There are also stories from the puranas, and Swamiji masterfully weaves the magic, retelling these with his own brand of wisdom.
And I’d like to tell you a little story about Shankachuda, who was the king of the asuras, and Tulsi. Shankachuda was cursed to become an asura, and Tulsi was also cursed to come down to earth. And they met at Pushkar where Tulsi was doing tapasya. And She said, “I want to go back to Golok and be with Vishnu and Krishna.” And Brahma came to Her and said, “You will go back to Golok and you will marry Vishnu. But first you have karma on the earth and you have to be the partner of Shankachuda, the king of the asuras. And that will fulfill the curse, and you can go back home.”
So Tulsi said, “Alright Brahma, if that is the will of God I’m going to marry Shankachuda.” And she began to do tapasya and recite the mantra waiting for Shankha. And of course one day Shankachuda came up, the king of the asuras. And He saw Tulsi radiant with purity. There is nothing so pure as Tulsi. And She was just radiant, and He looked at Her and said, “Would you be mine?” And She said, “Are you Shankha?” And He said, “Yes.” She said, “OK.”
So the marriage was fixed. It was quite a love affair. And very quickly the purity of Tulsi was Shankha’s protection. And the Gods attacked the asuras, and the asuras began to fight and no one could defeat Shankha because of Tulsi’s purity.
So the Gods went to Vishnu and they said, “Vishnu, Somebody has to help us out, we can’t defeat these asuras, Tulsi is too pure. Because of the purity of Tulsi, we can’t defeat Shankha, and He’s the king of the asuras. So you have to find a way to rob her of her purity.” Vishnu said, “I’m always willing to do the work of the Gods. Because it’s destined that the Gods always will go back to heaven. And the asuras will always relinquish their authority over the earth. Satyam Eva Jayate. Truth will always prevail.”
So the Gods will be victorious and I will do whatever is required. Vishnu took on the form of Shankha. And He went to Tulsi’s place where She was staying and He said, “Hi honey, I’m home from the war, quickly, let’s make love!” And Tulsi had a doubt. But she said, “My husband has come home from so much hardship and facing so many dangers in battle, I must yield to him. As soon as they began their engagement, Tulsi said, “You’re not my husband. Who are you in reality? Why have you come to rob me of my purity? By deceit you’re trying to defeat the asuras? Who are you?”
Vishnu assumed his form with four arms and said, “You prayed for the blessing to marry me, and here I am.” And Tulsi said, “Yes, but not like this, not by deceit. Your deceit has written the death of my husband, and I can’t accept that.” And Vishnu said, “I’m giving you a boon. My worship will never be complete without a Shankha. Shankha, the conch shell will sit at my feet, wherever devotees gather there will always be a conch shell.” And, I’m giving you another boon, “You can be with Shankha all through the day. Every devotee who worships with the conch shell will say, “Om Aim Hrim Klim Srim Vrndavanavasinyai Svaha”, and put some tulsi leaves in to the conch shell. And Tulsi gets to stay in the arms of her lover all through the day. And every night when the worship is complete, the devotees and Pujaris will take that conch shell water and sprinkle it on the heads of all the devotees and then Tulsi will come and stay with Vishnu all night.”
Now how do you like that? Can’t complain about that deal. What a deal! She gets to be with Shankha in the day and Vishnu in the night. So Tulsi accepted.
And now remember that Brahma was sitting in the lotus in Vishnu’s navel. Vishnu was asleep. And Too much and Too little said, “Hey, that looks like a nice place to sit. Get off of that lotus.” And Brahma said, “Hey, This is my lotus, I’m the creator of existence, give me a break!” And Too much and Too little said, “You get off that lotus now and leave, or we will slay you.” I’ve heard that challenge somewhere before. And Brahma said, “These guys, there are two of them, and they’re warriors, and they’re strong and they’re well-armed, and I’m an old man and I have no weapons at all, what will I do?” He said, “Vishnu, wake up!”
