"Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world". -- Joseph Campbell













PRABUDDHA BHARATAGlimpses of Holy Lifes| Sadhu Kishandas  






Glimpses of Holy Lives



Sadhu Kishandas



(Continued from the previous issue)



     In the early stages of his spiritual life Kishandasji was strict about his food habits. He used to say: I was born in a brahmin family and then I became a Vaishnava sadhu. So I was quite puritanical, especially with regard to food. Whenever I had to prepare my meals outside, I would make a small cloth enclosure and cook the food inside. And if anybodys eyes fell on the food at that time, I would consider the meal defiled and would not eat it. So fanatical I was. I used to think that faithfulness to custom was the first step in religious life. I practised japa too, but it was seldom deep. Outer observances were all-important to me. But now I see that Narayana is everything and dont pay much attention to outer things. If I still observe certain things, it is due to habit; but they lack the earlier seriousness. Now I can eat with everybody. I dont feel any differentiation - I see everybody is Narayana, everything is pure.


     That Kishandasji had indeed reached the state he was talking about Mahendranath was to see shortly.




     Seeing God Everywhere




     Mahendranath had gone to witness the chariot festival of Gyangudri with some other devotees. Since the place had not had any rains until then, the air soon became very dusty. Feeling uncomfortable, Mahendranath and his friends went to the river and sat down on the steps of a ghat. There they spread a large sheet of paper on the ground to serve as a plate to hold the savouries they had brought.


     As they sat chatting and enjoying themselves, Kishandasji joined them. But Mahendranath did not offer him the delicacies for fear of a group of five or six Ramayat sadhus who were sitting some distance away. Kishandasji said, What is this! Wont you people give me anything to eat? Saying so, he took a handful of the spicy fare and began munching. Look, sir, they said, we would like to let you know we have been eating from this, so it is defiled. Moreover, you see those Ramayat sadhus over there? Kishandasji laughed and said, So what? Everything is Narayanas prasad. If you can eat it, why cant I? But the Vaishnavas will not agree with me, because they are hidebound by rules and conventions. If the mind is given to Narayana, it is no more attached to things like customs and traditions.


     Not that Kishandasji threw everything to the winds. On another occasion, speaking about fasting on Ekadashi days, he said, I know these things are not important, but I will continue to observe them as long as I can.




     Beyond Purity and Impurity




     In order to test whether Kishandasji had really transcended all sense of distinction, Mahendranath one day asked him: Kishanji, you know we are Bengalis, worshippers of Shakti. If we are not eating non-vegetarian food, it is just because we are living in Vrindaban and we dont want to violate the sanctity of the place. But back in Bengal we are used to eating fish and meat. Ever since coming here I have not tasted either. Would it be possible for you to procure non-vegetarian food for me? Why not, sir! exclaimed Kishandasji enthusiastically. Of course I can get meat for you. But where will you get the money? asked Mahendranath. Why, I will go from door to door and beg from people. I will tell them I want to serve somebody with non-vegetarian food and they can contribute as much as they can. Then I will buy some meat, cook it with my own hands and serve you, Kishandasji replied calmly. His answer caught Mahendranath by surprise: You mean to say you are going to tell people you want money for meat - being a Vaishnava - and a monk! They will hate you for that. I dont think so. I am not eating the meat myself, I am only serving somebody else with non-vegetarian food. So why would they hate me? Oh, that means you are going to take my name in order to collect the money. Not at all. Why should I do that? Good. You said you are going to cook with your own hands. I hope you wont find that repulsive. Kishandasji laughed: Nothing of the sort. It is you who are going to eat, so why should it be repulsive to me? On the contrary, I will prepare the dish with all care. Dont worry about me.


     Kishandasjis readiness and his boylike simplicity made Mahendranath very happy. He did not need to test the saint any more. He said, Kishanji, your sweet words have satisfied my desire. But you know what Sri Ramakrishna said about these things? Every holy place has its own peculiar atmosphere, and it is not good to do anything that goes against it. That is why, as I said before, I dont eat fish and meat while I am in Vrindaban. It is evident from your words that fastidiousness about small matters has left you entirely, and that you have no hesitation in serving others.




     Work and Worship, Work Is Worship




     In fact, Kishandasji actively participated in the birth anniversary celebrations of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda that were celebrated at the Sevashrama every year. He was usually entrusted with cooking the food that was to be offered to Sri Ramakrishna - which he did with great devotion. This apart, whenever there was need he would also work hard and wholeheartedly in the kitchen, as if he belonged there.


     At the same time, Kishandasji kept up his regular spiritual practices, never relaxing his effort. Doing japa whenever he had time had become a habit with him and often he would meditate until very late in the night.


     As a result of this combination of devotional exercises and service, his mind had attained great serenity. He was totally free from any kind of narrowness or fanaticism, and his heart overflowed with a feeling of love for all beings. It is rare to find such a complete transformation among austere Vaishnavas, and so Kishandasji became an object of reverence. Let alone his speech and actions, it was obvious from his very looks that he was experiencing inner peace and happiness. Kishandasji was always immersed in an ocean of joy.




     Kishandasjis Antecedents




     Kishandasji was a very humble person by nature. He would never sit on the same level with others, always preferring to sit on the floor, and he would address others with a respectful sir.


     But one day, in the course of conversation, Kishandasji revealed certain facts to Mahendranath about his pre-monastic life: Sir, I was born in a family of royal priests, priests to the maharaja of Jaipur. The royal family is very large, each branch having its own priest, and we were priests of one branch. They owned land just a little distance from Jaipur and our family was settled there.


     I was married at a very young age, soon after my sacred-thread ceremony, so I have not had much of an education. Soon after my marriage, I began to lose interest in family affairs. At this time a group of wandering sadhus came to our village and spent a few days there. I would spend my time with them and serve them. And when they left our village, I too left with them. From then onwards I have been living as a wandering sadhu.




(To be continued)



International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015








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