Sep 24, 2013

"A Night with a Python" from Sermons in the Stroms

Kishkindha-popularly otherwise called Humpi in Karnatak- is one of the prominent places of pilgrimage and is 8 miles from Hospet station which falls on the branch line between Guntakal and Hubli of Southern Railway.
Legend has it that it was this place in a spacious and darksome cave that Shri Hanumanji of Ramayana fame was born to the pious Anjana Devi. The holy cave from thence onwards came to be known as Anjaneya Gupha.
I can excusably pride myself of having been privileged to start my spiritual career from there.
Soon after reaching Humpi, I went round the temples and caves there. On the following day I visited the famous Pampa Sarovar some miles away from Kishkanda. On the third day, I retired to bed somewhat early due to fatigue. But sleep wouldn’t come. All of a sudden strong urge to go to the Anjaneya cave and spend the night there in unceasing repetition of japa till morning, soon took me captive. I always believed that good thoughts should be put to speedy action. And so, I made for the sanctifying cave with a pair of dhoti to cover myself with — to ward off the mosquito bites there. It was a fine moonlit night and I had no difficulty in reaching the precincts of the giant cave and with considerable efforts I groped my way in and seated myself at a point which I felt was central.

Immediately thereafter, I began to feel the frightsome loneliness of a pitch dark cave quite distant from human habitation. I was very much susceptible to nervous fears in those days, and hence, the situation in which I had unconsciously put myself was singularly strange and tension some. Somehow,  'I fought for and mustered courage in the soothsome feeling  that I was in a most holy spot of Humpi and that a lonely night prayerfully spent there would have a cleansing and purifying  effect — so necessary for a spiritual novice like me. With such inward preparedness,  I began chanting mentally my personal japa.  With the passage of some time, I was completely free from fear and was even experiencing the inexplicable ecstasy which springs from chanting the japa by simultaneously contemplating upon its esoteric meaning with an absolute fixity of mind. Never before then, did I experience such  blissful poise-though I regularly spent some time in devotional practices. Surely this was due to the spontaneous influence of the potential and elevating atmosphere of the cave. I knew not as to how long I remained in that way, when abruptly I became conscious of some movement inside the cave.
But for reptiles, what else could be in the cave, thought I; and that very thought of reptiles seized me with fear. Now there was no mistaking-the sound was of something crawling over tiny chunks of wood that were lying scattered in the cave. A race of negative thoughts of sorts was going on in my mind which was yet too weak and immature to boldly and serenely front the odd happenings of life. As I sensed the thing heading towards where I was seated, tears began to flow from my eyes, my heart was beating very fast and in that startling and spiritless state, I soiled my under-wear. When some time later, I felt that my unknown but dreadful co-occupant of the cave was resting on my legs, a severe -shiver of shocking fright shot forth from my body and the serpent swiftly scaled straight over my chest, and face and made a downward climb by my back. I must have taken quite some time to recover myself from the indescribable daze of unconsciousness into which I was thrown. The cave was then wholly quiet—but my mind wasn't.
Much as I wanted to quit the cave at once, I then had no guts to put that liberating thought to quick action; for, the fear of something untoward happening kept me back. I resumed chanting japa but could not do it with steadiness and continuity. The terrible thought of the possible reappearance of the recumbent reptile was still haunting me. As I was thus whiling away the time with mixed feelings and expectancy of release from the tight fix, I could see day-break light falling from some small crevices in the farthest end of the cave. Crow cries, chirpings of birds and cock-crows were also heard by me. True to my earlier apprehensions, however, the heart-raking movement of the snake was once again heard and with that whisked away all the courage which I had gathered from the sight of the light and the music of the birds announcing the dawn. After another hour or so spent with closed eyes in such suspense and mental agitation, turning back I saw day-light penetrating the cave from the passage about 20 feet away. With hesitance I rose up, tip-toed upto the entrance and bolted from there in the direction of habitation. After bathing and washing in the wayside pond, I reached my apartment.
Regular morning prayers etc., over, I went to an old resident saint of Kishkindha and narrated to him the entire incident of the night. After a patient hearing, the Mahatmaji told me that I had done the right tiling in going to the cave with the honourable purpose of spending the night in the rich spiritual atmosphere there where Hanumanji, the savant of saintliness was born. But, he quickly added, "You did it in a wrong way—and that's why you suffered so much." He further said, "You ought to have consulted someone about the place and its surroundings, or atleast carried a torch—the ever ready companion which guides one in darkness''. How could I convince him that I went to the cave propelled exclusively by a peculiar impulse ! ! ! As for the snake, the Maharajshri told me that a small baby Python was staying in the vicinity of the cave and rejoined coolly that it was a harmless creature.

Later, that old saint of charming countenance, conducted me to the cave and from somewhere adjacent to the southern end of the gupha pointed out to me the tiny python which was then lying there coiled-up and basking in the wintry sun. Since snakes seldom hear with eyes shut, I could not renew my acquaintance with it. So, I respectfully paid my best regards and bade adieu to it from a respectable distance.