(Contd. from previous issue)
- Nagendra Prasadam
In Amma’s kitchen there was a broken ceramic jar one foot high. One piece in the bottom is separated. It can be taken out and replaced once again. There was a snake-pit around it. I had a feeling that there was a snake inside the jar.
The way Amma draped her saree was unusual. Normally pleats are gathered together and tucked in at the waist. But Amma used to roll them up and tuck them in such a way that they would be outside and it would bulge out. It used to make me suspect that there was a snake there. I brought this matter up with Amma. “My child! Does anyone wear a serpent like a belt? See” saying this she would undo the pleats. Quickly she would put the veil of Maya over me.
One night at about 9’0 clock she went into a deep trance. More than an hour-and-a-half passed. We were worried as to whether Amma would return to the normal world or she would go up never to return. She was sitting in a lotus posture. We tried to shake her and make her talk. Prabhavathi and Hyma started weeping. A while later Amma came back to normalcy. Then she described in detail her inward journey, the inner centers of nerves, the nerve knots (Grandhis), the activities that take place at these centers, about blood, flesh etc. Hyma and Prabhavathi gave aarthi to Amma. Amma’s legs became stiff. I started massaging them gently and tried to move them. Amma asked me to put lighted camphor into the jar. I was hesitating as I thought that there was a snake inside. Amma said, “Nothing will happen. Go and put the camphor into the jar.” Amma gave the order, I took the burning camphor and put it in the jar. At that time the loose piece of the jar at the bottom was seen detached. Smoke filled the jar and there was bright incandescent light from the bottom to the top of the jar, like the light that emanates from a petromax light. Amma said, “Bring one empty vessel and keep it near the jar.” I did so. Then I sat with her and massaged her feet. A quarter of an hour later she asked me to bring the vessel back. The vessel was filled with stuff like ‘panchamrutham’ or milk pudding. She asked me to take a spoon and serve everyone. It was sweet, maybe it was ambrosia. Once Amma said, “What comes from the fangs of a snake is poison and what comes out its throat is ambrosia.”
The dazzling light, the empty vessel getting filled with milk pudding (Payasam) made me think that it was ‘prasadam’ from Nagendra. But Amma did not say anything to strengthen my view.
- Concentration on Breathing
Amma used to cook food in the inner side of the threshold of the kitchen and I would sit outside the threshold. She used to talk about worldly matters, spiritual matters and many other things under the Sun. Occasionally I would go out, to smoke a cigarette and come back. One day Amma said, “My dear! I know that you smoke even if you don’t mention, when you speak I get the smell. Why do you have to go away? You can sit here and smoke as well.” Then the following dialogue ensued.
Amma Dear! Can you let the smoke out from your nostrils? Myself I can (I did it two three times) Amma: What did you understand from this?
Myself: Very simple, breath from the mouth and let it out from the nose.
Amma: No, not so simple. How does the smoke emerge? It is not coming by itself. The smoke is coming out with the air that you breathed in earlier. You never thought of the air that brings the smoke. For example there are tuberoses (Punnaga flowers) . They have wonderful fragrance. It means the air is carrying the fragrance. Similarly, if there is no air you cannot let the smoke out of the nostrils. So air is the basis/support. We are forgetting this fact. You have to observe the breath dear! How does it come? How does it go?
Amma advised some people to observe their breathing and to keep an eye on it. I considered this as Amma’s initiation. 3. Trials and Tribulations
Once I said to Amma “Everyone asks you to bless them with comfort and joy. I don’t see anybody asking you for difficulties. You give me difficulties”. I made this statement very casually and I had no specific intention.
Amma “Dear! When everyone asks me for comforts do you mean to say that I am granting everyone that boon? Fine, I am the giver. Everyone wants comfort and positive results. Nobody wants trouble. So they are left behind. You talk as if I carry a
basket full of difficulties and pleasures and do business with it. The difficulties get left behind as there are no takers. So you want to help me by asking for difficulties. Isn’t it so? What do you think? What is the exact motive?” Myself:It is not that at all. They ask for pleasurable experiences, so let me ask for the opposite viz. difficulties. That is all.
