There are two elements life. God made man and man made God. God created man. When he created man, he did not show any difference. The prince and the pauper, the rich and the poor, the man and the woman, the wise and the foolish all are alike for him. To understand the uniform love of God, we are taught to do Surya Namaskar early in the morning. The sun shines equally on man, woman, flower and rock.
Unfortunately, being entwined in the mundane world, we go farther off from God and God’s message. We do not know God manifests Himself in everything and everybody. We do not know that the caste divisions are made bassed on the nature of work we do which in turn is based on our body or mind. We do not know ‘Jagam midhya, Brahma Satyam.’ When I use the words we do not know, I don’t mean we really do not know, but we totally ignore these facts. So the second element ‘man – made God’ is all pervading. We created God i.e., we give greater importance to one God, we set some norms for God, we don’t allow untouchables into temples etc. We call them Harijans (Hari + jans) but we don’t allow them to have the darshan of Hari! What an atrocity! Rama ate from the hands of Sabari, travelled in the boat of Guha but we don’t do such things.
Here is the story of an untouchable named Chokha mela. He was a staunch devotee of Krishna. He sang and danced before the temple of Panduranga in Pandari puram. Ironically enough the devotees who thronged before the temple were lured to his music like a snake which danced to the juggler’s music. But the minute his music and dance came to a stand still, their interest in him vanished. He became an untouchable and was prohibited the darshan of Lord Krishna. He would dance to his heart’s content and fall at the doorstep brooding over his ill fate. This farce continued for quite some time.
Are we born with perfection? Don’t we learn many things as we grow ? Don’t we err as we learn something? Chokhamela might not have taken birth in a royal family, but does he not supersede the so called high caste people? Is his heart not filled with the name of God? But who cares for his faith? Perfection is not loved in this imperfect world.
His faith was even questioned one day. Somebody stopped his ecstatic dance and asked , If your faith is so real, if your ecstasy is heartfelt. Why then doesn’t your lord give you permission to have is darshan. You say that God helps his devotees, but you are not caved for! Can a dog sit beside a Brahmin and have its food? Can a beggar enter a royal palace? So give up your futile attempts and leave this place at once!’ He even pushed the devotee ruthlessly!
The untouchable rose to his feet and argued humbly, ‘My faith in God is as real as my birth into a low caste. How can my birth be a hindrance? Doesn’t sun God shine over lotus born in mud? Do the clouds rain over rivers only ignoring mud ponds? Does Mother earth avoid us? Does my prayer become unwanted for my God?’ But it fell into deaf ears.
He walked back home with a heavy heart. His wife showed concern and asked ‘Why are you like that? ‘He burst out crying, ‘I don’t know why I am created like that! I am destined to suffer. I didn’t do any crime knowingly. I don’t know what is cheating or fooling others. All I know is an undaunted faith in Lord Krishna, but I am not blessed by Him Sayira his wife consoled him in many ways, but his sorrow was unappeasable. He went to bed without food, still crying heavily. Sayira was worried about him and was watching him unobtrusively, without a wink of an eye.
Chokhamela couldn’t sleep. The darkness of his heart was ten times the darkness around. But suddenly, there was a sparkle of light ten thousands times the sparkle of the sun which shattered the darkness in and around! The lord Panduranga Himself came to the doorsteps of Chokhamela.
The tears of sorrow turned out to be tears of joy. The couple fell to the feet of Vittala. The God assured them that it was His duty to save them. So saying, the God held the hand of Chokhamela and led him into his temple. God took him into the Sanctum Sanatorium even as the doors were tightly locked. Nobody saw them.
Chokhamela put one step backward, ‘My lord! I am not permitted to enter your temple, but you are leading me into the Sanctum Sanatorium. It may be a bad omen to you.
God laughed away his wild fears. ‘My Sanctum Sanatorium is filled with darkness, because of such superstitious practices of mankind. Today it looks illumined because of your entry. Chokhamela, whoever doesn’t bother to reach me inspite of being born as a man, is an untouchable; whoever hates my staunch devotee is an untouchable.
Chokhamela was delighted by God’s explanation and asked him a question for the welfare of mankind, ‘Oh Lord! How should your devotees lead their lives to attain moksha ?’
Panduranga Swami answered this with a smile on his face, ‘Chokha ! Three aspects have to be followed by my devotees in Kaliyuga chanting. They should chant the name of God incessantly. When yagas and yagnas were performed earlier, mere chanting will fetch the same results in Kaliyuga. ‘Kalau nama sankeerthanam smrutham is proclaimed in Sastras. 2. Good Behaviour . A devotee should practice good principles like ahimsa, pity, patience, control over sense organs and a life of celibacy. 3. The company of Good people. Should move always in the company of good people who always spend their time in the presence of God. To be acquainted with such people itself is a difficult task.
