Theosophical Forum, March, 1941
ACCORDING to one of the numerous traditions handed down to posterity in Hindusthan, there used to live in some remote past a great Rishi named Mahadeva and his wife Parvati. They had no fixed home but used to go about the country - here today and there tomorrow. Wherever they went and whomsoever they used to come in contact with their talk had to be on nothing but the lotus and the waters out of which it grows, the great purpose of the life of man, the real nature of the world in which he lives, his relation to the universe, and other fundamental verities of `Mother Nature.' He was one of the great many esoteric teachers that have trod and blessed the soil of ancient Hindusthan; and Parvati, who is reputed to be his wife among the exoteric minds of modern India, was in reality (as far as the humble writer thinks) his disciple, just like the `Gopis' of Krishna.
She always used to ask questions of him, and out of her sympathy and kindliness always wanted him to heal the sick and console the broken-hearted who came their way; and, what is more, if Mahadeva for one reason or another had sometimes not complied with her kind wish, she used to insist upon his helping them. In fact she would decline to go any farther upon their journey before seeing that needy humanity was relieved. Because she would persist and have her own way in such matters, he used to call her `bauri,' meaning mad girl, or silly (it is a pet term of caution used by kind superiors for their inexperienced juniors in India).
Whenever Parvati requested her Mahadeva while going along: "Come to the relief, the rescue, of these people in agony, I pray, O great dispeller of pains," he often used to say: "O bauri! the world is replete with individual existences; some are smiling and some
crying under their karmic whip. Let us go our way! O my co-sojourner, suffering is intended to open the inner eye, and the broken hearts often change their points to the right hand path if they be not interfered with. Granted that it is not noble to ignore others' woes, but it is not always wise either to plant our feet in their karmic path lest we should retard their spiritual reward. Hence, O bauri, let us wend our way." But the kind heart of Parvati would always rebel against neglecting the hard-put, even at the risk of bringing trouble on herself.
One day when they were about to dine, a beggar made a call and stretched his begging hand towards her. She gave all her food to him, and implored Mahadeva, "What would have happened to this mendicant in case his request for food had been neglected by me, Gurudeva?"
"His karmic providence would have fed him through some other channel," he answered, adding, "Parvati, Nature sustains and feeds her children, the great and the small, at least once a day, although she expects from them their germane and proportionate efforts towards their individual needs. Verily she feeds even her helpless thousands who are fettered and enchained."
But Parvati could hardly feel convinced and besought him to show her in actual truth. Instantly she looked around and noticed some ants running on the floor. She picked one up, and having taken out of her pocket an empty tin, in which she used to keep her `sandal tika' stuff, placed the ant in the middle of the tin and hastily brought it before him with the lid open, and said, "Gurudeva, here is a child of nature whom I shut in this empty tin. Let us see if nature provides it with food during the next twenty-four hours." And after showing it to him the woman disciple, Parvati, most enthusiastically closed the tin and put it in her pocket.
Mahadeva smiled and assented, observing, "Tathastu! Parvati" - that is "Be it so! Parvati." At the same time he cautioned her, by saying, "Parvati, have nothing to do with that tin until this time next day, because seed once sown should not be tampered with before the appropriate time, lest its tender roots should lose their hold upon the occult breast."
Parvati, the genuine searcher of truth, with her heart filled with integrity of purpose, bowed before her master in obedience to his caution and thought no more about the tin and its inhabitant until the same hour of the following day, when in the presence of her beloved and revered gurudeva she opened it and found that the ant had a grain of rice in its mouth, and to a visionary, especially one like Parvati, it looked no different from a babe holding a milk-bottle and having a feed. In amazement and ecstasy at the uncanny affair of the discovery of the hidden truth of nature, she let herself go to the feet of her master, kissed them and thanked him.
A Disciple, listing to the above Indian tradition, felt inwardly moved to thought by its potential meaning, and entreated his guru-deva to kindly throw more light on the subject of Providence.
"Tathastu!" rejoined gurudeva, and spoke, "Santu, my son, in the particular case of Parvati's experiment, the providence of the ant existed in the form of a grain of rice that was among other grains sticking to the `sandal tika' on her forehead. When her fervor of experimentation propelled her to shut the tin with an enthusiastic shudder of her shoulders, it got loose and fell from her forehead into the tin. All-knowing is the all-pervasive nature l and most mysterious at times are the ways in which she fulfills herself in dishing the karmic supply to her children!
