The Jivamala
The Life of a Shiva Devotee

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Section XXV - The Householder Priest

I told my experience to Padmajnani, and she smiled. She said,

You are a very pure young man. Many sadhus would have seen the jewel, and sought power. This would have twisted them, and their minds would have been warped by trying to control too much. You surrendered, and the lord had mercy on you. Even I have never fully entered his mind, though I have felt the bliss of his love - Krishna splashes you with the waters of love, but Shiva is a monsoon.
I said, "You have guided me, and helped me. Is this just work for you, a favor to Dadaji, or do you too feel the lord's presence? Do I help you as you have helped me?"

She said,

Child, I seek the lord in other ways. This practice can work for some women, but not for me. The woman must see the man as Shiva, and be entered by him as he radiates light. But most men seek the jewel of power, so few women see the ritual as generating visions for them. It is swami seva, service to one's husband. But if the man is fully identified with Shiva, and the woman with Shakti, and he enters in full array, then she will merge at many levels.

I asked, "Is it possible to have these results by different methods? I am a renunciant, and I am not really comfortable with this practice. I have lived in proximity to men, but practice with a woman is strange."

She said, "If the lord loves you, there is nothing that you need to do. Follow the path of devotion, and you can forget this practice. But Dadaji has asked me to educate you, and that I will do."

She had me hold the breath, and push the breath through the bright underwater currents. I took it from my nose to my chest, circling the heart, circling the belly, going down to the genitals, and up the spine. I wove the currents together, braiding them, making tapestries of experience from the bright colors, making the pathway easier to enter, and easier to follow. I made a set of lotus gates, tied with the dark green vines of mystery, and the bright green of growth and healing.

She told me that I must be gentle with the consort I would have, and lead her slowly into sadhana. She might be frightened. But Shiva wanted us to be together, so perhaps we were meant to help each other.

Section XXVI

It was interesting to reweave my spiritual path, like weaving high bridges of vine over jungle chasms. We build our own pathways to Lord Shiva. I suppose that if I followed a traditional way long enough, I would find already existing pathways. It seems that the lord wanted me to create my own path to him.

Late at night we slept after we had done much meditation, and were exhausted. Many hours later, Dadaji came back. I leaped up, greeted him, and sat down again, and then fell asleep again. He and Padmajnani went off to talk.

I awoke again when he came back. He said, "I hear that you are a good student. Padmajnani said that you were the only consort who did not seek supernatural powers."

I said, "If one could have Lord Shiva, why would he want to be invisible, or shrunk to insect size? I will be myself, and a part of the lord if I can."

Dadaji said, "You have progressed well. It is getting time to bring you back to Nathdwar. Tell me, do you have enough control over your will, and your breath, or do you want more time for meditation in solitude?"

I said, "I think that it does not matter where I meditate, for those waters will always be there. Tell me where I should be, and I will follow your directions."

Dadaji said. "If it doesn't matter, then it is time for us to go. Rest today and tonight, and we will leave tomorrow morning. Remember Padmajnani's teachings - she is very wise, a sage in female form. And she is very devoted to Shiva."

So we rested a day, and I went over all she had said and done in my mind. Then we left the next morning.

It was cold out, and some snow had fallen. I still had my blanket and I still wondered if it was suitable for a renunciant, but both gurus insisted upon it. Dadaji said to leave it behind would show pride, and I must avoid this. So I took it.

At the monastery, Nathdwar said he wondered how I was doing , and was glad to hear that all was well. He said that my young consort had pleased the old woman and had been like a daughter to her. She had taught her well, and in fact was not anxious to let her go. However, now it was time. He would send someone for her tomorrow.

He said that I must rest. Tomorrow I would see Lord Shiva's will.

Section XXVII

The next day I spent in meditation, and in the evening Nathdwar told me that the girl had come. I went to see her, and she was huddled beneath a large wool shawl, her eyes downcast. He said,

Girl, if Shiva has truly called you, then it is your fate to be the consort of a yogi. It is your obligation to be obedient, and help him along the path to wisdom, and not to question or disobey him. We do not know your future, but the lord will provide for you. If you are to be together, it cannot be here in the monastery. It will disturb the sadhus - even if they do not hear you, they will imagine you and that will be worse.

I have spoken to a disciple who will be on pilgrimage with his household for three months. Their house will be empty for this period, and he has given permission for you to live there. My disciple Buddhacharya will lead you there tomorrow. I will leave and return tomorrow.

He left us alone in the small room near the entryway. I said, "Amba, how have you liked being with the old woman?" She said, "I obeyed her in all things, but I missed my parents. I missed you too. She had many rules to follow, and I had to do much meditation. Much of the work was dull. But I liked to pretend to be Parvati, and I could wear jewelry, and veils like her. Only that did I enjoy."

I said, "Renunciants never enjoy life - we meditate because we know that life is illusory, and we seek truth."

