Sati’s Question

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Once Devi Sati (the first human incarnation of Goddess Shakti) asked Lord Shiva – ‘You are the knower of all scriptures, you are worshiped by all, yet you meditate all day with closed eyes. Who is it you worship, who is the object of your devotion? ’ Lord Shiva replied that it is the one and only Shri Ram, in whose devotion he is lost. Sati asked, ‘Who is this Shri Ram who is dearer to you than your wife?’

Lord Shiva replied: ‘How shall I tell you who is Shri Ram! His glory is endless, his virtues are infinite. He is the one who Yogis, munis (sages) and rishis of the world meditate upon, he is the lord of the whole universe. He is none other than Lord Vishnu who would take birth as a human being to destroy the demon king Ravana and free the world from his atrocities.’

When Sati heard this, she casually remarked that Lord Vishnu and herself were not very different. Just as she is Aadishakti in the human form, so is Shri Ram the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva however explained to Sati that there was a vast difference between them. Sati was not conscious of her divine self as Aadishakti, whereas Lord Vishnu was fully aware of his divinity when he took up the human form as Shri Ram. Even through all his trials and tribulations, he never forgot his original divine cosmic form, unlike Sati.

Sati expressed the desire to see Shri Ram for herself. Lord Shiva gave her a glimpse of the life of Shri Ram which would happen in the future. Sati witnessed the scene of Ram killing the golden deer who was actually Marichh in disguise who had come to lure Shri Ram and Lakshman away from their hut. Finding Sita alone, Ravana kidnapped her by trickery and deceit. Rama was devastated when he found Sita missing. He was struck with grief, and looked everywhere for Sita, tearfully asking every tree and shrub her whereabouts.

Seeing this scene, Sati expressed doubts about the divinity of Shri Ram. She could not agree that Shri Ram was the Lord God Himself in whom Lord Shiva had such intrinsic faith. To Sati, Ram looked like an ordinary man experiencing the ordinary joys and sufferings of human birth. How could Shri Ram be so disconsolate, when he could not find Sita? Sati was skeptical and wondered aloud.

Though Lord Shiva explained that this was the leela (divine play) of the Lord, Sati wanted to test it out for herself. Lord Shiva warned her against it. He told her, that God is beyond the realm of ordinary human logic. God cannot be tested by human beings using their logic and knowledge. He asked her to trust his word that Lord Ram is indeed divine.

Sati however was not able get rid of her doubts, and decided that she would believe this only after testing Shri Ram. Without telling Shiva, she appeared before Shri Ram as Sita to test him. However, since he was a divine being, Shri Ram already knew that she was Sati and addressed her as ‘Ma’. Sati had not been able to deceive Lord Ram. Lord Shiva appeared at the scene and expressed his consternation at Sati attempting to test Sri Ram, and refused to consider her as his wife thereafter.

This entire story shows how kutarka or negative logic leads to a person’s downfall. Though Sati was the human form of Aadishakti, her knowledge of her divine self was under a thick veil of ignorance and samskaras or engrams. She was unable to trust that Shri Ram could be God, because he looked and behaved like a normal human being. Because of her deep kutarka, she did not even believe Shiva, who she knows is God himself. She secretly set out to test Shri Ram in spite of Shiva’s explicit injunction not to do so. She broke her vow to Shiva in the process, and ultimately ended up losing her status as Shiva’s wife.

Seekers often make this mistake, when they refuse to trust the Guru’s words. When in kutarka, they even start doubting things which they otherwise clearly know to be true. At such times, the mind starts doubting everything – the words of others, simple facts and even deep personal experiences. One of the powerful ways to overcome kutarka is to think of it as a momentary delusion of the mind, one of those ‘mood swings’, and surrender it at the feet of the Guru or God.