Divine Grace

A long time ago, a son was born to the pious family of a learned Brahmin in the ancient city of Kannuaj. They named him Ajamil. Like most other Brahmin boys of his times, Ajamil studied the scriptures and settled down to a contented life. One day, out in the jungle to collect fuel-wood for his kitchen, he chanced upon a beautiful prostitute frolicking with a man. The sight cast a spell on him. He forgot his family ties, his priestly duties and his learning. For him what mattered now was the prostitute and her physical charms. He brought her home to live with her permanently.
It was a matter of time before Ajamil was cast out of his community for his wild ways. Not that he cared. Taking his paramour along, he retreated to jungles and became a dacoit. Looting the wayfarers, killing innocent people indiscriminately and spreading terror, he lived the life of an outlaw.
But to the woman he had brought home, he was steadfast. They had had ten children, the youngest of whom they called Narayan. Ajamil was particularly attached with the obedient boy and depended on him for his smallest of needs.
His sinful days on the earth were drawing to a close. Lying on his deathbed one day at the ripe age of eighty-eight, Ajamil was frightened out of his wits at the sight of Yamadoots that had come with a noose to drag him to the presence of Dharmraja. He yelled ‘Narayan!’ to call his favourite son to ward off the fearful messengers of Death. Not his son, Narayan, but it was four attendants of Narayan Bhagwan who appeared instantly. Attired in their celestial glory and armed with maces to crush any opponent, they surrounded Ajamil protectively.
‘Give us the way,’ shouted the noose-wielding Yamadoot leading his companions, ‘we havecome to take this sinful man to MaharajDharmraj to face the consequences of his black deeds!’
Without moving an inch, Bhagwan Narayan’s chief attendant replied assertively, ‘But we are here to protect this devotee from harm. He had cried out ‘Narayan!’ at your approach.’
The disgruntled minions of the Lord of Death went back to their master. They protested that if every sinner took the easy recourse to mouthing the Lord’s name at the time of death, how would they be made to pay for their karma?
Dharmaraja soothed his servants telling them that they all were ultimately in the service of the Lord Supreme. If a sinner went in His protection, they had no further role to play. Penitence has been prescribed in the shastrasonly to instil fear in the people and restrain them from committing sin.
Ajamil was eventually granted one more year to live. Renouncing his evil ways, he went to Haridwar, there to spend his time in devotion of the Lord. At the end of the allotted days, Ajamil ascended to heaven in a glittering chariot.
The myth of Ajamil is an assertion of the dualistic philosophy. Even a causal utterance of His name can absolve a person of his or her sins.
On the face of it, the story stands on its head the ‘you reap what you sow’ karma theory. Some people may even say that its amoral message might encourage wrong-doers to go on with their evil ways in the hope that on their deathbed they would somehow manage to cry out Bhagwan by one of His numerous names and secure absolution. But to remember Godhead when one is in death throes is not as easy as it seems. As the Gita says, it calls for a life-long devotion. There lies Ajamil’s message.