Fisherman Raghu

The waves striking against a rock continuously soften the rock. The good thought waves striking against a mind purify the troubled heart. This is the story of a man who could measure the length of a wave but could not match his wavelength with his job.
Once upon a time there lived a man called Raghu in Piplichati near Puri famous for Lord Jagannadh temple. He had to support his young wife and ageing mother. He was a fisherman by profession, but a kind man by nature.
As per the demands of his profession, he eked out his livelihood by catching the fish and by making a profit out of his catch. But as per the dictatis of his innate goodness, he could not bear with his own atrocities. Each day was a torture to him. He was torn between the two. The strangling of the fish symbolised his strangling inside. Once caught by him, they had no wayout of his net. Once caught in the materialistic world he had no way out of his work. Being head of the family, it is his humble duty to look after his family. In terms of Manu Dharma Sastra, a man has to look after his mother in her old age and his wife in her middle age. This is the only profession he knew ! When others believed in eat, drink and be merry he could not digest the motto ‘catch, kill and be merry!’.

The other fishermen reasoned out to him in so many ways. ‘You are not the only one that catch fish. God has designed us thus! It is the same God who designed them to swim and who taught us to catch them. It is a balancing point ! If it is harmful to the fish, why do men relish them ? Why do they stand in long queues to buy them from us ? There is a demand for fish and we are mere mediators. We supply that demand. If you stop catching, do you think they will stop eating ? Of course not ! They will go to somebody else ! Moreover do you know something ? The moment the fish are away from water, they become senseless. They can’t feel the pain of the knife over them. So come on, relax, join us, think of your loved ones at home and not the unfeeling creatures in the sea.

These arguments may look sensible enough and strong points to any one ready to commit a sin, but not to an extremely good soul. If everybody thinks in these lines where will good be ? What will be the fate of the world ? He continued to catch the fish and continued to face the torment of his heart on par with the torment of the fish. He could neither control his mind nor could he give up his cruel job. In such a state of mind, he came across a Sadhu and opened up his mind to him. The Sadhu asked him to meditate upon God and gave him Tulasi mala. All through the free hours he prayed to God, chanted his name and spent his time in bhajans. The spiritual path he followed made him feel more for others. His pain knew no bounds. He began to believe in God manifests, Himself in all His creation. He began to weep. Oh God! Why did you create me in such a heartless caste ? I have no other way out except to continue as a fisherman. I know how much the fish would suffer when I cut them into pieces ! I feel the knife is passing through my heart ! But what can I do ? I can’t help it if I want my family to survive and if I have to fulfil my dharma! Won’t I go to hell for depriving innocent creatures of their right to live ? Leave alone my fate, how can I offer a seat in my heart to you when my heart is so corrupt! Should I be deprived of your love, your care then ? If that is the case, I don’t want my family ! I don’t want to fulfil my mundane dharma.You are dearer to me than all these minor things. The minute this realization landed on his mind, then and there he decided - ‘Oh God, from this very day I give up my cruel job.’

He left his work and was lost in Hari nama, but how long ? Not many days ! People around him, his family and to accept shamefully, his own hunger did not allow him to continue this life style beyond a few days. He was forced to go back to his normal life and to his regular fishing joint. All through his short walk to the fishing joint he cursed himself, cursed his family, cursed the society and cursed the shastras which insisted on his dharma. He could ignore his hunger but he could not ignore the hunger of his family members. So he asked God to show him a way out of it.

Raghu as usual let his net into the water and being an expert in his work, caught a big fish in no time. Raghu as usual looked at the reddish fish, as it struggled for its last breath with pained eyes, but surprisingly this time it looked like the Matsyavatar of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu adorned the shape of a fish to kill the demon Sankhasur. He put one step backward in respect of God, but the next minute, the pitiable faces of his wife and mothers appeared before him. He was torn between a sense of duty and a sense of worship. The sense of duty dominated over the sense of worship, so before he raised his knife he prayed to the fish thus, Oh my dear ! I am so sorry. You may be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu Himself or you may be just an ordinary fish like any other fish ! Whatever are my feelings for you, I cannot save you ! I am forced to kill you ! In fact you are to be blamed for this ! Why was I born into a fisherman’s family which knows only killing ? So, don’t call me a sinner...’

