A poor man was sitting in a dark hut thinking of his miseries and of the injustice and wrongs that could be found in this world of God’s making. Out of abhimana he began to mutter to himself, “As men do not want to cast a slur on God’s name, they put the blame on Karma. If my misfortunes are really due to the sins committed in my previous birth and if I was so great a sinner, then currents of evil thoughts should still be passing through my mind. Can the mind of such a wicked person get cleansed so soon? And what about that Tinkari Sheel who has such colossal wealth and commands so many people! If there is anything like the fruits of Karma, then surely he must have been a famous saint and sadhu in his previous life; but I see no trace of that at all in his present birth. I don’t think a bigger rogue exists — one so cruel and crooked. All these tales about Karma are just clever inventions of God to console man’s mind. Shyamsundar is very tricky; luckily he does not reveal himself to me, otherwise I would teach him such a lesson that he would stop playing these tricks.”
As soon as he finished muttering, the man saw that his dark room was flooded with a dazzling light. After a while the luminous waves faded and he found in front of him a charming boy of a dusky complexion standing with a lamp in his hand, and smiling sweetly without saying a word. Noticing the musical anklets round his feet and the peacock plume, the man understood that Shyamsundar had revealed himself. At first he was at a loss what to do; for a moment he thought of bowing at his feet, but looking at the boy’s smiling face no longer felt like making his obeisance. At last he burst out with the words, “Hullo, Keshta, what makes you come here?” The boy replied with a smile, “Well, didn’t you call me? Just now you had the desire to whip me! That is why I am surrendering myself to you. Come along, whip me.” The man was now even more confounded than before, but not with any repentance for the desire to whip the Divine: the idea of punishing instead of patting such a sweet youngster did not appeal to him. The boy spoke again, “You see, Harimohon, those who, instead of fearing me, treat me as a friend, scold me out of affection and want to play with me, I love very much. I have created this world for my play only; I am always on the lookout for a suitable playmate. But, brother, I find no one. All are angry with me, make demands on me, want boons from me; they want honour, liberation, devotion — nobody wants me. I give whatever they ask for. What am I to do? I have to please them; otherwise they will tear me to pieces. You too, I find, want something from me. You are vexed and want to whip some one. In order to satisfy that desire you have called me. Here I am, ready to be whipped. ye yathā māṁ prapadyante, I accept whatever people offer me. But before you beat me, if you wish to know my ways, I shall explain them to you. Are you willing?” Harimohon replied, “Are you capable of that? I see that you can talk a good deal, but how am I to believe that a mere child like you can teach me something?” The boy smiled again and said, “Come, see whether I can or not.”
Then Sri Krishna placed his palm on Harimohon’s head. Instantly electric currents started flowing all through his body; from the mūlādhāra the slumbering kuṇḍalinī power went up running to the head-centre (brahmarandhra), hissing like a serpent of flame; the head became filled with the vibration of life-energy. The next moment it seemed to Harimohon that the walls around were moving away from him, as if the world of forms and names was fading into Infinity leaving him alone. Then he became unconscious. When he came back to his senses, he found himself with the boy in an unknown house, standing before an old man who was sitting on a cushion, plunged in deep thought, his cheek resting on his palm. Looking at that heart-rending despondent face distorted by tormenting thoughts and anxiety, Harimohon could not believe that this was Tinkari Sheel, the all-in-all in their village. Then, extremely frightened, he asked the boy, “Keshta, what have you done? You have entered someone’s dwelling in the dead of night like a thief! The police will come and thrash the life out of us. Don’t you know Tinkari Sheel’s power?” The boy laughed and said, “I know it pretty well. But stealing is an old practice of mine, and, besides, I am on good terms with the police. Don’t you fear. Now I am giving you the inner sight, look inside the old man. You know Tinkari’s power, now witness how mighty I am.”
