1.4 STRANGE EXPERIENCES OF CHANDRADEVI
The unique spiritual experiences and visions of the parents of great souls who sanctify the earth by their birth, are recorded in the religious books of all races. For example, this has been done in the case of the parents of divine personages like the glorious Sri Ramachandra, Bhagavan Sri Krishna, Buddha the son of Mayadevi, Jesus the son of Mary, Bhagavan Sri Sankara, Sri Chaitanya the great Lord, and others who, ever since their birth, have been receiving the adoration and reverence of devout human beings. It will be sufficient if we tell the reader a few instances:
It is well known that, according to the Ramayana, the mothers of Sri Ramachandra and his three half-brothers conceived on eating the milk-pudding left over in the sacrificial vessel. It is also recorded there that they came to know, more than once, before and after the birth of the sons, that they were endowed with spiritual powers and were actually parts of Vishnu, the divine Lord and Preserver of the universe.
The parents of Sri Krishna knew, both at the time of his entering the mother’s womb and also immediately after he was born, that he was God incarnate endowed with the six divine powers. Besides this, Puranas like the Bhagavata recount strange incidents in their daily lives from the moment Krishna was born.
When the Buddha came, Mayadevi saw in a vision an exalted Being entering her womb in the form of an effulgent white elephant, and all the gods including Indra paying homage to her because of her great good fortune.
Before Lord Jesus was born, his mother Mary felt that she had become pregnant without knowing her husband, Joseph. Filled with a spiritual radiance never seen before, she knew that she had conceived.
The mother of Bhagavan Sankara knew that she had conceived when the God of gods, Mahadeva, came to her in a vision and granted her a boon.
We read in Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita and other books that Sachidevi, the mother of Bhagavan Sri Chaitanya, also had similar spiritual experiences.
All the religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, etc., — have shown that the worship of God with intense love is the easiest way to obtain His grace. Since they all assert this, the question that naturally arises in the mind of an impartial investigator is, whether there is any truth underlying this statement; and if so, what part of the experiences narrated above should be accepted and what rejected.
Even reason suggests that, after all, there may be some truth in what has been said; for modern science accepts that only parents possessing great virtues can beget children of lofty character. So it cannot be denied that the parents of Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and those like them were endowed with the noblest qualities. And, again, it is clear that when those remarkable children were born, the parents dwelt in exalted planes of consciousness beyond the reach of ordinary human beings. It was this that made them fit for such unique visions and experiences.
Although the Puranas record many examples of such experiences, and though they are not opposed to reason, the human mind cannot accept them fully. Putting its trust only in knowledge gained by the senses, it cannot fully believe in the existence of entities such as the Self, God, Liberation, a hereafter and the like, except through direct realization. Although this is so, an impartial investigator does not discard any experience only because it is rare or uncommon, but taking his stand on facts he calmly proceeds to collect evidences for and against it; and, finally, on the basis of these objective data either rejects or accepts it.
In any case, we have come to know through reliable sources that the parents of the great personage whose life we are to write, had at the time of his birth, various spiritual visions and experiences. We have, therefore, no alternative but to record those facts. In the previous chapter, we told the reader a few such instances about Kshudiram and we will now do the same in respect of Chandradevi.
On his return home, Kshudiram did not tell any one about the strange dream he had had at Gaya, but waited to see what would happen. The first thing he observed was the wonderful change that had come over Chandradevi. In his eyes, she was no longer an ordinary woman, but indeed a goddess. An all-embracing love, springing from some unknown source, filled her heart and raised her to a lofty plane beyond all worldly desires. She was now more concerned about the wants of her neighbours than about her own affairs. In the midst of her household duties she would now and then go to attend to their needs. Unobserved she would take provisions and other daily necessaries from her store, and give to the needy. After finishing the service of Raghuvir, she would serve food to her husband and children; then, though already late, she would go, before taking her own food, to find out if her neighbours had taken theirs. If some day she happened to meet anyone who for any reason had gone without food, she would insist on taking him home and feeding him with her own share of cooked food. Then she would herself take what little she could find and pass the day quite contented.
Kshudiram found that Chandra, who always loved as her own the children of the neighbourhood, now felt a motherly love for the gods also. She actually looked upon Raghuvir, the family deity, as her own son, and also regarded the goddess Sitala and the emblem of the god Rameswar, as her children. Formerly her heart always used to be filled with awe at the time of the service and worship of these deities, but now the force of love completely replaced that feeling. Any idea of fear or hesitation in her approach to the gods vanished, and she had now nothing to hide from them or ask of them Instead, came the assurance that the gods were even closer to her than her own children, and an intense desire to sacrifice her all to make them happy, and an ecstasy of being bound to them in an eternal relation.
Kshudiram noticed that, as a result of her care-free devotion to the gods and the joy born of her intimate relationship with them, the simple-hearted Chandra became more trusting than ever. She could no longer suspect anyone nor look upon another as a stranger. He thought, “The selfish world will never appreciate such guilelessness. On the contrary, she will be called silly or mad or something like that.” Therefore, he looked for an opportunity to warn her.