She said,

I am not a renunciant, though I have fallen in love with one. I do not like damp old caves, and sitting around with bony, smelly, starving old men. You are strong and healthy, but these other men look like death himself. Even if they are poor, they should be able to eat enough to be stronger. And there are no pillows, and pretty vases, and tapestries.
I said, "Do you think that renunciants live like kings? We give up the pleasures of the world, and stay thin so that the temptations of the flesh do not overwhelm us. For the time that you are my consort, you must learn to live as a yogi would."

She pouted, but said that she would do as I wished. She said that the old woman had done strange things with her to prepare her for me. She hoped that I would not hurt her, or cast her aside.

I told her that I would be gentle, and follow the wishes of the lord.

Section XXVIII

Thus we left the monastery, and followed the gardener of the rich man who was giving us the house. The man had left him to lead us there. He was a guide for us to follow. Otherwise, it would have been the blind leading the blind.

Nathdwar gave me a traditional shawl and robe, and said that it would be better if I appeared to be a householder, since I would be living there with a woman, apparently my wife. The rich man told his neighbors he was lending the house to a newly married couple who were distant relatives. Indeed, are not all humans ultimately related? Truth can be twisted so easily - is this the lord's wish?

The gardener showed us the guest cottage, and said that we were to stay there. It was a strongly built building, with several rooms, and a kitchen area behind it in a separate building (probably for the visitor's servants). The gardener said that food was available but that he was not a cook. Amba said she would do the cooking, and he was relieved.

The house had piles of straw with sheets over them, and cloth stretched over a wood frame in another room. There were pillows, and oil lamps, and embroidered wall hangings.

Amba was very happy - her family was poor, and even this guesthouse was rich and luxurious compared to her childhood home. Of course it was a palace to me.

I said that if we were to practice, we must have a schedule. I only ate in the early morning and at noon. She could eat when she wished. I would meditate in the day and practice with her in the evening. She said that she would cook and clean during the day, and try on some cloth that the old woman had given her.

I asked the gardener about quiet places to meditate, and he said that on their land, there was a quiet place by a small lake. With the family gone, it should not be a problem. He had already spoken with the man who guarded the property, in case I wished to spend time there. I thanked him for his thoughtfulness.

So we settled into a routine - I awoke before sunrise, chanted prayers to Lord Shiva and to the rising sun. After about three hours of meditation, I ate breakfast with Amba, and gathered wood for fuel, and water to drink. I meditated with her for a few hours, and left her to rest in the afternoon, while I slept sitting up. In the evening came the practice.

Section XXIX

To practice with a woman was strange. One must control excitation to a fine pitch - enough to stay interested, and absorbed in the mantric worlds, but not too much. I would meditate for two hours in advance, so that my soul was used to the inner rivers of light, and then I would move into my body. I would merge her energies with mine in meditation. We began simply with touch, circulating energies through the fingertips, and by glance. I explained to her what she must do, and she concentrated as much as she was able. I believe that her insight was limited, but she was able to move with me without realizing how, passively responding to the meditative movement. She seemed to have a natural skill at this, almost as if meditation were a dance, and she could follow the movements of a skilled teacher.

We moved on to sexual practice, and stayed still as the energy stormed and blossomed around us. She did not bleed - the old woman must have done something to prevent it. The practice was hard for her at first and uncomfortable, but she was silent and did not complain. Her body was rigid and fearful. But over time, she became used to it and less afraid.

I would place the gods and goddesses in her body, so that her flesh was transformed, and it was no longer a human body. It was a place of the gods, and they all had separate rooms. To enter her was to enter their universe and I chanted the mantras to each deity. She was the storehouse of gods, and I was the worshiper and guardian.

I would visualize each deity, with the mantra in a long procession of letters surrounding him. I did the mantras 108 times for each deity. In response, the deities gave me their shakti, their power, with which I empowered my own shakti, Amba. When her body was a reservoir of power, I entered her with my mind, and created a bond between us. I linked our energies together before I linked our bodies. I had the bright rivers flow between us, and created clouds which preceded the jewel. I could not always see the lord within, but I could sense his presence. It was an odd way of approaching him.

Then one day during the practice, I became Lord Shiva, and Amba was truly his shakti. They were both within us in the eternal play that scandalized the rishis, and enchanted the gods.

Section XXX

To become Shiva was a great experience. His mind was infinite, and it was like entering infinity, and spreading out in all directions. Your heart jumps, perhaps like suddenly falling from a huge cliff. And then you are flying, and the flight is in all directions at once. The lord is the greatest of the great, and has no end.

I believe that Amba too has expanded beyond her body, though her words are limited. She said that she went to the center of things, to the beginning, and that her soul was like a seed beginning to sprout into a vine, and then a flower. She said that her body was full of life, and that she was like a field ready for fruit.

