The Mother Divine
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Two weeks back Bejan Daruwalla, the world famous astrologer and a best-selling author and columnist, wrote the following piece in The Speaking Tree of Times of India, which I must carry faithfully because our discussion has its stimulus there. So, here goes…

The Jadugarni Devi Had Three Choices:
She was beautiful beyond belief. Those who saw her skittled like a row of ninepins. Your Ganesha devotee saw her momentarily in a village pool surrounded by hedges and trees. She was languorously bathing, singing softly to herself. I was bewitched. She took no notice of me and Ganesha was there for support. Swan-like neck, a sheen and shine which made her skin glow, shimmering copper to glittering gold. Her hands and fingers were certainly made to do filigree work with exquisite delicacy. She was sensually sublime -- if that be possible.

A village lad robust, rustic and smelling of the good earth passed by and saw her. He was felled as if by a thunderbolt. The bathing lady glanced at him and smiled. It flashed in my mind that she was the original jadugarni, that my great, great forefathers had talked about.

The jadugarni went near the lad and touched him on the forehead. He awoke. Big, black, bright eyes. Aquiline nose. Broad forehead. Fine eyebrows. Tousled, unruly hair and bow shaped lips. She touched him again and he stood before her. He asked her as only a rustic can, “Please, devi, may I know who you are?” She replied, “I have come from the heavens. They call me jadugarni.” “Why have you come” he asked. “I get bored. I want to see joy and sorrow. See life as it is, not as it should be.”

The lad took her to his house. She came to know that his name was Ramu and he lived with his parents, a sister, a brother, goats and cattle. She was invisible to all the others.

Being a jadugarni she could take any form – man, woman, child, animal – and thus be completely unnoticed, anonymous. Soon she was a regular visitor at Ramu’s place unnoticed and unknown. Ramu talked to her about fruits, flowers, grass, plants, seeds, labour, rest, the seasons, the land, crop, sky, rain and the sizzling slices of summer. She took it all in. She talked to him of paradise and palaces and princess and nymphs, saints, angels and fairies. He did not understand all this but somehow he felt happiness in his heart, smiled like a sea’s expanse and accepted that there could be a real place like it. The jadugarni recognised all this from his smile and the sparkle in his eyes. She sighed in understanding.

Seventy years passed as in a dream. Ramu never married. The villagers accepted simply and naturally that he was with the jadugarni. No questions asked. One day he was delirious with fever. The village doctor and the vaid could not do much. The jadugarni was by his side all the while. She cried. She knew he was dying but she could not bear to see it. She flew to the heavens, met an archangel and said, “My Ramu is dying. Help me.” The archangel replied. “I recognise your love for him. He certainly deserves it. But my dear, human beings are mortal and they do die.” The jadugarni asked “Is there any way I can save him?”

The archangel replied, “You have three choices: First, you can allow him to die and go the way of all flesh. Second, you can take him to your abode in heaven and love him forever. Last, you can go back to the world, be with him and die with him. That’s it.” The jadugarni chose to die with him, saying: "There is no substitute for simplicity and sincerity. I will die with him."
So, that’s the tale. Many loved this tale for its literary beauty and many others for its profundity. One among these readers, Sangita Kathiwada, said: “What a beautiful story! I can understand sincerity but sometimes we make choices which appear simple but turn out to be complex. How do I define simplicity? Isn't simplicity relative? What is it?”

Well, I had no answer for the princely question the noble lady had posed. Scholarship can’t answer such questions. Perhaps a Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, a Ramana Maharshi or a Mahatma Gandhi could, with the simplicity of their character, put these questions to rest with a simple gesture.

The Oxford Dictionary defines simplicity as: the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do; the quality or condition of being plain or uncomplicated in form or design.

In Hinduism, the concept of simplicity is defined by a bunch of terms. Some of these define simplicity directly with an attribute; some define it via negativa i.e. ‘simplicity is absence of such and such quality’ and so on. Following is a list of such concepts closer to the idea of simplicity:

arjava (upright), saralata (straightforwardness), sahajata (naturalness), prajwalata (candour), sattva samshuddhi (purity of heart), shauch (purity), satya (truthfulness) apaishunam (aversion to fault finding), etc. and the other set of terms like anasuya (not envious), alolup (absence of avarice), adroha (freedom from malice) etc.

Following one’s swadharma, one would attain to simplicity. If a thing is innate, if it’s something that comes to us easily, we would do it simply. But if we were to set out to do that which is not in agreement with our nature, it would be a complex endeavour. By this token, all complexity of life seems to have arisen from our stepping out of our own nature to be someone else, or stepping out of our call of duty to do something else.

