an ordinary man, and I would be defeated by him. If I am the king, I should be better than everybody in everything. That is why I took off my crown and bowed to him!"
Maharshi Dayananda's illuminationMaharshi Dayananda came of a very rich family. At the age of twenty-one he was inspired to leave his house to search for a Guru. As he was leaving, he stood in front of his house and bowed down to his parents and relatives. He said, "I am leaving to become a sannyasin. I am not going to come back again."
Dayananda carried with him two books of Hindu scriptures which he had studied. He carried those scriptures hundreds and hundreds of miles as he went from village to village searching for a Guru.
Ten years passed, but still he found no Guru. He saw many so-called Gurus, but none of them satisfied him. One day, a seeker told him where he would find his Guru. He believed the seeker and travelled a hundred miles, all on foot, to the place where the Guru lived. He found the Guru and was very satisfied. His Guru said to him, "What are you carrying with you?"
Dayananda told him, "Two books of scriptures."
The Guru said, "Scriptures? Then you cannot be my disciple. Go and throw them into the river."
Those two books were Dayananda's most cherished possessions, but what could he do? In obedience to his Guru, he threw them into the river. He returned to the Guru and asked, "Am I now ready to be your disciple?"
The Guru said, "Yes, you are ready!"
Dayananda soon discovered that his Guru was totally blind. But that did not lessen his faith in his Master. Next he discovered that his Guru had never been able to read. Even then he had such faith in his Guru. He used to cook for his Guru and wash his clothes, serving him like a slave. Eventually he became his Guru's dearest disciple. But even when you are the Guru's dearest disciple, you can sometimes make mistakes. Once this Guru was extremely displeased with Dayananda and he struck Dayananda mercilessly with his hands. Then the Guru's hands became swollen and very painful. The Guru was miserable, but Dayananda was much more miserable — not because his Guru had hurt him, but because his Guru had hurt himself. He begged his Guru to beat him with a stick when he became angry with him in the future.
In a few days' time, the Guru again became angry with Dayananda. This time he struck Dayananda repeatedly with a stick. In the course of the beating the stick broke into sharp pieces and again the Guru got hurt.
One of the other disciples said, "Master, what are you doing? This disciple has left a very rich family to come to you. The poor fellow has nobody else except you. And he is so spiritual. He is far better than we are. Why do you strike him?"
The teacher remained silent, but Dayananda got furious. He insulted his brother disciple severely "What right do you have to speak to our Guru in that manner? Our Guru knows everything far better than we do. I may know the scriptures and I may come of a very rich family, but I have given up these things. I do not need earthly possessions. I need only the inner world. That is why I am at his feet." And once again Dayananda begged his Guru to beat him whenever he did something wrong. In fact, he went and brought his Guru quite a few new sticks for that purpose. The Guru simply gave him a soulful and compassionate smile.
In a few years' time Dayananda's Guru said to him, "You are now fully prepared. The time has come for you to leave me and initiate your own disciples."
Dayananda was totally heartbroken. He said, "This is the worst punishment!"
The Guru said, "This is not my punishment; this is my wisdom. You have realised me. Now, while I am still alive, you have to go out and spread my light. Others are not fit. Only you are fit."
So Dayananda left his Guru and gathered quite a few disciples of his own. From time to time, he used to tell his close disciples amusing and soulful stories about his Guru. Quite frequently he would take off his shirt and show his students the big marks on one of his shoulders, where his Guru used to thrash him.
He said, "My Guru was so kind and compassionate to me. He used to strike me mercilessly. These marks were not his punishment but his illumination. You have come to me as disciples because I am illumined. But I wish to tell you that my illumination is inside these marks.
"Either I am a better Guru or a worse Guru than my own Master. In my case, I bark, but I do not strike. But, who knows, my striking might have given you illumination by this time!"
The return of GorakshanathGorakshanath was a great occultist who lived on earth many hundreds of years ago. Since then, he has taken quite a few other incarnations. This is a story about one of his later incarnations, when he came to earth in a different body and with a different name.
One day, while a certain spiritual Master was having a very powerful meditation, he began shaking his legs. At that time, many of his past incarnations appeared before his inner vision. These incarnations were talking to him with such devotion, saying: "When you took our form, you were a huge wave of the ocean. You could create a sensation — a real commotion. But now that you have become the ocean itself, your vastness is such that it cannot be fathomed; it cannot even be appreciated. It will take centuries to appreciate the vast consciousness that your illumination-ocean embodies for humanity."
