The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes Efficacy of the Holy Ash (Concluded) which is chapter 17 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the seventeenth chapter of the Brahmottara-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 17 - Efficacy of the Holy Ash (Concluded)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The sages said:

1-2. Indeed a speedy achievement of (spiritual) power is possible to men properly instructed by preceptors who are conversant with the principles of the Vedas and Vedāṅgas and who are expounders of Brahman. But what type of achievement of power is possible to men who are instructed by preceptors more or less similar to the other men but great experts in ethics?

Sūta said:

3. Faith alone is highly beneficial in the case of all pious acts. It is only through faith that the achievement of power is possible by men in both the worlds.

4. If one worships with faith, even a stone yields good results. Even a fool adored devoutly becomes a preceptor bestowing great power.

5. A Mantra recited with faith may yield good results even if it be meaningless and absurd. A Deva faithfully adored, yields fruits even to a mean one.

6. If performed without faith, a worship, monetary gift, sacrifice, penance, vow, everything becomes futile like the (sprouting of) flower in a barren tree.

7. A man dogged by suspicions everywhere, a man devoid of faith, a man excessively unsteady, fails to attain the highest good. He is never released from worldly existence.

8. The result (of an action) conforms to one’s own attitude towards Mantras, holy spots, Brāhmaṇas, Devas, astrologers, medicines and preceptor.

9. Therefore the universe is dominated by feelings or attitudes; merit and sin follow one’s feelings. One devoid of feeling will never incur sin or merit.

10. In this connection a wonderful narrative is presented, whereby want of faith in all men is removed immediately.

11. The king of Pāñcāla had a son well-known as Siṃhaketu. He was endowed with all good qualities and he was always interested in the duties and obligations of a Kṣatriya.

12. Once that mighty prince went to a forest containing many animals for the purpose of hunting. He had been accompanied by some servants too.

13. In the course of hunting his servant, a certain Śabara happened to see a dilapidated temple in ruins.

14. There he saw a fine, small, subtle Śivaliṅga fallen on the rough ground with the pedestal broken. The Liṅga appeared to be the embodiment of his luck.

15. Urged by his previous Karmas, he quickly collected it and showed it to the intelligent prince.

16-17. “O my lord, see this charming Liṅga found by me here. I shall worship it with respect in a manner befitting my financial capacity. Tell me the procedure for its worship, as Lord Maheśvara becomes (equally) pleased when adored by persons conversant or not conversant with Mantras.”

18. On being asked thus by the Niṣāda, the prince who was an expert in playing jokes laughingly replied to him:

19-23. “One should always perform the rite of ablution with fresh water in accordance with the Saṃkalpa (a solemn vow to perform the worship). Tlie (idol) should be placed in a pure seat and worshipped with fresh and auspicious sweet scents and raw rice grains, wild flowers and leaves, incense and lamps. At the outset ash from funeral pyre should be offered as present. A wise man should offer as Naivedya (food offering) cooked food usually partaken of by himself. He should offer once more incense, lights etc. Dances, instrumental music, songs etc. must be offered duly. After bowing down duly the wise devotee should make use of the Prasāda (gift or favour given in return). This is the common procedure of the adoration of Śiva spoken to you. Śaṅkara becomes immediately propitiated with the offerings of the ash from funeral pyre.”

Sūta said:

24. Although he had been thus instructed by his master more jokingly (than seriously), that Śabara named Caṇḍaka received his words with (bowed) head.

25. He went back to his abode and worshipped Lord Maheśvara in the form of a Liṅga making daily offerings of ash from funeral pyre.

26. Whatever object was dear to him that as well as sweet scents, flowers, raw rice grains etc., he offered to Śaṃbhu first and then made use of it himself.

27. Thus he devoutly worshipped Maheśvara along with his wife. The Śabara thus happily spent a few years.

28. Once the excellent Śabara began his adoration of Śiva but did not find any trace of the ash from funeral pyre, though he had filled the pot with it.

29. He quickly set off and wandered far and near all round searching for it. He could not get the ash from a funeral pyre. Utterly weary, he returned home.

30-32. Thereafter the Śabara called his wife and spoke these words: “I could not get the ash from the funeral pyre. What shall I do? O my beloved one, tell me.

As a result of my sin there has occurred a hindrance to my worship of Śiva today. I do not desire to live for even a moment without performing the worship.