It was not long before his opportunity came. The simple Chandra could not keep a single thought from her husband. She often confided her thoughts even to her friends. How then could she keep them from one whom God had placed nearer to her than anyone else in the world? Therefore afer Kshudiram returned home from Gaya, Chandradevi, for days together, took every opportunity to relate to him all that she had seen or experienced during his absence. One day she told him: “When you were away, I had a strange dream in which I saw a luminous god lying on my bed. At first I thought it was you, but soon realized that no human being could be like that. Then I woke up, but the thought persisted that the god was still in the bed. The next moment, another thought came. Does a god ever appear to a human being in this way?’ Then it occurred to me that some wicked person might have entered the room for an evil purpose and that perhaps the sound of his footsteps had caused my dream. A great fear then seized me. I got up hurriedly and lighted a lamp, but found that there was no one in the room and the door was still bolted from within. But fear kept me awake the rest of that night. Then I thought, ‘Is it possible that a person had entered the room somehow by removing the bolt, but seeing me awake, ran away afer replacing it in a mysterious way?’ As soon as it was morning, I sent for Dhani and Prasanna, and after telling them everything, asked: ‘Do you think a man really entered my room? I have no quarrel with any one in the village. Only I had some words with Madhu Jugi, the other day, over a trifling matter. Is it possible that he entered my room because of some grudge against me?’ Both of them laughed and chided me, saying, ‘You silly woman! Has old age affected your brain? Why do you talk that way about your dream? Think what other people will say when they hear about it! It will give rise to a scandal and you will be ridiculed if you mention it to anybody again.’ Hearing this I thought, ‘Oh, then it was really a dream. I would not tell anyone about it but you on your return.’
“On another occasion when I was speaking with Dhani in front of the temple of the Jugis, I suddenly saw a divine effulgence come from the holy image of the great God Siva, fill the temple and rush towards me in waves. Taken by surprise I was on the point of telling Dhani about it, when all of a sudden the light engulfed me and swiftly entered into my body. Stunned by wonder and fear, I fell down unconscious. Aferwards, when Dhani had helped me to recover, I told her everything. At first she was much surprised; then she said, ‘You had an epileptic fit.’ But I have the feeling that the light has been in my womb ever since, and that I am pregnant. I told this also to Dhani and Prasanna, but they rebuked me and called me silly, mad and what not. According to them what I had experienced was caused by some delusion or bodily affliction. Trying in various ways to make me understand this, they warned me not to speak of the occurrence to anyone else. Determined not to divulge it to anyone except you, I have so far kept silent. Well, what do you think? Was it the grace of God that did it, or could it have been due only to ill health? Even now I have the feeling that I am pregnant.”
As he listened to everything that Chandra said, Kshudiram remembered his own dream at Gaya. Then reassuring her in various ways, he said: “Do not henceforth speak about such visions and experiences to anybody except me. Be free from all anxiety and know for certain that whatever Raghuvir shows by His grace is for our good. During my stay at Gaya Gadadhar revealed to me in a supernatural way that a son would be born to us.” These words of her godlike husband set Chandradevi’s mind at rest; and obeying Him she henceforward depended entirely on Raghuvir. Three or four months had passed after this conversation between Kshudiram and his wife, when it became clear to everyone that Chandradevi, although past forty-five, had become pregnant again. Women are said to gain in loveliness and grace when they are in the family way. This was noticed in Chandradevi also, and Dhani and other women of the village used to remark that she appeared lovelier this time than on previous occasions. As the news spread, some of them began to whisper among themselves: “Imagine a woman conceiving at her age and looking so sweet! She may even die at the time of delivery.”
Day by day, after she had conceived, Chandradevi’s spiritual visions and experiences became more numerous. It is said that at this time her visions of gods and goddesses occurred almost daily. At times, she was aware of a purifying fragrance coming from the bodies of these holy beings and spreading over the whole house; or, again, she would hear celestial voices and be struck with wonder. It is also said that at this time her heart overflowed with motherly love for all the gods and goddesses. Almost every day she would tell her husband about these visions and experiences and ask why they should come to her. Kshudiram comforted her in various ways and told her not to be perturbed. We shall now relate an incident of this period. We were told that Chandra described it thus to her husband with a feeling of awe: “O revered one, there is no end to the number of gods and goddesses who have shown themselves to me from time to time ever since the day I saw the light, standing in front of the Siva temple. Many of them I have never seen before, not even in pictures. Today, I saw a god come on the back of a swan. At first I was startled; but then feeling sorry for him as his face was red with the heat of the sun I called him and said, ‘O dear little god riding a swan, your face looks burnt by the sun. There is in the house some cold rice, prepared yesterday. Come, eat a little and get refreshed before you go.’ He heard me and smiled, but then faded away and I could see him no more. I see many such forms. I do not worship or meditate on them and yet I see them at any time of the day or night. Sometimes they come before me in human shapes, and then dissolve into thin air. Can you tell me why I see all this? Is it some disease? At times I wonder if I am possessed by the spirit of Gosain1.” Then Kshudiram told her again about the dream he had had at Gaya and pointed out how fortunate she was to be actually carrying in her womb the Supreme Lord whose purifying influence alone gave rise to her spiritual visions. Because of her absolute faith in her husband’s words, what he now said filled Chandra’s heart with supreme devotion. Fortified by a new strength she became free from anxiety.
Time rolled on. Completely surrendering themselves to Raghuvir, Kshudiram and his virtuous wife spent their days in the expectation of beholding, as their son, the divine Being whose auspicious presence had already filled their lives with deep devotion.