After having this experience, the Master told his disciples some stories about his Gorakshanath incarnation: "Across the vast Indian sub-continent I travelled, visiting quite a few places. Everywhere I used my occult power. If somebody said anything I did not like, O God, either I would destroy that person or I would give him severe punishment. In this incarnation, either God has taken away those occult powers or God does not allow me to use them. Some people believe that I still have occult power, and some people think that I do not have any. Who is right and who is wrong, God knows! But, in those days, to kill someone and then revive him was not a difficult task. Nowadays, I cannot even kill an ant! The ant just hides. Even a cockroach will run away before I can catch it!
"I have had many, many significant incarnations, although the number is fewer than you people have had. Most of you have had many, many more incarnations than I have had, but during my past incarnations I ran a little faster than you did. My Gorakshanath incarnation was significant because it taught me the difference between occult power and spiritual power.
"I always say that God first uses His Compassion. When His Compassion fails, He uses His destruction aspect because that is the only way to take people to the goal. For a few years, when he was younger, Gorakshanath was quite compassionate, but his compassion was exploited. Then, later in life, he only showed occult power. In some places, he created a sensation; in some places, fear. Again, in some places, people loved and respected him. But he did not receive as much love as he did admiration. The admiration he got came most of the time because people feared him, not because they loved him.
"People who did not get a direct experience of Gorakshanath's occult power, but only heard about it from various sources, appreciated him. Others who directly experienced his occult power firsthand were terribly afraid of Gorakshanath. They were reluctant to come near him.
"Sometimes occultists use their power correctly, and sometimes they use it incorrectly. Sometimes, when they use occult power in a negative way, they have the power to change it into something positive. That is their good quality. They break something, but they have the capacity to repair it. But some occultists do not have that capacity. When they break something, it is finished! Then the rest of their lives they are miserable. But some occultists break and remake again. Gorakshanath was one of those who could destroy and rebuild.
"When occultists have tremendous occult power, sometimes they sneer at humanity's weaknesses instead of showing sympathy. It is difficult for most occultists to identify themselves with humanity unless they have achieved God-realisation. Their very existence is fire, fire, fire! But they do not realise that they are setting fire to their own house. If they took the whole world as their own home, they would see that when they use occult power they are definitely destroying their own home.
"Towards the end of his life, for at least forty years Gorakshanath remained meditating inside various caves at the foot of the Himalayas. At that time he stopped using occult power completely; he only wanted God-realisation. Before God-realisation, occult power cannot be guided. It is absolutely like a mad elephant. But once you get God-realisation, occult power can be tamed easily, like a pet dog or cat.
"When spiritual Masters realise God, they see the difference between occult power and spiritual power. Spiritual power is the ocean itself, whereas occult power is either one wave or a few waves. Since in the ocean there are countless waves, when we become the ocean, we get countless waves.
"After realisation, when we get spiritual power, occult powers also increase in number and in strength. But the greatest occult power or greatest spiritual power is oneness-power with God's Will. Continuous, sleepless and breathless oneness with God's Will is the most difficult power to have. It is like becoming God's slave. In this sense, 'slave' means 'child'. At every moment little children want to be dictated to. Although they know how to make decisions, they get tremendous joy if they always get the command from the highest.
"That is the role that I play quite often. I get the message from the Highest what to do with certain individuals or groups of individuals. That very thing I always tell my disciples. You may not know or you may know better than I do what to do with your life on the physical plane. But if you get the sanction from me or even if you make me aware of your future plans, then I do hope you get more joy than when you make your own decision, which may or may not be correct. Once the decision comes from within or from Above, then that decision is your salvation, and it will give you utmost joy.
"Sri Ramakrishna said that if the ego does not go, then that rascal should be kept as a slave. This ego is safer if it has the Supreme as its Master. That is the happier and sweeter way. The other way is to have the Universal Consciousness and feel, 'I am Brahma'. After realising God, the Universal Consciousness becomes yours, but there is no joy in this. You cannot play the sweet obedience-game. After becoming one with God, if you can become both Master and disciple, then there is great joy. But if you play only the role of the Master, only the Universal or Transcendental Self, then you do not get the same joy.
"Realisation I did have before my Gorakshanath incarnation. But that kind of realisation was like sitting near the foot of the tree. Then, in subsequent incarnations, I came to the foot of the tree. Then I started climbing and climbing. Now I have really climbed high, higher, highest.
