The king who reigned over Pithikapuram, during the times of Sripada was a little bit eccentric. He was arrogant, egoistic; words like humble, humility were totally unknown to him. He heard about the divine play of Sripada and was eager to see Him. Instead of going by himself to behold His darshan or sending a humble petition, the king sent the royal attendants demanding immediate presence of Sripada.

Lord Sripada refused to obey the order and sent a message in reply, “You are a king to a limited domain. But I am the emperor of emperors of this entire creation. So it is appropriate on your part to humbly seek my Darshan. Moreover since you are a vassal king under me pay me bountiful tribute. If you consider me as your guru, offer me Dakshina too.”

The king was outraged by the audacious disobedience of his command and the impudent message. He shrieked loudly, “oh! You arrogant Brahmin! You failed to comprehend my might. If I intend, I will crush you like an ant under my foot and wipe out your very identity itself, you impertinent fello…!” before he could complete the last word he fell flat on the ground. Having been shouted at the top most of his voice, the king got exhausted and felt as if he had no strength to get up, to utter a word, or to move. Attendants hurriedly assisted him but in vain, the king lay like a log spineless and spiritless. Meanwhile an ugly looking lady appeared before his inner eye, introduced herself as ‘Shakti’ and announced that she would be entering into his body. Lo! As if proving that “Actions talk louder than words” she forcibly made her entry into his body inflicting inexplicable pain to our poor king. He implored with a feeble tone, “Oh, have mercy upon me Goddess! Please leave my body.” Lo! Here I am leaving,” the goddess Shakti came out of his body with the same vigor breaking and cracking his bones and joints. What then? The goddess continued the to and fro journey into and out of his body as if she were playing the ‘in and out’ game. The entire palace was echoed with the pitiful yells and wails of the king. Somehow the king managed to summon Sundara Rama Sharma, the royal priest and a devotee of Lord Dattatreya. The priest at once performed some rites, worshipped Swayambhu Dattatreya, gave ‘Tirtha’ (holy water) and applied sacred ash on his forehead. With this, the horrific entry and departure of Shakti were ceased at once.

Sundar Rama Sharma like other Brahmins in Agraharam was jealous of Sripada and his family. He decided not to lose the opportunity and try to keep the fire ablaze with his venomous comments, “How dare to disobey you, the king? You should not pardon them my Majesty! After all a mere kid claims omniscience and proclaims that he is Lord Dattatreya. Oomph! Your highness! But for my devout prayers to Lord Datta you would have remained in this horrible plight for a long. Mind you, Sir, Sripada performed a black spell on you. Drag him to the palace.” The morale of the king, whose memory was afresh and raw with the hellish pain he had undergone was already in the low ebb; he meekly replied, “Oh, don’t bother sir, why should I soil my reputation dragging a Brahmin to the court. Just suggest me some remedy to repel the black magic, it’s enough.”

Disappointed Sharma designed a plan to convert the disadvantageous position of the king to his benefit. He gave a list of remedies to be accomplished simultaneously for 40 days: reading ‘Datta Puranam’; worshipping ‘swayambhu Datta (self-manifested idol of Datta) as per scriptural injections; generously donating gold and silver and offering ‘Dakhina’ to the priests who read the scripture and perform rituals; and feeding the people of all castes and he ensured that the problems would not dare to step even onto the outskirts of his kingdom. The king readily gave his consent.

Hectic preparations were made, priests were invited from far and wide to participate in this 40 days’ programme. All the activities in the agenda were in progress under the headman ship of Sharma. Contrary to the assurance of Sharma, thefts and burglaries became rampant in the entire kingdom from the day one itself; there was much ado about stealing everywhere. Despite the stringent measures the king miserably failed to curb the robbery.