Before this conversation took place, long ago i.e. in 1951 when I worked in Guntur Tobacco Limited I narrated an incident to Amma. A car would come and pick me up at 8 am from my home to the office every day. This arrangement was felt to be good for some time. Then the thought of the car coming to collect me was frightening. Some work at home, some discomfort of the body- whatever be the condition one had to go to work- all these thoughts disturb me. At one point of time traveling by car was a pleasure. But later it became a pain, wishing that the car would not come.
With this background in mind Amma analyzed the concept of pain and pleasure. “What is pleasure? What is pain? What you do not like is painful. Therefore, there is no exact definition for pain or even pleasure. Don’t you yourself say, dear! that what appears to give pleasure at one time becomes pain at the other and vice versa?”.
Before this dialogue took place brother Ramakrishna read out an interesting anecdote from a volume published by the Ramakrishna Mission. I shall briefly narrate the story. Two people were performing penance. God appeared before one of them and said “Ask for the boon you want” so this man said, “Double of what the other man asks for”. The second individual said “Make me blind in one eye so that the first one will lose both his eyes”.
With this background in mind Amma revealed the truth that all qualities/things exist as pairs “My dear! What you ask for depends on what others ask for, is it not so? Because they ask for pleasant things you ask for, suffering. So if they ask for suffering you will ask for the opposite. But it should not be so. Actually I neither grant pleasure nor pain to anyone. These are pairs of opposites and so exist together. You yourself narrated the experience of your car trip. When there is light there is darkness. If winter comes can spring be far behind?”
The next day I said to Amma “Amma! What you said is true. Hiranyakashipu laid down many conditions to escape death. But the very cause of his death is hidden in the condition he laid down. Same is the case with Bhasmasura. So what you said is true and my concept is wrong”.
Here a small clarification is necessary. When we wish for pleasures then there is pain also beside it. Pain and pleasure are inseparable. It is a pair, like the twins; they are together.
Hiranyakashipu “I cannot be killed either in air, or in dust, or in fire, or in water, or in the sky, or on earth, in any of the directions viz. East, West, North, South, in any corner, neither in the night nor during the day, neither in darkness nor in light, neither by demons nor by gods, neither by animals nor by human beings, nor by serpents, nor by weapons nor by missiles”. Brahma agreed to all these conditions and granted him the boon. Amma said “Yes these are the conditions which he laid down for not getting killed. But along with those mentioned what he did not ask for was implied. Hiranyakashipu said “Neither during the day nor during the night, but he did not mention the twilight hour. He said neither inside nor outside but he did not mention the threshold. Neither the sky nor the earth, he said and he was placed on the lap of Vishnu. No weapons, no missiles but the nails were not mentioned. Therefore what is implied should be understood. Whatever you wish for alone will be granted. This one cannot be taken for granted”.
“You ask for pleasure but the pain comes along, whether you ask for it or not. It is a part of the deal”. This is the hidden aspect inherent in every truth. Another example is that of Bhasmasura. His wish was that the person, let him be anyone, on whose head he places his hand would turn to dust and ashes. But he never asked that he should be exempted and this is a part of his boon.
Usually when we worship God and take some vows we wish for certain things. When our wish is fulfilled we say that God has been kind to us or Amma has blessed us. But certain things come along unasked for. When the drama ends happily it is called a comedy and when it ends in death and sorrow it is called a tragedy. But life is a tragi-comedy, a fusion of comic and tragic elements. So in 1957 I wrote a song “Amma grant me what I did not ask for”. The course of destiny is powerful. Actually asking Amma for anything is wrong. What can you ask Amma when she is the embodiment of generosity, who watches over and grants us our needs!!
– (To be Continued…)