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In Tirunnidraoor (near modern-day Chennai), there lived a poor, devout Brahmin named Pusalar1. He adored Lord Shiva, the Destroyer of the Universe, with all his heart. But for Pusalar, Shiva was not terrifying. In his heart, the Lord was a powerful yet serene soul, whose very presence shed a lustrous grace on all. Worshipping Shiva' was Pusalar's only real desire.

One day, an unusual fancy arose in his mind: he would erect a temple in honour of Lord Shiva. Pusalar was surprised. He could barely survive himself. How could someone like him execute such a grand enterprise? He wondered who or what had planted such an ambitious idea in his mind. "Maybe, the Lord Himself wanted me to do build a temple for Him!" thought Pusalar.

After contemplating the idea for some time, Pusalar decided to create a beautiful shrine ... in his heart. That was all he could afford, and it wouldn't cost anything! Pusalar took this mission seriously. Every morning, he got up early and, after meditating on His Lord and chanting His names, started working at the 'construction site.' In his mind's eye, he collected all the materials he needed: granite stones and wood, among others. He then dug a foundation that spanned an area of many acres. He then lowered massive granite beams that filled the deep pit. On this raised platform, Pusalar mounted pillars, carving them with sculpted depictions of the Lord's lilas [divine play]. Pusalar knew all the adventures of Lord Shiva, and therefore, particularly enjoyed embellishing the pillars. He also saved some of those stories for the gopuram, which he fashioned into a grand, towering edifice crowning the temple. As he imaginatively wrought the stories on each tier of the gopuram with ecstatic love, Pusalar became totally oblivious to the passing of time. Finally, he built a shrine room to install the beloved.

This labor of love took many years. He spared no expense during this manasa puja [mental worship], intent on offering the Lord the best and most lavish he could conceive. It didn't strike him as being a fool's errand at all. For Pusalar, this 'castle in the air' was more real than any earthly structure.

* * *

In the same kingdom, someone else was engaged in a similar task: King Rajasimha of the Pallava dynasty. The ruler of Kanchipuram had marshaled thousands of workers, masons, sculptors, artisans, painters, architects, priests and pundits to create what he imagined would be the pride of not only Kanchipuram but the joy of India as well: a temple dedicated to Maheshwara2, to be called Kailashnath3. He spared no effort or expense, scouring the length and breadth of the country for the best talent and resources. King Rajasimha personally oversaw the construction, which took many years. The finished product was a stately and awe-inspiring monument that attracted the attention of all in Kanchipuram and even the neighboring kingdoms. Rajasimha was pleased.

* * *

After he had built the shrine, Pusalar prayed fervently to Lord Shiva to fulfil his mission. As far as he was concerned, the temple was to be his Beloved's abode, no less. "If you please, my Lord,” Pusalar implored with great feeling, "kindly deign to sanctify this humble tribute with Your holy presence. It would fill my heart with unending joy and be the consummation of my life's striving."

* * *

King Rajasimha consulted the most eminent astrologers and priests about the most auspicious time for performing the prana pratishtha4 ceremony. After careful calculations, the experts declared a date and time to be the most propitious for performing the consecration. With this piece of information, the king began organizing a gala affair to mark the occasion.

The night before the consecration, King Rajasimha had a dream. Lord Shiva, the ash-adorned ascetic of the Himalayas appeared before the king in all his austere majesty. The very sight of Maheshwara thrilled Rajasimha to the core of his being. Lord Shiva spoke. "My child, I won't be able to grace the function at the temple you have built for me.” Rajasimha was shocked. What had he done to make the Lord withdraw His grace? As if in response, Lord Shiva said, "I have been invited to attend the consecration ceremony at a much bigger and grander temple built by Pusalar in this kingdom. I cannot refuse that invitation. Kindly postpone the consecration ceremony.” Lord Shiva then indicated the whereabouts of this temple.

When he awoke, the king couldn't believe what he had heard. There was a bigger temple than his in the kingdom? Perhaps, he had only been dreaming. But the darshan felt more real than the room he was lying in. He could still feel the lingering joy that Shiva's visitation had infused into his heart. Without further ado, he got up. Without anyone's notice, he mounted his steed and raced off to the place Lord Shiva had indicated in the dream.

When he reached Tirunnidraoor, Rajasimha inquired about Pusalar. The villagers pointed to an elderly man, clad in worn-out clothes and sitting with his eyes closed. Notwithstanding his dignified appearance, the king couldn't see how someone who looked like a beggar, could possible build a temple, let alone one grander than what he had built. He decided to ask Pusalar about the temple. "Excuse me, sir." Pusalar slowly opened his eyes. Touched by the aura of repose around Pusalar, Rajasimha asked politely, "I heard that you built a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva here. I have come to attend the consecration ceremony. Where is it?"

