The Gayatri Mantra
One of my friends, Mr. R.R.Gupta, who was Director of Education in Himachal Pradesh at Simla in India, when I was also posted there in the early sixties, narrated a strange experience of his which led one to conclude that Mantras had some mysterious power. Being an unusual occurrence, I requested him to write it down for me which he did for me in his letter dated March 17th, 1963.
He wrote that although he was unable to recall all the details after over ten years, it was in October 1953 that he was in Madison, Wisconsin and went to attend the Wisconsin Teacher's Convention to some place of which he did not remember the name. The place was about one hundred fifty or two hundred miles from his place of stay.
He had told the host family that he would be returning the next day but as the convention finished in the evening, his friends who had given him a ride, decided to return to Madison after dinner the same night. He had no other alternative but to accompany them, and returned at about 3.00 A.M.
His friends dropped him outside his host's residence. He was about to press the door bell, when he thought that it would be most discourteous on his part to disturb the old couple at that unearthly hour, specially when he had not informed them earlier of his program. Being well protected, he decided to spend the rest of the night outside on the porch, sitting at the door steps. As he had nothing else to do at that time, he began reciting the Gayatri Mantra. Of course he had no motive in doing so except to pass the time. He was most surprised to see, after three or four minutes that the door was opened by the lady of the house who asked him to come in. My friend asked her as to how did she know that he was there. She said that in her sleep, she felt that she had heard the bell. My friend was positive that he had never pressed the bell and so he naturally attributed the whole episode to some mysterious power having helped him. He told his hostess that he did not press the bell and that surprised her as well.
It is indeed a wonder. No one can tell whether it was a coincidence or my friend pressed the bell and forgot about it. Or such mantras do have some mysterious power? Whatever, I feel that faith is a great thing and helps us to perform many wonders. That is why they say that through faith one could move mountains. But how many people have such unshakable faith?
The Mritunjay Jap
There was a similar experience narrated by another friend of mine, Mr. P.V. Rajagopal, who was working as Chief Engineer, Southern Railway at Bangalore when I was stationed there as Commissioner of Railway Safety. He told me that as a student, he was very fond of nature and used to spend a lot of time in the nearby forests in that area. Once he had gone with one of his friends to hike in the forest there. Suddenly the friend started behaving queerly as if some spirit had possessed him. He said that he was the spirit of Lord Shiva and whether Rajagopal cared for the health of his parents? In that case, he would have to be prepared for some sacrifice.
On getting his affirmation, he told him to go to his friend's mother and get theMritunjay (victory over death) mantra from her. Further, he told him that she will describe the rituals to be observed while using it. Rajagopal, on return, went to the friend's mother. She wrote down the mantra for him and said that he was to eat only before dawn, and fast for the whole day thereafter. He was to make sure that his parents did not see the paper on which the mantra was written. The rituals detailed by her were to be continued for six months. Rajagopal followed these instructions verbatim.
He told me of a very strange incident that took place during that period. He had put the paper on which the mantra was written, tied in a piece of cloth, hidden behind the deities in the prayer room. While he was taking his bath, his mother started cleaning the prayer room and as soon as she touched the cloth, she got a severe shock as if she had touched a live electric wire. She went running to Rajagopal and asked him what he had put in the cloth that she got a shock. Rajagopal asked if she had opened it. On being told that she hadn't, he heaved a sigh of relief and told her not to ever do so. Such a phenomenon was certainly unexplainable but following the ritual, his parents who had been ailing for long regained their normal health.
Rajagopal tried the power of this mantra on another occasion, when his brother's wife was seriously ill. She was a very old lady and the doctor had given up all hopes and felt that she could not last for more then twenty-four hours.
Rajagopal's brother was out of town and was not to return for another ten days. His wife did not want to die before his return, as according to the Hindu tradition wives consider it auspicious to die in their husbands' arms.
Rajagopal thought of the Mritunjaya mantra. He then, after his bath, started chanting the mantra in the presence of his sister-in-law. It was most surprising that the sister-in-law who was lying in bed and couldn't even speak or get up, gained sufficient strength during the chanting and was able to sit up and herself chant the mantra. She lived for four more days after her husband returned.
I am unable to understand or explain the whole phenomenon but knowing Rajagopal as I did, I am sure that he spoke the truth and such a thing really happened.
Have Prayers have effect
My mother, from my very childhood, instilled in me that sincere prayers are always answered. I have also experienced quite often that whenever I have had some problems, I prayed and my problems were solved. This happens most of the time but not always. So I came to believe that when the prayers were answered, they were sincere and when they were not, they must not have been sincere. It is thus very difficult to get to the truth. But then would it be correct if every prayer was granted? Sometimes we pray for things which are not be beneficial to society as a whole. What if people started praying for conflicting things? The potter would want no rains, while the farmer will want plenty of it.
From this I conclude that prayers will only be granted if they are sincere and in the overall benefit of the society. It would be wrong to grant selfish prayers, not for the ultimate good of the society. I remember an interesting incident that happened to my mother and it would be worth narrating.
It was in 1932, when my mother was in jail during the civil disobedience movement, launched by Mahatma Gandhi against the British. She was a prisoner in the Central Jail at Lucknow. Mrs. Vijay Lakshmi Pundit and Miss Krishna Nehru, the two sisters of the well known political figure, Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru, were also with her in the same jail. My mother was in the habit of performing her daily ritual of prayers every morning. The two sisters did not believe in such rituals and were always making fun of her.
They would say, 'Gyanvati! (that was my mother's name). What is the use of prayers? Will God grant whatever you prayed?'
'Yes, provided your prayers are sincere.' She would reply.
'Well, we think your prayers are sincere. We are very keen to have some dessert. We get milk, sugar and rice in our daily ration; but a sweet dish without saffron would be very bland. Can your God produce saffron if you prayed for it.'
Now as things were, my mother was in prison with her six months old son. She was always keeping saffron with her as that is considered to be a very good remedy for young children when they suffer from common cold, so prevalent during the cold whether in that part of the world. She thought it was a good opportunity to put faith into these non-believers.
But what would happen, if such demands were repeated again and again? So she replied, "Well I could try and perhaps God may respond to my prayers. But one must understand that God does not like being tested. If to put faith in you I pray and he grants my prayer, you will not repeat such requests.'
'Agreed. Once is enough to get a proof that God grants prayers.'
Next morning, my mother sat down for prayers. There was great excitement and everyone in the prison was curious to see what would happen and whether God would grant Gyanvati's prayer? My mother, of course was confident that at the right moment she will produce her packet and thus convert some non-believers into believers, which she thought will be a great service to God.
Word had gone round in the entire jail that Gyanvati was praying to her God for saffron. Everyone was tense and expectantly waiting to see what will happen? In the meanwhile, the jailer also heard about it. He was a devout Hindu and thought it would be a great blow to the faith of the people if Gyanvati was not able to produce the saffron through her prayer. So he sent through one of his ward boys, a packet of saffron, with instructions to throw it inside the courtyard, where she was praying. As soon as this packet was thrown, and people saw it, they shouted, 'Oh look! There is the saffron packet sent by God.'
What a commotion it was? My mother herself was amazed about what happened. It was a great lesson to her too, that she accepted the challenge only as she had the packet with her and was not sure of the mysterious hidden power that is there which fulfills the desires of people in strange ways and through unknown sources. This incident also shows that often devotees who say they have faith do have some reservations.