So saying, he was about to shatter the face of the fish into two, but the words Oh Narayana save me ! Please save me! ‘Shattered his strong determination. He was wonderstruck. He heard those words crystal clear from the fish’s mouth. He was overwhelmed with joy. On his way he asked God for a solution and that was the solution ! God wanted him to give up that cruel act. He spoke to him directly. At once he held the fish caressingly in his hands, took it to a small pond beside a mountain, far from the vicious eyes of people and let it free into the pond. The fish danced away happily in the water and his heart danced more happily. His mother and wife had clean got out of his mind. He sat down there to meditate upon God.

‘Wants are unlimited is the law of life ! That applies not only to physical wants but also to spiritual wants. Raghu was not happy with the words of the Lord. He prayed thus to Lord, Oh Lord! The words I have heard from the fish were undoubtedly yours ! I am happy about it, but I am not satisfied with this boon of yours ! When your words are sweet to my ears, your darshan will be a feast to my eyes. Oh God ! Please bless my poor soul with your magnificient darshan. I will not ask for anything more ! I just want to fill my eyes with your divine presence! He prayed thus, for three days according to our calender. He did not know it. He forgot the material world around him. He did not know the passing of time. We learn in Bhagavat Geetha that God gives us revelation only when we are ready for it with heart, mind and soul. God could feel his total surrender, but as it was His practice, He came down to test him first. Disguised as an old man, he approached him and showered a number of questions on him like who are you ? Why are you here ! What makes you pray in such a lonely place ? What favour do you want ? Raghu heard these words, opened his eyes, got up from his seat, wished him politely. He answered softly but refused to have a chat with him since such an idle talk would deviate him from his spiritual path. Then the old man asked: How can ever a fish speak in a human voice ? Don’t you think it is your illusion ? Why don’t you go back to your family instead of wasting your time thus ?

Raghu was wonder struck! How did this man know the cause of his prayer without his speaking out ? Even as he was wondering thus, he answered ‘Oh Sir! I am not competant enough to tell you, but don’t you know that God is Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omnicient ? If God could come out of a pillar for Prahlad, can’t he speak to me from a fish ? I may be an ordinary man, born lowly, committed to a sinful life, but God is a forgiving soul ! His love is beyond comprehension. So He can speak to me ! I have no doubt about it. Why do you doubt it ? Are you testing me ? You are older and wiser than me ! Why don’t you lead me on the path of spiritual bliss? Why don’t you help me have His Darshan ? Even as he was speaking these words, the truth dawned on him. This old man was none other than God himself ! He has come to test him. He prostrated before him and prayed ‘Oh God, please speak out ! Am I not correct ?’ His tears of joy filled God with bountiful of love for him. Thus spoke God ,My dear son Raghu ! Your devotion for me is praiseworthy. I came down to this forest from Heaven to bless you! I spoke through fish. Are you happy?’

No, he was not happy ! He wanted to see God, not as an old man, but in his Nijarupa with Sankhu, Chakra, Gada in his four hands. He prayed to God again, Oh God ! I am an ajnani. I haven’t yet reached the stage of seeing you in your creation. I am blinded by my sins. You wash out my sins and bless me with spiritual eyes to have a real darshan of you ! Your words made me give up my material comforts. I am prepared to give up my body if needs be, to have your darshan ! You were so generous that you ignored my caste, creed and my sinful behaviour. Then what stops you from appearing before me ?
The old man turned into Lord Vishnu in his full fledged form and said ’What is your desire ! Tears of joy rolled down his cheeks. He was spell bound. His joy reached its zenith. He got all that he wanted ? What else could he ask for ? Bhakti and darshan of God are two good boons any body could ask for and he got them both ? Should he ask for anything else ? Should he ask for forgiveness, mercy etc? God’s darshan speaks volumes about his forgiveness, his blessings , his mercy, his love for a simple, ordinary soul like him! No need ! ‘Oh my Lord, let my heart be filled with you and let my eyes be filled with your sight !
God sanctioned it and asked him to seek one more blessing ! He thought for a minute and came out with the unending conflict in his heart. ‘By birth I am a fisherman. I am forced to kill fish to earn my livelihood. Presently I am a changed man and I have given up fishing, but God knows what is in store for me in future ! I should never face a situation which would force me to be cruel. I should think of you alone until my last breath !’ God said, ‘Tadhastu’ and disappeared.