Pusalar was astounded! He hadn't told anyone about the heart-temple he had painstakingly built over many years. "Who told you about the temple?" In response to Pusalar's question, Rajasimha narrated the contents of his dream. When he heard it, Pusalar felt a great upsurge of joy in his heart. He realized that this was the Lord's way of showing him, his humble devotee and servant, that He had blessed him and fulfilled his mission. Tears of gratitude rolled down his cheeks.

Pusalar then explained to a surprised Rajasimha about the shrine he had built for Shiva over the years, and how it had been his life's mission to install the Lord in his heart. King Rajasimha realized why Lord Shiva had appeared in his dream: to show him what true love and devotion was, and to point out that the temple of the heart was more powerful than any other.

As Amma says, "Through temple worship, we must build a temple within ourselves. Then we will be able to see God everywhere, within and without." Om.

Footnotes:
1 Pusalar was one of 63 Nayanars or Nayanmars, a group of devotees famed for their great devotion to Lord Shiva.
2 'Lord of the Universe;' an epithet for Lord Shiva.
3 'Lord of Kailash,' the Himalayan abode of Lord Shiva.
4 Performed to infuse the idol with the prana or divine life-force, thus transmuting it into a living, breathing entity that can transmit peace and joy to devotees.

Once upon there lived a feeble, old woman whose husband died, leaving her all alone. So she went to live with her son and his wife and their little daughter. Every day the old woman's sight dimmed and her hearing grew worse. Sometimes, during meal times, her hands would tremble so badly that the food would fall of her spoon and the soup would spill from her cup. Her son and his wife could not help feeling annoyed at the mess she seemed to create almost every day at the dining table. Often, they would scold her and harshly tell her to eat carefully. The poor, old woman would keep quiet and try her best to control her trembling hands.

One day, the old lady knocked over a glass of milk. Seeing this, her daugther- in-law exclaimed, "Enough is enough! " Then, she and her husband set up a small table for the old lady in the corner next to the broom closet. From then on, the old woman was forced to eat her normals there. She would sit there all alone, gazing with tear-filled eyes at the others across the room. They hardly ever spoke to her, and when they did it was usually to scold her for dropping a bowl or a fork.

One evening, just before dinner, when the old lady's son and his wife were getting ready for dinner, they noticed that their little daughter was busy playing on the floor with her building blocks When they asked er what she was building, she replied, "I'm making a little table for both of you so that you can eat by yourselves in the corner some day when I get big."

Her parents could not believe what they heard. They stared at her for some time and then, suddenly, both started crying. That night, the couple led the old woman back to her place at the big table. From then on, the old woman ate with the rest of the family. Not only that, the attitude of her son and his wife was different. They never seemed to mind it even a bit when the old woman spilled something every now and then, and often, would feed her with love and affection.

A king was touring his kingdom on his elephant. Suddenly he stopped in front of a shop in the market and said to his minister, "I don't know why, but I want to hang the owner of this shop." The minister was shocked. But before he could ask the king why, the king had moved on. The next day, the minister went to that shop dressed as one of the locals to see the shopkeeper. He casually asked him how his business was faring. The shopkeeper, a sandalwood merchant, reported sadly that he had hardly any customer. People would come to his shop, smell the sandalwood and then go away. They would even praise the quality of the sandalwood but rarely buy anything. His only hope was that the king would die soon. Then there would be a huge demand for sandalwood for performing his last rites. As he was the only sandalwood merchant around, he was sure the king's death would mean a windfall.

The minister now understood why the king had stopped in front of this shop and expressed a desire to kill the shopkeeper. Perhaps, the shopkeeper's negative thought vibration had subtly affected the king, who had, in turn, felt the same kind of negative thought arising within.

The minister; a noble man, pondered over the matter for a while. Without revealing who he was or what had happened the day before, he expressed a desire to buy some sandalwood. The shopkeeper was pleased. He wrapped the sandalwood and handed it over to the minister.

When the minister returned to the palace, he went straight to the court where the king was seated and reported that the sandalwood merchant had a gift for him. The king was surprised. When he opened the package, he was pleasantly surprised by the fine golden color of the sandalwood and its agreeable fragrance. Pleased, he sent some gold coins to the sandalwood merchant. The king also felt sorry in his heart that he had harboured unbecoming thoughts of killing the shopkeeper.

When the shopkeeper received the gold coins from the king, he was astounded. He began to proclaim the virtues of the king who had, through the gold coins, saved him from the brink of poverty. After some time, he recalled the morbid thoughts he had felt towards the king, and repented for having entertained such negative thoughts for his own personal goal.

