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Selfless service

Posted on - Sat Mar 2017       Assorted / by indeayoga

Yoga Baratha

Mundaka Upanishad says, ‘Na karmana na prajaya dhanena tyagenaike amrutatvamanashuhu.’ (Not by actions, wealth, or progeny but by sacrifice alone is immortality attained). The story of Amarneediar helps to understand the meaning of this quote.


Amaraneediar Nayanar was a trader in gold, diamonds, silks and cotton goods. He used to import these goods from foreign countries and was selling them at reasonable prices. He was blessed with prosperity, a good name and an adorable family. Though he was engaged in worldly activities his mind was ever immersed in the thoughts of Lord Shiva. He did not draw happiness from his possessions, rather from using them to serve the needy and the devoted. He built a dhama to accommodate devotees and he and his wife spent their time feeding and giving them a loincloth (Kowpeenam - the only garment most of the yogis wore), with a feeling they were serving the Lord himself.

Lord Shiva was said to be highly pleased with Amaraneediar’s charity and extreme kindness to his devotees. He wanted to show to the world His devotee’s greatness and also shower His blessings on him.

So, one day Lord Shiva in the guise of a Brahmachari, with beautiful matted locks on his head, sacred ashes on his forehead, with a staff on his shoulder, appeared before Amaraneediar’s Dhama. Two Kowpeenams and a small ash-bag were tied to one end of the staff. He had a charming face. His eyes were glittering. He walked gracefully into the Dhama.

Amaraneediar, with extreme joy welcomed him. The Brahmachari said: ‘Oh friend, you are a noble soul. People are highly praising your Kowpeenam charity. I have come to you for darshan.’ Amaraneediar begged him to stay at his Dhama. He readily agreed and said: ‘I shall go to the river and return after finishing my bath and Nitya Karmas. Rain may drench my Kowpeenams. So, please keep this dry Kowpeenam safely with you, and I shall come back for it. The Kowpeenam is very precious, as you already know. So, please keep it safe.’

The Brahmachari went away, and Amaraneediar kept the Kowpeenam safely inside the house. But, the Lord willed that it should disappear! Soon after the Brahmachari came back after his bath, etc., and asked for the dry Kowpeenam as rain had drenched the Kowpeenam he had on the staff. Amaraneediar could not find it. He prayed hard to the Lord. Yet, he could not find it. He fell at the feet of Brahmachari, trembling with another Kowpeenam, and explained his predicament to him. But, the Brahmachari was in no mood to take any explanation. Amaraneediar offered much wealth, etc., in compensation but, the Brahmachari said: ‘What have I to do with all this wealth? All these are of no use to me. I will accept only that cloth which is as worthy and equivalent to my Kowpeenam.’

Amaraneediar was greatly relieved when he heard this. He brought a balance. He put the Kowpeenam on one side and another piece on the other. The Brahmachari’s scale went down. Whatever Amaraneediar put on his side, the Brahmachari’s scale was heavier. Amaraneediar was amazed: and he understood that it was God’s own Lila. All his wealth could not equal the Brahmachari’s Kowpeenam! How could it? Lord Siva’s Kowpeenam represents the Vedas. The fibres of His Kowpeenam represent the Shastras.

Amaraneediar was in a dilemma. He prostrated at the Brahmachari’s feet and asked him to allow himself, his wife, and his child to be weighed against the Brahmachari’s Kowpeenam. The Brahmachari agreed. Amaraneediar got on the scale with his wife and his child, saying: ‘If I have truly served your devotees, with faith and sincerity, let this sca1e be equal in weight to the other one.’ Immediately the two scales were equal. The merit of Amaraneediar’s selfless service of the devotees was equal to the merit of Lord Shiva’s Kowpeenam.

Lord Shiva came to Amaraneediyar, drenched not seeking His garment but His devotee's pure heart. Amaraneediyar had led such a life. His acts of service had purified his heart and made it a fitting offering to the Lord.

Maybe the Lord wanted to show the world through His devotee that dearer to Him than all the wealth, finery and even service was the heart filled with pure, selfless devotion. And that state of the heart is reached through service and sacrifice. May each one of us prepare this garment and keep it in readiness for our Lord.

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