The Life of a Shiva Devotee
Section XIV - Responsibility For Another
When the wounded members of the group felt better after several days, we continued our path through the mountains. I tried to concentrate upon seeing the sacred home of our Lord, but I could feel the eyes of the girl upon me. Luckily her parents were there - I hoped that she was betrothed.
But I was unlucky. Here skin was dark though her face was beautiful, and here parents did not want to pay the high dowry that was called for. Though they were of high caste, they had a hard time finding a husband for her - it was light-skinned brides that were valued.
I found all this out weeks later. We went up to Kailash, with its stony peaks and scarce water in many places. I bade them farewell, and found a cave in which to meditate which was sheltered from sun, and wind. I stayed for several weeks, and greeted my lord, who came to me in a dream. He gave me a gift of a stone linga, which was found in the cave. He said that he dwelt in it, and that I must meditate on it, and worship it each day. I agreed to do this, and was happy to have it.
When I came out of the cave and began my return journey, I ran into the young girl and her parents on the pilgrimage trail. With them was a priest of Shiva, with thick lines on his forehead, and a red dot. He wore a heavy wool shawl, and he held his hand up to me.
He said, "Halt sadhu", so I stopped. He said, "Good sadhu, this couple has chosen to give their daughter as your servant. It is her choice and they know that you can and will protect her. By giving her to you, they have offered one of their own children to the god. Thus they will be blessed, and their daughter will be blessed. Her name is Ambaji. I have accepted her for you in the god's name.
I said, "Priest, I am a sannyasi. I have renounced the world. What will I do with a young girl? I am not a householder. I have no house. I have no money. I am vowed to celibacy. I do not accept this gift."
The girl cried. Her parents were shocked and the priest said, "I have already dedicated her to you and the god - this cannot be undone. Her parents cannot take her back. If you leave her here, she will starve, and you will be responsible for her death."
I had the feeling that the parents had cooked up this scheme with the priest to avoid giving a dowry, but I did not know for certain. I did not want the girl, but I could not leave her to starve. Reluctantly, I brought her back with me.
It was a long trip back - it seemed twice as long as when I went there. What was I to do with a girl? She had a blanket, and I told her to cover her head with it at all times. It made her look more like a female sadhu - or possibly a child widow.
At night, I called on lord Shiva, but he did not appear. He is a moody god, and if he is displeased, he will simply disappear. I do not know how I could have displeased him, but the will of the gods is beyond my understanding.
We stayed under trees, or she would stay at an inn, and I would stay outside. Her parents avoided a dowry, but they left her some money - enough for food and lodging. But it was cheap enough to get rid of a daughter - no jewelry, no clothing, and no pots and pans.
When I finally came back to the monastery, I told her to stay out of sight in a nearby cave, and came back to speak with my teacher. He looked up when I came in and said, "So there has been trouble." I said, "I never should have learned to fight." I told him the story, and the dilemmas that I faced. I said, "Is saving a human life [of] greater [importance] than [following] an ascetic's rules? Or should I have let the family be killed, or the girl starve? I do not know sir."
The teacher said, "These are difficult questions. But you certainly cannot bring a woman here, especially a young one. You are well disciplined and can control your desires, but there are other monks here who would have a much harder time. I will try to think of something to do with her."
I said, "Guruji, why do we not take her food, and you can see her and question her? I do not know what to do. You have better insight than I do."
So we both left to see her, after Nathji left word that he was going to meditate alone for a few hours. Otherwise, other disciples would follow in hope of time alone with him.
She was shivering in the cave, and had large tears in her eyes. My teacher spoke with her for a long time, and said, "She is not suited to the sadhu's life - she is flighty, and a born householder. But she has been dedicated to you, and cannot even marry. This is a difficult situation. Perhaps we can get her a job in a nearby village."
So he did. She was to act as a house-servant for a wealthy family who followed my teacher and touched his feet. He said that they would not mistreat her - he said he would curse them if they did. But she wanted to stay with me.
