The Quest of Ruru
Section One — The Descending Triangle
THE VALE OF ILLUSION
Chapter 1 — The Stranger
Thus have I heard:
WHEN the Heavenly Lords of Destiny decided one day in the long ago that the moment had arrived for one of their Sons to descend to the realms of Illusion called Earth for his final Initiation, that one found himself, after his journey down from the Celestial Spheres, in the body of an infant, the only son of a husband and wife who were a pair of simple charcoal burners in the rich and beautiful land of Kashmir.
They lived in a small hut or cottage hemmed round by a belt of Bela trees which gave protection from the elements, and it was situated near the edge of a great forest.
They possessed a cow and a few fowls, the produce of which helped them to sustain their meagre but peaceful existence. In the beginning their leaf-hut was filled with the joyful cries of their young man-child who was named Ruru; and later on when he could walk a little, he used to leave the hut to look in wonder at the great trees, the grasses and the mysterious flowers, each of which was a world of its own, filled with strange and trembling glory, and he listened with rapture to the singing of the multitudes of birds in that sylvan retreat and watched the swift gazelle rush like a flash between the openings of the distant trees within the forest. At times there passed a ragged herd-boy with his long stick and naked feet, or a ploughman wending his way to the labour of the fields; and they seemed to him like princes in disguise from unknown lands, far away, each possessed of great secrets and much wisdom. Around the nearby farms he could see huge straw-ricks, log huts filled with grain, sleek cattle, and endless flowers everywhere, and from afar came the tinkling sound of bells.
His mother cooked their simple mess of roots and rice and fruits, and during harvest-time his father used to gather sheaves of corn, and date, plum or guava for his neighbours.
And Ruru watched the patches of waving grain which gleamed in the light of the sun, or the gigantic flowers that bloom upon the creepers which embraced the trees like great pythons; or he listened to the kokilas, which hailed the dawn or called one to another in the heat of noon or the cool of eve.
And in the rising wind of morn the trees swayed joyfully and shook within the breeze with hidden laughter, while in the drowsy midday hours the flowers of the Casuarina trees hung in heavy crimson clusters from their boughs; bees and birds humming and twittering about them all day long to drink their honoyed beverage.
His father was a fortunate man, for he was adorned with the precious jewel of a good wife, like Krishna was with Bhama. And she was like those virtuous women who know no other delight than the happiness of their husbands, whose homes are like the gardens of the skies, filled with felicity unseen, but refreshing to the weary mind, like the showers of rain which fall in the sultry month of June. Nor did she look upon her duties as menial drudgery, as lazy women do, but took a pride in the cleanliness of their small abode, where all things shone like the light of the sun as it streams through the glades of yew and teak in the woods.
Thus Ruru grew up, sheltered by love, and as time went on he was allowed to roam in the amianthine meadows, until the sounding of the bells reminded him that it was time to return to the leaf-thatched hut with its creeper-covered walls, fringed with the supernal light of the setting Lord of the sky.
Or, he strolled through the woods where foliage was piled on foliage, from amid which the timid deer gazed shyly at the small boy who wistfully listened to the lilting song of the bee amongst the bliss-filled flowers, or watched the spiders, sitting upon the frail and filmy webs, their ruby eyes ablaze with light.
At other times he sat beneath the soft green frondage of great leaves that seemed like the transparent, secret abodes of inscrutable being. And it appeared to him that all the foliage had been woven by the deft fingers of dexterous dryads; and troops of golden cock-chafers passed by continually, going on mysterious errands, while weird phantoms danced in the silvery greys of the haze that lay upon the distant hills, just visible through a break in the trees.
Ruru's father and mother often wondered when they saw him so engrossed. They knew too that the Sons of Light are sometimes born in the world of men, possessing many virtues and much wisdom, and that their inner sight can pierce the veils that wrap all earthly illusion within their mystic folds. And they hoped that their son was not one of those Messengers, for such are often sorely tried by the ignorance of the lesser ones who cannot bear the Light.
Not far away from the hut ran a little stream, hidden by sandal trees. When Sūrya, the sun, stood high in the dome of blue the sunbeams danced and leapt, reflecting the olive greens and browns of the trees upon the silver surface of the brook that trembled with delight.
