There are also stories from the puranas, and Swamiji masterfully weaves the magic, retelling these with his own brand of wisdom.
Remember the story about the disciples who were out collecting wood in the forest? One mahout, who was taking care of an elephant, cried out loudly in the forest, “Everybody off the path, everybody out of the way, there’s a mad elephant running down the path!”
One of the disciples said, “Guru said God lives in everything, why should I be afraid of God?” And he stood in front of the path, right in the middle of the path, and he raised his hands in salutation to the mad elephant. And the mad elephant came charging down the path, the caretaker was crying, “Out of the way! Out of the way!”
And the disciple thought, “Well, I’m God, God resides in the elephant, why would the God in the elephant want to hurt the God in this uniform?” And as circumstance would have it, the elephant charged down the path and struck the disciple, threw him into the air off the path and kept on his way.
The other disciples gathered around the injured man, and they picked him up and they bandaged his wounds. They carried him to the ashram and when he regained consciousness, Guruji said, “What happened to you?” And the disciple replied, “Guruji, you told me that God was in me, and God was in the elephant, and why would the God in the elephant want to injure the God that’s in the disciple?”
And the Guru replied, “But I also told you that God was in the caretaker of the elephant, and why didn’t you get out of the way when he told you to?”
Remember the story of Narad Muni passing by the tree where the three sadhus were meditating?The first sadhu said, “Narad Muni, you are trikal darsi, you see the past, present and future.How long will it take me to become enlightened?”Narad looked inside, he said, “It’s going to take you ten thousand years.””Ten thousand years! Oh, no,” exclaimed the sadhu.
The second sadhu said, “How long will it take me to get enlightened?”Narad Muni looked inside and said, “It’s going to take you twenty-five thousand years.””Oh, no,” complained the second sadhu.
The third sadhu said, “Narad Muni, how long is it going to take me to get enlightened?”And Narad Muni looked inside, and he said, “It’s going to take you fifty thousand lifetimes.”And the sadhu said, “You mean I’m going to make it!”
He was enlightened at that moment.Because two of the sadhus meditating looked at the glass as half empty, and he looked at the glass as half full.
Remember the great ego performed a tremendous tapasya. And the ego said, “I want to be immortal.” Brahma came and said, “That’s impossible, no one is immortal, everyone that takes birth dies.” And so the great ego said, “Well, my death, if it has to occur, let it occur at the hands of a woman.” And Brahma said, “Why, would you want a boon like that?” And the great ego said, “Well, I’m so strong and heroic, there’s not a man who can defeat me, what woman could defeat me?” And Brahma immediately said, “Tatastu. I give you the boon, we’ll find one.”
The great ego conquered the entire earth, made everyone on earth a servant of the ego. In fact there was no one who was doing anything without saying, “I am the doer”. Then the ego marched up to Heaven, he threw all the Gods and Goddesses out of Heaven, and the Gods and Goddesses were homeless, and bereft, and dispirited and dejected. And having no place to go, they came to earth, and they took on bodies of men and women.
Well, all the men and women were servants of the ego, so the God’s started acting like human beings. Yuck! And they started drawing lines on the earth, and saying, “This is mine and that’s yours, etc., etc.”
Well, some of the Gods and Goddesses got together and said, “This is horrible, to be servants of the ego all the time in every activity. We’ve got to find a way to conquer the ego.” So then they said, “Vishnu, would you please send your wife.” And Lakshmi said, “Well, no, no, I don’t want to go. I’m not going to fight the ego.” And then they said, “Brahma, would you send Saraswati.” And Saraswati said, “Wait, wait, did you ask me? I’m not going to fight him by myself. He’s so strong, he got the boon that no one can defeat him, just a woman.”
Well then they asked Kali, they asked Durga, they asked all the other Girls in Heaven, and nobody wanted to go. The Gods said, “This is horrible, what are we going to do? Let’s go to the Devi Mandir. Everybody put forth your lights. Let all the lights unite into one light of radiant splendor like a pillar of fire. And let this pillar of fire rise and take the form of a woman.”
And that is the rise of Chandi. United from the fire of the lights of all the Gods and Goddesses, she comes as a pillar of fire, and she does battle with the ego on our behalf. The ego won the boon that he’s too strong for any of us; She is the only one who can defeat him.
So we have to pray to her, to please her. She is the energy of all in everything, if she chooses she gives energy to the ego and makes him puffed up with pride. And if she chooses she can withdraw the energy from the ego and give it to the Divinity within, and make us surrender the ego in the light of wisdom.
