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Autobiography of Sage Narada

(An account of the spiritual evolution of sage Narada, in his own words.)

I was born the son of a poor servant woman. My father had passed away when I was still very
young and I don’t remember him at all. The only memories I have are those of my mother. After
my father’s death, mother began to perform daily chores at the house of a Brahmin. I grew up
in this house.

My mother had to work all day. Washing the clothes, cleaning utensils etc were all part of her
daily duties. I used to wander behind her in the house and help her with these tasks. This
pleased my mother no end. She was extremely fond of me and used to tenderly shower me
with affection. Being her only child she had high hopes from me. She believed that her son
would grow up, get a suitable job and then marry. The daughter in law would provide her with
all the happiness she required.

One day a group of sadhus came wandering into our village. The people requested them to stay
for a few months and give them the benefit of their holy company. The villagers made
preparations for their stay. The Brahmin in whose house I was living took me to the sadhus and
said to them: "He is the son of a poor widow. Kindly let him remain in your service. He will be
useful for collecting flowers, Tulsi leaves etc for your worship. He will do whatever you say."

In this manner did I start serving saints. Indeed it is rare to have darshan of true saints. Rarer
still is to get a chance to serve them. Even if we do get a chance to serve them, it is difficult to
develop full faith in them. Actually, the one who stays 24 hours with saints is bound to observe
their failings also. Only God is perfect. The one who lives in this dirty body, however great a
saint he may be, is bound to have some failings. But a perfect saint cannot do anything. His
perfection would not let him live separate from God, who, by definition, is neutral. In such a
scenario, how can the benevolent saints bestow on us the grace of their compassion (since
their own ‘neutrality' would make them unable to act). Therefore, only the one who has
supreme faith in saints can reap the rich rewards of their company.

I had developed two favourable qualities since childhood. The first was getting up early before
the sun rose. This auspicious moment is known as ‘Brahma Muhurta’ and corresponds roughly
to 3:30 AM. My guru, who was the head of the sadhus, used to get up at 4’0 clock. I would bow
to him as soon as he got up. This pleased him immensely. Saints like those who get up early. My
second quality was that I spoke very little. This too is endearing to saints, who do not
appreciate talkativeness. I used to stand before my guru with folded hands. Humility is a
necessary characteristic for obtaining the grace of saints. Actually this is poverty’s greatest
merit. It brings with itself meekness and submissiveness. "I don’t have a single penny. I am
illiterate. What should I feel proud for?" These emotions accompanying poverty destroy our
pride. Money on the other hand inevitably strengthens our pride.

My guru used to give discourses regularly to the villagers. In the morning he used to speak on
the Upanishads and in the evenings he narrated the sweet stories of Lord Krishna, who was his
Ishta-Devata. He had immense affection for Krishna’s baby form. Whenever he used to recall
the Lord, tears welled up in his eyes choking his throat. He had an extreme affection for stories
of Krishna and narrated them in a manner which immensely affected the listeners. I too deeply
enjoyed these stories, particularly the ones about Krishna’s cowherd friends, who, like me,
were not educated nor had any wealth, but were still Krishna’s favorites.

Such was my guru’s vivid description of Krishna. I was a child but was very much affected by
these stories. God loves children, who get immediate entry into His inner chambers. The one
whose heart is pure like a child’s, is the one who is favoured by God.

One day my guru bestowed exceptional grace upon me. It was some festival and there was
celebration all around. I was in his service since morning. In the afternoon, after the saints had
had lunch, I went inside to pick up their plates. My guru was seated there. Actually, it is only a
saint’s affection which is pure. The love given by this world is selfish. For the one who has
obtained to God, there is nothing left to be gained and he has no other interest other than God.
Only the one who has experienced God in this manner can love totally selflessly. A true saint’s
eyes are always glistening with the moisture of love.