It would be simple if it’s upright, the kinks would make life complex. The straightforward would be simple, the circuitous complex. The pure would be simple, impure complex. Virtue would make us simple; vice would encrust our otherwise beautiful nature with hideous complexity. If one is not virtuous, how could one be simple?

Straightforwardness is a quality of honorable men. The eyes that see God are honest and artless. By being straightforward and upright, living by principles of righteousness, we would grow fearless and thus be simple. The Bhagavadgita lists arjava, or uprightness or simplicity, as a sign of Knowledge. Like the traits of a man of steady wisdom listed in its second chapter, uprightness too is a virtue an aspirant needs to cultivate.

A child is simple because it has no fear. Here’s a piece of news from the newspapers reported recently.


A fun trip to a local circus turned into a nightmare for a US woman who came face-to-face with an escaped tiger while accompanying her three-year-old daughter to the washroom.

Jenna Krehbiel from central Kansas went to the bathroom with her daughter after finishing watching the large cat show at the Isis Shrine Circus. As she closed the door behind her, she was shocked to see a tiger standing less than a metre away.

Krehbiel said the tiger "wasn't the biggest one" performing, but she estimated it was more than 113 kg. The tiger had escaped from the circus after its turn in the ring and had wandered into the bathroom. While the staff had launched a search, they were yet to check the toilet.

Krehbiel said she tried to stay calm and that her daughter wasn't bothered by the presence of the creature. "It was the closest I have ever been to a tiger not in a cage. You don't expect to go in a bathroom door, have it shut behind you and see a tiger walking towards you," Krehbiel said.

"My daughter wanted to know if it had washed its hands. That was her only concern. I think that shows the thoughts of children and that they wouldn't have known there was danger.”

Well, the three-year-old daughter had this to ask: had the tiger washed its hands? How beautiful!

That is simplicity. It comes of innocence Christ spoke of when he said the kingdom of God would be accessible to those who are children at heart.

Coming back to Sangita Kathiwada’s question, one would have to admit the finer nuances of truthfulness that would finally make us simple. In Shanti Parva of Mahabharata, Yuddhisthira asks: “on what occasions should a person tell the truth and on what occasions should he tell an untruth?”

Bhishma answers, “To tell the truth is consistent with righteousness. There where falsehood (untruth) would assume (appear as) the aspect of truth, then truth should not be spoken.”

“One would not facilitate the plunder of robbers by answering their questions right. If one can escape from sinful men by even a false oath, one can do this without incurring sin. When life is at risk one may say an untruth. One that seeks virtue does not commit a sin by speaking an untruth if that which is spoken saves the wealth and prosperity of others or for a religious purpose.” This is the wheel of complexity within simplicity. But it is still simple as long as it is dharmic.

Saralata or simplicity is one of the most beautiful spiritual virtues. It would be difficult to tread the path of bhakti without saralata - without simplicity. What is simplicity? It’s obviously more than just absence of duplicity or having no ulterior motives.

One of the Editorials of Prabuddha Bharat carried an interesting piece on Uprightness few years ago and quoted important thoughts in this context; I present a couple of them here.

Sri Shankara explains arjava as simplicity (saralata) or the absence of crookedness (akutilata). True simplicity entails tallying one’s words with one’s thought. And Sri Ramakrishna considered this quality inevitable for success in spiritual life: ‘There is a sect of Vaishnavas known as the Ghoshpara, who describe God as the “Sahaja”, the “Simple One”, how can we know the Simple One unless we are simple?”

The reverse of simplicity is a bad place to be. Once you are complex, it’s difficult to return to simplicity. Duryodhana was spoiled by his notorious uncle. When his bad designs got the situation beyond his control, Duryodhana remarked, ‘I know what is dharma, but am not able to practice it. I know what is adharma, but I am not able to refrain from it.’ Here we see, how badly has the notorious uncle infused kutilata (crookedness)- the very converse of simplicity.

We are not simple because we are full of ourselves. We are full of feelings of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ which generate envy, avarice, malice. Lack of simplicity arises primarily from selfishness. How can we get rid of our ‘I’ and ‘mine’? Certainly it is not easy to give up this sense of ‘unripe ego’ all of a sudden. Sri Ramakrishna advises us instead to cultivate the ‘ripe ego’, which says, ‘I am a child of God.’ Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath also gives the same technique of progressively sublimating our ego. From “I” to “Servant of God” from Soham to Dasoham.

The three-year-old girl who was unafraid of the tiger, had what Jnaneshvar considered a precondition to uprightness- bearing no grudge against anyone. This girl’s mental attitude was straight like the sweep of the wind and she was free from desire and doubt. She had no tiger in her mind she would wish to fight or kill.

Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda)
The Editor