So I bade her work for them, and she said that she would, but that she would always serve me. My feelings towards her were confused. I thought she was beautiful, and feared her ability to distract me. I thought she was unfortunate, and felt sorry for her. I thought she tried to manipulate me, and I was angry at her. I ignored her, but I saw her sorrowful eyes when I sat down to sleep.
She worked in a distant village about two days walk away so that she was not nearby to distract me. After about six months, the head of the household came to see Guruji. He said that his oldest son wanted the girl as a mistress, and she came to him in tears, saying that this was only a job, and that she had been dedicated to a sadhu. Guruji told me this and we had to decide what to do. The householder had punished his son, who had in turn threatened the girl - it was clear that she must leave.
Guruji said that we must both call upon Shiva, and ask the Lord's advice. I was willing to do this - perhaps the god was in a better mood. So I called upon him, and he came to me at midnight in the midst of smoke, with his followers dancing crazily around him. I asked him what to do. His pale skin shown like the moon, and he said,Live up to your name, Bhairavanath. The lord of the Bhairavas dances with mothers. Let her be your shakti, and ask your guru for the red and white teachings. Virgins have much power - you will learn the hidden powers in you through her. Tell your guru that Shiva wants you to learn the teachings of the energy of the subtle bodies.A flash of lightning lit up the burning ground, and he was there with a woman dressed in leopard skin, with long curling hair, dark and mysterious. She held Lord Shiva in many embraces, as husband and wife might, and from them emanated many couples holding each other. Their skin sparkled, and lightning came from them. There was thunder, and the ground shook. The light was blue, and white, and red. Shiva said, "Learn from them."
I met Nathji in the morning. And I told him what Shiva said. Nathji said,I too saw Shiva, the great one. He said that it was his will that the girl and her parents got involved with you. He is dissatisfied with having you be merely a yogi - he said there are planted seeds which must grow and harvest. You will not become a householder, but rather a different kind of yogi.I said, "Guruji, do you know the teachings to which the lord referred?" He said, "I know some of them, the teachings of tantra and siddhi."
The lord wanted me to be a tantrika, and perform sexual acts as sadhana. I feared this, and wondered could my vision have come from my desires? Could I secretly want to act as a husband?
It seemed unlikely - I was in my twenties and knew what sexuality meant, but I was never drawn to it as other sadhus I knew were. I had never had such a vision before. And Nathji too had been told by the lord that I must do this. I knew of sadhus who had tried to perform this practice, and had fallen, and become householders. Now they were disgraced. I did not want to be like them. I wanted to travel the yogic currents of the spirit, and to worship the lord without distraction. Sexual desire caused the fall of many sadhus, but the lord wanted to test me. Would I be disgraced by a woman's touch as others had?
Nathji said, I know some of these teachings, but I am not qualified to transmit them. I know of a sadhu whom you should see. I know of an old woman who had performed these practices long ago - let us go and see her.
The old women lived in a poor hut, from alms from the villagers nearby, and she also made healing teas, and amulets for blessings. Nathji asked if she would instruct a girl who had been offered by her parents. She agreed, and Nathji gave her some money for his offering to her (he did not work, but disciples sometimes gave money). She was grateful, and offered to get the girl from the village. Nathji gave her a shawl to give to the family.
Then we went to find my future guru. First I had the man I respected and loved most, then Nathji, my guide and friend, and now a stranger. Truly, the world is a place of continual change. We walked for several days, and then turned into a ravine. It was hard land to travel in. How could anybody survive here? In the side of a hill was a small opening, and we crawled in. It led to a great cavern with steam running through it. Against the wall of strange stone forms sat a still figure. His hair spread all around him, and his skin glowed strangely in the near-darkness. There was only a small fire near him.
We sat down near him and waited politely for him to emerge from his meditation. When he did, he smiled and welcomed us. Nathji offered him rice and flour in small bags. He thanked him, and brought it to a far wall where there were some small piles of food bags.
Nathji told him our errand, and asked if he would teach me for a month. He looked intensely at me for many minutes. He said, "Yes, it is the Great God's will."
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