23. Sabari's Sâdhana   

Sabari had a very tender, compassionate heart. How she came to Mathanga rishi and stayed at his hermitage is a very interesting story. Her parents arranged her marriage, and as was the custom among the Adivasis a goat was to be offered to the tribal goddess, on the night previous to the ceremony, in order to win the grace for the couple. When Sabari came to know about this slaughter, she wept, and fell at the feet of her parents, praying them to save the goat. She asked, "How can our married life be happy, when the dying bleat of this goat is the prologue?" But, the father pushed her aside and proceeded with the cruel rite. That night, Sabari stole out of the den of torture and hid herself in the depths of the jungle that was not far off [see also RRV-3b & PV-24].

When day dawned, Sabari's parents as well as the groom's party were plunged in grief and anxiety; they combed the area, even amidst the thick bushes, but they went back, saying among themselves, "she could not have gone to the hermitage, for no woman would be given asylum there". Sabari heard those words and so she concluded that the hermitage was the safest place for her. She felt that some monk would take pity on her, and not send her back. Mathanga rishi espied her and gave her permission to be in his habitation. He told her that God in the form of S'rî Râma was coming to the hermitage some day, since He had been exiled into the forests for 14 years and He is eager to save the monks and the seekers doing tapas in the forests, from the ravage of the demonic enemies of peace! Râma, he said, was proceeding from one region to another, with His consort Sîtâ and His brother Lakshmana.

From that day Sabari had no other thoughts than of Râma, no other desire than the desire to have the darshan of Râma, the chance to touch His Feet and the opportunity to speak with Him. Her heart was saturated with the Râmarasa, the sweetness of the Râma principle. She had no other japam or dhyana or spiritual exercise. She spent her time, preparing for the visit of Râma to the hermitage; just as she cleaned the paths, she cleaned her heart, too. Pebbles and thorns disappeared from both through her efforts. She walked through the under growth and removed overhanging creepers and briars, for she imagined Râma would not have combed His hair and it might get caught. She broke the lumps of earth, for she feared the tender soles of Sîtâ would be hurt when she walked over them. She gathered fruits and tubers from the jungle trees and plants and kept them by every day, for no one knew when Râma would arrive! And she took no risks. She tasted every fruit, whether it was bitter, sour or sweet, so that Râma could eat the best. She smoothed the surface of all stones that lay by the side of the tracks in the jungle for, she expected Râma, Lakshmana or Sîtâ to sit upon one of them when they got tired of walking. She hoped that one of them would rest awhile on one of the rocks she polished with great care. Thus, her heart became Râma Hridaya! (Lord Râma became the resident of Sabari's heart).

Sabari was so immersed in Râma that the ascetics lost all awareness of her sex; they allowed her to remain in the hermitage, after Mathanga related to them her high level of sâdhana. Mathanga left his body and gave up his hermitage to Sabari, saying, you alone deserve to be here when Râma arrives!

The sâdhana that Sabari did to earn the bliss of serving Râma, you can do, when you serve Sai Râma in the poor. By this service, you realize the Self of Râma.