THE SAADHAKA'S LESSON FROM GOD
There was once a saadhaka (spiritual seeker) who approached a guru for guidance. The guru gave him an idol of VISHNU and also necessary instructions for daily worship. But the saadhaka found that, even after some months of meticulous puja, he did not get any spiritual reward or elation.
So, he reported his dissatisfaction and the guru gave him another idol, this time of SHIVA and asked him to have another try. The disciple came after another six months demanding another idol, because even Shiva had failed him.
This time, he got a GANESHA idol, which he duly installed in his domestic shrine. The two previous idols were standing, dust-ridden and neglected, on the window-sill.
After a few months he was quite disgusted at the progress he made & went to the Guru again for the 4th time. This time the Guru gave him an idol of DURGA & the Saadhaka said if this also doesn't work, he wouldn't bother the Guru again!
One day, while performing Durga-puja, the disciple found that the perfumed smoke from the incense-stick was being wafted by the breeze towards the dusty idol of SHIVA on the window-sill. He got wild that the ungrateful stonehearted SHIVA who was deaf to his powerful prayers earlier should get the perfume intended for his latest idol that was DURGA!!!
So, he took a piece of cloth and tied it round the face of SHIVA, closing up the nostrils that were inhaling the perfume & continued with his DURGA puja.
Suddenly, to his immense surprise LORD SHIVA appeared in all His splendor and Glory & stood before the saadhaka! The man was dumb-founded & stunned that in spite of the ill-treatment that he had given to SHIVA, the LORD gave him darshan.
So he asked SHIVA, "When I was doing DURGA puja, why are you giving me darshan & why didn't you come before me when I was worshipping you earlier?"
LORD SHIVA answered, "My dear devotee, for the first time you believed that the SHIVA idol was alive, conscious & full of life and it was that belief which forced you to tie the bandage around my nose! The moment you realized that the idol was full of consciousness you got the realization that you were struggling to get all along!!!"
SHIVA continued, "Therefore, you should see, not the stone which is the material stuff of the idol, but the Power that is inherent in it, that is symbolized by it, is the same DIVINE Power that is inherent in your own heart and that pervades and transcends all creation. It's the same power in the whole UNIVERSE!!!"
"This time you believed the stone image to be God while earlier you used to bring God down to the level of a stone image! You may worship a picture as God, but you should not worship God as a picture!!! That's essentially the difference! Wood, stone or mud may be assumed to be Divine, but Divinity should not be limited to wood, stone or mud" concluded SHIVA!"
Worshippers of the saguna (qualified or with form) and the nirguna (unqualified or without form) Brahman (God) reach the same goal. But the path of the nirguna (formless) is very hard and arduous, because the aspirant has to give up attachment to the body from the very beginning of his spiritual practice.
The imperishable Brahman (the Supreme Reality) is very hard to reach for those who are attached to their bodies. Further, it is extremely difficult to fix the restless mind on the formless and attributeless Brahman. He who meditates on the unmanifested (formless) should possess the four means and have sharp and subtle intellect and bold understanding.
The four means are discrimination, dispassion, sixfold virtues, and longing for liberation. The sixfold virtues are: control of the mind, control of the senses, fortitude (endurance), turning away from the objects of the world, faith and tranquillity.
Once a devotee realises the ideal in the idol, he eventually merges with the Supreme!