Ruru used to creep out of the hut at dawn to watch the flowers slowly open out their avid petals for the salute of the golden light, tinged with rosied gleams. And upon the sunny slopes that fell towards the rivulet grew lilies, violets and roses in full bloom. Within the brook the rushes bent and swayed about with the current, and music of the breeze sang joyfully 'midst bud and blade and flower, and blessed renascent earth. And after the heat of noon the forest fanned him with its leaves, gently shaken by the meridienal wind, and he was refreshed.
And later on the sun sank down into a sea of crimson flames, silver edged, while in the darkening ceiling of the sky the silent Moon, whose name is Soma, came floating up on gauzy wings, and soft sweet sounds did issue from its shining rays. And in the twilight of the crescent moon all things changed their asperities of shape and form and colour, delicately toning them down with a silvery veil of bluish crape. The stars and wind sang amid the initiate trees; the nightingale serenaded the unseen dryads; and the white lotus changed into an argent cup under Soma's frosty illumination. The flower-enamelled slopes of scented, rolling fields did glitter in the magic light, until beneath the deep but glowing indigo of slumbrous night beset with jewels, the silken shadows silently enfolded him and Ruru fell asleep beside the babbolarant stream.
And then his parents, who always knew where to look for him, carried him home asleep in their arms.
One day, when Ruru was about six years old, there appeared at the hut a holy man who had spent almost all his life in wandering across the lands of India, sitting down in meditation when he was inspired to do so, and giving forth the divine messages he received from the gods to those who would listen to his words. He was carrying a small parcel, was very emaciated and looked like the incarnation of poverty itself, but by means of constant prayer he had obtained perfect dominion over his mind; for meditations, vigils and contemplations create an empire of the blest and its inhabitants become the saviours of mankind by inspiration.
Ruru's parents invited the holy man to enter their simple home for a rest and some refreshments, for the poor are always the friends of the needy, or of such as seem to need assistance. He consented, and, when he entered, the hut was suddenly illuminated by the might of his vibrations, and the light became as red as a vermilion flame.
They offered him rice and milk, pleading with him to forgive the scantiness of the fare, but he answered: "No one can give anything to any one unless the actions of a former life assist him to do so; for from his birth onwards a man exists on the fruit of the tree of his former deeds. I thank you therefore in the name of the past."
"I wish," said Ruru's father, "that the past might have been such that we could now repay it more richly."
"Earthly riches," replied the visitor, "are so illusionary that even Bāna with his thousand arms could not have grasped and held them, and the man who tries to do so will lose even his grasping hands, as Bāna did when Vishnu cut off all his arms in battle."
"This is a very true saying," replied the charcoal burner, "but—"
At that instant the childish voice of Ruru was heard, and at the same moment he rushed into the little room. When he saw the holy man and the strange light that issued from him, he stood there like a statue, magic-bound with surprise and admiration.
"Ah," said the stranger, "this is your little son Ruru." Ruru's father and mother opened their eyes wide with surprise and said in one breath: "But how do you know his name, reverend Sir?"
The holy man smiled, and replied: "Those whom the gods send into earthly life with a definite mission are always known to him who attunes with the gods. There is a divine kinship which makes such beings aware of one another's identity. Your son has a high destiny, but it is a spiritual one, and not of earthly riches—which are but evil dross."
Ruru's parents looked at each other in consternation, and asked: "Is not such a one destined to meet with much unhappiness?"
"Affliction," replied the stranger, "will be conquered by him who has his eyes firmly fixed on duty; and Ruru will be such an one."
"But we do not want our dear child to suffer affliction more than the average man," said his mother.
"Who can imprison the whirlwind?" asked the visitor; "and who can escape from the destiny arranged for him by the wise Lords of Light? The power of Destiny surpasses all thought."
"Our boy should have as much right to happiness as any other human being," declared Ruru's father.
"During a short time of pleasure," replied the holy man, "the illusions of this transient world are unfurled like a rainbow mist and vanish soon in the Rays of the True Light. Worldly happiness is the fair and frail network of a dream, from which the Spirit escapes to Actuality at last."
"But how can all this help my son?" asked Ruru's mother.
"The end and aim of life should be virtue!" exclaimed the visitor.
"But will he have sufficient courage to overcome his trials?" asked the mother again.
"A brave man," said the holy man, "never desponds when the time for action has arrived; but without courage even the smallest mishap may not be overcome. And do not forget that Destiny always aids the man of valour."
"Is there no way at all for our child to escape from the trials you mention?" asked the father.
