The Call Of Mahadev
Shiv-Bhakt Raghu undertakes a lone journey on his bike to the abode of Bhagwan Shiv--the Kailash.
Felt his presence
It is in this interesting town that Raghu lived. A tall well-built fellow, he was in his mid-thirties. His friends called him Biker Raghu because of his passion for motorcycles. He ran a motorcycle showroom in the town and knew all about the famous motorcycle brands all over the world. He kept up-to-date with the latest launches, the latest features and what was good and not-so-good in each motorcycle. If anybody amongst his friends or family wanted to buy a bike, they would always consult Raghu and go with his recommendation.
He lived with his parents in their ancestral home. His father ran a garment shop that was big enough to keep him busy through the day and small enough to let him sleep peacefully at night. His mother was a simple, pious lady who put her family and household before self, the sort of homemaker who can be found in innumerable households across the country and forms the solid bedrock of a typical family. They had a simple unpretentious lifestyle, centred around family, relatives, neighbours and temples, a unique “Bharatiya” way of life still preserved in Bharat’s small towns.
Raghu was still single and did not feel any urge yet to land himself in marital bliss, or hell, contingent on how his luck would turn out. This was a point of constant friction between him and his parents who wished to see him settled down so that they could be freed of their obligations. How he had evaded their pressure so long can only be put down to a very strong will, considering that most of his friends by now were not only married but were also bringing up their not-so-small kids.
Theirs was a religious family, and Raghu himself was an ardent devotee of Bhagwan Shiv. He used to go to the local temple daily and offer jal-abhishek to the Shiv-lingam. Being an early-riser, he devoted some time to meditation each morning. He had started meditating from his mid-twenties but had struggled with it for many months. Every time he sat down to meditate, he would find his mind going into overdrive. All sorts of thoughts and memories would come rushing in. The mind would jump from one scene to another, in a completely random and haphazard sequence. He wrestled with it, trying to force it into silence. But the harder he tried, the more errant the mind became.
Since he made little progress even after considerable time, he finally approached a yogacharya to guide him. The acharya explained to him that it is natural for mind to be constantly active and operational. That is its very nature. If we try to forcefully repress it, it perceives that as a threat and responds by amplifying its strength. So, the first rule of meditation is to accept the mind not as an adversary but as a friend and understand that it is bound to act as per its nature. Once you develop this outlook towards the mind, it begins to relax and agrees to suspend its activity and start giving you some moments of silence. These moments would last for a few brief seconds initially but over time will expand into minutes and then hours provided one is patient, persistent and sincere.
Raghu changed his approach and found that it was working. He was able to enter a “log-off” zone where his mind ceased its constant chatter. He was able to sustain that only for very brief periods before the mind resumed its activity, but as the acharya had said, the period grew as months passed. After years of regular practice, he was able to go into deep dhyana for periods of an hour or two. He remained in touch with the acharya and took his advice regularly. Raghu shared the experiences he had during meditation, as to what he saw and felt, with the acharya and asked if he was on the right path. The acharya replied that everyone would have unique visions and experiences depending on their conditioning and environmental factors. As long as he felt peace, bliss and a strengthening connection of his inner energy with a subtler force, it meant that he was making progress.
One particular year—it was the month of February, and the occasion was Maha-Shivratri— the holy night of Bhagwan Shiv. As usual, the temple was packed to the brim with devotees. Raghu and his parents waited patiently in the long queue that had formed. When their turn came, they hurriedly offered abhishek to the lingam, conscious of the indirect pressure of the people behind them to move fast. They completed their puja, and as they were about to step aside, Raghu stretched out his arms and wrapped both his palms around the lingam. He always did that. The act of being able to physically touch his Ishta gave him peace and contentment.
But, today, something else happened. His mind blacked out—no thoughts, no movement, just a big black void. He felt as if he was in that state for a long time, but actually only five or six seconds had passed before he came back to his senses. He found his father shaking him by the shoulder and the man behind speaking impatiently, “Bhai, are you done?”
“That’s unusual,” he thought as he stepped aside.
His acharya had told him that the Maha-Shivratri is a very potent night for doing dhyana of Shiv and that it should be utilised well. Accordingly, Raghu planned to spend a good part of the night in meditation. After doing his customary pranaam to his parents before they retired, he came to his room, closed the door and the lights, sat down on the floor and closed his eyes.
He logged off from his conscious mind and its ever-rippling ocean of thoughts and emotions. He found himself in a new zone today. He felt micro- vibrations running through his body, filling him with indescribable ananda. He found himself going deeper and deeper into dhyana. Slowly, a vision began to form.
He saw himself standing on the edge of a clear blue lake. The lake was very large and was in the middle of a vast expanse of snowy flats. He was wearing the saffron robes of a sadhu. As he stood looking around, a soft breeze picked up and seemed to whisper in his ear to come along. He plodded in the direction of the breeze for some time till he reached the edge of a cliff. He stopped and gazed in amazement at what stood ahead. Snowy forests stretched out below as far as the eye could see. In the centre of the vast expanse stood a tall, majestic mountain. It had a distinctive shape, and its top-half was covered in clear white snow. He saw himself kneeling down and bowing his head before the mountain.
The vision dissolved, and Raghu slowly came back to his normal awareness. He kept his eyes closed and let the magical vision linger on in his mind. As a Shiv-bhakt, he had recognised the mountain and the lake.
Raghu opened his eyes and sat there for a long time, savouring and going over what he had seen. He did not realise when he toppled over and fell into sleep.
Next morning, as all of them were having breakfast, Raghu addressed his parents, “Mataji, Pitaji, with your permission I would like to make a pilgrimage to the holy Kailash and Mansarovar.”
The parents looked up in surprise at the unexpected announcement.
His father asked, “How come this sudden idea?”
Raghu told them about his experience of the night. He expected his parents to get just as excited. Instead, their faces turned sombre.
“What nonsense!” cried his mother, “These are idle thoughts that are coming from your refusal to take up your responsibilities.”
Raghu understood what she was referring to, but refrained from replying.
His father intervened. “We will discuss it in the evening. Go to work now.”
As Raghu rose, he saw tears welling up in his mother’s eyes. Puzzled by his parents’ unexpected reaction, he got on to his bike and headed to his shop.
When he had left, his mother turned to her husband.
“You must not allow him to go. His behaviour is not normal. See all this dhyana and meditation and what all he keeps doing and the kind of people he keeps visiting. Next thing we know, he will want to cut his ties with us and everybody else to become a sadhu and go wandering in the Himalayas. We have been too lax with him. We must not let this go on any longer. Let us find a girl for him and get him married right away. The householder’s bonds will save him from drifting away any further and bring him back to his senses.”
“You are right. I don’t see any other option.”