Shiva’s Grace

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Despairing of ever attaining the coveted fruit of spiritual practices, Puran Chand approached his guru.

“Six months of worship of the idol of Narayana has produced no effect at all. Kindly suggest a more powerful mantra and a more powerful deity.”

The guru had given Puran Chand initiation in the Narayana mantra and handed him a small, beautiful idol of Lord Narayana. Puran was regular in the worship and ceaseless in his japa. However, there was no sign of the lord blessing him.

The guru smiled at Puran. “Well, son, take this idol of Lord Shiva. I will initiate you in the Shiva mantra – the holy Panchakshara. Worship Shiva with faith. He is easily propitiated. He will bless you soon.”

Puran Chand was overjoyed. The next six months saw him immersed in japa and worship of Shiva. The idol of Narayana went to a dusty shelf above the altar.

“No use in this either. Please do not test me. Kindly give the mantra that will bless me,” Puran pleaded.

The guru smiled. The time for revelation had come, yet the disciple would learn more by experience.

“In this age Mother Kali is most gracious. Worship this image of hers. Repeat the Navarna mantra.” Kali worship commenced. Shiva joined Narayana on the shelf. With great devotion and feeling, Puran was waving incense before the image of Mother Kali. The fumes rose up. He watched. They reached the shelf too. He was enraged. He laid the incense down and got up.

“What business has this Shiva, who refused to be propitiated, to inhale this incense? I am worshipping Mother Kali now. I will not allow this fragrant incense to enter Shiva’s nostrils. I will plug them with cotton.”

Puran set about the task. He took the rusting idol of Shiva and began inserting cotton into its nostrils. Lo! The idol disappeared! In front of him stood Shiva, smiling in all his compassion. Puran was on his knees.

“Ask for any boon, Puran. I am pleased with you.”

“My Lord, I am perplexed. You did not deign to bless me when I devoutly repeated the Panchakshara mantra for six months. But you chose to reveal yourself when I discarded your image. What is this mystery?”

“My child, there is nothing mysterious in this. How could I reveal myself when you treated me as a mere image, a mere piece of metal, to be worshipped and discarded at your will or whim? But when you treated the idol as a living presence, when you began to plug the nostrils with cotton so that the incense may not enter them, and thus recognized my living presence in that idol, I could no more withhold myself from you.”

Puran bowed to Lord Shiva and was immersed in his love. He could ask for no boon. In his love he found everything.