This is a true story. Both the travelers who experienced this, have left their bodies now. This happened on August 23rd,1970. Two brahmins (priestly class in India) in their early 50s from the banks of river Nila in Kerala, went for a pilgrimage to Himalayas. After visiting many shrines, they reached Badrinath. When they arrived, it was afternoon and the temple was closed after the mid day poojas. They were quite tired after the long journey. They were hungry too. The high altitude, less oxygen, lack of food and general fatigue related to long journey made them feel quite sick. Since there was at least four hours for the temple to open, a guard, recognizing them to be of priestly class, guided the weary travelers to the house of the chief priest of Badrinath temple, which was quite nearby. When they arrived at the priest’s house, he had already completed his lunch and was about to have his afternoon siesta. Still, he welcomed them and asked them where they had come from. They explained about their journey in brief and told the priest that they intend to stay in Badrinath for a week. The priest asked them if he can be of any assistance to them. They said that they are fine and, should they need any assistance, they would certainly contact him. They got up to depart allowing the priest to take some rest. They were feeling reluctant to tell the priest that they were both hungry and tired.
As they reached the door of the priest’s house, he called them back and said “There is an old saint, who belongs to your home town living nearby. Would you be interested to meet him?” Since there was nothing else to do, and no restaurants were open for them to find a basic meal, they decided to spend the time with the saint until the temple opens for worship. They said “yes” and the priest requested one of the guards to take them to the saint. The guard took them to the banks of river Alakananda. Badrinath is nearly 12,000 feet above sea level in the mighty Himalayas. It is usually very cold and mostly covered by thick white blanket of snow during winter. The visitors were shivering despite their winter protection. It was as if what ever protection they had, was insufficient to protect them from the freezing weather.
As they crossed the bridge across Alakananda, the guard looked down at the flowing river and said “There he is!!”. They saw a lean old man, just in his loin cloth, bathing in the river. They could not believe what they saw. It was impossible to bathe in the river in that temperature. The water was surely freezing cold, considering the atmospheric temperature. They reached the other side of the river and waited. The saint completed his bath and ablutions and came to where they were standing. It did not appear that he was affected by the cold breeze or the weather conditions at all. He was walking over stones in the water, as if walking on a bed of roses, bare footed!! As he approached them, the guard told him in Hindi, that that they were sent by the priest of the temple to meet him and that they are from the same place as he was. (Saints usually have nothing to do with their poorvashram or their abode before embracing sannyas or renunciation)The saint smiled and beckoned them to come near him. He wore only a loin cloth, which was totally drenched in icy water. He had a stick in his hand and a kamandalu (a small pot that saints use) which was filled with water from the river. He looked at them. His eyes were sharp and penetrating. He looked very old; at least about 100 years! White flowing hair and white beard. Yet, his eyes were shining and young. The guard took their leave. The saint started walking and asked them to follow him. They reached a small hut. The saint entered, asked them to enter and be seated. They sat on the floor. But, surprisingly, the floor was warm! The saint looked at them again, and said “Are you thirsty?” They both said “Yes”. He gave them a few drops of water from his pot and asked them to drink. They thought that this is some kind of initiation or purification. But, as soon as they drank those few drops of water, they felt something shifting in them. They no more felt cold and thirsty. Then he asked “Are you hungry too?” They said they are hungry as they had no food for many hours. He smiled and again gave them a few drops of water each. They drank it. Suddenly, they felt their stomach was full with food. This surprised them to no limits. Even though a saint whom they had previously met,taught them a manthra to conquer thirst and hunger, it has not been very effective for these seekers.
They both said “Bhagawan, you have effectively conquered the need for consumption of food and water. Now, you have demonstrated your siddhis to us too. Tell me, who are you? You belong to the same place where we have come from, but,what is the purpose of our meeting? Why did we meet? We are both so curious to know about you.”
The saint laughed. He said “I believe you have been chanting certain manthras to control the urge for food. What happened?” Why could you not control your mind through your practices?