"No," was the reply; "what man is able to overcome the Goddess of Destiny, who ever places her foot upon him or raises him up to the skies? Fate plays with the fortunes of mankind like the wind, which shakes the dewdrops which tremble on the petal of a rose."
As Ruru listened to the holy man's pronouncements he was consumed by strange delights, like one who glances through a chink in Heaven's Gate. The bud of association with the wise expands into a glowing blossom upon the Tree of Knowledge; and a raptured worshipper, in spite of his extreme youth, or because of it, he listed to the wise words which his mind drank in with avidity.
"From the time that he could only just walk about," said Ruru's mother, "we have both noticed the unusual pleasure our child has always shown in the beauties of nature, the interest he takes in all the small things that creep or fly about, and his tenderness and care towards them. We therefore hoped that later on he might become a poet, or even a doctor. We should have managed somehow to have him properly educated, so that he could rise above our humble station and become famous. Must we now renounce all our dreams, reverend Sir?"
"Ah," he replied, "some people become celebrated by accident, like the crow who alighted on a palm-tree just when it was about to fall. To the ignorant it seemed as if the weight of this bird was so great that the tree collapsed under it; but Fate always ensures the good fortune of those who are predestined to become famous. Who but a truly wise man shall be able to say that this one or that has a claim to real fame? To fools, almost anyone who does things in a different way without offending another may seem to be a superior sort of person. But the fools produced by the creators are very strange beings whose intellect is darkened by the clouds of ignorance; therefore their opinion has no more weight than the crow about which I told you just now. Moreover, a frog, who cannot be accused of having too much intellect, is too stupid to appreciate the softness of a bed of red lotuses; and the majority of mankind has not much more intelligence than the frogs; it is entangled in the web of shame and ignorance.
"Wisdom is always the best friend in every exigency; more even than valour, for this slays itself in the end. The actions of a Sage are guided by divine insight and such a one proceeds without hesitation. But the true Sage does not wish for fame or riches; for the Higher Self is beyond all human understanding and not even the greatest writer could describe its glory; yet can the listening mind hear its voice in the silence of the Within."
"Is it difficult to attain to that Wisdom?" asked the father.
"It is as difficult," said the wise man, "as standing on the edge of a sharp sword; but the perseverance of a resolute man is increased by difficulties and misfortune, and by perseverance all Wisdom can be obtained if it is the Destiny of a man to become truly wise. Then the fruits of Wisdom fall into his lap, as it were; like ripe figs fall down from the pipal tree; and the Golden Boughs of the Tree of Life are laden with the harvest of experience."
"And have you, reverend Sir, overcome all these difficulties yourself, and if so, how did you find the Path to true Wisdom?" asked Ruru's father.
"I spilt the wine of life; I broke its staff and cast it far away; for such was my Destiny," said the holy man in reply.
"That," observed the father once more, "should require uncommon strength of will and purpose, as well as energy and intellect, for those who have once tasted the wine of life are ever loath to do without it; nor can they walk without the support of that staff, for pleasure has impaired their powers."
The holy man replied: "It is no use having a great intellect if we have not at the same time abundant energy; for the proper use of the intellect needs much more strength than manual labour. Without this strength the intellectual one fails to do justice to his mental powers. There are many persons with strongly ossified brains, eternally closed to all rays of intelligence, so that not a single idea may pass the doors of animal matter without being rigorously inspected for possible contraband such as might introduce the least symptom of higher thought within the bony labyrinth. In such cases we have strength, and possibly energy, without intelligence; and this is just as inept as the intellectual who has neither strength nor energy. There are always two sides to every question—and sometimes both are negative!
"The sun at dawn sends forth his fiery lances that stab the sleeping world to wakeful life; the man who attains to true Wisdom can fulfil the same purpose as the sun by sending forth the flaming rays of his Enlightenment with which to awaken the slumbering minds of other men. That is the reason why the gods send down to earth at times their Sons of Light. They erect the Palaces of true Illumination where all may enter if so entitled by their virtues; these Edifices stand on unshakeable Rocks, for they are raised by and based upon divine Will. The house not built by God stands on a false foundation.
"The wise man, eyeing death and rebirth with reluctance, strives to attain Moksha—which is Salvation and release from future births. To reach that goal is worthy of severe tests and trials.