"O beloved son, far-fetched though it may appear to many, yet it is a fact to be cognised that the hearts of all beings are rooted in the heart of one Universal Nature, and that the thoughts and moves of one individual impress upon and report themselves not only to his own `background' but equally so to that of other individuals also simultaneously, because all the seemingly divers backgrounds are in solemn truth one and the same. So it was that Nature, the Divine Self of the Ant, knew Parvati's move of investigation no less than Parvati herself knew it, and she, the divine mother of both the ant and Parvati was no less anxious for the safety of the former than she was anxious to gratify the latter's wish - in fact, more anxious for the ant because of its helplessness - and she provided for its future need sagaciously, providently and instantaneously. O how true! Prompt are the wits of Nature, subtle are her schemes, and intricate are the labyrinths through which she reaches her young ones with the cup of their fitting nectar, wherever they may be, at least once each day, unless they be the victims of the karmic rod.
"My son, Parvati's investigation has shown you only the outer look or the phenomenal side of the providence that looks after entities and a certain light has been thrown upon this subject by me just now. Still the mystery of one's providence has not yet been fully revealed unto you. It is very subtle. Perhaps the future will favor you with it."
"Gurudeva, I have been longing to learn the mystery of one's providence long since and my heart is yearning to have it fully disclosed unto me," the disciple cried. "The future is as uncertain as the return of breath once exhaled is uncertain. To me the present is as good as the future can ever be, in fact it is far better because it is certain and I am ready. O star Mahatman, unveil it unto me, if you please even now."
The Mahatman, having witnessed the silvery veil of love, devotion, and firm resolve adorning his disciple, could not help but defer, and responding to his right knock at the mystery door, chanted, "Tathastu! my son" (Be it so! my son), and entered upon unveiling the hidden side of one's Providence thus:
"Santu, my son, the individual's providence is not some external deity, nor a mysterious extra-cosmic Being who brings daily food to him, but it is fundamentally part and parcel of the individual himself. It is the entity's counterpart that has not yet been brought to and blended with its present constitution since its last dissolution or death; and, due to its inherent nature that swabhavically and karmically is affiliated and corresponds to the nature of its parent stem, the entity now living is magnetically drawn to and by it.
"My son, every morsel of food that one eats, every drink that one drinks, and every breath of air that one inhales, characterize troops of one's old stars (atoms), dressed in many hued robes of chemical stuff, now returning to him, their home, at their appropriate times. Subsequent to their arrival in his inner-world system and having been rid of their outer-world uniforms therein, they are transported to their relevant quarters of the microcosmic star mandals of his sevenfold or tenfold constitution; whereas their chemical garbs are dissolved and returned to Mother Earth through their respective exits."
Santu begged his gurudeva's pardon and queried, "Swamiji, if humanity's daily sustenance of life is but its old atoms returning now to it at their appropriate times, then humanity need not work for its living? But that sounds strange!"
Gurudeva smiled calmly and continued, "O baure!" (a pet term of caution for boys, meaning O silly boy) "I emphatically say unto you that beings must needs work for their living or else the return of their old atoms to them is not only difficult but impossible. Unless one makes a sincere effort to find his daily necessities of life, or speaking more technically, unless an entity, for instance man, excites within himself the concordant current of magnetic attraction towards his old atoms by genuinely striving after his daily provision, they cannot be drawn to him."
The disciple bowed and uttered in low voice: "But, I and your great self never work for our daily ration, daya mai (kind Sir), still it keeps coming to us as sure as the Sun rises in the morning - ?"