At once Harimohon could see into the man’s mind. He saw, as in an opulent city ravaged by a victorious enemy, innumerable terrible-looking demons and ogres who had entered into that brilliant intelligence, disturbing its peace and composure, plundering its happiness. The old man had quarrelled with his young son and turned him out; the sorrow of losing his beloved child had cowed down his spirit, but anger, pride and vanity had shut the door of his heart and were guarding it. Forgiveness had no entry there. Hearing calumnies against his own daughter he had driven her away and was lamenting over the cherished one he had lost. He knew that she was chaste but the fear of social censure and a feeling of shame coupled with his own arrogance and selfishness had put a curb on his affection. Frightened by the memory of a thousand sins the old man was trembling, but he did not have the courage or the strength to mend his evil ways. Now and then thoughts of death and of the other world came to him and filled him with terror. Harimohon saw also that from behind these morbid thoughts the hideous messenger of death was constantly peeping out and knocking at the door. Whenever this happened, the old man’s heart sank and he frantically screamed with fear.
Horrified by this sight Harimohon looked at the boy and exclaimed, “Why, Keshta! I used to think this man the happiest of all!” The boy replied, “Just there lies my power. Tell me now which of the two is mightier — this Tinkari Sheel or Sri Krishna, the master of Vaikuntha? Look, Harimohon, I too have the police, sentinels, government, law, justice, I too can play the game of being a king; do you like this game?” “No, my child,” answered Harimohon, “it is a very cruel game. Why, do you like it?” The boy laughed and declared, “I like all sorts of games; I like to whip as well as to be whipped.” Then he continued. “You see, Harimohon, people like you look at the outward appearance of things and have not yet cultivated the subtle power of looking inside. Therefore you grumble that you are miserable and Tinkari is happy. This man has no material want; still, compared to you, how much more this millionaire is suffering! Can you guess why? Happiness is a state of mind, misery also is a state of mind. Both are only mind-created. He Who possesses nothing, whose only possessions are difficulties, even he, if he wills, can be greatly happy. But just as you cannot find happiness after spending your days in dry piety, and as you are always dwelling upon your miseries so too this man who spends his days in sins which give him no real pleasure is now thinking only of his miseries. All this is the fleeting happiness of virtue and the fleeting misery of vice, or the fleeting misery of virtue and the fleeting happiness of vice. There is no joy in this conflict. The image of the abode of bliss is with me: he who comes to me, falls in love with me, wants me, lays his demands on me, torments me — he alone can succeed in getting my image of bliss.” Harimohon went on eagerly listening to these words of Sri Krishna. The boy continued, “And look here, Harimohon, dry piety has lost its charm for you, but in spite of that you cannot give it up, habit binds you to it; you cannot even conquer this petty vanity of being pious. This old man, on the other hand, gets no joy from his sins, yet he too cannot abandon them because he is habituated to them, and is suffering hell’s own agonies in this life. These are the bonds of virtue and vice; fixed and rigid notions, born of ignorance, are the ropes of these bonds. But the sufferings of that old man are indeed a happy sign. They will do him good and soon liberate him.”
So far Harimohon had been listening silently to Sri Krishna’s words. Now he spoke out, “Keshta, your words are undoubtedly sweet, but I don’t trust them. Happiness and misery may be states of mind, but outer circumstances are their cause. Tell me, when the mind is restless because of starvation, can anyone be happy? Or when the body is suffering from a disease or enduring pain, can any one think of you?” “Come, Harimohon, that too I shall show you,” replied the boy.
Again he placed his palm on Harimohon’s head. As soon as he felt the touch, Harimohon saw no longer the dwelling of Tinkari Sheel. On the beautiful, solitary and breezy summit of a hill an ascetic was seated, absorbed in meditation, with a huge tiger lying prone at his feet like a sentinel. Seeing the tiger Harimohon’s own feet would not proceed any further. But the boy forcibly dragged him near to the ascetic. Incapable of resisting the boy’s pull Harimohon had to go. The boy said, “Look, Harimohon.” Harimohon saw, stretched out in front of his eyes, the ascetic’s mind like a diary on every page of which the name of Sri Krishna was inscribed a thousand times. Beyond the gates of the Formless Samadhi the ascetic was playing with Sri Krishna in the sunlight.
