Lord Surya, through his scorching noon rays was trying to penetrate with all his might into the dense forest abutting the Tamasa River. His best eﬀorts to look into that darkness could not succeed as it was covered with a thick blanket of foliage of deodar, sandal and teak trees ﬁercely jostling for their respective space in that forest. One could not make out whether it was night or a hot summer day time. Yet the darkness had a soothing eﬀect on its inmates, animals, birds and reptiles. It was not the darkness of fear and insecurity; a benumbing sensation of an impending fear or darkness, used as a metaphor to indicate an everlasting ignorance. Yet, there was a sense of security all round; fearlessness, mutual feeling of co-existence amongst the beings that inhabited the forest. The reason was not farther to seek. Not even a few furlongs away from the forest lay the hermitages of great Tapasvins (Rishis) on the bank of the holy river Tamasa, residence to a boundless array of divine aura. These Rishis were living in those hermitages blending themselves one with the Mother Nature. As they were all lost in their blissful states, Nature took care of them. They tended with maternal care the beautiful ﬂora of various hue, caressed the animals and birds with an uncommon love without any expectation, as if they were all part of their one big family. In return, Mother Nature took care of their mundane requirements.
One can see a ﬂurry of activities in and around those hermitages with disciples, intensely disciplined, attending to their teachers’ needs and running around to help their teachers to complete their morning Swadhyaya (study of Veda) and yagna (oblation to Fire God, a Vedic rite).
For parents of a number youngsters of diﬀerent age group, living as inmates of those hermitages, the place had a special attraction as it was not only a regular Gurukula for getting a good education but also an intense process of disciplining the character of the children to prepare them to face the challenges of their lives. Located at the centre of all the hermitages, the inmates of which were intently focused on the morning activities, shone a hermitage of extraordinary splendor. It was graced by a person of great merit, Sri Valmiki Maharishi. It was a very simple hermitage housing only bare necessities making it diﬃcult to believe how any person could be the occupant of it. Except a few heaps of Kusa grass, a pair of ochre clothes and some articles of religious nature, nothing could be found in that place. Though Maharishi had a number of disciples, Bharadwaja was the one who attached himself to his teacher steadfastly, ever ready to serve him and shadowed him, wherever he went. Bharadwaja, was an enthusiastic and handsome lad bubbling with energy and happiness. To him, the entire world revolved around his teacher. Though his parents left him in the hermitage as an young boy to be educated on various branches of knowledge, he refused to leave that place even after completion of his education. So attracted was he to his Master; the blissful surroundings and the life on the banks of placid and cool Tamasa River kept him in a state of happiness and peace. Looking at his sincerity of purpose and unstinted devotion to him, the Maharishi made him as his chief disciple and allowed him to attend to all his limited needs and chores connected with the Ashram. As usual, he cautiously peeped into that hut to see whether his Guru has come out of the morning meditation. He was very particular that his noiseless action of moving through the thatched door, if at all it could be called as a door, did not disturb the deep meditation of Maharishi. When he entered, he was stunned to note the extraordinary brilliance that was sporting on the face of his Master. Though he used to see an aura around his Guru, that day what Bharadwaja noticed was diﬀerent. That highly infectious light on his Master’s face deeply aﬀected him as well and transported him to a world of an indescribable joy. He waited silently for his Guru to come out of the trance. After a while, the Maharishi opened his eyes and observed his beloved disciple standing in awe and reverence and asked him, “Bharadwaja ! how long are you waiting here? Why that look of surprise in your eyes ? With a bow of reverence, Bharadwaja replied, “Master, today I saw in your face an extraordinary brilliance during your trance which I had not witnessed all these years. I was deeply wondering what could be the reason. Maharishi gave a gentle smile and told him, “Bharadwaja, two days back I had the rare privilege of seeing Devarshi Sri Narada. I asked him a question which had been bothering me for a long time defying any clear answer, on whether he had come across any Perfect Human Being with all ideal qualities. He was kind enough to narrate the story of Lord of Ayodhya, Sri Rama. Sage Narada described the ideal qualities of Sri Rama and said he was the only Human being to possess the title of a Perfect Human being. Ever since I heard the story of Sri Rama, my mind space is totally engrossed in that Narrative. Even as I lost myself in that glorious account of Sri Rama, I am enveloped with an ineﬀable joy and peace, the physical manifestation of which reﬂects as light and aura to your eyes. Maharishi was lost in some deep thoughts into his own past when he had the rare privilege of meeting of Sapta Rishis (the renowned 7 Tapasvins) who showed the path to enlightenment through initiation into the Supreme Sabda Brahman, called as Rama Nama. He had that unique revelation that Rama nama or name was the same as this Ayodhya Rama. Suddenly, he was brought back to his normal sense by the voice of his student. Even as Bharadwaja tried to proceed further, Maharishi cut him short stating that it was time for noon time bath in the Tamasa river. Realizing that his Guru will not reveal the inner secrets of his experience, he collected the valkalam (the robes made of bark of a tree) of his teacher and accompanied him to the river bank. Each day, Bharadwaja looks forward to this short walk with his Teacher to Tamasa River as Maharishi used to regale him with lots of stories and incidents peppered with pearls of wisdom. In fact, most of the lessons Maharishi used to take for Bharadwaja during this time. Another important reason why Bharadwaja looked forward to this trip was to witness the universal love of his Teacher that would manifest as an everyday event. As they were walking, suddenly from nowhere a herd of deer ran towards Maharishi and vied with each other to be caressed by him. Lo, after a while, they were followed by cows and peacocks. They all jostled with each other to get his attention. Even as he was pouring his love on his speechless friends, there was a frightening roar that came from the nearby forest. In a moment, the subject of that roar stood in front of them. A frightening spectacle of a pride of lions and a sloth of bears. They all paraded straight into that crowd and asserted their primacy and intimacy with Maharishi. It used to be an everyday spectacle for Bharadwaja. It made him utterly speechless with only one thought in his mind. Could it be possible to have such a universal love amongst the born enemies, pairs of opposites. He saw his Guru slowly releasing himself from that crowd of his friends after spending some time with them. They all exhibited a sense of disappointment but started dispersing determined to catch up with Maharishi next day as he rushed towards his noon anushthan (bath ritual).
(to be continued)