'Work incessantly, but be not attached to the world' is the teaching in Bhagavadgeetha. It conveys the precept that to achieve Jnana, one should not run away from his family ties or his earthly position, but he should be in the midst of samsara but should not be tied down to it or depressed by it. In one word he should be like a lotus leaf in water. Bhakta Senanapith stands as a true example of such a life.
Bhakta Senanaith was a barber in Avanthipur. He was born low but he had a great soul. He was blessed with Jnana, bhakti and Vairagya essential qualities required of man to seek moksha. He knew he should not turn out to be a sanyasi, but he should fulfil his duty properly. He had a perfect control over his indriyas, he was totally devoid of the temptations of any man, he had conquered the two evils that usurp man's reasoning ability-bondage and egoism. He had established Lord Vittala in his heart and he had been performing manasik puja unto the Lord.
One day, it so happened that the Muslim king wanted to have his hair cut. So he sent for Senanaith. But at that time, Senanaith was cut off from the world, lost in his prayer to God. This staunch devotee was bathed in the waters of Santhi, wore the white dress symbolic of peace, decked himself with vairagya, cleaned the temple of heart, situated in the nine doored body, arranged it with the rangoli of vignana, seated Lakshmikanth on the asan of satya, lighted the lamps of compassion, equality and philanthropy, 'Sravana, manana nidhi dhyanas' as Arghya padyas offered his purified soul filled with jnana as mahaprasad, a selfless thought as tambula and a feeling of total surrender as harathi. He was thus engrossed in his prayer unifying body, mind and soul.
He was one with God thus when the king's soldiers came to fetch him. His family members did not want to bring him down to the mundane world from his ecstatic world. So they said that he was away. Relatives are worse than fire. One relative thought it the best time to pull down the image of Senanaith in the eyes of the king. So he took the trouble of going to the king and conveying the message. This angred the king and he ordered the barber to be drowned in the sea.
Will the allmighty living in the heart of his disciple leave him to his fate ? No! He dressed himself as Senanapith, held a bag under his hand and presented himself before the king. The omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, all pervading God dressed himself as an untouchable to be a barber to a muslim ! Can anything be more surprising than this ? He was prepared to do hair cut to a muslim just as a lover stoops down to a low level to please his lady love.
The king's anger cooled down at the sight of the Lord in the guise of Senanapith. The king and his followers were filled with a special love for the barber ! It's but natural since it was not the lowly barber before him but the Almighty Himself ! God began the duty of the man he had donned ! He carried on the job of the barber with such a skill that the king was highly pleased with it. Then the servaid maids brought him scented oil in a large silver bowl to be applied to the king. The barber began to apply the oil to the king's head ! How lucky the king was ! By the holy touch of the Lord, he was cleansed of his petty jealousies and was blessed with a pure heart. What more ! He could see the reflection of his barber in the oil bowl, not the regular face he knew, but the face of the Almighty. He saw him four armed. He was fully decked with various ornaments at his hands and the neck, with a diamond crown on his head, the heavenly sankha and chakra in two arms and with Abhayahasta with a broad chest the seat of Lakshmi devi, broad eyes and a pleasant smile on his face.
The king couldn't believe his own eyes. He was lost to the world deriving pleasure out of the darshan he had of God until he was requested by his first assistant to have his bath. The king got up and addressed Senanapith - 'You are so wonderful! I've never come across such a person like you. I'll have my bath and food and come back. In the meanwhile, you too have your food and come back to me' So saying, he gifted him with a handful of golden coins. God went to Senanapitha's house, kept them in his cash bag and disappeared.
The king could not forget the godly image he had witnessed in the oil bowl. The feast he had that morning could not beat out the feast to his eyes, before that. He told his courtiers, 'I have not come across such a pure heart. His leela appears unbelievable to me ! You fetch him to me once again.'
By the time the soldiers came to the house of senanapith, the latter got over ecstatic state and had become down to earth. He heard from his family members that the soldiers had come many times to fetch him.
Initially he was frightened about the anger he would have aroused in God, but his bhakti, vairagya dominated over his fears. He consoled himself thus- 'Why should I worry ? If the Lord Brahma gets angry over his vahana - Swan, He may stop gong on it but can he deprive it of its innate tendency of separating water and milk ? Accordingly the king may deprive me of my earthly possessions, but can he raise his little finger against the Almighty seated on a throne in the kingdom of my heart ? God is omnipresent, in me, in the king in everything around. If that is the case why should I worry about the anger of the king ? When God is the director of human drama we play, why should we be disturbed over it ? Will the God who accepts my pooja make me suffer in the hands of the king ? God himself had donned the form of Panduranga and had given us these physical forms. A foolish man behaves wisely if he sits on the throne of Vikramaditya. The same way, I thought foolishly, for a second being born in karma bhoomi.' Thus he drove the darkness of his ajnana through the light of jnana and proceeded on his way. He felt sorry for us human beings. Ironically we treat the real as unreal and unreal as real. The world we live in is maya, while the God who lives beyond it is real but being lost in this maya we don't find the time or the need to chant the name of god. As if to teach us a lesson he was chanting Anantha, Vaikunta, mukunda, Krishna, Govinda, Damodara, Madhava on his way, The king was delighted to see him as the sunflower at the sight of sun, as the lotus at the sight of moon, the lover at the sight of his lady love. He prostrated before Senanapith and hailed him thus.
'Oh great man ! I am sorry, I have treated you as lowly all along but today I had an awakening. I am thrilled at your 'divya darsan' in the oil bowl. Why don't you show it to me once again ?' So saying he sent for such a bowl once again. But no! he couldn't be blessed for a second time. Senanapith could guess at once what had happened. He was moved to tears at the kindly act of God. 'Oh Dayasindhu, Deenabandhu, oh Pundarikaksha ! have you come down to do such a menial task for a menial labourer like me ? You can create, sustain and destroy by a mere thought. Inspite of having such great powers have you done my job to display your warmth for me ?
The king too shed tears of joy when he heard that he had the darshan of God. The staunch devotion of Senanapith made him lucky. He could easily get the darshan. Senanaith said, 'Oh king, you are very lucky. Your parents are blessed souls!' He felt his bag was heavy and when he looked inside he saw the golden coins given into the Lord by the king. Senanaith cried again.
'Oh my Lord ! what an irony ! You lord of Goddess Lakshmi are given a few gold coins for the menial job you have undertaken for mysake, your bhakta ! How can I praise your kind'ness and how can I ever express my gratitude to you ?'
Ever since then, the king became Senanapith's disciple and they have been praying to God together.
Such is the greatness of true devotees of God. God blesses not only those who pray to him but also those who are associated with them.