And that’s what our sadhana is about. That’s the purpose of our tapasya, to surrender the ego in the light of wisdom.
Draupadi found a lotus, it was a mountain lotus that we call Pahari lotus, (Pahari Pomo) and they grow up above the snow line. She said, “Bhima, I love this lotus, could you go up in the mountains and see if there are any more. Go find me some lotuses. I want to offer them in Puja.”
Bhima went off into the mountains, and he started climbing higher, and higher and higher, and he came to a place where there was an old monkey sitting on the side of the path with his tail lying across the path. And he didn’t want to insult or offend anyone by stepping over the tail. So he said, “Mr. Monkey, please, move your tail.” The monkey said to him, “You see I’m an old monkey, and I just came to a lonely place where I could take a little rest by myself. So if the tail is bothering you, you please just move it yourself.”
Bhima said, “Wait a minute, you have to understand, I’m Bhima, I’m one of the Pancha Pandavas. I am the son of the King. I have the strength of a hundred elephants. Your tail is across the path, and it’s not appropriate, move your tail.” And this old monkey said to him, “Hey, sing the name of Ram. Ram Naam Gao Bhai! (That’s comparable to, hey, go chant the name of God, buzz off!) Leave me alone, I’m an old monkey, I came up here in the lonely place on the side of a mountain, there’s nobody around for thousands of miles, I just want to rest.”
And Bhima said, “Hey, if you don’t move that tail right now, I’m going to pick it up and move it myself!” And the Monkey said, “As you like, whatever you like to do, you do. I’m just resting. When I’m through resting I’ll move the tail myself. But if you can’t wait, go ahead and move it.” So Bhima went down, and he bent down and he tried to pick up the tail, and he tried to pick up the tail, and he struggled to pick up the tail; and he grunted and he groaned and he tried to pick up the tail and he couldn’t budge it. And he said, “You are no ordinary monkey, how did you get a tail that heavy to this place? You can’t be an ordinary monkey, show me your real form.”
And Hanuman said, “I told you to sing the name of Ram.” And showed him his form.
Now Hanuman was born from the wind, and Bhima was formed from the wind as well. And they were both sons of the Wind God. And Bhima said, “My brother, we’re about to fight this humongous war, please come and lead our armies to victory.” And Hanuman said, “You know my time of fighting is passed, I’m an old monkey now, and I’m just engaged in monkey business. So, I’ll give you a blessing, I will come on your flag, and I will lead your army to victory from the flag.
And so Arjuna had a monkey on his flag, and he raised his bow.
So Shiva always meditates on Vishnu. And it’s very interesting, one day in Kailash, Parvati was looking a little bit bored because Shiva was just sitting there in deep, deep meditation. And she called, “Oh Lord.” And Shiva didn’t respond. And she said, “Shiva!” And Shiva didn’t move.
And Parvati just stood there watching him for a long, long time. And ultimately when Shiva opened his eyes, Parvati bowed down with devotion to Shiva. And she said, “Shiva, I have to ask you a question. The whole world meditates upon you, everyone is praying to you, meditating upon you, contemplating you, upon whom are you meditating?”
And Shiva replied, “I always meditate on Vishnu. Ram is always in my heart.”
Ravana and Kumbhakarna, and Vibhishana, the three, when they were young men, they went off to do tapasya. And Brahma came and said, “I’m satisfied with your tapasya, what do you want?” And Ravana said, “I want power, I want to be the king of the earth.” And Brahma said, “Tatastu. I give you the boon.”
And Kumbhakarna had planned that he would want to have dominion over heaven. And he wanted Indra’s asan. Indra knew Kumbhakarna’s intention and he said to Saraswati, “Saraswati, you have to help us, please make him make a mistake.”
And Brahma said, “Kumbhakarna, what do you want?” And instead of saying I want Indra’s asan, he said, “I want Nidra’s asan.” And Brahma said, “Evamastu. You go to sleep, I give you the asan, you get the posture of sleep.”
And Vibhishana said, “Brahma, I want pure devotion to God’s feet.” And Brahma said, “Tatastu. One day Ram will come and he will give you the blessing of his perception, he will give you Darshan. And now discrimination, Vibhishana, is on his way to get the Darshan that he was promised by Brahma, it was the fruit of his tapasya. All his life he was living in the kingdom of the ego like a tongue between the teeth. And now he’s been kicked out of the kingdom of the ego and he’s going to see Ram.”
Sagara was a great king of Ayodhya, and he was performing the Ashwamedha Yagya in order to become the emperor of the total known world. And while he was performing this Yagya, Indra came and stole the horse. And he stole the horse, and he ran from the scene with the horse and he fled to the ashram of Kapil Muni.