So follow these three principles and set an example to the others. The conversation wenton till the early hours of next morning. The main priest heard some voices even as he unlocked the door and was taken aback to see the forbidden man in the inner most part of the temple. The head priest questioned him angrily. ‘How dare you step into this sacred place ? Why can’t we punish you for your stealthy act?’
Chokhamela humbly answered, ‘Oh priest I did not come on my own. My Lord brought me here personally. I am not offensive in any way. I may be an untouchable, but my entry has not made the temple untouchable. If that is the case the Ganges should become untouchable since sinners have a dip in the holy river. The air should become untouchable. Just as a mother doesn’t give up an ugly child God doesn’t give up a lowly child.
The wiseacres had no answer to his questions. All that they knew was, he was challenging them. He had crossed the barriers and he needed to be punished. They were worried, if they left him like that, God would bring him there everynight. So they banished him from that place. He was asked to live at the other bank of the Chandrabhagha river How foolish of them ! Did God live only on one side of the river ?
Chokhamela mutely obeyed their order as God’s order and settled down there in a small cottage.
One day Chokhamela was having his food under a tree before his house. His wife was serving him. Panduranga unable to bear His separation from his devotee came in search of him. He wanted to join him in dinner. The couple were more than delighted, did pooja to His feet and started serving him. Sayira in her excitement happened to spill curds over God’s dress. Chokhamela, unable to control his anger, shouted at his wife, ‘How dare you do that ? Can’t you see properly ? Just then the temple priest happened to pass that way and mistook those words. Since he couldn’t see the Lord, he thought they were aimed at him. In a fit of anger, he gave a big slap on his face, had a bath in the river for having touched him and came to the temple. In the meanwhile God disappeared from Chokhamela’s house.
‘Oh my God! The priest was wonder struck when he opened the temple door. Tears rolled down Lord Panduranga’s cheek and one cheek turned red and swollen. You should look at the priest ! His throat became dry. He missed a heart beat. He could hardly stand ! He could see his mistake reflected on the Lord’s face! He rushed to the senior brahmins and explained the situation. What the brahmin realized for himself was true! They could guess that God was grieved at the fate of his devotee! The only solution was to apologise to Chokhamela.
Without any second thoughts, the priest hastened to Chokhamela and prostrated before him. The latter was shocked at his action. The priest explained the situation and holding his hand in his hand, brought Chokamela to the divine presence. There was not a bit of exaggeration in the scene described. Chokhamela was moved to tears to see his beloved God in sorrow. He pleaded, ‘Oh God! Forgive us as a mother forgives her children. Whatever has happened has happened unwittingly. We can’t bear to see you in such a pitiable state. Please shower your Blessings on us with your ever pleasing smile. God who can’t say no to His devotees, looked the normal smiling self again! How great are the powers of God!
Sri Namadev had won the name of the chief devotees of Panduranga. One day while he was singing in the temple, he was shocked to see the Lord weeping. When asked for the reason, God answered, ‘Oh Namadev! There is a staunch devotee of mine by name Chokhamela. He chants my name incessantly, leads a life of equanimity and sacrifice. He met with a tragic end. As he was working with some labourers, a brick wall fell over them and all of them died.
Namadev was touched at his story and said, ‘Oh God! You ever love to your devotees. You blessed him by helping his jeevathma join you – Paramathma. Why then should you feel sorry for him?’
The lord answered, ‘No, Namadev, he had one dying wish. I can’t be happy if his desire is not fulfilled? I entrust you to fulfil it. Order me, my Lord, I am at your service. There is no difference between you and your devotees. So I deem it a great pleasure to play my part.
God was pleased at his readiness and said. ‘Oh Namadev! Chokhamela had a strong desire. He wanted his dead body to be buried before my temple. But he met with an accidental death and all the dead bodies were given a mass burial. Now, you search his bones and get them here and bury them before my temple.’ Namadev was more than willing, but he raised a genuine doubt.’ How do I differentiate his bones from the rest ?’
God ruled it out as a strange fear! ‘Chokhamela was chanting my name even as he breathed his last. So, whichever bone gives out my name, as you keep it near your ear that bone is Chokhamelas.’
Accordingly, Namadev went and examined every bone. Lo! Some bones let out the prayer. ‘Vittala Vittala Panduranga.’ Namadev was moved to tears. He carefully collected all his bones and buried them before the temple. Even today, the devotees of Panduranga stand before his cemetry and pray to him.
Chokhamela lived in the samsara sagara, but was not drowned in it. Just as the stones floated on the Ocean due to the power of Rama Nama, he floated on the ocean of life fue to the power of Panduranga. He also proved devotion to God is not coloured by caste, creed or religion. A true devotee doesn’t bother about mundane world or the behaviour of society towards him. All that a true devotee knows is undaunted faith in God.