Contd: Chapter 2 – Srī Siddhendra Yogi and the Story of Vichitrapuram
The teaching of a cobbler called Vallabha Das to Shankar Bhatt
After completing the singing, the cobbler came to me. The compassion was overflowing from his eyes. His two eyes were suggesting the experience of self. Doubt crept in my mind whether he was some yogi. He turned to me and said, “Sir, my name is Vallabha Das. I am an artisan working with the hides of animals. I was born in a low caste. There is no doubt about it. Nevertheless, I want to tell you some information. I already knew that your name is Shankar Bhatt and that you are travelling to visit Srīpāda Srīvallabha. Not only that. I also know why you were harassed by crows and snakes on the way.”
I was astonished. I thought that he probably studied astrology and acquired some proficiency in the subject. Vallabha Das said immediately, “Sir, I am not an astrologer. Srī Kshetra Pīthikapuram is the birthplace of great scholars. It is the holy place where Sānga Vedārdha Samrat Pandit Malladi Bapannāvadhāni actually lived. The Vedas became tired in the process attempting to describe the Supreme Being. They could not pinpoint the phenomenon correctly and simply ruled out everything by saying, ‘this is not, this is not’. Such is the nature of the Supreme Being. Pithapuram is the sacred place where that Supreme Phenomenon took birth as Srīpāda Srīvallabha. Dry philosophy and meaningless debates cannot earn the grace of Srīpāda Srīvallabha.
“There is no need for scholarly excellence to obtain the mercy of Srīpāda. On the other hand, pedantic pride will throw us far away from Him.
“The crows that pecked at you were great pandits who lived in Pithapuram during their previous lives. They could not recognise the divine nature of Srīvallabha and they could not realise Him as Lord Datta.
Thus, they wasted their whole lives. They could recite Vedas upside down, but what is the use? They were repeating words like krama, ghana, jata, swadhya and exhibiting their arrogance. After death they went to heaven. Indra praised them. He showered praise on them by saying, ‘Oh, you are kramānta, you are ghanāpati, you are jati. Oh, you are an expert in tarka. What a fortune! How many hundreds and thousands of times you have recited Veda? What a merit! What a merit! Only because of that merit, you could step into swarga.’ All the denizens of Indra Loka admired them sky-high. However, these pandits suffered the pangs of hunger. Divine ambrosia was available in heaven. They heard that one is freed from hunger and thirst by drinking it. They submitted their problem directly to Indra as none paid any heed to them. To that Indra replied, ‘Veda is the form of the Lord’s inhalation and exhalation. The Lord is infinite and deathless. Therefore, Vedas are also infinite. Vedas are the basis for all dharmas. By chanting Vedas you have praised the Lord. As a reward for it we, the celestials, are also praising you highly. Otherwise, is it possible for you to get encomiums from me? If one desires food, he must provide food to others. If one donates a grain, we, the celestials, enhance it to thousand grains and return them to the donor as a reward. When you have not donated anything how can we help? Because of your Vedic recitation, you derived immense benefit. Therefore, you can reside freely in Indra Loka as long as it exists. Afterwards, you can go to another world. In this way you can remain eternally free.’
“Those who heard the words of Indra faced a difficult situation. It occurred to them that living eternally without food and suffering prolonged hunger and thirst and it was indeed an unbearable punishment. Indra said again, ‘You lived in the holy Pādagaya kshetra, but you performed annual ceremonies to the manes of your ancestors without care and concern. You were always calculating the expenditure incurred for such functions. You were also absorbed in the thought that you were eating delicious food items, but you were devoid of the care and devotion required for the performance of those solemn ceremonies. As a result, your forefathers did not attain noble positions after their death. Your heirs are also behaving like that. Your children also did lament that you lived too long and a large amount of money was wasted on medical facilities provided to you. They even wondered, ‘Oh, how much food was wasted?’ Srīman Nārayana Himself incarnated as Srīpāda Srīvallabha in the midst of you. When He was showing the way for salvation, you abused Him. You indulged in fruitless and counter-arguments. Even though all the auspicious traits like omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence and qualities of an incarnation were clearly visible, you became blind people who could not recognise Srīpāda Srīvallabha as an avatar of Srī Datta. It is ordained that you remain as crows in the forms of the manes of your ancestors till you drink the blood of a person whose body was purified by the chanting of the sacred name of Srīpāda Srīvallabha.” Srī Vallabha Das said, “Shankar Bhatt, it was for that reason they were born as crows and on account of their previous merit they drank your blood and obtained noble status.”
