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The Shivaratri Hunter Story

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I was asked to speak to you on nonviolence, one of the five basic human values. I would like to tell you a wonderful story from the Indian classics, whose princi­pal theme is nonviolence. But first, let us take a moment to look at the level in which all these values operate. They are called human values because they are pe­culiar to human beings. What distinguishes a human being, among the vast range of living things? Man is called homo sapien, the wise one, because his buddhi is awakened and functional. It is not his mind, but his buddhi, which distinguishes him from the other creatures. All living beings have physical bodies, all have the vi­tal life breath, all the animals have minds in various stages of development. These refer to the three lower koshas, or sheaths, and they principally have to do with the survival of the organism.

Survival often involves struggle, and struggle often involves violence. But, unique to the human species, is the development of a higher and finer kosha, the fourth sheath, the buddhi, which is the intuitive intellect or the higher mind. Unlike the lower, it is not concerned with survival. Its principal concern is the return to unity consciousness. Its modus operandi is peace, love and nonviolence. Like a delicate flower it must awaken, it must blossom. The soil must have been prepared, the seed must have been sown, the seedling must have been tended and cared for, the choking weeds must have been removed, and the time and condi­tions must be right, then the season for its awakening comes. And when it comes, it usually comes like a flash and the being becomes totally transformed. The earthbound caterpillar transforms itself into the free and unbound butterfly.

When that propitious moment comes, after lifetimes of bondage to the lower, non-human dimensions of living, (even though it may have been in human form), then we speak of that splendorous moment of transition as grace. It is the glori­ous dawning of the inner light, that we evoke with our sadhana, such as for ex­ample, the gayatri mantra. But grace cannot be limited. The awakening can come to the most unlikely of all spiritual candidates. Here is a story that speaks of such an awakening. This story brings out the value of nonviolence, as an important factor accompanying that awakening process.

Long ago there lived a huntsman in a thick forest.  He lived on the wild ani­mals which he killed with the use of his bow. Once every few months he would wend his way out of the jungle to a town on the edge of the forest and there he would trade his deer skins for some of the provisions of civilization, such as oil for his lamps at night, sugar, flour and salt. and other such things. His best cus­tomers for his skins were the priests and the faithful who frequented the large Shiva temple in the town, for they would use the skins to cover the ground un­der them when­ever they sat for worship and meditation. So, when he came out of the jungle with his skins, he would go straight to the Shiva temple and sit outside until somebody came and offered him something useful in exchange for them.

One particular time when he came it was mahashivaratri,  the day of the year when the moon, which represents the mind, is the thinnest of slivers. That day is dedicated to the great Lord Shiva. Unaware of the auspicious day, the huntsman sat down as usual outside the temple. Inside the worshippers were singing the bhajans and kirtans in praise of the Lord, and performing various acts of wor­ship, in a most melodious and devotional way. The service inside the temple went on like this hour after hour and this simple man’s heart, sitting outside as he was, could not help but be stirred in a very deep and moving way.

Wondering when the devout would finally come out he would go to the door of the temple and peek in. In this way, not only did he hear the sweet songs in praise of the Lord, but he also had the darshan of the image of the Lord, and soon a great warmth grew within him, and he became lost in the beauty of the music and the vision of the idol. He hardly realized that the whole day had passed and he still had not disposed of even one of his skins. It was evening, and he found him­self very hungry, and for the first time that day, he started think­ing about food, realizing that soon he would become weak from lack of food. Leaving his skins near the door of the temple he set out at dusk to find some animal for food.

 
     
 
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