According to a consensus of all the Sacred Scriptures which relate its origin, Kashi enjoys a twofold unique privilege, that of having been created by the Lord Shiva himself, and that of being the first land that ever emerged from the primeval waters.
Some other tirthas, like Amarnath and Uttarkashi, may offer a more highly concentrated and more exclusive centre of spiritual life. Some big cities like Madras or Calcutta may claim a wide range of culture and of erudite knowledge. Some privileged spots like Cape Comorin or Darjeeling may be proud of more impressive natural beauty. But in the heart of every Hindu, the mere name of Kashi calls up a very peculiar feeling, which is neither fear nor desire, neither expectation nor joy, a feeling closely related to the after-life, or better said, to the removal of the need for any individual after-life. In Varanasi, the town between the Varana and the Assi, we are not so much concerned with this life as with the ex-tinction of it, how to wipe out of space and time the physical, intellectual, ethical and psychic entity which we use to call man.
Of all India, and probably even of all the world, Kashi is the place par excellence where man pours himself into God, just as Ma Ganga, lower down in her course, pours her waters into the boundless ocean. Kashi is the main gate, the widest-open exit out of this life of sarnsara. Beyond it the partition of nama-rupa, which separated the part from the whole, vanishes for ever. The "part" may continue in its eternal journeying, but it will no longer be a jiva, it will be Shiva. In Varanasi, the Lord Vishnu himself worships the Lord Maheshvara and ack-nowledges His supreme authority. The multiplicity which Brahma created and which Vishnu perpetuated, Natarajan reunites and merges in His cosmic dance.
In Kashi, one learns to pass from the one to the other. To die there is supreme bliss, but to live there in such a way as to deserve the coveted death is perhaps a still fuller blessing. There one understands that to die is not merely to leave this bodily frame, but to dissolve all the subtle bonds which make up our whole being. The body will perish anyway, even if we make no effort to abandon it, and that is neither the most difficult nor the most painful process, It is when we try to disintegrate the subtler envelopes that we really put our body to its proper and highest use, and that we actually work. Varanasi is full of human beings who try at last to live, no longer in this world, but in the Lord Vishvanath, the Guru of all gurus.
For that reason, although death is ever roaming in its streets and its ghats, its palaces and its dharmashalas, and in the mind of every man and woman, Life also is present. Varanasi is in no way a "city of the dead" ; she brims over with life, vitality and energy—which supply the jumping-board from which to dive into the Divine. It is precisely because she is at the crossroads where a man ceases to be a jiva that she corresponds to the ajna-chakra between the eye-brows of the yogin, and that she is the "Mystic eye" of India.
It is said that the city and the surrounding countryside, within a ten mile radius (panch-kroshi) still rest on the three points of the trishula on which it was raised by Sri Vishanath. And although the Lord Shiva and all the other attendant gods had to retreat to the Himalayas during a long period while the holy place was governed by King Divodas, under instructions from Brahma himself, the presence of Shiva can now be felt almost tangibly, or perhaps more than tangibly, in every spot of that vast circle.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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