Shiva Bhikshatana and Mata Annapurni at Varanasi
This echo at the door brings every lady of the house, every grihasta to offering annam, or rice as food for the mendicants who come by. These mendicants were intellects of a superior kind and society considered it an honor to serve them. One such story has been previously mentioned in the life of Kaaraikkal Ammaiyar who fed a mendicant a mango, a Shiva Yogi who came to her door step.
This is one of many instances where Shiva Bhikshatana has walked into the lives of people and blessed them by coming to their doorstep or by holding a dialog with them questioning the practise of the very knowledge they have been enlightened with. This was in the case of Adi Shankaracharya, who seemed to have a slight touch of arrogance?! about his status as an enlightened soul. The Manishapanchakam is the enlightening dialog between an untouchable sweeper surrounded by dogs who met this great saint in the streets of Varanasi near the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
As Shankara walked by, he signalled for the untouchable to move as he walked to the main temple. The sweeper, surrounded by dogs with a stick in the hand asked Shankara whether the sun made a difference between the Ganges and the water by the homes of the untouchables where its reflection fell? How then is the atman of a sweeper any different from the atman within him, an enlightened soul? Even the greatest of enlightened souls was questioned over his pride of being knowledgable.
Here are two instances, where Shiva Bhikshatana has made a mark in the lives of two people in recorded history, one a lady serving him at her doorstep, and another was an enlightened saint of his time.
This very same form that Adi Shankara saw and recognized as Lord Shiva is the same form that is seen within the walls of the Kashi Vishwananth temple within the shrine chamber of Swarna Annapurni.
Annapurni Mata, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati resides here at Varanasi, promising all mortals that there is food and prosperity promised to all. Shiva Bhikshatana resides here as a naked mendicant to whom she serves food with her own hands.
Lord Bhikshatana and Mata Annapurni do not represent abundance of food in the literal sense. The divine couple have the same message to give to the mortal world be it Kaaraikkal Ammaiyar who fed a mendicant food, or to Adi Shankara who was given enough food for thought despite being a superior soul with intellect.
Bhiksha, can be food for sustenance, bhiksha can be food of enlightenment. The mother is resourceful, a provider of knowledge as well as one who wipes out hunger. She is the life force, the energy that drives one to want, to be passionate to know, to realize the truth of their divine existence. It is Shiva Bhikshatana who enlightens even the enlightened, and makes them realize that the truth of his form as Bhikshatana, as the teacher, is beyond the arrogance of written knowledge. In his world, Bhiksha is the need for divine knowledge, to fulfill the purpose of realizing oneself, and therefore even the most superior intellects walk with a bowl, the brahma kapala, that which is the humble request to the Lord to grant divine knowledge and kill the hunger of the bhakta.
As the Shree Annapoornaashtakam goes...
Annapoorna Sadaa Poorne Shankarapraana Vallabhe| Gyaanavairagya Siddhayartam Bhikshaan Dehi Cha Paarvati|| Maataa Cha Paarvati Devi Pitaa Devo Maheshwara| Baandavaa Shivabhaktaakshcha Swadesho Bhuvanatrayam||
Annapoorne – the wife of Lord Shiva;
Sadapoorne – who is always full of resources; She who is full of food;
Sankara – of Lord Sankara(Shiva);
Prana – the life-force; energy;
Vallabhe – the beloved;
Jnana – knowledge;
Vairagya – attitude of renunciation;
Siddhyartham – to fulfill the purpose of;
Bhiksham – alms, food;
Dehi – give us;
Namostute – we bow down to You
In the mortal world to Goddess Annapurni I pray:
Bhikshaam dehi kripaa valambanakaree maataannapoornesvaree||
In the intellectual world of realizing one self and surrendering to Lord Maheshwara I pray:
Shivaya Nama Om Shiva Lingaya Nama Om| Atmaya Nama Om Atma Lingaya Nama Om||
Shiva Bhikshatana - the enchanting mendicant.
He presents Himself
Shiva Bhairava - The naked mendicant
Jyotirlinga - Kasi Vishwanath, Varanasi
Enlightenment on the streets of Varanasi