Seeing me guruji asked: "Son! Have you had food?" I was very hungry and tired. Who was going
to give a poor child like me food so soon? Seeing my guru’s love drowned me in a surge of
affection. Tears welled up in my eyes. "How much does he care for me! So much is his love for
me!" Folding my hands I said: "I still have some service to saints pending; after that I will take
their prasad." Guruji realised that no one had given food to me till now: "This boy is the first to
get up. Serves saints the whole day. Listens to discourses everyday. Surely God will bless this
child. May he be blessed with the boon of bhakti." Guruji was overcome with compassion. He
said to me: "Son!, there is still some food leftover in my plate. You go and eat that." Thus he
blessed me with the ultimate prasad.

Actually my guruji had a rule never to have even water without first offering it to Lord Krishna.
Thus each of his meals was reduced to prasadam. What can I say! Eating the prasad that day
transformed my life. The nectar of Krishna Katha was particularly sweet to me that day. I
performed kirtan of the holy name of God dancing in ecstasy. Supreme love for God flowed in
my veins. When love for God is kindled in one’s heart it destroys all our sins. No one can live
without God. The mistake we make is that we love this world more than we love God. Guruji
blessed me and ignited the spark of divine love in my bososm.

After four months the time came for my guru to leave. I felt very sad. Company of a worldly
man and separation from a holy man - both lead to sadness. When my guru was resting in
solitude I went and bowed before him. With folded hands I asked him: "Guruji! You gave me the
knowledge of God. It is because of you that I now realise what real happiness means. Please
don’t leave me. I will serve you always, please take me with you."

My guru, a jnani, replied: "Son! I have no problem in taking you with me; however, it will make
your mother very sad. You are bound in debt to her. You are her only son. Serve her. Serving
your mother is nothing but bhakti only. You should remain at home and do this bhakti."

I answered: "Guruji! You had once said that our soul is connected to God and our body to our
parents or brother-sister etc. The soul is always to be preferred over the body. You had
explained that when there is a conflict between the soul and the body, then we have to keep
the body as secondary and give preference to the soul. The soul’s principal duty is to cultivate
love for God. Actually the only true relationship is that of the soul with God. Our relationship
with this world is false. The true guru is the one who prevents us from sinning and guides us on
the path to bhakti. I love my mother very much. But she dissuades me from listening to your
discourses. She feels that I am too young for this. She says that I should first study to clear my
exams. When I will clear my exams I will get a job. After the job I will get a wife then there will
be children. This is what enjoying life is all about!

"Guruji! My mother does not know the meaning of true happiness. Only you have explained to
me where true happiness lies. You have shown me the light. My mother wants me to marry and
have children. I don’t want to have anything to do with these worldly attachments. I don’t
want to live with my mother. It is you have defined a true Vaishnava as one who keeps himself
away from those who do not love Lord Krishna. Indeed, a Vaishnava is the one who does not
have any hatred but shuns the company of those who do not have bhakti."

To this Guruji replied: "Son! The correct thing is to live here only. She is but your mother. She
nurtured you in her stomach for 280 days. Never forget a mother’s love and favors. The son
who serves his mother is the one who is dear to God. The body is given by the mother only. Yet
it is also true that the mind has not been given by her. Hence do bhakti of God with your mind
and serve your mother with your body. Your relations only want your body. They do not want
your mind. God needs neither your body nor your money. He asks only that you give your mind
to Him."

I asked: "How do I perform bhakti with my mind?"

Guruji replied: "From today, start believing that you are an ordinary servant in the house of
Nanda Baba, Krishna’s father. Recall that Krishna, when following his cows, does not wear
shoes. He walks barefooted. Your job is to walk in front of him and pick up the pebbles and
stones lying in His path so that they do not hurt Him. When Krishna plays with His friends on
the banks of river Yamuna, you take a bunch of grapes and slowly feed them to him one by

"Son! Remember, no one can understand the lila of God. Maybe your mother will change.
Always live according to her wishes. Speak in the manner she likes. Respect her. Bow to her.
Due to her blessings you will never experience any obstacles in your bhakti."

Then my guru gave me a mantra to chant which had Krishna’s name in it. Chanting of the divine
name clears all our sins. He also instructed that I should first pull Krishna into my mind and then
chant His name. All the time I should be should be requesting Krishna: "Dear Lord! my mind
wanders aimlessly in this world. I cannot keep it under control on my own. You please make it
attract towards you.