Then I noticed that Vallabha Das was not an ordinary person and that the grace of Srīpāda Srīvallabha was completely on him. Srī Vallabha Das added, “Sir, the serpents who were attracted by the scent emanating
from your body attained salvation.”
I said, “Sir, great Vallābhā Das, why should this incident take place? If my body were to be used as food for crows, serpents and other living creatures, it would be a harrowing experience for me. I am under constant fear of being attacked by any creature at any time.”
Srī Vallabha Das said, “Sir, this is all a sportive play of Srīpāda. Don’t have such fear. Such accidents would not take place in the future.
“Only the One who gives life will have the authority to take out life. Therefore, such authority is not vested in anyone except God.
“However, some of your ancestors worshipped goddess Kāli on the burial ground. With the help of the mantra used, they killed many persons whom they disliked. They earned great sin because they were responsible for the unnatural deaths of those people. Due to that sin, they took birth as snakes, but as you were also born in their family, you were all blood relatives. Moreover, you obtained the mercy of Srīpāda. Because of this small merit, this incident took place and they got salvation.
“A Brahmin should be a seeker of truth. A Kshatriya should be bound by dharma. A Vaishya should attend to cultivation, protection of cattle, and be skilled in the sale and purchase activities. Therefore, he should be a calm person. A Shūdra should be a loving one and render services. Even then there is no distinction between caste, creed, rich and poor for the grant of divine grace. A Brahmin can follow the duty of Kshatriya and can become a king. When a Kshatriya desires knowledge of Brahman, he can adopt the duty of a Brahmin. Had not Kusuma Sresthi, who was a Vaishya, chosen Kshatriya dharma and became a ruler? According to Brahmanic dharma, killing an enemy is sinful, but in Kshatriya dharma it is a prescribed duty. You are a Brahmin and a seeker of truth. Therefore, non-violence is a supreme duty for you, but not for a butcher.
“So, if a man wants to get proper results from his actions, he should perform the duties according to the dharma adopted by him irrespective of the caste to which he belongs.
“As you are at present ill, it is desirable and necessary that you should be with a doctor. That is why you were brought to me. Please note that Srīpāda Srīvallabha will observe us every moment. In your childhood you were reciting the prayers about Lord Vishnu. You were prattling with your friends in a funny manner; it is indeed a prayer for Lord Ganesha. For the words in the sloka
‘Suklāmbaradharam Vishnum Sasivarnam Chaturbhujam Prasannavadanam Dhyāyet Sarva Vighnopa Shāntaye’1
|Sanskrit||Meaning in English|
|Suklāmbaradharam||that which bears white clothes|
|Vishnum||that which is everywhere|
|Chaturbhujam||four legs instead of four hands|
|Prasannavadanam||(i) the donkey will have a gracious face|
when it brays,
(ii) the donkey will kick people
with its hind legs.
|Dhyāyet||so its face is only pleasant to look at|
|Sarva Vighnopa Shāntaye||(I pray) for abatement of all obstacles.|
“In this way you were jokingly giving a perverse meaning to that holy prayer and extended its meaning as a prayer applicable to a donkey. Shankar Bhatt, Lord Datta is a skilled one. The Lord, in His presence, would also rectify the mistakes made by you for fun. The washermen brought you to me on a donkey. At that time, you were covered with dust and bore an ashen colour. You came here with halting pace and sometimes you walked on all your fours, (two hands and two legs) supporting yourself on your hands placed on the ground. Even though you came to the audumbara tree on all your fours gasping for breath, you could not avoid the accident. Your hope of escaping from the serpents was belied in this way. You had a placid countenance if you did not convulse with pain. At last you were brought to the village of cobblers. In subjecting you to so many miseries, Srīpāda provided entertainment and taught you a lesson. Those tanners were freed from their ignoble births. You were teaching the prayer-sloka of Srī Vishnu to your friends in a jocular manner. That is the reason why you have come to a position where you have to hear the teaching of a low caste person like me. Now you are here. Tomorrow you may stay in the house of your own caste people. If you disclose this incident even by mistake, they will ostracize you.”