This story shows us how powerful the human mind is. If we have a good and kind thought for another person, that positive thought will come back to us in a favorable way But if we harbor evil thoughts, those thoughts will come back to us as retribution.

Amma also tells a story that teaches us the importance of having loving thoughts about others. Indra, the king of the gods, once hosted a grand feast. The devas [celestial beings] and asuras [demons] were invited for the function which was held in a celestial ballroom. All the devas and asuras were eager to attend the feast, for they knew they would get the best food and drink there.

As soon as they entered the celestial ballroom, their hands became stiff, and they found that they could not bend them at the elbows. How would they eat when they couldn't bend their arms?

The devas sat down at the table assigned to them. The asuras did likewise. When the food was brought to the tables, both the devas and asuras looked on with longing. The sight of the sumptuous array of dishes made the mouths of the devas and asuras water. Without thinking, the asuras stretched out their hands and grabbed as much food as they could get. But when they tried to bring their palms to their mouths, they found that they couldn't. All the food they grabbed got lobbed off to the side and fell to the floor.

Seeing this, the devas thought deeply. After some time, one deva reached out to grab some food. As he could not bend his hand, he swiveled around in order to bring the food in his hand to the mouth of the deva sitting next to him. That deva was pleasantly surprised and eagerly ate the food offered to him. Realizing what a brilliant idea that was, all the devas started taking the food and offering to their neighbors. In this way, all the devas enjoyed the feast.

This story shows that if we think about the well-being of others and act without selfish interests, our own well-being will automatically be taken care of. Such is the law of nature. Om.

Monisha, an 11 year old girl from Dubai, shares her story about first meeting Amma

My first meeting with Amma was when I was three years old. I was suffering from asthma during that time. My family used to attend Lalita Sahasranamam archanas held at the different houses of devotees. One day our whole family went to a devotee's house for the archana, and it was there that we first saw Amma's photo, which was kept in their shrine. On enquiring about who that woman was, the devotee explained in detail about Her. My parents were greatly inspired by what they had heard and really wanted to see Amma.

 

 

Amma was touring Reunion Island in December 1993, and my parents decided to go there to have Her darshan. Upon landing at the airport in Reunion, we did not know how to proceed to Amma's ashram. My father had a photo of Amma that he showed to a taxi driver, and asked him if he knew where the saint was giving programmes. The driver nodded his head and took us straight to a beautiful hall where Amma's programme was being held.

We were overjoyed to reach Amma's divine presence, and we rushed in to see Amma. Suddenly, my father remembered that he had to pay for the cab. But when he turned back, the cab had disappeared.

My father searched for the cab driver all over the place, but he could not find him. It was like Amma had sent him to pick us up.

Soon we joined the darshan line, and as we came near Amma, my parents mentioned to Amma about my asthma problem. Amma showered lots of love on me and made me sit on Her lap for a long time. I was really in heaven during those moments.

From that day till now, I have never had an attack of asthma (touch wood!), which is only because of Amma's grace.

My infinite humble prostrations at Her Lotus Feet.

There was an old woman who lived in a village in the foothills of the Himalayas. The village was in an isolated corner, far removed from the reaches of modern civilization. The woman, whose name was Gauri, lived alone. Her husband had died years before. Her only child, a son, was working in a city hundreds of kilometres away. He would remit some money every month and send her letters from time to time. She always looked forward to receiving these letters from her beloved son. Otherwise, Gauri was content with the simple and serene life she led. Life was peaceful.

Everyday, a beggar would pass her hut, and ask for alms. Gauri was soft-hearted by nature, and could not bear the idea of someone starving. So, whenever she prepared her mid-day meal of chappatis and dhal, she would prepare a few more chappatis for this beggar. She would leave these and a bowl of dhal on a plate on the window sill, from where the beggar would collect them in the afternoon. Gauri knew that the food she provided was possibly the beggar's only meal for the day. So she took pains to prepare enough.

The beggar felt deeply indebted to Gauri, and knew that he could never repay her kindness. He felt bad about his wretched state. A leper, shunned by his family and society, he had fled his hometown for the Himalayas, where he felt he would be looked upon more kindly. After all, it was the abode of the holy, and a place where many spiritual aspirants were striving to do sadhana [spiritual practice]. Surely, they would have the heart to treat him in a more humane way. He could not work any more, as the fell disease had gnawed away his fingers and toes. Also, he knew that people feared being contaminated and were repulsed by the sight of his hideous-looking wounds. He prayed long and hard. A person like Gauri proved to be a godsend. He felt that he hadn't taken the wrong decision to come to the Himalayan valley. His prayers had been answered. God provided even for the destitute like him.

