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Chapter 18: Sanatan meets the Master and is taught of God's forms

At Gaur, Sanatan lay in prison, when to his delight he received Rup's letter. Then he spoke to his Muslim jailor: "You are a living saint, a very pious man, well-read in the Quran. [There it is written that] if a man ransoms a captive with his wealth, God gives him salvation. Formerly I had done you good turns; now show your gratitude by reliasing me. I offer you five thousand Rupees. Accept the sum, and by setting me free gain both money and religious merit."

The Muslim replied, "Hark you, Sir, I can let you off, but I fear the Sultan." Sanatan rejoined, "Fear not the Sultan. He has gone to Orissa. If he comes back, tell him that when Sanatan was sent to the bank of the Ganges to ease himself, he jumped into the river, sank down with his fetters, and could not be traced after much search. Fear not, I shall not live in this country, but turn darvesh and go to Mecca." The Muhammadan was still reluctant. So Sanatan heaped up seven thousand Rupees before him, at the sight of which his greed was roused. At night he sent Sanatan across the river after filing off his fetters. Sanatan avoided the road by Telia Garhi, the gate of Bengal, and travelling day and night entered the Patra hills. There he besought a rustic land owner to guide him over the hill. A palmist present with the landowner whispered to him that Sanatan had eight gold coins with himself. At this the man gladly promised to convey Sanatan over the hill by his own servants at night and asked to prepare his meal in the meantime. With marks of honour he gave him rice. Sanatan bathed in the river, broke his two days fast, and reflected, "Why does this land-owner show respect to me?" Then he asked [his attendant] Ishan if he had any property with himself. Ishan replied, "Seven gold coins." At this Sanatan rebuked him saying, "Why have you brought this deadly thing with yourself?" Then he gave the seven pieces to the land-owner and sweetly said, "Take these from me and honestly conduct me over the hill. I am a run-away from the king's prison and cannot take the Telia Garhi road. You will acquire merit if you help me to cross the hill." The land-owner replied, "I knew before that your servant had eight gold pieces with him, and I had determined to murder you at night for the money. It is well that you have told me of the money, and so I have been saved from the sin of murder. I am so pleased that I shall not take the coins, but guide you gratis for the sake of merit."

But Sanatan urged, "Some one else will murder me for the money. Accept it and save my life." Then the land-owner sent four footmen of his own, who led Sanatan across the hill by the forest paths at night. Emerging from the hill Sanatan asked Ishan, "I know you have still something left." "Yes, one gold coin," answered Ishan. Sanatan said, "Return home with it." So, leaving him, the holy man set out alone, a bowl in his hand, a tattered quilt on his back, and (therefore) fearless (of robbers). In course of time he reached Hajipur,[1] and in the evening sat down in a garden. His brother-in-law, Shrikanta, a royal officer, lived here, entrusted by the Sultan with three lakhs of Rupees to buy and despatch horses. From a height he discerned Sanatan, and at night came to him with only one attendant. The two had a friendly meeting, and Sanatan told the tale of his escape. Shrikanta said, "Stay here a day or two. Put on decent robes and cast off your rags." Sanatan replied, "No, I shall not linger a minute here. Help me to cross the Ganges, I shall go away at once." Shrikanta with care gave him a Bhutia blanket and ferried him over.

Sanatan in time reached Benares, where he was glad to hear of the Master's arrival. Going to Chandra Shekhar's house, he sat down at the gate. The Master, knowing it, told Chandra Shekhar, "There is a Vaishnav at the gate. Bring him in." Chandra Shekhar reported to the Master that there was no Vaishnav but only a darvesh at the gate. The Master replied, "Well, bring him in." Glad to be called, Sanatan entered. When he was in the court-yard, the Master rushed out and embraced him in rapture. At His touch Sanatan was overcome by love and cried out in a faltering voice, "Touch me not! touch me not!" The two wept ceaselessly, clasping each other's necks, to the wonder of Chandra Shekhar. Then the Master took him by the hand and seated him by His side on the veranda of the house, stroking Sanatan's body with His own hands. Sanatan cried, "Touch me not, Master!" but the Master answered, "I touch you to purify myself. Through the strength of your faith you can cleanse the whole universe. Witness the Bhagabat, I. xiii. 8, VII. ix. 9. By seeing, touching, and praising a bhakta like you, all my senses are gratified, as the scripture asserts. Vide the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya, xiii. 2."

The Master continued, "Listen, Sanatan! Krishna is very kind, the saviour of the fallen. He has delivered you from the worst hell (rauraba). Limitless and profound is the ocean of his mercy." Sanatan objected, "I know not Krishna. I recognize your grace as having effected my deliverance." Then at the Master's request he told the whole story of his flight. The Master told him, "I met both your brothers, Rup and Anupam, at Prayag. They have gone to Brindaban." Then He introduced Sanatan to Tapan Mishra and Chandra Shekhar. Tapan Mishra invited him, the Master adding, "Go, Sanatan, shave yourself," and telling Chandra Shekhar to take away the rags of Sanatan. They made him bathe in the Ganges, and Chandra Shekhar gave him a new garment, which he refused to accept. At this the Master was delighted exceedingly.

