The Life of a Shiva Devotee
Section XXXIII - Priestly Training
The lord was right. If he is my goal, and this is his command, then I must obey. Indeed, I have no choice. Some yogis seek only infinity, and do not worship a god. But I have been taught all along to be dedicated to Shiva. My path to Brahman runs through the linga. I must follow him. And it is true that nobody will care but me. My first guru died. My second guru supports it, and the other sadhus could not care less. It is only my own pride that stands in the way.
So I told Nathji. "I will obey the lord's will. What shall I do?" And Nathji said, "I must find you an instructor. I have several suitable devotees, and I will speak with them. In the meantime, continue your practice."
I continued, and I thought how strange my path in life had been. I renounced my sacred thread before I received it, and now I must take it up again and be a priest! The priests that I knew were vain men, some pandits, some just self-important, mumbling their way through marriages, and deaths, without seeing anything beyond this world. It was just a job, and never paid enough.
Eventually Nathji found a priest willing to instruct me. Of course it was very strange to instruct an adult - it was a tribute to Nathji's powers of convincing and pressure on his followers. This priest was old, and an old friend of Nathji's, and was curious about me. I did not want to hide anything, so I told him everything. He had prayed to the lord, but had never seen him or spoken to him, and didn't really know how to respond.
He finally said, "Nathdwar believes you are called directly by the god to be his priest, and you believe it too. I believe both of you, and I believe that teaching you would be a special form of service to Lord Shiva. Therefore, I will teach you."
Once again I was initiated as a student and given a sacred thread, and the mantra of the radiant sun. However, his mantra was weak, so I saw little when he gave it to me. I knew little reading and writing, so he went over the phrases to memorize, and the philosophers to quote. I was taught the proper mantras for eating, excreting, going to sleep and rising in the morning. I was taught acceptable forms of food, clothing, and shelter, and ways to call down the soul into the fetus and liberate the soul from the body [at death]. If you looked at it in the right way, being a priest could be interesting - rather like being a magician. But instead of causing harm to people, you wished them well, and gave them empowered blessings.
I did not know if my training was typical for a priest, or adapted for my age and situation. I learned quotes from many books about what to do here on earth, and what to do for the dead. Much of the training involved simply reading and writing. My skills were limited, and I had forgotten much. My teacher had been a sadhu in his youth though he never took vows, and spent two years wandering and learning from various gurus and renunciants. He had been initiated into a wide variety of mantras. I told him I did not want initiations towards any god but Shiva, for then I would have obligations to them. I did not know how many gods I could satisfy - even trying to satisfy one was exhausting. But I was willing to take initiation into Shiva mantras, to learn new aspects and moods of my lord. Perhaps it would give me insight as to why he treats me as he does.
But my teacher said that I needed to be able to evoke other gods as well. What if Shiva were busy or unavailable, or not in the mood? What were my clients supposed to do? Suppose they were devoted to Rama - would I only call on Shiva? We aren't in Varanasi here. It is not like small towns were full of priests. And suppose that Shiva led me to a small village. I would be responsible for everybody - Rama, Durga, Hanuman, Vira, the mountain god, the disease goddess, the goddess of luck and birth, and death - only the wealthy can to be specialized.
So I learned prayers to them all, and how to bring them down into statues, and pots, and places. I did the prayers, but I never really met them. I just prayed out of rote as I was taught to do. The prayers didn't accomplish anything real. The priest told me that nobody expected anything more.
He said he had met sadhus that wanted to have bodies made of gold, like statues of deities. Indeed they understood their bodies to be like statues, with a golden soul imprisoned deathless and immortal, reborn until the secret of non-birth and non-death was known. They tried to get the Lord's power running through their veins, to transform them. It seemed to me unlikely that it would work, but I was willing to learn the practices. In some ways, it was like the yogic meditation that I had learned, involving visualization, divine energy, and transformation. The Mothers must be changed from hostile to benevolent, and the bodily elements absorbed.
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Introduction | The Bhairava or Spiritual Guide | Lives of Spiritual Weakness | Lives of Spiritual Awakening | Conclusion
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