Once, the great Yogi, Mahatapa, was meditating on Lord Shiva, absorbed in the inner rhythms of Om Namah Shivaya when a little bird flew overhead the great Yogi, dropping as it flew by. The Yogi felt the bird drop on his head and instantly came out of his meditation. Enraged, he cursed the bird for the dropping, and lo! the little bird turned instantly to ash and dropped out of the sky. Such was the power of the Yogi’s penance.
The great Yogi, somewhat impressed by his own Yogic powers, went into the nearby town to see what else he could do. He found his way to a small hut where he could see a woman serving food to her husband.
Sage Mahatapa went up to the gate and begged for food, as was customary for monks and saints. “Annam dehi,” he called out to the woman.
The woman bowed low to the Sage and said, “Please wait, my Lord! Let me finish serving food to my husband.”
Mahatapa was, at the best of times, an impatient person. Though Yoga can give knowledge, realizations and powers but it does not necessarily change the fundamental nature of the Yogi. Mahatapa, following the impulsion of his nature, lost his temper and almost growled at the woman — “Are you asking me to wait, Woman?”
The woman smiled indulgently at the Sage and said softly, “I am not a poor little bird that you can curse and kill, O Sage!”
Mahatapa was taken aback. How could this poor woman know about the bird? The woman smiled again, as if reading the Sage’s mind. She said, “O Sage, Yoga is not the only way to acquire siddhis! I practice no Yoga, but I have Bhakti. I serve my husband as I serve Vishnu himself. My service is my meditation and my worship.”
Sage Mahatapa understood that he was in the presence of an accomplished Yogi, and felt ashamed of his own impatience and anger. He bowed before her and asked her humbly, “I wish to learn further, deepen my practice, conquer my nature… Can you help?”
The woman replied, “My Lord, I am not a teacher, I live the life of a housewife. It is not my dharma to instruct. But I can send you to one who is higher than I in learning and realization, a great master.”
“Then direct me to him, I shall be deeply grateful, Didi!”
“Then go to Mithilapuri town, O Sage, and meet Dharmavyada..”
So the Sage went to Mithilapuri and sought out Dharmavyada. He was in for a slightly rude shock when he discovered that Dharmavyada was a butcher by profession. ‘A butcher?’, he thought to himself, ‘What will a worldly man like this butcher teach me of Yoga?’ But out of respect for the woman who had guided him here, he went up to the butcher and stood respectfully before his shop. The butcher was busy cutting and carving the meat. As Mahatapa stood by and watched, he couldn’t help noticing how perfectly the butcher was working on the meat. Each movement was almost perfectly measured, graceful, efficient. The butcher’s face was calm and radiated peace and contentment. His eyes were unwaveringly fixed on the meat, knife and stone.
After a while, the butcher Dharmavyada stopped his work, wiped his hands, and bowed to the Sage Mahatapa.
“Welcome, O Sage!”
Mahatapa bowed too and began, “Sir, I was sent by…”
Dharmavyada stopped him short, “I know, Sage. You have been sent by a great sage herself, one who has done intense penance and has accomplished much. You are fortunate to have met her.”
“She mentioned nothing…” Said Mahatapa.
Dharmavyada smiled, “You have acquired the power to reduce a bird to ashes with your anger. She possesses the power to protect the bird from a Yogi’s anger!”
Mahatapa was truly astounded. Dharamvyada continued, “And your question, how can a worldly man like me, a crude butcher, teach you Yoga, reveals that you still have not conquered the dualities of your mind, O Sage!”
The Sage bowed low and said, “Teach me, O Master! I see the limitations of my sadhana and how much more I still need to grow.”
And Dharamvyada said, “I shall, O Mahatapa.. once I finish my work and close my shop. You can come home with me and we will talk..”
And the Sage saw, out of the corner of his eye, a little bird fly across the sky.
As retold by Nirakar