Yesterday I talked about an Indian ascetic, Prahlad Jani, who doesn’t eat or drink and his life is sustained by Goddess Amba, who arranged for small drops of “nectar” falling through a hole in his palate. Yesterday I discussed public reaction to this phenomenon, today let’s talk about what it means for us as aspiring devotees.
Amba is a form of Durgā, basically it means “mother”. That area of Gujarat has a famous Ambaji temple with millions of pilgrims visiting each year. Interestingly, there’s no deity there, and Amba is worshiped in the form of yantra, which isn’t even visible to a naked eye. The story goes that it’s the place where Satī’s heart fell when her half burned body was carried away by Lord Śīva after that fateful Dakṣa yajña.
There’s little surprise, therefore, that the place has her special followers and she bestows a special mercy on them. There should be a big surprise for those who think it’s all just a superstition and some drawings on the ground can’t possibly have any spiritual potency. Even devotees can have doubts here because these things aren’t supposed to work in this degraded age, no one is supposed to be pure enough to draw real yantras, but here it is.
I guess we can say that this particular yantra was drawn long time ago, when Nagar Brahmins, mentioned in Skanda Puraṇa, had all the necessary power and purity. They build a temple, btw, the yantra could have been drawn even earlier.
There might be no qualified people born to create such a yantra now but since the Goddess is already there, she must be accompanied by her devotees, who then can continuously take birth in the area, and she can impart these devotees with all the necessary powers. We would be fools to dismiss them as hacks and frauds just as we would be fools to criticize fish eating Sabars serving Lord Jagannātha.
So, when one of these servant was still a very young boy Amba, or three Goddesses together (all manifestations of Durgā anyway), appeared before him and asked for his surrender and worship. I suppose he didn’t have time to think it through and expressed the first worry that was on his mind – if he were to become a renunciate devotee, what was he supposed to eat? No worries, said the Goddess(es) and granted him this boon of not needing any external food.
It appears that he does still need external sources of energy, the doctors, for example, believe that he gets it from gazing at the Sun, though it’s not the only theory, I suppose. When confined in the room Prahlad loses weight but quickly gains it when “exposed to the elements” outside. He needs fresh air, he needs sunlight, and he needs to walk barefoot on the actual ground. This direct connection of our bodies to nature must be sufficient. The energy then transforms from subtle to gross and drops as a lump of “nectar” from the hole in Prahlad’s palate. Sticking your finger in his mouth and feeling it up is gross indeed. I wonder if doctors ever got a hold of it and tested the substance, haven’t seen any mention of it anywhere.
It’s of no particular importance to us but Prahlad sees himself as a female servant of Amba, he dresses in female like clothes, wears jewelry, and paints his nails. He is also officially addressed as mātājī. It doesn’t mean this image affects his mundane sexuality, afaik. It would be unthinkable to the westerners but ascetics like Prahlad have no interest in mundane sex whatsoever and their spiritual self-identification has no bearing on their external sexual conduct towards other people. Of course even Amba herself is a temporary form so it’s not strictly speaking spiritual self-identification but it’s still far out of the grasp of modern materialists.
Now, the first and the most important lesson we should learn here is that Kṛṣṇa can easily sustain our lives in absolutely any conditions, ma śucaḥ – don’t worry. If Goddess Amba can provide food transformed from sunlight and inserted directly into one’s mouth for the duration of one’s life, Kṛṣṇa can surely do even better.
This should end the questions of what we, as vegetarians, would eat if we were stranded on a deserted island with no plants and only fish for food, or if we were survivors of that Chilean airplane that fell in the mountains and people had to eat flesh of their less fortunate companions.
We don’t need to eat. Period.
We assume that there are certain bodily functions that must be provided for regardless of our Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and food is one of them. Passing the food out of the other end of our bodies is another. Prahlad’s case shows that both of these functions don’t need actual food to be grown, gathered, cooked, and eaten, it can be easily arranged, if necessary.
We also know that yogīs can survive for thousands of years simply by occasionally breathing and balancing the energy of air in their bodies practically indefinitely. We know it’s possible with enough practice and supportive environment (in caves, no in Kali Yuga cities), but Prahlad’s case shows that being a highly trained yogī is not necessary, too. One little boon from the higher powers can provide what no men in this age can achieve for themselves.
The key point here is that it can easily happen by Kṛṣṇa’s grace, if necessary, it doesn’t mean we can do it on our own. If Kṛṣṇa doesn’t feed and maintain us we won’t survive. We can’t become His protected devotees simply by declaring ourselves as such even if we have all the necessary qualifications. It must always be a reciprocal relationship. We become devotees only when Kṛṣṇa relates to us in this way and engages in some sort of an exchange. Without His actual presence in our lives we can only be candidates, hoping and waiting that one day He’ll take interest in us and decides to reach out.
I had lots of other ideas and lessons to take from Prahlad’s phenomenon but they all seem to have escaped my mind. Never mind, this last point, about our devotion needing validation only from Kṛṣṇa and no one else to be recognized as such is important enough to leave as the end of this post. There’s a lot to digest about it as it is.