Harimohon saw again that the ascetic had been starving for many days, and for the last two his body had experienced extreme suffering because of hunger and thirst. Reproachingly Harimohon asked, “What’s this, Keshta? Babaji loves you so much and still he has to suffer from hunger and thirst? Have you no common sense? Who shall feed him in this lonely forest home of tigers?” The boy answered, “I will feed him. But look here for another bit of fun.” Harimohon saw the tiger go straight to an ant-hill which was close by and break it with a single stroke of the paw. Hundreds of ants scurried out and began stinging the ascetic angrily. The ascetic remained plunged in meditation, undisturbed, unmoved. Then the boy sweetly breathed in his ears, “Beloved!” The ascetic opened his eyes. At first he felt no pain from the stings; the all-enchanting flute-call which the whole world longs for, was still ringing in his ears — as it had once rung in Radha’s ears at Vrindavan. At last, the innumerable repeated stings made him conscious of his body. But he did not stir. Astonished, he began muttering to himself, “How strange! I have never known such things! Obviously it is Sri Krishna who is playing with me. In the guise of these insignificant ants he is stinging me.” Harimohon saw that the burning sensation no longer reached the ascetic’s mind. Rather every sting produced in him an intense ecstasy all over his body, and, drunk with that ecstasy, he began to dance, clapping his hands and singing the praise of Sri Krishna. The ants dropped down from his body and fled.
Stupefied, Harimohon exclaimed, “Keshta, what is this spell?” The boy clapped now his hands, swung round twice on his foot and laughed aloud, “I am the only magician on earth. None shall understand this spell. This is my supreme riddle. Did you see it? Amid this agony also he could think only of me. Look again.” The ascetic sat down once more, self-composed; his body went on suffering hunger and thirst, but his mind merely perceived the suffering and did not get involved in it or affected by it. At this moment, a voice, sweeter than a flute, called out from the hill, “Beloved!” Harimohon was startled. It was the very voice of Shyamsunder, sweeter than a flute. Then he saw a beautiful duskycomplexioned boy come out from behind the rocks, carrying in a dish excellent food and some fruits. Harimohon was dumb-founded and looked towards Sri Krishna. The boy was standing beside him, yet the boy who was coming resembled Sri Krishna in every detail! This boy came and throwing a light on the ascetic, said, “See what I have brought for you.” The ascetic smiled and asked, “Oh, you have come? Why did you keep me starving so long? Well, take your seat and dine with me.” The ascetic and the boy started eating the food from the dish, feeding each other, snatching away each other’s share. After the meal was over, the boy took the dish and disappeared into the darkness.
Harimohon was about to ask something when, all of a sudden, he saw that there was neither Sri Krishna nor the ascetic, neither the tiger nor any hill. He found himself living in a well-to-do quarter of a town; he possessed much wealth, a family and children. Every day he was giving alms in charity to the Brahmins and to the beggars; he was regularly repeating the Divine Name three times a day; observing all the rites and rituals prescribed in the Shastras, he was following the path shown by Raghunandan, and was leading the life of an ideal father, an ideal husband and an ideal son.
But the next moment he saw to his dismay that the residents of the locality he was living in had neither mutual good-will nor any happiness; they considered the mechanical observance of social conventions the highest virtue. Instead of the ecstatic feeling that had been his in the beginning, he now had a feeling of suffering. It seemed to him as if he had been very thirsty but, lacking water, had been eating dust, — only dust, infinite dust. He ran away from that place and went to another locality. There, in front of a grand mansion, a huge crowd had gathered; words of blessing were on every one’s lips. Advancing he saw Tinkari Sheel seated on a verandah, distributing large amounts of money to the crowd; no one was going away empty-handed. Harimohon chuckled and thought, “What is this dream? Tinkari Sheel is giving alms!” Then he looked into Tinkari’s mind. He saw that thousands of dissatisfactions and evil impulses such as greed, jealousy, passion, selfishness were all astir there. For the sake of virtuous appearance and fame, out of vanity, Tinkari had kept them suppressed, kept them starving, instead of driving them away from within.