Gurudeva could have burst into laughter but he kept his dignified peace and said "O baure! surely to goodness, we must eat to live if we must live to teach and help mankind to escape from material pits and to avoid degrading dooms. Besides, O disciple, atoms differ among themselves in the quality and grade of their magnetic nature. Our life-atoms of last imbodiment are in their individual magnetisms more or less exactly of the same nature as that of our present selves and the work that we do. The inmost of their being is virtually the extension of our inmost, and their manifestation today bears the stamp of our present consciousness and its imbodiment. Thus they intrinsically and extrinsically relate themselves to us, and their magnetism and ours bear the same relation to each other as the outermost of the 'Nadi' bears to its heart. O Sadhu, strange things you will hear in our beloved Theosophy, yet they are strange only to the unwary. Listen to this! As we represent the holy order of divine teachers in our world of men so do our old life atoms exhibit the holy band of divine teachers in their own atomic world. We teach, preach, and thus serve humanity; spiritual magnetism of a specified order is automatically developed within us, and its inevitable impress upon the atoms draws them to us as the head pulls the tail. The very life that an entity leads at any time during its manifestation is magnetically instrumental to the restoration of its last-embodiment life atoms. Oh, but! who but the wise is to know that Nature furnishes its beings with fit talents and likely pursuits to win their atoms back - the nightingale to sing and dance from rose to rose, the owl to hoot and hop beneath the moon; the farmer to till the hard, stony land; but the holy Mahatman to counter-charm with his divine-spiritual Love-currents certain cosmic forces stirred up by the evil vapors of men.
"My son, every entity that exists within or without this boundless macrocosm of ours, works to win its counterpart, its providence, back to it. The wise maintain that Providence is our inheritance not in the sense that some external deity mercifully blesses us with it, nor that we inherit it from our earthly relatives, but in the sense that it is part of our old self or last embodiment, of which our present self is the child that inherits it from its parent, our last-self.
"O sadhu, Santu, my son, these many-hued, many-visaged, and many-tongued, starry atoms once delineated the Inmost Self of man himself, and lay in essence within its heart-core like an active yet bated breath; thereafter they emanated in the form of dark-light, spirito-ethered substance, and evolved in time to become as they figure today; and now, whereas their collective dispersion indicates the death of the man, their gradual and timely return to him signifies his Providence, or a provision which intrinsically belongs to him as a part of himself, but whose supply to him is governed and controlled by the laws of Nature inherent in the Universe.
"These reverting atoms, I say, constituting providence or provision, form but a part of the sum-total of him, his karman, the web of his own substance and weaving. They attract during their outward sojourn countless atoms from other sources and bring them with themselves; but the latter are not the natives of his constitution and their stay with him is but transitory. These homeward-bound atoms, I repeat, symbolize the tail-end of him, that once wended without him either in the cosmic vistas or in some other constitution, but now they are retracted into his mouth, as it were; while his top end, the Crown center, the inmost he, lies enwrapped in active bliss in the fathomless depths of his being. The latter is the consumer but the former the food. They are inseparable from one another because they are one. When the inner part comes to remanifest itself the outer part must follow it proportionately, for remanifestation is impossible without vehicle. Hence from the very time of birth, nay, even earlier, since the ball of akasic prana begins to bounce and rebounce on and off the comparatively hard ground plastered with the inner constitutional atomic pranas of sthula-sarira, the eater must eat to exist and the provision must come automatically and of necessity, which is absurd, or the reimbodiment is not to continue.
"O my child, blind are they who worry about their providence, mortifying their mortal brains and checking the unfoldment of the tender petals of their souls! But wise are those who least worry about their future meals, though diligently seeking them by honest means. If one channel fails them they betake themselves to another and seek them there. If they fail even there and everywhere, they contend that their karmic providence has come to its end, or that the mouth has swallowed the tail entirely, and that the time is not very far when they shall have to wind up for this time, this incarnation. Still they worry not but calmly prepare either to retire into the Divine-Bosom, the Devachan, where they shall dream beauteous dreams while lying enwrapped in bliss like a divine golden hedgehog with dazzling spikes of akasa, the impervious walls of protection; or to speed away towards the higher star-worlds like an ethereal conscious stag who has just been released and has not time to listen to the winds! Hearken ye who have ears to hear."
"Peace be unto all Beings!"
Santu, the disciple, bowed in reverence and love before his master and observed: "Blessed are they who are within your fold, O star Mahatman! I am now fully satisfied with the truth of Providence that your holy self has revealed unto me."
* Pundit L. Ram Sahijpal is President of one of our active Theosophical Lodges in Liverpool, England. In the above article he shows his skill in the use of the Hindu method of weaving together fable and philosophy into a persuasive and charming treatise. - Eds.