Raghu could see now God’s presence in everything. He walked back home unknowingly. His neighbours attacked him with a battle of words. ‘How could you ever leave your family to their fate thus ? They would have died if the Zamindar had not come to their rescue ! They were....’ The rest of the words did not reach his ears. He stopped at the words, ‘the Zamindar helped’. Yes, God helped them not the zamindar, because he never before helped them in situations worse than these! So their attacks were like blessings to him. His wife and mother were happy at his safe return.

Raghu was a changed man then. He told his people to pray to Lord Hari and they too started praying with him. All through his wakeful hours he was praying, chanting or meditating even as he was going around the village. He never asked anyone for anything, but people willingly came to him and offered him various eatables. He brought them home to his mother. He knew it was God’s blessings, but his mother wondered at the respect he evoked in public, though she was delighted at it.

Raghu was beyond all these feelings. He did not gossip with anybody at home or outside. He did not bother what others thought about him. In one word he became a sadhu or a saint. Some naughtly children made fun of him or cursed him since his spiritual joy looked like mental disorder to them. When he was beyond earthly comforts, how would petty feelings like anger, sorrow or suffering disturb him ? His body was a mere portal to his soul. So he ignored the children but that only aggravated their mischief ! They even threw stones at him. If a passer by shouted at them, they stopped. Otherwise they were beyond control.

One day a naughty boy hit him on his back with a thorny stick. Raghu didn’t react to it. That doubled his mischief. He continued to hit him still, he bled profusely, but Raghu did not utter a single word.

Raghu passed in flying colours in God’s test. Will God leave him then ? After Raghu left the place, the naughty boy fell down on the ground and died on the spot. Passers by saw him and called his parents. At once the parents and the villagers knew that the boy was nipped off in the bud since they could not nip off his cruel actions. That was the punishment metted out to him for illtreating a staunch devotee. They arrived at the conclusion that if Raghu forgave him, he would come back alive. Accordingly, the parents pleaded with him. We know our child is very bad, but our love to him blindfolded us ! We cannot live without him. You are a devotee of God you are equal to God, who treats both Good and Bad alike. In that case, why did you take revenge on our son? ‘They fell on his feet’.

Raghu did not know that the boy died! He was taken aback when he heard it! He lifted the parents up and said, ‘I am a low caste man. Why do you fall on my feet ? I am not a great man. I have never longed for your son’s death. If he had beaten me, I only deserved it I must have committed some sins in the previous janma or this janma. Unless Lord siva designs, even an ant cannot hurt anybody. The boy was only a tool for my suffering , but that brought upon suffering to him. Oh God, how sinful I am! My sins brought death to a young one and misery to his parents. I did not even curse him when he was cruel to me.

Tears were rolling down his cheeks as he spoke these words and said’ Let’s all do ‘Hari nama japam’ for the boy’s safety. We’ll ask him to wake up. Accordingly all of them started praying together. Raghu was dancing in ecstasy. Their staunch devotion, the powerful chanting and the blessings of Almighty showed a miracle. The boy who was dead, moved his hands and feet and sat up as if awake n from deep sleep. Their joy knew no bounds. This time the people renewed their chanting with added vigour and the boy also joined them. After sometime Raghu advised them to pray unto Lord everyday. They went back home still lost in joy at the miracle before their very eyes.