Vishnu was in the sleep of Yoga Nidra. Pure consciousness, sitting on the couch of infinity, on the ocean of pure consciousness, Ksheera Samudra. He was deep in deep sushupti, dreamless sleep or state of meditation. Brahma said, “Wake up. Somebody’s got to protect me, you are the protector!” And Vishnu stayed asleep. So then Brahma thought, “What shall I do? I’ll call Yoga Nidra, the Goddess of Sleep. And I’ll ask Her to come out and leave Her dwelling where She’s staying at Vishnu, and wake Him up so He can defend me.”
And that’s just what He did, He sang the Tantric Ratri Shukta – Tvam Svaha Tvam Svadha Tvam Hi Vasatkarahsvaratmika. And He praised Her with so much devotion that the Goddess manifested herself. And She said, “What do you want? You’re the creator of the universe, what do you need me for?” And Brahma said, “Would you please wake up Vishnu, that sleepy head is going to sleep right through this war and I’m an old man and I can’t defend myself.” And the Divine Mother said, “Yes, I will.”
So, now, here the Creative Capacity praised the Remover of Darkness in order to slay Too much and Too little and return consciousness to perfect balance. Notice that each of the weapons in each of her hands has a spiritual significance. We have the sword of worship, the discus of revolving time, the club of articulation. And when we say these mantras and articulate them, we hit those asuras over the head with the club each time. Every time we take aim with our sankalpa, we have the bow of determination, we have the arrows of one-pointed attention, the pike of attention, the head of egotism, the conch of vibrations. The conch shell contains all the vibrations of the universe. Each one of these weapons in Her hands takes on significance as we approach closer and closer to the Goddess, and put our own asuras in to the balance and harmony of Her blessing.
“As the son of Mrikanda, Markandeya, found imperishable life, may we be reunited with life and blessed with a hundred autumns.”
Remember the story of Mrikanda Rishi? He was an old ascetic doing tapasya for many years. He called upon Shiva, and finally Shiva gave him darshan. Shiva said, “What do you want?” And he said, “I want a son, who can continue my lineage.” And Shiva said, “You are an old man now, what do you want with a son? I mean you’ve been doing tapasya all these years, now you want a son? I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you a stupid son with a long life or a very wise son with a very short life. Take your pick.”
Mrikanda thought for a moment or two and then he said, “I’ll take the intelligent son.” And that was Markendeya. Of course Markandeya as he grew up, he was supposed to leave his body at an early age, and as the time approached for him to leave his body, his father got more and more dejected. Markandeya went to the father and said, “Father why are you so sad?” And father said, “I didn’t want to tell you this, but since you asked. Shiva said I could have a stupid son with a long life or a smart son with a short life. I chose the smart son and you’re him. And anytime now the ambassadors of Yama, Yamaduta, the God of Death are going to come, and they are going to take you away from me. And I really like having you here.”
And Markandeya said, “Dad no reason to be dejected, Shiva’s the one who gave you the boon, let me propitiate Shiva, and see if he’ll give me a boon too.” He sat down by the Shiva lingam, and said, “Om Namah Shivaya.” And he said it again and again. And Yama was sitting in the kingdom of death, and Chitragupta, his prime minister turned to him and said, “You know its time to pick up that smart kid, the smart alleck down there on earth, he thinks saying Om Namah Shivaya is going to save him, its written here he’s suppose to come to us now.” And Yama called his ambassadors, he said, “Yamaduta, ambassadors of the God of Death, go down and bring me the soul of Markandeya.”
And the ambassadors of the God of Death came, and Markandeya was saying, “Om Namah Shivaya Om Namah Shivaya.” And they said, “Hey kid, come with us.” He said, “I’m not leaving.” They said, “Oh No No No, we’re sent by the God of Death, the power that controls, nobody can refuse his order. He said its time for you to come, so you come with us.” And Markandeya said, “I’m not coming.” And the ambassadors from the God of Death said, “If you don’t come with us peacefully, were gonna take you by force.” And they grabbed hold of the kid.