"By Holy Contemplation the seeker may succeed finally in his endeavour to cease even from the effort to cease; for effort is strife, and where there is strife there cannot be Peace . . . which arrives only after the cessation of effort. Then comes that annihilation which is the true Birth of the Spirit.
"And finally, after the wise man has given forth the clarion call of his divine Utterance, the true mystic vision brings with it a forgetfulness of the transient earth, and the Initiate becomes truly Illuminated and absorbed in his own Deity.
"Is this not worth striving for in Peace, no matter how difficult it is?"
"And have you, reverend Sir, attained that Bliss?" asked Ruru's mother.
"If I should reply 'Yes' to this question I should be as vain and foolish as a certain hermit, who, overcome by pride, exclaimed: 'Ha! I have attained perfection at last!!'
"The wise make obeisance to the Conqueror of Obstacles, whose benevolence they humbly entreat, for without his favour even the Creators could not have finished their task.
"The Path to Enlightenment is called 'Service'; for Service from man to man is never fruitless; it leads to a thousand acts of which we remain in total ignorance, and like a sublime Essence it floats up to the skies. Its benefits can never be effaced, for they multiply and spread; and they are followed by Happiness . . . unforeseen. This Service can take many shapes, for the poet or the painter also serve Man in their own way; so does the Teacher, or the Holy Man by precept.
"On the contrary, a bad action is like a song out of tune—it destroys the harmony of well-being.
"The reason why people give way to hatred and other vices is that their lower minds dwell continuously on adverse conditions in previous existences, thus influencing the Higher Mind in a destructive manner; the Higher Mind must learn to overcome these defects by self-control. Within the secret recesses of the lower mind there lurk the racial memories of material things and conditions, carried over from the past by the thoughts that reside in the inherited instincts, which are also material, but in a different way.
"He who abstains from injuring any creature whatsoever will find liberation from earthly pains and shackles; this applies to thoughts as well as deeds. He who dwells on hatred will be overcome by hatred. The jealous person will lose the objects that caused him to be jealous: even if he never possessed them at all! The one who lives in vice will be destroyed by vice. He whose thoughts are dark and sinful will dwell in Darkness more terrible than he could himself imagine!"
"I could wish," said Ruru's father, "that everyone would remember at all times of temptation these wise and true sayings."
"The reason why they do not do so," said the holy man, "is that fools intent on objects of sense cannot endure reflection; nor does the timid person ever reflect."
"But," asked the mother, "how and where can one learn such wisdom?"
The stranger replied: "The wise know all by inference from signs and with the aid of their great intelligence. The wise man knows that character is greater than riches. He also knows that the only thing that never changes is instability; and Vishnu, who dwells in the Sea of Milk, knows all."
There was silence in the hut for a few moments. Then the visitor turned round to Ruru, whose ardent gaze had never been withdrawn for a single second from the holy man's countenance. Smiling benevolently, the latter took Ruru's little hand in his own and asked: "Have you understood all that has been said, my Son?"
Ruru nodded, and the stranger continued: "I know, little one; I also know the reason why you have come down to this earthly abode, which seems so beautiful at times and can be so dreadful. Whatever happens to you in the future, you should never forget what you have heard to-day; and I know you will remember. But I will add a few more words to those I have spoken already by command of the Lords of Light; and they are as follows:—
"It needs no wisdom to become rich . . . only shrewdness, aided by Destiny; but only a wise man knows how to control riches rightly. They have value only when applied to relieve the distress of the deserving. Otherwise, riches are useless and a curse instead of a blessing. Never strive after riches, my son, for in them lies not your destiny. Nor seek after power; for when the mind is blinded by power it turns towards unlawful objects. The six faults that are the enemy of man are: desire, wrath, covetousness, bewilderment, pride and envy. When great wealth, or even prosperity, is not used for the benefit of others, it flickers like a flash of lightning and is lost in the Unknown; and no one will benefit. A selfish wish is likewise in vain. When a man aspires to the spiritual, even the smallest grain of merit will develop and become a tree, laden with the richest fruit. But when a man turns towards the material, and from thence descends to error and darkness, even his previous virtues will be corrupted by the impure waters of the dark regions and become misfortunes in the end; for a man's evil actions bear fruit within himself and destroy him. It is the same with man's realisation of the I-ness, which is like the dream of a sleeping moth—it has no substance, and it drifts away with the mists of the non-comprehension of his vaporous thoughts. Yet there is within the mind of Man the germ of everlasting continuity of Being; but this germ can be developed only by right conduct and right thinking, and by an ever faithful holding on to the idea that Man is a Son of the Gods—and can become a God in the end.