Whenever the opportunity arose, he would speak to Gauri. At first he had been hesitant, thinking that she too would shoo him away, like others had. To his surprise, she spoke to him with motherly concern. This had come as such a shock to him that he had been unable to hold.back his tears.

He was reminded of the golden years in his life when his own mother had behaved lovingly towards him, running her fingers through his curly hair, caressing his back and enfolding him in her loving embraces. She would always prepare his favorite dishes. All that had abruptly come to an end when he contracted leprosy. He could not understand how his own mother could turn her back against him, joining the others who wanted him out of the house and their lives. Was this all there was to human love?

Gauri's humane ways of dealing with him had reassured him that kindness and compassion had not vanished from society. They still existed, albeit in nooks and corners, and that gave him hope. He hoped that those isolated flames of love would ignite other hearts and thus dispel the darkness that threatened to overwhelm humanity.

Gauri had felt sympathetic towards the beggar. When she talked to him, she realized there was a keen intelligence behind the disfigurement and a heart yearning for love. But, as time passed, she began to feel an unknown resentment towards the beggar. She felt that he was such an imposition, on her time and money. Why couldn't he beg somewhere else for a change? Why did he have to keep coming to her everyday? The idea that she was his sole source of sustenance not only annoyed her; she felt it to be increasingly burdensome.

The seed of discontent and disgust sprouted and grew. Gauri decided upon a plan. She would poison the chappatis and dhal, and she would be rid of his troubling presence. She rationalized that it would be a humane thing too, as she would be helping the beggar be done with his wretched existence once and for all. Gauri had all but decided to add poison to the food when she had second thoughts. Perhaps, the years of loving and caring had not robbed her entirely of her senses. Divine grace had made her re-think her plans, and she abandoned the idea. In that lucid moment, Gauri wondered what madness had possessed her, causing her to almost execute such a murderous scheme. She placed the chappatis and dhal on the plate. Next to the plate, she placed a glass of fresh water, as if to placate her guilty conscience. Nevertheless, she still felt burdened by the idea of having to spend the rest of her life, or so it seemed, providing for this beggar. Why had God imposed this responsibility upon her?

That evening, after her evening prayers, Gauri heard a knock on the door. She was surprised. Who could it be? She rarely had visitors, and she wasn't expecting any. Cautiously, she opened the door. There was a disheveled stranger leaning against the wall. His clothes were tattered and torn, his face grimy, and he looked utterly exhausted. She stared at him, then started: it was her son! Alarmed, she opened the door and brought him inside. She spread out a mat and made him lie down on it. He looked barely alive. Gauri anxiously poured some water into her son's mouth, and looked on, concerned. After some time, he opened his eyes, and smiled at her gently, as if to reassure him that everything was fine. A few minutes later, he sat up.

"What happened?" Gauri asked. "Did someone rob you? "

"As a matter of fact, yes, a group of bandits did," he said. "I was returning home by train, as usual, when one night, some thugs came into the compartment I was in and accosted me. I was alone and was no match for that band of robbers. Not content with robbing me of my belongings, they threw me out of the moving train. That's how I got injured. I lay there until dawn and then started trudging home. Fortunately for me, I had been thrown out not too far away from where I was supposed to alight. But in that miserable condition, even that distance seemed like a very long one to me. I had neither food nor money to buy any. After walking for hours and hours, I felt totally exhausted. I fell down, intending to rest for some time. My throat yearned far water. After some time, when I tried to get up, I found that I was too weak to do so. I tried calling out for help, but the only sounds that came out of my throat were feeble moans. After some time, I heard footsteps. I opened my eyes and saw an ugly man standing over me. His face was covered with terrible wounds and there was a nauseating stink coming from him. In spite of that, there was a look of concern in his eyes that touched my heart. He said, “Don't worry.” He poured water from a glass into my mouth. I felt much refreshed by it. He then said, “Please eat these chappatis. I have not touched them with my hand.” I turned to my side, and saw a plate of chappatis. There was even a bowl of dhal. I eagerly ate them. For some reason, I was thinking of you, ma, while eating the food. It reminded so much of your cooking. And that made me all the more eager to get home to you. After finishing up the food, I turned around to thank the kind Samaritan. But he was no where in sight. I thanked God that he had sent someone to save me from the clutches of death itself"

Gauri was stunned! What if she had poisoned the chappatis and dhal as planned? The thought was more than she could bear. She broke down crying. She felt so much relief and pained at the same time. She realized that God had responded to all the doubts she had had. If she had carried out the evil deed, she would have hurt herself more than anyone else. But her noble act had helped to avert a tragedy in her own life. As Gauri hugged her son, her face wet with tears of repentance, she mentally prostrated to the beggar whose kindness had saved her son and thus preserved her peace of mind, and who had taught her the importance and necessity of being kind and compassionate. Om

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