The kid, Markandeya, grabbed on to the Shiva lingam. And pull as they tried, they couldn’t break him free from the Shiva lingam, he was holding on to that Shiva lingam and they were pulling and pulling and pulling. And finally Shiva came and said, “You better leave him alone. Let him stay. I’m giving him imperishable life. I’m blessing him with Mahamrityunjaya, victory over the Great Death, you go back and tell Yama the God of Death, I said he can stay.”
Well the ambassadors went back to Yama, the God of Death, and Yama said, “Hey! Nobody can resist the order of Yama, but if it’s Shiva’s order, I guess he has to stay.” Of course Markandeya went on to expound the Markandeya Purana from which comes our Chandi Path. He was the first seer of the Mahamrityunjaya mantra. So in the same way that he found imperishable life, may we be united with life and blessed with a hundred autumns, that means a hundred years. Hey, it’s autumn now. And everytime autumn comes around we can count another year.
So remember the story of Ahalya – Indra looked down from heaven and saw, Ahalya, who was the wife of Gautam Muni, who’s the most beautiful of all the women, and suddenly he desired to enjoy with her. And he watched for some time. And one morning early in the morning when the Rishi Gautam got up to take his bath in the river, Indra recognized his opportunity. He changed his appearance into the appearance of Gautam Muni. And he went into the cottage of Ahalya.
And Ahalya said, “This doesn’t seem like my husband’s behavior, but suddenly my husband desires to enjoy with me in romantic embrace, how can I deny him?” And when Indra was finished, he came outside the cottage, and Rishi Gautam was just coming back from his bath. And when he saw another man wearing his same appearance, he knew that some deceit had taken place. He took some water in his hand, and he said, “Who are you in reality?”. And Indra became in his own form. And Rishi Gautam got mad. He said, “I curse you with impotency.” And threw the water.
When Ahalya heard the commotion she came running outside and she saw the two men wearing the same form. And she said, “I knew that I was tricked.” And Gautam got mad and he said, “You knew you were tricked, then why did you allow him?” She said, “He looked exactly like you!” And Gautam said, “Well you should have looked inside. Because inside was only deceit. And I’m cursing You, that you didn’t look inside. I curse you, you become a stone.” And he threw the water. And Ahalya instantly was turned into a stone.
And when Ram was coming to Mithila, in the company of the Rishi Vishwamitra, they came to a desolate ashram, in the midst of which was a stone. And out of the stone was growing a tulsi plant. And Ram said, “Guruji, Vishwamitraji, this is amazing, how is it that everything seems desolate here, and yet there is a tulsi plant growing out of the stone.” And Vishwamitra said, “Inside this stone resides the soul of a woman. A woman who was cursed by one man, and deceived by another man. And Ram, everyone knows how to give blame and punishment to a wrongdoer, but only special individuals have the power to redeem the fallen. Patita Pavana! You, Ram, are that special person, so touch that stone with your foot and you will redeem Ahalya from the curse.”
Ram went and put his foot on the stone as directed by Vishwamitra Rishi. And the stone became Ahalya. And she was redeemed by Ram’s touch. And she looked into his eyes and she said, “I thought my husband had cursed me, but that curse turns out to become the greatest blessing, because of all those years of making japa of the name of Ram, I get to look into the face of God. It was a blessing, the greatest blessing that my husband could have bestowed upon me was to allow me the privilege of looking into the face of God. And had I not been cursed I would never have received that privilege.”
Q: Why does the Shanti mantra bring so much noise both inside and outside?
Like ringing a bell during the Shanti mantra.
A: You know, Dilip, the bell is despised by all ashuras!
They can’t stand the noise!
In fact, I want to make such a racket that I can’t even hear the ashuras calling out,
“Hey, stop that, Swami! Stop that noise!”
Do you know how many voices are calling out to you every time you say,
“Shanti, shanti, shanti”?
You just want to say shanti louder than them!
And that’s why we make such a ruckus.