Slowly it spread like wild fire that whatever Raghu spoke came true. Naturally it brought a train of followers to him. Name and fame pull you down to mundane earth. They are hurdles to your spiritual path. Saints realize this and rise above these. Raghu was one such saint. Raghu wanted to go far from the maddening crowd.He disappeared to a lonely place. Then he completely involved in prayer. He was leading a happy, peaceful life.

One day Raghudasa felt the God of Puri, Sri Jagannadh requested him to offer him something. Raghudasa was thrilled. He offered food in a lonely place. God being touched by his devotees’ whole hearted love, touched his food wholeheartedly and ate it !
At the same time, back in Puri, the Maharaj of Puri sent his offerings to Lord Jagannadh. That mantap was a little away from the main temple. A big mirror in the temple reflected God’s image and the pandas offered food to the reflection. That had been the custom for years together ! That day, the mirror was in tact, there was no object in between, but the Lord’s reflection was missing ! The panda was flabbergasted. He said, ‘My Lord, something is wrong somewhere ! Otherwise, why will not the God accept it ?
The Maharaja sank to the ground at the main pillar totally shocked at the scenario. He cried sadly ‘Oh God ! What sin have I committed ! Why are you angry with me ? What’s wrong with the food ? Please lord ,let me know my mistake and show me a way out of it. I am ready to face any consequence whatsoever. Please relieve me of my crime. Please accept our food as per your custom.

As he was praying, unknowingly he dozed off to sleep and had a dream in the sleep.’ Raja ! Why do you feel sorry for no crime of yours ! It is not your crime but somebody else’s love that took me away from you. Presently I am not in Puri. That’s why you could not see me. I am in pipli, with a fisherman. He may be a low caste man but he ranks high in his unmatched love for me. As my devotee you know well that I am touched by love more than the offerings. He has totally surrendered himself to me. I cannot leave him as long as he doesnot leave me. Patram, pushpam, phalam toyam whatever is offered, should be offered wholeheartedly. I go to them and receive them in person. Nothing can bind me but a devotees’ ecstasy. So if you want me to come back to puri, you should bring this man to my place along with his family said the Lord.

Immediately the Raja woke up and rushed to Piplichati on horse. He located Raghu’s house and called out his name, but where will Raghu hear it ! He is busy serving his lord his offering. All his five senses were in tune with Lord Jagannadh, so one sense could not hear the Loknadh’s (king’s ) voice.

The king called him for a long time but had no response. He was forced to enter uninvited and was wonderstruck at Raghu’s appearance. Raghu was affectionately offering food to the Lord then. Of course the king could not see the Lord. He could only see the outstretched hand of Raghu with a morsel of food in his hand. He was offering it to somebody. He could not see that person’s face properly. It looked as if he sat behind a curtain which nobody dared to lift. Only God will lift it up when he feels it is the right time. Till then one has to wait. God knows when it is the ripe time !

After sometime the God disappeared. Then Raghu started crying. He was like a fish out of water. ‘No wonder the Lord left his temple in answer to the prayer of a small man thought the king. He went to Raghu, made him lie down in his lap and consoled him! You are a blessed soul Raghudasa! Where did you get this blessing? How I wish the Lord will bless me too ! Come, let’s go to Puri.

Raghu came back to normalcy and was shocked to see himself in the lap of the Maharaja. He was about to prostrate before the king but the king prostrated before him. He explained all that had happened till then. Raghu couldn’t oppose his request, since it was God’s order. The king took him back to puri along with his family. At the same time, the Panda saw God’s reflection in the mirror. He was delighted at it and offered food as usual. All chanted the name of the Lord.

Raghudasa and his family were provided a beautiful accomodation to the south of the main temple. Raghu prayed unto the Lord with his family from the day he received the call to Puri till the day he received the call to blend his Jeevatma with Paramatma !