Sacred Ashes, Myths And Legends

Temples of India
Temples of India

We all long for miracles, for the sudden inspiration that will fix our lives and the world. We are like  children hoping for an instance cure for our earthly condition.  When will we grow up?  There is no miracle that can replace the work we must do to advance ourselves.. Only the most dedicated and mature effort will bring both ourselves and the world to perfection.

The Midrash,  (Sacred Writings) says that “the world cannot exist without miracles.” For they provide us with inspiration and remind us that the Kingdom we are trying to build is ultimately not our own. However, true growth is never a gift from above, but the result of a long and arduous process of learning and experiencing. In the end, we can achieve the transcendence that we desire, but only by overcoming the most difficult obstacles. The greatest miracle of all is that a person can change.

From The Mahabharata – The Parable Of The Sacred Ashes

Once upon a time, in a holy forest, there lived a sage called Mankanaka, who ate nothing but grass and leaves. For many years, he lived on this pure and austere diet, and his spiritual potency became intense.

One day, as Mankanaka sat in front of his hut weaving a grass mat, he happened to cut himself on a sharp blade of grass. He saw that green sap, not blood, oozed from the cut! His amazement knew no bounds.. “Finally, I have gone beyond the human state, and I have become as sacred and blameless as a plant,” he thought.

A frenzy of joy overtook Mankananka, and he began to laugh and dance. His laughter shook all corners of the world like a cosmic thunder, and the power of is dance drove first the forest and then the whole world to laugh and dance with him. As if enchanted, animals, and trees, stones and rivers, lakes and mountains fell into the rhythms of the sages  wild dance.

The God looked down and saw the danger that the earth was in. Oceans were overflowing and the dust was rising from the earth as smoke rises from a forest fire, darkening the skies. The Gods ran to Shiva and asked him to rescue the Earth from annihilation.

Shiva took the form of a hermit. He went to Mankanaka and stood still beside him. Mankanaka calmed down enough to look at the silent, motionless hermit. He recognized who the hermit really was from the secret signs visible to seers, and he wondered why the Great God, the Lord of Dancers, wasn’t joining in his dance.

“Why are you so happy?” Shiva asked. Mankanaka pointed to his wound, which was still oozing vegetable sap, and said, “O Lord of Gods, don’t you see that I have become so sacred that I have no blood at all? I am superhuman! I am celebrating my miracle!”

Shiva smiled, and then pressed a fingernail into his own thumb. While Mankanaka looked on, ashes, as white as snow and as fine and luminescent as moonlight, flowed out from the thumb of the Great God, Shiva Mahadeva. Their radiance bathed the forest and beyond in a healing mist.

The sight of Shiva’s sacred ashes, purer than green sap and everything else in the world, brought a sobering calmness to Mankanaka.. He prostrated himself at Shiva’s feet, and the whole world came to a standstill..

Even when you see a man endowed with miraculous powers, to the point of rising in the air, do not let yourself be deluded, but investigate whether he observes the divine precepts and prohibitions, whether he stays within the limits of religion and whether he accomplishes the duties this imposes upon him.

~Bayazid al-Bistami