Kapil Muni was meditating. Indra tied the horse to the gate of the ashram and left. Sagara’s sixty thousand sons ran in pursuit of the horse. They came to Kapil Muni’s ashram and they said, “Hey Muni, wake up from your meditation, why did you steal our father’s horse?” Kapil Muni woke up from his meditation and said, “What horse? I don’t know what you’re talking about?”
And the kids said, “Hey, what do you mean, now not only are you a thief, but you are a liar too. Here’s the horse tied right to the gate of your ashram.” Kapil Muni got mad, he said, “I am neither a thief, nor a liar, and you guys come in here disturbing the peace of my ashram, you go away from here before I curse you.”
The boys said, “Hey, now not only are you a liar and a thief but now you are a belligerent old man, and you are not worthy of being called the Rishi.” And they said, “You are deserving of punishment, we are going to throw stones at you.” They threw a stone at him and they hit him in the head.
And Kapil Muni took some Ganga water in his hand and he said, “I pronounce the curse on you”.
And he turned the sixty thousand sons of Sagara to ashes.
Sagara was beset with anxiety and despair. He went and he fell at the feet of Kapil Muni and he prayed for his sons to be brought back to life. And Kapil Muni said, “Look, those kids deserved what they got, they were belligerent, they called me names, they accused me of stealing and lying and being a belligerent old man. And when any member of your family brings Ganga to the earth, she will wash those ashes to the ocean and your sons will be returned to you.”
So Sagara began to pray to Ganga, and he wasn’t successful in making Ganga come to the earth. So he went and became the Ocean.
Then came a whole lineage of kings that were born in the lineage of the descendants of Sagara. And they all tried, and they were unsuccessful until Bhagirath came and did a tremendous tapasya. And he decided, I’m not going to call Ganga to come, Ganga lives in the kamandalu of Brahma, I’m going to call Brahma.
So then he prayed to Brahma. And Brahma said, “Yes, I can certainly make Ganga come to the earth, but she will come with such force that she will wash away the earth. You have to call Shiva and ask him to accept Ganga on his head to break the force of her fall to earth so that she doesn’t wash away the earth and then she’ll trickle down the locks of Shiva’s hair. And she’ll become a river, and that river will wash the ashes into the Ocean.”
Bhagirath prayed to Shiva, and Shiva gave him the boon. And Ganga came to the earth like water from the kamundalu of Brahma washing the feet of Vishnu. Falling on to the hair of Shiva and coming down and washing the earth, purifying all of the sins of humanity.
So Sagar was the Ocean and he was a predecessor in the lineage of Ram.
When Bharat went to Chitrakut he said, “Ram, I want you to take the Kingdom, I’ll stay in the forest.” And Ram said, “No, that wasn’t father’s order. Father ordered me to the forest and you should be the king.” So Bharat said, “I can’t accept the Kingdom.” Then Ram said, “Ok, I accept that you will not be king, I will take the Kingdom. But so that we don’t make our father’s word false, you administer the kingdom in my place for the next fourteen years.”
And Bharat said to him, “Ram, if I ask something from you would you give them to me.” And Ram said, “Yes, you ask anything from me.” And Bharat said, “Give me the sandals from your feet.” And Ram said, “What will you do with my sandals?” And Bharat said, “I’m going to put your sandals on the throne, and I will worship them every day and I will administer the Kingdom as your servant.”
And Ram gave his sandals, and Bharat put the sandals on top of his head, to carry Ram’s sandals. And every year Ramlal Sadhus, every follower of Ram today still wears the tilak of two vertical marks which are Ram’s sandals, and one red mark in the center which is Sita in the middle. Sita and Ram are on the forehead of every devotee of Ram.
So those sandals of the lotus feet Bharat has enshrined in his mind, “Oh at last today I’m going to see those feet with my own eyes.”
One time Indra’s son Jayant assumed the form of a crow. And he was playing with Ram and Sita, and then he pecked Sita’s foot. And Ram got mad, and he put a mantra on his arrow, and he sent the arrow in the direction of Jayant.
Jayant took off like a bird and rose into the sky. And wherever he went the arrow followed him. And the arrow chased Jayant all the way around the earth and no one could give him refuge, no one could help him, no one could save him in anyway. And so Jayant came back to Ram and bowed down to him and said, “Please, I’ve done wrong, please excuse me, please forgive me.”
So, Ram being the compassionate one said, “I’m going to make your eye squinty, (that’s why crows have squinty eyes), and then I’m going to forgive you.”
So that was his punishment.