The Mother Divine
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Sage Narada had once gone to the assembly of gods and goddesses. There was a discourse, repast and some entertainment. When Narada left, he forgot his veena there. Later he went back to pick it up. As he entered the hall, he noticed that the servants were washing the seat he used to occupy. 

“Why are you washing my seat?” he asked them. But no servant replied. 

The following day, Narada deliberately left behind his veena and again went back to pick it up. Once again, he found the servants washing his seat. He asked them again. They were reluctant to answer. However, when Narada insisted, they told him that the Gods had asked them to wash his seat because he was impure. Narada asked them, why did the Gods consider him impure? They said it was because he had no Guru.  

Aggrieved by this, Narada rushed to Lord Vishnu. “What’s going on? Why have I suddenly become impure? Why do I need a Guru? Are you not my Guru?” 
Vishnu said, “No, I am your grandfather, not a Guru.” 
“Why do I need a Guru?” he protested. 
“Because if you don’t have a Guru, you will go to hell.” 
“Oh! Then who is my Guru?” 
“Well, he lives on earth. Tomorrow, at 4 AM, go down to earth and the first man you see will be your Guru. Accept him as your spiritual mentor.” 

Narada went down as directed and the first person he saw was a man with a leather kamandalu.

From all appearances, he did not seem impressive enough to be taken as a Guru; but Narada recalled Vishnu’s words and bowed down at his feet. ‘Accept me as your disciple,’ he said. The gentleman at person first refused to accept Narada, but when he coaxed, the gentleman said, ‘Alright, I take you as my disciple.’ Narada happily worshipped him.  
“What can I do for you?” the Guru asked.  
“Teach me how to escape hell,’ he said.  
The Guru taught him a trick. 
When he went back to the heaven, he met Lord Vishnu and exchanged pleasantries. “How was it with the Guru?” “Oh, that was superb,” he said. But Narada did not reveal any more than that. Then, as the conversation proceeded, he asked Lord Vishnu:  
“You know hell, right?” 
“Of course, yes, I created it.” 
“Could you draw it for me?” 
Vishnu gladly drew a diagram of hell on the sands below using a stick. 
As soon as it was ready, Narada jumped into it and stretched out.  
What are you doing? Why are you lying down there?’ he asked. 
Narada said he was experiencing hell by lying down on the diagram because this is also a hell created by Vishnu. Having gone through it here, he no longer needed to experience the other hell. 
Vishnu smiled and said, “Now you know how important it is to have a Guru, a mentor!” 
In this tale the Guru creates a notional hell in the place of real hell. In another extremely familiar tale of competition between Shiva’s sons, we find that after ambitiously circling the earth thrice, Kartikeya returns to find Lord Ganesha already home. Lord Ganesha has won the race, but instead of the earth, he has circled around Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati who are his idea of the world.  

Like replacing real hell with a picture of hell in sand for Narada, real world is replaced by mother and father for Ganesha. These are no small tricks. Nor are these conspiracies. They seem to suggest that world as it appears to us, and not just the world but also the abodes hereafter, such as the heaven and hell, are matters of perception. There is always a blue print of sorts, a miniature template, a soft copy, a yantra that can provide us the experience of the larger material reality that lies outside.  

The shastras repeatedly tell us that the reality is within. But we cannot live within. We cannot live our life from within because we don’t know how the within is connected with the without, we don’t know which process close to us will lead to, connect with and attract in entirety, the macrocosmic reality. We don’t have the reflectors, nuclear reactors and solar discs for everything. A Guru reveals this to us not just intellectually but also physically. The Guru’s job has tremendous implications especially when we realise that the trials and tribulations that we are to experience in life; in fact the whole living experience, can be transformed into an inner experience, and like Narada, who no longer needed to go to the material hell, we no longer need to go through several things, having gone through them internally. This explains how praarabddha, the inexorable destiny, can be annulled with Guru’s grace. The statement in tale viz. ‘if you don’t have a Guru you will go to hell’ (read go through hell as well) and ‘if you have a Guru, you don’t have to go to hell’ (read go through hell as well) is not a hyperbole, it is a profound eye-opener. We get this in Guru Gita (verse 61) as well. Munibhih Pannagairvapi Surairva Shaapito Yadi Kalamrityu-Bhayaat Vapi Guru Rakshati Parvati. Oh Parvati, Sri Guru protects a disciple even if he is cursed by the Munis, Pannagas and by Gods or even if he is about to be struck down to death by Kaal. 

From Narada and Ganesh, both sources of unparalleled wisdom, we learn that a Guru takes us to the central point, the bindu of the yantra of the world and connects us with the macrocosmic reality. The world is nothing but geometry, things radiating concentrically from the centre of one’s Self; triangles, circles, hexagons, octagons, and symbolic lotus petals which make for the physical world – the landscapes, the flora and fauna and the nature. The things that would have led Narada to hell would be things that start with Narada in the first place. If a Guru could take him by the hand and lead him in the reverse direction towards the centre of his Self, there would be no need of a malefic movement for him. The story teaches us that. 

Simple things that a Guru teaches with his words and through what he makes us do have far-reaching consequences in abstracting the physical world and the worldly experience; it yogically both sublimates and divinises the otherwise horrific experience of our existence. 
If all hell has let loose, let us not lose our heart for our Guru has let loose neutralising wisdom which we can access just by following him.  

Let us lie down in the comfort of the notional hell, secure within Guru’s grace and lodged in God’s creation, and sing the glory of our Gurus a million and a billion times, hailing him with the words Jai Guru. 


Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda) 
Editor, The Mother.