They knew that he can see everything and nothing can be hidden from him. They said “Yes, We have been chanting “Kanta Koope, Kshud, Pipasi, Nivrithi”, focusing on our vishuddha chakra. But, mind was wandering and we could not gain much progress. The saint laughed again. He said “If you walk up the Himalayas step by step, your body will certainly get accustomed to the changing oxygen levels and the weather situation at each level. Why are all of you trying to speed up in your powered vehicles, when every matter needs its time to settle down into your system? Everything needs duration and space to give the maximum benefit! Everything needs time. Unfortunately, all are in mad rush, chasing, searching for something which they do not even know! How can you achieve spiritual progress? Patience, flexibility, adaptability, acceptance, determination, dedication to one single path of your choice, and consistency to follow it against all odds, are extremely necessary for success in spiritual pursuit. Most people change their guru, rather than changing their mind set.” He started laughing at his own joke.
They understood that he was referring to their impatience in spiritual journey. They have been meeting many saints and sages trying to speed up their spiritual sadhana, while totally ignoring the key aspect which was their capacity and eligibility for higher stuff! They have not been concentrating on developing this important aspect, instead, were following their shifting mind, to touch the feet of many saints, expecting quicker elevation without any hard work, along with or without the removal of their internal trash of lifetimes!!! Since their capacity and eligibility did not grow with the same pace of their travel, they could not gain much progress. Most manthras or sadhanas (spiritual practices) that they picked up at various points, did not give them much progress either. They had met many saints in the past. But, this old saint truly fascinated them.
They asked ” Swami, how can we progress further?”
Swami said “Drop what you know. You are carrying heavy burden of indigested knowledge and age old samskaaras.”
“Swami, what can we drop?
Swami said “Everything. All that you really need will be yours anyway. You “need” nothing. All that you think that you have, you actually do not have. It will all wither away sooner or later. All that you give away, you will always have. Spirituality never ends with one incarnation of the soul. It continues through time and space, as long as it should. You are covering yourself more than necessary. Shed your coverings. Do not hide yourself. And do not hide your real face. Be bold to be yourself. You will experience reality. When clothes become an addiction, we become unnatural.
They paused to digest the hidden meaning behind the saint’s answer and asked: “Swami, who will protect us from this cold and tamasic ignorance?”
Swami asked “Existence. Are you feeling cold now?” They realized that they were not feeling any physical cold. Swami continued: “Who is protecting you from cold now? The same existence will protect you from tamas and ignorance too. You are definitely not the doer.”
They contemplated on those words for a while and still feeling terribly insecure about future,said “Swami, We feel afraid to shed anything at all.”
Swami laughed aloud and said; “If you are afraid, go home. You are just infants. You need protection. Spirituality is not your cup of tea. You need more maturity to earn spirituality. Fear has no meaning here. Fear cannot exist here.” Swami paused for a while and continued “You are hiding your fears within your clothing. Escapism is the opposite of spirituality. The two cannot co exist.”
Swami looked at one of the two, straight into his eyes, and said: “Family is becoming thinner and thinner. No offsprings. Conducted many poojas and rituals to earn a child. Everything in vain. “Kaala Sarpa Dosha” (severe curse of snake gods)!!! (Traditionally, brahmins have worshiped snake gods along with many other deities. Almost every family used to have a temple for snakes in their yard. With the formation of nuclear families, as people became “irreligious”, or grossly ignorant of reasons behind the patterns of worship, worships abruptly stopped. The negative effects of this lack of connectivity started appearing in families in the form of unnatural deaths, lack of children, lack of marriage and many relationship issues. Family deities were part of every family at one time. They were invoked and installed by ancestors of that family, to protect them, their families, property and riches, with the promise that they would be honored and respected by them and their family members at all times. These deities were handed down through generations. For understanding’s sake, they can be compared to invited guests. They did not appear by themselves, they were brought by the ancestors for protection and grace. When the further generations stopped honoring them and taking care of them, it was like dishonoring your invited guests and even insulting them, by removing their bed and space. This is still affecting many families.)
He asked: “But Swami, what is the reason for “sarpa dosha” or the curse of the snakes?”