After His noon-day prayer, the Master went with Sanatan to dine at Tapan Mishra's house. As He sat down to His meal He ordered the Mishra to serve Sanatan also, but he replied, "Sanatan has some rites to perform. You dine first. I shall give him your prasad." After dinner the Master rested. The Mishra gave Sanatan His leavings and offered him a new cloth, which Sanatan declined to accept, asking instead for one of the Mishra's old clothes. So the Mishra gave him an old cloth, which he cut into a waist-band and wrapper.

Sanatan was introduced by the Master to the Maratha Brahman, who gave him a general invitation to dinner during the whole of his stay at Kashi. But Sanatan declined saying, "I shall rove (begging alms) like the bee. Why should I procure all my food from one Brahman's house."

Exceedingly pleased was the Master at Sanatan's detachment from the world, and He often cast glances at the Bhutia blanket, from which Sanatan guessed that He disapproved of it. So Sanatan planned to get rid of the blanket. When he went to the Ganges to perform his noon-day rites, he met a Bengali drying his quilt, and asked him to exchange it for his blanket, as a favour. The man retorted, "Why are you, a venerable man, mocking me? Why should you exchange your costly blanket for a quilt?" Sanatan replied, "I am not joking but am in earnest. Do make the exchange." So saying he gave up the blanket, placed the quilt on his shoulders and came to Chaitanya. At the Master's query he told the whole tale. The Master remarked, "I have thought of it. Krishna, who has delivered you from attachment to earthly goods, cannot have left a remnant of that attachment in you. No good physician leaves even a trace of the disease unremoved. You were living on alms from door to door, and yet there was a three Rupee blanket on your back! It spoiled your virtue and made you a mock unto the beholders." Sanatan replied, "He who has released me from worldly ties has also cured this last remnant of worldliness in me."

The pleased Master showed grace to him, and thus emboldened him to put questions. Formerly the Master had put questions to Ramananda Ray, which the latter had answered under His inspiration. So, now, inspired by the Master, Sanatan put questions, while He established spiritual truths.

Then Sanatan, biting a blade of grass as a token of abjectness, clasped the Master's feet; and said, "Low-born, with low comrades, a fallen wretch, I have wasted my life, plunged in the well of vile worldliness. I know nothing of my own good or evil, but I have held as truth whatever was approved in vulgar practice. As you have graciously saved me, tell me of your grace what my duties are. Who am I? Why are the three afflictions (tapa) oppressing me? I know not what will do me good. I know not even how to ask about the truth of sadhya and sadhan. Do you of your own accord, unfold all these truths to me." The Master replied, "Full is Krishna's grace to you. You know all the truths and are not subject to the three afflictions. You are strong in Krishna's strength, you know the truths already. It is the nature of sadhus to inquire about what they know, only to confirm it.

"You are a proper agent for preaching bhakti. Listen to all the truths as I tell them in due order:

"The soul of man is the eternal servant of Krishna. The tatastha power of Krishna manifests differences [between the Creator and His creatures], just as a ray of the sun transforms itself into a flame of fire. Krishna has by nature three powers:-viz., the chit, the life, and the illusion powers. Vide the Vishnu Puran I. xxix. 50, VI. vii. 60 and 61, I. iii. 2, the Gita vii. 5 and 14, and the Bhagabat, XI. ii. 35.

"When a creature forgets Krishna, his face is ever turned to external things, and therefore under the influence of illusion he undergoes the misery of being born in the world, now rising to heaven, now sinking to hell, just as a criminal is ducked in water by royal command.

"If under the teaching of true scripture, a man turns to Krishna, he is saved, he gets rid of illusion. A creature labouring under illusion remembers not Krishna. So Krishna kindly created the Vedas and Purans. He makes himself known through scripture, guru, and the soul; and man comes to realize 'Krishna is my lord and saviour'. The Vedas treat of Relation, Epithet, and Needs; that Relation is the attaining of Krishna, faith is the means of this attainment, the epithets are his names; love is the (supreme) need, the most precious treasure and the highest achievement of humanity. Madhur service is the means of gaining Krishna. By serving him we can enjoy the relish of him. The following parable will illustrate it: An all-knowing seer visited a poor man and seeing his misery said, 'Why are you so poor? Your father has left you a large legacy. He died elsewhere and therefore could not inform you of it.' At these words the man began to hunt for his treasure. In the same manner the Vedas and Purans instruct men about Krishna. The counsel of the seer is the source, the treasure is the consequence. By his own knowledge the man could not attain to his father's treasure the seer had to tell him the method of discovering it: 'Here lies the treasure. If you dig in the south, hornets will rise and not money. If you dig west a gnome will show itself and hinder you. In the north your diggings will discover a dark serpent, which will swallow you up. But by digging a little on the east side you will get the pots of treasure.' Similarly the Shastras assert that leaving work, knowledge and abstraction (yog), one can influence Krishna by faith alone. Vide the Bhagabat, XI. xiv. 19 & 20.

"Therefore is faith the only means of gaining Krishna, and it is described in all Shastras as abhidheya. As wealth gives pleasure and drives away sorrow of itself, so bhakti kindles love of Krishna, and when love is turned to Krishna man is freed from bondage to the world. The fruit of love is not riches or the cessation of re-birth, but its chief object is the enjoyment of the beatitude of loving."

[A long discourse on Krishna's forms, omitted in the second edition.] [Text, canto 20.]

[1] The town of Hajipur on the north bank of the Ganges, opposite Patna, was the seat of the governor of Bihar on behalf of the Sultans of Bengal. (Riyaz-us-salatin, Eng. tr. 134 n.)