With the good teaching of Srī Vallabha Das, the Brahmanic arrogance in me decreased. The feeling that Vallabha Das was a pariah disappeared. I had brotherly love for him as if he was my blood relation. I accepted the hospitality of Vallabha Das for two or three days and left the village afterwards.
What can I describe about the mercy of Srīvallabha? I was involved in very strange circumstances in a town called Vichitrapuram and came out in a strange way.
When I was going on foot from Vichitrapuram, some royal servants approached me with humble obedience and inquired whether I was a Vaishnava1 or a Shaiva. I told them that we were smārthas who observe no distinction between Shiva and Keshava, but we show some inclination towards Shivaism and that the pontiff of the Southern monastery Srī Sringeri Shankaracharya was our preceptor. They requested me to visit their king. I went with them for the royal audience. On the way, I understood some peculiar matters. That king was inviting any Brahmin who was seen on that day and was questioning, “If this-much is for that-much, how-much will be for this-much?” No one could give a satisfactory answer to that question. That king conducted a sacrifice some years ago to beget sons. Fortunately, he got a son. However, from that day Brahmins faced peculiar troubles, as the son born to the king became a mute. The king was of the opinion that because of the defective sacrifice performed by the Brahmins, his son became mute. Therefore, the king got the heads of Shaivaite Brahmins completely shaved, marked their faces with the paint of vertical Vaishnavite lines and paraded them on the back of donkeys. Likewise, he got the heads of Vaishnavite Brahmins cleanly shaved, marked their faces with horizontal lines made of holy ash, and paraded them seated on the back of donkeys. This situation became unbearable to both Shaivas and Vaishnavas. The king suddenly began to behave in a quixotic fashion. He was donating thotakura1 liberally to the Brahmins. He ordered that thotakura should be cultivated in a large acreage of the cultivable land. He was collecting half of the taxes in the form of thotakura. Cart loads of thotakura were collected and kept in the fort. Thotakura was donated in very large quantities and Brahmins could not consume it fully. The cooking of rice and the eating of other victuals was forbidden for the Brahmins. After eating cooked thotakura in the main meals, they had to eat cooked or uncooked thotakura as a snack.
What can the poor Brahmins do? All the Brahmins who took great pride as scholars in logic, scholars in philosophy and scholars in Purānas shed their arrogance and were praying to God silently and pitiably to redress their plight. There was a devotee of Datta who was an ardent follower of Datta sect among the Brahmins. He said that Lord Dattatreya becomes merciful at mere remembrance and that only the Lord can remove their miserable condition. Therefore, all the Brahmins observed mandala dīksha and started worshipping Lord Dattatreya.
As his son was mute, the king wanted to encourage the sign language for the mute. He instructed the raja-guru to write a book on the sign language for the mute. That preceptor of the royal court was formerly very haughty. He was in a very miserable state and undertook extensive research in the sign language.
 An emperor in the Vedic lore
 Words relating to the kind and complexity of the recitation of the Vedas; examples for the arrogance of the scholars
 Divine world to which you get access for a certain time through good deeds
 World of Indra
 Ethical principles
 Pithapuram, as the place where the feet of the asura (demon) Gaya fell
 The highest God
 Member of the class of rulers or warriors
 Member of the class of merchants and cattle breeders
 A prayer sung at the beginning of auspicious occasions: ‘You are clad in white, oh all-pervading One, and radiating with the colour of the Moon, with four arms, you the all-knowing One. I meditate on your ever-smiling face and pray, please remove all obstacles from my way.’
 Devotee of Vishnu
 Devotee of Shiva
 Name for Vishnu
Video of Part 4 Chapter 2 of Srī Siddhendra Yogi and the Story of Vichitrapuram – Sripada Srivallabha Charitramrutam (English)
Video of Part 4 Chapter 2 of Srī Siddhendra Yogi and the Story of Vichitrapuram – Sripada Srivallabha Charitramrutam (Kannada) – Coming soon
Video of Part 4 Chapter 2 of Srī Siddhendra Yogi and the Story of Vichitrapuram – Sripada Srivallabha Charitramrutam (Telugu) – Coming soon
Video of Part 4 Chapter 2 of Srī Siddhendra Yogi and the Story of Vichitrapuram – Sripada Srivallabha Charitramrutam – Coming soon
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