Swami said: “Ingratitude, my son. Snakes on earth are of two types. Earthly snakes which are gross and predominantly tamasic, and divine entities in the form of snakes, which they took for agility and isolation’s sake. You will never mess with a snake, right?. That is why they chose that form. Well, mankind has been closely associated with the higher entities, who exist in the form of snakes. We have co existed with them for a long time. We used to respect them and worship them. They have their own realm, sphere of existence or loka. They have come here out of compassion for us, the ignorant ones. They contributed a lot of understanding and awareness to the mankind.They brought us to higher awareness and showed us the dimensions of the supreme father in three aspects, such as “Srishti” or creation, “Stithi” or preservation and “Samhara” or dissolution. They introduced us to the power and force behind these three aspects of our existence. They introduced us to the trinity. They showed us the path of higher spirituality. They also protected us, as they protect and support the Lords that they introduced to us. We gave them a special place in our garden, close to the nature which they always loved, with the promise that we will not disturb their peace and they will bless us with a good life. Later, our next generations went back on our promises and destroyed the noble snakes and their abodes. We cheated them and killed them. We destroyed their abodes and built our houses on them.We started to suffer their pain and agony in our lives, in our families. The golden rule that whenever we hurt someone through thoughts, words or action, in fact we are hurting ourselves. We do get hurt more with the violence that we did unleash for that, deeply within our consciousness and life. This is called “sarpa dosha”. We have systematically abused and destroyed all beings who showed us the true path and quite sadly, have consistently glorified those who are just glitter to our eyes!!!. Higher Snakes represent the protection and presence of divinity on earth. Lord Vishnu rests on Anantha the serpent. Shiva has snakes as his garland. When the ocean of milk was churned for “amruth”, the celestial nectar, Vasuki, the snake was used instead of a rope. No celestial rope could have equaled Vasuki’s strength!. Snake represents both the kundalini shakti that lies dormant in every human as three and a half coils, as well as the movement of the sun and moon nadis up towards the crown chakra. They represent flexibility and ascension. Snakes have an important role in our spirituality. They brought us the highest wisdom and performed the duty of protectors. The usual signs of sarpa dosha are childlessness or lesser children, divorce of no marriage and problems in marital relationship.We need to respect them. Continued ingratitude will pull us down further.”
One of the brahmins asked “Swamiji, you belong to the same place that we have come from. Do you have any relatives there?
Swami thought for a while and said “No relatives. But, I used to have some friends. Perhaps you know them.” Swami narrated the names of a few people and their family names. Their families were known to the visitors. When they scratched their heads to decide who the people whom swami mentioned were, they realized that these people have left their bodies a few centuries ago and their fourth or fifth generation were currently alive in the families that Swamiji had mentioned. They were shocked to realize that Swami is at least 400 years old!
They told the saint “Swamiji, these people who were your friends are no more now. Their fourth or fifth generation is our contemporary”. Swami thought for a while and said “Well, I am an old man. Sometime, I forget the speed with which time moves. I am glad their families still exist”. He mentioned it so casually, as if his longevity is no big deal at all!!.The visitors could not believe all this and continued to stare at the swami while mixed emotions swayed their mind.
Swami asked “You are brahmins, isn’t it time for your “Sandhya Vandan?” (Evening Worship that Brahmins perform)
They looked at each other. They have not been following the brahminic rituals sincerely. They were sure that the swami was referring to their insincerity in adherence to the dharma of their inheritance. Swami said “Being born in a brahmin family is equal to marrying dharma by choice, beyond one’s individual karma. You, as brahmins have inherited the satwic dharma of serving the society, imparting knowledge and elevating the consciousness of the society. By shedding your own path, by not following your own path, which path will you follow? “Swadharma” or one’s own dharma is very important for everyone. Dharma is as important as karma. Never forget that. Brahminism should be nurtured through purity of thought, word and action as well as selflessness and non-violence in all aspects. By being born in a brahmin family or sporting a sacred thread will not make you a true “brahmin”. Live as one, to its fullest.”
There was deep silence. The saint said. “Go now. Take bath and worship Lord Badrinath. Come back tomorrow and we shall talk again”. They reluctantly got up and left the saint. Their mind was filled with utter dismay and amazement. They did not feel any cold, hunger or thirst and felt completely rejuvenated. They did not feel any tiredness or fatigue anymore.
Who was this amazing saint? Where did he come from? Many questions welled in their mind. They decided to come back to know more…
Love You, My Beloveds