(64) ATMA PRADAKSHINA (GOING ROUND THE SELF)
19th August, 1946
One morning last May, Sundaresa Iyer, who used to bring food for Bhagavan while in Virupaksha Cave by going about begging came and bowed before Him. Bhagavan asked him, “Did you go round the hill by way of pradakshina?” “No,” said the devotee. Looking at me, Bhagavan said, “Last night when people were going out for giripradakshina because of the moonlight, he also started to go. But he felt he could not complete the round. When they were starting out after telling me, he went round me quickly. When I asked him why he did so, he said, ‘I am afraid I cannot go round the hill. So I have gone round Bhagavan.’ ‘Go round yourself. That will be Atma pradakshina,’ I said.” So saying Bhagavan began laughing.
“It means that he has done what Vinayaka once did,” said one devotee. “What is that story?” asked another devotee. Then Bhagavan began telling it: “Once upon a time, Lord Parameswara wanted to teach a lesson to His son Lord Subrahmanya who fancied Himself to be a great sage; so Parameswara sat on the top of Mount Kailasa with Parvati, with a fruit in His hand. Seeing the fruit both Ganapati and Subrahmanya asked their father, Parameswara for it. Then Ishwara said that He would give the fruit to whoever of them got back first after going round the whole world. With self- confidence and pride that he would win the race, Subrahmanya started immediately riding on his favourite mount, the peacock, and began going at a fast pace, frequently looking behind to assure himself that his elder brother Ganapati was not following.
What could poor Ganapati do, with his huge belly? His vahanam (mount) was after all a mouse. So he thought it was no good competing with Subrahmanya in the race round the world, and went round Parvati and Parameswara, bowed before them and claimed the reward. When They asked him whether he had gone round the world, he said, “All the worlds are contained within you; so if I go round you, it is as good as going round the whole world.” Pleased with his reply, Parameswara gave him the fruit and Ganapati sat there eating it.
“In full confidence that he would be the winner, Subrahmanya finished going round the world and arrived at the starting point, but found Ganapati seated before Parvati and Parameswara eating the fruit. When he asked Parameswara to give him the fruit for winning the race, Ishwara said, ‘There it is, your elder brother is eating it.’ When he asked his father how that could be fair, Ishwara explained to him all that had happened. Subrahmanya then realised his vanity in thinking that he was a great sage, bowed before his parents, and asked to be pardoned. That is the story. The significance is that the ego which goes round like a whirlwind must get destroyed, and must get absorbed in Atma. That is Atma Pradakshina,” said Bhagavan.