"There was a kind of height that I achieved in those past incarnations. In each case, to reach that height had been my goal. In this incarnation, there is no such thing as the ultimate height. In previous incarnations, if I could reach nirvana, that was enough. Then, if I could have sahaja samadhi, that was enough. In this incarnation, I am seeing clearly that the Absolute Supreme is always transcending His own height. It is not my imagination or sweet dream. No, no, I am seeing it! The very nature of Divinity is to increase its own Divinity. This incarnation is offering me the message of the ever-transcending Reality, and I am offering that message to you, my dearest children."
The beggar gives his allBefore India gained independence, a few young men from the villages wanted to free India from the foreign yoke; they wanted the British to quit India. They needed material wealth to throw the British out of India, so they started collecting money in the Indian villages.
One day, they got inspired to collect material things as well. They went from door to door carrying a huge bag, which gradually was filled with money and gifts. As they went, a one-legged beggar kept following them. The young men did not mind.
At the end of the day, they entered into a house to see what they had collected. The beggar also wanted to enter, but since he was not a member of the group, they did not allow him in. The beggar pleaded with them: "I walked such a long distance right behind you. You want freedom; I also want freedom. Our Motherland is not only your property. It is also my property."
At first, the young men got mad and told the beggar to go away. Then one of the men felt sorry for him, so they decided to show him the things they had collected. While the beggar was looking at the gifts in their bag, most of them were showing him real contempt. Then suddenly the beggar opened up the bag that he had been carrying. It contained a few coins and some rice. He spontaneously threw all the contents into their bag.
Immediately all the members of the revolutionary group started shedding tears of gratitude, because he had given all that he had to their cause. On that day, they had gone to visit so many rich families, who had given them next to nothing; but this beggar had given them everything that he had! They were deeply moved by the beggar's contribution.
Vidyasagar's sacrifice for his teacherThis story is about a great Bengali figure named Vidyasagar. His name means 'the ocean of knowledge'. He is well known in India, especially in Bengal. During his lifetime, there was nobody who did not admire him for his wisdom and adore him for his compassion. He did so many things to raise the standard and the consciousness of Bengal!
He used to teach Sanskrit at a Sanskrit college run by the British Government. It happened that a higher post was available, and the principal wanted Vidyasagar to get the post. But Vidyasagar said, "No, I cannot accept it."
The principal asked, "Why?"
Vidyasagar replied, "Because there is someone who knows Sanskrit far better than I do. He is the one who should get this post." The principal said, "You fool, you need money! You have a big family to support. Your brother and sister depend on you. I have such affection and concern for you. You must take this post."
Vidyasagar insisted, "No, there is somebody who is more qualified than I am, and that person is my own teacher."
The principal said, "No, I am sorry. I do not agree with you."
Vidyasagar said, "I am not going to accept the post."
Finally the principal said, "The day after tomorrow is the last day I can accept applications, and your teacher has not yet even applied. It has to be done in an official way."
Vidyasagar said, "I will go to my teacher's house and bring him an application."
To reach his teacher's house, Vidyasagar had to pass through several villages, either by bullock cart or on foot — a distance of fifty miles. Vidyasagar was an ocean of knowledge and compassion, but he was not an athlete. For him to walk fifty miles was really something! He left Saturday afternoon and arrived at his destination the next day. When his teacher heard what Vidyasagar had done, he could not believe his eyes and ears. He started shedding tears and immediately embraced Vidyasagar.
The teacher told him, "If somebody says, 'God', immediately it comes to mind that God is in Heaven. But I will say that God is not in Heaven. God is right in front of me." Vidyasagar's family name was Isha, which means God.
Vidyasagar filled in the form, and his teacher just signed it. Then again Vidyasagar walked back fifty miles. Altogether he covered one hundred miles. When he returned, he was tired and exhausted, but he was also so delighted that his teacher would get the job. The principal did give Vidyasagar's teacher the job. But afterwards, the principal sat down on his chair and could not speak for an hour. How could there be people like Vidyasagar on earth? He could not do anything. He just sat on his chair speechless.
So Vidyasagar continued to receive fifty rupees a month, while his teacher received ninety rupees — practically double.
The horse that wanted more beautyA cosmic god had a horse. The horse was beautiful and also it had many good qualities. But it wanted to be more perfect in every way. It especially wanted to become beauty unparalleled.