So remember when Ravana wanted to steal away Sita – He had Marich assume the form of a golden deer and walked the deer to the ashram. Sita said, “Ram look at that golden deer, I’ve never seen anything like that, please get that deer for me.” And Ram said, “I think this looks like a trick.” And Sita said, “No one can trick you, you are the hero of light, you are invincible, you are the Supreme Lord made manifest, just go ahead and get the deer for me.” And Ram said, “Sita, You have been in the forest with me for all these years (it had been thirteen years already, one more year was left to complete) and I haven’t been able to give you any comfort whatsoever, so certainly I will get the golden deer for you even though I think it is an illusion. Lakshman, you stay here and guard Sita.
And so Ram went off in pursuit of the golden deer, and when the golden deer ran farther and farther away from the ashram and the hermitage, Ram knew that there was some deceit and trickery going on, still he moved in pursuit. Finally, he was well away from the ashram hermitage and he took the arrow in his bow, and he shot the arrow and it landed into the chest of the deer, and the deer immediately became a demon. And he called out in Ram’s voice, “Lakshman, I’m shot, I’m injured, I’m in the forest surrounded by demons, and I’m wounded and I’m unarmed and they are going to defeat me, please come immediately and help.” And the demon died.
When Sita heard the sound of Ram’s voice calling out, She said, “Lakshman, Go help your brother!” And Lakshman said, “Sita, Sita Maiya, no one can hurt Ram, he’s the Lord of the three worlds, this must be some trickery or deceit.” And Sita said, “How can I believe that this is trickery or deceit when my husband is calling out to me in anguish, please go and help him!” And Lakshman said, “Sita Maiya, I’ve been ordered by the Lord to stay here and guard you.” And Sita said, “I am the Queen, and I order you to go and find your brother!” And Lakshman said, “Sita, this is the first time I am disobeying an order from my brother, but because you have given me another order, I am going to follow your instructions. You go into the house, and don’t come out.”
Sita went in to the house. And Lakshman took an arrow, and he said the mantra, and he drew a line in the sand all the way around the house, which is called a Lakshman Rekha. He said, “No one can cross this line. Sita, You stay in the house, not for any reason at all will you cross this line. Don’t come out of the house. As long as Youâ€™re in the house you will be safe, and I will go find Ram.”
As soon as Lakshman departed and traveled some distance, Ravana, standing by in the woods, changed his appearance and came in the disguise of an old sadhu. And he came to the hermitage gate and he said, “Bhiksham Dehi, Bhavati Bhiksham Dehi.” Sita was stunned, “What sadhu will come to me in the middle of the day, asking bhiksha. It is my dharma as an aryan woman to give alms to any one who asks. She said to him, “Please, you stand there at the gate and I will bring you some food.”
Sita went inside the house to get some food, and Ravana came to the house and he tried to cross the line. And he couldn’t. Every time he stuck his finger over the line, blazing fire would jump up and sting him. He put his foot there, and the fire burned his foot. And in everyway Ravana tried to cross the Lakshman Rekha, he was unable. And then he understood.
Sita, came to the line, and remembered Lakshman’s word. She said, “Sadhu Baba, please, put your hands next to this line, and I will hand you the food over the line.” And Ravana said, “What do you think I am, I’m a beggar that you will feed me from afar, you won’t bring the food to me and let me sit down and have an asan and a glass of water and a clean place to enjoy my meal! What kind of woman are you? Well, I’ll tell you what kind of sadhu am I. I see that you’re traveling in the forest with your husband and his brother, with two men. I see that your husband has gone off in pursuit of a deer. I see that your husband has been wounded in battle, and that his brother has left the hermitage, and he is going to help. I see that I’m going to give you a curse that your husband will die in this battle, and Ravana took some water. And Sita said, “No, No, No, Stop! Don’t give a curse to my husband, I’ll come and give you the food!”
Ravana put down the water, Sita crossed the line, and Ravana took his actual dress, and his actual comportment and left his disguise as a sadhu. And said, “Sita, you belong with me.” And he picked her up and carried her away.
Q: The pure and impure reside in all objects. This sounds more like an acceptance of qualities of impurity. Why purify ourselves in sadhana instead of accepting the impure within us?
