One of the main disciples of our AachaaryaaL was Padma Paada who joined our AachaaryaaL, when he was not yet 16 years of age, and was living in Kaasi. Padma Paada’s earlier name was ‘Sanandana’. He was from the Sozha Desam. Let me tell you a story about him.
When he was still living in his native village, a great Mahatma gave him a Mantra Upadesa, on Narasimha / Nrusimha Swami. As he kept doing Japa of that Mantra, he had a desire to meet that Nrusimha Murthy! He walked out of his house, went to a lonely forest. Climbed a far off hill and sat in a cave there, doing his Japa! A hunter came there.
Looking at the Brahmin that physically hardened rustic simpleton was moved to pity! He asked our Sanandana, “Hi Sami! What have you come here for? We are physically fit and capable of taking care of ourselves in a place like this forest! What will you do here? What for have you come here?” Sanandana thought about giving him a suitable reply. If I talk about Japa and Nrusimha Mantra; it will make no meaningful impression on this man, he thought.
So he answered him in the following words! “There is an animal in this forest with a body like a human being below the hips and looks like a Lion above the hips. I came for that Nara (human) + Simha (lion) = Narasimha being!”
Now the hunter was in a quandary! For many years he had been a hunter in these parts of the world and he almost knew each and every animal of that forest! So he replied in all his innocence, “My Dear, Iyer Sir! I hope you are telling the truth. I have never seen such an animal in this forest! If you are telling the truth, which you must be, it is below my dignity and prestige that this animal has been eluding me! I am not going to let such a state of affairs to continue. If you are true, tell me and it will be my task to catch hold of him and bring before you. You only have to confirm and I am off”, he said.
Though the people of the forest seem to be rough and tough and we seem to be nice and gentlemanly; in fact their simplicity, hard work, sincerity, bravery and helpful attitude are all alien to us and our skulduggery is not in their bloods! However, he could not control his smile at the idea of Narasimha Murthy becoming a prisoner in the hands of this character.
But the hunter was quick to react. “Why are you smiling? Are you having a joke at my expense?” Sanandana had had enough of diversion. He was getting fed up with this invasion of his privacy and told the hunter that, the fact of the existence of Narasimha Swami was anyhow the truth and that the hunter can carry on with his business as it is not an easy task to catch hold of this Nara Simha Murthy!
But this was too much of an insult to the ego, for the Hunter! He told Sanandana, “What? By tomorrow evening see if I bring that animal before you or not! If I cannot bring that half a lion / half a man, before you; I do not deserve to live in this forest anymore, claiming myself to be a great hunter! When you have taken the pains to come all the way up to my forest in search of him, it is my duty to assist you. Otherwise what is the use of my being here at all?” Sanandana could not say anything anymore. “What can I do, if you start out that you will achieve the impossible? It is your sweet will and pleasure! Please go ahead!”
The hunter went searching for this half human / half animal Nara Simha Murthy. He did not leave any place unsearched. He was not thinking of food or his tiredness. The whole day was over. Next day also passed. It was the evening of the second day! He did not give up his search, all the time thinking only of the Nara Simha Murthy. “OK. I have not been able to keep up my word given to that Brahmin. It is evening already and I have failed to live up to my promise. I should now give up my life, as the time limit is over” he thought to himself! He cut some creepers and hung it from a tree and was about to hang himself, to commit suicide. Lo! There was Nara Simha Murthy standing in front of him! “He has relentlessly thought of me only, in trying to maintain his promise so sincerely, uncaring for food or rest! I have to give him my Darshan!”
Thinking on these lines, Narasimha Swami just stood there happily to let the hunter do whatever he wanted with him! The hunter pounced on him, “You wretched animal, how much of a problem you have proved yourself to be! I have to thank my stars, that I have been able to find you!” He immediately tied him up in knots and dragged the Nara Simha to where that Brahmin was. Nara Simha Swami remained bound in more than the literal way! The hunter asked the Brahmin Sanandana, “Is this what you were looking for? Here, take him to wherever you wish to take him to. My job is over.”
Sanandana was flabbergasted beyond speech! What is this man talking, he was wondering as, he could not see any Nara Simha Swami. Only some pieces of creepers going round and round, hanging in mid air! For a flash it occurred to him if the hunter was just bluffing and just that moment Nara Simha Swami roared like a Lion does, proving his existence beyond any doubt!
Sanandana felt like crying. “Here I am chanting the Nrusimha Mantra day in and day out; and I cannot see this Nara Simha Swami and this country brute of a character hunter, goes in search of him and catches hold of him, ties him up in some creepers and says, ‘Here take him’! What can I say?”
There was an Asareeri (bodiless inhuman announcement) in the skies. “The one pointed devotion and concentration of mind that may happen only after millions of years of effort, could happen in this man’s case within a day! Without caring for hunger, sleep and physical exhaustion; this man searched every inch of this forest with utmost sincerity, ready to sacrifice his body and life to keep up his promise. This has never been matched before by any Rishi, worth his name! It is his Satsang (association) by chance, that has ennobled you also that though you cannot see me, you could at least hear me roar and this announcement! By this very incident, you have been blessed and attained your Mantra Siddhi! At the required time I will come and take care of you”, ended the announcement in the skies!
On an important occasion momentarily once, Padma Paada was spiritually over taken by the Nrusimha Swami and acted very violently as the Nrusimha Avatara! Let me tell you that story also!