One day the horse said to the cosmic god, "O Lord, you have given me beauty. You have given me other good qualities. I am so grateful to you. But how I wish you could make me more beautiful. I would be extremely, extremely grateful if you could make me more beautiful."
The cosmic god said, "I am more than ready to make you more beautiful. Tell me in what way you want to be changed."
The horse said, "It seems to me that I am not well proportioned. My neck is too short. If you can make my neck a little longer, my upper body will be infinitely more beautiful. And if you can make my legs much longer and thinner, then I will look infinitely more beautiful in my lower body."
The cosmic god said, "Amen!" Then immediately he made a camel appear in place of the horse. The horse was so disheartened that it started to cry, "O Lord, I wanted to become more beautiful. In what way is this kind of outer form more beautiful?"
The cosmic god said, "This is exactly what you asked for. You have become a camel."
The horse cried, "Oh no, I do not want to become a camel! I wish to remain a horse. As a horse, everybody appreciated my good qualities. Nobody will appreciate me as a camel."
The cosmic god said, "Never try to achieve or receive more than I have given you. If you want to lead a desire-life, then at every moment you will want more and more. But you have no idea what the outcome will be. If you cry for a longer neck and legs, this is what will happen. Each thing in my creation has its own good qualities. The camel is not as beautiful as you are, but it carries heavy loads and has a tremendous sense of responsibility. You stay with your beauty, which is absolutely needed. Beauty is definitely one of my divine qualities. And let the camel remain with its sense of responsibility, which is another divine quality of mine. Do not ask me for anything more. If I decide to give you something on my own, then it will not create any problems. It will only add to what you have. But when you are the one who asks me to add to what you already have, then you are bound to run into serious difficulties."
The great heavenly sage NaradaThe great heavenly sage Narada came from a very poor family. His mother used to serve the hermits in the forest. Some of the hermits were ordinary seekers, while others were highly evolved. Still others had realised the highest heights. Just before Narada's mother left the body, after being bitten by a snake, she asked her son to continue serving the hermits just as she had been doing. So after his mother's passing, Narada also started serving the sages. The sages liked him immensely and they taught him how to pray and meditate.
For years and years Narada prayed and meditated, and then one time he saw God inside his heart. He saw God for only a moment; then immediately God disappeared. Narada cried and cried for God to appear again, but to no avail. Finally, he heard a message from Above: "I came to intensify your aspiration. When your aspiration is intensified infinitely more than what it is now, I will appear again."
Narada eventually went back to the soul's world after completing his earthly sojourn. A few years later, Brahma asked him to take human incarnation again and return to earth to manifest God.
Narada said to Brahma, "No, the world is full of suffering and temptation. I do not want to go back to earth. On earth, when I think of manifesting God, at that time I forget to think of God. I want only to think of God and pray to God, and not to manifest God."
Brahma insisted, "No, you have to think of God and also manifest God; you have to do both together."
Narada said, "One cannot do that. Those two things do not go together!"
But Brahma said, "Aspiration and manifestation can and must go together."
Eventually Brahma forced Narada to come down into the world. This time, when Narada entered into the world, real temptation caught him. He had fifty wives. At the end of that particular incarnation, when he went back to the soul's world, he said, "I am never going back to earth!"
Brahma said "All right!" This time, while Narada was in the soul's world, Brahma taught him how to play on his vina. Then Narada said, "I will come down into the world again only to play on the vina and spread God's Glory, but for nothing else!"
Brahma said, "Fine!"
When he returned to earth, Narada went from one place to another singing of the Glory of God. That was his manifestation. While singing, he would accompany himself on his vina, which was named 'Mahati'. When Narada was travelling all over the world, his special means of conveyance was a machine, which is normally used to husk rice. He would ride on it from one place to another.
This was the incarnation in which he realised God. He always used to bring inspiring messages from Heaven to earth. He was the one who brought the message to Savitri's parents about Satyavan's death, which was described in the Mahabharata. He also helped Dhruva. He asked him to pray to God and he taught him how to realise God. Dhruva realised God through Narada's instructions.
Narada continues to live in the inner world. Even now, in the inner world, he sings songs about his love of God. He is very active; he is always on the move — devotedly, soulfully and powerfully spreading the Compassion and Love of God.
Editor's preface to the first editionThe stories in this book, many based on historical incidents or traditional tales from India's past, offer an illumining glimpse at some of the experiences that helped shape the consciousness of Mother India. The stories have been adapted and retold by a master storyteller whose spiritual insights will benefit Easterners and Westerners alike.