I do not see any way out as the requisite thing for the worship is wanting. Nor should the instruction of the preceptor, which gives all objects of desire, be transgressed.”

33-34. On seeing her husband bewildered and distressed, the Śabara woman replied: “Do not be afraid. I shall tell you the way out. I shall set fire to this abode that has grown for a long time and enter the fire. The ash from the funeral pyre can be obtained then.”

Śabara said:

35. This body is the highest means to acquire Dharma, Artha, Kāma and Mokṣa. Why do you abandon that body in its fresh youth that is intended for your happiness?

36. As yet you do not have even a child. You have not enjoyed worldly pleasures in full. How then do you wish to burn away this body worthy of all enjoyments?

Śabarī said:

37. The fulfilment of birth and life consists in that one should, of one’s own accord, cast off one’s own life for the sake of others or for Śiva’s sake.

38. What austere penance has been performed by me formerly? What has been given as religious gift by me? What special worship of Śaṃbhu has been performed by me in the course of hundreds of my previous birṃs?

39. What a (great) merit will accrue to my father and what a satisfaction will occur to my mother, if for the sake of Śiva I throw this body in the blazing fire!

40. On seeing her unflinching determination and devotion to Śaṅkara, the Śabara of firm resolve accepted it saying “so be it”.

41. She approached her husband after taking bath and adorning herself and remaining pure in mind and body, she set fire to the house and circumambulated that fire devoutly.

42. After making obeisance to her preceptor and meditating on Śadāśiva in her heart, she faced the fire and sang thus with palms joined in reverence:

Śabarī said:

43. O Lord, let my sense-organs be flowers unto you; let this body be the Agallochum incense; the heart, the lamp; the vital breaths, the requisite Havis offerings; the organs of action, the raw rice grains unto you. Let this soul attain now the benefit of the adoration.

44. I do not wish for the possession of all the riches, nor the permanent heavenly world, nor the region of the Creator. If I am to be reborn, let me be in everyone of those births the humming bee hovering over the nectar sparkling in the lotus of your feet.

45. O Lord, let there be more than a hundred births of mine, but let not Māyā, the cause of ignorance, enter my mind. Not even for half a second should my heart move away from your lotus-like feet. Obeisance to you, O Lord.

46. After propitiating the Lord of Devas thus, the Śabarī of firm resolve, entered the blazing fire and was reduced to ash in a moment.

47. That Śabara scrupulously collected the ash and performed the worship of Śiva with great concentration very near the burnt house.

48. At the end of the worship he recollected the fact that everyday his beloved wife used to approach him with humility and palms joined in reverence in order to receive the Prasāda.

49. The moment she was remembered, he saw that she had already come and stood behind him with all her usual limbs. She shed pure smiles and was humble with devotion.

50-53. On seeing his wife standing with palms joined in reverence as before, and the house that had been reduced to ash standing firm as before, the Śabara was struck with wonder.

He thought: ‘Fire burns with all its brilliance. The sun burns with the rays. King burns with punishment. Brāhmaṇa burns with his mind. Is this my dream? Or is it Māyā, a form of illusion?’ He then asked her: “You had been reduced to ash in the fire. How have you come back? How is it that the house that was burnt down is restored to its original form?”

Śabarī said:

54-56. When I set fire to the house and entered the fire, I ceased to know myself. Nor did I see the fire. I did not feel any heat around me as though I had entered water. It was as though I went to sleep for half a moment and woke up in a trice. Then I saw that the house had not been burned. It stands erect. Now that the worship is concluded, I have come to receive the Prasāda.

57. While the couple were ṃus talking to each other lovingly, a miraculous divine aerial chariot appeared before them.

58. Catching hold of the Niṣāda couple by their hands even as their bodies remained as before, four followers of Īśa went ahead and made them climb into that aerial chariot shining like a hundred moons.

59. When the hands of the messengers of Śiva touched it, the body of the Niṣāda and his wife assumed the same form as that of the messengers.

60. Hence there should be faith in all meritorious rites. Even the mean Śabara attained the goal of Yogins due to his faith.

61. Of what avail is a birth that may be the most excellent one of all castes? Of what use is the learning that discusses all scriptural texts? Which man is more blessed in all the three world than one in whose mind there is devotion to the great Lord?

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