"But before this can happen the man or woman must have full realisation of the difference between the illusionary dream of being a real Ego in the material worlds, and the truth of Egohood in the Spirit; and the manner in which this knowledge can be acquired is very difficult. Apart from Service there is, however, another Royal Road which never fails to lead to this Knowledge, and that is the Road of True Love; a love not of the senses but of the Spirit; though the first kind of love can lead to the second in rare instances. Those who truly love are not of the Earth, for their Souls are filled with a strange nectar, flowing from the vessels of Heaven into their thirsty Minds. Love overcomes the strongest at the right moment, like the ascetic Vishvāmitra, who forsook his austerities when he beheld Menakā; or like Yayāti, who became old before his time for love of Sarmishtā. But theirs was at first a love caused by the senses, though no man can judge another and say if and when such love can become spiritual in the end. Only the wise Lords of Life can tell.
"The next Road to Glory is by learning, and by instruction from the real Masters and Adepts, whose duty it is to impart Wisdom to those who are worthy, for when learning is imparted to one who is not fit to receive it, it does not tend to merit or glory, but only to regret.
"But whichever Road you take, or if you take them all, there is one thing needed to succeed on any; and that is courage. Nothing is gained by despondency, for calamities depart far away from the resolute, as if terrified at them. Therefore, whatever happens in your life, maintain steadfast resolution; for nothing in this world is impossible for the enterprising. To men of brave disposition their own valour is the only cause of success; for a brave man obtains prosperity—in whatever direction his thoughts are turned—by himself, without any visible support. And you, my dear Son, have been considered worthy of the regard of the unwinking eyes of the gods—if you remain steadfast in all the trials of life. Remember always that great grief often ends in greater happiness, for grief is the Key of the Gods with which they unlock the portals of our Minds, so that we may behold the higher things of the Spirit, which is true Bliss; while in earthly things lies hidden the evil worm of unhappiness. May Victory come to you by means of the Protection of Ganesha, the Conqueror of Obstacles."
As he finished speaking to Ruru he stretched his hands in benediction above the boy's head; and the look of his eyes was Royal, like that of the sun-staring eagle of the upper air. And the hut was filled with a blinding, supernal rosy light. Ruru's father and mother had sunk to earth in adoration, but their son looked fearlessly at the holy man with his sparkling dark eyes, his head thrown back, and standing upright like a golden pillar.
After a few moments the visitor spoke again, and, taking up his parcel, opened it and said: "Here is a small present for you, my Son; it is a musical instrument, called the Sarungi. It is very ancient, and I want you to keep it in memory of our meeting. I was told, when I sat in holy meditation, to visit you and your parents and to give it to you. Take very great care of it, for it has a divine Message for you when you are older and ready to receive that Message at a critical moment in your life; a moment when you will have to make an important decision."
"Does this mean that our son must become a musician?" asked the father.
"No," replied the stranger. "Ruru will love real music and all the great Arts and Philosophies in time, but he will never play upon any musical instrument. Although Music is the most divine and mystical of all Arts—for it says that in sound which cannot be expressed in any other way—Ruru's Destiny is connected with something greater even than music. The purpose of this gift will be revealed at the right moment, and not before."
Ruru placed reverent little hands upon the Sarungi, which gleamed in deep brown and reddy tints in the light that shone from the visitor, and it seemed as if a soft musical tremor, like the sigh of an angel, vibrated through the room.
"I should hang it up on the wall, out of harm's way," said the holy man; and the father obeyed at once by suspending it from a wooden peg by means of the strong silken cord which was fastened around the upper part of the neck of the Sarungi.
"And now," said the stranger, "my errand is done and I must say farewell; we shall never meet again in these earthly realms."
When they left the hut they saw with surprise that the day-time was past, and the Star-girdled Seven, aloft in the blue-black dome of Night, shone and glittered with the ardour of fulminent flame and burning.
Low on the horizon the Moon sailed along in its magical silver barque, and it seemed as if they heard the great Anthem of the Gods amidst the silence.
And as the holy man disappeared within the velvet shadows, a blazing meteor rode in the deep blue lapis-lazulean sky, storming along on its mysterious errands from Cosmos to Cosmos, until lost within the never ending Universal Deeps.
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