Once upon a time, not very long ago, on the banks of the river Sarayu there lived a sage. After many years of penance- he attained sage hood and then he decided to spend the rest of his life imparting the knowledge he had received to the public with a selfless aim of working for the betterment of mankind. He lived in his hermitage with his disciples’ giving discourses, conducting Satasangas / Divine discussions and Dhyana/Meditation sessions. Word of his wisdom soon spread far and wide and villagers from all quarters thronged to his ashram to seek his counsel on a range of worldly and spiritual matters.
One day, a stranger came to the hermitage to seek the blessings of the sage. The sage looked at the stranger and asked him: “tell me son, what is your problem? By Shiva’s grace I shall solve it”
The stranger just smiled, “Wise sage. By the Mahadev’s grace I have no problems. I have come to pay my respects to you. Just bless me!”
The sage laughed approvingly: “Ayushman Bhav putra. Santosh eva purushasya param nidhanam (May you live a long life, Son. Contentment is the greatest wealth of man! ”)
The stranger bowed and said: “O Sage! The mystic also said your same words. ”
The sage replied: “Mystic, Who?”
The stranger said: “Before coming to your village, I had lost my way and happened to visit the wise mystic living on the other side of the Sarayu river. He directed me to your hermitage and he said the very same words – “Santosha eva purushasya param nidhanam”. I thought he was from your lineage only. His face too radiated the same warmth.”
The sage spoke: “Maybe it’s no coincidence that he uttered the same words. Tomorrow, on the auspicious day of Mahashivratri, I shall visit him. My disciples will be busy making arrangements in the village and I think I could take some time out to check on who this- so called mystic is.”
The stranger left and the sage had a disturbed meditation session. He was a little excited as well as curious about the mystic.
The sage wondered: “Who could he be?” The thought of meeting someone with mystic powers both fascinated and troubled him. On one side it sparked his curiosity while another side inside him, dismissed the very thought of the existence of a mystic with special powers living so near to him. He finally concluded, – ” He must be a conman trying to cheat innocent people in the name of spirituality. I hope he is worth all the trouble I will have to take to cross the river”.
He decided that it would be best if he would enquire with the local boatman about him before crossing the river. The next day after completing his daily kriyas, he left his hermitage to see the mystic. He enquired with the boatman if he had heard about the mystic who lived alone on the other side of the river.
The boatman’s reply made him all the more curious. “O Sage, I only know of a woodcutter who lives all alone by the river banks. People say he is very wise but I have not met him in person anytime. But I can say one thing – that woodcutter cooks excellent Mahseer! The woodcutter once offered his food to a fellow boatman when he went there and my friend kept on praising the delicious taste of the fish cooked by him.”
The sage thought: “He doesn’t really sound like a Yogi to me. Rather he seems to be a complete Bhogi. He eats Fried Fish! I think I’ll be able to teach him a thing or two about how the spiritual practice should be -once I meet him. Yes! Definitely I need to meet him now”.
So, saying the sage ordered the boatman to take him to see the woodcutter/mystic – whoever that man was!
After crossing the river, the sage asked the boatman to wait for him and walked towards the mystic’s hut. As he neared the hut, he smelt the repulsive aroma of fish being fried.
A clean-shaven man in his early thirties greeted the sage: “O Wise Sage! It is my good fortune that you have visited my simple residence.”
After getting up and doing a pranam, he walked towards the sage with a plate of fish in his hand: “You are just in time for lunch. Please accept this humble offering of fish.”
This incited the sage very much, “How dare you offer fish to a Gyani/wise person like me? I came here thinking I would meet a yogi and I get insulted by being asked to eat fish by a woodcutter! This is preposterous. May Shiva have mercy on you!”
The young man replied: “Forgive me O wise sage. I may have erred. I am spiritual too but I meant no insult. This is the best thing in my house at the moment and I wished to offer you the best of what I had with me.”
The angry sage bellowed: “Shame on you if you call yourself a Spiritual person and are yet trapped by the desire to eat fish! Do you do any of the everyday kriyas, japa etc that a spiritual man ought to do?”
The young man looked downwards and meekly replied: “No Wise One. I am unable to find time to do all the kriyas you mentioned as I have to catch the fish, cut wood and do the daily chores every day. My work is my worship. However, I try to do a japa of this Shiva mantra that I have learnt during childhood from a guruji– Aum Vishwaya Vashi.”
The sage mocked him: “And who taught you this brilliant mantra?”
The young man said with a happy smile: “When I was 5 years old, an old Rishi from the shaivic Parampara touched my head and whispered it in my ear and told me to remember it always. I don’t know his name and I never saw his face again but I have been chanting this mantra ever since.”
The sage asked the young man- ” Are you sure he was from the shaivic parampara?”
The young man replied- ” Yes. I am sure. He wore a dress much similar to yourself and often repeated shiva’s name while speaking.”
The sage hit his palm onto his forehead and screamed: “Such Impudence! You fool, don’t you even know that you have been wasting your life chanting the mantra wrongly? It is Aum Shivaya Vashi and not Aum Vishwaya Vashi”
The young man replied puzzled: “O Wise sage thank you so much for showing me my ignorance. Please forgive me. It is indeed my great fortune that you came here. Pranams for showing me the right way of chanting.”
The sage grumbled: “You may have got benefited by my visit here but I did not! Chant this mantra right for the rest of your years to undo the wrongs you have done by wrong chanting and save yourself from Shiva’s wrath. If you are fortunate, you shall see the benefits in this birth itself. God Bless you” and stormed off to the boatman.
To the boatman, the sage said: “Let’s go now. I have already spent more than enough time here!”
Just after the boatman began rowing his boat and he was hardly a few feet off the shore, the sage heard the young man’s voice: “Wise sage! Please wait. I forgot the right mantra. Please repeat it once more for me”
Clearly perturbed, the sage turned angrily: “I will only tell you once more. It is Aum —-” and the sage let out a gasp.
The sage could not say another word as he began to tremble with fear and guilt. The young man’s face radiated a divine light and he was hovering 10 cms above the ground. With a serene smile, He completed the words of the sage in a deep and ethereal voice- “Om Shivaya Vashi”.
The sage had only heard of the udana siddhi that allowed siddha yogis/ accomplished sages to levitate above the ground and now he was blessed to witness it first-hand. He only bent as low as his boat would allow him to and firmly closed his eyes in shame. As he closed his eyes, he remembered how over three decades ago, his guru had fondly touched his head and told him – ” Son, you will progress and move so ahead in your sadhana/ spiritual path that on a Mahashivaratri, when you are ready, the Mahadev himself shall come to teach you.”
Rivulets of tears began flowing from his eyes. The sage looked up at the luminous figure before him and cried out in a cracked voice- “Kshamyataam Shambhoh! Kshamyataam Guruvar”. “Please forgive me O Shambhu, please forgive me O Guru!”