A conversation with a messenger…

Read the previous part here…

Well, we have understood how to overcome tamas, and rajas. Next is sattva. But wait – sattva is a good guna, so why should we work on overcoming sattva? What form does Devi take in the next (and final) carita? Who does she fight with?

Mala has been removed, Vikshepa has also been taken care of. What remains?

Ajnana or ignorance is an opposing power subtler than its effects in the form of Mala and Vikshepa. Distraction and direct sensual desires are the outer expressions of a subtle ignorance of Truth – Avidya or Ajnana. Why do we desire things? Because, we do not know the nature of Truth.

Swami Krishnananda

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa told the story of the tigress and the herd of goats.  Once a tigress attacked a herd of goats.  A hunter saw her from a distance and killed her. The tigress was pregnant and gave birth to a cub as she died. This cub was thus left in the company of the goats. They named him Aja (the one who is a goat).

At first it was nursed by the goats, and later on, as it grew bigger, it began to eat grass and bleat like the goats. Gradually, the cub became a big tiger; but still it ate grass and bleated. When attacked by other animals,  it would run away, just like the ‘other’ goats. 

One day a fierce-looking tiger named Araṇyanṛpati (the king of the forest) attacked the herd. It was surprised to see a tiger in the herd eating grass and running away with the goats when attacked. Determined to correct this anomaly, Araṇyanṛpati left the goats alone and caught hold of the grass-eating tiger, which began to bleat and tried to run away. 

But Araṇyanṛpati did not relent. He dragged Aja to the water and said: ‘Now look at your face in the water.  You see, you have the face of a tiger; it is exactly like mine.’ Next he pressed a piece of meat into its mouth. At first the grass-eating tiger refused to eat the meat. Then it got the taste of the meat and relished it. Araṇyanṛpati said to Aja ‘What a disgrace! You lived with goats and ate grass like them!’ And Aja was really ashamed of himself.

“Now you see there is no difference between you and me.  Come along and follow me into the forest.'” So there can be no fear if the guru’s grace descends on you.  He will let you know who you are and what your real nature is. To see one’s face rightly is to know one’s real Self.” 

Third Charita – The slaying of Śumba and Niśumba

And there was a big problem once again…

Two arrogant asuras, named Śumba and Niśumba, seized the power of the devas, who found themselves dispossessed once again. Not just that, even their share in ritualistic sacrifices conducted on earth was taken away by these demons. Surya, Agni, Kubera, Yama and Varuna found themselves without a home, once again.

The Devi had promised the devas that she would help them in times of distress, and so the devas travelled to the Himalayas, to invoke her. Thus was composed the Aparajita Stuti.

As the devas were engaged in the praise of the Aparajita Devi, Parvati appeared to them. She had come down to the Ganga to take a holy bath. “Whom are you praising this way?” she asked them. An auspicious form then emerged from her own body, and replied “This stuti is an appeal to me, to save the devas from Śumba and Niśumba.” The form was Ambika, and also Kauśiki, since she had come forth from the body (kośa) of Parvati. As soon as she emerged, Parvati became darker and was called Kālīkā, or Devi Kālī.

Chanda and Munda, two messengers of Śumba and Niśumba, witnessed the scene, and saw the charming form of Ambika. They rushed to the palace and told Śumba of this lady of unparalleled beauty, residing in the Himalayas. “We have not seen anyone like her in these three worlds!”, they told him.

“You possess all the wealth in the Universe, all the power, everything that is of value. Why then, has this beautiful lady, a jewel among women, not been possessed by you?”

On hearing this, Śumba and Niśumba sent Sugriva, as their messenger to the Devi. “Go and speak to her on my behalf in a way that she will be delighted and come to me.”

“Oh Devi, Śumba is the Lord of the three worlds, and I am his messenger, sent by him”, said Sugriva, as he stood before the Devi. “This is what he wants to say to you. All the three worlds are mine and the devas are obedient to me. We look upon you, O Devi, as the jewel of womankind in the world. Come to us, for we take pleasure in all the finest things. Choose me, or my powerful younger brother Niśumba. You are truly a jewel, and by accepting me, you will get wealth and power beyond compare. Think this over, and become my wife. Why wait?”

The Devi looked at him and smiled. “You have spoken the truth, Śumba is indeed the Lord of the three worlds, and so is Niśumba. But I cannot falsify a promise that I made to myself, even though it was made in immaturity.

I had promised myself that he alone who conquers me in battle, vanquishes my pride and is a match to my strength, will be my husband. So let Śumba, or Niśumba, come here, defeat me and easily win my hand in marriage. Why wait?”

Sugriva was taken aback. “You are arrogant”, he told he Devi, “When no deva dare stand in front of Śumba and Niśumba, what’s there to speak of a woman? Heed my words, and go to them yourself. Don’t make it in such a way that you are taken there forcibly, dragged by your hair!”

The Devi smiled again. “Yes, it is true. They are very strong. But what can I do since I took that ill-considered vow, even though it was long ago? Go back and tell them what I said, and let them do what they think is proper in this situation.”

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