Heavenly Halwa

Swami Haripremananda Saraswati

There was once a sadhu who was determined to have darshan of the Almighty Power that creates and sustains the universe. In order to realise his aim, he gave up his livelihood and all material means of support, refusing even to beg.

- Those who give bhiksha and alms to beggars are only the instruments of the divine, he said. I am not satisfied with that. I will fast until the Devi herself provides food for me.

That night he sat himself down in meditation by a river, hungry but confident that the Great Goddess who cared for the lilies of the field, the birds in the sky and the beasts in their domains, would also provide him with nourishment and the means to realise the truth.

One night passed, and another. Then, while he was bathing at sunset on the third day, the sadhu scooped up a leaf - bound packet floating on the water. As he unwrapped his mysterious catch, a delicious odour teased his nostrils and set his mouth watering. Our sadhu was astounded to find himself in possession of a quantity of the finest halwa, made from almond paste, rosewater, nuts, sesame and other precious ingredients. Gourmets prized it as a tasty delicacy; it was a panacea for a host of ills.

- This is truly the food of the devas, said the sadhu as he offered thanks to heaven before breaking his fast.

Our sadhu was overjoyed when the next day, and the next, more halwa floated downstream at sunset.

- Verily this is prasad from the Devi herself, he thought. This is obviously the only proper food for my sadhana, and if I follow this halwa to its source, then I will doubtless accomplish my sacred quest.

The sadhu set off upstream, feasting on halwa every day. And to those who would listen he expounded the wonders of halwa, the food consecrated by the Almighty to lead mankind to realisation.

Just after dawn one morning, our sadhu was approaching a castle when he was stopped short by a most wonderful sight. On the balcony of the castle stood a maiden glorious as the sunrise, who dropped a small packet into the water below. Soon after the halwa reached the sadhu as usual.

- She must be a handmaiden of the Devi, he thought, and bowed his head in awe, feeling himself on the very brink of Truth.

Surmounting various obstacles, the sadhu finally won admittance to the castle and an audience with the radiant princess.

- Tell me, said the princess, what is it that brings a sadhu to this palace.

- Blessed Highness, I seek only the darshan of the beneficent Devi, protectress of all the worlds. Surely you are the Devi incarnate, for only the Great Goddess would provide me with divine sustenance, the halwa which daily you cast on the waters for me.

- Oh Sadhu, exclaimed the princess, half crying, half laughing. All women are incarnations of the Devi, but myself no more than others. What you believe to be holy halwa is only left-overs from the cosmetics I use during my morning bath in asses' milk!

If we regard all food as prasad, then it is truly consecrated. Yet if we believe that merely the following of a certain diet will lead us to enlightenment, then unfortunately we can only be led to disillusionment.