Well seed I would not give her - that was not suitable, and the death of sadhana. It must be the maiden within her that is the lord's shakti - Parvati was never pregnant, and dislikes those female sadhus who are. She takes away her blessings - those are only for auspicious wives, who bow to their in-laws and have a place in their lives for a child.

We continued to practice. I did not unite with the mind of Shiva often. But when I did, it was an overwhelming experience. I lost track entirely of the physical world. It was like a place, but made of light, and mind was a substance that stretched and warped the universe. My identity was made of stretched muslin, while the lord's ego was made of shimmering silk, making great towers and cat's cradles and skies of stars into knots.

I am uncertain at this point what the lord wants of me. I do these practices with a woman he has chosen for me, but I do not know why. I hope he will reveal his intentions.

I learned to see Amba's body as permeable, with light and deities traveling in and out. I too am both a person and a house for a large family - the body is a family estate. Perhaps the lord wants me to learn that my body is a world, as is his.

We practiced and lived in the house until the gardener informed us that the owners of the property would be back in a week. We got our clothing and blankets together, and he escorted us back to Nathji. Amba went again to the old woman. Nathji said that it sounded like the practice had been fruitful. He would await a vision saying what to do next.

Section XXXI

So we waited to see what the Lord wanted now. A sadhu's responsibilities are to god and guru. I told Nathji that I respected my tantric teacher, and that I would never have known what to do otherwise. He made my intuition work, my ability to look inside for deeper knowledge. Nathji said that he had opened such doors for many sadhus.

But no vision came. Perhaps Lord Shiva had forgotten me. Nathji didn't know what to do. Neither of us knew what to do about Amba either. It was a strange position for a sadhu.

So I did my worship and meditation again, and tried to go back to my previous life of meditation. But it didn't quite seem the same. I was having a harder time concentrating, and I felt vaguely guilty about Amba. I knew it was the lord's will, but I couldn't just leave her in a place where I knew she was unhappy. Sadhus are not supposed to have worldly responsibilities and now she was mine.

The answer came, but it was not the answer that anybody expected. Nathji came in one morning and said,

I have seen the lord's form. He came to me in the night. He said that he wanted you to have a consort in order to test you. You have passed the test. You have stayed detached in the middle of great temptation. So he has come to me with his will. There is great devotee he wants to become incarnate. Shiva wants you to be his father. He wants you to become a householder.

My heart fell to my feet. A householder? What greater curse could my lord place upon me? At least if I died horribly and painfully, I would retain my honor, and not violate my dharma. If I were imprisoned and tortured by bandits and nonbelivers, I could die nobly and silently. But returning to the world like a dog to his excrement? This could not be.

I said. "Nathji, are you certain of this? Could the dream itself not be a test?"

He said, "I saw the lord while I was awake. There is a town where nobody worships Lord Shiva, and he wants worship there. This is where his devotee will be born. He wants you and Amba to marry, and to live there."

I said, "How can I support a wife on alms? I am a sadhu."

He said, "Not anymore, if you obey the lord. You will take on your Brahmin lineage, and be a priest. He wants you to be trained at once."

Section XXXII

I said, "Teacher, let me call upon the lord myself. If there is any chance of error, I wish to know it." Nathji said, "I will not force you - it is the great god's will - not my own. I know that such a command is hard. Return to me when you feel ready."

That night I called upon Lord Shiva with all my concentration and strength. He came to me in human form, shining blue, and riding his blue bull. He said, "So, you doubt my word?" He placed me behind him on the bull, and we roamed through many worlds. I saw places where he was worshiped, and places where there were no statues of him at all. We went to a place where worshipers danced and sang and played drums, and in their midst was a man whose face shone with light. He sang songs to the great god, with so much emotion that he looked like his heart was breaking. He was very devoted. The lord said,

That is the devotee that I want to incarnate - he will bring my worship to places in need of it. I have scanned my worshipers on earth now, and decided that you would be most suitable as his father.

Tell me, sadhu what is the purpose of your sadhana? Why do you meditate and worship?

I said, "It is to know you lord, to share your mind and heart, and to serve you."

Shiva said,

Right. If you wish to serve me, this is how to do it. I your god have decided this. Both you and your consort have Brahmin blood, though it has been obscured by circumstances and karma in both of you. No devotee of mine needs high caste to worship, but it works better [to be Brahmin] in bringing devotees. You will convert people by the intensity of your meditation, and your child will grow to convert people by the force of his love. Marriage will not turn you into a slothful glutton - you have shown that you can retain your concentration.

Your wife will expect sex, but you should withhold your seed until I send you a vision. Then it will be time for the devotee to incarnate. In the meantime, you will worship me as my priest. Return and begin your training.

Will you not bear disgrace for my sake? You would be willing to give up your life, but you would not be willing to be shamed? Who is to know, after all, besides Nathji, who obeys my will? Your consort? She will not feel shame - only joy.

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