The Jivamala
The Life of a Shiva Devotee

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Section XXXVII - The Birth of a Devotee

I had Shiva's vision, but who knows, it could have been a test. He wants me to be a householder and a husband, and yet a sadhu. These are opposites - he wants me to do two opposite things. It is impossible, yet I must follow the lord's will.

So I told Amba that the lord wanted me to have sexual relations with her, in order that we might have a son. Our son would grow up to be a great devotee. Amba smiled, and said that she didn't care - even if he were slow-witted or ugly, he would still be our son.

So I stayed with her as a householder would, and contemplated myself as Shiva's emanation, and her as Parvati's. She didn't care who I thought we were - she was acting as a wife - acting as wives were supposed to act. She seemed to get more pleasure from the role than from the act.

We took our belongings and visited Nathdwar. I told him of Shiva's call, and indeed it turned out that the priest with whom I had studied knew the area. In fact there were people near there that he had long meant to visit - so he decided to escort us there. This was good. It meant that we would not get lost. He was also willing to introduce me to his disciple, as a way of my gaining business as a priest.

I had kept up the purity rules and the mantras so that I could perform offerings and fire sacrifices with him. As we traveled, we would get shelter as priests - we were marked as Shiva's worshipers, and wore his beads. As we went south, fewer people knew of our lord. If we went really far south, he again had worshipers. But there was a blank area in the middle, and the lord wanted us to fill it in.

It was a long journey, and we went with a cart. It was clear that we were priests, thin and not wealthy, and we were not attacked by bandits or soldiers.

The town was not large, and there were statues to the Jina god, and statues of Buddha, but no statues of Shiva. I was told a story in the town. It said that Shiva had offended the mothers in that set of towns, and they had banished him. I do not know if this was the case, but he was gone. He had acted sexually disrespecting their role as mothers, and they exiled him. The great-shouldered saint, and the still sage were there but the dancing lord was gone.

The priest introduced me to the townspeople, and Amba smiled shyly. There was an empty house in the village - we could have it for a while.


Again we lived in the house of another. In this case the owner had recently died, and his children were girls who were married elsewhere. He said that when he was dying, he wanted the gods to have his house. Perhaps I was a substitute for them.

The chief of the town got together with the elders and my teacher-priest and decided I could have the house for two years - then they would vote. If they were not satisfied with my work, then I would leave. If they were, then the house would be mine permanently. They took his wish that the house go to the gods as a dying desire, overriding the possible wishes of distant daughters.

We were told that we could work on the house if we wished. Actually, working on wood and stone interested me, though it conflicted with my being a renunciant. Now I was a householder, so I could work without hesitation. The house was small with its roof and porch falling in. There was land around it but it was left as weeds and rocks. Priests were usually inept at physical labor but I told the people in the town that I wanted part of the house to be a shrine for my god, and men in the village were willing to help build a shrine. We fixed the house, and expanded it.

Where the land was empty, I cleared the ground, and laid flat rocks for the god-room. I made three sides open to the light, but on the fourth I closed it, and that was where the god would be.

I saw in a dream that there was an old rock that had once been part of a statue of Shiva. I went out to find it and I did, but it just looked like an unremarkable dark rock. However, the lord said that he wished to live there. So I sat it up, and [ritually] called him down to live there. I gave him offerings [doing puja] every day, and I chanted his praises aloud.

The village people were interested in this - usually priests kept their prayers and mantras secret. Sometimes I sang to the lord, and people came to learn by the songs. I was a sadhu and not a priest and I didn't believe in caste secrecy. I taught them the prayers, and we worshiped together as equals. They began to bring their own offerings.

But the Jina priest was not happy, and the Buddhist temple was usually deserted - it didn't have a priest. It was just a small shrine. I gave blessings for births and marriages, prayers for the dead, and counseling for the living - usually telling them to be charitable instead of stubborn. Shiva's worship was growing.

Section XXXIX

The lord's temple was painted white, and the town artisan painted some colored edges. We had a trident (Shiva symbol) in front to show it was the lord's place. His rock was placed in a bowl that I kept full of flowers. A small pitcher with a hole in it hung over him dripping holy water onto his rock-form, and keeping the flowers happy. I sang at night and others came to sing too, especially those with loud voices.

Amba was happy to be in a new place where people took her to be an ordinary new wife. We had sex rarely but it was enough for her to become pregnant after a few months. She was wreathed in smiles, and the other women in the town accepted her, and gave her advice about food and childbirth.

If the child was to be Shiva's devotee, we needed to prepare a suitable environment for him. I piled up mats and straw on the floor, and he would have his corner, if he wanted it. Amba and I slept in the same room, but apart. While he was an infant, he would sleep with her.

I fell into the householder rhythm, and I acted like one in most ways - only my values were those of a sadhu. Priests could keep ritual purity, and be careful of food and contact, but they kept secrets. I wanted people to know the lord. So I taught them mantras and rituals, and explained how they worked. But I did not teach knowledge that comes through initiation - that is meant to be secret.

As the months went by, Amba got larger, and the town's people grew used to us. Every once in a while, a sadhu would come through town, and my heart would fall, wondering if I knew him and if I had done the right thing. But I didn't know any of them.

Eventually, Amba's time came and the village women took her to a house in the forest. There she gave birth to our son. . He was healthy with skin much paler than Amba's. She was very happy that he was fair, and the villagers took this to be auspicious. I named him Ishvarananda, the bliss of the lord come to us. From the time that he was an infant, Amba called him Ishiji.

As a child he was selfish, and cried for milk and food and attention all the time. I couldn't believe that this mass of desire was some great devotee. Shouldn't he have more of a renunciant's temperament? He was happy being held and fed, and he gurgled when the village women made faces and played games with him. Amba was proud. I wondered if Shiva was playing some big joke on me.

The child grew and was playful, but always hungry. He grew quickly. When the two years were up, the townspeople decided I should be their priest permanently, and the house was fully ours.

To continue with the life of Bhairavanath, click on the [ NEXT ] link below :

Lives of Spiritual Awakening      [ NEXT ] Bhairavanath's Life Continued

Introduction | The Bhairava or Spiritual Guide | Lives of Spiritual Weakness | Lives of Spiritual Awakening | Conclusion


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