Sākkiya went to the great temple city of
Kānchipuram to train himself in various disciplines. First, he studied the Buddhist tenets and took the robes of a monk and the name referring to the Buddha. In due course, however, he realised that this and other heterodox systems did not contain the last word on the ultimate truth. By the grace of the Lord, he concluded that the Siva path was the one he was called to. Not bothering about his vesture, however, he continued to dress as a Buddhist, but adored Lord Siva in his heart and worshipped the lingam as the highest expression of the formless Absolute. He beheld the lingam at public places of worship and took a vow that he would not take his food until he had paid obeisance to the Lord at the lingam each day. In his ecstasy, without being conscious of what he was doing, he flung stones at the image as a holy offering, reciting the Lord’s name silently under his breath. The Lord relished this worship. Still clad in the robes of a Buddhist monk, other Buddhists imagined he was merely flinging stones. But to the Lord, it was no less than a flower offering.
One day, the weather became dark and stormy and rain flooded the area, making outdoor movement difficult. As the devotee waited for the storm to subside, pangs of hunger tormented him. Loath to break his vow, he braved the weather and found his way to Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram the river for a bath. Aided by the frequent lightning flashes, he then made his way to the temple with great effort. But however much he tried, he could not find any offerings. Not even a single pebble was to be seen in the ankle-deep mud and knee-high floodwater. He could not bear the thought of breaking his vow and saw that the only offering he had was the crown of his own head. No sooner had this thought crossed his mind than he rushed inside the temple to offer his head on the great pillar. But the Lord’s saving hand stopped him. In a trice, the devotee merged with the benign form leaving no trace of his body as the celestials above looked on in wonder.
. The above text has been freely adapted from editions
and other texts.