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7. Vishvanatho Gururme

 

Even as Mother Bhavani thus played Her Cosmic Lila in the life of Shankara, Mahadeva, the cosmic consort of Bhavani also one day set up a very wonderful sport with the object of perfecting Shankara's self- knowledge of the Absolute Reality on the practical, tangible material, work-a-day plane of living and doing. On another day, when Shankara with his disciples was going to bath in the holy Ganga, saw a loathsome sight near the Manikarnika Ghat.

A Chandala (an untouchable and worker at the cremation ground, at the very bottom of the social scale and devoid of any culture, a very primitive of men, extremely ugly in appearance and of a terrifying form) with four dogs held in leash, was approaching in a disorderly manner from the opposite direction.Finding no other way of avoiding a confrontation with him, Shankara addressed him and said, "Oh, you Chandala, step aside one side with your canine company, and let us pass". The Chandala did not appear to have listened to his words at all, and did not tarry of deflect, but continued to advance. Shankara in a somewhat excited voice cried out again, "Stop, fellow, stop. Restrain and pacify your curs. Leave a passage free for us".

The terrible looking Chandala burst out into hideous guffaw and turning to Shankara, spoke out in Sanskrit verses, "Whom are you asking to move aside , Sir? Are you demanding the self to do so or the body to do so? The Self is omnipresent, non-active, ever pure by nature. If instead you ask the physical body to move aside, you know that the body is inert matter, how can it move aside at all? And moreover, in what respect is your body distinct and different from any other body? You say that you are firmly established and rooted in the Supreme Truth and there is but One non-dual entity, `One without a Second'. I see that your claim is all false, you are indulging in vain pride. Is there any difference between the Chandala and the Brahmin from the viewpoint of the knower of the Truth? Are the sun reflected in the water of Ganga and the sun reflected in the wine different and separate from each other? Is this your knowledge of the All-ness the Absolute Reality, so circumscribed? "

Hearing these words of the Chandala, surcharged with wisdom, Shankara was both amazed and ashamed. That this was without a doubt the play of the Divine, he clearly perceived. Then and there he folded his palms in adoration and spoke prayerfully, "He who perceives all beings with an awareness of Same-sightedness, acts in consonance with that perception of sameness in all, he indeed is my Guru. You Chandala are my Guru. I bow down at his holy feet a million times".

All of a sudden the Chandala and his canine company disappeared. But Shankara beheld another sight. The Divine form of the eternal Lord and Father of the Universe, Sri Mahadeva, radiant and shining with the light of thousands of crores of suns and fire, stood before him in all glory holding in His hands the four Vedas. These eternal scriptures were what Shankara had seen as dogs before. The skull in which the Chandala had held wine before now appeared as a Kumbha of nectar. Shankara's mind was filled with intense devotion. He bowed down at the feet of the Great Guru of the Universe and burst into a hymn of praise :

"I reflect on the One Great God, who is the enemy of passion, the Lord of all beings, the annihilator of sin, the great lord, the wearer of the elephant skin, the most excellent one, springing from whose matted locks the waters of the Ganga flow.

I take refuge in Him who is without birth, the eternal, cause of all causes, the all auspicious one, from whom the universe gets expression, the Being beyond the three Gunas or qualities, who is beyond all darkness, the One without beginning and end, the Supreme, the Purifier in whom is no duality.

Salutation to Thee, O Lord, salutation to Thee who art of the form of the Universe, salutations to Three again and again, who art of the form of knowledge and Bliss. Salutations to Thee over and over again, O Thou who art unattainable by rigorous spiritual practices and militations. Salutations to Thee who are reachable by the Vedic Knowledge( the underlying Supreme non-dual Truth of the Brahman), Salutations to Thee again and again."

Pleased by this hymn, Lord Mahadeva placed his hand on Shankara's head and said to him, "Child, I am pleased and gratified. I wish that through you should come about the re-establishment of Vaidika Dharma on earth, the Spiritual Discipline enjoined and elaborated in the Vedas. You must give out a flawless exposition of Vedanta and blow up the religious theories which are vitiated by false apperception, leading men to duality and darkness. You must write out a commentary on the Brahma Sutra of Vyasa and firmly establish that knowledge of Brahman, which is the chief import of the Vedanta philosophy. You have to preach the Vedic faith in such a way as to make it available to all. And at the conclusion of your allotted task, you will be united with me. For the everlasting welfare of the world, you have taken birth as a manifestation of me on this earth". Having spoken thus, Mahadeva disappeared from view.

Shankara's whole being had stood enraptured by this Divine vision, and now he came back to a sense of the outer world. Like one in a trance, he mechanically finished his bathing in the Ganga and his visit to the shrines. How to carry out the Divine behest was the one preoccupation of his mind now. After deep thinking and contemplation, he decided to proceed to Badarikashrama for writing out the commentary on Brahma Sutra. Thereupon on an auspicious day, he made obeisance to Lord Vishwanatha and Mother Annapurana and with his disciples journeyed on in the direction of the holy place of Badarikashrama.