That happened many years after he had become our AachaaryaaL’s disciple. There was set of people known as Kapalikaas, who used to live in cremation grounds, eat human flesh like cannibals and follow ‘Vaama Aachaara’ methods of worship including drinking liquor and experimenting with hallucinating drugs and random sex experiments! Their religion was known as Kaapaalikam.
Our AachaaryaaL was pointing out the mistakes in their methods and was advising them to come back to the Saatvic methods of Vedic Saastraas. Many of the Kapalikaas had a change of heart and were giving up their crude methods of worship of Siva and Durga wearing garlands of human skulls as ornaments and things like that. Some of them were nurturing hatred for our AachaaryaaL, as they could not put up any counter argument against AachaaryaaL’s, and found their own numbers dwindling.
One of them was planning ways and means of getting rid of our AachaaryaaL. He hit upon an idea. “This man is very kind and compassionate. Let me request him to be considerate to our viewpoint. May be he will agree. Let us try.”
So, when our AachaaryaaL was alone he went to him and did Namaskar (prostrated) before him. He said, “My Dear Sir! Till date despite many types of Bhali (sacrifices of living things by chopping off the head), I have not had the Darshan of Kapaali (Siva as their God)! I am told that if we sacrifice the head of a King who has been crowned as an Emperor or some great Gnaani who has attained to the Ashta Maha Siddhi (eight great powers) then God Kapaali will certainly reveal himself.
If I go to any king, before I can even make a request he will execute me! But you are a great Gnaani, Yogi and a kind hearted person. I am sure that you will accede to my request. Please permit me to behead you!”
If you wonder as to how could anybody dare make such a horrendous and outlandish request, the only answer can be that, our AachaaryaaL was such a considerate person that you could ask for anything that you need and he will most condescendingly oblige!
In fact our AachaaryaaL was very happy with the request of that Kaapaalika! ‘What we thought as the most useless material, this human body, if it can be useful to someone that too, to get the vision of God; nothing like it at all! When the tree dies, it is useful in making furniture or as firewood. The horns of cattle are useful for Abhishekam that is, pouring oblations on sacred idols. Elephant’s bones and tusks are ever valued as Ivory. Deer skin and even the cruel tiger’s skin are used to cover the seat when you do Yoga Aasana! I thought only this human body is good for nothing and this man is asking for it to be given to him as donation! That is very good’, he thought.
He told the Kaapaalika, “As you wish you can have my head but, my disciples should not know about it! They can be very dangerous. So, when I am sitting in meditation all alone, you can come and take away my head. Now, there seems to be somebody coming, you better hurry up and leave!” Saying this he closed his eyes.
Kaapaalika did not want to wait. He thought this very moment to be opportune enough and pulled out his sword. From somewhere Padma Paada materialised there. There was a huge roar and noise that sounded like, “Haa, Haa”.
AachaaryaaL opened his eyes. Kaapaalika was lying on the ground with his stomach torn to pieces with his intestines pulled out, dead! Padma Paada was standing nearby. Our AachaaryaaL asked him, “What happened? Who has done this?” Padma Paada said, “I do not know. I was near the river Ganges. Something happened and only now I have regained my consciousness.” AachaaryaaL said, “Oh I see! Were you ever given the Nrusimha Mantra as Upadesa?”
“Yes”, he replied, “But there was no use. Nrusimha Swami duped me and gave Darshan to a hunter. He said something like ‘I will come to you sometime when you need me!’ As he was answering, it became clear to Padma Paada. “Oh, Nrusimha Swami has done as promised! He must have come over me that this man has been sorted out! There could not have been a better time than this for his coming over!” Saying so, he did Namaskar to both his AachaaryaaL and Nrusimha Swami.
Let me tell you another story that happened, within a few days of his becoming one of the disciples of our AachaaryaaL, as to how he got the name as Padma Paada!
It is the normal custom to add the suffix ‘Paada’ to the names of Mahatmas like Gowda became Gowda Paada. You dare not look at their face and whole body but look only at their feet with respect. In this case, Padma Paada did not get his name like that. It is a name with a reason and logic of its own, with a story behind it.
One day Sanandana was on one bank of the River Ganges and our AachaaryaaL was on the other bank. AachaaryaaL was having a bath and so his clothes were dripping wet. He wished to demonstrate Sanandana’s respect and devotion to the Guru, for the world and other disciples to note, it seems. AachaaryaaL told Sanandana to bring the fresh dry clothes to him.
Guru’s orders are to be obeyed implicitly, was the only response by Sanandana. In responding to his Guru’s call, he completely forgot that there was the deep River Ganges flowing in between! He just started walking, as though on plain ground. Then what happened was that, there was a lotus flower bearing his weight wherever he put his foot down and Sanandana was this side of the River in a trice, handing over the dry clothes to his Guru!
As the man whose feet were borne by the lotus flower, he got the name as ‘Padma Paada’ from then onwards!
Other disciples of our AachaaryaaL collected there in admiration of this miracle, where Ganga Devi (The River Ganges as the Goddess Ganga) had put up a lotus flower for each one of his steps, for bearing his weight across the whole breadth of the river, appreciating his devotion to his Guru!
But without feeling proud of his devotion he said, “This is nothing. Just a thought of my Guru, can cause the Ocean of Life to become a puddle of knee deep water only! When he himself has ordered, what is the breadth of this river?”
Padma Paada was a Vishnu Amsam and a man who had the realization of Nrusimha Mantra. So, he could recognise another Vishnu Amsa Avatara Vyasa, even before our AachaaryaaL could do so!
Source: Deivathin Kural/ Voice of God – Volume 5