Whether he was wide awake or was asleep, the king was haunted constantly by the pitiful appearance of the spirits of his ancestors and. their accusations against the Brahmins echoed in his ears. They complained that the Brahmin-priests were not performing their annual obsequies in a righteous manner. Hence they were not able to receive the oblations offered to them and their souls were wandering in the astral plane without liberation. They elaborated that ‘unless both- the children and the priests perform the obsequies with a sense of concern and respect the souls of progenitors would not attain liberation at all. Anything performed mechanically, with total indifference does not yield required results.’ (How truthful!)

King’s daughter started behaving like the one possessed by an evil spirit-oohhahhahaa… laughing monstrously, throwing all the articles into air like  missiles and fleeing away from palace on to roads with disheveled hair and attire. So a Shaman was called upon to expel the ghost from her body.

Chalo, kum se kum ek kaam to acchaa ho rahaa hai, to enjoy such a sense of satisfaction, the king often visited the place where the people were fed. To his amazement the persons appeared scrawny, skinny and lifeless like victims of chronic malnutrition. The king’s situation was like- Out of frying pan, Dhadaak! directly, into the fire.

The situation in the house of royal priest, Sundar Ram Sharma was not better either. His pleasant abode metamorphosed into a chaotic and tumultuous asylum. His wife who used to be as meek as a lamb suddenly turned into a wild tigress and started pouncing upon, knocking and hitting him with every thing within her reach.  His son and daughter were not lagging behind; they too contributed their meager share in harassing him; she- throwing all sorts of foot wears over him and he- spitting, pinning him onto the ground and strangling his neck with devilish force. ‘Hunger’ had become a forbidden word or a nightmare  for Sharma, as whenever he uttered this word he was given and forced to eat only hay, the menu was same for all the three meals and six courses. If he refused to eat, he had to undergo three different punishments from three different quarters for the same offence.

During the day time, as long as Dattapuranam was being read, there was Sat, Chit and Anand every where. Once the ‘Svadhyay’ was over and the priests had their lunch, his house turned into a ‘Bhoot Bungalow’ with all sorts of evil spirits laughing and roaming around. They were Sharma’s ancestors and they complained that they were unable to attain liberation as their obsequies were performed with sinful money, taken from the king. The women ghosts complained that the king’s ancestors were frivolous persons who had spoiled their family life.

The king, Sharma and the priests remained in a state of constant panic and apprehension as every thing was going against their expectations. They were frightened at their own shadow. Grace of Sripada showers nectar upon the devotees but shoots thunderbolts at the arrogant.

They rushed to Lord Sripada with all humility, fell on his lotus feet and begged forgiveness. Sripada possesses both motherly and fatherly attributes. Like father He disciplines his children and like a mother he readily forgives any grave mistake committed by his children. The author aptly says that the motherly love, the warmth and affection of Sripada surpasses the affection of millions and billions of mothers of all the times and of the entire universe combined. He reprimanded, “Sons, you are the devotees of Lord Datta. You adore and worship my idol, but when I, the formless and attribute less unmanifest manifested amidst you in a human form with attributes, you refuse to realize and comprehend my omniscience and try to crucify me.  The root cause behind all your troubles is unrighteousness and skepticism. Earn money by honest means and sincerely perform the righteous things. Love, respect and serve your parents wholeheartedly as long as they are alive and perform their obsequies sincerely after their demise. Remember, if you call me sincerely by any name I would come running to protect you. If you take one step toward me I’lll take ten toward you. I assume the form, depending upon your feelings and thoughts and help you in the way you want me to. So don’t ever fight amongst yourselves about the form of the formless Absolute.” They realized their mistake, once again prostrated on his divine feet and went home. Thereafter they lived happily forever leading a pious life.

Lord Rama gently placing his foot on the stone turned it back into a woman. Lord Krishna with His mere touch transformed a dwarf with hunch back into a beautiful lady. Lord Sripada cured and transformed a feeble hunch back man into a strong man not by his touch, but by making him receive blows and punches from a wrestler. I’ll narrate this story in our next session.