A: The recognition of purity and impurity as inherent in all objects is the understanding and acceptance of Supreme Divinity made manifest. However we are required to exercise some discrimination so that we don’t fall prey to the impurity and accept it as our own. We say that it’s inherent within the object; however, “I’m going to purify myself. I’m going to move towards the purity.”
Now remember the story of the three thieves:
They came upon a traveller along the highway. The first thief said, “This man is of no use to us. Let’s just take his valuables and kill him.
The second thief said, “no need to kill him. What did the guy do anyway? Let’s just take his valuables. We’ll tie him up and throw him in a ditch.” And that is what they did.
The third thief ran off with the other two and took his share of the loot and then, after a while, he started feeling bad. And he said, “Gee, that poor guy is all beat up and bruised, tied up laying in a ditch by himself. I’m going to go back and help him.” And he did go back and help him. He untied the victim, put him on his own horse and he took him to the road and said, “Your village is just down the road.” And the victim said, “You’ve been so kind to me. Why don’t you come to my village and I’ll give you my hospitality.” And the thief said, “No, I can’t go there. The police are going to ask me why I was with the thieves in the first place.”
The first thief was the impure: tama guna. “No need for this guy. No use for this guy. Just kill him.” The second thief is raja guna. “Let’s just bind him in the samsara and throw him in a ditch.” The rest of us are still waiting for that lovely that kind third thief to come and rescue us and untie our bonds and free us and show us the way. He is sattva. He is the quality of truth and purity.
So here you have the quality of impurity who wants to slay us and the quaity of purity who frees us and sends us on our way home. But he, too, can’t enter into the house. The police will find out!
So here the pure and the impure reside within all objects. we want to stick with the pure as much as we can. They will at least free our bonds and show us the way home. We do accept that every object has its faults depending on your perception. It also has its glories depending on your perceptions.
I’m going to tell you a story about a time where there was a great drought in all of India. Everyone was wanting for water. Except for Gautam Muni. Gautam Muni was worshipping Gayatri Devi and he had established a pot. And every day he would chant the mantras, and while every day the rest of India was crying for water, a cloud came right over his ashram and poured down rain. And there was abundance in Gautam’s ashram.
Some of the Brahmins were suffering – they were wanting for food, their livestock was dying, their crops were withering. They said, “There is no recourse for us, who could save us, lets go take refuge with Gautam Muni.” And the Brahmins went to Gautam’s Ashram, they knocked on the door, and they said, “Gautam! Please give us refuge.” Gautam opened up the door and he said, “Oh, the Brahmins have come to bless me! Please come in!” And he went to the altar and he prayed to the Pot, “Please help me provide what is necessary to make these people comfortable. Let me honor my guests.” And then he lifted up the coconut and he reached into the pot and he pulled out asans for all the Brahmins, and said, “Please sit down.” And he then took some water from his samanyarghya – from the kosha, with the koshi, he poured water over their feet. And he said, “I offer you padyam”, and gave them an arghyam, an object of value. Then he gave them food and clothes and then he gave them wood and masala and said, “Please join me in the Yajna. Everybody make your own Yajna, please worship the Goddess!”
So every day the cloud would come over and pour rain on Gautam’s ashram and Gautam’s ashram continued to expand. And everybody started worshipping the Goddess in the form of the pot. And there was never lack in his ashram.
Gajendra, the king of the elephants, was caught by a crocodile. And he fought and fought with this crocodile until he saw that the crocodile was getting stronger and he was getting weaker. This crocodile was pulling him under the water, so that the king of elephants was powerless to defend himself any longer.
All the citizens of the elephant community were standing on the banks helplessly watching this altercation between the crocodile and Gajendra, the Supreme Lord of the elephants. And the elephant felt that he could no longer prolong the agony of this altercation, so he started thinking, “What would I want to remember at the time of my death?” And he sang this hymn to Vishnu, the Gajendra Moksha, a beautiful hymn, “I bow to you, and I bow to you, and I bow to you. You are present everywhere, you are the protector of all, you are the circumstance of all, and I surrender to your circumstances. I am no longer capable of withstanding the attack of this crocodile.”
And Vishnu came, and saved him.