In the meantime someone took Harimohon on a swift visit to the other world. He saw the hells and heavens of the Hindus, those of the Christians, the Muslims and the Greeks, and also many other hells and heavens. Then he found himself sitting once more in his own hut, on the same old torn and dirty mattress with Shyamsundar in front of him. The boy remarked, “It is quite late in the night; now if I don’t return home I shall get a scolding, everybody will start beating me. Let me therefore be brief. The hells and the heavens you have visited are nothing but a dream-world, a creation of your mind. After death man goes to hell or heaven and somewhere works out the tendencies that existed in him during his last birth. In your previous birth you were only virtuous, love found no way into your heart; you loved neither God nor man. After leaving your body you had to work out your old trend of nature, and so lived in imagination among middle-class people in a world of dreams; and as you went on leading that life you ceased to like it any more. You became restless and came away from there only to live in a hell made of dust; finally you enjoyed the fruits of your virtues and, having exhausted them, took birth again. In that life, except for your formal alms-giving and your soulless superficial dealings, you never cared to relieve anyone’s wants — therefore you have so many wants in this life. And the reason why you are still going on with this soulless virtue is that you cannot exhaust the karma of virtues and vices in the world of dream, it has to be worked out in this world. On the other hand, Tinkari was charity itself in his past life and so, blessed by thousands of people, he has in this life become a millionaire and knows no poverty; but as he was not completely purified in his nature, his unsatisfied desires have to feed on vice. Do you follow now the system of Karma? There is no reward or punishment, but evil creates evil, and good creates good. This is Nature’s law. Vice is evil, it produces misery; virtue is good, it leads to happiness. This procedure is meant for purification of nature, for the removal of evil. You see, Harimohon, this earth is only a minute part of my world of infinite variety, but even then you take birth here in order to get rid of evil by the help of Karma. When you are liberated from the hold of virtue and vice and enter the realm of Love, then only you are freed of this activity. In your next birth you too will get free. I shall send you my dear sister, Power, along with Knowledge, her companion; but on one condition, — you should be my playmate, and must not ask for liberation. Are you ready to accept it?” Harimohon replied, “Well, Keshta, you have hypnotised me! I intensely feel like taking you on my lap and caressing you, as if I had no other desire in this life!”
The boy laughed and asked, “Did you follow what I said, Harimohon?” “Yes, I did,” he replied, then thought for a while and said, “O Keshta, again you are deceiving me. You never gave the reason why you created evil!” So saying, he caught hold of the boy’s hand. But the boy, setting himself free, rebuked Harimohon, “Be off! Do you want to get out of me all my secrets in an hour’s time?” Suddenly the boy blew out the lamp and said with a chuckle, “Well, Harimohon, you have forgotten all about lashing me! Out of that fear I did not even sit on your lap, lest, angry with your outward miseries, you should teach me a lesson! I do not trust you any more.” Harimohon stretched his arms forward, but the boy moved farther and said, “No Harimohon, I reserve that bliss for your next birth. Good-bye.” So saying, the boy disappeared into the dark night. Listening to the chime of Sri Krishna’s musical anklets, Harimohon woke up gently. Then he began thinking, “What sort of dream is this! I saw hell, I saw heaven, I called the Divine rude names, taking him to be a mere stripling, I even scolded him. How awful! But now I am feeling very peaceful.” Then Harimohon began recollecting the charming image of the dusky-complexioned boy, and went on murmuring from time to time, “How beautiful! How beautiful!”