"Indeed, Krishna’s power of attraction is divine. Chant ‘Krishna Krishna!’ with love. Request
Him lovingly. Slowly he will pull your mind towards Him. Our only duty is to call out to Him with
love. The rest He will do Himself."

After giving this instruction, my guru left. I felt devastated at the separation. How much
affection he had for me! Whenever someone pays respect to me I am reminded of him. My
fame is a result of his grace only.

Following his instructions, I stayed at home for twelve more years. With my body I served my
mother while my mind was always in Vrindavana. I performed bhakti towards Krishna by
chanting the mantra given to me by my guru.

One day, early in the morning, my mother was going to milk the cows. In the dark she stepped
on a snake who bit her. She died instantly. I believed this too be an expression of the grace of
God and did not experience too much pain at the happening. I was bound by a single thread of
attachment. God had now broken that too. Now I belonged only to God and realised that
except God there was nobody who I could truly call mine. I started living drowned in the
Ananda of this bhava.

Whatever I had at home I spent on the last rites of my mother. With only one piece of cloth I
left the house. I had heard from my guru that God looks after even atheists. Then what did I
have to worry who was one of His own. Animals and birds do not worry where they will get
their next meal from. They do not store anything. They keep faith in God. The God who has
given food today will do so tomorrow also. It is only human beings who fuss too much about
their food.

My faith in the divine name was so intense that I chanted even as I walked. Even when I talked
the constant flow of inner chanting continued. The person who becomes one with the name of
God eventually obtains oneness with God too. This is possible for only those who constantly
chant the divine name.

I wandered in various pilgrimages for many years. I remember clearly that I never once had to
go and ask for my food. I never had to go hungry by the grace of God. Whenever I was hungry,
God would inspire somebody to come and offer me food.

One day wandering about, I reached the shores of the river Ganga. I bowed before her and
bathed in her sacred waters. Then I sat down under a tree on the riverbank and continued my
chanting. My mind was now purified. In this pure mind took birth the desire to have a physical
darshan of the Lord. I had already had His darshan mentally many times. I then saw before me a
blue light. My vision was reduced to pure light. The chanting inside continued. Then I discerned
the form of Lord Krishna formed out of the light. In front of me was the five-year old Krishna. I
totally love this form of Krishna. That day mother Yashoda had adorned him with a beautiful
yellow cloth. He had a waistband with bells. There were circular earrings in His ears and pearls
in His nose. There was a tilaka on the forehead and His hair was silken. He had a peacock crown
on His head and the flute in His tiny hand. A smile played on His lips and the eyes were filled
with affection. The bliss of that darshan is inexpressible. Even Goddess Saraswati would be at a
loss for words to describe that beautiful vision of Krishna.

Krishna was watching me intently with love. I wanted to run towards Him and take refuge in
His feet. He is my master. I am just a mere servant of His. This feeling was strengthened. My
master is extremely generous. He is filled with love. When I venerate His feet, He will place His
hands on my head. I ran to touch His feet. Before I could reach Him, Krishna vanished.

The place where I had received darshan of God, I deemed as the ‘place of God’, and resolved to
never leave that place. I stayed there only. I experienced the following benefit there: Just six
months before my death I experienced that the body was different from the soul. I am not the
body. The knot binding together the inanimate with the animate became undone. The body is
inanimate and the soul animate. These two had been knotted together. Vedanta calls this knot
‘unreal’. Even though unreal, it causes a lot of distress for us all. This knot opens up only when
we cultivate love for God. Bhakti is the only way of opening this knot. In the end, my
experience was that I whatever bhakti I did, I received its fruit.

I did not experience any pain or suffering at the time of death. I left my body thinking of my
beloved Krishna. The one whose mind is attached to the world experiences difficulty in giving
up the body. He doesn’t want to give up his body, but the Yamadutas do not let him live there.
They humiliatingly push him out of his body. After leaving my body I went to Brahmaloka,
where I was reborn as Brahma Ji’s manas-putra (mental-born). There I was handed over my
musical instrument, and now, free from everything, I wander around the three worlds, singing
the glory of my beloved God Narayana.

This narrative is almost totally based on the teachings of Shri Dongre Ji.

This article by Nitin Kumar.